The Oil Pots on the Head / Vanisha Uppal
My grandfather was a self-made and successful businessman. He was also the backbone of our big joint family. Every day after the dinner, he used to go for a long walk, really long…. and I accompanied him sometimes for the ice-cream on the way back.
While walking, he often repeated his future plans “I will soon retire and hand over the business to your father and uncle. Then I will buy a farmhouse to grow fresh vegetables and fruits, or I might buy some land on the mountain and stay peacefully there for the rest of my life.” Business and family tension kept him occupied. After 10 years he suddenly died. Despite wanting so much to retire, why did he not do so?
Narad was a celestial sage. For many years he meditated on mountains and in the jungle. One day after great penance he boastfully said to Lord Vishnu, “I am your greatest devotee in the three worlds because I never lose focus on you, not even for a minute”. Lord Vishnu put him to a test. He asked him to take a full circle around the mountain carrying a pot of oil over his head. The condition was not to drop the pot and spill the oil.
Narad took the challenge, and after much difficulty, he managed. He happily returned to lord Vishnu, again bragging about his success. God congratulated him and then asked, “How many times did you remember me in the middle of this job?” Narad realized not even once.
I loved this story, and read it again and again. The daily struggle involves us in such a way that we don’t realize when the day started and when it got an end. There was no doubt left in me that this simple thing is not so simple “To relax in the middle of our daily responsibilities”. And relationship worries steal away the remaining peace of our mind. It got crystal clear in my head that it demands efforts to be effortless.
In the year 2012, I decided to get initiated in Kriya yoga by Per.H.Wibe and wanted to attend a residential retreat. It was not easy to cut myself off for a few days; six-year-old child, house chores, my classes (job) etc. The life helped me and everything was taken care of in a simple way like a knife from the butter.
The retreat was so relaxing. I forgot everything. There was no tension of past and future. I muted the phone and checked it once at night for any urgent messages. We had four times meditation in a day, simple food, resting, being by myself, nature walk. I came back home with new life energy and missed being at the retreat.
The effect of the retreat remained with me for some days, but soon I was back to rushing, restlessness and anxiety. I could feel the big difference between home and retreat. I promised myself to practice every day as my homework. I followed the retreat program and continued my sitting practice at home. I enjoyed it so much that I was eager to go back to it. The problem was that I lost interest in daily activity. All the activities other than practice looked boring and inferior. Now I was at the other side of extreme – imbalance. I kept wondering why this was happening? Why do I get carried away by outside impulses so that sometimes it is impossible not to react?
Thereafter I attended many retreats and life supported me each time. I discovered that a rush to complete tasks is the cause of restlessness. If I slow down while doing any activity; cooking, cleaning, teaching, dealing with people at work or at shop then it all work becomes like meditation and leaves the same bliss after its completion. Rush is another name of devil, my grandfather used to say. It was a big discovery for me but not so easy to achieve and often failed many times.
Unnecessary talking and resisting the need for talking steals the energy. Too much phone, television and gadgets multiply the restlessness. The challenge is something like walking on the edge of the razor. Kriya practice makes one more aware, observant and balanced.
During the writing of this article, I lost my loving friend Kusum; she was my landlord too. Only five months ago she made this beautiful house. She had many official responsibilities, maintaining good relationships with family and friends, property-related issues, house chores and above all – her beautiful garden. She did all this in the most perfect way. Children’s worries were always on her mind; who, however, were settled abroad. She looked fit, smart and healthy. And suddenly she died. What is this? One day she was here and the next day she was gone. Everything is the same, celebrations, the noises of the world, but she is not there.
This experience made me realize that we are not just carrying one oil pot but we feel pride to carry two, three, four or more oil pots on our head and rush to hit the target as quick as possible. If a building has strong base then many floors can be constructed over it. The base is our inner stability – silence! The challenges of daily life are demanding, difficult, and sometimes make us cry. But it might be a good opportunity to realize that inner work is needed.
After having been to many retreats I learnt how simply one can live. The basic needs in life are one small room, a bed, a table, a chair, a few pairs of clothes and yes – good food. This experience itself slows us down. Even if we have some targets, sooner or later it all will be achieved, as we are sincerely working towards it. It takes a minute to God to decide and we get it. But most of the time it is about the journey towards it. And this journey could be beautiful and enjoyable if we are not rushing.