Learning to live when you hate Life


We all know that not all our wants are ever going to be met. So, even though, often times, we do plunge into despair and grief over unmet expectations, we have the ability to overcome, repair and revive ourselves.

But what do you do when your basic needs are not met? What do you do when you are not loved? When you are not understood? What do you do when you don’t know where your next rupee or dollar in income is going to come from? What do you do when it is a special day in your Life, your child’s birthday, and you can’t even afford a new dress for her? What do you do when the only person you can relate to in the world has been taken away by Life, in a ghastly, unexpected accident? What do you do when you know you are dying of cancer and there’s so much pain that it feels like your whole body is on fire __ and yet death seems so elusive?

What do you do when you must live though you wish you could actually die?

Contrary to what you want to do is, often, what you have to do. And to do that, to live when you would much rather die, you must look your situation in the eye, and despite all your grief, choose to live, LIVE, in that tormenting, torturous moment. That’s when you will find that despite all the pain, you feel no suffering. When you have learned to overcome suffering, you have learned the way to joy, you have learned to live!

Yesterday, a close friend called. He is going through a painful phase in his Life where his brother and he are separating as business partners. The separation has turned messy. My friend says he has tried to be completely giving and has agreed to all terms and conditions stipulated by his brother, however outrageous they have been. The idea was to ensure a peaceful, amicable partitioning of the business. Even so, said my friend, his brother was taunting him and provoking him. My friend did not want to blow up and confound an already vitiated situation. So, he called me asking for advice on what I thought he could possibly be doing.

I was reminded, even as my friend spoke, of a similar situation I encountered some years back. My entire family had concluded that (my wife and) I had cheated them in a transaction involving family property and some substantial cash borrowings. In fact, they still do. Just hearing them say what they did, and reading some ghastly text messages from my siblings, was both humiliating and traumatic. I must have died a thousand deaths in the days and weeks following that episode. Then, call it a revelation, call it enlightenment, I suddenly reasoned that I sought my family’s understanding because I needed it badly. It dawned on me that to understand me (and my wife) did not appear to be on my family’s agenda. Instead misunderstanding every word and action of ours appeared to be on their agenda. So, what was the point in demanding understanding when it was not likely to be given? I looked at the scenario dispassionately and came to the following conclusions:

1.  What was the basis of the misunderstanding? – My family believed that my wife and I were faking our bankruptcy and so were feigning an inability to settle money borrowed from the family

2.   Where was my grief, my suffering coming from? – That I, a son of my family, was being misunderstood, was not being trusted. My ego demanded trust. Whereas the situation completely lacked it because my family simply did not give it or me any trust!

3.  What was the way to end my suffering? – Settle my family’s money for which I didn’t have any means then (or even now) or let go of my need, my craving, for understanding. I chose the latter.

4.   Despite what I felt or experienced, I realized my family had a right to its views and opinions. They didn’t fulfill my need, but surely they believed their reasoning to be sound and so backed their behavior!

I shared this learning with my friend yesterday. I told him to give up his need for his brother to understand him. I told him that at the root of all our suffering is a cause. The cause often has little to do with what may have led to a situation. Instead it has everything to do with our need for the situation to be different. So, let me clarify, it is not even about a want. It is about a need, a more basic, often elementary, non-negotiable, human requirement. For instance, a son, a child will need a family’s understanding and not merely want it. A brother will need his sibling’s understanding and not merely want it. A companion will need her partner’s love and not just want it. A cancer patient will need a cure or death and not simply want either of them! If money be a common denominator for a standard of survival in the world, a basic income is then a need for the qualified, skilled and experienced, and not just a want.

Yet, as is with my story, or my friend’s, or even your own, Life, sometimes, will put you in a place where even a basic need is not fulfilled. You will initially hate such a Life. Because unhappiness__when wants are not met__can perhaps still be endured. But insecurity__when needs are not provided for__suffocates. And yet you have to live! That’s a difficult place to be in. This is when you must learn to live fully with what is__without grief or angst or rancor or suffering. When you do that, your own definition of what is it that you need will undergo a tectonic shift. Then, you will realize that Life is so benevolent. Because all that you really, badly, immediately, need to live is always available, in abundance, to you! Then some of your needs become wants and you reconcile to them not being met. Such an awakening and reconciliation delivers inner peace unto you. You then learn to surrender completely to the moments that make up your Life and you live, fully, freely, peacefully, joyously, in them!


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The Universal Prayer to Life


Life is a continuous process of unlearning and learning, repairing and renewing.

Many a time what you think, what you say and what you do may not be in harmony. And that really is the cause for all unhappiness. Or sometimes you may be thinking, saying and doing things in one way but others, often companions, observers, onlookers, will be thinking differently. And they may opinionate differently. This can be another source for unhappiness.

So, in either of these situations, how do you restore the equilibrium? How do you anchor within? How do you come back to being happy?

Some years ago, I would lean on religion for repair and renewal, but while I found such experiences ushering in peace momentarily, the peace at most times didn’t really last. When the experience was over, the hard-won peace was also gone. Besides, I never understood or experienced happiness through religion. Further, through a Life-changing experience that I have been through in recent years, I have lost all interest in religion, as it is preached and practiced today. I find it ritualistic and divisive. In the name of pluralism it alienates us humans from each other. They say spirituality is the flowering of internal awareness. They also say religion is for those who want to go to heaven, and spirituality is for those who have been to hell! I have been to hell and I identify with both these sayings closely. 

I composed this prayer some years ago. It was a fervent plea from me to Life to show me the right way, through the labyrinth of fear, anxiety and uncertainty that tormented me at that time. It has since become a prayer to Life, whom I have come to recognize as the greatest Teacher. That’s why I always spell Life with a capital ‘L’! To me, Life is the Higher Energy that embraces and nurtures all creation. Each day, during my ‘mouna’ (silence periods) session, I pray to Life, reciting this prayer slowly, savoring each word, and relating it to my experiences of the previous day. Since I don’t understand Sanskrit, and since most of Indian Hindu prayers are composed in that language, I have been unable to relate to any of them seriously. English, however, as a medium, helps me internalize each sentiment and embed my daily learnings firmly in my soul!

Teach me, O! Teacher…

Teach me, O! Teacher, each day as I awake and arise, to be humble. To respect another Life and to accept that just as I am entitled to my opinion, others are too. To contribute selflessly and without expectation.

Teach me, O! Teacher, to forgive every act of unkindness and injustice to me. To unlearn and forget what may not be relevant to me as I journey along.

Teach me to conquer anger and to attain that state of ahimsa, when all violence inside me subsides, and true love prevails.

Teach me to avoid hatred and jealousy. To resist ruinous temptations and to employ discretion at such times that I may waver.

Teach me, O! Teacher, to soak in and converse with the silence that engulfs me and for me to discover the real me in it.

Teach me to lead a Life of action, skillfully and selflessly, to live in this world and yet be above it.

Teach me, to remain detached from the fruits of my action and to know that if the motive is pure and the means are correct, in the end it will all be fine if I do my best and leave you the rest.

Teach me, O! Teacher, to be eternally grateful for this Life and this experience!

You too can try it. Learning, unlearning, repair and renewal, on a daily basis, are guaranteed. Peace and joy are both intended and assured outcomes too!