Searching Inner Peace
Focused On Finding Solutions
For the first 22 years of my life, I lived in India. I grew up in a loving family of modest means, hence my upbringing was simple, and thus, inner peace. My childhood was full of chores. Every family member worked hard and contributed to the survival and well-being of each other. My parents were stressed at times because of our economic conditions, I am sure. However, neither my father, nor my mother let that manifest into anger. They focused on finding solutions to the problems of life rather than complaining about those problems.
When I migrated to the United States in 1966 at the age of 22 to work on my MS and PhD, it was a shock. I met a young man named Bob, and he was my first American friend. Bob was about 25 years old and was still working on his undergraduate education. He seemed to be a bright man and was well read. He was married to a lovely lady, Hilde, and they had a beautiful daughter. Yet, Bob stressed a lot, seemingly. Both Hilde and Bob were working and making good money by my standards.
However, they always seemed to run out of money during the last week of the month. “We live in a constant debt,” he would say; “It is a cycle we can’t seem to break. We start getting into big debt around Christmas. It takes about 5-6 months to pay off the Christmas debt. With all the other expenses including tuition and medical, we barely make it to November before the cycle starts again.”
Too Many Choices…
Bob was always looking for inner peace. As early as in 1967, Bob had studied and practiced Yoga and Meditation. Yet, he was restless. One of the reasons Bob had not finished his undergrad degree was that he had changed his major five different times. At times, he would blame his stress on his wife, and he tried to find the illusive happiness in the arms of women other than his wife. Within a short time after that time, Bob and Hilde divorced. Bob then experimented with drugs in his search for peace, only to be disappointed with the results.
We Have Everything We Need
I immersed myself completely in my education. My concern was that if I did not keep a healthy grade point average, I will be returning to India without completing my education. Whenever Bob saw me, he would wonder; “How do you stay so calm?” Bob had also read about, and had seen many videos showing poverty in India. He would wonder how poor people in India coped with the day-to-day stresses of life. “Our country is the richest and most powerful country in the world; we have everything we need; why are so many people so stressed?” Frankly I had the same question in my mind.
Many years have passed since my University years. I finished my PhD and then my MBA and I have been fortunate to have worked in some of the topmost food and pharmaceutical companies. I married my wife, Janet, who was born and raised in a farming community in the US. Financially we have come a long way from my younger days in India or Janet’s younger days on a small farm. At times I have pursued financial success at the cost of undue stress for my wife. Financially, all the hard work has paid off. We are well-off. Fortunately, we have a wide spectrum of friends; some very wealthy; many are middle class, and some are economically challenged.
Affluent vs Simple Life For Inner Peace
I vividly recall an event in our family life; an observation and a question by our eight-year old son. In 1986, my wife Janet, our son Daven, and I went to India to visit my family. We stayed with my brother who had just built a new home near Delhi. As was common in India then, the laborers who built my brother’s home lived in a little hut that they had constructed as a temporary residence. They made it from the leftover brick pieces stacked to build the walls and then covered with branches of trees for the roof. The family consisted of the father and mother who had worked on the home and two young children. The family did not have much, but they always seemed to be laughing and playing with the children. Daven enjoyed going over and playing with the children.
Happiness and Inner Peace
One evening, young Daven crawled into the bed with us. “Dad, can I ask you a question?” He asked. After getting a nod from me , he continued; “The family across the street (The laborer family) seemed to be happy and at peace when they do not have much; your brother and his wife argued a lot about money when they have a lot more than those people. Why is that happening?”
I was reminded of something that my father, Kanshi Ram Arora, told a number of refugees who were migrating from Pakistan to India during the partition of India: “Everything you need is within you.” I held my son close and told him that happiness does not come from having a home or having a lot of money. The happiness and inner peace lives within us.
It is true for our family. We can choose to live in luxury. Yet, we find ourselves happy and at peace staying in an isolated cabin and hiking in the mountains of Colorado.