Here are two illuminating stories:
Destiny’s author: In a long queue at the doctor’s waiting room sat an elderly gentleman. He had recovered from cancer and was here for his regular check-up to ensure that the cancer was out of his system for good. As time ticked by, he rose from his seat and courteously addressed the receptionist, “Ma’am, my appointment was for 10 and it is already 11 now. I cannot wait any longer. Would you kindly schedule me for another day?”
A woman in the queue remarked caustically to another, “Hah! He must be 80 years old. What urgent business can he have that he cannot afford to wait?” Overhearing her observation, the gentleman inclined his head politely towards her and answered, “I am 88 years old, ma’am. That’s precisely why I cannot afford to waste a single minute of the precious time I have left.”
The enlightened don’t fall into the pits of self-pity because, as Pope Francis points out, “Do not forget your life is the greatest enterprise in the world. Only you can stop it from going bust…. To be happy is to stop feeling like a victim and become your destiny’s author.”
Keep learning. This story is about Socrates. While on death row, the great philosopher heard a fellow prisoner singing a difficult song written by the poet, Stesichoros. Socrates begged him to teach him the lyrics. “Why?” asked the singer. Socrates replied, “So that I can die knowing one thing more.” The singer asked, “Why learn something new one week before you die?” and Socrates said, “For exactly the same reason that you would learn something new 50 years before you die.”
The enlightened, like any of us, cross deserts yet are able to find an oasis in their circumstances.
Don’t be afraid to take unfamiliar paths. They take you to the best places.
Where’s the oasis? This is what this article is about. You may have gone through a rough phase in the past 12 months. Maybe you faced turbulence in your finances, a broken relationship, a job snatched away from you, an unexpected illness that hospitalised you, a loved one departed… But, remember, the oasis is in you. Take heart and give yourself full credit for riding out the crisis, for being here, still standing. Yes, there was pain and maybe some residue of it remains, but, along the way, you’ve dropped a load of fear you were carrying around all these years. You’ve emerged with a new inner boldness. Due to the ordeal, hidden restraints have relaxed, a deeper understanding has unfolded. And that’s why the new year will be infinitely superior to the old one.
You are new. Yes, it’s true, you are not who you were yesterday, you are much more today. More experienced, more seasoned, more mature and, above all, more you. And you are most God when you are yourself. You are clear-headed like you never were prior to the misfortune. You are awake because the ego, having received a battering during the trauma, is in abeyance. It doesn’t dictate anymore, so you rise to your full stature. The mind slows to a measured pace — from the scurry of worry to the solid stability of acceptance. There’s healing. There’s living in newness. There’s a new sparkle.
Yes, it’s good to return to the old routine you followed before the turbulence threw you off balance. At the same time, don’t treat what happened as a setback. I’ve learnt that such ‘setbacks’ force us to pause to actually give us an opportunity to notice important things that we were overlooking. Temporarily sitting on the sidelines also enables us to see everything from a visitor’s perspective — something new even in all that’s familiar, described by a Master as, “an unbroken peace in the smile of the sun and the dance of the twilight.”
Your life is the greatest enterprise in the world. Only you can stop it from going bust….
Initially, you may wish for things to be as they were, but as acceptance sets in, what the Masters say makes immense sense: “Don’t be afraid to take an unfamiliar path. They take you to the best places.” You learn about your own powers cumulating in a realisation that whatever happens you’ll be fine. That’s reassuring. And when you know things are not in your control, you pick up little gems like trust in a greater process, faith in human kindness and the ability to yield gracefully to circumstances. Most important, your body and mind that have borne your excesses for years now teach you that to rest is not a crime!
Thrive in the oasis. For sure, you’re done with the desert, now, discover the oasis in you and thrive in it. Put yourself and your life in a whole new working order. Have a personal motto, something simple like: lessen suffering, increase well-being. Go for it.
*Eat nutritious meals to pep up the tired brain. Choose familiar foods with less sugar, salt and grease in them. Tip: Warm khichdi — a mix of rice, dal, vegetables lightly spiced and steamed is a great comforter and pick-me-up. Sip water all day long — hydrated cells are energised cells. Eat and drink from an uncomplaining attitude, an accepting, calm mind — the food tastes great and the body achieves maximum nourishment.
*Exercise meditatively and in comfort. As I pedal on my stationary cycle from my armchair, I count to harness the mind. Result: as my body cycles into fitness and health, my racing brain and mind slow down lulled by the rhythmic rotation of my feet and chanting of numbers. Sometimes there’s utter peace, sometimes, solutions and ideas pop up. I’ve even had an out-of-body experience while cycling — when you stand outside yourself, you harp less on me, my and mine, and this new perspective makes you more forgiving, objective, serene. These, in turn, have a terrific effect on your relationships, the quality of your sleep and level of your happiness. It is as if you are followed everywhere by the pleasant fragrance of invisible-to-the-eye flowers.
All these marvellous happenings embolden you. You tackle your finances and realise you have more than you thought. You are able to think about your departed beloved once more peacefully, where your personal loss becomes part of the universal human experience and the pain recedes… Your own illness seems eons away…
Believe me, having an undisturbed mind is like owning a vein of pure gold that never stops shining. Keep mining. A whole brave new world abundant in health, wealth and love, gradually reveals itself.
The writers are authors of the book Fitness for Life and teachers of the Fitness for Life programme.