April 2017 GL Sampoorna traces her journey of success through its many evolving definitions from childhood to her present age of 60 Experiencing life in each moment, equanimous with what is, is success for me today. In the past, the word has held different meanings. As a child, when my best friend left school, making another best friend was a success. At seven years of age, carefully following my doctor's instructions as he was sedating me for a tonsillectomy was success. I recall learning to climb a stair as a child and feeling elated as my mother joyously encouraged me. That was success. So was my first day in school, when a child held my hand and took me in, relieving my mother of her bawling daughter. My everyday success was to wait patiently for my cousin to collect me after class. Even a small role in a school concert meant success. Passing an exam was success. In those days when people were transitioning from traditional ways of living to more urbanised and materialistic ways, I found "success" to mean financial prosperity along with sophistication. Rich was synonymous with success only if it carried polish with it. Wealthy relatives from the country enjoying an easy pace of life, were not considered successful as they lacked urban sophistication. Dignified homes in spacious compounds with gardens, women in elegant saris going shopping in their chauffeur-driven imported cars, meant the families were successful. My mother, ahead of her time, drove herself around, which a decade later, signified success. It implied that it took a daring woman to dissolve gender roles and it projected the husband as an open-minded man, wealthy enough to dedicate a car for her exclusive use. The success of belonging In my early and mid teens, when it was all about friends, phone calls and hanging out, having many more friends than others visibly revealed my popularity. At an age where my identity was intermingled with those of my peers, this was a barometer of my success for it showed that I was liked by "all" and gave me permission to like myself. Late teens found me favouring professional qualification and achievement over business as an indicator of success. An aimless student, I chose to identify with the "intelligent" professional, imagining I belonged there and developed a sense of pseudo-success with a new, condescending attitude towards business. Looking back, this pretense was really a search for my identity. It played its role in being a pathway to success. Hailing from a business community, it was an opening to actually break out of stereotypical family patterns. As I entered adulthood, my dreams and desires grew along with me. Achievement was a driving force in my 20s and early 30s. I loved beauty, elegance, finesse and accumulated what I could of these. Success was marked by achievement and accumulation, including accumulation of experiences. In my 30s, I began my conscious journey within. Actively exploring the inner self, I became aware of a whole new world within which was fascinating, adventurous and exciting. My perspective of life and success changed. Success was to know myself. Holistic success Growing into my 40s, I wanted an authentic life. Success carried a holistic meaning. I wanted balance, health and harmony. I was striving to achieve this, trying to meditate more, eat right, and take more care of myself. Strangely, the contradictory act of striving to "be" was itself one of success. Owning the desire to live a certain way and being willing to act upon it made me feel successful. Closer 50, my desires began to drop. Where I once wanted more, I now wanted less. I invited people to take the exquisite artifacts I had collected from around the world. I emptied three cupboards of saris and retained one shelf of clothing. The release from the need to "have" was a step towards liberation. That it had happened naturally and organically was the success. At 50, I felt an imperceptible, yet striking shift happen. The striving stopped. My defenses dropped. I felt free, more than ever before. I felt safe to stay with each experience. As a child, I knew how to experience. Happy, sad, lonely, rejected, excited, boisterous, fun, I was alive with each emotion. As I grew up, I learned to use defenses to protect myself from unpleasant feelings and I began to lose my life. I lost moments, hours, days and months of actually living. I lived life dissociated and I generalised this learning to all my experiences. It took me years to realise that if I suppressed one emotion, I suppressed them all; that love was not isolated but was a combination of all our emotions coming together. If I bury my anger, I cannot feel my love. One successful experience was when I was in depression and I stayed with it. It was one of the most fulfilling periods of my life. As the intensity of sorrow and pain washed through unseen parts of my emotional body, my life began to flow. Flowing with poetry, with writing, with painting, none of which I had experienced at such intensity before. If I have brought my consciousness into this body to experience life on this physical plane, then every experience I have is a success. Acceptance of failure, an inappropriate decision, is success. My challenging marriage gave me the experience of misery, grief, hopelessness, anger, betrayal, irresponsibility, humiliation, loneliness, resentment, fear, guilt, hate. Also love, joy, happiness, passion, bonding, belonging, sharing, power, freedom, learning, beauty, forgiveness, harmony, compassion, generosity and acceptance. A whole spectrum from that one choice. Every moment that I experience is a moment that I am alive, a moment lived. The learnings I get from mistakes are bonuses. My real take is to experience it fully with awareness, staying equanimous. At 60 now, I won't say I have come a full circle. Many circles along the way have completed themselves and dropped away. Many more are running their course. I am less certain now of things than I used to be. I get anxious, perturbed, angry at circumstances I cannot control and yet I sense an underlying peace beneath it all. I am taking life a moment at a time, allowing each moment to evolve as it will. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail. I don't call it success, I don't call it failure. I call it life. Bio: G L Sampoorna is a sensitive therapist, a perceptive life coach, an experienced trainer, and a caring teacher - with over three decades of experience. Sampoorna’s approach is holistic with a psycho-spiritual base, connecting science and logic with intuition and creativity
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