You don’t have to know everything or have all the answers. It is fine to be clueless. In fact, it is great to just be.
I am in a familiar zone this morning. I have no idea of what’s going to happen. (Now, I know, the truth is none of us can ever know what’s going to happen!) But I am referring to all our efforts at putting our business back on track, the way we want it to be, that have come unstuck. Yet again. It surely is unsettling at a practical, material, everyday level. But this is not something that we don’t have experience dealing with. Vaani and I have seen this time and again, that whenever we don’t seem to know what is happening or why it is happening and what we must do, Life has always shown us the way. That way may not be something we would have known of or liked to take, but we implicitly trust Life and allow ourselves to be led by it. This is perhaps why we don’t suffer despite our often excruciating circumstances.
The human desire to know why something is happening to you is what causes your suffering. The simplest way to avoid suffering is to stop asking why or why me. Stop wanting to know all the answers to questions that fox you. Stop wanting to solve all your problems at the same time. In fact, there will be times in your Life, when you can’t solve even one of your problems – let alone all. You will just be pushed to a corner by Life, button-holed and made irrelevant. Of course, you will be irritated, you will feel helpless and totally, completely, lost. This is when suffering will arrive in your Life. But it will lay siege only if you want answers, only when you seek solutions, only if you ask why. Instead if you just accept that being clueless, being helpless, being solution-less is fine, you will not suffer, despite the pain.
So, when I am in that zone, where I am this morning, I don’t ask why. I simply surrender to Life and say, be my light, show me the way and give me the strength, the stamina, to further endure the journey. I have learnt, that it is best, when you don’t know what to do, to simply play along with Life – as in this immortal song from Dev Anand’s Hum Dono (1961, Amarjeet/Vijay Anand, Mohd. Rafi, Jaidev, Sahir Ludhianvi)!
Live your story. Live a Life that matters.
Over the weekend, I was invited to share a transformational moment of my Life at a story-telling session. Now, I am often invited to speak at forums and events. And I almost always share my story. Even through the workshops that Vaani and I lead and anchor, we share stories – both from our own personal experiences and of what we see and learn from Life around us. We also encourage participants at our workshops to share their personal journeys so that they can bond and function better as teams. But this story-telling session that we attended on Sunday was different. It was structured, time-bound story-telling. It was a beautiful experience, hearing so many, intensely personal, stories from rank strangers.
So, there was the retired principal of a corporation school – he talked of how he learnt to live intelligently and serve selflessly from his own students, most of them coming from broken homes; they came only for the lure of the noon-meals the school offered, as it was the only meal the children got daily! There was a man who shared his story of remorse and guilt – over shamelessly demanding a dowry from his millionaire father-in-law, turning an alcoholic thereafter – and how he found love and meaning in his Life, thanks to his wife forgiving him and showing him so much compassion and understanding. Then there was this young, TamBram lady who rebelled against the institution of marriage and who was given an apartment to live separately by her conservative father – she talked of the various people she ended up living with in her apartment and what she learnt from each of them.
This experience only corroborated what I have always believed in: understanding personal stories matters a lot in relationships. I read somewhere, long, long ago, that behind every beating heart is a personal story. And, I have learnt from Life that, if you understand that story, relating to – or choosing not to relate to – the other person in a relationship becomes that much simpler.
Most relationships, across all contexts and not necessarily limited to a romantic liaison between two people, become messy because, after the initial phase of getting to know a person, there is no effort by either party to understand the other. Knowing their stories helps. Our part-time helper at home, for instance, came late to work today. Now, it is normal for us to imagine that she, like most other housemaids like her, is playing silly and truant. But when Vaani paused to hear her story, it turns out that she’s being repeatedly physically abused by her drunkard husband. I am not saying that we can solve someone’s problems by knowing their story. But knowing someone’s story surely helps us deal with them with empathy and compassion. We may or may not choose to engage with a person after hearing their story. And that’s fine. But at least we can avoid imagining and perceiving the person to be something that he or she is not.
For a person who shares a story, the experience of sharing is a therapeutic one. I can vouch for this. Over the last few years, Vaani and I have healed greatly through being open and sharing our story – through my Book, my Talks, events that we curate and through this Blog that I write daily. So contrary to popular perception that sharing our stories makes us vulnerable, I would say, sharing our stories helps us experience the warmth, compassion, love and kindness that makes up the Universe!
But, most important, your story shapes you – it refines you, makes you stronger and helps you evolve. It leads you to live a Life that matters. But for that to happen, you must embrace the experiences that come your way, without resisting them, and be prepared to go through your own adventure. So, when your story unfolds, when you path begins to appear, just offer yourself to be led by Life. You can be sure that, over time, you will arrive where you must – and where you belong!
When everything falls apart, when you feel pushed to a corner, when you don’t know what to do, the best thing to do is to do nothing and let Life pilot you!
Recently someone who is going through a grueling time in Life called me. He described how he felt ‘check-mated’ from all quarters. He exclaimed: “I don’t know what to do.” I told him, “That’s fantastic. If you don’t know what to do, just surrender to Life. Go with the flow, let Life take over!”
I liken such situations to flying through turbulent weather. What do they tell you when you are flying in a plane? When there is turbulence, the pilot’s voice crackles over the p.a. system and tells you to just fasten your seat belts and sit tight. And you follow that instruction diligently. You don’t try to go take over the plane, do you? If you are nervous and fearful, you just immerse yourself in prayer or you surrender to your anxieties and insecurities, while hoping that the turbulence passes. So it must be in Life too. When there is turbulence, when you are passing through a dark, directionless, clueless phase, and you don’t know what to do, you must just let go and let Life pilot you!
I learnt this technique from Osho, the Master. Osho often talked about the philosophy that Rinzai, the Zen mystic, taught the world with his famous saying: “Sitting silently, doing nothing, and the grass grows by itself.” What I have understood is that we humans have this phenomenal urge to keep on doing something or the other. The whole endeavor appears to be to control Life. To treat it like our hand maiden. We strive to ensure that only the outcomes we desire happen for us. Now that’s not the way Life works. What you want never really happens all the time. So we get angry, frustrated, depressed and cynical about Life when things don’t go our way. That, as I have come to realize, is an immature response to Life. The truth is, Life was always in control. You – and I – were never controlling anything. You were only imagining that you were in the pilot’s seat. When the chips are down, when whatever you do doesn’t seem to work for you, when you are clueless about what’s next in your Life, when you don’t know what you must do, simply surrender to Life. When you do this of your own accord, through a deep acceptance of your current reality and your inability to find ways to resolve it, an awakening will happen within you. That awakening will help you to trust the larger cosmic design. It will lead you to understand that doing nothing and letting Life take over is an intelligent choice – especially when you don’t know what to do!