By Jamuna Rangachari
Problems exist. However, it is our capacity to face them and overcome them that give us the keys to life, and make us the person we are meant to be, says Jamuna Rangachari
When I was pregnant with my first child and started having the first bout of labour pains, I fell into a deep panic. “How much more pain will be there? Will my body be torn apart?” I kept repeating to my husband and mother-in-law like a parrot. The thought of a whole human body, even if it was that of a baby, coming out of my body, made me totally irrational. “If labour was all that painful, nobody would ever have a second child, Jamuna,” my mother-in-law clasped my hand and told me. She then bid me farewell to the hospital, asking me to chant a mantra and remember that all would be well. The process of chanting switched my mind from worry and helped me a great deal.
Ravi Valluri from Secunderabad, an employee of Indian Railways, was a chronic alcoholic and also addicted to smoking. His friends and family tried their best to make him combat these addictions but to no avail. Things came to a climax when he collapsed at Saharanpur in 1992 during the course of an inspection, and was literally loaded on a truck and carted to the civil hospital. He was lying on the stretcher, unable to help himself without any support. Diagnosis revealed excessive drinking and smoking. It was only his wife and mother who kept praying for his well-being.
“I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, in 1986. I was 34 years of age, studying for a PhD at McGill University, Canada,” says Harmala Gupta, now in Delhi. At that time, she was married and had a four-year-old son. In one moment it seemed as if everything was going to be snatched away from her. From a life that seemed perfect, she now needed to grapple with a terrible situation. She did not know whether she could lead a life with cancer, or overcome it, as no cure had been found for it yet and most of all, what lay ahead in the journey of life for her.
In the beginning is the problem. Of all sizes and shapes. And no one is exempt from them, no matter how rich, famous, beautiful or intelligent they may be. It is the one thing that all human beings have in common.
What distinguishes us, though, is how we handle these problems. If we ignore or suppress the problem, it grows silently into the night. If we react in anger, pain, self-pity or fear, again the problem grows prodigiously. Indeed all these reactions are manure for the problem, especially fear and worry. The more we fret and fume, the greater the problems appear, and the more we shrink. The smaller we feel, the more difficult it is to gather the courage and strength to face it.
Our fear and worry are in inverse proportion to the steps we take to handle the problem. The more we act, the less we worry and the more we feel in control over it. However, if for whatever reason we are unable to find the capacity to act, then our worry spirals up.
In my case the fear and worry arose because I was entering into the unknown. Fortunately, my mother-in-law’s suggestion of mantra chanting gave my frantic mind something to do and helped me rechannelise my fear energy.
In Ravi’s case, the fear and worry had a deeper reason. As all addicts know and as psychologists endorse, addiction cannot be combatted at the level of the conscious mind. Innumerable times, the addict will vow to turn over a new leaf, and innumerable times he will fail. The addiction has seeped deep into his subconscious and the conscious mind has no power over it. The individual is not in control over his addiction. he is enslaved to it. As the chilling credo goes: Man takes drink, drink takes drink, drink takes man.
The more helpless Ravi felt about his problem, and the more ashamed and guilty he felt about it, the more addicted he became.
For Harmala too, the worry was legitimate. She was facing cancer, one of the most fearful of modern scourges; moreover a form of cancer without a known cure.
Indeed, all forms of diseases with the label ‘incurable’ generate deep levels of fear and anxiety in the patient.
Jaishree Kannan had just turned 47 when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Almost mechanically, and in a state of deep anxiety, she underwent her first surgery and a round of chemotherapy.
A similar thing happened to Arvind Sanghvi from Pune. Up to the age of 30, he was a young man full of verve and enthusiasm. Suddenly, in 1993, it was a feat to walk for even a small distance. No one was able define his ailment clearly. Every time a different body part seemed to give way. He had no bladder and bowel control. It was all the more frustrating as he had two small kids when it all began. From 1993 to 1995, he was totally paralyzed and unable to perform any physical activity. Attending to business needs was a farfetched dream.
When an ailment strikes, the challenge is for the entire family, not just the person undergoing it.
“When I first received the news of my dear wife’s terminal cancer in 2008, the emperor of all maladies, I was shattered. My world came crashing down around me,” says Anand Tendolkar from Mumbai.
Lipi Banerjee’s son was born in 1996 after a complex surgery, because her water had drained from her womb. “He had a raised band across his head. We were told that it would subside eventually and it did flatten after nine months.” Other problems began cropping up. Kunall, her son, almost never slept. His energy level was exhausting. His behaviour was extremely erratic. He would cry incessantly for up to 45 minutes. “We even feared for his life as he used to choke while crying incessantly,” she says. Not knowing what to do, she just kept praying and looking for guidance.
The journey of life
So how do we combat the fear and worry that stops us from getting to grips with the problem? Perhaps one way is to see its true purpose in our lives. All gurus and scriptures tell us that the purpose of life is to grow. Problems are the curriculum of life. We are here on Planet Earth to take off from wherever we left in the last lifetime, and to grow in strength, capability, intelligence, wisdom, love, compassion, confidence, and so on. We are meant to fully realise our whole and perfect selves. Problems are the indicators of where we still have to make progress. Are we careless about our diet and habits? An illness may arise to cure us of it. Are we selfish or quick tempered? Relationship issues may crop up to help us resolve it.
Once we recognise the true place of problems in our lives, it will be easier for us to accept them. Moreover, when they present themselves, we will constantly look at where we have gone wrong, instead of blaming others or God. This is an important step in moving from victimhood to victorhood.
But life, too, comes to our aid. For one thing, there is the grace of God. Nothing comes to us unless we have the strength to tackle it. If we can trust in this knowledge, it will give us the grit to combat our problem. After all, if God has faith in us, why should we not? Most of all, we must trust that we are now embarked on a journey which may be harrowing at the moment, but which will eventually yield precious gifts that will unfold our lives unimaginably. A journey in which life itself will guide us.
Ravi’s wife’s and mother’s ardent prayers to the Divine did not go unnoticed. Sometime in November 2003, he participated in the Part 1 course of the Art of Living at Jaipur. On completion of the course, he rang up his mother. He could feel the happiness in her voice when her son spoke to her, sober, on a Sunday evening.
Unfortunately, he still continued his drinking. He did not attend any follow-ups and was reluctant to attend the Part 2 course. The reason was his inability to carry his bottle of liquor and cigarettes to the venue. Once, in an inebriated state, he started quarrelling with cops posted at the residence of the former CM of AP, Dr YS Reddy. He was taken to a gated community for rehabilitation by his family doctor and wife. As he tended to be extremely violent, he had to be put into a cell with iron bars. It was at this time that he became extremely scared, and started praying with fervour.
After a while, his wife and father took him to a liver specialist in Hyderabad. The doctor wondered how he was still alive despite his abuse of the liver. His answer was that he practised short Kriya everyday (despite alcohol), drank plenty of buttermilk and took Liv 52. She smiled wryly, and acknowledged that Sudarshan Kriya had immense therapeutic values, and asked him to stop drinking at least now.
For Harmala, after the initial shock and denial, came acceptance but a great deal of sadness. “I was fortunate that I was in a country (Canada) where cancer did not carry a stigma, where everyone spoke about it quite openly and where supportive care was available. It gave me a chance to gather information, share my emotions with others similarly placed, and get practical assistance, ranging from a wig to breathing and relaxation classes,” she says. Her family too was completely with her, and they faced it as a team, making recovery that much easier.
In the case of Arvind, after three years of endless rounds to various doctors and hospitals, his affliction was diagnosed as Multiple Sclerosis in 1995. He was so depressed that he even started having thoughts of suicide. Fortunately, his wife gave him tremendous support and her encouragement enabled him to cope with life.
In Lipi’s case, her husband’s transferrable job made it difficult to diagnose her son. Eventually, Kunall was finally diagnosed with ADHD at the age of four in 2000. It was a step forward but there still were obstacles. The required drug, methylphenidate, was not available in India and he was put on a cocktail of medicines, one of which was a blood pressure medication. Other than medicines, counselling was also advised. Even this was a challenge as they were in Guwahati and Kunall neither knew English nor Assamese. Kunall was also diagnosed with pediatric tuberculosis for which he had to take medicines for nine months while also fighting his childhood asthma. The medicines kept him drowsy and listless. Even in school, he was unable to cope because of the faulty wiring of his brain.
Grace presents itself
In the journey of life, all our prayers do get noticed. After many ups and downs, we do get answers to our problems. In fact, remarkably, we get the answer that is perfect for us, even if we did not know this is what we needed.
|Ravi Valluri kicked his alcoholism with the help of Art of Living courses|
Harmala began to focus on what was in her control and began to take steady steps in that direction, doing what she could diligently.
Jayshree had a relapse within nine months, but as she had recently attended a 10-day workshop conducted by the Cancer Aid Association she started taking responsibility for the illness. Along with her second surgery and chemotherapy, she learnt a whole lot of alternative treatments such as EFT, and changed her diet according to Vijaya Venkat’s Natural Hygiene, and started following them steadily.
|A diligent practice of yoga healed Arvind Sanghvi of ailments like MS and Scleroderma|
For Arvind, the ray of light in the unfathomable darkness came in the form of a suggestion from his younger brother, Deepak. He suggested yoga as he was practising it with his guru, Dr. Samprasad Vinod of Maharshi Vinod Research Foundation (MVRF). Life after that underwent a dramatic change. He learnt about yoga nidra and light stretches. Initially, he thought yoga nidra was nothing but sleeping, but soon, he could see the changes it wrought in him. After this, he did it diligently for two years. In 2003, he finally commenced to enjoy a near normal state of health.
Just when he thought things were getting better, in 2007, he was again attacked by several ailments, and from 2007 to 2008 he slipped into a critical condition. His skin developed purple patches on his hands and legs, along with a severe burning sensation. He was admitted to the hospital several times but doctors were unable to diagnose any particular problem. After three to four Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans they concluded that it was not MS, much to his relief. However, he was again subjected to a battery of tests. After initial hiccups in Mumbai, he was diagnosed with scleroderma when the test of SCL 70 and skin biopsy for scleroderma CNS turned up positive. In spite of severe suffering, he could feel a subtle inner calmness and happiness due to his faith in yogic practices and most of all, in himself. Slowly, he started feeling better day by day. Today, he is regarded as an incredible miracle. “If any doctor sees my MRI scans, they feel a person with such results should either be in a coma or on a wheel-chair and they can’t believe their eyes when they see me standing and smiling in front of them,” he laughs.
He is clear that the credit for this goes to his daily regimen of yoga sadhana along with a suitable and controlled diet.
As for Lipi, life continued to test her. As Kunall had a pretty high IQ, he got admission to Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, in software engineering. And then, life threw yet another curve her way. In 2014, her 12-year-old daughter started deteriorating in her academics, and started showing the same symptoms as her brother. She was diagnosed with ADD and LD (learning disability). She was also detected with a cyst on her left anterior temporal lobe.
Anand Tendolkar, who has been an active spiritual seeker since 1992, found his true guru in his wife. He says, “We sat together holding hands and communicating more than words can ever say. And her master class for me was conducted on the last two days, when she, our son Aneesh, and I, bonded in a most beautiful way and witnessed a most beautiful completion during her transition while holding her in our arms. She was instrumental in cracking open my heart and getting me in touch with a loving compassion that decades of seeking had not achieved.”
Lipi eventually learnt to deal with all her challenges with grace. She found it progressively easier to overcome negative thoughts, for her faith in the Divine was much stronger now. She says, “One good thing which has emerged from all the struggle I have faced is my own personal growth.” Though her husband was very sceptical earlier, he too has opened up to the path of personal growth, sharing and growing with her as he has observed her never giving up all along. In this process, Lipi has become a role model to her family, friends and everyone around her.
Ravi, who was actually running away from everyone, is now blossoming with vigour and life force, with ideas on what to do next all the time. He has now done various courses of the Art of Living including Teachers’ Training Course, phase 1 and phase 2 and could become a teacher. During an Advanced Meditation Course in Andhra, his guru, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, met all the participants at the end of the course. Ravi broke down and thanked him. So did a youngster sitting next to him. They both had given up alcohol and chosen this path. Now, thanks to Ravi, several railwaymen have done the course across the length and breadth of this country with startling benefits. “If Indian Railways is the life line of the nation, Sudarshan Kriya is the life force,” he says with conviction.
Arvind is now conducting his business smoothly and enjoying a blissful family life. He has begun a trust, a non-profit organisation, dedicated solely to the support and encouragement of patients suffering from neuro disorders. He motivates many people to do yoga, focus on a healthy diet, and overcome any issue they may have to face.
Anand found further solace by connecting to Dadashreeji who he read about in Life Positive magazine in August 2014. In October last year, he was even blessed with an intense unity consciousness experience that lasted several days and has been a life-transforming experience for him.
|Harmala’s tryst with cancer made her start a help group called CanSupprt for cancer patients|
Jayshree got the book, Heal your life by Louise L Hay from a friend, which helped her to understand the metaphysical causes of ailments, and became a turning point in her life. She says, “After reading the book, I thought I knew her and could connect with her so much.” She now conducts Heal your Life workshops herself, and considers all of life to be a miracle.
“God, give us the serenity to accept what cannot be changed, the courage to change what can be changed, and the wisdom to know the difference,” says the serenity prayer of Reinhold Niebuhr.
By learning to conquer our problems, our life opens up, and we get sculpted to a finer, stronger form. Is it not true that each exam only makes us more confident about the next, each interview equips us for the next and all situations help us to understand and master this phenomenon called life? It is our tests that make us who we are. They build our character, destroy our illusions, open up our heart and put us in touch with our soul. They teach us humility, self-reliance, kindness and empathy. Only suffering enables us to reach out to the other in common fellowship. Tests also help us see the hidden glory hidden within and to tap it. They shape our destiny and enable us to touch greatness.
We become the heroes of our own life. Ravi overcame alcoholism and became an Art of Living teacher, Lipi learned to accept and handle her daughter’s ailment with much greater ease because she knew she had done it before. Harmala is now one of the pioneers in giving guidance to patients and families combatting cancer, and Arvind is guiding other people to combat and cope with multiple sclerosis. Anand is now an emissary of Dadashreeji, and Jaishree of Louise L.Hay.
Problem solved. Nay, transcended! And the pupil has moved to another level. Fresh problems may arise, but with each, she becomes even more adept and rises even higher up the class.
The Worry Buster
Here are steps you can take each time fear and worry overwhelm you
- Face it. In order to overcome it, we must be aware that we have a problem. If we remain in denial, we will do nothing about it.
- Put things in perspective. Ask yourself what is the worst thing that can happen? Can you accept it? Also see if you can spot the positives in the picture. We tend to focus too much on the negative, which stops us from seeing the opportunities or the silver linings that lie in wait.Look at the pictures you have in your head about the situation. When we begin to observe, we will realise that most of it is irrational and unlikely. This will make us an observer of our inner space and drive away the worry.
- Remain in the present. When we stay in the present moment, stress or worry will not obtrude. They are never in the present moment, but only in the past or the future. By making tapping into the now a regular habit, we will be automatically free of worry.
- Practice gratitude all the time. Whenever we feel stressed or worried, let us count our many blessings and our worry will dissolve.
- Focus on the positive aspects. We all need to decide to dedicate our live to something positive in life. It could be a charity, volunteering or making our home pleasant all the time. We need to focus on this all the time so that worry, if any, goes away, slowly but surely.
- Meditate. Meditating at least for a few minutes helps us to connect within. Soon, we will realise that life is not as complex as we think it is and things will fall into place, slowly but surely.
- Make use of techniques such as EFT, Sedona Method, the Worry Buster and others that will help you to come to terms with your emotions.
- Surrender. Being at war with reality is not going to help us in any way. Instead, let us understand it is the Divine who runs our life, not us and surrender to His will. After all, we came to the world through His grace and will indeed be always looked after, with His Grace.
About the author: Jamuna Rangachari writes and manages the websites of Life Positive. She has authored three books for children, compiled and interpreted Teaching Stories-I and II for Life Positive. and published a book through Hay House
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