An American friend of mine who was familiar with India, travelled with a friend of his who was visiting the country for the first time. His friend, who had brought with him a bunch of books, set out to read throughout his journey. He missed the scenery, the colours and sounds, the noise and bustle of the streets and bazaars. Once they took a boat ride in the Ganges and the friend kept reading, quite oblivious of the crowds of pilgrims and tourists. At one stage, when the loud voices disturbed his reading, he asked my friend, “Can you please ask them to turn it down a bit?” He returned from his tour of India having read much but seen or experienced little.

A true story but it is also a parable of the way most human beings live. We are busy running around frantically getting things done, working, studying, shopping, and so on. While we are so busy, it is quite possible that life passes us by and we forget to enjoy it. At the end of a day, we may wonder how the day passed. That could be the experience even towards the end of life.

Many people think it is important to pray or meditate regularly. I think it is far more important to enjoy life, for if we do we would be happy. Becoming more spiritual does not guarantee happiness, but happiness brings with it a positive experience of spirituality. For that one has to take one’s eyes off the printed book one is reading.

We have to be present so that we can enjoy the delight of being alive. That is awareness.