A crisis is a great opportunity to evolve, to grow stronger, wiser and happier!
“Do we need a crisis to wake us up from our stupor,” asked Sheela, who was in the audience when I delivered my signature Fall Like A Rose Petal Talk at Mamallapuram the other day. Sheela’s taken an Indian name, though she is originally from France. She remain paralyzed for 23 years of her Life. She said only after she let go, stopped complaining about Life and learnt to live with what is that she healed completely. She is now convinced that the only way to live fully is to be happy – working only to take care of your needs and dropping all wants.
She asks an interesting question. I have been often asked that – particularly because my own awakening happened only through our Life-changing crisis, our bankruptcy (read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal).
I always ask people back this question: do you wake up on your own in the mornings or do you need an alarm or a wake-up call? Those who are tuned to a bio-clock can wake up sharp at a particular hour every day. Those who are not, need a wake-up call or an alarm. So, it is with awakening to a more intelligent way of living. Those who are appreciative of the transience of Life, who are raised to live purposefully from their childhood, they just keep living that way. But when people run the rat race or when they are trapped in a material, earning a living, bubble, they are the ones who are rudely jolted by Life’s upheavals.
That’s what happened to me. I thought I could go on postponing happiness, so that I could earn enough, save enough and then put up my feet to enjoy my Life. I was being so stupid. But I didn’t realize it. I seriously believed I had a plan. I had married early (when I was 21). So, I often told my friends that at 40, I will retire, after having “stashed away” enough wealth. Only when every single material asset in my Life, right down to the last rupee was taken away, that I awoke. I was 40 then! It was such a gut-wrenching awakening. I suddenly found ourselves as a family hanging from the edge of a precipice. It was scary, it was dangerous, it was a heart-in-the-mouth situation.
But that experience taught me that Life’s shocks are going to arrive whether you are awakened or not. Even if you are awakened you cannot escape your crisis. But being awakened you are far more equipped to deal with it efficiently. For instance, you can deal with a fire in your home if it breaks out during the day, when you are up and about, than in the night, when you are fast asleep.
Having said that, I want to quickly add that I have learnt to love any crisis. I feel I would not have evolved to be happier – despite our circumstances – but for our crisis. We are still hanging there, as a family, at the edge of the precipice. We have been hanging there for almost 10 years. We continue to, as Osho would say, “live dangerously”. It is undoubtedly painful. But it is not scary anymore. When you are happy with your current reality, you are very peaceful within. So, I don’t either despise a crisis or fear it. I have learnt to be grateful when one arrives and to embrace it. I believe a crisis arrives only to make you stronger, wiser and happier through dealing with it! And you can deal with a crisis only when you are awake – not when you are in stupor, asleep or, well, pretending to be sleeping!
Every time death strikes around us it is serving us a wake-up call.
Somehow the images from Tuesday evening’s public funeral of Jayalalithaa refuse to go away from my mind. Not just yet.
Here was one of the greatest and most powerful leaders of our times, from this part of the world, yet she was so powerless in the face of her own mortality. As I type this, she lies buried some kilometres away. History will surely remember her. People will continue to tell their versions of her story – of her beauty, her fame, her struggles, her triumphs, her power, her wealth, her compassion, her wit and her brilliance – for generations to come. But, for now, her human form lies there alone, at the Marina, in abject surrender to Life’s will.
Death, we must all realize, is a great leveler.
The moment you are born, the only predictable aspect of your Life is your impending, inevitable, death. You cannot negotiate with death. In fact, all of us are speeding towards our death, albeit at different speeds. You have to go when your time is up and your number is called. So, the most intelligent way to live is to live fully, celebrating this lifetime being happy, doing what you love doing. Yet, thanks to your social conditioning, you go on getting attached to material stuff, wanting to accumulate more wealth and more things, than experiencing Life, its magic and beauty, in all its grandeur and majesty. Simply, you go on postponing living. When you invest your present in grieving over the dead past or in worrying about an unborn future you are not living, you are merely existing.
Think about it. You – and I – didn’t ask to be born. So, this lifetime is a gift. And this gift is perishable. Each of us comes with an expiry date, except we don’t know what date it is. Of this lifespan that we have, assuming we live to be 60 years old, it is only up to the age of 40~45 that you can be reasonably assured of good health. It is only when you are maintaining good health that you can experience Life fully. But think of how most of us are squandering this peak phase of good health, investing precious time and energy in materialism or living our lives trying to please others or brooding over what we don’t have. By the time we wake up, if at all we do, to realize the ephemeral nature of Life, it is often too late. Sadly, some people never quite wake up in realization at all!
Clearly, nobody who has inhabited this planet has ever been able to take anything of what they created or accumulated with them. You come empty-handed and you will go empty-handed. Death unfailingly serves us a wake-up call, reminding us of this unalterable law of Life, every time it strikes around us. But are we listening, are we waking up, are we willing to change the way we think and live?
After watching Jayalalithaa’s funeral on TV as we stepped out on the street for a walk, I found a bed of leaves under a tree in my neighborhood. Intuitively, as I shot a picture to post on Instagram, this line completed the imagery in my head: “If this is where we all have to end up finally, then why all this drama that we enact all through our lifetimes?”
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