Whether hopeful or hopeless, be happy!

If being hopeless makes you peaceful, be hopeless. What’s important is that you be at peace with yourself!
Yesterday a reader wrote to me saying she didn’t want to be hopeful about her Life anymore. She said she had made peace with her miseries. I did not disagree with her. If she is peaceful, even while she’s ostensibly in a lot of pain, that’s what matters the most. It is wrong to assume that people can’t have a truck with their problems. Always, that’s how acceptance comes. But the key is that you must be happy accepting your Life the way it is. If you are not happy, if you are not at peace, then such acceptance is, virtually, no acceptance. An intrinsic effect, an outcome, of acceptance is that it puts an end to all your suffering. The pain continues to be there. But the suffering ceases. If you are still suffering then you have not accepted your situation fully, you are still grudging it.
I have found that being hopeless is not a bad thing to do – as long as you don’t sulk, brood and become depressive. Hopelessness is nothing but acceptance. You reach a state when you decide that things are going to be the way they are and you can’t do anything but endure the Life you have. So, if this is the state in which you find inner peace, then it is completely irrelevant whether you call it hopelessness or acceptance! But there’s a caveat here – don’t complain or grieve about your situation. Just learn to cope with it and live with it. You of course can continue to work on trying to solve your problems, but with acceptance and not with resentment!

Now, whether you accept a situation or not, whether you are hopeful about Life or not, your Life will change over time. Everything changes. And every situation passes on. What comes, goes away. And something new comes in its place, to soon go away. Hope and hopelessness are human inventions. They are mere labels we stick on otherwise listless events and circumstances. Think about it: if you are likely to get what you want, you are hopeful; and if you are unlikely to get what you want, you are hopeless. But neither your wanting something, or resenting something, is going to stop whatever is coming your way. This is how Life works – it has a mind of its own and it keeps on happening to you, irrespective of how you feel. So, why label situations as hopeful or hopeless – and sweat over either? Just go with the flow, living with what is. But if you can’t avoid labeling, live with the label too – like the reader who wrote in yesterday. Whatever you do, be at peace with yourself, with your Life, and, important, be happy!
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Hopelessness and inertia can never transform your reality. Only action can.

When there is no hope, remember, you are still alive. And as long as you are there, the God within too is alive, kicking and capable of a miracle.
Most often, hopelessness leads you to conclude that it is all over. That you are finished. You miss something very crucial at that time, that all your data points, all evidence, that you use to make that conclusion, are external. They lie outside of you. Your prayers also are to reference points outside you __ a God as an idol in a faraway temple, or one in a sacred church, or at a distant dargah! When you find that your efforts to seek a miracle for yourself are reduced to a naught, you amplify your conclusion and say, nothing is possible. You resign. You give up. In all this time, even for a moment, you have not looked within. You have not cared to look at your soul. You have not realized the blessing of your being alive. There’s a famous saying, “With God anything’s possible!”  That God, that miraculous energy, is what’s powering you. The fact that you can conclude, basis external reference points, that you are finished, is proof that you are alive. If you are alive, that Universal energy is powering you. Dip into that energy. Go within. You will then realize the futility of benchmarking all your wants and needs on external reference points.
To live __ you just need to be aware of your being alive! With this awareness try and understand how you are feeling at the moment. If you are sad, accept that reality. If you are fearful, accept it too. If you are anxious, again accept it. Whatever you feel, acknowledge it, accept it. Then ask yourself, what can I do to change this reality? List down your actions. Some of them may be painful, uncomfortable actions. But if you have to do them, you have to. Because you want to change how you feel, right? With the actions you take, the problems you face, that led to a state of hopelessness in the first place, may not immediately go away. But if you are feeling good about what you are doing, you can be sure that you will walk into a new reality. Every new journey starts with a first step. That first step is to change the way you are feeling about whatever’s your current reality. You may not be able to see your destination yet, but if you have sat in the plane, fastened your seat belt and have closed your eyes, you can be assured the pilot will take off, and with the available data on probability, chances are good that you will land where you intend to in some time.
Both hope and hopelessness are imposters. One tricks you to imagine that all will be fine. It breeds inertia. And the other deceives you and tells you it’s all over, nothing’s possible. Again it breeds inertia. Whereas, by visiting the energy that powers you, you can feel rejuvenated, inspired and begin to act. Hopelessness and inertia can never transform your reality. Only action can.

On why hopelessness is not a bad thing

To be hopeless about a situation in Life is, after all, not a bad thing. It helps you gain great clarity about living Life – fully, in the now!  
I recently read the story of a lady who was diagnosed with last-stage cancer. She talks about how, when she first heard the diagnosis, she went from one specialist to another, hoping fervently that she would hear a different diagnosis and the prognosis would be positive. She continued to work at her job – and the stresses of both her health situation and a demanding job began to take their toll on her. Finally, when she met a very eminent oncologist, he told her that she had “only six months more”. The lady recalls that she was shaken awake from her “hope-filled reverie”. She says she had been hoping badly, madly, that she would be told that she would live longer. But when she was told of her possible expiry date, coming up in just the next few months, she decided to “live” fully – in the time that she had left with her! She quit her job, made a list of all the people and places she wanted to visit, took to painting (something she loved doing but never found the time when she was working) every day and chose to be happy over feeling mournful about her health. She explained that “as long as she was hopeful of being cured she was clinging on to a Life which she was hardly enjoying, but the moment she realized her health situation was beyond hope, she began to live her Life – intensely, joyfully!”

This lady’s experience teaches us something invaluable. It helps us understand that while hope is a good thing, in certain situations in Life, it may hold us hostage and blind us from seeing reality. Reality, however, cannot be escaped. So, while you live through certain unchangeable phases with unalterable realities in Life, being hopeful in a hopeless situation can indeed make you feel miserable. Your intelligence will tell you what the reality is. But hope will make you delusional – vainly wishing that the reality did not exist. This conflict will cause you to suffer – day in and day out. There’s a way to break this jinx. And that way is to simply accept a situation to be hopeless – when it really is so. For instance, if you lose someone to death – it’s pointless to hope for that person to come alive. Or if someone loses their limbs or eyesight or hearing or speech – it is futile to hope that it will be restored without a specialist medical intervention or, perhaps, a cosmic miracle!

Hopelessness is not about giving up. It need not only be about feeling desperate or despondent. It can, if you allow it to, help you see the reality as it is and can teach you how to face it. For, whenever you are hopeless about some situation, you can always ask yourself “what does this mean” and “what must I do now”. The answers you get for these questions can inspire to move on, in acceptance, and in peace.

Hopelessness leads to awareness

To be hopeless is a great boon, an opportunity – use it!
We often come across situations where there is no hope. In such times, what stares at us is a wall or complete darkness. Fear and insecurity in such situations is a natural response. But the moment fear takes over, any chance of you coming out of that situation are eroded. So, even as fear lurks around, choose your hopelessness to remain focussed in the now, in the present. No it is not difficult. If you understand hope you will be able to understand what hopelessness truly means. Hope is an aspiration of a future which is yet to arrive. So, when you are hopeless, it really means you see no future. Which therefore only means that, since the past is over and the future doesn’t exist, what you are left with is the present moment.
As Osho, the Master, has said so beautifully: “When there is no hope, you are. When there is no hope, the present is.”
Which is why hopelessness is an opportunity to live in the present moment. For when you have nothing to look forward to, then you can only live from moment to moment. Having lived this way for months and years now, let me tell you, it is a beautiful, awakening, humbling experience. Because you witness how magically Life goes on, without you controlling any of the influences – particularly, money, food, clothing and shelter – that you have been conditioned to believe are key to living.  
Hopelessness is still a desire. When you are pining that there be hope. And when with your human mind and vision you can’t see one, you despair, but even then, from deep within your heart, you continue to hope. Which means you expect a change in the situation. But true awareness is when you have transcended expectation, desire, hope, hopelessness and are simply with Life, living in the now. That’s when you have given up expecting anything from Life. And you simply are.

Indeed, you cannot be serious about Life!


A key factor that inhibits progress on the spiritual path is our tendency to take Life too seriously. Everything that we do, it appears, seems to key us up. Every small conquest seems to be a moment to claim superiority and every failure is seen as a numbing, lethal, final blow! So much so, when a hard-earned victory comes our way, we fritter away the moment in showmanship and bury ourselves under a heap of unsolicited critique and free opinion, when we fumble and fall.

So, it was with great interest that I read noted columnist Nirmal Shekar’s views on Indian cricket captain M.S.Dhoni in yesterday’s Hindu. Celebrating Dhoni’s legendary equanimity, Shekar made a case for sportspersons having the ‘right perspective’ to their game. That perspective, wrote Shekar, is to understand that a game is just a game. “…Sport is not really a matter of life and death. Sport is enjoyable only so long as we can get our perspective right and put it in its place, put it where it really belongs in the big picture. If we let it become too important, then what was sought as a pleasurable experience will turn out to be a pain.”

I completely agree with both of Shekar’s views: on Dhoni’s attitude to the game and on the nature of sport itself.

My two-penny worth learning from this lifetime’s experience so far is that Life is no different. In Life too the right perspective is very important. And we must place ourselves, and our perspective, where they belong in the big picture. Else what could well be a pleasurable experience may well turn out to be a pain!!!

The past week, I have been limping around, literally, owing to a nagging, painful condition in my right leg. Even a small step forward, at times, requires a big effort. I felt, at several times, crippled unable to carry out my routine normally __ like a bath, or driving, or going out for my daily walk. However, on my visit to the hospital the other day for a review with the doctor, I found a young lady seated on a wheel-chair. She seemed fine, for all practical purposes, laughing and joking with her family and nurses. So, I even wondered what she was doing seated cross-legged on a wheel-chair. Only when I looked closely did I realize that all her limbs were deformed. She didn’t have legs to speak of! Her lower limbs had shrunk abnormally owing to either a disease or birth deformity. Her hands were not normally formed either and her fingers seemed to be sticking out, without a palm, on both hands. I reflected on her spirit. And on my condition. I felt ashamed about the brouhaha I was creating over it! The right perspective and its place in the big picture fell in place immediately. I laughed to myself, much to the surprise of the nurse attending on me. When she insisted I tell her what the joke was, I said, “This leg, this painful condition, is the biggest joke! I find it absolutely funny!”

So it is with everything in Life! What seems like a grave problem momentarily, over a period of time, surely turns out to be laughing matter!  The key, I believe, is not to get keyed up about Life. The operative word and sentiment here is equanimity. Equanimity is simply the ability to deal with both success and failure, victory and defeat, joy and sorrow, hope and despair, dispassionately. Dhoni has it. You too can. The second chapter of the Bhagavad Gitaends with the highest state of consciousness a human being can attain. Krishna, replying to Arjuna, says: “…He lives in wisdom…Who sees himself in all and all in him…. He is not elated by good fortune…Nor depressed by bad…Such is the seer…!”

Whatever you are going through, take it easy! This Monday resist the temptation to get wound up any further. Invoke the right perspective and place it where it belongs in the big picture. To quote Swami Sathya Sai Baba, “Don’t we sometimes wake up from a dream, ponder over our conquests and defeat in our sleep-state, and shrug it all off thinking ‘it was but a dream’? We need to bring the same approach to Life as well. Because this lifetime is nothing but a dream.” Indeed. Maybe you will not understand, appreciate or accept this perspective just yet. But, may be you will at the end of your journey on this planet. Just maybe. That you really cannot or should not (have ever been) be serious about Life!

When nothing works, know that Life’s working on you!


When you think that nothing’s working for you know that Life is still working on you!

 

There will be those times in Life when all your efforts will come to a naught. And you will want to simply die. You will not see any light at the end of the tunnel. At such a time, instead of grieving and hating the phase you find yourself in, if you focus on what Life may be trying to teach you, you will discover that entire tunnel lights up. It’s amazing this discovery, this awareness, that Life’s working on you all the time.

Life happens differently to each of us. And trying to know why it happens that way or why something is happening to you is futile. Instead just know that there is a reason, why you are faced with whatever you are facing, which will reveal itself to you at some time. And love Life for continuing to teach you how to live. This is so true. We all work ourselves up for the smallest reasons. We worry. We fret. Fume. We sink into sorrow and depression when our expectations are not met or when we lose something or someone. Yet, Life does not give up on us. Through every trial it is teaching us__you and me__how to live better and be happier despite our circumstances.

This isn’t about cultivating hope. It is about acceptance. You often decide to give up on something after having tried all ways to solve a problem situation. But you still remain in pain and are suffering. The reason why you continue to suffer is because you haven’t given up completely. Hope can be dangerous when you don’t temper it with reality. There must be a bifocal approach to Life. Focus on your harsh, brutal reality and also focus on your vision for yourself. You cannot let go of one for the other. Both must be pursued equally. Giving up is not about giving up either or both. Giving up is the letting go of an expectation that what you are going through will be resolved soon or in a specific timeframe. Giving up is ridding yourself of the expectation that your efforts will bear fruit immediately. When you be at your problem this way, which is while enduring the pain you don’t have any expectation of the pain going away anytime soon, you will not suffer at all.

The only thing you need to understand to live Life fully__and happily__is that Life cannot be understood. It has to only be lived and learned __ one day at a time! Know that Life’s working on you, through your challenges, trials and tribulations. And you are only getting better at living it with every blow you face and with your every fall!