Trauma is a catalyst – it can transform you

You often understand Life only when it becomes miserable.
This is the most amazing truth about Life. It is a revelation, a discovery, that strikes you, dawns on you, when you are in the throes of pain and despair. When everything is going per your aspirations, your desires, you conclude that you are in control, that you are the Master, that it’s all yourdesign. You matter the most to you in these times__times that are popularly labeled as ‘successful’. You do well in academics, land yourself a dream job, get married to a person of your choice – well, you think you managed all of that ‘success’ on your own steam. Because of your brilliance, genius and effort. Undoubtedly, you have worked hard and efficiently. There has been your contribution. But to imagine that the design of your Life was woven by you smacks of ignorance, even if not of arrogance, of the way Life works.
I met a successful Tamizh movie director, a very successful man from Chennai, recently. He is smart, intelligent and very creative. He said, “I don’t believe in dreams. I believe in subconscious aspirations, dedicated effort and flawless execution. You make your own destiny.” Poetic words. Makes sense to the rational mind. Except Life doesn’t work like that. A very successful industrialist I know, who went bankrupt and has clawed his way back into reckoning and profits in business, has this learning to share: “When things were going fine, I was thinking it was my leadership, my acumen, my business-sense that were causing my success. When we started losing money and eventually went bust as a business, I found that the same leadership and acumen__mine__were of no use. That’s when I awoke to the reality that Life’s designs are different from my own.” The thing about misery and pain is that it offers a teachable point of view. Always. Trauma is a good transformation agent, a catalyst. There’s no rocket science to why we__you and me__often awaken only when in pain. Life is best understood by asking the right questions. And we pause to ask questions, explore with curiosity, only when we don’t get what we want. Interestingly, the questions we ask beget us no answers. Just more questions emerge. And the more questions we ask, the closer we are to understanding Life. To realize the only truth that Life is, well, inscrutable! The 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche says, “To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.” That meaning, when discovered by you in your own unique way, is that you too can avoid all suffering by simply accepting what Life has offered you. When you reach this state of understanding Life you will see how much your pain, your trauma has changed you and helped you evolve! 

Attend to your Life to see how perfect it is

Life is perfect. As it is, it is beautiful.
You don’t notice how perfect your Life is, how beautiful it is, because you are not present in the moment, you are not attending to Life! Your body is here, but ‘you’ are lost in your own world. Think about it. A lot of your waking time is indeed spent worrying about what will happen or brooding over what has happened. From financial priorities to relationship issues to just a lot of anxiety over all the work that’s still to be done – you agonize over everyone and everything! And, therefore, your Life appears to you to be far from perfect. You imagine your Life to be imperfect because you want your Life to be different from what it is. This want holds you hostage – it prevents you from realizing this simple truth that your Life cannot be any other way. It is always what it is.
One way to participate in living and engage with Life it is to get up and walk. Every time that you find your thoughts are going astray, and dragging you into worry or anxiety, and are taking you away from the now, just get up and walk. Even if it is within your home or your office. Just walk. When you walk, you will find that your focus shifts from your current reality to your present environment. They may appear to be similar scenarios but they are two different things. Because you are so absorbed in your current reality, you don’t pay attention to Life. When you pay attention, when you attend to Life, you notice its beauty and magic. You will notice the spider on the wall, you will notice the daylight streaming through the windows kicking up millions of dust particles, you will notice the dew drop on the leaf struggle to defeat the intensity of the rising sun, you will notice your child’s scrawl on her desk, you will notice the fragrance of your beloved still hanging in your room long after she has gone to work… You will realize that Life is indeed beautiful – no matter what circumstances you are currently faced with.

The 19th Century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844~1900) has so aptly said, “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking”. When you walk, and pay attention, the greatest thought that can arise in your mind is one of gratitude. Because, very simply, you can walk! There are so many, many people out there who can’t! Isn’t that enough evidence of how perfect your Life is? When you recognize how lucky you are__to be able to walk, see, touch, feel and hear, you will soak in gratitude. When you are grateful, you will discover that, after all, despite all that you don’t have and so badly want, your Life is indeed perfect the way it is.

Every crisis has a teachable point of view

A line in a song that I heard the other day, refuses to leave me, and makes me think. The song is by the first-ever American Idol, Kelly Clarkson, from her album “Stronger” (2011). The lyrics of Clarkson’s song, which explores themes of empowerment and recovery following a heartbreak, have this famous line – “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” (follow the link below for the actual song). The original quotation is by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844~1900): “That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger!”
Indeed. This is so true.
Most often when we go through a crisis in Life, we think it’s all over. And we can’t be blamed. Because the human mind thinks only logically. So, when you cannot see the light at the end of a dark tunnel, you have to rely on your mind’s assessment and conclusion that an endless dark tunnels goes nowhere. This is how fear and insecurity, which are manifestations of the mind, control and consume us. But what seemed like romantic philosophy from Nietzsche has found some scientific backing in recent times. In a 2011 report on the correlation between adversity and resilience, researcher Mark Seery, a psychologist at the University of Buffalo, in the US, says that although traumatic experiences such as losing a loved one can be psychologically damaging, small amounts of trauma can make us more resilient.
I have a more experiential take on this. If you look back at your own Life and make a list of your own “no-way-ahead” moments, you will realize that while those times were really dark, often scary, they were important for your personal evolution. When you reflect on them now, you find yourself both grateful for the experience__because it has made you tougher__and feel that the challenge, the crisis, gave your Life a new perspective.
Over the years, I have learned to make peace with my crises. After the initial shock of a crisis hitting me has subsided, I enquire within:

·         What is this situation trying to tell me?
·         What is the best decision/action I can take?
·         What collaborations/outside help must I seek?
·         What can I learn from it?
This approach has helped me immensely. It may not often solve the crisis for me immediately but gives me the courage and equanimity to face it and deal with it effectively. I have realized that every crisis has a teachable point of view. When you learn the lesson, a similar crisis may just arrive in some time – not to torment you, but it’s Life’s way of testing if you have indeed learned the lesson. And newer crises often arrive too, with levels of difficulty that are always higher, and far more complex, than the previous ones. So, in a way, Life’s like many of those computer games that people play. You get better with each game, with each play. Only to ascend in levels of challenge and learn to play the game better. Which is why, it makes imminent sense to remember what Nietzsche said and Clarkson sang!