By Rashmi Dixit
All of us go through slumps in the form of ill-health, accidents, relationship problems and financial difficulties. But the wise know how to get out of these slumps, says Rashmi Dixit
When I was asked to write about how to ride the lows, the first question that arose in my mind was, how do I ride my lows?
In retrospect, my life has been like a sinusoidal wave, full of highs and lows. When I am at my high, you would see me hugging more, laughing more, and connecting more. But when I hit a low, I detach and disappear.
Most of my lows are triggered by a sense that I am not wanted. This feeling of being rejected creeps into my soul, and makes me slower and dimmer. I stop communicating and lose my energy. I start sleeping a lot, or just walk around aimlessly for hours. Those who know me as a vivacious, effervescent girl would not recognise me if they saw me during my lows. When a low hits, my heart feels heavy, and my throat chokes; I feel like crying and breaking down all the time. My immunity to rejection has improved over the years, but it has a fragile break point.
In my childhood I had experienced a sense of abandonment and loneliness, which continued into my early 20s. I always felt that being a girl somehow made me less. My father died when I was eight, and for me it was the final rejection, of my mother, my two sisters and me. Life was teaching me how to stand my ground with no earth beneath me. For seven years I was emotionally numb, embarked on a school routine which chugged along mechanically. When I was 13, I had a terrible bout of tuberculosis, and I had to be quarantined for almost nine months. This was the time of metamorphosis and growth, when I learnt who I was, and came face to face with my feelings.
My experiences as a child made me extremely sensitive, but I grew up to be a very successful corporate leader. My belief in self and trust in the universe supported me in my growth. In the corporate world, sometimes I would judge myself as being incapable of handling my emotions, but I have learnt to lovingly accept the part of me which still feels rejection and hurt. When I acknowledge these feelings, I am able to come back to my centre, function energetically, and get back into a high. My journey of self-acceptance and awareness of my conditioning has helped me ride my lows.
All of us go through challenging life situations – bankruptcy, a serious illness, a relationship breakdown, loneliness, and the death of loved ones. Whether we can craft happy and successful lives will depend on how we weather these problems.
Even the gods are not immune to lows. The ancient Hindu text, Astapati, talks about the deep pain that Krishna felt after separation from Radha. The Sakhi who narrates Krishna’s longing also documents the stories and observations, which help heal the two lovers burning in the flame of separation. Krishna’s life story itself is full of deadly challenges, and every challenge threatens to eliminate him! However, he overturns each disaster into a triumph. Just like Krishna’s challenges, the challenges that come in our life may create lows, but can we too triumph over them like Krishna did?
The will to overcome
In April of 2014, Mumbai-based Leena Haldar sensed a lump in her breast, which was diagnosed as cancer. Despite her trauma, as a facilitator of Louise L. Hay’s Heal your Life work, Leena started connecting with her body. She started speaking to her body, her medicines and her body cells, letting them know that she wanted to get well and wanted their support. She focussed her intention on getting well, holistically. She listened to chants and used aroma oils to stay calm and relaxed. She also used Bach Flower Remedy to peel off layers of emotions to get to the root cause so that the cancer would not recur. She did body work. She also got operated and went through chemotherapy. However, her application of alternative healing helped her avert the side-effects of Chemo.
When she lost her hair to Chemo, she made beautiful henna tattoos on her head, instead of hiding under a wig. Today, Leena has recovered fully from cancer and is sailing into her life even stronger than before.
Monica Lahiri, counselor at the Institute of Psychological Health, Thane, cited the case of her patient, Anita (name changed), who would get suicidal during her lows. Despite being a successful and highly educated woman from a financially stable background, it became evident to Monica after putting her through Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), that Anita considered herself to be only as good as her last success. Failure at any point meant devastation. Although there was no sign of a major failure, Anita’s inability to express her emotions created an emotional crisis. Her inability to take on a lucrative job assignment because of familial responsibility, combined with the shock of her husband leaving his job, filled her with an anger she was unable to express. She projected that anger against herself, and tried to commit suicide. Through patient counselling, she was able to come to terms with her situation and her emotions concerning them, and became more conscious in her relationships with family.
Monica Lahiri explains, “The main reason we feel low or depressed is because of how we perceive an issue or ourselves, rather than the situation itself. Guilt and self-blame lock us into the situation instead of causing us to look for solutions, and create a long drawn-out low in our life.”
She adds that our belief system is what causes a reaction, which may take us into the survival modes of fight, flight or freeze. Suicide, for instance, is a flight from life reaction. The fight, flight and freeze reactions emerge from the amygdala gland which is like a meaning-making machine in our brain. The neocortex, which is the thinking part of the brain, doesn’t work at that time. When we are in a low we do not understand that a thought is just a thought, and a belief is not the truth. This where a technique like REBT, founded by Albert Ellis, comes to the rescue, by enabling us to let go of disempowering belief systems and perceptions and move towards the acceptance that will free us of the lows. Monica also advocates bodywork, because it helps shift energy, by increasing the release of dopamine (the feel-good hormone) in the brain.
Sages and philosophers have always known that it is the attitude to the situation and not the situation itself that determines our levels of happiness and health. In the first century AD, Epictetus wrote in the Enchiridion: “Men are disturbed not by things, but by the views which they take of them.” Shakespeare, many centuries later, rephrased this thought in Hamlet: “There’s nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so.”
To gain more perspective I spoke to Bhavesh Bhatia, now a successful entrepreneur, who lost his eyesight due to a childhood illness. Bhavesh believes that problems or challenges are as necessary as speed breakers in life.
Certainly, he has had his fair share of them. When he lost his eyesight, his schoolmates sidelined and bullied him. Every day, he had to choose between being a victim of circumstances, or a victor. Every day, he would break into fits of tears or spells of anger. It was at this juncture that his mother, Hasumatiben Bhatia, told him something memorable, “You can’t see the world, but let the world see you.”
Her belief in Bhavesh became a powerful source of energy, which propelled him towards his goals.
Today, this dynamic achiever urges people to find their true calling, make it their goal, and work relentlessly towards achieving it. ‘There is no time to lament,” he says, adding, “Lamenting is a luxury for people who have lots of time and money at hand but no goal.”
Bhavesh’s journey has been excruciating. When his mother died of blood cancer, not only was he left penniless, but he had an emotional breakdown. Fighting his way past that, he started doing odd jobs for financial support, and learnt a candle-making course from the National Association for the Blind. He made candles at home, and started peddling candles on a handcart. Today, for a person who did not have money to buy 20 kgs of wax, his company Sunrise candles uses more than 200 tonnes of wax per month, and exports all around the world. He has participated in the 1999-2000 National Paralympics and won many medals. He plays discus throw, shotput, javeline throw and swims. His goal now is to participate in the Paralympics event to be held in Brazil 2016. Bhavesh writes poetry and songs in his free time. Today, just as Hasumatiben had told him, the world truly sees him. And what they see is a man who has the guts and gumption to make his dreams come true, for he comes from the belief that anything is possible.
Quoting a well-known saying, he advises: “Don’t tell your destination that you have a problem, tell your problems that you have a destination.”
Neeta Bhatia, his wife, is the backbone of his business. She fell in love with him when she met him while on a holiday to Mahabaleshwar. He was peddling candles on a handcart. She asked him if she could help him sell, and he agreed. For eight days she observed Bhavesh and his passion for his goal, decided to marry him, and proposed. Today, they are a happily married couple and have a son, who studies in the eleventh standard. Bhavesh’s company, Sunrise candles, employs blind people and their target is to become bigger than the Chinese market.
Shivani Vaswani is a talented singer of many forms of music, including fusion, ghazals, devotional/spiritual music and Sufi. Coming from a family of musicians, she has sung for many Sindhi ballets, musicals, films and serials. Yet, like most of us, she played safe when it came to a career, and joined the TV industry.
In her final leg with the corporate world, she was an Assistant Vice President heading content for Digital in the Star Network. But after 19 years she decided to return to her first love – music.
Like all transitions, there were highs and lows.
Leaving a lucrative and secure job for the uncertain world of music was made all the more challenging by the chorus of nay-sayers who advised her against her move. The lows sometimes did take over and made her feel defeated, lost, and doubtful. But she strove on, driven by a faith in her journey, and a firm conviction that this was what she was meant to do.
What helped her most, she says was her own self-belief: “I was there for myself as a dedicated friend. I never left myself alone. Even if I had no support, I would be there for myself. I was closely watching my ups and downs. Being a witness helped me stay grounded. Some other practical tools that helped me were positive affirmations. I started taking baby steps, each day a little push.”
She continues, “It has been tough at times. But it has made me more self-reliant and independent. The dependency on situations or a person to help me through has become almost zero. I feel grateful if I have someone but most of the time I become that someone for myself. It’s all in the mindset. Whether I want to become empowered by a situation or feel like a victim is a choice we have.”
Looking back, she says, “I am grateful for all that has happened. The challenges that I faced have made me who I am. It has opened me to my full potential. The lows have been my teachers, a part of the cycle of growth. I get better with each low. I believe everything is happening for me, and not against me. From this space I welcome every experience and I live it fully, thanking it for my growth,” she adds with a peaceful smile.
Journalist, fashion consultant, former model and beauty queen, Meher Castelino had taken some hard knocks in her life. When she was 42, and her children, Christina, and Carl, were seven and five, respectively, her husband Bruno, had a sudden heart attack and died. Distraught as she was, she recouped her strength for the sake of the children, and took back the reins of their lives. Meher’s mother became an important anchor for her. The next jolt came when Meher lost her mother in 1995. In 1996, while she was still grappling with the loss, came yet another crushing blow – a legal problem. She literally had her back against the wall and didn’t know what to do or where to go. In this deep, dark period she went for a ‘séance’ with a friend, Veera. This was a turning point; the guidance that she received from Meher Baba helped her overcome her sorrow and her bitterness.
Her spiritual button had been pressed and thereafter she made steadfast progress on the path. A significant step was on December 24 when she received the book, Sounds of Silence, by Nan Umrigar, as a Christmas gift from her children. Meher read the book in one go and decided to write to Nan Umrigar. It was synchronicity that Nan happened to be Meher’s fashion model colleague from the past, and had dealt with the tragedy of losing her son. The two connected and Meher’s journey from then on became that of spiritual healing, acceptance, forgiveness and love.
As the wheel of karma moves, our experiences of life will shift. There will be times when everything will look dark, and bereft of hope. That is the time when you accept the dark and love yourself completely like Leena, light a candle inside your heart, and allow the people to see that light, like Bhavesh. These low times are the times when you become a compassionate friend to yourself, supporting and holding yourself with generosity, like Shivani. Or reach out to the Universe and ask for help, like Meher.
Most of all just trust; trust that what visits you is here for a reason and bears rich gifts that you will find only when you embrace it, surrender to it, and allow it to transform you.
About the author : Rashmi Dixit is a Life coach and a Leadership Facilitator.
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