Life has to be faced, not feared

Your fearing something is not going to take that something away.
There are times in Life when nothing will go your way. There will be so much unsaid, so much unresolved. And it may just seem like everything is wrong about your Life. Every effort you make, each step you take, you will be stonewalled, tripped or pushed to a corner. The mind will invite you to despair. Decline that invitation artfully and let Life lead you.
Relax. Get yourself a cup of tea or grab a drink if you can. The mind is like a tennis-ball practice machine. It keeps spewing out worries and fears endlessly. These debilitating thoughts will tell you that you can and must solve the problems that face you just now. But what if you have already tried all that you can think up of. And failed. And the problems persist. The very thought that there’s no way forward may force you to allow your fears to take hold of you. Please don’t let them. Your fearing something is not going to take that something away. Life has to be faced, not feared.

The truth is that Life has always been flowing on its own. You and I have done precious little to make our lives happen. So, let Life happen as it has been happening and as it is happening. When things don’t go your way and when you don’t know what to do, accepting that there’s no choice than to wait and watch is an intelligent choice in itself.  Exercise it.

Fear is a toothless opponent

Live without fear. It is fear that robs us of our ability to live freely.

We fear everything. Darkness. Loss of money. Death. Breakdown in relationships. Expectations not being met. Loss of face. Reputation. How can we claim to be alive when are operating under the influence of a debilitating, restricting force?

The best way to expunge fear is to ask yourself ‘what is the worst that can happen’ in any given situation and decide to face that moment. When you make that decision to confront a situation, when you walk up to it, fear will recede. Fear is actually a toothless opponent. Fear fears reality. And you, the real you, are the truth. But you think someone is more powerful than you. You think if you lose money you are finished. You think if you die, it’s all over. You think if a business contract does not come through you will be bankrupt. You think if someone says something about you in public, your reputation will be lost. But if you, in each of these situations, decide to not worry about the outcomes, will fear still torment you? Suppose you say, let the most powerful man on the planet come to you, and you will be unmoved, unfazed; what can happen to you? Maybe that man may come and kill you? Let him. Then where’s your fear? The truth is the man can kill your body, not you. Suppose you are willing to live a Life beyond and after losing all your money, what need you be afraid of? If something is hounding you, haunting you just now, be sure, be aware, that you are allowing it to do so. Your spouse is not an issue. But your thought of your spouse being unfaithful, your expectation of loyalty, your fear of being led up the garden path and being stranded alone, this is your problem. So, who should deal with this problem? You. And the best way to do it is to say, “So, what?” Say that and you are free no sooner than you have uttered those magical words. They are like a miracle mantra. Use them in any situation and you will be fearless.

Between you and fearlessness lies your awareness of your true Self. Fear has heaped layer after layer of deception and controls you this way. When you realize you are not your body, you are not your relationship, you are not your job, you are not your business, you are not your bank account, this awareness is liberating. Your true Self then emerges and fear, meekly, slinks away, drowned in the light of your awakening. 

Don’t flee from Life, face it!

Have the audacity to face Life. Look your most difficult moments in the eye.
Last evening, we were visited by a family which has got mired in a web of circumstances. The father, who is a Director in a firm, had signed several personal guarantees for financial transactions on behalf the firm. The promoters of the firm embezzled the money and vanished. This gentleman now is having to face the consequences of the firm’s transactions and is accountable to the firm’s creditors for monies owed to them. His wife and two daughters brought him to us – so that he can get some direction on how to deal with creditors in a situation like this. The gentleman, with his limited wisdom and experience, and also fearful of the ire of his firm’s creditors, asked me if he too must “vanish” from the scene. I told him that I wouldn’t advise that he takes such a step. I said that he cannot disrupt the lives and education of his daughters and make them pay for his wrong choice of associating with that firm and for the firm’s questionable dealings. I advised him to seek legal opinion and figure out a way where he could disassociate physically from the firm. In the meantime, I advised him to meet all the creditors, individually, and explain to them why he too is a victim of the circumstances and why he doesn’t have the means to pay any of their dues.
“But taking that route means I will have to face the anger of the creditors. They won’t believe me. They will deal with me very harshly,” feared the gentleman.
“You don’t have a choice Sir. While they will be belligerent at first, they will also appreciate your proactive and responsible behavior. You will have to convince them of your sincerity and genuineness. This is your singular option right now and the only way you can, over time, get out of this mess,” I explained.
The gentleman and his family went away promising to act on my advice. Whether they do that or not is entirely up to them. I hope they will. Because running away from a problem does not make the problem go away. Facing a problem too does not make the problem go away. But when you face a problem, there’s no chasing, there’s no expending of precious energy wastefully. That energy can be employed in solving the problem instead.
But the normal tendency we all have is to run __ from challenges, responsibilities and consequences __ away from Life. Instead stand up and face it. Look at tough situations and say that you are going nowhere and you intend lasting the journey. When you do that, you will find no peak difficult to scale, no challenge impossible to overcome and no trouble that obstructs your path forward.
How do you get this quality called courage in you? By knowing that what you are going through is a test and that the lesson will appear only when you face the test and survive it. By knowing also that nothing is permanent __ not money, not Life, not troubles, not opportunities. When you face Life with such clarity and equanimity, you will be unshakeable. You will have what the world calls courage. And with courage you can last any journey, however impossible and treacherous it may be. Swami Vivekananda couldn’t have said it more appropriately: “Face the brutes. That is a lesson for all Life—face the terrible, face it boldly. Like the monkeys, the hardships of Life fall back when we cease to flee before them.”

Finding strength in a storm

How do you find strength in a storm? How do you survive the onslaught of Life when everything that you thought was yours is taken away from you? Where do you re-start Life from when you are left in the cold – helpless, hapless, battered, and bruised by Life’s blows? What do you do when you have nothing material left anymore with you other than perhaps the clothes you are wearing? Some people have the support of their families and some don’t at such times. Either way, sometimes Life’s situations may be so numbing that there as only questions and no answers!

You may at various times in your Life have braved many a storm or perhaps may be going through one just now. When you sit back and think about the Life you have, you will realize that there is no other way to live Life than to accept what is, no matter what it is.

Here are simple tips based on lessons I have learned in my rather eventful Life so far:

  1. Accept the reality that you are in the throes of a crisis. Don’t resist the situation. Don’t wish that it didn’t exist. Simply accept it.
  2. Focus not on the strength of the storm but on your true self. Know that the storm will always be strong. It will be menacing. It will threaten to destroy you. By even thinking of its ferocity, you are only going to feel debilitated. So, focus on your inner self. Just mindfully watching your breathing can help. When you are mindful, always, you will find calm and inner peace. From that calm, you will gain strength.
  3. Always ask this simple question which can often lead you to profound answers: “Given the situation I am faced with, what is the best thing I can do to make things better for everyone concerned?” Employ key criteria for choosing what action you can take out of many possible options that may follow the question. Your action must always be positive, constructive and ethical.
  4. In particularly complex Life situations which can often dog you for months and years, it is worthwhile to revisit Tip # 3 on a daily basis and choose your daily actions only basis those criteria.
  5. No matter how intense it is, no storm lasts forever. All storms have to pass. So, this one too shall pass. Just remember that.

This may seem too simplistic for you to even believe it works. But this is the only way it works __ no matter what you are faced with! Life’s challenges come in different shapes and sizes, in the form of storms of varying intensities. We cannot stop the storms because we don’t have the controls to Life’s mechanisms in our hand. But our facing each of them with humility, with faith and patience, can convert any ordeal into an opportunity to evolve and awaken!

Why ask Why?

‘WHY’ is the most debilitating question in Life! The moment you ask that, your peace will be destroyed. And you will just go crazy.

For instance, just take the recent events in our world. Why should Malala Yousafzai be shot in her head when all she asked for was her right to an education? Why should an innocent lady girl be gang-raped in New Delhi, and with such beastly brutality that she fights for her Life despite her indomitable will to live? Why should 20 angels perish in a mindless bloodbath in Connecticut? Why should miscreants infiltrate the student crowds protesting peacefully in New Delhi and why should a police constable, who was only doing his duty, have to pay the price with his Life for their unjust, violent behavior?

Why do good people have to go through pain and suffering? Why does Life always work in a cycle: extraordinary pain always being a prelude to extraordinary grace and vice versa?

WHY? This one simple question really can drive you nuts.

Reading an interview The Hindu carried yesterday with music composer, the Maestro, Ilayaraja, I learned something more about the WHY question! Subha J Rao writes of the Master’s humility and wisdom saying, “….the Master musician refuses to take credit for any of his creations. “It just came. I don’t know from where. Questioning the origin of music is like asking why the breeze is soothing, why you shiver in exhilaration when the spray from the waterfall hits you. The day you wonder where it comes from, things get difficult. Sometimes, entire songs are ready in just about five minutes.

How do you explain that?””

Ilayaraja’s perspective to Life is enlightening. He has seen it all. And learned too. A simple village lad from Pannaipuram in rural Tamil Nadu, he made it so big in the south Indian film industry that films would run in the 70s and 80s only because they had his compositions in them. And then, with the advent of the techno-age in composing music, and with the rise of the prodigal talent A.R.Rahman, Illayaraja lost his relevance. He was literally in the wilderness between 1995 and 2011. Yet, he’s back now, because of the sheer quality of his work. He epitomizes the famous saying in cricket, “Form is temporary. Class is permanent.”

So, the key to intelligent living is to never ask why __ don’t ask when you are getting the Life you want and don’t ask when you are getting the Life you don’t want. Simply live __ wanting the Life you are getting!

The WHY question is also a human question. Look around you. Do you see any other form of creation questioning anything? Everything, everyone, is in a state of acceptance. Except us humans. Which is why suffering is such a unique human condition. Pain is everywhere. When a tree is cut, there is pain that the tree goes through. When there’s a drought, the earth goes through immense pain. But there’s no evidence to suggest that they suffer. Suffering comes ONLY when you ask why you are having to go through pain? Think about it. When you get a migraine or a cancer and you don’t ask why, will you suffer? You will be in enormous physical pain, alright, but you will not suffer. Suffering is born when you ask WHY and you get no reply. Because Life doesn’t give answers. It gives us experiences and allows us to learn from them.

Simplify Life. Learn to appreciate its beauty in its inscrutability. What are you going to achieve by dissecting Life and analyzing why things are happening the way they are? It would be an intelligent proposition if you could at least get half-way through to finding the answers you seek. But making sense of Life is like taking a sharp sword and hoping to cut through water. It is an exercise in futility and make you insane. Because no sword can even as much as cause a scratch on water! Lou Majaw, the pioneering musician from Shillong, who worships Life, besides Bob Dylan, teaches us to appreciate Life the best: “Life is beautiful, and the best part is you get it for free.”

So, why look a gift horse in the mouth? Why ask WHY?