In a crisis, take it one moment, one step, at a time!
Yesterday, I delivered my Fall Like A Rose Petal Talk at a large IT company where I was invited as an Author to speak to about 200 managers. A member of the audience wanted to know what methods we are employing to go through our enduring crisis.
Vaani and I looked at each other and smiled at hearing that question. People often want to know if there are methods and mantras to live Life. In fact, a publisher friend who went through the first draft of my Book Fall Like A Rose Petal told us that it would flop if it did not have a list of To-Dos at the end of every chapter. We ignored that advice, with due respect to our friend, because we have learnt from our experience that there are no methods to live Life. Each one of us has to live through our stories in our own unique ways. Every moment has to experienced fully, unconditionally, no matter what the circumstances are. This is the only way you can be free from suffering even when you are in the throes of pain.
However, a deeper awareness of Life immensely helps in going through it. Just know that, no matter how ethical or compassionate you are, no matter how hard you pray, no matter how much talent or wealth you possess, there will be times when Life will be very, very challenging. You will feel defeated and deflated in such situations. But don’t despair. Because the entire essence of Life is to face whatever comes your way. Think about this – did Life promise you a turbulence-free ride at any time? It is your conditioning that makes you want only what you want. You want comfort, care, compassion, love, good health, money and, perhaps, an easy Life. But there are no guarantees that Life’s going to grant you all that you want. So, often times, you will have to encounter neglect, hatred, misunderstanding, cashlessness, worklessness, disease and a very, very tough Life – a Life that you don’t want! You will believe that it’s impossible to live such a Life. You would want a way to end all your suffering. And the way to do that is not to give up on Life, but to give in to it, to accept the way your Life is, face it and live in the moment.
So, especially in a crisis, you take one moment, one step, at a time. Life’s pretty much like the headlights of your vehicle. You know where you want your vehicle to go. You know the destination. But in the darkness of the night, the headlight can’t get you to see the destination. Yet it can light up the distance, a few feet at a time, and as you make progress you get to see what lies ahead. This goes on, until of course, it is daylight or you reach the destination you were driving toward. Life works exactly the same way. The night, the crisis, is not going away immediately. A new dawn awaits you, but it is never dawn until daylight arrives. So, in the darkness of the night, follow the headlight principle. Don’t expect the entire road to be lit up. Be content with being able to see just a few feet at a time. In Life, therefore, don’t expect clarity and answers to what lies a week, a month, a year down the road, or in the distant future. Just know that you will survive, that you will get all that you need, that you will be cared and provided for. Know that you will ultimately prevail.
I am reminded of a lesson that my guruswami (the one who leads a group of pilgrims) shared with me on my first pilgrimage to Sabari Malai (the hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa in Kerala) years ago. He said that the climb was going to be very grueling – it’s a distance of 5 kms up very steep (at one point up an almost 75-degree incline) hills, to be covered by foot. We would all suffer, he said, if we kept thinking of when the climb would end. “Instead keep your thoughts on the destination, with wanting to see the Lord. Feel the air in your lungs. Enjoy the scenery. Don’t think about the climb and you will be able to make it with great ease,” he advised.
In any challenging context in Life, all your suffering comes when you think of what you are enduring and wish that you didn’t have to go through what you are going through. Instead experience whatever is. Feel the pain, the sorrow, the uncertainty, the fear, the anxiety – feel everything without wishing it away. Through this continuous feeling, your ability to withstand anything, and endure, will be greatly enhanced. Your problems may not go away. But you will be able to deal with them better.
Life, I have understood, is just a string of experiences, from birth to death. As long as you do not impose conditions on what you are experiencing, at any given moment, no matter what it is, you can always face it.
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