Remember: you can’t fight Life. It is your fighting, your resisting what is, that is causing all your suffering.
A reader wrote to me after reading my Blogpost, ‘Why blame your God, who is a human invention anyway, for Life’s upheavals?’, a few days ago. His point: “Our culture, our religions, our elders, constantly remind us that if rituals are not performed, something terrible will happen to us. I practice all the rituals out of fear.” Another reader enquired on WhatApp: “How can we keep the faith when going through a grave time in Life? For instance, what is there to look forward to about when a loved one is dead, when you are struck by a terminal illness or when you have lost your job and are in the throes of worry and uncertainty?”
Both sets of questions are relevant and are open for exploration.
You see, we must understand the true nature of Life. It is what it is; no matter what you do, or don’t do, Life will happen to you the way it must and wants to. For instance, no ritual, no amount of piety, no prayer, can always get you what you want or always help you avoid what you don’t want. You have to go through what you have to go through in Life. So, doing a ritual out of fear or praying with an expectation that your wish must be granted are both sure ways of inviting misery into your Life.
This human form, your creation as a human, is a gift, is a blessing. You are squandering this gift if you are cowering in fear in every moment that you are alive. It is okay to be ritualistic if you are doing something without an expectation and are enjoying the process of doing it. But what is the point in doing anything when you are hating every moment of doing it, when you are deeply unhappy doing it, and are doing it only out of fear?
Similarly, why resist death or a debilitating health challenge or a job loss? Each of them is an event, a happening in Life, which has happened only because you could not control it. Think about it. If you could have controlled it, wouldn’t you have ensured that your loved ones did not die? Or that you were cured of your terminal health condition? Or that you did not lose your job? Clearly, contrary to what your conditioning – scientific, religious and social – has led you to believe, you do not control your Life. Just because you earn an income, and know that 2+2 adds up to 4, and are in good health, right now, it does not mean that you are controlling your Life. The truth is that if you are getting what you want then Life is willing it so – for now. There may be another time in Life when you may not get what you want, when things will not add up – no matter how hard you work or pray. So, simply be grateful for, and enjoy, what is. And when you get what you don’t want or don’t get what you want, again be grateful for, and accept, what is. Because fighting Life, resisting what is, will only make you miserable and unhappy.
What I am sharing here is what I have learned from Life, from Shirdi Sai Baba’s teaching. He has always championed that Faith and Patience are crucial to going through this journey called Life.
Here, Faith does not refer to an external God or to a religion or a prayer – Faith truly means trusting the process of Life. Trust, believe, keep the Faith that the Higher Energy that created you as a human, that has brought you to this point in Life, just as it has done all this while, will take you onward too, will take care of you, will provide for you and will look after you. Your not getting what you want, or your getting what you don’t want, does not ever mean that you will not be given what you need. At every stage in Life you will be given, you will get, exactly what you need. Believing in this truth is what Faith is all about. And you don’t have to look outside of you for evidence of this: haven’t you, all through the Life you have lived so far, at every stage, through every crisis of yours, always received whatever you needed? You know what your answer is, so please stop worrying, and keep the Faith. And until such time that your Life situation changes – and it eventually will, no matter what you are going through – to give you all that you want, be Patient. Remember: you can’t fight Life. It is your fighting, your resisting what is, that is causing all your suffering. So, accept what is, embrace your current reality, however dark it is, and move one step at a time, one day at a time, in Faith, with Patience.
To be sure, Vaani and I have been enduring our bankruptcy for almost 11 years now by staying anchored in Faith and Patience. Let me share here an anecdote, from some years ago, from a particularly numbing time in our Life. We had no money and our mobile phone connections were due to be disconnected the next day – for non-payment of the monthly bills. There was no money to buy groceries too and the next day was also Krishna Janmasthami – a time when Vaani would normally make special sweets and savories as part of the celebrations!
To have a change of scenery and to surrender in prayer, we decided to visit a young man, who is a messenger of Swami Sathya Sai Baba, through whom Swami speaks to seekers. When we reached this young man’s place, in Nungambakkam (in Chennai), a weekly Sai Bhajan was in progress. When the Bhajan got over, the young man met us.
He asked us, in English, “Swami wants to know if you have any questions for him?”
Vaani replied: “Please tell Swami that we don’t have money even for basics like paying our phone bills and for buying groceries…”
The young man cut Vaani short. He said, “Swami is asking, ‘Isn’t Faith basic…?’ If you have Faith…anything can happen!”
We didn’t have anything more to ask. What do you ask when you are the answer? As we went to sleep that night, both of us surrendered to the process of Life…I remember telling Vaani: “If this is what it is, we will live through it…”
The next day a friend called me, out of the blue, on his own. He knew our situation well and offered me Rs.5,000/- with which I managed to save our mobile phone connections and bought some groceries that were urgently needed. And that evening, another friend walked into our home, unannounced, with a hamper of Krishna Janmashtami bakhshanam (sweets and savories) – cheedai, appam and such. She told Vaani, “I was passing by and wanted to share with you what I had picked up for my family.”
How do you explain this?
Vaani and I have seen this happen to us, again, and again, and again. We have always got what we need; and at the right time. Nothing has ever come a moment early or a moment late. I talk about several such experiences in my Book ‘Fall Like A Rose Petal’, in the documentary on us, ‘Rise In Love’, and here on this Blog. For both of us, Life has come to mean to live this learning – work hard, do whatever you must do in the given situation and then let go, trust Life and be patient. This is how we pray – eternally grateful for whatever we have and completely surrendering to the Higher Energy to take care of us, to look after us and to provide for us. And, believe me, it always has. Repeatedly, unfailingly.
This is how – and why – we are happy – being non-worrying, non-frustrated and non-suffering – despite our circumstances.
Going with the flow will deliver you to where you really ought to be.
Last night’s Super Moon, brought back haunting memories from some years ago. We had no money. The situation at home was so bleak, we were out of groceries. And just that evening our lawyer had called us to say that an order that had been issued by the court to seize all our movable assets and auction them, would be executed the next day. (PS: We are going through a bankruptcy; and to know more read Fall Like A Rose Petal and watch Rise In Love.) There were only two ways in which to prevent the court order from being executed. Pay the bailiff from the court money as a bribe or settle with the complainant so that they would not press the execution of the court’s order. I was very unsure of how we were to deal with this Catch 22 situation. We would never pay a bribe, but even if we had to, we had no money. So, in such a cashless situation, how were we to settle the complainant? Unable to sleep, I got out of bed around 11.30 PM and I stepped up to the balcony. I looked up at the full moon. It was a magical night – Chennai’s hot summer breeze blew in from the Bay of Bengal, the bamboo trees in the neighbor’s backyard rustled rhythmically, and the moon shone in all glory. I lifted my hands apart, part in prayer, part in invocation, and howled, in the dead of the night, looking up at the moon, “I don’t know who you are, I don’t know what to do, I surrender.” Almost instantaneously my stress dissolved, the fear that was gnawing at me from within – on what would happen when the bailiff arrived – just vanished. I went back into my bedroom and slept through the night – soundly, like a baby.
The next morning, the bailiff came at the appointed hour. We offered him a glass of buttermilk that he accepted. In the time that he took to drink it, I told him our story. We offered to comply with his process seamlessly. He heard us out. Then he looked at me and Vaani and said, “Look Sir, you and Madam look genuine to me. Don’t worry about this order. I will take care of it.” So, saying, he just got up and went away. I have not seen him since that day.
I am not sure what the bailiff did or why he did what he did. All I know is that I surrendered to a Higher Energy. So I believe my family and I have been taken care of and provided for. This has not happened to us just this one time. It has happened again, and again, and again, every single time that we have surrendered.
Whether you like it or not, whether you ask for it or not, at some time or the other, in some unique, unfathomable way, Life will bring you to a state when you will awaken to the truth that your Life is not in your control. At such times, the best response is to simply surrender to Life. Let whatever must happen, happen. Because, whatever is to happen will anyway happen!
But the normal human response is anger, frustration, depression, fear, insecurity, anxiety, worry and grief. There’s no point suppressing these feelings. They will naturally arise in you. Allow those feelings to come. Feel each of them and ask yourself if they can help you deal with your Life situation any better. If they can, persist with them. Let’s say, someone’s dying of cancer. How can any of these feelings help cure the cancer? Or prevent that person from dying? Or let’s say you have been let down in a relationship. How can these feelings help you cope any better? When you sit calmly and analyze your Life situation – any situation which cannot be solved at a human level; and there are many of them – you will understand that going with Life’s flow, and the grand Cosmic Design, the Master Plan, is the only intelligent option you have. So, logically, there’s no point persisting with these debilitating emotions. Surrendering to Life really means dropping these feelings and being free!
I have come to believe that not knowing what to do in Life is an opportunity to understand, appreciate and live Life better. It is a humbling experience. Our education and intellect make us believe that we are in control, that we are achieving this and that, we are creating assets and raising families, that we have everything planned out and mapped out in our lives. But when a Life situation strikes, and pushes you into a corner, you realize that you were never in control then – or now. It is only through this awakening that you understand the value of surrendering to Life and going with its flow.
So, if you are in a place in Life when you don’t know what to do about someone or some situation, go with wherever your Life is taking you. Don’t resist. Don’t fear. Don’t agonize. Go with the flow, because, always, you will arrive where you eventually need to be and that’s where you will be peaceful and happy!
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In Life’s darkest moments, remember, the light within you can show you the way!
A friend who works with a large US-based financial institution called me a couple of hours ago. He is the head of operations of this company’s back-office in Pune. Many of his company’s Asia-Pac business leadership has quit in the last week. Actually, with an acquisition n India having gone awry, the US office has asked the Asia-Pac business leaders to own accountability and leave. My friend has over the last 10 years built a reputation for himself within the company as a reliable and responsible manager. Therefore, he was allowed a higher degree of empowerment. He was, exceptionally, allowed to lead the company’s largest global back-office in Pune. Which meant that his centre accounted for the highest payroll in the company. But just this week, with the top heads quitting, the Pune centre has been made directly reported to a person sitting in UK. My friend called me to seek my view on making sense of this development. “I am very uncomfortable that my empowerment is withdrawn. I fear I will be axed,” he told me. He was sounding very, very disturbed. I told him: “You are feeling insecure. Which is natural. Accept your insecurity. Talk to your new boss or even to your global CEO and ask them upfront if the reason for this change has anything to do with their view of your efficiency as the centre head. If your insecurity persists, despite that conversation, go look for another job. If you get one that you like, move. If you don’t get one or don’t want to move even after getting another offer, at least you would have realized the value of what you have on hand and you will be able to be more productive and efficient. Important, you will stop feeling insecure and disturbed.”
For various reasons, in myriad situations, each of us encounters insecurity. The best way to deal with insecurity is to accept that it is there.
Insecurity is a normal human response to situations that you can’t immediately make sense of. Metaphorically, you are groping in the dark. There is no light. Suddenly you feel lost. Lonely. You are filled with fear. What do you do? Well, you can shiver and shudder. You can cry in despair. But soon you realize that none of that can drive the darkness away. What you need is light – and you don’t have a source like a torch or a matchbox or such. So, when you understand and accept the hopelessness of the situation, when you embrace your insecurity, you will be able think with greater clarity. And then the greatest realization will dawn on you – you don’t need any light from the outside; you are the light! The light from within is what can and will guide you onward. This light is your faith, your trust in the process of Life, that no matter what, you will get what you need, you will be cared for and looked after.
When you think about Life deeply, you will recognize the truth that there is nothing called security. On the vast cosmic plane, the human being is as powerless as an ant is in front of humans. One event, and in under a moment, a Life is snuffed out. So what security are you and I seeking when we can never really escape the inevitable end, death? When you understand this quality – its impermanence – about Life, you will stop seeking security.
In the course of a lifetime, there will be several million, or more, occasions when you will feel insecure. Accept your insecurity every single time. When you do that, your awareness, through your acceptance, will remind you each time that the security you crave for is a myth. Then insecurity will not hound and haunt you. You will be free from it. You will then be happy despite your circumstances.
To be unfrustrated when you don’t get the results you want is a skill that you can teach yourself.
A gentleman asked me the other day: “It must be so frustrating AVIS to endure a bankruptcy for such a long time. Why do talented and ethical people like you have to go through a tough Life?” I smiled back at him. My reply: “Talent and integrity don’t ensure a crisis-free Life. The nature of Life is such that it is one continuous adventure. You just have to deal with whatever comes your way.”
I feel people unnecessarily complicate Life by imagining that they should be free from problems, challenges or crises. To be sure, Life never promised anyone a hassle-free ride. In fact, Life makes no promises. We humans bring our expectations to the party and then we invite suffering into our Life when those expectations are not met. When Life makes no promises, and when you expect something out of Life, and that expectation is not fulfilled, and you suffer, who is to blame? Of course, you have only yourself to blame. So, simply, drop all expectations and Life will be a lot easier to deal with.
In “Gandhi The Man”, Eknath Easwaran (1910~1999), writes about how Mahatma Gandhi drew great inspiration from the Bhagavad Gita to keep the focus only on his efforts and to learn to be detached from the outcomes. The Gita says: ‘Do your allotted work, but renounce its fruit – be detached and work – have no desire for reward and work’. And Gandhi internalized this learning thus: “This is the unmistakable teaching of the Gita. He who gives up action falls. He who gives up only the reward rises. But renunciation of fruit in no way means indifference to the result. In regard to every action one must know the result that is expected to follow, the means thereto, and the capacity for it. He, who, being thus equipped, is without desire for the result, and is yet wholly engrossed in the due fulfillment of the task before him, is said to have renounced the fruits of his action.”
I meditated, during my daily mouna (silence periods) sessions, on this learning for weeks on end some years ago. And over time I cultivated the ability to stay detached from the outcomes of my efforts. Vaani helped me through this process. This is how both of us have been able to deal with our Life with great equanimity.
Internalizing this learning has helped us immensely to remain unfrustrated when we don’t get what we want despite our very sincere efforts and all our integrity. When you are unfrustrated then you see any challenge only as an opportunity to learn patience and to retry. Which is why, when people often ask me, when do I think we will get out of our bankruptcy, I always reply, “I know we will be out of this. I just can’t say when.”
To be unfrustrated is a skill that can be learnt with practice. It requires training your mind to engage with only the present moment, with only the efforts. Simply, when there is integrity of Purpose, when there is relentless, unsparing effort, when you trust the process of Life, then you can never be frustrated with the outcomes!
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There will be times in Life when you can’t solve your problems. This is when you must learn to trust the process of Life!!!
A member of the audience at one of my Talks recently made this observation: “I am very inspired by you and Vaani. Both of you have phenomenal trust in each other and have demonstrated the power of resilience. But how I wish your story had a happy ending, how I wish your story had turned around for all the positivity you both exude. Then your story would have been a lot more inspiring!”
Vaani and I too wish the same outcomes. Not so that our story is inspiring, but so that we end up repaying all our debt and become debt-free. There’s a huge responsibility that we bear in us, every single day, of repaying our 179 Angels (creditors) the USD 1 million dollars that we owe them. There’s a line from a Tamizh classic (I not well versed in Tamizh literature, so I am not sure of the source – if anyone can enlighten me on the source, you are most welcome; will be grateful for the learning!) which goes like this…‘kadan petraar nenjam pola’…translated loosely, it means ‘like the heaviness in a debt-laden person’s heart’. While we have learnt the art of not allowing our spirit to be smothered by the weight of our problems, both professional and legal, and our debt, we still wake up every single day with an awareness of this enormous responsibility. We try to get our business back on track – meetings, proposals, networking, presentations…we keep doing a lot of stuff, a lot of new stuff too…but we remain unfrustrated when our efforts don’t bear the results we seek. To be sure, over the last 9+ years, our efforts have come unstuck more times than they have yielded any profitable outcomes. And, through this catharsis, this has been our big learning. Sometimes in Life, talent, integrity and hard work will not get you what you want. So, this is when you must keep the Faith and learn to be Patient. Faith here is the ability to trust the process of Life – that if you have been created, you will be provided for, you will get all that you need and you will be cared for and looked after. Patience here means the ability to keep the Faith even when there is no evidence to support that you will get the results that you are toiling towards.
Clearly, Faith and Patience are not capable of solving your problems. Your problems will either sort themselves out over time, in their own timeframes – not necessarily within the deadlines you wish or strive for – or your efforts will lead you to solutions over time. Yet, Faith and Patience are great coping devices. They help you and me, anchor within, find inner peace and be happy, even as Life works at its own pace, in its own time. Our learning and experience is also that if you have found inner peace and have learnt to be happy despite your circumstances, you can face anything, absolutely anything, in Life! Which is why we don’t wish for anything, anymore. We simply put in a 100 % every single day, go to sleep happy and content that our efforts have been true and genuine, and wake up the next day to go back to putting in another 100 % effort. We know that someday, we trust Life enough for knowing this, we will eventually get to what we are working toward!