Becoming Centred

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When you immerse yourself in your work and go beyond the mind, you become centred, writes Pratiksha Apurv on June 15, 2014.

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Some questions may sound simple, yet can be complicated or rather intriguing to answer. For example, when you ask people about the centre of the body, the answer will vary from person to person. Some may say it’s the heart and some may argue that ‘no, actually, it is the mind’. You will never get a similar response and there will always be scope for swinging from one side to the other.

But enlightened masters would say that as far as the existential centre of the human body is concerned, it is actually the ‘navel’. When you go beyond the mind, then your navel is centred, and everything else becomes irrelevant. And, this can be described both ways — when you are centred, you are beyond the mind. Similarly, when you immerse yourself in whatever you are doing and the moment takes you beyond the mind, then you are centred at the navel.

The Navel String
Centring is very important, as can be understood from the fact that even a child is connected to its mother for months through an umbilical cord or navel string in the womb. The child receives oxygen and nutrients from the mother’s bloodstream through the navel string and that remains the only connection between the two for months. And, that is the reason behind the prominence of the navel in our ancient scriptures that suggest that arguments over the point of centring are irrelevant, because any process whether emanating from the heart or the mind will ultimately fall down to the navel.

Whenever you feel there is some imbalance in your life
and circumstances trigger uneasiness,
you must understand it is actually a longing for centring.
It means that your mind is pulling you away
from completely melting into whatever you are doing or creating.

Now, the question is whether you need some technique or meditative methods to centre yourself. The answer is ‘no’. Centring is possible while you are writing a poem, painting or making pottery. As Krishna says in the Bhagwad Gita, “Ananyachetah satatam yo maa smarti nitashah — a state where nothing except Krishna exists in the mind.”

The painting, Becoming Centred, shows a potter becoming centred while making pottery. This could appear to be a menial job to some, but it has immense potential of launching the potter on a beautiful journey. When the potter puts clay on a wheel, his mind is there; it is over-functional — not just arranging the clay, but also maintaining the required speed of the spinning wheel. Subsequently, his fingers get busy giving the clay shape — the design that will be his final product.

Becoming Centred
Becoming centered, Mixed media on canvas

While witnessing the wheel’s whirl, the potter loses himself. Though his fingers are still shaping the clay, the potter is gone. That very moment, he is not touching the clay, but something more precious, something that takes him beyond the mind. What is left that very moment along with the wheel is just a physical structure. His navel is totally centred. He has gone into a state of silence.

It happened to Kabir and to Ravidas. Kabir touched God while weaving cloth and sang: “Karni-dharni, rehni, gehini, ye sab jehan herani — the awareness of doing, not doing, holding, leaving — everything is lost.” Ravidas, who lost himself completely while making shoes, used to say, “You are me, and I am you — what is the difference between us?” He was centred.

Satyakam’s Cows
There is a beautiful story of Satyakam, son of Jabali. Satyakam asked his Master to suggest a way to discover the ultimate Truth, which lies beyond the written scriptures. He was young, restless and a proud seeker. The Master asked Satyakam to take a few dozen cows deep into the jungle where no human being could be found and come back only after he had raised a thousand cows. Satyakam immediately left for the jungle but other disciples were shocked. They argued back and forth that it would take several decades to rear so many cows and that Satyakam may never return.

Oblivious to all these calculations, Satyakam went into the deep jungles where besides the mountains and cows, no human contact was available. It was difficult for the first few days as there was no one to talk to. But, slowly days turned into weeks, weeks into months and months into years. Satyakam played the flute, danced, and slept with the cows. He kept a tally of their numbers in the first year, but subsequently dropped it. He became silent. Language disappeared, words disappeared, and the longing for conversation disappeared. Satyakam even forgot to count when there were a thousand cows.

The cows wanted to go home but Satyakam had lost himself in those mountains. When the cows confronted Satyakam and told him that it was time to go home, he smiled and said he was grateful to be reminded because he had completely forgotten the Master’s directive. He returned to the Master who was now very old. The Master asked his disciples to count the cows. The disciples confirmed the fact that there were now a thousand cows. The Master said, “No, actually there are a thousand and one cows — you forgot Satyakam. He has completely lost himself in the cows. For years, he has remained silent and in the process has flowered and no one can distinguish him from the cows.”

Whenever you feel there is some imbalance in your life and circumstances trigger uneasiness, you must understand it is actually a longing for centring. It means that your mind is pulling you away from completely melting into whatever you are doing or creating. The peripheral travel will keep reminding you to count and you will always remember the language. To lose them is to travel beyond the mind; to become centred, the potter needs to immerse himself in what he is creating. As Kabir said in one of his mystic songs, Tera Sahib hai ghat mahi, bahar naina kyon khole, indicating that God is inside, so why seek him in the outer world?

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