Life is incredible, beautiful, inscrutable and miraculous. Only when we try to make meaning out of it do we agonize.
There are many situations in Life where logical explanations are not possible. We can either accept whatever is happening, choosing to live in complete amazement of the Universe’s ways. Or we can question, challenge and grieve over our inability to explain why certain things are happening the way they eventually are.
You may face a challenging situation for several reasons. You may invite the challenge upon yourself __ like drinking and driving, and crashing your car, for instance. Or you may walk into one __ like quitting a job and taking another one only to realize that your employer is a fly-by-night operator and by the time you bail out, you have lost the momentum and opportunity spectrum in the market. Or something may befall you __ like a death in the family in the most unexpected circumstances or at the most inappropriate times. When Life decides to stir your story just a wee bit, perfectly happy marriages could be ruined and very families could be thrown in disarray. In all of these, and other, situations while you may imagine that things are happening only to you and may grieve asking either ‘why’ or ‘why me’, there’s no denying the fact that what has happened would have happened any which way. Life operates with a mind of its own. It doesn’t have any specific intention to fix you. It just goes on with a plan that’s been ordained for you, a plan that you will never quite understand or know in its entirety until you have lived through the Life that you are ready to review! The most intelligent way, therefore, to deal with Life is to just accept it, surrender to it and to never question it or its rationale.
Things never change overnight because you accept them or choose a higher path! They just become simpler__not necessarily easier__to handle. You are, with surrendering to Life, better off than fighting Life. Because a fight is always spewing negative energy. It is always about brute force. When you try to untangle a ball of knotted up wool, impatiently, by tugging at it from all sides, the mess will only become worse. Instead, calm, patience, diligence will help.
|Pi and Richard Parker: Peaceful Mates|
In the movie ‘Life of Pi’, Pi faces up to Life’s inscrutable ways with an equanimity which comes with understanding the futility of fighting Life. His initial period of helplessness and brute force, resisting his situation, does not yield him any results. He concludes that he can survive his ordeal only when he surrenders to Life’s grand design. At the same time, he resolves to do what is in his capacity, which is to make peace with Richard Parker, the tiger. He works on establishing a method of communicating with the tiger and training it to understand that co-existence was the only way forward for both of them! That was his diligence. His application of thought in what he could possibly do. So, surrendering to Life does not mean giving up. It means giving in, while doing whatever is possible.
Most situations in Life are pretty much like that. They are Catch 22s __ where the game is not over and there is still something, however small, that you can be doing to stay in the game. It is when we mistake these still workable, still doable situations to be ones where we are check-mated, that we encounter grief and misery. In a check-mate, the game’s over. In a Catch 22, the game is still on! With a check-mate you are usually dead. If you are alive, it is only a Catch 22.
So, hang in there. However incredible your story may be, stop analyzing and trying to make meaning out of your present state. Just know that in the end you will prevail. And when you look back, like Pi does in the movie, you will find that it all happened to make you richer from the experience and wiser from the learning!
Be ecstatic when you feel helplessness. You may not always find solutions to what you are confronted with, but you will find peace.
The normal human tendency is to grieve over being helpless. You are watching someone close to you die. Maybe a disease. Maybe an addiction. You have tried everything. Medicine. Counseling. Yet the person is dying __ and you feel powerless. Helpless. Or you know someone is taking a wrong decision. Like a sibling or a child or a friend entering into a relationship __ business or personal. Again you have tried making that person see sense. You have advised caution and have held a mirror. But no, the person in question, is intent on committing hara-kiri. What do you? You end up wringing your hands in despair.
Sometimes, your own situation may be one of helplessness. What do you do when each time you try to pick up and wind up the threads of your Life, they are snatched away, knotted up and thrown asunder? I have a personal situation, a relationship, which to most human beings is sacred, but to me it just doesn’t exist. And I have a business situation which, despite my best efforts, refuses to correct itself. There have been times when I have fought with both situations. And grieved endlessly. Until, after years of battling, of agonizing, I realized that your helplessness is a stark reminder that you are not in control. That your game is being played by Life all along. And that you are merely to allow yourself to be played with!
When this realization dawns, it is an awakening moment. It is an intensely private moment of discovery. You can call it enlightenment. Here you are, with all your education and upbringing, imagining that you are in control. You grieve therefore because this situation you are faced with refuses to listen to you. When you try, cry, lament, kick around, fail, try again, kick again, scream, agonize, suffer, give up, and come back to try again__somewhere in your nth attempt to regain control of your Life, you see the writing on the wall. And it reads: “Smile. Relax. Life’s in charge!”
Allowing yourself to be played with by Life does not mean inaction and resignation. It means acceptance and humble submission. It is to do what you think you can, and what you must, without grieving.
Helplessness is actually a great feeling. It celebrates the dropping of the ego. Why do you feel helpless? Because you are unable to control some things about your Life. And the desire to control, to stay on top, is your ego at work. Nothing else. Helplessness leads also to understanding the true nature of your Self and to peace. Take hurricane Sandy or the March 2011 Japanese earthquake. Despite mankind’s greatest discoveries and scientific advancements, what were we humans able to do against nature’s will? We were helpless. We were mere spectators to events that were happening to us, around us, about us. In a way, helplessness always begins with sorrow. With grief. But if you are aware and awake, your grief will be replaced soon with acceptance and peace. Because Life is such __ transient, impermanent. So, why grieve?
Instead enjoy the cosmic process of teaching you to surrender. There is great joy in this surrender. Because initially you will resist. Then you will realize the futility of such resistance. And then when you finally give in, you accept, you humbly submit, you will exult! Because you will feel great inner peace. It’s beautiful. You have to experience it to believe it!
So, take any situation in your Life that you are dealing with currently. And celebrate your helplessness. Choose a time when you are alone. Stand at your balcony, on the beach, in the middle of a busy street, or sprawl on your carpet as if no one was watching, and in your intensely private moment, in your personal space, let go and tell Life, “Come take me!”. Cry if you must. Scream if it want to. Just rejoice over your helplessness. Feel a new peace embracing you. Not only will you feel better, you will want more of it!
This then is your true prayerful state. Because prayer is not what you recite. Prayer is what you feel when you are one with the Universe. When you accept your helplessness, your egolessness, even momentarily, you will be blissful!
When grave things happen to you in Life allow them to. Don’t resist them. Just deal with them.
There’s a big difference between dealing with Life and resisting Life. Resistance always brings grief along with it. Because what happened to was always ordained to. And what is to happen will. This has been my key learning from Life: that Life’s Master Plan has no flaws. So, resistance to any situation is stupidity.
I know it will be frightfully difficult to “allow things to happen to you and merely deal with them”. Because it is intrinsic human nature to question, to demand justice, to want to control a situation that is happening without your wanting it or allowing it to happen. But recognize the futility in resistance by looking at all your Life’s upsets, crises and tragedies, up until so far. Despite your kicking around, didn’t those things, events, situations just happen to you? Your resistance only brought you agony. Untold misery and suffering too, depending on the gravity of your own situation. Instead ask yourself if it would not have been different if you had dealt with the situation __ calmly, purposefully?
Dealing with Life doesn’t mean inaction. Acceptance doesn’t mean sitting back and doing nothing. In this context, dealing with Life means doing what you must, to the best of your ability without being agitated, desperate or sorrowful. Channelize your distaste for your situation to trying to change it with focus, purpose and astute action. Know also fully well that some situations in Life may not be changeable after all!
Conceptually, you may be in agreement with this approach. But should you try it, you may come back and report that it’s still a struggle. And that struggle, my dear friend, will come because of another innate human trait that will surface, which is our tendency to cling on to the past. Most often our progress, our moving on, is affected because we still have one foot in the past and we refuse to extricate ourselves from that which is over. The past is dead. In Tamizh, the past is referred to as the ‘erantha kalam’ __ which means ‘time that is dead’! The past is gone. And is over with. The more you dwell in it, the more removed you will be from the opportunity to live freely.
|Sonali with Lara Dutta-Bhupathi and Amitabh Bachchan|
Let me share with you Sonali Mukherjee’s story. In 2003, when she was just 18, Sonali, who lives in Dhanbad, in the north Indian state of Jharkhand, turned down a marriage proposal from a certain Tapas Mitra. A month-and-a-half after she spurned his offer, Mitra, aided and abetted by two of his friends, attacked Sonali and poured acid on her face, disfiguring her gruesomely, permanently. Now, 26, Sonali has gone through 22 surgeries to graft skin and restore, to whatever limited extent possible, her face. She has lost her eyesight in the incident and is due for nine more restorative surgeries. Her family has spent their entire resources on her treatment. And they live in abject penury while her assailants roam scot free, having been granted bail by a higher court (after a lower court sentenced them to nine years imprisonment). Sonali’s complaint/appeal in the higher court is pending trial. Those who understand India will know that this trial could take several more years to complete. Just consider the poor girl’s plight: she has lost her identity, justice is being both delayed and denied to her and all this, for no fault of hers! On Sunday’s Kaun Banega Crorepati show (Indian version of ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’), the host, the Indian super star, Amitabh Bachchan asked Sonali, who won Rs.25 Lakh (about USD 50,000) prize money that evening, what was her thinking on the incident and towards her assailants. Stoic and with deep conviction, Sonali replied: “I don’t want to look back. I just want to focus on what I can do now. I will continue to seek justice from the courts. But importantly, I want to be available to other victims of violence and abuse and help them on their lives’ journeys.”
That’s really how you deal with Life. Stay stoic. Stay resolute.
Contrast your own situations with Sonali’s. What she has lost can’t even be recovered. Some of our stories may be similar too. Sonali then is an inspiration. She teaches us the value in accepting, and moving on, with conviction and calm. Some other stories may not be as gruesome. What is lost, for instance money or property, may still be, over time, be regained. In such situations, Sonali’s story should remind us of our blessings. Either way let us remember we don’t have a right to grieve. Because grief and bliss cannot co-exist.
So, if you want to be in peace, in bliss, give up resisting Life, give up grieving and embrace Life for what it is, the way it is. Loving ‘what is’ is intelligent living!