Have you ever had an experience?

View of The Holy Ganges, Haridwar, India

Most of us have been hearing this quote from early days ‘Experience is the greatest authority’. Lately I was reflecting on the variety of experiences I have had at different stages and phases of life and was feeling a sense of natural gratitude towards life for having provided me with these.

One question that came to my mind was Hasn’t my experiences with the same people, things, organizations changed over the last few years/ months’? and it was an obvious yes for an answer. Things that seemed very exciting at one point did not seem to be that exciting anymore. Things & people (some of the very senior yogis I was in regular touch with) that seemed to transport me into that blissful ‘beyond time & space’ sort of an experience, did not seem to do so any longer. It was as if either they had lost their powers or maybe I had simply outgrown it.

scenic view…
Even if I recall the most beautiful experience of my life, it was just a one time experience and never repeated. Be it my deep experiences of meditation, precious moments spent with friends, enjoying the scenic landscapes and nature during my travels, the joy I would derive from reading a great book — whatever it was, there was always a moment when it was ‘the best’ and that best never returned again no matter how much I tried to bring back the same feelings.

So this quote above rang a bell within ‘How can something that is so transient (an experience) be the greatest authority’?.

It is one thing to share our experiences with people or to fondly recall them in our memory but quite another thing to claim our personal experiences to be an ultimate authority and use them as a guide for ourselves as well as others.

In reality there is no such thing as an experience because whole of life which includes every moment and everything in itself is an experience. Every moment is unique bringing in something new into our lives and taking something stale away from us. Life is constantly reinventing us and so we evolve naturally.

It is only when we begin to judge and label some events & moments as good and others as bad and yet others as normal or routine, is when we give rise to this word ‘experience’ and separate it from the wholeness of life. It is the mind that becomes judgmental and is always wanting the so called good experiences to repeat and wanting to avoid the so called bad experiences.

This tendency gives rise to both fear and desire that majorly guide our lives. For a moment I am tempted to stop here to ponder about this question, ‘ How much of my life and actions are controlled by my fears or subtle desires?’ and I would urge you to ask yourself the same question. No matter how seemingly pure our desires might be or how obvious & natural our fears may appear to be but ultimately the fact is that they do control a major portion of our lives and our decisions. Even if it is a so called high spiritual goal of perfection, it is still a desire and desire always creates fear. Thoughts like ‘If I do not follow this discipline, I will not get to my aim of perfection’.

Thus we are motivated by fear to keep pursuing particular disciplines or hold on to certain beliefs all our lives in the pursuit of our goal and it is for us to question ourselves ‘ Can fear based action lead us to our highest goal of perfection’? or ‘ Is perfection & completion something to be achieved by making efforts or is it our most natural self?’ ‘Do we need to make efforts at all to be our natural selves’? Without trying to answer these questions based on our conditioned knowledge, let’s be genuine and truly introspect about them.

How often have you made a decision and said to yourself ‘ I am doing this for the sake of my son, husband, job, etc etc.’ & how many times have you advised your children or close friends that they should be doing this or not be doing that and said ‘ I am speaking from my experience’. When we say this we forget that every moment of life brings a different experience which may or may not be the same for 2 different people but the fact still remains that each one has to go through it themselves & also this somewhere implies that we are stating our experience as the absolute & hence trying to control their actions by being rigid.

It is not fair to say that ‘ this is my experience and so I advise you not to do this ’ because this statement encourages an individual to deny himself or herself from experiencing life fully. This does not mean we do not share what we have gone through. We do share everything that life has brought in for us and encourage others to walk their own journey and infact propel them to try it out for themselves rather than having them follow us.

That way, we can be our authentic selves and encourage others to be the same as well. To follow anyone is to be inauthentic. To influence, impress or to get influenced and impressed also makes us inauthentic. However to inspire and be inspired is natural and happens when we are all connected with ourselves and the natural flow of life. Embrace the flow of life, trust it fully and everyone’s life becomes a natural inspiration. Inspiration emerges out of genuinity and when we are inspired we do not necessarily copy anyone but allow our own true self to emerge and allow ourselves to be guided by the flow of life without interfering in it or controlling it.

Every so called successful person in today’s world in almost every field be it business, industry, politics or spirituality & religion has been someone who has walked their own path rather than just following someone or something. So let’s live life fully, embracing every moment, respecting life’s gifts without judging them as good or bad, without letting fear & desires control our actions. Let’s be genuine.