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Inner Calm

What is more important – the pursuit of knowledge or attaining peace of mind? It is hard to choose between the two. But I believe that peace of mind trumps pursuit of knowledge anyway.

Darkness, stillness, silence – these are the desired states, associated with peace of mind. I am talking about the order of nature, including us.

Let us assume this scene.

You are sitting on a bench in a park, under tall, green trees. Birds and squirrels chirp and squeal, flying, jumping, and running on the branches.

Below is a pond, small but clear. The pond’s surface is clear. Not a ripple.

The quiet of the pond and the chaos on the top of the trees are contrasting. Yet, both contribute to the peace of the space you are in.

You just sit there, taking it all in.  You close your eyes.

The sights disappear, and the sounds take over. The silence of the pond below and the chirps and squeal above.

You feel no different. It is the same, the sounds allude to peace as the sights did.

As long as… you are just observing it.

Suddenly, you get curious. Just to see what happens. Curiosity, you know. Your search for a small stone ends with that small black piece lying in the thick grass.

What if…Just what if…You just threw the stone into the calm surface of the pond. You roll that small black stone in your hand.

Then suddenly, the stone flies out of your hand. ‘Blob’, the sound tears the surface of the pond, and the sound tears the calm of the environment.

There are ripples and small waves on the surface of the water, and the sound distracts the orderly chaos on the branches. The birds and squirrels panic, and now the chaos is not sweet anymore. There is a sense of panic.

It takes a while to settle.  The pond is back to its still and calm, and the orderly chaos – squeals and chirps are back.

You smile. So, you have the power to unsettle the calm. Now you look for another stone.

***

I had posted a meditating Buddha picture and had talked about ‘Inner calm and peace of mind,’ when a stranger walked in on the comments section. I share this as dialogue here.

He asked me ‘Who am I?’ and ‘Belief is not knowledge.’

‘Sometimes, peace of mind trumps quest for knowledge.’ say I.

‘Sometimes? What kind of peace is that? Knowledge? What knowledge.’ The stranger persists.

I reply reluctantly. I know this type. ‘The definition of peace and knowledge is purely personal. My search for knowledge and peace is my space. Likewise, for you. Beyond that, we are talking about philosophy and spirituality.’

The stranger, as expected, prods on, and I quote him. ‘Yes, it’s personal. But later you said. We talking about spirituality and philosophy. So? What do you mean by spirituality and what is your philosophy and what do you understand by the word ‘peace’. Please tell us if is not personal’

I reply, hoping to shake him off. ‘Persistence is what you are – seeking knowledge. Letting go is what I am- inner peace of mind (refusing to answer after this comment). First is knowledge second is wisdom.’ I say.

But as I expected, the guy keeps at it (Phew). ‘No, that is not what I am seeking. We are not talking about me. You do not know me.

We are talking about you and what you understand by the word ‘spirituality and philosophy’. The problem is that you have any idea who you are. Therefore how you can let go of your “what I am”‘. Your ego. When you don’t know who you are. Ego will always be there. You cannot deny it.’

A bit exhausted, I reply. ‘I am nothing. That is my simple understanding.’

Now, the unraveling of the mask happens. The stranger’s tone changes. ‘Who is “I am”? There is no such thing as nothing. Nothing means absurd. You cannot become void. You cannot stop your activity. That living force. So you are talking nonsense. Quack!’

So there is that. I am a quack. Just because I want some peace of mind. I think about whether to reply or not. Finally, I decide to, one final time.

‘Thanks for your wisdom. That is indeed me. ‘Nonsense.’ I make nonsense, and therefore I am nothing. I hope you now made your point. Hope you discover your peace and wisdom too. For me, it is simple. I am nothing. That makes me peaceful.’ I reply, finally hoping that my ‘acceptance’ would end matters.

I hope the gentleman finds his peace now that he has proved that I am a quack and nonsense.

I felt violated, but my inner calm returned. Was it the person’s persistent trolling, or was it my response to his words?

He had left a message after this, but I finally chose not to respond. Everything went back to its quiet.

***

There is a state of inner calm or peace of mind in everybody. I know most of us cannot find it on the go, but when you slow down enough or stop, you can feel and experience that inner calm. Or call it ‘peace of mind’.

This inner calm is the most precious gift that we take for granted. I realized it when I had a health scare a few days ago. It made me realize that there was already an inner calm, and I was very aware of it.

But it took a little earthquake to realize that the ‘inner calm’ was already there, and I was not accepting or even looking for it.

I was carrying other people’s stress, looking for solutions for problems that were yet to appear on my horizon, and trying to be the good this or that. Finally, the big realization – you don’t have to be anything. Each role is designed to build a relationship, but that is that.

The inner calm was what I was yearning for. I could feel it in my breath, nerves, and spine.

The bench you were sitting on a while ago, is the place I discovered.

I want to be sitting on the bench, watching the calm surface of the pond and the squeals and chirps of the birds and squirrels above.

I do not want to throw another stone into that pond.

I cherish that calm now. My inner calm. 

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Ashok Subramanian
Ashok Subramanian
Ashok Subramanian is a Poet and Fiction Author based in Chennai, India. Ashok has been writing blogs and content since 2011. From technology and management articles, and to website content, Ashok has written articles on businesses, finance, funding, capital markets, management, strategy, and sustainability over the years. His poems and articles, which were published in blogs got a publishing turn when he had time in hand to put together his poetry and short story collections. He publishes short stories and poetry reviews regularly in his medium.com blog. His published works so far: a) Maritime Heritage of India - Contributing Writer - b) Poetarrati Volume 1 &2: Self-published on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback; Ranked #8 in Amazon Hot Releases in May 2020. c) A City Full of Stories: A Short fiction Collection based on people and events of Mumbai: Self-published in Amazon in Kindle and Paperback. d) Poetarrati Ponder 2020 - A collection of Poem Reviews He is currently working with his creative advisor and publisher on his next poetry collection. His second short story collection about Kolkata, India, and his first novel are in the manuscript stage. He is a graduate in Engineering from Madurai Kamaraj University, India, and a post-graduate in Management from IIM Calcutta, India. He currently runs Strategic Advisory and Investment Banking companies headquartered in Bengaluru. He lives with his wife Gayathri and son Anirudh in Chennai, India.

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