To feel the grace in you, around you – just soak in gratitude!
A young friend I met last evening wanted to understand how we can know that there is divine grace in our Life. “I don’t get it. There is so much suffering in us, around us; how does one even believe that there is grace,” he asked.
I remember asking this question to Swami Sathya Sai Baba some years back. I must confess that I have never met Swami personally. But I have experienced him, I have learnt from him, through a young messenger, through whom Swami speaks. So, when I asked the young messenger this question about why we should believe there is divine grace, when we are in the throes of suffering, he replied: “Swami says if you believe you are in control of your Life you will never see the grace in it. When you flow with Life, when you see the beauty of your human creation, and understand the context of your Life’s challenges, and realize how you are still able to navigate through all of it, and are grateful for what you still have, you will feel the grace in you, around you.”
I never quite understood the import of Swami’s reply and the Life lesson it contained immediately though.
But over the years, I have learnt that, indeed, the choice to experience the grace in your Life is purely a personal one. Much as it is a personal choice to be happy despite your circumstances.
When Swami answered my question, it was still the early days of our bankruptcy (read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal). We were steeped in fear and insecurity. There was so much pain. I hated my Life then. Every day was a constant battle to try and control the situation. Every day I would set out thinking I was going to fix the problems we were faced with. And every evening I would come back home – beaten, deflated. And I would cry in Vaani’s arms. I was suffering a lot because I saw myself as a failure – unable to control the raging crisis.
But, thanks to Swami’s coaching, and my practice of mouna (daily period of silence), when I learnt the art of being non-worrying, non-frustrated and non-suffering, I stopped suffering. The pain was intense. But I did not resist the pain. I just let it be. And the suffering stopped.
You see, you suffer only when you resist what is. But when you accept what is, and go to work on changing it, diligently, without any expectation of result or reward, you don’t suffer. You are despondent when you are only wishing that things were different and you are not doing anything or enough about changing your current reality. But when you know you have tried your best, and the results are still not adding up, you can only be calm, content, and interestingly, happy! This awakening, this ability to see Life this way, is possible only because I am soaked in grace.
To be sure, our bankruptcy still endures. The pain is still intense. We are far, far, far away from normalcy. Even our living expenses are still not completely covered. We survive each day fervently, working hard to put things back on track, praying for an opportunity that will conclusively turn around our story. But we do all of this with great equanimity, without suffering! And while we are doing this, we invest every waking hour in being useful – sharing our learnings with whoever cares to pause and reflect – Inspiring ‘Happyness’. This, we believe, is our Life’s Purpose!
When I look back at all the treacherous times that Vaani and I have been through over the last 11 years, I bow my head in gratitude for the grace in our Life, for the compassion of the countless people who have helped us along the way.
Take for instance, young Kumar, Swami’s messenger. He’s an amazingly talented musician and graphic designer. He may well have walked in the direction of his own dreams. But for over two decades now, his first priority is to be available as Swami’s messenger to help people (who are battered by Life’s upheavals and are clueless about what to do) by sharing perspectives and advice that Swami has for them. And Kumar does all this selflessly. There have been months when we have had to be with him every day, for long spells, just to understand what Swami is teaching us. In these times, I have argued with Swami, through Kumar, brazenly. I have yelled and thrown things around, unable to handle my cluelessness, my lack of control of our situation. But Kumar has been patient and available every step of the way. To me, now, that is grace – the very fact that we had a Kumar to reach out to in the first place!
And just look at the beauty of what is happening today. It is close to 6 AM in India as I write this Blogpost. It is the 23rd of November. It is Swami’s birthday. It is Thanksgiving. It is Guru Nanak Jayanti too today. And here I am sharing a Life learning. Isn’t this grace? That Vaani and I are still around to tell our story, to share our learning, that I can express myself through the written word, that you can read it and perhaps connect a dot with your Life, somewhere…isn’t this indeed grace…?
Thanks to my lived experience, I realize now that grace is like a Wi-Fi signal. It is always available, 24 x 7, to anyone who seeks it. And the password to access that signal, well, you may have guessed it by now, is gratitude!
Acceptance helps you face Life and cope with it.
Last evening Vaani and I stopped by the roadside to buy fruits from a pavement shop. The lady who owned the shop must have been in her late 40s. She helped us along with the purchase. Next to her cash box was the garlanded picture of a young man, maybe in his early 20s. It appeared to me that the man may well have been the lady’s son, as a red kumkumam mark adorned the picture.
Perhaps sensing my curiosity, the lady remarked: “Ayya, that’s my son. He hanged himself last year in January.”
Vaani was shocked. She asked her: “What happened amma?”
The lady replied, her eyes welling up: “I have no idea. One day he was there. And the next day he was gone. My daughter is married and lives in Pondicherry. She does not bother much about me. This boy was my hope. But he too has deserted me. I live alone, earning a meagre livelihood selling fruits.”
Overhearing the conversation, another customer, who was picking up apples, asked the lady, “How are you coping?”
Her answer to his question surprised me. She was very grounded: “I have just accepted what has happened as my destiny and go on with my Life. I have to carry on living, as long as I am here.”
After the purchase, as we boarded our autorickshaw to head home, I noticed the lady was engaged in a cheerful banter with her neighbor, a vegetable-seller. She looked beaten but there was an air of acceptance and equanimity about her. Her line – “I have just accepted what has happened as my destiny and go on with my Life. I have to carry on living, as long as I am here.” – stayed with me all evening yesterday and I reflected on it this morning.
Interestingly, just the other day, over the Pongal weekend, we met a friend. She is a single parent and heads a large pan-Indian corporation. Her young son had tragically died in a road accident some months ago. We were meeting her for the first time after the incident. I told her that we were sorry to hear of her loss. Her reply was awakening too: “People expect me to look sad and struck by grief. But this is the way I am. I see no point in either hiding my pain or drowning in it. I am just being me – realizing that my son not being around is my new normal. I am acutely aware that my circumstances in Life have changed, but I remain who I was.”
Isn’t it beautiful to be enriched by such sensitive, spiritual perspectives to Life? Both women represent diverse ends of a spectrum. One is a fruit-seller and another is a CEO. Yet, their maturity, their evolution, connects them – and offers us an unputdownable insight into intelligent living.
Whatever be the context or situation we are placed in, the simplest – non-suffering – way to live Life is to accept what is. It is only when we resist what is happening to us that we suffer. I am sure the fruit-seller is enduring a lot of pain – of having lost her only son, of having to eke out a living, of having to live alone. And I am sure the CEO is in the throes of pain too. She may not have material, existential, challenges, but her pain is not small by any measure. Even so, it did not appear to me that either woman was in grief or was moping and mourning or that she was suffering. This is what acceptance of any situation, of your Life for what it is, helps you with. Acceptance of a problem or a situation cannot immediately help you solve it or change it. But acceptance is a great device that helps you face Life, that helps you cope, that leads you to carry on living.
Two practical, spiritually evolved women – one learning: “The key to intelligent living is accepting what is”!