You too can experience a Life that’s free from suffering if you can embrace it without resistance.
My mornings have to begin with the filter coffee that Vaani makes. Pardon my indulgence, but I believe she makes the best filter coffee in the world. So, outside of home, I will rarely try filter coffee. Everywhere else it has to be black coffee or the Americano, if it is Starbucks. Some weeks ago, Vaani and I felt that the brand of packaged coffee that we had been using for years now, Cothas, appeared to be losing its distinct flavor. So, reluctantly, we decided to switch to a new brand (for us), Leo, whose freshly-ground, custom-mixed, coffee powder was available at the neighborhood Nilgiri’s store. The first few days of drinking Leo coffee was an unusual experience. Naturally. The beans were different, the Leo coffee mix was ground fresh and obviously the flavor was its own. Not Cothas’, which I had got so accustomed to with over a decade of use. But over the past fortnight, something interesting happened. My mind no longer pined for the Cothas flavor. I got used to the new Leo flavor and soon started enjoying it.
This morning I reflected on the learning from this experience. Why was I able to adjust to the new flavor, though, initially, I kind of disliked it? I guess the fundamental reason was that I trusted Vaani’s choice of wanting to switch brands and her ability to make great, absolutely great, coffee. Second, I started appreciate the Leo flavor without letting my mind pine for Cothas. This experience pretty much sums up how we can all learn to deal with Life better. If we pause and reflect on Life deeply, we will find that Life is nothing but a series of experiences, a set of happenings, sometimes related and sometimes unrelated. Each experience brings with it a new flavor, a unique one – and surely not one that you may either want or like. The mind will rush to resist the new experience and the flavor it carries. But any form of resistance to whatever’s happening will always lead to suffering. So, the best way to deal with Life is to embrace each new event, and the new flavor it brings along, hold it and learn to appreciate it and value it for what it is. In the coffee-brand-switch story, Vaani and I have a choice. If we didn’t like Leo, we can switch to yet another brand and then one more and so on. Or we can give up drinking coffee altogether. But almost all Life events just happen to us – there is no freedom of choice. So, the only way we can be at peace within ourselves is when we accept the Life given to us and learn to appreciate and celebrate its flavor of the moment, in that moment!
When you learn to live this way, you will realize that anything can be faced – from a terminal health problem to a dysfunctional relationship issue to a job loss to financial stress to death – without suffering. Yes, there will be pain. Because when what you don’t like or want comes into your Life, there will be pain. But if you are willing to experiment and explore newer flavors of Life, even if they are untried, untested, unknown to you, you will find Life is wonderful and free from suffering, even if it is strange.
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It is our inability to accept our new, ever-changing, realities that causes all our suffering.
Yesterday, we watched an interesting Malayalam film called “Neena” (2015, Lal Jose, Deepti Sati, Vijay Babu, Ann Augustine). It’s a love triangle of sorts involving two very strong women characters, Neena and Nalini, and Nalini’s husband – who is also Neena’s boss – Vinu. When Neena chooses to distance herself from Vinu, just when he is willing to get involved with her, a character in the film, a psychiatrist, tells Vinu: “Everything changes. Absolutely everything.”
I loved the line and the impactful manner in which the psychiatrist character (played by Lena Abhilash) delivers it onscreen. Apart from triggering a pivotal turning point in the film’s script, the line has a deep spiritual import. If you have understood this line and internalized it, Life can be so much simpler to live. I will add to that line, remember this, everyone changes too – and that includes you!
It doesn’t matter how old you are, but if you spend some time reviewing and reflecting on your Life so far, you too will appreciate that you have witnessed so much change in and around you in all your time. Yet, why do we struggle with dealing with change? The answer is pretty simple. We refuse to accept that Life is ever-flowing, like a river, in fact. We want and expect our Life to be static, just so that it remains the way we want it to be. But this is impossible. According to a popular Zen saying, you don’t step into the same river twice. This means that in the time you took to step into a river, withdrew your feet, and stepped in again, the river has flown; it has changed! So it is with Life. Gulzar captures this so beautifully in the immortal Kishore Kumar song “Aane Wala Pal, Jaane Wala Hai” from Golmaal (1978, music by R D Burman). The second line of the mukhda is very powerful. It says, “…Ho Sake To Isme Zindagi Bita Do, Pal Jo Yeh Jaane Wala Hai…” It means, “…live your Life in the moment, for this moment will be gone soon…”
Indeed, over time, everything and everyone changes. This is the unalterable law of the Universe. So, if you find that people around you have changed, your old relationships have withered away even as newer ones have evolved, take them as they come. When you see physical, bodily changes in you, don’t fear them, know that it is a natural process of change – growing first, slowly withering away to eventually perishing. Every aspect of our lifestyle has changed in just the last 10 years – from the way we bank, to the way we communicate to the way we shoot pictures and the way we connect and share with our friends and family. With such irrevocable change happening to us and around us, it is a no-brainer that change must be welcomed and embraced for your own inner peace, your own happiness. Yet, the only reason why you struggle with change is because you are non-accepting of it. Instead embrace the change, accept it and move on. Learn to flow with Life. Remember: all what you resist causes your suffering. But the moment you accept whatever is, you can be totally happy – not matter what your circumstances are.