“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu
When people ask me what exactly sparked this journey, my mind travels back over the last two decades. I find that while a life changing (but disturbing) incident in 2003 was a clear turning point, there was a buildup heading toward that moment.
The first step in this chain of events was an innocuous yoga training program that I attended way back in 2002, in a small town in southern India during my job posting there. The training impacted my life dramatically, and so began my transformation as an individual. In a matter of just two years, as I used to tell my wife, I was no longer the same person she had married. Externally, of course, there were a lot of changes, but not like the mega-internal transformation I underwent, a complete paradigm shift in my approach to life.
While most of my other colleagues and friends who attended this course with me went back to their normal lifestyle after a few days or months of the program, I religiously followed through with what was taught through the course over many years. For example: their dietary recommendations (I became a vegetarian, eating 50 to 60% of the diet intake as raw food, e.g., salads), regular practice of the daily yoga postures, pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditation. Within mere months, the changes started to have a massive impact on me as I started to lose weight and most importantly ‒ literally physically ‒ the aging process was reversing! Furthermore, much of my long laundry list of bodily ailments like high blood pressure, cholesterol etc., started to disappear.
Well, maybe none of these changes are a major surprise given the new lifestyle I had adopted, something bigger was happening internally. I felt that outwardly, I was reflecting these massive changes occurring internally. I could sense my mind getting quieter as meditation deepened. Initially, this stage lasted only during meditation, but later it started to flow longer into the day. Deep insight started to arrive in many areas, as if from nowhere. Personally, I was quite happy with these developments, and a deep sense of calm started to engulf me, but there was more to come!
I underwent a very disturbing experience in 2003. I am still very confused about what really happened, and as a result, I don’t speak of this to many people. I feel compelled to call this out here and now, as I personally feel it was the starting point of a journey which culminated in this book.
One weekend during that year, I had completed my normal yoga exercises, pranayama and early-morning meditation, when I got this idea that I should do a particular Kriya (a process involving a series of actions and exercises targeted toward cleaning my internal digestive system) which had been taught to us during the yoga program mentioned above. As I progressed through the steps of the Kriya, at one stage I started to feel as though I was not in my body. It was indeed an eerie feeling! I thought this was temporary, so I completed the Kriya and then just sat down for a while, but interestingly, this experience of detachment from body only got more intense.
I felt as though my body did not belong to me and I was somewhere else, but somehow, curiously, I could still move the parts of my body. I was not even sure who was moving my body parts, oh my. I was starting to panic by now. I tried to do some exercises feverishly, hoping to get “me” back into my body, but to no avail. I was now really concerned, and told my wife what was going on. She asked me to lie down and rest and said things would get better, but nothing worked.
It is difficult to describe the feeling when you lose the sense of being in the body; you can see everyone around, but you cannot relate to anyone. You can physically see them and touch them, but somehow you cannot experience them. The experiencing, understanding and relational aspect went away, while the rest of the sensations remained. Mind boggling, but ‒ believe me ‒ extremely frightening for someone going through it!
By the evening, nothing seemed to have improved and I was personally in quite a discombobulated state. I was rushed to the hospital by my wife, where the doctor checked all my vitals but found nothing wrong. He could not understand what the problem was and what I was trying to explain. Actually, I remember well that as I talked, it felt very ghostly! For me it was a voice talking through my body which I did not occupy, and I could hear it from somewhere else. As standard procedure, I was asked to lie down, a saline drip was attached, and the doctor asked me to rest.
As I lay on the bed, I cursed myself. All kinds of thoughts flooded my mind. Maybe I should not have done the Kriya that day; the yoga teachers had said that one should do these Kriyas in presence of experienced teachers. How would my young family take care of themselves if something went permanently wrong with me (which seemed very possible to me at that time) etc., etc. I remember well that as time progressed, with no apparent improvement, I was becoming fearful that I would not survive through this.
Later that night, the doctor, who still had no concrete diagnosis, suggested that I be moved back home as there was nothing much the hospital could do, and he hoped for the problem to subside on its own. Long story short, I dozed off late in the night and woke up the next morning with “me” back in my body ‒ though I had a splitting headache! I was surprised to see my dad and brother when I woke up; they had rushed from a different city overnight as my dear wife was frantic. While they were all very relieved that I was normal, I got a lot of chastising over “all the crazy stuff I keep doing without caring about the consequences for my family.” Anyway, I was personally extremely relieved that I was back in my body. The headache was manageable, but having that out-of-body experience freaked me out!
So . . . just as I thought that hot mess had ended, something new started to happen within me after this crazy experience. . .
There were some good and some troublesome outcomes from this experience. The bad part was that the headache did not go away easily, and in fact took many years (yes, years!) for me to really understand what led to it and how to get it to subside. The good part was that my overall level of awareness and depth of insight climbed rapidly. Previously, I would read couplets or parables in ancient scriptures like the Bhagavad Gita, the Tao Te Ching, or the Bible, and struggle to comprehend. I would doubtfully look at the meaning I was deriving, unsure, then look for other expert opinions to confirm. Now I would read the same content and instantaneously understand the multiple levels of insight written there and feel sure about the interpretation. Insights on various other stuff would also flow naturally.
Previously, I used to push myself to write things in my diary, but after this incident, words and ideas would flow at such a rate that I could’nt keep up the pace as I wrote. All these changes started to appear days after this crazy experience, and I am sure they are definitely connected to it in some way. It was after this experience that my writing started to take seriously ramp up, and the foundations of this book were laid.
The other experience which was a critical point along this journey of the making of this book, is a dream that I had, which got deeply imprinted in my psyche. It inspired an intense search within me, and that finally became the main topic of this book. I had this early-morning dream where I was a fly (yes, a common house fly!) sitting on the side of the wheel of a bullock cart traveling along a rustic village road. I was peering out from the eyes of the fly and was experiencing myself moving up and down as the wheel rotated, while the cart bumped along the road. I experienced emotions of happiness and sadness as I moved up and down, as though I was the agent causing these movements, whereas in reality, all my movements were simply a choiceless byproduct of the motion of the cart traveling from one town to another. I talk more about this dream in the book, through the life and thoughts of the main protagonist, “Amit.”
This dream got strongly and unforgettably lodged in my subconscious mind. I felt it was a message from the Universe and my calling to interpret this dream. Are we just like a fly on a cart wheel ‒ driven without choice by forces and conditioning of the past, physical and mental? We may feel unable to ever make any changes to what the past dictates, but still experience an illusion of free will ‒ experiencing the ups and downs of happiness or sadness ‒ believing ourselves to be the true agents of all our actions.
Or is there something truly intelligent and creative about us which can exercise this free will in the moment and take us in a different direction from this incessant, crushing force of the past? This intelligence must be beyond the forces of our past conditioning and current circumstances. This book is written from the perspective of the chief protagonist and my alter ego, “Amit,” and his search for this intelligence.
This has been my personal journey, extremely enriching and life-changing. I am confident that anyone who reads this book will come away richer, as it goes deep into the basic motivations of our lives and pushes us to be the best version of ourself! I believe every person should live up to his or her potential. Only the dust of past conditioning and unnecessary societal pressures needs to be removed from the otherwise crystal-clear mirror, and our calling and path forward will become as obvious as the daylight shining on it! Everyone, whether they are aware or not, is on a similar journey, going to the same place, but following different paths. We only need to know and believe in our own personal one. I believe this book will guide the reader toward realizing his or her personal path.