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“When something hurts in life we don’t usually think of it as our path or source of wisdom. However the fact is that anyone who has used this moment of despair and
melancholy to become wiser, kinder and more at home in the world has learnt
from what has happened to him right now”

I was reading these lines from Pema Chodron’s book ‘When things fall apart” to my friend who was nursing a broken heart and relationship gone sour and who was convinced
that there was no hope left in the world. When I read these lines to him he
seemed totally perplexed and couldn’t seem to make any sense of it.

But when I looked back and reminisced over all those moments of distress and hopelessness in my own life I realized how enlightening the statement was.

I distinctly remember the time when my father died. I was devastated and engulfed by a deep sense of despair and emptiness. A tremendous void enveloped me. For two to
three days all I did was to lie curled up in my bed convinced that I couldn’t
move or breathe and life had come to a grinding full stop. Then gradually somehow
that searing pain and hurt turned to a kind of numbness and finally gave way to
a more tolerable feeling. Miraculously for me and much to my surprise I survived the ordeal. And come to
think of it probably because I was able to experience the feelings of sadness
in totality I could get over the grief rather well after that.

More recently I was faced with professional problem which for a period threatened to turn my whole life and its methodically arranged cubicles upside down. I felt
that everything that I stood for or had achieved in my life so far would go to
utter ruin. That everything would just fall apart. Initially I frantically tried to find some
desperate ground to stand on or cling on to some thread however flimsy. I started
working out all my escape routes, and began contemplating ways to avert a
potential catastrophe. I even went to astrologers and had tarot readings hoping
against hope that something would provide comfort to me. Then I chanced upon the book by
Pema Chodron. Her advice is that there is a lot of wisdom and learning in any
situation, however messy or desolate it may appear at that moment. Our
instinctive reaction is to find out the nearest exit route to provide some
comfort be it in the form of new relationship,
new job, smoking or alcohol or whatever just to get away from that
uncomfortable feeling. But according to her we should embrace the situation and
get familiar with the mess which we are in. Learning to accept and relax in whatever
turmoil you are in allows you to open up your heart and soften up.

And so I decide to try that in my case too. I made up my mind to just observe all my feelings and accept whatever the outcome would be, however undesirable. My
habitual reaction would be to form some alternative route or path and which in
fact I had embarked upon. It was much easier to imagine the worst that could occur
and plan accordingly. But I decide to wait and accept the inevitable. And Believe
me to accept and allow was the most difficult part of it all, and more so when
the situation began to deteriorate day by day. Then the realization came to me
that once you accept the situation, all of a sudden it doesn’t seem so bad at
all. We often conjure up dreadful images in our mind that were such an eventuality
to occur we would never be able to face it, leave alone deal with it. But this
episode taught me that once you summon up the courage to face the situation in
totality and are willing to try and learn from it you are totally on a new path
of learning and discovery. And as Pema explains, the experience softens and
opens you. You become more empathetic to yourself and other people who may be
in the same boat as you. Instinctively you know that this has been life changing
situation. Once we understand the point that conflicting emotions and painful
circumstances have the potential to awaken us and teach profound truths if we
are willing to embrace it, our life takes on a new turn.

And so I turned back to my friend who was now appearing less miserable and woebegone and advised him to just stay put. You don’t have to do anything heroic or put up an
artificial brave front I told him, but
just be and accept what is happening to you and avoid the tendency to jump off
the hot seat. Feel the heat and allow it to cool down. Don’t try desperate
measures or search for various exit routes. I promise you that acceptance and awareness
itself is the balm to heal your pain, in fact the poison itself becomes the

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Comment by saroj dubey on August 8, 2010 at 5:41pm
hmm nilima a difficult question indeed . I know its difficult to practise acceptance of a negative situation. But what i do realize is that when we are faced with a challenging situation we often spend a lot of time lamenting about why such an event occured and how unlucky we are etc. Thats where we really need to practise accepting the situation and then deal with it in the most appropriate manner. In no ways does it suggest that we should hang about doing nothing. In fact acceptance is not a passive or defeatist term as such. And as Seema has rightly put it' from chaos emerges order'.
Comment by Nilima Das on August 8, 2010 at 3:15pm
What methodology would you use for acceptance of a negative situation ? Nilima Das
Comment by Seema Sharma on August 7, 2010 at 11:12am
This is so true and yet so difficult to apply when one is down in the dumps! I have been there and done that too...but lessons like these need revisions! From chaos emerges order, chaos is a good place to be in so the Universe can again rearrange itself the way we want it to...and it happens the moment we accept the chaos and let it be!
Comment by Chitra Jha on August 6, 2010 at 10:55pm
Thanks for sharing these beautiful insights.
Comment by lopamudra dubey on August 6, 2010 at 4:46pm
Most Appropriate and thought provoking....keep it up :)
Comment by Archana Kumar on August 6, 2010 at 4:27pm

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