Patanga Cordeiro lives in São Paulo, Brazil, and works as an assistant at a Court of Justice. He enjoys running, triathlons, singing, and in his spare time translates inspiring poems and prose.
I like to teach basic classes on meditation techniques, and a few days ago the class I was teaching spontaneously came to the subject of making choices. It had to do with something I read on one of Sri Chinmoy´s books. Many times we are facing two opposite courses of action, each with its possibilities of rewards and different levels of fulfilment. As I can recollect from what I read, he mentioned that sometimes the inner voice gives us a red light (stop), while the outer happenings give us a green light (go), or vice-versa. So I questioned the students:
“Sometimes, we get green light from the inner and the outer – in this case, it is easy, we just go! Sometimes we get red from both – also easy, we just stop. But, what happens if we get opposing messages?”
That made me and also them think a bit. One young man had the same thought as I and got right to the point: “We follow the inner!” Everybody was agreeing.
Teacher-like, I thought I might expand on his answer a little. So I came up with this: “It depends. It depends on what you want. If you want to become a multimillionaire, then maybe you won´t have time to fulfill your inner urges – there is so much you need to do on the outside. But if we want to find true happiness, peaceful happiness, the joy that is self-created and does not depend on outer circumstances, then of course we will have to listen to the inner voice.”
But then comes the tricky part, as many people attending class noticed. We also need to maintain an outer standard, we have to fulfill our responsibilities with job, family, studies, etc. So are we not leaving that behind? Is there not a way to achieve both? Modern spirituality says that the integral man is the true man – he does not shun his responsibilities, and he does not need to sacrifice his own self.
Then, as we talked about it, I remembered one of my experiences when I was still in school. I think it might be worthwhile to share here too.
My personal experience
In Brazil, to make a simplification, after high school you: either you can pay for university tuition, or you take a year off, go to a preparatory course and study real hard for a once-a-year exam, in order to enter the public universities (which are free of charge and also give better degrees). If you don´t make it, you can try again next year.
After high school I was working on six-hour shifts, and decided to try to go to university to get a degree and a better job in the future. So I found the cheapest possible university, (plus my job would pay half of the monthly fees) and started to study. However, after some nine months, I decided I wanted to try the test for the public and free university.
At that point, there were many things that I used to do in my spare time that gave me real joy and fulfilment – music, translation of poems, teaching meditation (yes, I had just started then). So I did not want to give up on all that to spend every evening studying and watching classes. What I did is that I registered for a one-month preparatory course! It was super condensed. But even if for one month, it would take away all the time I used to do the things that made me real happy. So I only went to the main classes (for me that was mathematics) and some occasional others. To make up, I would try to study on the bus home, on afternoon breaks at work, etc. And whenever I felt I had something more important to do (when I felt some happiness was inspiring me), I would just forget about studying and do that. I would go out running, etc.
On the day of the exam, I went by bicycle there and, even as I chained it to a lamp-post, I felt much joy. As I walked towards the building, there was even more happiness. It was strong, wholesome and yet very subtle. It was like a little me was dancing inside my heart. I sat on the table like a baby playing with his colourful toys. The exam went smoothly, and I was one of the first to finish and leave the room. But this is not all.
It takes quite a few days to know if you passed the exam or not. (By the way, the odds for my exam were about 1 to 19 – one person gets in, the other 18 do not). I was not expecting to be approved, because I studied so little, but still I was a little hopeful, and anyway a little anxious to know if I did or did not.
A few days later I get a phone call from the preparatory course I took. (They get the results first, somehow.) The lady said “Congratulations! YOU GOT THE FIRST PLACE! We want to make an interview with you to show on the TV.” I was stunned. First place? But how? How could it be possible? There are so many good students (I was not), so many really bright people (I was not), that studied for many years (I did a half-month, let us say). And I am to have the best score?
As I was never a good student, that was total surprise. It definitely took me some three days to come with an explanation. It was that happiness that guided me. It was the inner voice. It was guiding me to be really myself, to do what I really must do. And, if the less important things had to be waylaid, then that inner voice somehow had found a way to make up for it. Having studied so little and achieving the highest score, there was no way I could convince myself that “I was smart” or anything. It was something else!
So this little miracle showed me how we can depend on happiness as our life-compass.
How I wish I would always listen to my inner voice!