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!
Remember: you can’t fight Life. It is your fighting, your resisting what is, that is causing all your suffering.
A reader wrote to me after reading my Blogpost, ‘Why blame your God, who is a human invention anyway, for Life’s upheavals?’, a few days ago. His point: “Our culture, our religions, our elders, constantly remind us that if rituals are not performed, something terrible will happen to us. I practice all the rituals out of fear.” Another reader enquired on WhatApp: “How can we keep the faith when going through a grave time in Life? For instance, what is there to look forward to about when a loved one is dead, when you are struck by a terminal illness or when you have lost your job and are in the throes of worry and uncertainty?”
Both sets of questions are relevant and are open for exploration.
You see, we must understand the true nature of Life. It is what it is; no matter what you do, or don’t do, Life will happen to you the way it must and wants to. For instance, no ritual, no amount of piety, no prayer, can always get you what you want or always help you avoid what you don’t want. You have to go through what you have to go through in Life. So, doing a ritual out of fear or praying with an expectation that your wish must be granted are both sure ways of inviting misery into your Life.
This human form, your creation as a human, is a gift, is a blessing. You are squandering this gift if you are cowering in fear in every moment that you are alive. It is okay to be ritualistic if you are doing something without an expectation and are enjoying the process of doing it. But what is the point in doing anything when you are hating every moment of doing it, when you are deeply unhappy doing it, and are doing it only out of fear?
Similarly, why resist death or a debilitating health challenge or a job loss? Each of them is an event, a happening in Life, which has happened only because you could not control it. Think about it. If you could have controlled it, wouldn’t you have ensured that your loved ones did not die? Or that you were cured of your terminal health condition? Or that you did not lose your job? Clearly, contrary to what your conditioning – scientific, religious and social – has led you to believe, you do not control your Life. Just because you earn an income, and know that 2+2 adds up to 4, and are in good health, right now, it does not mean that you are controlling your Life. The truth is that if you are getting what you want then Life is willing it so – for now. There may be another time in Life when you may not get what you want, when things will not add up – no matter how hard you work or pray. So, simply be grateful for, and enjoy, what is. And when you get what you don’t want or don’t get what you want, again be grateful for, and accept, what is. Because fighting Life, resisting what is, will only make you miserable and unhappy.
What I am sharing here is what I have learned from Life, from Shirdi Sai Baba’s teaching. He has always championed that Faith and Patience are crucial to going through this journey called Life.
Here, Faith does not refer to an external God or to a religion or a prayer – Faith truly means trusting the process of Life. Trust, believe, keep the Faith that the Higher Energy that created you as a human, that has brought you to this point in Life, just as it has done all this while, will take you onward too, will take care of you, will provide for you and will look after you. Your not getting what you want, or your getting what you don’t want, does not ever mean that you will not be given what you need. At every stage in Life you will be given, you will get, exactly what you need. Believing in this truth is what Faith is all about. And you don’t have to look outside of you for evidence of this: haven’t you, all through the Life you have lived so far, at every stage, through every crisis of yours, always received whatever you needed? You know what your answer is, so please stop worrying, and keep the Faith. And until such time that your Life situation changes – and it eventually will, no matter what you are going through – to give you all that you want, be Patient. Remember: you can’t fight Life. It is your fighting, your resisting what is, that is causing all your suffering. So, accept what is, embrace your current reality, however dark it is, and move one step at a time, one day at a time, in Faith, with Patience.
To be sure, Vaani and I have been enduring our bankruptcy for almost 11 years now by staying anchored in Faith and Patience. Let me share here an anecdote, from some years ago, from a particularly numbing time in our Life. We had no money and our mobile phone connections were due to be disconnected the next day – for non-payment of the monthly bills. There was no money to buy groceries too and the next day was also Krishna Janmasthami – a time when Vaani would normally make special sweets and savories as part of the celebrations!
To have a change of scenery and to surrender in prayer, we decided to visit a young man, who is a messenger of Swami Sathya Sai Baba, through whom Swami speaks to seekers. When we reached this young man’s place, in Nungambakkam (in Chennai), a weekly Sai Bhajan was in progress. When the Bhajan got over, the young man met us.
He asked us, in English, “Swami wants to know if you have any questions for him?”
Vaani replied: “Please tell Swami that we don’t have money even for basics like paying our phone bills and for buying groceries…”
The young man cut Vaani short. He said, “Swami is asking, ‘Isn’t Faith basic…?’ If you have Faith…anything can happen!”
We didn’t have anything more to ask. What do you ask when you are the answer? As we went to sleep that night, both of us surrendered to the process of Life…I remember telling Vaani: “If this is what it is, we will live through it…”
The next day a friend called me, out of the blue, on his own. He knew our situation well and offered me Rs.5,000/- with which I managed to save our mobile phone connections and bought some groceries that were urgently needed. And that evening, another friend walked into our home, unannounced, with a hamper of Krishna Janmashtami bakhshanam (sweets and savories) – cheedai, appam and such. She told Vaani, “I was passing by and wanted to share with you what I had picked up for my family.”
How do you explain this?
Vaani and I have seen this happen to us, again, and again, and again. We have always got what we need; and at the right time. Nothing has ever come a moment early or a moment late. I talk about several such experiences in my Book ‘Fall Like A Rose Petal’, in the documentary on us, ‘Rise In Love’, and here on this Blog. For both of us, Life has come to mean to live this learning – work hard, do whatever you must do in the given situation and then let go, trust Life and be patient. This is how we pray – eternally grateful for whatever we have and completely surrendering to the Higher Energy to take care of us, to look after us and to provide for us. And, believe me, it always has. Repeatedly, unfailingly.
This is how – and why – we are happy – being non-worrying, non-frustrated and non-suffering – despite our circumstances.
Life is pure. Life is beautiful. Life is uncomplicated. And simple. It offers no guarantees and demands nothing from us.
The other day, we visited a friend whose husband had died recently. He was an alcoholic and despite her best efforts she could not wean him off the habit that eventually consumed him. She had taken him to therapists and counsellors; and he had been through rehab three times! She says she had pleaded with him and prayed for him – “incessantly”. “I tried everything that’s humanly possible but eventually I lost,” she told us. He was only 40. “I don’t think Life is fair or that there is any justice in this Universe. I don’t think there is any God. I have stopped believing in God. Tell me, AVIS and Vaani, is there any point in praying to God,” she asked us.
She loved him deeply. They had met in school and their love for each other was well known in our circle of friends. She told us that they had everything – money, assets, a flourishing business, two beautiful children – and yet “Life was so meaningless and empty now.” “The one thing I just couldn’t control, nor could he, was his drinking. I fasted for Shirdi Baba every Thursday, I went to Vaishno Devi, I visited Tirupati too every month…but…but…my prayers fell on deaf ears,” she lamented, sobbing quietly for several minutes into her dupatta.
In a while though, she regained her composure and repeated her question: “Is there any point in praying to God?”
This is both an important, and interesting, question. And it is almost always asked when you don’t get what you want or when you get what you don’t want!
Think about it. When everything in your Life is going the way you want it to go, if you are a believer, you may feel grateful and prayerful but you never question God’s existence. It is only when you are in a situation that you intensely dislike, it is only when you pray and don’t immediately get what you want, that you start challenging the now-all-so-popular God theory.
From what I have learnt from Life, from my lived experiences, this entire God theory is a human invention. To me, Life is the only Higher Energy that is there. Just plain, simple, Life. Which is why I always spell Life with a capital ‘L’. Without Life, of course, we are all dead. So, I believe, if there is ever a God, it is Life!
Here are a few irrefutable truisms about Life. It has no religion, no color, no race, no caste and no creed. (And, interestingly, God has all of that!) Yet, without Life no form of creation can survive. Each of us is created by this Higher Energy a.k.a Life without our asking to be created. And our biggest blessing is that we are created human – so that we can experience this Universe in a manner that is so different from all other forms of creation. Now, the other truth is also that, when we are created, when we are born, Life makes no promises to us; it gives us no guarantees. As in, none of us is born with a warranty card or a trouble-shooting App to help us “fix” our Life should things go “wrong”! You are just born, the way you are – into a family, country, gender, and you have no control over any of this! Besides, from your birth, to your death, all you have is a set of experiences and events happening to you. This is what your Life really is. You have no control over any of them too.
Religion, God, ritual, prayer – all these are introduced to you, conditioned in you, by your parents, by family, by society. Which is why I believe God is a human invention. Pause and reflect on this: why does no other species, except us humans, have religion or God or ritual or caste or creed? If you get the point being made here, why will you either demand “fair-play” or “justice” from a God, who never invited herself or himself into your Life in the first place, or blame this God for whatever is happening to you?
Does the no-God-in-the-popular-sense theory then mean there is no Higher Energy? Of course not!
Surely, there is an inscrutable Higher Energy, a power that is more intelligent than you and me. It is this intelligence, for instance, which has made you a human that is capable of contracting the H1N1 virus and it is the same intelligence that creates the pig that carries and gives out the H1NI virus, the swine flu. Pause and reflect again – you may well have been created as the pig; how – and why – is it that you are human? So, clearly, there is a Higher Energy. But that Higher Energy, which is Life, neither promises nor demands anything from us. It certainly does not say “believe, pray or fast”! On the other hand, Life has a mind of its own and simply keeps on happening to us – whether or not we want it happening in a certain way, whether or not we belong to any religion, practice a ritual or believe in a God!
Life is pure. Life is beautiful. Life is uncomplicated. And simple. You make your Life miserable by subscribing to the “invented” God theory and by having an expectation that your prayers must be answered.
An indisputable reality about Life is that if you are born, you will eventually die. And as long as you are alive your Life is simply a series of experiences. Some of these experiences may meet your expectations or exceed them – like having good health, great talent, money, love, fame – and some of them may not meet your expectations – like having a cancer or a relationship mess or a bankruptcy or loneliness. And in everyone’s lifetime there will be a sprinkling of both kinds of experiences, at different times, with varying degrees of impact. So, when you clearly can’t control the Life that is happening to you, what is the point in blaming Life if you don’t get what you want? What then is the point in blaming your God, who is only a figment of poor imagination, invented by humans through a flawed theory?
So, what should one do then, in the wake of Life’s upheavals? Well, once you realize that you can never understand Life, this one’s a no-brainer: simply accept your Life for what it is and keep going on. Because no matter what you wish, no matter whether you are a believer or not, it is always what it is. Yes, you can certainly pray – just as I do – by being eternally grateful for this Life and this human experience – it is still a great blessing, no matter what is happening to you right now! Now, please remember, prayer does not quite solve problems in the way we expect them to. But it surely helps us last longer so that eventually when Life changes, with time, we can celebrate getting what we have always wanted! This awareness, this clarity, holds the key to being happy despite your circumstances.