Riding the Wave

[I will be doing more Hindu Worship posts soon. I’m working on tweaking the format!]

One of the benefits of being in my 30s is coming to a pretty good knowledge of myself and an acceptance of my quirks. I have a thing where I get extremely intense and obsessive about something and then it kind of burns out and another thing becomes all I’m interested in. And these go in cycles. So, like, I’ll be super into knitting and doing it constantly and thinking of nothing else for six months. And then all of a sudden I’m only into writing and I do nothing else. Boardgames, hairstyles, clothes, gardening, religion. All of these topics are things that I have become obsessive over. And they return. It might be six years later, but I’ll get it again.

For example, I cut my hair three years ago. I had it down past my butt and I had been working on growing it for several years with the goal of knee-length (I love, love, love long hair!).

long hair

Then the fixation stopped and I felt like it was over and I had accomplished what I wanted to with the long hair. I could let it go. Foolishly I believed that I would never have the obsessive urge about my hair again.

short hair

Then it came back. Hair is my current fixation. Luckily I had not bothered to cut it again since that time three years ago and it has already grown to just about waist length. Now I’m oiling it, wearing a sleep cap, learning new styles, spending time on a long hair forum, watching long hair videos, dreaming of knee-length again, doing creative projects connected to hair. When I fall into an obsession, I fall hard!

My husband just smiles. Sometimes he teases but we both know that this is just how things are. And he says he likes seeing me excited for a new project.

I used to fight this. It felt unhealthy to be so fixated on things. But now I’ve learned that it’s best to let it run its course. Trying to stop these cycles only makes me miserable and doesn’t work. It’s less unhealthy to just let the obsessions be. I have to ride it out. Sometimes it feels like it is burning its way through my brain. It’s a very odd sensation.

Back in graduate school I became obsessed with a particular game. It involved collecting and playing with tiny cardboard sailing ships. It was really neat, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it all the time. I was learning about the stats of every single ship in the collection (hundreds of them) and planning out fleets with particular balances of stats. I played it, when I wasn’t playing it I was thinking about it. I fell asleep planning ship strategies.

And I could tell that this couldn’t last. It was the most intense these things have ever gotten. It was burning through my brain at an incredibly rapid rate. I couldn’t stop. I had to think about it all of the time. Nothing else mattered. Finally one day it was just gone. Completely run its course. I have never played the game again and never wanted to! I’ve tried a couple of times because it’s a cool game and I wanted to show new friends but I just could not get into it. So far that has been the only example of an obsession that has not returned (not yet, anyway. It’s been eleven years).

Sometimes I still think that I should be learning to somehow control this. To control my mind and be more even keeled. Being in control of one’s mind is a high priority in Hinduism.

Am I giving up too easily by just accepting that this is an aspect of who I am and letting it happen?

Where is the line between accepting yourself as perfect as you are and self improvement and growth towards moksha?

I have wondered this for a long time. That is the biggest question of my life. Sometimes I see people giving up on growth, saying they are too old to learn new things. I don’t want to get that way. I want to always be striving and growing and learning. My obsessions do usually come with learning cool new skills, but am I being set in my ways in a different way? Am I missing an opportunity for growth in my soul?

I don’t know.

Having had these cyclical fixations all my life I have come to accept them and just ride the wave, let them be, follow it until it runs its course. I don’t know if that’s the right way to handle it but it has made me a happier and more content person to handle it that way! It feels a little less like my brain is on fire if I just follow my interest and not fight it.

What do you think? Do other people get these intense interests that come and go?

 

New to this blog? Check out these posts:

What Makes Me A Hindu?

Did I Start Out Christian?

Why Am I Called “The White Hindu”?

New to Hinduism? Learn more here:

Hinduism 101: What Do Hindus Believe?

Can I Convert To Hinduism?

Your First Visit To A Hindu Temple

Super Simple Daily Puja

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  • Ch Billy

    As soon as I finished reading this article, two verses came to my mind. Both of them are from Bhagavad Gita and I know that you are very familiar with these two verses as I have seen you write elaborate comments on them in your Bhagavad Gita study.

    The first verse is BG 3.6:
    “Those who restrain the external organs of action, while continuing to dwell on sense objects in the mind, certainly delude themselves and are to be called hypocrites.”
    I think you are right in acting on your thoughts and running the course of an obsession instead of suppressing your thoughts and deluding yourself. This is a mistake I feel many Hindus (especially very spiritual ones) do which is to suppress all their thoughts and obsessions and pursue moksha in an unhealthy and hasty manner.

    The second verse is BG 3.26:
    “Let not the wise disrupt the minds of the ignorant who are attached to fruitive action. They should not be encouraged to refrain from work, but to engage in work in the spirit of liberation.”
    So, the idea is to not oneself stop all their actions or to encourage any of others to refrain from all actions irrespective of the motive behind the actions. The reason is that if a person is not fully equipped to grasp the reason behind refraining from actions, all the refraining will backfire. This is the reason why Hinduism does not enforce any restriction on anyone. For example, although there is a strong emphasis on avoiding meat-eating, there are prescribed methods to eat meat in the karma kanda sections of Vedas. These methods are known today as animal sacrifice rituals but that is a misnomer. In the karma kanda sections of Vedas, it is prescribed that one whose urges to eat meat haven’t been subdued should kill the animal he/she wishes to eat himself/herself. This is a way of deterring people from rampant meat consumption because the appetite of several humans for such brutal violence is very thin. Today, the meat consumption in the world is at an all time high because the meat industry does all the killing, processing and storing for us to enjoy the end-product and the end-product is packaged in a way that most consumers do not see even a hint of brutality in its making. They are deluding the consumers by hiding the brutality to ensure that consumers don’t get disgusted and stop buying the meat. In the karma kanda section of the Vedas, it is also prescribed that just before the killing, we whisper in the animal’s ear: “since I am killing you in this life, you can become a human in your next life and I can become the animal in my next life when you can kill ME TOO”. I have capitalized the words ME TOO because the Sanskrit word for meat is “maamsa” whose word-root is “maam+saha” = me+too. Also, the killing is done in front of a deity to ensure that you have taken the oath to be killed in a later life in front of God and that you cannot back away from the oath. This will work as a bigger deterrent from meat eating than the act of killing the animal oneself because every time you kill an animal, you are signing a contract for an extra animal life with an ill-fated death. Not understanding the deep philosophy behind this ritual and the deterrence it aims to create among humans who have deep urges to eat meat, many people term it as “brutal animal sacrifice ritual” which is definitely a misnomer.

    Hinduism does not encourage blind detachment and blanket refrainment from actions. Hinduism encourages yuktam vairagyam or intelligent detachment. If you had artificially suppressed your obsession, your mind would have rebelled and you would never give up thoughts on your obsession. But since you let it run, after a while, your mind is no longer interested. This is intelligent detachment. However, in my opinion, you can think of other intelligent ways for your obsessions to run for a much smaller time than 6 months and also for the obsessions to not return in cycles.

    One of the intriguing parts of Hindu philosophy is its disconnecting of intelligence (buddhih) from mind (chetas). Intelligence is inherent to soul (brahman) and not a product of mind and/or body as it is commonly understood to be. Only such intelligence can help you act beyond the pushings of your mind and body. In fact, mind and body covers the intelligence. Only by genuine practice of Yoga (karma yoga/jnana yoga/bhakti yoga/ashtanga yoga) can one bring this inherent intelligence to the fore tearing the covers of mind and body. Hope this is helpful.

    • Ambaa

      Thank you so much for your detailed and thoughtful comment! You have definitely reassured me. You have a great perspective on it. Perhaps what I should be focusing on is observing the behavior of the mind and not identifying too closely with it.