Inspirations from a fellow voyager’s fortitude

To remain centered in the face of uncertainty is the only option you have to avoid suffering. Either you suffer asking why something’s happening to you, wanting to understand what your Life is all about, or you just let go and anchor within.  
           
CNN.com has run a story on the husband of one of the passengers aboard the missing flight MH 370. The story, by Moni Basu, talks of the fortitude and feelings of K.S.Narendran, whose wife Chandrika Sharma was traveling to Mongolia on MH 370, and his daughter Meghna. Narendran has shared a personal note he wrote to his family and friends with CNN. I reproduce here some excerpts from Narendran’s poignant note – reading it we can gain a meaningful insight to dealing with uncertainty.
Narendran writes:

Chandrika, Meghna, Narendran
Picture Courtesy: CNN.com/K.S.Narendran

“… It only brings to the fore how little we actually know, how vulnerable we are, and the things we take for granted about people, places and things…As individuals, we can do very little. We wait patiently. With every passing day and each fragment of information that comes in, we revise the narrative strung together, and articulate the new set of perplexing and urgent questions that inevitably come up…I remain focused on what we have at hand by way of information, and stay with the knowledge that Chandrika is strong and courageous, that her goodness must count for something, somewhere. I carry firmly the faith that the forces of Life are eternal, immutable and ever present to keep the drama ever moving. In the ultimate analysis, I am neither favored nor deserted. No one is…As family, we are not given to histrionics/theatrics. We suffer, we agonize, we tether on the edge, but seldom allow ourselves to be overwhelmed. I don’t say this with any sense of self-congratulation or offer it as recommendation. I am merely saying this for those who know us from a distance or fleetingly…”

Narendran told Basu that he has drawn strength from his recent experience with Vipassana, an ancient technique of meditation in India. Vipassana means to see things as they really are. The essential message of transience and impermanence has lent perspective, he said. The practice of being in the “present,” however difficult, he said, has helped him manage “the menace of an overworked imagination.”
I can completely relate to every word and sentiment expressed by Narendran. My wife and I go through these feelings every single day. As we have been doing for several years now. What started off as a business situation, a bankruptcy, 10 years ago has morphed into an inconclusive, inscrutable, unfathomable personal drama over the last 20 months. Without work and without cash, we too hang precipitously from the edge. But we have learnt not to suffer and we have learnt to be happy despiteour circumstances. However absurd and irrelevant this may sound in a material sense, this learning has been the greatest wealth that our bankruptcy has unwittingly created for us.  
Living with uncertainty was never easy. And it still is difficult. But I have realized that suffering comes only from not accepting what is. Through our experience, I have understood that the nature of Life is uncertainty. It was always this way. Even when our business flourished and we were able to buy all the things that money could buy, it was uncertain. But I did not see either the beauty or the uncertain nature of Life then. I thought my leadership was causing all our success. So, when the business failed and the money stopped flowing, I suffered. Suffering can cripple and incapacitate you – totally. I suffered for months and years until I understood that while pain in Life is inevitable, suffering is pointless – and optional. I haven’t tried Vipassana – but completely agree with its concept of seeing things as they really are. Mouna, practicing silence periods daily, helped me see what is and taught me to live in the moment. Mounamagically set me free – from the tyranny of the past and the anxiety of the future. I have experienced the value that anchoring within brings to Life. It definitely, to quote Narendran, helps keeps the mind from whipping up “the menace of an overworked imagination”.
In Zen, they emphasize that you to learn the art of remaining untouched. They say that a Zen Master is one who can walk through a stream without the water touching him. It doesn’t mean he will not get wet. But he will remain “untouched” within. Swami Vivekananda (1863~1902) says this so beautifully, so powerfully: “Live in the midst of the battle of Life. Anyone can keep calm in a cave or when asleep. Stand in the whirl and madness of action and reach the center. If you have found the center, you cannot be moved.”
From my experience I know this to be true – and possible.

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“Life is a Taste!” – Simply taste what is!!!

Deal with hope judiciously. It’s good to have it but don’t cling on to it. Just let it be. And you simply be too.  
Picture Courtesy: Internet/Twitter
This morning’s papers carried stories of how Chandrika Sharma’s family in Chennai is coping with the lack of information or even a clue of the Malaysian Airlines flight MH 370 that went missing over the weekend. Sharma was on that flight, going to Ulan Bator in Mongolia, via Kuala Lumpur and Beijing, to attend a conference. Her husband K.S.Narendran and daughter Meghna shared their sense of despair, amidst diminishing hope, with the media yesterday. ‘The New Indian Express’journalist, out of some really-hard-to-fathom, cold logic, asked Narendran if he still “nursed a small amount of hope that his wife is alive”. ‘TNIE’ reports that Narendran, in response to the question, “glanced away, turned his wrist around and smiled wryly”. And the story concludes with this rather poignant line: “Whatever else dies, hope never will, he (Narendran) seemed to say.”
The situation that the father-daughter duo find themselves in is indeed difficult to even imagine. But often times Life will bring you to the edge of such a precipice. When even to hope will be a hopeless thing to do. Yet hope is all you will have in such moments. Understanding how to deal with and handle hope then can be immensely helpful.
What must be understood first is that hope is always about a future which is yet to arrive. And Life is always happening only in the present moment. In the now. So, anything which is not real or true, which is not from the present, has the potential to cause agony and suffering. Not only because the thing or event that you hope for has not happened yet, but because you will agonize wondering whether it will happen at all or not.
Osho, the Master, in one of his discourses, has talked of a signage that some of his followers had put up at Rajneeshpuram, his ashram at Oregon in the United States. The signage, quoting a significant line from Dante Alighieri’s (1265~1321, the Florentine poet) ‘The Divine Comedy’, read: “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here”. Osho urged his followers to abandon hope too, abandon seeking the unborn future, drop the dead past, and start living in the present moment rejoicing in the small things of Life. He famously said: “Meaning is a mind thing. Life is a Taste!” What he meant was this: all of us, based on our own individual Life experiences, try to make meaning out of everything that happens to us – why is something happening to me, why should it happen now, what will I do with this Life in the future, where does this leave me, how will I cope, will I survive…and, on and on, the questions seeking meaning keep arising in you and in me. Osho says it’s futile to ask these questions. He says Life is a taste. He asks, in his inimitable, thought-provoking, unputdownable way: “Do you ever think what meaning taste has? Eating spaghetti, do you ask what meaning the taste has? Having a beautiful shower, feeling the freshness of it, have you ever asked what the meaning of freshness is? Looking at the sunset with so many colors spread all over the horizon, have you asked what meaning the sunset has?”
My inference is that when we try to reason and seek meaning from Life’s events, we will never be successful. Hope, in a way, is about reasoning and seeking to create meaning out of a Life situation. This does not mean that you must not have hope. Or that you must not want to be hopeful. Just don’t cling on to it. Anything that you cling on to, hold on to, will cause your suffering. Instead, just be.  
So, if you are in situations like the one that Narendran and Meghna find themselves in, when even hoping seems futile and yet you can’t abandon hope, remember Osho’s advice: “Life is a Taste!” Simply taste what is. And go on to the next moment, the next tasting session! Don’t try to search for Life’s meaning. Don’t yearn for an unborn future. Life’s a unique experience that is born and dies, anew, each moment. Live in and for the moment. You will never suffer then because nothing else will matter.
PS: My heart goes out to Narendran and Meghna, and to all families of those who are missing in the MH 370 episode. I pray that Life shows them all the light and the way…