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.
No one can win fighting against Life.
A young man we had coached a few years ago pinged us saying he was in town and wanted to meet us. We caught up for coffee.
When he first met us in 2012 he had an alcohol problem, his wife had left him and he was out of job. He looked every bit the way he was feeling then – beaten by Life – and he was low on both confidence and self-esteem. But when we met him last week he was looking very different – he was glowing, it appeared as if he had grown younger and, important, he radiated happiness.
As we got our coffees, he said, “I am still struggling to land a job. I still have not found a companion. But I have stopped drinking, I have stopped pitying myself or blaming others. I have made peace with my imperfect Life. I have learnt to be happy despite whatever is happening in my Life!”
This young man has unlocked Life’s secret to happiness. He’s discovered that Life can be spectacular even during a crisis. In the Life coaching conversations we had had with him, six years ago, we had shared our learnings, from our own crisis (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal). We told him that he must not fight Life; he can’t hope to win fighting against Life. No one can. So, acceptance is the key. Accept your current reality, go to work on changing it, but work without any expectations. Only then can you be really, truly happy.
Vaani and I have seen this from our own experience. Of course, like everyone else, we too began by setting conditions on our Life. We said that we will be happy if we get this or that, if our problems are solved or if we get all that we want. But we soon realized that Life has a mind of is own. It just keeps on happening – in its own inscrutable way. So, we reckoned, as long as you keep insisting that Life listens to you and gives you all that you want, you will be unhappy. We looked around us and found that it is in this state that some people feel depressed or some lean on crutches like drugs or cigarettes or alcohol. And others turn angry and violent. But Life is not bothered about how you are feeling or what you are doing to yourself. So, in effect, you are fighting alone and are fighting a battle that you will never win. So, we concluded, why fight? We simply accepted our Life for the way it is and surrendered to its Masterplan. To be sure, our problems have not vanished. But our ability to deal with them has improved greatly. Important, we have learnt to be non-worrying, non-frustrated and non-suffering.
We have learnt that all of Life’s problems fall under two categories. One category is those that you can solve with your intelligence and initiative. So, why worry or fight those problems? But there are other problems that will solve only in their own space and time – no matter how hard you wish, work or pray. So, why worry or fight those problems again? Just accept them for the way they are. Acceptance is the key to happiness. Acceptance does not mean inaction. Acceptance means dropping a wasteful fight. It means trusting the process of Life.
Our young friend, like Vaani and me, has understood this truth about Life. And that’s why he’s glowing, he looks younger, he’s quit a ruinous habit and he’s happy despite his circumstances. You may want to consider this perspective we share here – simply accept your Life for what it is, no matter what you are going through. Then, you too will discover that Life can be spectacular through a crisis!
When the world closes its doors on you, keep the faith, be patient.
A young man, who we have been coaching (through our ‘Let’s Talk Happyness’ Program), called up yesterday. He was excited. His boss had awarded him a spot bonus. And had felicitated him at a town hall with the whole team. The young chap, an engineer in his late 20s, said, “I am amazed. Just four months ago nobody wanted to even look at my resume. For months on end interviewer after interviewer kept on rejecting me. They made me feel worthless. And now, suddenly, my talent is recognized and I am being celebrated. I don’t get this. Even when I was going through a trial by fire, through that spate of rejections, I was still talented. Then why does my talent get recognized only now. Why was it not valued then, when I so badly needed a break?”
Well, such is Life. Vaani and I have learnt from own experience (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal.) that we are put through a trying phase in Life only so that we evolve through it. Clearly, Life’s experiences do not erode our talent. Even when one department, one door, in Life shuts on us, another opens. Always. The truth also is that talent and trial are totally unrelated. Being talented does not guarantee you a Life free of challenges. Talent is what you are endowed with. And trial is what you have to face, what you must go through, per your Life’s inscrutable, and unique, design. It is important to remember that just because you are being rejected by the world, just because people don’t recognize your talent, it does not mean you are worthless. This is when you must keep the faith – in yourself, your abilities and what you have to offer the world – and be patient. This is when you must trust the process of Life. Life is very compassionate, very beautiful. Every experience you go through unfailingly enriches you from within – making you stronger, wiser and happy!
What do you do when you don’t know what to do in Life?
A young lady reached out to Vaani and me recently. She said her 2-year-old marriage was breaking up. Her parents were both diagnosed with cancer. Their family property, which had been under litigation for years, was decreed in favor of her uncles. And she had been laid off at her job. “Where do I begin to fix my problems? I have nowhere to go with my ailing parents and my one-year-old child. I don’t know what to do,” she confessed, breaking down inconsolably.
Vaani and I have been in her situation. We too have felt clueless and lost. What do you do when you don’t know what to do in Life?
I remember Thursday, April 29th 2014 vividly. On that day, we went ‘zero-cash’. We spent the last eighty rupees with us on an auto ride and lived in Chennai, in spells of pennilessness, for months on end after that. Our bankruptcy had blown up into an incomprehensible phase of prolonged worklessness and pennilessness. At one time, we endured 30 months, between 2012 and 2014 when we had no work, no income. (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal and watch this Fall Like A Rose Petal Talk.) This, despite, our best efforts to work our network of contacts, pound the pavement, restructure our delivery model, and put our business back on track. It’s a phase that we are still enduring at varied levels of intensity and challenge from time to time.
It is through this darkest phase of our Life that Vaani and I have understood the true meaning of faith.
We have understood that faith is not quite about trusting an external resource or agency, also popularly known as God. Faith truly means trusting the process of Life – and being happy despite the circumstances; which means, being non-worrying, non-frustrated and non-suffering. We realized that despite our excruciating circumstances, Life was providing us all that we needed. Nothing went according to our plans. Nothing still does. But we have survived a decade of bankruptcy and its attendant, often imponderable, challenges. In this time, our children graduated – our son from an overseas University in 2012. Our daughter too is doing her Master’s abroad. Miraculously, every time we came to the brink, a helping hand appeared from nowhere and hoisted us up or ‘someone’ opened our wings and taught us to fly. That’s what faith has come to mean to us – to know that since you have been created without your asking for it, you will also be, unfailingly, looked after, provided for and cared for. We have learnt that just because we find the going tough, we must not conclude that Life is cruel. In fact, as we have discovered from our experience, Life is most compassionate – always giving you a situation only so that you grow better from dealing with it.
This is what we told the young lady too who sought us out through our Let’s Talk Happyness Program. When you don’t know what to do in Life, you simply let go and you let Life take over. To be sure, you never were in control of anything. Life was always, Life is, and Life will always be in control. Or simply, the Master Plan has no flaws. All that you have to do when you are clueless is to trust the process of Life, keep the faith, and take each day as it comes.
If you wish to seek our perspectives on a Life challenge you are faced with, please reach out here – Let’s Talk Happyness! If you have a personal story of faith, please share. Or tag someone for whom this Post is likely to be useful.