Any human being of any gender, pronoun, identification, nationality or religion should agree on probably one thing: Life is full of challenges.
Or should I say, a conscious being would undoubtedly agree.
I often wonder if every juncture, new avenue, and turn of life brings forth the seed of disappointment and challenge.
In Bhagavad Gita, 8.15, Shri Krishna uses two terms to define existence:
(Temporary and full of misery)
Bleak, ha ha.
Before you read further, let me clarify that the purpose of this piece is not to make you feel depressed or sad. Maybe you are in a good phase of your life, and I pray to the divine that it may continue for as long as possible. If you are going through a hard time right now, I pray and hope you find the strength to come out of it super soon. By the end of the piece, I intend to motivate you to find your safe space amidst life’s challenges.
The challenge is to face our reality truthfully. To see where there are wounds so we can heal them. To not live in denial and avoid pain.
“The most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.”Prema Chödrön
My observation about life and its inbuilt challenges comes from observing my personal life trajectory and what my friends and family share about their journey.
Here are a few examples:
Two fantastic human beings who found each other have not managed to be in the same country since their union.
Another intelligent and pretty friend cannot find love even as she slays every other aspect of her life.
A daughter struggles to balance her work and duty (and relatives) towards her father battling cancer.
This person has all the money and status one may aspire to but no filial affection.
One famous cricketer can shake his body well in advertisements and Instagram reels; he is ultra-caring for the environment and has excellent skin but can’t seem to put bat on ball.
The list can go on.
Actually, no. I do wish to squeeze in another example.
Cristiano Ronaldo. Ha ha. He cannot (for now) manage any exit out of Manchester United Football Club. The man’s agent is seemingly begging every big club to sign him— one of the best the game has ever seen and yet. (Hindi word Jhand is meant for such times. I am deriving sadistic pleasure from CR7’s situation.)
A caveat is that I have no complaints about life. Life has been extremely kind and giving. By the grace of Shri Krishna, my teachers and those around me, I have trained my mind to appreciate more than moan and groan. This attitude of gratitude in itself is a potent remedy to immunise oneself against difficult life situations and gather strength.
Quest For Meaning
What exactly is the meaning of life on a personal level?
I pondered a lot over the above question as I have had the luxury of solitude lately.
Do we really have a purpose and meaning, or are we just making things up and attaching meaning to them as we move along?
As I was mulling over these questions, I felt let down by myself and, on some counts, felt like a failure. Not as a person, fortunately. But failure in various life situations where I think I could have/should have been braver, wiser and so forth.
Hindsight is both a gift and a curse, depending on which juncture of life we use it.
Daniel Kahnemann defines it best:
Hindsight, the ability to explain the past, gives us the illusion that the world is understandable. It gives us the illusion that the world makes sense, even when it doesn’t make sense.
Life isn’t consistent for anyone, right?
It is not designed to be so, perhaps.
Everything changes, seasons, moods, people, trajectories. Amidst the consistency of change, the heart longs for a shelter, a grounding base, a secure and safe dwelling, if you must.
Personally, for me, if it weren’t for Shri Krishna and His teachings, I would not have any sense of meaning and purpose in life.
And just because I have an established base and shelter, I could find hope and inspiration to endure my challenges. One particular verse from the Bhagavad Gita became the shepherd that guided me towards the light.
Mind The Mind
उद्धरेदात्मनात्मानं नात्मानमवसादयेत् ।
आत्मैव ह्यात्मनो बन्धुरात्मैव रिपुरात्मन: ॥Bhagavad Gita 6.5
“One must deliver himself with the help of his mind, and not degrade himself. The mind is the friend of the conditioned soul, and his enemy as well.”
I chuckled as I read the above-quoted verse. It came at a serendipitous moment for me because I found myself plunging into the quagmire of negativity when I read it.
The appeal of Krishna’s words and message of uplifting yourself with the mind’s help is crucial.
Constant vigilance is something one has to cultivate; otherwise, I find it is effortlessly easy to slip into a negative loop.
The negative loop begins with one mistake, one adversity, one issue and if you’re not aware enough to tackle the disease of negativity at that point, boom! Before you know it, you’re engulfed by it.
“Life is a mess.”
“Nothing is working out for me.”
Here’s the worst:
“Others have it so easy. I’m the only one struggling.”
Training the mind to focus on what is working for you right now through the practice of breathe awareness/meditation, mantra chanting and expressing gratitude is beneficial. Of course, each one has their methodology. What works for me may not work for another.
(One thing with which I feel we can never go wrong is physical movement of the body to shake off both the mental and physical static energy.)
Even more importantly, the essence is to find a ‘shelter’ or a ‘home’ where the mind can rest after all the energy spent trying to survive another day.
For some, their shelter can be a deity, the divine, someone from family or a friend, a pet, music, or a hobby. Whatever it may be, it is vital that one finds it and cultivates a practice of seeking that shelter daily. To allow the mind to rest, replenish, recharge and focus again on living yet another day, irrespective of whether the day brings joy or sorrow or a mixture of both.
What is your shelter?
Where do you feel that your mind finds peace and home?
Thank you so much for reading until the end of the piece. I hope the blog was worthy of your time investment. If you liked it, do share it with someone you feel can benefit from it.
I leave you with a quote from one of my favourite authors, Mr Matt Haig
To feel hope, you don’t need to be in a great situation. You just need to understand that things will change. Hope is available to all. You dont need to deny the reality of present to have hope, you just need to know the future is uncertain, and that life contains light as well as dark.