I often joke, before I was born God sat me down in his heavenly drawing room and said to me:
“Look son, I have two designs for your next life. The first one will be easy and smooth. Loving family, easy career progression, traditional values, devoted wife, caring children and a comfortable retirement. But you won’t learn much.”
I smiled. That sounded good. I visualized myself smoking a pipe post retirement while my pet dog scampered about in the manicured lawn of a spacious bungalow. Life seemed good, even before I had lived it.
“The second option” he said, breaking me out of my reverie “will be a life packed with all kinds of challenges, full of ups and downs, nothing predictable, unstable family, wrong career choices, addictive behavior, spiritual pursuit and alienation from mainstream society.”
I gulped. Suddenly the visual of the spacious bungalow was replaced by a jungle. I saw myself in a loincloth with a long beard, living as a hermit in a cave in the Himalayas surviving on roots and berries. It was a no-brainer. The first life was definitely more appealing.
“But the second life” said God, “will give you learnings of a hundred lifetimes.”
He then looked into my eyes and asked “Which life do you want? The easy one with not much to learn. Or the extremely difficult one with tremendous growth.”
He paused and smiled, awaiting my response.
“What the hell” I thought to myself. “I have to make a choice, even before I am born!” My mind wanted the easy, relaxed, conventional life. My soul was hungry for learning and growth. I needed more information, before making this life altering decision.
“What is the ultimate purpose of all learning and growth?” I asked God, trying to hide the scepticism in my voice.
“It is to realize that you and me, are One.” he said.
That sealed the deal.
“I will go for the difficult one.” I said.
Whoosh! As soon as I said this I was conceived in the womb that would provide me all the life challenges God had promised. True to his word, he ensured my life was full of ups and downs, and yet something kept moving me to the next chapter of my life. Every chapter was filled with new life lessons.
Since I have lived the life I have lived, I can share with some credibility a few pointers, for living such a life. Especially for people who have chosen to pack learnings of a hundred lifetimes in a single life, like me.
Nothing Is Constant
I know this is a cliché but it is true. When I felt I had messed up my life, there was no hope for a better future and the best option would be to end my life; life changed. Almost as though one chapter of the book got over and the next one started. And just when I thought that nice chapter of my life would remain forever, that chapter got over too.
Every time a good chapter began I was exhilarated. Every time a good chapter ended I was plunged in despair. The only thing that kept me going was the thought “Life is not over. I am in winter. Spring will come. That is how seasons are. That is how life is. There is always change.”
Manage Mind, Not Life
Often we mistakenly believe that our problems and suffering are because of our life situations. A heartbreak, a financial crisis, a health scare, a death of a near one, a job loss, a divorce. Whatever be the situation the problem is not the situation. It is our mind interpreting the situation.
Life takes care of itself. It has been doing so for 13.8 billion years. Which means something new always unfolds. No situation ever remains the same forever. But the mind can hold on to an interpretation of the situation and prolong the suffering. Even trauma can be released with the right help and a willingness to let go.
If we use suffering to create an identity and derive satisfaction from our tragic story, nothing can help us. If we learn to acknowledge the painful energy, with the attitude of surrender, we free ourselves from the shackles of fear, anxiety, loneliness, sadness, anger, hurt, sooner than later.
Whenever I found it difficult to deal with life, it has been due to lack of trust. Not in myself, someone else or even God. Just lack of trust in Existence. There are patterns and laws that govern nature. If there is hunger, there is food to satiate it. If there is thirst, there is water to quench it.
Whenever I was in dire need, help came in the most unexpected manner. Someone to talk to, someone to give me shelter, someone to edit a book, some community to belong. The help came without planning or seeking. And when its role was done, it went.
Universe Is Intelligent
If we care to notice the Universe is intelligence in motion. It is not random. The Sun rises every morning without fail. The plants give oxygen without missing a single day. The Earth rotates on its axis, creating seasons every year. We may not realize the deeper meaning of our existence but there is one, if we were to infer based on the behavior of the Universe.
Life has a plan. But we want to know the plan right away. We want to know how the story will end. The mind goes crazy not knowing. It tries to control and predict everything. If we can trust life, give life a chance and be comfortable with the vulnerability of not knowing the future, change is easier to manage. Each moment leads to the next moment, naturally.
God appeared in my dream one night.
“How are you doing? Are you happy with the choice you made” he asked.
“It’s not been easy.” I responded. “It’s been one helluva ride. I am surprised I am still sane and sound.” I said, hoping for some sympathy.
He smiled his Godly smile.
“What’s coming next?” I couldn’t help asking.
“You will soon find out.” he said with a twinkle in his eyes.
“Will I realize you and I are One?” I asked.
“Haven’t you?” he said, before disappearing into Oneness.
PS: I didn’t end up in a Himalayan cave, but a lovely homestay in Dharamshala. Whew!