The Journey Begins

 T H R E E

The Journey Begins

Having a friend to listen to your problems and discuss them with you is the beginning of finding a solution.

‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.’

—Lao Tzu

What do we do when people we are close to are sharing their worries with us? I wanted to say so much as Harry spoke of his inner turmoil, but then I remembered my training as a monk: Our silent presence can be more powerful than a million empty words. We all have two ears and one mouth; the amount we listen and the amount we speak should be done proportionately. Rarely do people want an active solution to their problems before they have been thoroughly heard and understood.

   I remember the early days when people used to come and confide in me. I was a young, eager, fresh-faced monk then, keen to save the world with my newfound sense of purpose. In my immaturity, I would pounce on the solution as soon as it came to me, not understanding that people don’t care what you know unless they know you care. In fact, the answer to all problems related to the human condition seldom excludes a conscious, compassionate ear. The attitude of listening attentively is equally essential to the solutions we may present. I was not going to make that mistake this time with Harry.

   I was glad that the traffic was clearing up, and so were my thoughts. A few moments of silence passed before I spoke. ‘Harry, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. Thank you for trusting me and sharing this. Even when you just speak to someone about your problems, do you not feel lighter? Do you not feel hope that things will get better?’

   Harry looked at me, unconvinced. ‘I want to get out of this mess. But I don’t see a way out without ruining my life completely. I’m nearly forty years old; it’s too late to make any dramatic changes. What should I do?’

   What should I do are the four words any life coach hates, I thought. This is because any direct advice given by them turns into a ‘magic spell’ that if followed will provide ‘guaranteed results’ because Gaur Gopal Das said so. But that is not the case. Following blindly like sheep can lead us astray. Making choices in life is like buying something at a shopping mall. The sales assistant may show us all the products available, telling us the pros and cons of each of them, but we must make the choice in the end. The final decision is our responsibility.

  ‘I’m not your guru, I’m your friend,’ I asserted. ‘We must make our own decisions, and I can only help you within my capacity. I do not know it all, nor do I claim to, but from my experience of being a friend to thousands of people around the world, you are not alone. Many people are going through similar struggles as you.’ Harry sighed again, but it seemed like a sigh of relief, as we crept through the Mumbai traffic.

   ‘Do you see how many people are stuck in this traffic jam?’ I asked. ‘They are all like us. They may be in different cars, but they are all stuck. Look around you, one elderly gentleman there is driving a cab with British tourists in the back seat, that cab driver over there jamming to old Bollywood classics on the radio and even that Rolls-Royce in the distance.’ Harry winced at the sight of a car better than his. ‘We all have three things in common: we are all stuck, we all have a journey to complete, and we all have a destination. Now imagine the traffic jam all cleared up. We would all be free to complete our journeys in peace and reach the destination that we choose.’

   ‘What’s that got to do with my situation though?’ Harry retorted.

   ‘There is a traffic jam within our minds, Harry. And that traffic jam is stopping each one of us from reaching our true potential. Imagine if we knew how to clear this disruption. No fumes of insecurity causing us to cough, no one honking at us, distracting us from what’s important and plenty of fuel to sustain us so that we can live a life worth living.’

   There were no tears in Harry’s eyes; I could only detect interest.

   ‘The process to clear the traffic within my mind started twenty-two years ago. I regret the pain I caused my parents, but at that time I ran away from home to become a monk. It was then that I learnt about the wheels of life. All of these cars around you have four wheels equally weighing down on the axle. The loss of air in any one of these wheels can slow you down in reaching your destination; the loss of one can be fatal. Therefore, it’s imperative that your wheels are regularly checked and maintained. Similarly, there are four principles that form the foundation of a happy life. They aren’t based on any label we place on ourselves and apply to all, whether we’re monks or married, young or old, rich or poor, atheist or religious. They are not dependent on nationality, race, gender or profession either.’

   Harry looked me straight in the eyes as the car halted again in traffic. ‘I’m ready to learn them. In fact, I’ve been ready since I was eighteen.’




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