It was another day in the life of, where self-reflection and meditation had taken a back seat to the everyday ‘struggle’ of life. I had just found out about an inconvenience (major at the time, but minor in hindsight) that was going to ruin my week. I internalized it, let it simmer and schemed how I would tell my friends and family about how tough my life is because of what happened. That is exactly what I did, and they in turn told me about what was ruining their week this week. The complaint-cycle continued and we went on with our lives, unaware of our own internal weakness.
I take pride in being self-aware, but for years I let myself go in complaining whenever life did not go as I internally planned it would. I was at the gym listening to the great Tim Ferris on his podcast “The Tim Ferris Show” where he constantly sets out personal challenges that test his mental and physical self. On this particular episode he was asked by a listener “Tim, what is the one challenge that has influenced you in the most positive way?” I was expecting a vanilla answer, something on the lines of writing my best seller books like “The 4-hour Workweek” or “Tools of Titans” but no, instead he mentioned this 21-day no complaint challenge that he did a while back that exposed his own destructive behaviour to himself.
“Pft, what a rook. I bet I could do that challenge” I said unashamedly to myself. If I control my words and my thoughts, this will be a walk in the park. I convinced myself I could easily do it, and moreover, I didn’t need to do it. I moved on. A couple of months passed and life slapped me in the face here and there and I started noticing that my imaginary perfect-self was nowhere as in control as I imagined it to be. I was leaving for a month long trip to India and I was looking to leave my mental baggage at home while trying to be open minded about my travels, so I said to myself, let’s do this challenge. I did more research and read Tim’s guide on how he went forward with the challenge. I set out to use his definition of complaint and made mental and physical reminders of the definition throughout my trip to keep myself aware.
The definition I used said:
“Complaining” is for myself as follows: “describing an event or person negatively without indicating next steps to fix the problem”, which forced me to reword, thus forcing awareness and more precise thinking.
The month long trip had its challenges. Noticing your own weaknesses are never a good time, especially in a foreign environment. However, it was a blessing to do the practice away from the everyday life because when there, you have time to yourself and you have time to work on yourself. I made mental notes of how often I would partake in complaining throughout my trip. I noticed I sucked and was doing it at least 3 times a day for the first week or so, but then it went down to once a day, to once every few days and THEN… it stayed there ‘cause everyone calm down, man has his flaws.
In a mental state of awareness, I noticed three main patterns of thought and behaviors that
changed throughout the trip. Numero uno was faultfinding. When one complains, they intend to find an external source to take fault for what is happening in their situation. Nothing is easier than faultfinding. Whether it is a person, place or thing, we dwell on who this situation is coming from. In consequence, we victimize ourselves as the poor being of circumstance, who has to go through such tough struggles. Faultfinding reassures you of your delusional perfection; that in no way you did something to put yourself in this situation. You did not miss the train because you overslept, but instead you missed the train because the Uber driver could not drive to save his life. However, through complaining and blaming, we put ourselves on a higher ground than those who are around us. We separate ourselves and dive deeper and deeper into the isolation state of mind. Faultfinding was my easy way out in the short run but since I was constantly undermining my own surroundings, I was worse off in the long run.
Numero dos, reactive vs proactive. Any time we complain, we put ourselves in an emotional, reactive state of being. Instead of finding ways to fix the root of what bothers us, we occupy our energy grumbling to dig ourselves a deeper hole that negatively effects our internal self. Instead, if in a state of reflection one is able to realize the inefficiencies of complaining and aim to find a plausible solution to the situation. Let’s take for example, “someone” was to get stung by a wasp on the face at the Red Fort in Agra.
Reactive: Person will take the situation, react and dwell; this is crap, what in the world is this…what did I do to deserve this… animals hate me… I’m miserable… my trip is ruined.
Proactive: Person will take the situation, react but be active in fixing the problem; "ah no, can’t believe this happened" (I'm obviously softening this response). Okay, let’s get the stinger out, and wash the face. Let’s get to a pharmacist or doctor to avoid any life-threatening swelling. Let’s go.
When the reactive person is presented with the situation, they must make a big deal and prove to everyone how much of a disaster the situation is for them. The day is ruined for not only the ‘protagonist’ but also the people around them because there is no way they can bounce back from the event. Whereas in the same situation, the proactive person has already figured out a short and long term solution to the issue at hand and is actively involved in moving on from the setting as soon as possible. Same situation, just two different perspectives. And as for reaction, as long as we remain devoid of divine intuition, this reaction will always exist.
This takes us to Numero tres, the external vs the internal. This is tough. Numero tres is the real deal. It’s the royal flush of the battle. You nail this, you are the 1% of the 1%. Okay, let us assume you are a master being who leads the non-blaming-proactive life. You take a situation for what it is and voice the ways you will solve the situation. Game over. But… there is something still there that does not let you move on… there’s still that thought in your head. That thought even after you have solved the situation, keeps creeping
What if Johninder didn’t panic when he saw the wasp and slapped it, which in turn
made the wasp angry. What if Marypal didn’t suggest I talk to that girl, then I would have never gotten rejected. What if Markwinder didn’t throw me that bad pass in frisbee, then I would have never hurt my leg. I am sure you and I could go on with these examples for days. The thought is still there. That is your next battle. Even though we have worked to better our outer self, the thought is part of who you are and the way you present yourself to Johninder,
Marypal, and Markwinder the next time you see or hear about them.
You are still faultfinding.
You are still reactive.
Even though the battle is won on the surface and no one can tell the
situation is still bothering you, the internal self is still tainted with ego.
Solution: Removing the "I".
Good luck figuring this one out.
Lastly, keep fighting to better the self but be good to others and understand their struggle.
The world needs people like you.
Lots of love.
We believe the endless quest in the utter gladness of new realizations is the sign and symptom of a Sikh