All of us go through trying times. “Why me?” is a common refrain everyone utters at one time or another. The real cure to these trying times, however, lies beyond time itself. Read on to understand how through a short titbit on Mulla Nasrudin and his 100-dinar donkey.
This year has been hard on some people. Readers wrote to me about losing their loved ones, about breaking up, about being out of job for months together. They are worried about their future, they are tired of the insecurity and instability in their lives. They have things they must take care of, they tell me. In fact, at any point in time, most of us have too much going on in our lives.
We have taken upon ourselves so many responsibilities that we can’t afford any changes. Even a small change can cause big problems. We often classify people, things, circumstances into good or bad. So, when people are going through challenges, they generally pour their heart out and tell me how life’s not fair, but in the end, they ask me two questions:
a. Why is this happening to me? And,
b. When will my bad time end?
I know what they mean, I hear what they are saying, but personally I don’t think the time is good or bad. Beyond this rudimentary classification, how we see what we do makes all the difference to our happiness. A while ago I wrote a post on this (read it here). When what is happening to us is inconvenient, we see it as bad and when life goes according to us, we call it good. This is a sorry and an incomplete definition.
This duality of categorizing everything in absolutes, in good-bad is a dangerous and an extremely limited view. Is summer good or winter bad, spring good and autumn bad? It all depends on our needs and our wants. Those who love snowboarding wait for winters and those who want skateboarding crave for summers. I can’t tell you precisely why you are going through what you are. It may be because of your choices, your skills or simply the circumstances. But, I can tell you with absolute certainty when will your bad time end. Read on.
Your bad time will end the moment you stop seeing it as bad. The “bad” will go away and time will continue to tick, for Time, in its own right, is beyond classification, it never stops nor ends. It keeps moving. And, it does so without any adjectives. What we often label as good or bad are simply the seasons of life, the colors of time. Every night is greeted by dawn and every day disappears into dusk. This is the truth of life.
Everything is impermanent, transient, and interdependent. It’s a passing phase. It is unreasonable, even foolish, to expect that time will always be “good”. Time, like nature, like everything else in our infinite universe, moves indiscriminately. Sun doesn’t say I’ll shine brighter here or lighter there because this is what people want, or because this is what I want. It just shines.
In a busy marketplace, Mulla Nasrudin sold his aging donkey to a young man for thirty dinars. The new buyer began auctioning the animal right away.
“Here’s a chance of a lifetime,” he hollered. “What a beautiful donkey! Quiet and hardworking! Look at his strong white teeth! Ah, these soft eyes!”
He continued to glorify the donkey with unearthly praises.
“40 dinars!” A man shouted in the crowd.
“45 dinars!” Another voice came.
“60 dinars!” Yet another one cried.
Mulla stood there stupefied. “How dumb of me to think it was just another donkey,” he thought. “Look at how these people are desperate for him.”
“80!” Someone yelled as the bidding progressed. Everyone went quiet at the high bid.
“80 dinars going once… 80 dinars going—”
“100 dinars!” Mulla roared. “I must own this magnificent creature.”
Sometimes life feels ordinary, time feels bad because it’s not going our way but just when we are about to part with it, we begin to see its real value. It’s the same life, it’s the same donkey, but because someone else is placing a higher bid on it now, we up the ante too. Our stance changes, our priorities shift, we want it now.
Life does not know what you want, it only sees what you do. And even if it could understand what you want from it, it is too unattached, too wise to take you too seriously. Have you ever noticed how it flees in a split second? This is the life we dearly hold, protect, cherish, and cling to for decades. But, when it leaves, it does so abruptly, even cruelly. What can we possibly expect from our world, from others, when our own life refuses to look back at us disregarding the feelings we held for it all along.
Whatever is your present, learn to be grateful and enjoy it. This is the way to take care of yourself. And, care, I may add, is a peculiar and a paradoxical sentiment. If you don’t take care, it’ll wear you out and you’ll be careworn. And if you do take care, it will set you free and you’ll be carefree. You choose. Carefully. Because, your life rests on your choices and your choices depend on your priorities, and they, in turn, depend on what you want. Let’s not hold time responsible for what is borne out of our desires and conditioning.
Know time for what it is — ever moving. Discover yourself for what you are — eternal. If time’s soul is movement, yours is liberation. Beyond good and bad lies your truth.
Art of Meditation
Free yourself from trying times and live life to the fullest. Learn the yogic technique of meditation in 4 days (and master it over a lifetime)
Can something be done to end the trying times in life? Below are some commonly thought questions that may help for a fresh insight to look at a life situation.
If a good person also has to go through trying times, what is the point of being good?
Goodness grants neither immunity from nor compensation for everything that we may deem as not good. The question then arises if that’s the case, why be good at all? If my goodness does nothing to alleviate my suffering (not directly anyway), why bother with all this goodness and kindness business? The answer is a lot more straight forward and simpler than the question itself. And that is: being good is our inherent nature. We are designed to experience happiness when we practice goodness. Therefore, people are good because that’s our natural dharma. Goodness and its cousin kindness, give us the strength to face the challenges and difficulties this life brings as regularly as the seasons. Read more here.
How do trying times help one grow emotionally and spiritually?
Pain is not only inevitable, it’s necessary. Indeed, it’s absolutely required for our emotional and spiritual growth. It pushes us out of our comfort zone and thrusts us into focused action. Once you are past the anxiety, sorrow and bitterness brought upon by pain, you find yourself stronger and wiser.
Focus on your inner life and the outer one aligns itself. Our mind is the steering wheel. Yes, loss is painful, but can you name even one thing you can have forever? The truth is, everything we have is subject to loss. It’s the fine print of life. Read more here.
Why do trying times in relationships seem more significant than the good times?
Successful relationships are not built on some utopian definition of love but on simple practical aspects of living. Often when things turn sour, we compare our relationship with the ideal definition we once held. This view makes us feel that nothing good ever existed in this relationship, that the whole thing was a mistake from the start. Hold your horses at that moment. It’s your mind playing tricks. Your emotional state has taken over the reality.
When life goes jelly, we often only look at the negatives, the depressing times, the trying times of the past. Mind loses its ability to see the complete picture, to remember the beautiful moments too. Read more here.
Are trying times an illusion of the human mind?
It’s a highly rewarding skill to master: to be able to ignore the thoughts in your brain. For, no matter how grave something may appear in the present moment, once the mind calms down, the same issue begins to feel less significant. What seemed like a life-and-death situation last night, can feel remarkably pointless, even funny, in the morning, particularly after a good night’s sleep and nutritious breakfast.
The human mind doesn’t know the nature of a thought. It doesn’t know whether it’s good or bad, right or wrong, fresh or stale. We give those labels based on our conditioning and understanding. If you don’t sit on a thought, it will never hatch. And if it doesn’t hatch, you have one less attachment, one thing less to worry about. Read more here.
How will faith help me through trying times? How to exercise faith?
The other day, I asked Swami Raghvananda or Raghu Swami as I call him normally (one of the most devoted disciples I’ve ever known, full of life and detachment) if I could share one of his tales on my blog. A beautiful story of faith and grace, of simplicity and morality.
Who says that faith doesn’t help? Grace may take time but it most certainly comes. Our world may have terrible people who harm and hurt others but it also has some beautiful people who are always eager to help others. To the one who is truthful, patient, and faithful, Nature does not disappoint. The whole universe conspires to pave way for such a person. It connects you with the right person at the right time. Read more here.
How do I overcome the “Why me?” pain during trying times?
Why Me? It is a question that knocks many during the course of their life, some simply get knocked out by it while others, only knocked down. All of you must have seen, on many occasions, horrible things happening to good people and terrible people leading a life of richness. It is not uncommon to see those who took utmost care of their health, suffer from dreadful diseases.
A right answer is an offspring of a correct question. Instead of brooding over matters negatively asking “why me”, you should examine the life of your role model and ask ‘why not me?’ or ‘how can it be me?’ If you want to greatly enhance your capabilities, you need to start deriving power from Mother Nature. Nature, that is full of divine energy, has something extraordinary to offer — both towards fulfilling your material and spiritual ambitions. Read more here.
Do trying times intensify our suffering?
What do you do if someone asks you why are you sad? Usually, you will tell them a story behind your sadness. We believe we have a legitimate reason for feeling down or sad. Maybe that’s true but mostly it’s subjective, these are not the reasons but stories we tell ourselves. Whether it’s another person posing the questions or you asking yourself, it’s immaterial, because our story in response remains the same.
In other words, if you said to yourself, “Why am I sad? Why am I disturbed? Why am I unhappy?”, in reply, you will tell yourself a story that the reason you are feeling these things is because you are lonely or people haven’t been loyal to you or that things haven’t gone your way or you just aren’t cut out for this world etc.
At times, the best solution is to snip it all and have the courage to rewrite your story. Change your story if you want to change your life. Read more here.
How do I overcome trying times in my life?
When it(suffering) does appear in your lives, which it will invariably, you just have to be patient and deal with it gracefully. You can’t fight with it or tell it off. You simply have to work on the opposite. In the dark night of the soul, you gently have to light the lamp of faith. Surrender is the wick and devotion, the oil of such a lamp. The presence of suffering no longer pervades the whole room then, only some corners, some moments.
At any rate, let’s be grateful, for gratitude is the antidote to suffering. It keeps you grounded, makes you strong even in the good times. Suffering leaves in the face of gratitude; they can’t coexist. The pain may still be there, but the balm of gratitude gradually heals the wounds of misery. For, as the wise one once said, pain is inevitable but suffering is optional. Read more here.