There’s no escaping bearing your cross.
The other day, at a mall, I bumped into a gentleman who used to supply stationery for several years to our erstwhile (now bankrupt and defunct) Firm (read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal.). He’s an elderly Muslim – always warm and very affable. He was keen to know why Vaani and I had not been in touch with him. I quickly told him our story – of how our business had gone bust and how we have been going through a “very painful yet spiritually awakening phase” for the past 10 years.
The man beamed a benign smile through his white, flowing beard. He said: “AVIS bhai, I have seen in Life that everyone has to go through a 10-year phase which is often grueling. In our faith, we believe that this 10-year-phase belongs to Allah. You just offer yourself to Allah – to be tried, tested, shaped, molded by Allah! When you go through this challenging phase early in Life or in your middle-age, you are better off. If it comes to you in your old age, you will find it nearly impossible to endure it. Now that your ‘decade of trial’ is over in your middle-age, watch how your fortunes turn, see how Allah rewards you!” He gave me a hug and blessed me before setting off on his way.
I stood there and watched him disappear among the crowd at the mall. Over a cup of coffee later that afternoon I reflected on what the man had told me. He meant well. And he spoke from personal experience – having dealt with a cancer striking in his family twice and having resurrected a business that had almost gone bust.
Even so, I am not sure I am convinced that Life can be straight-jacketed into cookie-cutter models. I have understood that each of us has to go through what we have to go through. There’s no escaping bearing your cross. Some have to go through a 10-year phase, others have to go through longer, or perhaps shorter, spells. Astrology does provide some perspective – you can at least know how long a certain phase will last. But, on a spiritual plane, what is the point in having that information when you can’t do anything to alter the course of that phase or of your Life? So, my learning is this – just pray for fortitude, for inner strength, for courage, accept your Life for what it is and keep ploughing on.
I am reminded of a message that I got from Swami Sathya Sai Baba some years back. That night I was feeling beaten and felt I could no longer endure the pain of pennilessness, the grief of what we were going through and the guilt and anger of what I had possibly caused. It was a Friday. And out of sheer exasperation I went with Vaani to the weekly Sai Bhajan. My young friend Kumar, through whom Swami speaks, came up to me and gave me a poster saying “Swami wants you to internalize this message.” The poster had the following message on it.
I asked for strength and God gave me difficulties to make me strong.
I asked for wisdom and God gave me problems to solve.
I asked for prosperity and God gave me brawn and brains to work.
I asked for courage and God gave me dangers to overcome.
I asked for patience and God placed me in situations where I was forced to wait.
I asked for love and God gave me troubled people to help.
I asked for favors and God gave me opportunities.
I asked for everything so I could enjoy Life.
Instead, He gave me Life so I could enjoy everything.
I received nothing I wanted, I received everything I needed.
I believe I got that poster that day because I needed to receive the message it carried. I am not a great champion of the popular theory around God. But I do know that a Higher Energy guides our Life. Important, over the past decade Vaani and I have come to relate completely with the poster’s message. We have seen this again, and again, and again – “We have received nothing that we wanted, but we have received everything we needed”. And so we remain soaked in gratitude and humility.
This is why I truly believe that no matter what you are faced with, you must always go with the flow. Whatever comes your way, embrace it. And whatever be the tenure of a challenging phase in Life, remember, you have to go through what you have to. Go through it in total acceptance, in complete surrender. Because every experience unfailingly teaches you to be happier and stronger.