When confronted with no-go situations in Life, learn to live in the moment, with whatever is.
Rani Mukerji’s Hichki (directed by Sidharth P Malhotra) touched me deeply. It’s a simple film. It is an adaptation of Brad Cohen’s autobiography – Front of the Class: How Tourette Syndrome Made Me The Teacher I Never Had. And Rani’s portrayal of Naina Mathur, a teacher affected by Tourette Syndrome , is brilliant.
I could relate to the powerful scene in the film where Naina sinks to the ground in the school’s balcony – feeling completely hopeless, clueless and defeated – and cries inconsolably. She is felled not just by her the fatigue of having to endlessly endure her peculiar physical condition, her spirit is punctured and she is truly, truly, deflated. I undoubtedly saw Rani on screen, but I empathized with Naina – because I know what it means to feel that way when you don’t know what to do. What do you do when you don’t know what to do in Life?
Hichki left me with an important message – each of us has our own metaphorical version of the Tourette Syndrome. And like Naina Mathur we have to learn to accept it, live with it and keep going on. Sometimes, even people in your close circle of influence – like Naina’s father (played by Sachin) in the film – will refuse to understand you. There will be times when it may appear that the world is conspiring to pin you down and annihilate you. But you must go on. When you don’t know what to do in Life, you just learn to live in the moment. Don’t think too far ahead. Don’t brood over what once was, what is over, on what is past. Don’t sweat over what is not in your control – what is the use of worrying about what you can’t solve? Just learn to last one moment at a time. This may initially seem impossible to do. But the human mind can be trained to obey you – to focus on what is, on the moment. And the human spirit is intrinsically resilient. So, when you take one step at a time, you often end up enduring journeys that you never thought you would even survive.
I have learnt that every Life situation is a teacher. It arrives in your Life with a specific purpose – to humble you, to remind you that it is not you, but it is Life which is in control. Some situations have shorter tenures. And some are permanent. In either case, accepting the situation – than resisting it – helps you to be non-suffering while dealing with all the pain that the situation is causing. Acceptance does not make a problem go away. But it surely gives you a lot of strength to face it, to deal with it.
Vaani and I have lasted this past decade – despite our enduring bankruptcy (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal.) – only because we accepted our own Tourette Syndrome. We know what it means to be hung by Life at the edge of a precipice, we know how cluelessness and hopelessness can suffocate you. And we also know, from our own personal experience, that no matter what your context is, what your own Tourette Syndrome is, Life can and must be faced. Just take one moment at a time, one small step each time.
When you are clueless, let go and flow with Life.
I woke up this morning not knowing what to do about a situation that we are dealing with as a family. We had sat up late last night thinking through and brainstorming. But a solution continues to evade us.
Vaani and I are not new to either such no-go situations or to cluelessness. Over time, we have learnt to deal with them with equanimity than with panic or by worrying. So, I sat at my desk and surrendered to Life. I said, “Look here, I don’t know who you are or what you are. But I know you are a Higher Energy. I know you are more intelligent than I am. So, I will be led by you, I will be guided by you. I surrender.” I have always experienced that such a private conversation within myself, with creation, with a Higher Energy, has helped me. It helps me anchor and move to my center. And when I am anchored to my center, I am unmoved, no matter how furious the storm around me is.
In the eye of the storm, the epicenter of a cyclone, there is no destruction. Because there is no chaos. There’s only peace. And the strength of a storm emanates from its core. The epicenter of the storm is also its power center. This is science. I have learnt to apply the same logic to Life’s storms also. And it works big time, for us – for Vaani and me.
So, when I don’t know what to do, I let go and flow with Life. I know this flowing to be my Faith. I know that we will be looked after, taken care of, provided for and shown the way. I don’t know where the path is taking us but I always believe that it will eventually take us to where we must arrive. Taking that path and trusting it implicitly, to me, is putting my Faith to work. And that’s what I am doing, yet again, today…
If you have been created, you will be provided for.
The other day an unenviable situation stared us in the face, details of which I cannot share here. But it will not be an exaggeration to say that we were dealing with something grossly worrisome.
In such times, I do lean on my practice of mouna (silence periods). I also rely on my awareness to help me banish worry. But given the intrinsic nature of the human mind, worries, like most other thoughts, will arise. Over time, while I have understood the futility of worrying, I often am foxed by my mind’s urge to solve a problem situation. And when a problem defies a solution, worry sets in, naturally. I have to then summon all my spiritual strength for me to order my mind to calm down. What helps me immensely, in situations like these, is the Universe sending me signs that I will be looked after, provided for and cared for. And, unfailingly, the Universe sends me those signs – every single time!
So, even as I grappled with an imponderable the other day, I received an email from a friend. It was random mail. The mail itself had no evident reason to either reach me or appeal to me. Except that it contained three magical words: “Whatever happens, happens”. I leaped at those words and held on to them. That was the Universe, sending me a calming thought, a sign, as always, even as I grappled with my reality.
People often ask me how do we make sense of the inscrutable continuum of Life? And I always tell them that if they are tuned to the Universe’s energies, the Universe will always send them signs. I only have my lived experiences, and my learnings from them, to share. And experiences are always deeply personal; often logic-defying. I talk about several such instances in my Book (read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal). And here I am sharing one more instance today. So, how does it happen? How does it work? And does it really work?
Conceptual clarity, surely, can be helpful here. I believe that we have all been created on this planet. Yes, biologically, we are the result of a physical activity that transpired between two people – people who we know as our parents. But all of us have been born without our asking to be born. So, we are created. I am of the firm belief that if we have been created without our asking for it, and if we have survived so far, without our knowing or understanding what Life is all about, and if we are given a situation now to deal with, we must trust the process of Life – that we can deal with that situation, we will be directed to a solution, we will be provided for. If we approach Life with this humility and perspective, we will be able to pick up the signs that the Universe is sending us – signs that will help us last one more day; or survive until the next point when we need, and when we will receive, another reassurance.
Honestly, we must learn to live without reassurances. Because in reality, if you reflect deeply, we have all been always given whatever we have needed. But the fickle human mind craves for reassurances. And the benevolent Universe is always willing to send you signs. You can receive those signs though only when you are tuned in. Are you?
Cluelessness will often strike, but you have a choice not to feel helpless!
A friend from the US called to say that she is at a cross-roads in Life. She has been laid off her job. She’s broken up with her boyfriend. She’s in a new relationship. And she’s figuring out what to do with her Life. She’s in her late 30s and feels both “hopeless and hopeful” at the same time: “I not sure I know where I am going in Life. I have stumbled along for over 15~17 years of my Life…I have only money enough to last me for 3 months without any employment…I feel stupid having done the many things I have done…only to find myself in this vague, directionless state in Life…”!
Surely, I don’t think my friend is either the first one to feel this way or the only one who is feeling lost at the moment. As I write this blogpost, I too am clueless about what’s going to happen next in my Life…but I am not hopeless. And this is the critical, discernable, difference between being anchored in faith and groping in fear.
Faith is not a privilege that only a select few have access to. It is not external at all – as all the religions, through their dogmatic pursuit of rituals, want you to believe. It is simply understanding and knowing that if you have been created, you will be provided for and taken care of. It is about trusting the process of Life. And this trust comes from your willingness to deal with the unknown, from facing your fears. When you look fear in the eye, it gives you the courage to face it, and courage opens the doors to faith within to last the course, to survive, to plow on!
Hopelessness sets in only when you don’t trust Life to take care of you. And when you have naïve, uninformed expectations of Life. Consider this carefully – has Life promised you anything; has it given you any guarantees; has it denied you anything that you have needed in Life so far? If the answer is no to all three questions, why do you doubt Life? Why do you think you will not get what you need? I have learnt that you always get what you need in Life, perhaps not the way you want it, but the way Life deems it appropriate for you to receive its grace. So, while I often face cluelessness, but I have stopped, in fact I have given up, feeling hopeless, long, long, ago!
Now, dealing with cluelessness is never easy. The human mind will torture you by conjuring scenarios that are dark, frightful and, often morbid. But when you are not feeling hopeless, when you are anchored in faith, you learn to cope with not knowing what’s going on or what will happen. So, being clueless is inevitable in Life. But being hopeless is something that you can avoid.
I have actually begun to love being clueless. It keeps me creatively engaged – it gives me the opportunity to find out newer ways of living Life meaningfully, it sharpens my intellect, it enhances my resilience and make me further trust the process of Life. Most important, it helps me see the miracle in every moment as it unfolds. Figuring out a way through Life, I have realized, is what Life is all about!
Be vulnerable. Be clueless. Don’t hide how you are feeling.
I watched ‘Talaash’ (2012, Reema Kagti, Aamir Khan, Rani Mukerji, Kareena Kapoor) again on TV last evening. In the movie, Roshni asks her husband Suraj an all important question: “Is it wrong to feel vulnerable and go find your own way of dealing with your vulnerability by doing what gives you peace, what gives you happiness?” They have lost their only son in an accident and both are groping in the dark – angry, grief-stricken and depressed. Roshni decides to wear her vulnerability on her sleeve, she talks openly about her helplessness while Suraj simmers in anger, self-pity and guilt. Now, which approach is right?
To me Roshni and Suraj are not fictional characters. They are just celluloid depictions of people like you and me, of ordinary folks who are stumbling along through Life.
Don’t you often find yourself not knowing what to do in Life? Life has hit you strong and square. You feel numbed, paralyzed and rudderless. Suddenly you are not living. You are merely existing. The chores go on – eating, cleaning, bathing, working, sleeping…whatever, but you are not present. You are lost in the dark abyss of how you are feeling. You see no light. You are blinded and held captive by your cluelessness. I have been there, so I know. I have felt exactly this way. And, through a lot of stumbling, standing up and falling again, and again, I have struggled and found a way out of this state. As in, I have not found solutions nor have I solved the problems I have. Even now, in Life, I don’t know what to do. But I do know that being vulnerable and not knowing what to do is not a sin. And sharing how you feel is not wrong. So my way out has been – wearing my Life on my sleeve!
I have learnt that you must act exactly the way you feel. When you feel low, don’t try to put on a brave front. Sit down and cry if it makes you feel better. Tell people around you how you feel. Don’t worry about being judged. If it makes you feel better, share your despondency, your cluelessness. How would you deal with someone who puts up a Facebook status that says, “I am feeling lost in Life.”? Wouldn’t you reach out, be empathetic and share some time with that person making him or her feel better? I can assure you that should you do the same – as in say that “I have a problem that I don’t know how to deal with” – people will open up their hearts and homes to you.
Many of us resist sharing our vulnerability because we think it is a big, bad, cruel world. The experience Vaani and I have had, over the last 8+ years, sharing our Life, situations and problems openly, has completely disproved this assumption. Every step of the way, we have been greeted only with compassion and love. I found that people love people who are like them – normal, vulnerable and who are dealing with pain with no methods or pretensions. So, I would never recommend hiding how you feel or running away from what makes you feel low or vulnerable. Not knowing what to do in some situations in Life is perfectly normal; it is part of being human. Trying to go against what’s a natural response to Life is what causes suffering and leads you to depression.
So, be guided by the feelings that you want to get rid of. Do whatever it takes to make you feel better. From my experience, I can assure you, telling the world how you feel, sharing your cluelessness, helps immensely. Because while our stories are dissimilar, there’s always someone who’s walked your path before, and who will always appear at the right time, to share a perspective, to hold your heart and to give you a warm hug!