What is Spirituality?
How does spirituality help you and me as a professional? Does it mean we need to be religious? Does it mean we need to be virtuous in all that we do? How does being spiritual help us in our daily lives, if at all?
Let me tell you a little story before I answer for myself. It wasn’t too long ago when I would wake up with thoughts like- I have to work harder, I have to outshine others, and I have to be better. I imagined that there is a race out there and I have to win it! From the time I would wake up, my mind would chatter wildly with these thoughts. It kept reminding me of the future and the efforts that I needed to put to make the future better and wouldn’t allow me to stay and enjoy the present. My drive, my ambition pushed me to strive for perfection and when I couldn’t, it made me irritable, even angry- at myself and others. I had heard that striving for perfection is the way to progress but somehow it made me unkind. It wasn’t that I was not progressing as a professional; I was but I started realising I was denigrating as a human being.
And deep inside this made me very unhappy! For solutions I did what most people do. I took to distractions - took holidays, tried new hobbies, made new friends, splurged on cinemas, bought a car, took advice from close mates and even went to a psychologist. It didn’t work.
One day, almost frustrated, I decided to take off work. And I decided to do nothing! I wore my shoes and went to the park nearby for a leisurely walk. It was a usual park with a small pond in the middle, dense large trees and pruned shrubs. There were lots of birds that chirped loudly their morning song. And there were plenty of people - all walking and engrossed. I started walking and I don’t remember how much I walked but after some time I started talking to my mind - the same mind that chattered incessantly the whole day.
I told my chattering mind - Here I am. One person among hundreds of my kind in the park which is one among dozens such parks in the city. And the city is one among thousands in this world. And this world, at this moment, was living only a fraction of time of its existence.
In this planet of billions of years with billions of people, I was one individual trying to outshine everyone that lives or lived in this planet. What was I trying? Who was I trying to fool? That thought humbled me. That day was great. I was calm, kind, considerate and relatively happy throughout the day.
I was back in the park the next day. And then, quite pretty frequently. And on those mornings I asked myself a set of questions to know what I really want and how much I was willing to give up or sacrifice for my future. By doing that as honestly as I could I sort of understood who I was. And once I made a choice, my mind became calm. Perhaps many of us - doctors, lawyers, businessmen, artists, professionals - may have faced or are facing a similar problem and I would like to share these questions.
1. How much of daily time are we willing to give to work?
2. What do we want to do with the free time? Where do hobbies, children, learning, and social work figure in?
3. How happy are we doing our work? Do we work for a pat in the back- read Facebook likes or awards - or for the satisfaction of our clients?
4. Do we enjoy competition at work? Do we use competition to progress or to get stressed?
5. What do we want in future? What do we expect to find in the finish line of this race?
I answered these questions and I made a choice. If you answer these questions to yourself you can probably know who you are and you can also make a choice. This choice may be different for each one of us but that’s okay since this choice is what defines us. All choices are good, because it’s a choice that we make after consulting none other than our own self. Doesn’t that thought that it’s our choice that controls our lives give us a sense of tremendous power and freedom? And maybe this power, this freedom is the basis of spirituality. And perhaps, it all starts with the ability to communicate with ourselves and knowing who we are.
— The author is the Director, Digestive Surgery Clinic, Belle Vue and a specialist in bariatrics, hernia and GI surgery