It has been more than two years since Black Lotus has guided thousands of seekers on their path. I am sure that every seeker has adopted at least one of the virtues on their path. Once a seeker decides to practice a virtue, nature puts stern tests and it is during such time that seeker is likely to get caught off guard. I have been trying to practice “Acceptance”, one among many virtues that Swamiji has emphasized, and was quite happy about the way I was practicing it until I was caught off guard.
The year 2020 has seen a microorganism COVID-19 creating havoc around the globe without any discrimination of economic status, gender, age, and nationality, etc. As I am writing, more than 33 million cases have been registered worldwide and more than a million people have lost their lives with no confirmed vaccine available yet. While this one microorganism has shaken the whole world physically, mentally, emotionally, and economically, another microorganism, a bacterium, Campylobacter Jejuni that causes food poisoning and diarrhea hit my family.
To support the local restaurant business during the COVID-19 situation, we use to order food from local restaurants once a week. On one such occasion, after having food, we had stomach upsets. While the rest of my family members could flush the bacteria out, it entered my blood and hit the L5 that is the lower part of my spine. The hit was so hard that I could either lie down on my back or stand and walk for a while under pain but could not sit. There was excruciating pain going down the body with every movement that made me realize how crucial the backbone and the muscles around it are for the body movements. Amid the pain, Swamiji’s thought, “Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional” crossed my mind. I try hard not to remember Swamiji when I am in pain as I believe he takes away the devotee’s pain to himself, but a mother doesn’t need her child to tell about the pain, she understands it. It was Swamiji who whispered the thought in my mind, and I must say, though the pain stayed, the thought took away my suffering.
It was my fifth day in the hospital where the blood reports showed up the bacterial presence which required me to consume 2 doses of 750 mg each of an antibiotic every day for 6 weeks. Though physical pain had stopped bothering me, there were mental and emotional challenges ahead of me. First, I was asked to stay away from dairy products, one of my weaknesses, for six weeks, but I was Ok with that. The second was much more disappointing. After two years of journey on the Black Lotus, only when I felt I was able to sit steadily cross-legged for a good 20 – 30 minutes, the bacteria left me in a situation where let alone sitting cross-legged, I have not been able to sit on the floor yet. The thought that crossed my mind was “I am supposed to sit straight and meditate, what do I do now”? There came another thought, “The purpose of meditation is to stay physically and mentally still. Should I keep thinking about not being able to sit in a perfect posture or perform meditation in the best possible posture?”. It helped me to face the emotional hurdle, the toughest one. I performed small daily sessions lying in bed until I was able to sit straight in the chair. Complete bed rest was required to gain muscle strength. The next challenge was to watch family members doing all the chores including the ones that I use to perform. But me taking a complete rest was the best help to the family.
Anjali, my wife one day came home after a busy day at work and asked me how I was feeling and if I rested my back well. I said, “Anju, you know we have 25,000 popcorns on our bedroom ceiling”. The rough-textured ceilings in Canada are called popcorn ceilings. She laughed and said, “You missed a few. Count them again”. Both of us were glad to put a smile on each other’s faces.
Today when I think about the thoughts that helped me face the challenges, it was Swamiji telling me not to get bothered by things that were out of my control, rather accept the situation and do the best I could. I have a long way to go on my path, but the two years of this blissful journey so far has helped me listen and understand his teachings to some extent. The bacteria hit me hard shattering my plans and inflicting pain but thanks to Swamiji, it could not break my spirit. I must say, if at all I have to face any tests in the future, I need to be mindful and look at the popcorns on the ceiling that would help me remember Swamiji’s teachings.
All the glories to Swamiji.
Jai Shri Hari.