Ages ago, lunching with friends in a restaurant with a spectacular view of the Himalayas, a European woman began to boast about how close she was to her guru, and how integral her presence was to his inner circle of devotees. We listened politely, and this encouraged her to rave even more. Suddenly, a friend of mine, a cynical chap who had been around the block several times and appears to have no illusions about anything, interrupted her: ah, so you’re in Intensive Care, he said bluntly. Clearly you need the direct intervention and proximity of a guru, or your ego would completely destroy you.
I burst into giggles at her astounded expression, but while she may have thought he was trying to take her down a notch or two, I knew that as usual he was only speaking his mind and did not intend to deliberately hurt or insult her. Oddly enough, his words continued to resonate with me, because they certainly applied to my own condition.
A singer said this about Van Gogh—that this world was not made for men as beautiful as him. And there’s no denying that the goings-on of our planet can be hard to handle for anyone who is ultra-sensitive to suffering, simply because there are no barriers and empathy rules. Now I was born so sensitive that I would immediately burst into a storm of tears when I encountered a person or animal whose situation awakened my compassion. My mother referred to these mini-breakdowns as “crocodile tears,” not because she was unkind, far from it, but because she did not wish to encourage me in being ridiculously soft and therefore ill-equipped to cope with life’s hard realities.
A few mornings ago, right out of the blue, a huge wooden door blew shut and almost broke my little toe. The pain was excruciating. I expected it to heal in a day or two, but I’ve been forced to stay home to nurse it, which is pure torture for someone as active as me, and whose threshold for both emotional and physical pain is abysmally low.
I put on my mystical thinking cap and studied my predicament. Why did this happen to me? One answer is that something majorly bad was supposed to happen to me, and instead (perhaps because these days I’m being such a “good girl”), the powers that be reduced that ominous would-be event to an almost-broken toe. (It’s an undeniable fact that I could be lying in a morgue right now, especially since I’m a bit of a speed freak on the highway and Indian truck, bus and lorry drivers are notoriously reckless.) I won’t bore you with the other thoughts that arose in this connection, but I will say that today I have such great faith in Arunachala in whose holy shadow I now reside, that I have no flicker of doubt that there is excellent reason for me to be held hostage at home.
I flashed back to soon after I got to Tiruvannamalai, some eight years ago, when I got drenched for hours while walking on the inner path that circles the mountain. I was in the company of a British friend who is a top-notch hiker. He quickly slipped into a rain jacket, but I was badly affected. There was nowhere to take shelter since we were on the inner path. By the time I got home, hours later, I was already shivering with fever. My friend left for England the next day and I developed a terrible flu and lay shivering in bed. Seventeen days later I was finally well enough to walk outside. I gazed up at Arunachala’s dawn glory and for the first time realized His power. I knew then that it was his fierce grace that had forced me to undergo that intense suffering—to burn away countless layers of ego that were preventing me from entering the Spiritual Heart. (Check out: ARUNACHALA, NOT ABRACADABRA )
This afternoon I gazed out of my living room window at the reassuring bulk of Arunachala. Don’t you think you’ve whipped me enough? I asked, as a wave of self-pity assailed me. Then I hastened to add that I had learned to trust Him, and that He had proven to me, time and time again, that when He heaped pain, disappointments and frustrations on my poor human head, enhanced peace, understanding and joy surely followed. Thank you for placing me in Intensive Care, I murmured gratefully; who knows what would have happened to maverick mini-me out there in the big bad world had you not drawn me into your protective embrace? We humans blindly put our faith in other humans, not realizing perhaps that they are just as limited than we are. Best to surrender to the cosmic powers that have genuine love and concern for our wellbeing.
One major difference between the mainstreamer and the genuine seeker of inner peace is the view/ attitude we choose to take. This too shall pass—powerful words I use on myself and on others when appropriate. Even this life, I remind myself, is just a tiny speck on an infinite lifeline. In truth we are pure existence, awareness and bliss and have had a million bodies and minds. When life aims yet another kick at our unprotected bottoms, and we go flying yet again into the mud and the slime of samsara, we must never ever give up ,for we live in duality and the tide will definitely turn, especiallly if we are patient and have faith. The trick is to turn our focus to Spirit and ask it humbly to heal all relative ills, and to never ever lose sight of our highest goal, which is permanent freedom from suffering.
Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva the Destroyer in the form of a hill of fire and light, who has no hesitation in whipping those he loves with his mighty psychic whip, but only to lead us to the blissful light of the Self!