You can brave any storm in Life if you find its epicenter – which is within you!

Life’s full of storms. Some are personal __ health-related or relationship-focused. You or someone you know is battling a deadly ailment or someone walked out on you, leaving you numb, alone and suffering. Some are professional __ your career just doesn’t seem to settle down, you get laid off or your business keeps making losses leaving you without clients, without cash and with a mountain of losses and debt. You lose someone dear. And you feel you can’t go on in Life. A friend once recounted how he felt when his father died suddenly, when he was barely 19. “It was like the roof over your head being blown away by a raging storm and you are there, alone, drenched to the bone, cold, lonely and scared!” he described.
Maybe you too have felt this way. This feeling invariably leads to anxiety and hopelessness and agitation. You desperately want the reality to change__and NOW! But why? Because you feel you will be destroyed, annihilated.
That’s such a naïve perspective. Let us understand how storms work. In the eye of the storm, the epicenter of a cyclone, there is no destruction. Because there is no chaos. There’s only peace. And the strength of a storm emanates from its core. The epicenter of the storm is also its power center. This is science. Apply the same logic to Life’s storms also. If things are happening around you__you lose a job, your health suffers, a relation dies, you lose money__know that they are not happening to you. You are not your job, you are not your body (and therefore not your health!), you are not losing a relation__you are merely losing the body in which the soul you related to was housed, you are not your money! At the core, you have the opportunity to be peaceful and feel empowered instead of feeling helpless. You are indestructible. So, why flap your wings and kick your feet in distress?
More often than not, we are operating on the surface of Life. The waves are on the surface and on the periphery of the ocean. They are never inthe ocean. All that we are experience in today’s world, in this lifetime of running the rat race__protecting our incomes, securing our deposits, saving to invest in real estate and worrying endlessly about our children__are all surface level activities. To find peace__and our true selves__we must brave the waves, we must go beneath__and past__Life’s storms. Dive into the storm. Go deep. Drop anchor by practicing silence periods daily. ‘Mouna’ or the practice of silence periods will take you to your center, and to the real you. And the Life storm you find yourself in the middle of will blow over, leaving you unscathed, stronger, wiser, saner__and awakened. 

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Stay engaged with the present when facing Life’s storms

A great way to face any challenge in your Life is to find your center and drop anchor! In other words, it simply means, do not allow the mind to wander into the future with worry or go back to the past in grief or with guilt.
Sometime ago I found myself in a courtroom. I was in the dock, accused of cheating someone. The judge was a very fine man, very methodical, very disciplined. He had a great sense of humor too. His one-liners had everyone in splits – even rival parties presenting their cases in court enjoyed a good laugh. My situation was hardly laughable though. I had no money to repay the creditor who had filed the complaint against me. And it had become apparent that I had to face the consequences of what the law prescribed in such matters. If my petition was dismissed, I was likely to be arrested. And I had nobody in that city who could stand guarantee for my bail application. Even so, I remain engaged with the court proceedings – and heartily enjoyed the laughs that the judge’s comments generated! I sat by the window. It was raining heavily and it was windy too. The rain sprayed on my face and my shoulder, driven by the winds, after landing on the court’s balcony railing. Interestingly, I felt very peaceful as I sat there in that courtroom. The rain peppering my face, the judge’s humorous one-liners, the method to the madness of one judge having to deal with hundreds of cases in a day – all of this left me feeling remarkable and inspired – even if it was ironical I was feeling so, given my predicament!
Metaphorically, and in reality, a storm raged outside of me. But deep within, I felt good, at peace with myself, and engaged in the moment. In that moment, in the now, there was no fear, no anxiety, no worry and no guilt or grief. It was surreal. It was magical.
That’s when I understood the meaning of the phrase, “It is always peaceful in the eye of the storm.” The storms that ravage our lives – a debilitating health condition, a torturous relationship break-up, a business going bust, losing a reputation that’s painstakingly built, the sudden death of someone you love deeply – fill us with worry, grief and suffering. It may seem almost impossible not to worry or to grieve or to suffer. But there lies the best kept secret about intelligent living. In the now, when you are present, and engaged in the moment, there can be no worry. There is no cause for grief. And there isn’t any suffering.
You may wonder how this works. And if this really is true. Let me explain.
The way Life operates is that none of us can control what is happening to us. Life goes on happening. And all we can do is to respond to Life as it happens. Some of the happenings in your Life may shock you and sock you. You can find a million people to blame for your situation or you can even berate yourself for your plight. You can argue with reality – asking why things have happened to you! But be sure that all your fighting, all your resisting, will be completely futile. What I have learned is that Life’s crises are there only to help us find strength from within. That is the only place which is untouched by what goes on outside and that’s where you will be in total peace and feel infinitely secure! The human mind is like a large ship in the ocean of Life. When a storm hits the high seas, an ordinary vessel will be tossed around and may even drown. But modern day ships have stabilizers. They help the ship navigate deftly through rough waters. Similarly, the human mind too can be stabilized by training it to be present in the moment. When it is present in the now, the mind is powerless. The mind works and thrives only in a yet-to-be-born future or in a dead-and-gone past! That’s why worry, grief and suffering don’t affect you in the present moment! And that’s how you, your true Self, can be peaceful, despite the circumstances that you are placed in and despite the storms that will often rip apart your material Life! Finding strength in a crisis situation in Life really means letting go of the past and not worrying about the future – while being aware that everything in Life is impermanent – including Life’s storms!

Attain Buddhahood – by witnessing Life

Treat everything that’s happening in Life as not happening “to” you, but around you, and you will always be at peace! This is the witness state – Buddhahood, if you like. This way you will be in a perpetual state of equanimity within you, despite whatever turmoil that is going on in your external world. Just like the way it is at the eye of a storm. The storm is raging with all fury, all around, but at its eye, in the center, there is no turmoil. Through your witness-state you too can attain this level of inner peace.

Consider this: someone insults you. And you get drawn into that drama. This leads to an ego-play. He says something. You retaliate. He hits back. And you attack again. This goes on. And on. But what if you had let that insult pass? What if, like a lotus flower, you had not let the water (the insult) stick to you? What if you had continued to live in the muck (the dirty pond in which the lotus blooms, metaphorically, the turmoil-ridden world) but chosen to rise above it, untouched, unblemished?

This is true of, and possible, in every situation. Be it a conflict or a temptation or just a Life event__like a lay-off or a death or a break-up__happening to you! This does not mean that Life is to be resisted. But  means, in fact, that it has to be experienced dispassionately. Without getting embroiled or entangled in it.

Here’s a story from Buddhism. A bunch of drunk people picked up a prostitute and stripped her naked. They wanted to rape her. But they were so drunk they fell asleep – tired and exhausted by the high alcohol content in their blood. The woman escaped from their clutches by the time they woke up. Shocked at their loss, the men began to search for her. There was only one way out of the place they were in and on that way they found the venerable Buddha meditating. They did not know who this man was, but decided to ask him about the naked woman because from where the Buddha was sitting, there’s no way anyone could have gone past without him seeing her.

“Did you see a naked woman pass by sometime ago,” asked one of the men roughly.

“You are late. You should have come 10 years ago,” replied the Buddha, smiling, calmly.

The men looked at each other. Totally shocked. Is this man mad, they wondered? One of them even asked the Buddha to explain his “weird” reply.

The Buddha explained patiently: “Well, 10 years ago, I would have been distracted by someone walking in front of me. But now I have learned not to get involved. I surely saw someone go past here. But whether it was a man or a woman, whether naked or clothed, I did not notice, because I was looking for nothing.”

Buddhahood is not something sacred or the exclusive prevail of those who get to sit under a Bodhi tree. Buddhahood awaits you and me too. If only we can learn, through continuous practice, the art of choosing to simply witness Life, without getting embroiled in it, of learning to distinguish that events happen “around” us and not “to” us!