Don’t try to escape sadness, embrace it.
A young lady we know wrote to me recently. She said that she is struggling with sadness. She confessed: “I hate being sad. But my parents, my friends, my family – no one understands me. And I end up becoming sad all the time because of that. But I don’t like it at all. This sad-sad business!”
This lady is a very chirpy person. And often laughs heartily. So it did come as a surprise that she was actually dealing with her own demons within. But who doesn’t have their inner demons to fight? Everyone’s got an evolutionary story of finding their way through Life, finding themselves, through extraordinary pain, grief, sorrow, sadness and suffering. No one can escape pain. It is inevitable. So the only way to deal with sadness, that follows pain, is to embrace it. Resisting it, running away from it, wishing it were not there, will only accentuate it. But facing and accepting sadness, holding it, dealing with it, will help you find your inner peace.
Getting to this state of understanding sadness is surely not easy. It is not easy not because sadness is a difficult customer, but because it is not your natural state. Your natural state is happiness. Imagine you have bought an unencumbered piece of land. And an encroacher squats on it. If you live in India you will know how difficult it is – even with all the laws being in your favor – to evict a squatter, an encroacher. So it is with sadness. It is encroaching on your happiness. It is squatting where, rightfully, logically, deservedly, happiness should be. So don’t just wish this encroacher away. Work with strategy, faith and patience to get rid of it.
First, understand why you feel sad. You feel sad whenever what you want isn’t there. But since sadness isn’t your natural state, your entire being resists your being sad. The human mind feeds on misery. It selfishly urges you to fight for something – a job, understanding, money, a relationship, love, whatever – that isn’t there, the absence of which is causing your sadness. The mind wants you to be sad because it needs fodder. It needs you to be sad for it to thrive! Think about it. When you are happy, you are actually mindless. Which is why, when someone is in a state of rapturous delight, we believe he or she has gone crazy, or has ‘lost his or her mind’. True happiness is a state of ‘mindlessness’. So, if you are sad, it means your mind is in control. On the contrary, you can be happy only when you are in control of your mind! Understand that you cannot overcome your sadness by fighting it. You can overcome it only by tricking your mind. So, when you are sad, don’t resist it in future. Accept it. Accept the condition which is causing it too. In acceptance, there is no resistance. So your sadness, through acceptance, transforms into a new, peaceful state of being.
The other day, we received a mail from a friend who had lost his wife to pancreatic cancer recently. In his mail, he wrote: “Thank you very much for helping me to cope with her illness. I know it is with great sadness but unanimous relief that I report that she is finally at peace. I am still in limbo! Every morning I decide to ‘tidy up’ some of the things lying around…her spectacles, all the tubes and masks, medicines boxes, cotton wool….still haven’t succeeded. I see her bindi on the bathroom mirror and I feel if I remove it from there it’s like trying to wipe out memories…. so I don’t! I wish words like ‘dust to dust and ashes to ashes’ didn’t represent the finality of death so accurately….”
This is what acceptance of your sadness is all about. As the legendary Sahir Ludhianvi (1921~1980) memorably wrote for Guru Dutt’s all-time classic ‘Pyaasa’ (1957, Hemant Kumar, S.D.Burman), in the song, ‘Jaane Woh Kaise Log Thay Jinko…’, “….gham se ab ghabraana kya…gham sau baar mila…” The lyrics mean, “what’s the point in worrying about sadness and sorrow…we keep getting them (again and again) so many hundred times (in Life) in any case…” Simply, the number of times your expectations will not be met in this lifetime will far outnumber the times they will be. So, theoretically, you will end up being sad, than happy, for much longer in your Life than you can possibly imagine. Do you really want to spend the rest of your Life being sad and sorrowful for circumstances that, well, are beyond your control? Isn’t it, therefore, better you embrace this simple, practical way to inner peace and happiness?