When you ask ‘why’ or ‘why me’ in any situation – that’s when you suffer!
We met a lady at my Fall Like A Rose Petal Talk the other day. She wanted to know if “pain serves any purpose at all apart from causing one so much suffering”.
I told her that I have only emerged stronger from all the pain that I have been through and am still facing. “Pain elevates you to look at Life differently – you value it for what it is than what it should be; and you value it more, particularly when you have been through a lot,” I said.
Pain is what’s common to our unique Life journeys. You may be singed by a health challenge or a relationship issue or the loss of a dear one or a career nightmare or a business crisis. Our stories may be different. But the thread that binds all our stories together holds a common theme – pain is inevitable. Yet, the truth is that all the trauma that we may have to encounter and endure in Life always has a deeper reason for it to happen. And that reason is to make us stronger from the experience. Also, pain does not cause you any suffering; it is your desire that you must be free from the pain that causes all your suffering. When you ask ‘why’ or ‘why me’ in any situation – that’s when you suffer!
I have learnt to be non-suffering despite all the pain that Life has served me. I have come to believe that post-traumatic Life is transformative. It can serve as a powerful learning opportunity if you reflect on it. Eventually, despite all the pain, despite the daily challenges you face, when you sit down calmly and review your Life, you will realize that it is unquestionably better today than before your traumatic experience. Trauma always leads you on a path that you may never have found by yourself otherwise. If you are a good student and are willing to learn, trauma can teach you to be non-suffering.
Just 14 years ago, I used to be perpetually angry with myself and with the world around me. My business was under stress then, but there was business – work and income. I had clients and I led a team that operated in six cities in India. But I was neither happy nor content. I worked 16-hour days and worked on weekends too. I had a tobacco habit and drank daily. And then in end-2007, early-2008, my whole world fell apart. My Firm went bankrupt and I became insolvent. (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal) In the past decade, my family and I have been through some indescribable times – often penniless; no work, no clients, no staff, no offices, no business, no money!
I remember an incident from 2013 when I was talking to my friend about the experience I was undergoing as a parent when I could not buy my dear daughter a new set of clothes as her old ones were worn out. My friend, quoting (I think so; disclaimer: I am not an expert in Tamil literature, I can’t read or write the language.) from the Tamil epic Kamba Ramayanam said, “Kandan Petrar Nenjam Pola” – denoting the ache in the heart of a man in debt.
I know my pain pales in significance in front of someone who has lost a child or who is dying of a rare cancer or who is convicted for a crime that they did not commit (like the Talwar couple). But trauma is trauma. Pain is pain. Whatever be the reason, whoever causes it, whichever way it happens, the way pain takes over our lives and drives us to dead-ends and tests our every sinew – that experience is the same for everyone. I have realized that pain cannot be avoided. It is inevitable. But you can avoid the suffering if you stop asking why there is pain – and stop asking why you have to encounter pain.
My problems are far from over. But because I have learnt be non-suffering, I have discovered that the trauma, the pain, doesn’t affect me anymore. Yes, it is difficult, at times excruciatingly difficult, to get through some situations. But because I don’t suffer, I am at peace with the way my Life is. There is still complete chaos around me, in my world. But I have learnt to anchor within and maintain and preserve my inner equilibrium. I face Life every day with renewed vigor and pour my heart into whatever I am doing to get the business and our lives back on track. Important, I am no longer angry – with myself or my circumstances. I am a firm believer that this too shall pass.
This transformation in me has happened only because of the experience of abject penury that I have been through. In a material sense my family and I have lost everything. And we have a mountain of debt to repay. But I am grateful for all the trauma that came along with the Life-changing crisis that I am going through. I have now come to realize that extra-ordinary pain teaches you to be non-suffering if you are willing to accept the pain and go with the flow of Life!