You are not alone and Life is not victimizing you.
Yesterday we visited our friends, a lovely couple, who are in their seventies. We talked a lot about Life and its inscrutability. They shared about how many challenges they have seen in their Life. Their daughter, now in her 50s, had to go through several surgeries during her early adulthood owing to a rare health condition. The gentleman has been, for over 18 years now, battling an enforcement body’s cases against him in courts. It was a beautiful evening of sharing learnings and perspectives from each other’s journeys.
When we got home, Vaani remarked to me, “Everyone’s Life is strewn with challenges. Everyone’s facing Life in their own ways to the best of their abilities.”
I believe what Vaani said sums up an important truth about Life.
Almost always when Life deals you a hard blow, you imagine there’s a conspiracy against you. You rush to conclude that you are being singled out, that you are alone and you are now consigned to a lifetime of suffering. Whenever you feel that way, pause and you look up from your situation. Look around, and you will discover that everyone – without exception – has a story of how they are dealing with a unique Life situation. Life, to me, really, is an equal opportunity player. It treats everyone with the same compassion and with the same rigor. And, important, Life is not out to victimize you or punish you. A Life challenge is just an event, a roadblock. You have to work around it, and sometimes even live with it. You can’t fight it and you clearly can’t wish it away.
When you consider the stories around you, than obsess with just your own, you realize that you are blessed in more ways than you know. You can’t surely avoid pain in Life. You can’t even choose pain – as in you can’t decide when – and with what impact – it must arrive. But you can make your pain less significant by looking at another’s pain, by sharing with them, by helping them cope with their own journey. And yes, you can avoid suffering totally by accepting your pain, by never asking ‘why’ or ‘why me’!
There are as many stories of grit and courage out there as there are people. Every single experience and story is precious. To be inspired you must just pause to listen, to share, to learn and to count your blessings!
Those are perfectly rational, logical, unavoidable questions. But do we even need to be asking them in the first place?
A reader asked me those questions the other day. And I responded saying that the question we really need to ask ourselves is this: Of what use is your faith if it can’t help you live your Life without fear, anxiety, insecurity and worry? Look around you, and perhaps even at yourself, I told the reader. Are all the religious rituals that we conduct monotonously and mindlessly, in the name of faith and prayer, of any use when we are not mindful of Life’s gifts__the grace, abundance, blessings in our lives__ and instead we continue to still worry, fear and agonize over what the (unknown) future holds for us?
Let me share here a conversation that I had with our family priest a few years ago. A self-proclaimed champion of piety, who called himself a ‘strict Brahmin’, he came to me asking for career advice for his son who was looking to join an IT services company after completing his undergraduate studies in software engineering. He explained that his son had been selected by a leading software company through campus interviews. Yet he claimed he was worried. Our conversation went somewhat like this:
Me: Why are you worried Sir?
Him: I don’t know if IT companies can offer job security the way the government can!
Me: Why would you, a faithful servant of the Lord, for years now, be insecure __ and want to seek security in a government job?
Him: Sir, how can God guarantee job security?
Me: What is God there for then if HE/SHE can’t guarantee you security?
Him: Sir, velayadathengo! Don’t pull my leg, Sir! God can’t come and tell me that my son’s future is assured!
Me: If God can’t tell you that, the one who has direct access to HIM/HER, who else can reach God? Why do you pray then?
Him: Sir, praying to God is my profession. I still need ‘something else’ to tell me that my Life is on track and that my family and I will be secure!
With due apologies, and respect, to my family priest, I must confess that this is the problem with praying mindlessly. The truth is faith and fear cannot co-exist. If you claim you have faith and you are still fearful of your Life, then, clearly, no matter how hard or long you pray, you don’t have faith. Period. Besides, that ‘something else’ which my priest was looking for__and I hope he found it in his own way subsequently__is ‘mindfulness’. When you are mindful of the present moment, and are grateful for it, that would be prayer enough to make you realize your God!
You will then find your God in everyone and everything around you. Just consider all your blessings starting with the fact that you have a computer or a smartphone, you have access to the internet and are able to read this post. There are many, many, many people out there who don’t have this privilege. Pause and reflect on your Life, and celebrate the abundance in it! Don’t you recognize your God’s presence when you feel the air in your lungs? Don’t you see your God in the sunrises and sunsets that happen outside your window every single day without fail? Don’t you see your God in a child’s smile, in leaves rustling in the night breeze, in a cow mooing and in a dew drop? When you view your Life from this angle, you will find your God in every form of creation that you connect with. You will find your God in each moment. And then you will understand and value what faith and prayer are really all about. You will realize that true prayer is living, with gratitude, in the moment and faith is believing that, no matter what the circumstances are, you will be taken care of, provided for and looked after!
There will be times in your Life when you can’t force its pace. The best thing to do then is to simply watch Life ooze by beautifully – drop by drop, moment by moment…
It’s surprisingly raining steadily in Chennai today. We are experiencing an unseasonal heavy thunderstorm in the middle of peak summer. There are several things that we are waiting for, pregnant with hope. At a macro level, we await the results of the Assembly elections for several states, including our own, Tamil Nadu. Some business opportunities that we are pursuing remain, yet again, painfully unclear at the moment. And both our children await professional breakthroughs. So, in the midst of all these great expectations – of results, opportunities and outcomes – just standing by and watching the rain fall can be both a magical and a torturous experience.
Yet, that’s the way Life sometimes is. Each day will be slow, dreary and hard to live through. You simply have to hang in there as nothing you do will work for you. All you can do in such a time is to believe that Life is teaching you to keep the faith and develop patience.
Nobody loves a problem situation or one that’s filled with uncertainty. So, really, no one wants a challenging phase in Life to prolong – joblessness, a business slowdown, a critical health condition or a messy relationship drama. But what can you do in the face of Life’s onslaught? As they say in cricket, when the bowling is intense and difficult to play, simply let the ball go past you. Don’t stick your bat out, don’t play a rash shot in desperation or you will lose your wicket! So it is with Life too – when it becomes uncertain and painful, you can avoid the suffering by simply accepting that your Life, for now, is playing out in slow motion. Actually, why must Life always be fast paced? Why do we need to be running from meeting to meeting, chore to chore, commute to commute all the time? Why must everything be an agenda item or on a To Do List? And why must everything be crystal clear?
A good metaphor to hold is that of a clock that’s ticking away even in a thunderstorm. Un-fluttered. Unmoved. A strong mind is like the clock. It remains untouched by the vagaries of Life. Neither exulting vainly in success nor tormented in failure. Neither running amuck nor sulking. It just is…it goes on ticking, as long as it can, no matter what the circumstances are.
I have learned that faith is not about a God or religion. Faith is knowing that everything happens for a reason. And since the reason will not always be immediately evident, you must have patience to last a trying phase! And eventually the reason does show up! Always!!
Life is not a 100-meter race. If you rush through it too fast or keep brooding its slow pace you will surely miss the scenery! And since you can’t ever go back in time or Life, the most intelligent thing you can do is to live fully every moment of the Life that’s playing out for you, enjoying its inscrutable beauty and counting your blessings!!
As for me, I am simply watching the rain fall and listening to its inspiring rhythm! And I am thinking what a great blessing it is to be spared two days of scorching heat this summer!!