Life has taught me, Swamiji,” my father said to me the other day, “that, one must go through one’s journey alone.”
He was a bit unsettled, even distraught, as he had recently fallen prey to a fraudulent phone call telling him that his bank card was blocked. (Mis)leading him through a series of steps, the caller managed to extract the right details and spent my parents’ entire one month’s pension on various websites in under two minutes. The bank concluded that it was my father’s negligence for he’d shared the transaction password with the caller and understandably, the police couldn’t do much because the call was traced to another state in India.
In the big scheme of things, it’s nothing: to lose one month’s pension when you’ve been earning for more than four decades. But, as is the way of loss, it is rarely about the absolute nature of the loss itself or its magnitude and more about how victimized we feel. An unexpected, undesirable incident can catch even the wisest completely off-guard. It took him more than two weeks to come to terms with the fact that he was tricked.
My mother on the other hand, was cool as a winter breeze and didn’t so much as even blink at this monetary loss. Two people under the same roof, bearing the same loss, are affected differently. What a beautiful and intriguing world we live in.
“I’ve seen,” Father added recounting his difficult childhood, “that no one is there when you are suffering. Only your grit and God’s grace helps a person sail through, no one else can help.”
I knew where he was coming from because many people I meet feel utterly lonely when they are down. They are usually not alone but even with all the help around, loneliness seems to seep in like water through cracks. Cracks in our consciousness, in our understanding of ourselves and our view of life.
That’s why Buddha deemed samyaka dṛṣṭi (right view of life) as one of the most important elements of self-realization. Krishna too repeatedly reminds Arjuna about the impermanent nature of everything and that one must navigate through the duality of life with courage (mātrā-sparśhāstu kaunteya śhītoṣhṇa-sukha-duḥkha-dāḥ…BG 2.14.) He goes on to say that forget things, even all the people you love or hate, they too one day won’t be there in your life or you in theirs (avyaktādīni bhūtāni vyakta-madhyāni bhārata…BG 2.28) so what are you brooding over.
Loss in (and of) life is not a question of if but when.
Whatever we are attached to or hold dear in our hearts, losing it is only a matter of time. It is inevitable.
“Of course,” I said to him, “No one can partake of our suffering. I agree. It’s a personal matter. Just like no one else will feel full or hungry if you have a hearty meal or are deprived of one.”
He nodded, relieved that I, whom he also looks upon as his guru, validated his view.
“However,” I continued, “they can share your loss, they can share your pain. You may not pass on the fulfilment of a good meal but you can share your food with them. Thereafter, whether they feel full or foul is up to them. And, that’s what suffering is: it is not what is happening to us but how we see what is happening to us. It is not the actual situation but our interpretation which then governs our feelings. Change the interpretation and feelings change on their own.”
You can’t change your feelings by just wanting to change them, no matter how desperate or strong-willed you maybe. You need to find out what is evoking these emotions in you. Go to the source. It could be an incident or a set of incidents, certain people and so on. Then ask yourself if you wish to feel differently. If so, begin with the assumption that nothing or no one else is going to change. They are where they always have been, they are exactly where they are supposed to be.
Develop a broader view, distract yourself positively, look at the brighter side, practice loving-kindness towards yourself and others, and gradually, your perspective will begin to shift. When it does, everything else will shift with it.
Once the Buddha was confronted by a monster called Suciloma, whose name translates as “Needle-hair.” He was a prototype punk with needles for hair! He wanted to find out if the Buddha was really enlightened. So he sat down next to the Buddha and leaned toward him to prick him, but the Buddha leaned away.
“Aha!” said Needle-Hair. “You don’t like pain. You’re not really enlightened. An enlightened person would maintain equanimity no matter what. He wouldn’t have any likes or dislikes.”
The Buddha said: “Don’t be stupid. There are things that are going to cause problems for my body. It’s going to hurt it and make it unhealthy” (SN 10:53).
This is just common sense. You don’t step on snakes, you don’t run into fires, and you don’t allow needles to poke you. You move away. It’s common sense, not attachment. That’s loving-kindness toward your body: keeping it healthy, keeping it safe.
(Bear Awareness by Ajahn Brahm)
Often blinded by our experiences, conditioning, and set in our ways, though, that’s exactly what we do: we step on snakes, run into fire and allow needles to poke us. Snakes of attachments, fire of desires and needles of jealousy and covetousness. They bite, burn and hurt. We call it suffering and we think that this is the way of life.
We mistake our pain for our suffering. We have little control over the former but the latter is almost entirely in our hands. We can take things in our stride or be tossed in the tide. This choice, we must remember, is in our hands. At all times.
A man went to a pizzeria and ordered a large whole-wheat pizza with a diet Coke.
“Should I cut it in six slices or ten?” the owner asked.
“Ten! Ten!” the man winced. “Someone’s trying to lose weight here! Cut it in six!”
It’s the same life, if you want it all to yourself then whether you divide it in six or ten, it doesn’t matter. As I wrote in Mind Full to Mindful: “Nothing Matters. Eventually.” The sooner we realize this, the quicker conflict or challenges will stop bothering you.
Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. Loss is unavoidable, grief isn’t. Death is certain. And life, well, life isn’t certain. Its uncertainty, unpredictability, even irrationality, is what makes it what it is: worthwhile, a blessing. You can see its attributes as appalling, boring and cunning or as adventurous, beautiful and captivating. Your choice. That’s the ABC of life.
As in a game of scrabble, what letters end up on your rack is not in your hands but what words you coin and where you place them is a matter of skill and knowledge. The less ignorant you are in vocabulary, the more chance you have of scoring. The faster you empty your rack, the higher are the odds of getting better letters and more options. If you are not going to let go of the existing letters or crib about how unfortunate you are, you lose your chance of scoring. Life is no different.
The alphabet is the same, it’s just what words you construct with the letters available to you that makes all the difference to what you feel about everything. Yep, absolutely everything.
Fill your heart with loving-kindness, your time with noble actions, your mind with good thoughts and suffering will disappear from your life like sadness from a content heart. You will realize your soul, your self.
Needles can’t prick your soul nor fire can burn it. Water can’t rot it and heat can’t dry it. (acchedyo ‘yam adāhyo ‘yam akledyo ‘śoṣya eva ca…BG 2.24) And snakes you ask, what about the snakes of attachments? Well, that a yogi wraps around his/her neck and yet remains unharmed.
This is the path of lasting peace. Walk with me.
Art of Meditation
Free yourself from suffering and live life to the fullest. Learn the yogic technique of meditation in 4 days (and master it over a lifetime)
Life is hard when you are not ready to accept life for what it is. In reality, life is not as hard as we make it out to be. Here below are some insights that will help you deal with the “life is hard’ syndrome.
I never get what I want in my life… How can I be strong when life is hard?
If you know what you want, life becomes easy. If you don’t know what you want, chances are you are just getting by; you are not living (every moment), but simply getting by. Imagine you walk into a supermarket. You have the money with you and a list of things you want to buy. Your life becomes easy. All you have to go around the aisles and pick up the items and check out.
If you don’t know what you want then how are you going to make any choices at all? Strength is a by-product of knowing what you want. This video discourse of over thirty-five minutes focuses on that. Watch more here.
What to do when life is hard? How do we come to terms with situations in which we have been hurt?
Sometimes, life will offer you burning coal when you are least prepared. Worse, when you don’t even deserve it. Don’t burn yourself with that unexpected offering. Instead, use it to strengthen your position, to forge ahead. It is neither a walk in the park nor does it come naturally to us, but it can be learned and mastered. I say it’s hard work because a momentary lapse of mindfulness is enough to make us forget all the wisdom in the world and we end up grabbing the cinder hurting ourselves and everyone at whom we may hurl it. Read more here.
Life is hard, but it becomes easy when you practice gratitude. How can one practice gratitude?
In a way, gratitude is not just about being thankful, it is about being gracefully thankful with tolerance, with acceptance and contentment.
As part of your emotional transformation, so that you become a stronger, better, and happier person, I cannot stress enough the importance of gratitude. Read more here.
When Life is hard, God is near.
In happiness or suffering, our prayers are not designed to offer God anything in return. What can we possibly offer? They are aimed to keep our bond intact with him. Just as a child cries for her mother, just like fish may jump as high as it may but it returns to the water, our suffering keeps us connected with Him, with Nature, with each other.
Although no one wants suffering in their lives, Kunti didn’t either, but in expressing her wish, she has highlighted the truth of human existence: suffering has a way of keeping you united with the source. By no means am I saying that we should go around asking for suffering (not that you would do it anyway), but I’m suggesting that perhaps suffering could be looked upon differently. Read more here.
2020 was uncertain and one of the hardest years. When life is hard, you have to change.
None of what seems most important right now will even matter when the time comes. You may as well then make your present time beautiful and meaningful. Be gentle — with yourself and others.
Once again, in the words of that Auschwitz survivor, “I will never say anything that couldn’t stand as the last thing I ever say.” What a beautiful way to practice mindfulness of the speech. Imagine if we extended it to our actions and thoughts too. Such a person will become a beacon of hope and love for eternity. Read more here.
Life is hard when you are suffering from pain of loss.
We tend to take things personally and the more personally I’ll take something, the greater the hurt.
Even for a moment I’m not suggesting that it’s wrong to take things personally. Who am I to judge? Besides, it’s natural to take the matter to heart when you’ve invested your emotions, energy and resources into something over a period of time.
Having said that, the truth, however, remains: more attachment brings greater pain. Are we then to say that there’s no way of avoiding this pain? Well, there is. Complete avoidance, maybe not, a great reduction, yes. Read more here.
Life is hard when you lose someone.
In dealing with your loss, the greatest affirmation you can give to yourself is the knowledge that you were okay before you had what you may have lost today. And, if you remain open to the possibilities, you’ll be okay after a while too. If you don’t brood your way to the future, you will be surprised at how quickly life can take a pleasant turn.
Why sad life is hard to live? When will I find someone who will love me and bring happiness in my life?
If happiness is what you seek, ending your sufferings, begin with the premise that no one else can give it to you. Anyone who wants someone else to make them feel fulfilled, often end up only more discontent.
As Goethe once said, “From the power that binds all beings, that man frees himself who overcomes himself.” key to end suffering.
The only way to end our suffering is to overcome ourselves.
Other people in our lives are merely enablers and catalysts of the suffering we already carry within. Read more here.