If you can’t enjoy it at certain times, learn to endure it while not resisting it.
In Palaghattan lingo (native to TamBrams hailing from Palakkad, Kerala), there is a phrase called “chatyam pidikarthu”. It means to “behave like a spoilt brat – adamant and obstinate”! Exasperated parents often use a variation – “chatyam pidikathey ‘tya” – (“Don’t behave like a spoilt brat, ok?!”) to admonish their children who are protesting vehemently when they are denied toys or food or anything that they immediately want.
I was reminded of this phrase when someone I know called me to a while ago. The caller referred to his cousin who continues to “brood, mourn and sulk” over his inability to get a job. “This has been going on for months now. My cousin has been refusing to heed any reason, he just goes into a dark hole and refuses to come out,” said the caller.
People who are sulking or brooding over their Life situations usually are very strong-willed. They like to have everything under their control. They can’t imagine that their efforts are not bearing fruit. So, they continue to fight Life, often by being angry with Life. In a way, to marry Palaghattan with colloquial Tanglish usage, “chatyampidichufying” with Life is of no use. Life is never bothered about how you are feeling. Whether you exult or mourn, Life couldn’t care less. It just goes on and on, doing what it pleases. And whatever you resist, not just persists, it causes all your suffering. So, while a Life event or a phase that you are going through may cause you intense pain, you suffer only because you are adamant and obstinate, you suffer only because you wish things were different from what they are. But if you think about Life deeply, it is always what it is. And all your bawling, your sulking, has no impact on Life. When a child acts cranky, demanding attention or that a wish be fulfilled, a parent usually relents immediately. But Life has no such compulsions or sense of urgency. No matter how much you sulk, how long you brood, how depressed you are, Life happens only at its own pace, in its own time, happening only the way it wants to happen.
Simply, “chatyampidichufying” with Life, fighting it, is a zero-sum game. Instead flow with it. If you can’t enjoy it at certain times, just learn to endure it. That’s the key to avoid suffering and to be happy!
Don’t cling on to anything – or anyone – that makes you suffer!
A reader asked me this question: “What do you do when your husband of 30 years lets you down?”
I know it is easy to advise someone to move on, but let go does not come easily when there has been a let down. Yet, in most instances, it is the only option you have to protect your inner peace.
Grief, anger and a sense of worthlessness accompany a let down. The fact that you have been taken for granted, treated like a piece of s**t, used, pissed on, passed over and trampled upon – all these come together to puncture your self-worth. You feel miserable. And I want to tell you that it is perfectly alright, natural, to feel that way.
I have experienced let downs too. In professional contexts. And in a very personal relationship – with my own mother. (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal). So, I am sharing here what I have learnt from my own lived experiences. I was haunted by my let downs each time only when I clung on to the hurt.
To be sure, you will be hurt when you are let down. The pain cannot be avoided. But look at the situation dispassionately. The other person did what they did to you only because they wanted to do it – to them, therefore, their action did not look inappropriate or wrong. What is the point in grudging the actions of someone who does not even know that they are doing something that may hurt another? We have to also realize that people change – all the time, over time. Just because someone was one way some years ago, it must not be assumed, or expected, that they will be that way forever. When people change the way they think, they change the way they behave too. So, when you are let down in a relationship, you are questioning someone’s current actions while comparing them to their past actions, to a past that is over, that is dead. The irrefutable truth is that the person who you believe has hurt you has left you behind and moved on long, long ago, while you are still living in that dead past! That someone has looked outside of the relationship, or has decided to stay distant from the relationship, only because they don’t relate to you anymore. There may be myriad reasons why they are thinking, feeling and acting the way they are. But that’s the truth. And the faster you accept this new reality, the lesser you will suffer, the faster you will heal.
But the human mind will magnify and complicate this simple, straight-forward “no relating = relationship is dead” situation. For instance, if it is an issue between spouses, the mind will bring in the context of marriage, society, children and family. Marriage is an institution – make it work. What about the kids – make it work for at least their sake! You cannot act against a prevalent social norm, so adjust, accommodate. But if you consider the fact that the marriage was long dead even when either or both partners stopped relating to each other, you will see the pointlessness of suffering something or someone for the sake of others! In my case, it is an issue where my mother doesn’t trust me. Of course, my mind magnified things and tried to point out that I have to appreciate and understand that it is my mother, who, biologically, is responsible for my very existence on the planet. When I couldn’t bear my suffering anymore, I employed the “we don’t relate to each other anymore” logic and decided to stay away. I am sure it has helped her as much as it has helped me. We inhabit different orbits, but are peaceful in our own spaces.
Although I am in favor of forgiving – even if you can’t forget what happened – and moving on, I don’t champion that necessarily. I believe people will learn to forgive on their own. And they will do that only when they realize the value in forgiving – that it liberates you from the burden of anger, grief, guilt and poor self-worth. So, all I will say is that the thumb-rule for all decision-making in Life must be to ask yourself what makes you happy. In a let down, when you ask this of yourself, you will realize that only letting go can help you end your suffering, heal and be happy.
In any situation or context, you can choose not to suffer!
My Rheumatoid Arthritic condition has struck again. This time it has come with a vengeance – seizing my lower back in painful spasms. Yesterday, I was at the beach, in Mamallapuram, ahead of delivering my signature Fall Like A Rose Petal Talk there at Eli’s Kitchen. As we walked on the beach, I was in terrible pain as I took each step. But we were shooting some test shots for the cover of my next Book. So, I endured the pain and posed for the camera every time I was asked to. When climbing the stairs leading up to Eli’s Kitchen, I found the stabs of pain unbearable. I did not even sit down when I was invited to lest I am unable to spring up immediately when it is time for me to deliver my Talk. But soon, I was telling our story, sharing our learnings, answering questions from an audience, most of them expats, on happiness, love, compassion, Universal Energy, miracles and courage. In the 90-odd minutes that I shared, I did not experience any pain whatsoever. It must have been there. But my bliss overpowered it handsomely!
That experience last evening, yet again, reiterated in me the learning that immersion in the now always makes pain powerless. If you look deeply at whatever is causing you pain at the moment and stay in this moment, immersed in the now of reality, your mind will not even report the pain. This state is called Buddhahood.
Buddhahood is not an out-of-bounds state that is the prevail of an exclusive few. It is available to anyone. 24 x 7. And it is free. It is a truly liberating state. It comes with awareness of your present, of your now. So, in an extraordinary painful phase, when you are attending only to your pain, you miss, or you are absent from, the rest of the Life that is happening to you. But when you immerse yourself in the moment, like what happened with me yesterday, you are soaked in grace, in your bliss. That grace makes your pain powerless. This is not just true of physical pain, but works for emotional pain as well.
Simply, pain is powerful only when you give it the license to cause you suffering. And you suffer only when you wish your pain weren’t there in the first place. But pain is pain. It always comes uninvited, without checking, and at a time that it chooses. Which is why the Buddha famously said that suffering is optional while pain is inevitable. Osho, the Master, went a step further – he called suffering a human invention! So, don’t try to avoid or resist pain. Just don’t give it any attention. Choose not to suffer from it. Instead immerse yourself in everything else that’s happening to you, and you will make your pain powerless.
What can you do by knowing your future – you still can’t change a thing!
A famous artist I met recently told me that he had added an alphabet to his name, on the advice of a numerologist, in the hope that his fortunes would improve. “But, on the contrary, things have worsened,” he lamented. He then asked me: “Is there any truth or logic in all these things – astrology, numerology, vaastu, feng shui – can they change one’s Life?”
I am often asked this question. Perhaps because in my Book Fall Like A Rose Petal I talk about how two astrologers, a father-son duo Balan Nair and Ramamohan Nair, gave us perspective and direction in our darkest hours. Yes, I do believe that all of these – astrology, numerology, vaastu and feng shui – are sciences. So I respect them. But I have learnt that beyond gaining perspective and direction, we must not look for them to resolve our Life situations. They simply can’t!
Let me explain. When you go to a doctor, you are prescribed a medicine. You must take the medicine for you to heal. Similarly, when you go to an astrologer, invariably – especially if the astrologer is an expert and is ethical – you are advised prayer. This is all what astrologers can and must do – they must tell you more about the phase you are going through in Life and advise prayer. What is prayer at the end of the day? It is just a form of surrender to a Higher Energy. Prayer in the context of a sunny, prosperous phase really means being grateful for all the abundance; and in the context of a turbulent, dark phase means acceptance and surrender. Clearly, a good astrologer can only read your chart efficiently and share with you the facts, the context, of your ongoing Life experience. No astrologer can change your chart. Therefore, over time, I have learnt that when practitioners of numerology, vaastu and feng shui make claims to “alter” your Life’s course, they are really talking bunkum. I don’t hold it against them though. That’s their business model and their need to earn a living drives them to do what they do.
After over a decade of living through a cathartic phase in Life, I have come to realize that the only way to dealing with Life is to simply be in the moment. You can’t solve some inscrutable Life situations. You have to go through any experience for as long as it lasts, however long it takes. Apart from just being, being happy, prayer is good coping device. When you pray – and I don’t at all mean or recommend being ritualistic or religious here – just surrender to a Higher Energy. Offer yourself to be led by it. Trust the process of Life and go with the flow. I am happy to report that I have even stopped seeking direction and perspective from my astrologers. I no longer am keen to know when my trials and tribulations will end. As you can see, I am not bitter with Life either. In fact, I am delighted I am going through this phase because it has only made me stronger, wiser and happier. Without this experience, I will not have learnt the art of being, being happy – which is really to be non-worrying, non-frustrated when results don’t come and non-suffering in the wake of so much pain.
In reply to a mail that I had sent providing an update on our situation, a friend to whom I owe money wrote this reply recently: “I really hope that in 2017 all your troubles vanish and Vaani and you bounce back. You can’t keep going through this phase endlessly.” My cousin asked me once: “How long will you endure this? Don’t you want to know when all this will end?” I know that everyone wishes us well and are genuinely concerned for us. But is there any point in knowing when a tough phase in Life will end? What can you do with such knowledge? Whether you know that it will end soon or later, you have to go through whatever you have to. Nothing – and no one – can change that reality. So, Vaani and I have realized that it is best to go through whatever is in store, stoically, with a smile. There is intense pain at times, but our equanimity, our happiness, helps us not to suffer.
10 years ago, I would have advised you to meet an astrologer. I would have referred you to a vaastu or feng shui expert. I studied numerology myself so I may have volunteered some advice for you. But now I will simply say, accept what is, be happy and go within – realize yourself! As the famous lyrics of Kannadasan from Vettaikaran (1964, K V Mahadevan, T M Soundararajan, MGR, Savitri) go: Nee Unnai Arinthal, Nee Unnai Arinthal, Ulagathil Poradalam ...It means: “If you realize yourself, your true Self, you can battle and thrive in the real world…”
Unless you “allow” someone to hurt you emotionally, you will never suffer.
Facebook reminded me yesterday, December 29th, that it was the fourth anniversary of a very painful incident in my Life. In the wee hours of that morning, after several rounds of drinks at a school reunion, I had prevented my chaddi-buddy from riding his two-wheeler back in a drunken state. Besides Vaani, I had a driver with me, so we offered to drop my friend home. He refused to take our advice and rode away. However, at the kerbside outside the club, where we had met, he was stopped by the cops. I saw him trying to deal with the cops. So I got down from the car and implored the cops not to allow him to drive back home in that state. The cops seized his vehicle. My friend slapped me in a rage of fury. And grumpily took an auto-rickshaw home. Later that day, without naming him, I posted on Facebook that people of my generation, with teenaged and young adult children, must avoid drinking and driving; we must set an example. Some of my class fellows took objection to my post as a. it washing school group linen in public and b. I was interfering with the personal Life and choice of my school buddy. I tried explaining my point in the school group. But I was shouted down. It was this post that Facebook threw up yesterday as a memory!
My friend, whose vehicle had been impounded, pinged me the next day saying that he had spent Rs.3500/- on getting it released. He said my ‘over-zealousness’ had, apart from causing him emotional hurt, apart from intruding on his privacy, also cost him a princely sum. There was not much money I had, we were struggling as much then as we are today, but I reached him Rs.3500/- to compensate for his financial loss.
That was the last I interacted with my friend. We did meet here and there; he would barely acknowledge my presence or disapprovingly look away. He also unfriended me on Facebook.
When I looked back at the incident after I re-read my old Facebook post, I smiled to myself. What a powerful lesson this painful episode had taught me! Which is to move on, to emotionally free myself from an incident and its fallout. This is how I have remained without suffering although the pain from it all sometimes comes back trying to stir my emotions – as it happened when the Facebook post resurfaced yesterday!
My experience with my friend may appear unique. But it is not.
People often do things to us because of how they see Life. We see Life differently so we don’t quite appreciate or agree with what they are saying or doing. The best way to deal with such situations and people is to simply move on. It may not always be possible for us to forget whatever has happened, but we can surely forgive ourselves and others for what happened. The more you cling on to a hurt, an insult, an abuse, a betrayal, the longer you will suffer. Interestingly, unless you “allow” someone to hurt you emotionally, you will never suffer. If you treat people with the view that everyone is entitled to their opinions and behaviors, you will never be emotionally disturbed no matter what people do to you. I am sure my friend had reasons for the way he saw the episode and my involvement in it. And I have my reasons. Through this experience I have learnt that, no matter what a context is, you must never “wish” you were treated better. It is this wishing that causes your suffering. And never really the person or the event that has upset you.
PS: If you liked this blogpost, please share it to help spread the learning it carries!
Don’t suffer in silence thinking it is a very cruel world out there. It clearly is not.
Through her Facebook post last evening, a young friend wonders if sharing your story of pain and suffering, and making yourself vulnerable, is worth it. She fears that it could prove costly. Instead, she believes in suppressing her suffering and smiling in pain.
From our own experience, I would say, doing just the opposite can be very liberating. Wear your Life on your sleeve. Be vulnerable. And the compassion of the Universe will nurture you, protect you and take you along.
This learning forms the essence of my Book Fall Like A Rose Petal. Sharing this learning, and inspiring happiness by encouraging people to just be who they really are, has become our raison d’etre – for Vaani and me.
What we have learnt is that the world is full of compassionate, loving, helpful people. Someone, somewhere is always there to help us onward, to last one more day. Of course, there are those who will judge you. A few others may even dump you. And some more may just choose to avoid you. But they are a minority. A lot of people are really like you and me – caught in similar Life situations, trying to grapple with pain, trying to understand how to get rid of their suffering. So, this majority, believe me, understands, appreciates and is always willing to lend you a shoulder or give you a hand.
Even as I am writing this blogpost, we are working on a short film promoting our Life Coaching Program – Let’s Talk Happyness – which is being made at zero-budget. Because we seriously don’t even have money to cover our living expenses. But our financial handicap has not prevented us from pursuing the idea with two young film-makers who we met recently. When we told them our story, they spontaneously offered to do this film. A friend offered us the venue. And another friend is offering us her studio for dubbing. All of this pro bono. Nobody is judging us. Nobody is doing this out of sympathy either. Everyone is doing this because they know what Life is and what it means to be caught in a tight spot and be vulnerable. They empathize – truly!
We must understand three things about Life in order to appreciate that being vulnerable is not wrong, and certainly not dangerous; it, in fact, is a very normal, logical, intelligent, thing to do. 1. Pain is inevitable. You clearly cannot control what happens to you in Life. And some of what happens will always cause you pain. 2. But you suffer from pain only because you wish that the pain were not there in the first place. For instance, a headache never causes suffering. A headache is just painful. It is your desire, your want, that the headache must not be there that causes your suffering. Therefore, suffering is a human creation; it is optional, it is avoidable. 3. Whatever you suppress, or resist, will persist. Suppressing suffering and smiling in pain is just martyrdom. By doing that, you are only multiplying your suffering.
So, if you are having a Life challenge, a crisis, an enormous, extra-ordinary amount of pain, or whatever it is that you are dealing with, go out there and tell the world about it. Don’t worry about the judgments a few people are likely to pass. Don’t give such people the license to prolong your suffering. Don’t try to live two lives: one to hide your suffering and another to cook in it! Just be who you are. The Life you have is the only one you have! So, be open and declare courageously: Yes, I have intense pain, I am in a shithole, I am messed up, but this is who I am. Help me if you can and I will humbly take all that you give me compassionately. If you can’t help me, then please excuse me; what you think of me, my choices and my situation doesn’t really bother me!
Try this approach, of wearing your Life on your sleeve, and see what a beautiful world it is!
PS: If you liked this blogpost, please share it to help spread the learning it carries!