When dropping your phone is not the end of the world

Written by Suraj Shah.

We consider possessions to be extentions of our own bodies – when cherished items get damaged, we foolishly feel the pain.

How did you feel when you last dropped your phone?

Yesterday I’d just parked up, got out of the car to head into a friend’s place, and was rummaging around for my phone. At first I couldn’t feel my phone in my pocket, so I thought I’d left it in the car.  Turns out that it was in amongst a pile of books that were in my arms.  Immediately I heard something hit the ground.

I looked down, and thought: “Shit.”

Possessiveness plagues the mind

The phone had hit the filthy hard tarmac head-on – and the phone was now in three pieces.

I stopped, picked up the three pieces (main phone, back cover, and battery), decided I wasn’t going to let it ruin my evening, put the phone back together again, inspected it for damage, put it in my pocket and then walked into my friend’s house.  In fact, I felt quite proud of myself for being so calm about it.

But whilst I was with my friends, I still had worries run through my mind:

  • What if the phone doesn’t work properly anymore?
  • How could I be so clumsy?
  • I still have 10 months left on the contract before I can get an upgrade – can I afford another phone?
  • I depend on my phone for web access to work while I am out and about – will this now confine me only to where there is web access at fixed locations?
  • How will clients perceive me if I am using a dented phone in front of them?
  • My phone’s not insured – should I get insurance now and claim the damage on it?

Manifestation of anger, greed, ego and deceit

When we drop something that we are attached to, a number of feelings naturally arise.  We feel annoyed at ourselves for dropping it.  We feel like we NEED to have a replacement immediately .  Our ego is dented, by seeing ourselves as clumsy, and by what we think other people will think of us when we walk around with a damaged item.  We may even consider telling a lie to blame someone else for the damage and try to wangle a new item through insurance.

The nature of the phone is to change

The fact is that the phone was never going to stay in pristine condition forever.  It’s nature is to change.  It is made of matter that will inevitably change form and colour when external forces are applied to it.

So why do we place our happiness on something that, by nature, will not stay the same?

It’s because we consider it an extension of our own bodies.  We have so much love for it, and what it can do, and how it can make us feel.  When it’s damaged, it’s as though we ourselves are damaged – we feel the pain.  When cherished items get damaged, we foolishly feel the pain.

Cultivating trusteeship to tame the pain of loss

So how do we resolve this pain we feel when we lose our cherished possessions?

The Jain concept of aparigraha is about non-possession.  Broken down to a-pari-graha, it translates to:

  • a = not / negate
  • pari = outer / external
  • graha = hold firmly

From the perspective of who we are at our core, our soul, aparigraha is about not having a firm hold on anything outside ourselves – this includes our possessions, our relationships, and even our own bodies.

Taking the example of the phone, it means simply being a trustee of the phone, rather than assuming full ownership.  It is about looking after it, using it appropriately, and taking care to maintain it, but knowing that it will not stay with us forever, or that we may not be able to use it at all times that we may want to.

Extending trusteeship beyond the phone

What else can we become trustees of and how would that work for us?  Can we become trustees of our cars, our houses, our jobs, our countries, our relationships and our bodies?  What would life be like if we fully lived out non-possession?

(Photo courtesy of Pat Castaldo)

Father’s shelter

Post written by Suraj Shah.

Father: one who provides, protects, and creates the environment for growth.

As young children in the playground at school, we would often boast “my daddy is the best!”

What makes your father the best?

When it comes to my dad, I certainly appreciate how he has always been our provider and protector. He has worked hard to keep a roof over our heads, whilst continuing to show his love through hugs and treats.

My earliest memory with dad was probably when I was 4 or 5 years old, when we were standing at the top of the staircase at our old house, and dad was teaching me how to tie my shoe laces. He did it with such care and patience.

A father’s shelter

Over the years, I remember dad for how he has:

  • taught my brother and I how to ride our bikes.
  • taught us how to put up lining paper and repaint the house.
  • taught us how to mow the lawn.
  • taught us how to swim.
  • helped us get onto our own two feet.

Even now, married and living in my own house, my dad recently guided me over the phone how to fix the overflowing toilet cistern. Previously I’d left it to dad to sort out issues to do with maintaining the house, but it’s a wonderful feeling to learn these DIY skills, whilst knowing that I can lean on dad if I need some guidance.

My father has certainly provided for us and protected us over the years, and even better, he has shown us how to become independent and even take care of those who depend on us.

Fear of losing dad

Within weeks of mum passing away in 2006, we had another death in the family.  On the day of mum’s uncle’s funeral, when the body was brought into the house and a pre-cremation ritual was taking place, I could see the sadness that the sons were facing at the loss of their father.

My dad was standing half way up the stairs, and at that moment, deep sorrow hit me.  I darted up the stairs, embraced dad and I started sobbing.  As tears flooded down my face, I held dad tighter and said “don’t leave so soon, I need you here”.  Fear of losing dad, a type of fear that I didn’t know I had, came to the surface, and I couldn’t stop sobbing.

Dad, having only recently lost his wife, did the best he could to comfort me.

Of course, I knew that anyone who is alive, will one day die.  I also knew that my father was not exempt from that.  So why did I sob so much?  Why did I fear the loss of my father? It was my attachment to dad.

Will dad always be around?

I take dad for granted.  I think he will always be around, will always be there to love me, to care for me, to protect me.

But going by how nature works, dad will not always be around.  One day he may face an accident, or he may die of natural causes, or he may change into someone I don’t recognise any more.  Anything could happen.

What would happen if I reduced my emotional attachment to my father?  Would I be free from pain if he is no longer around? I’m not talking about feeling numb, or loving him any less.  I’m talking about continuing to enhance the love I have for him, but minimise feelings of anger and emptiness that would arise from eventually losing him.

By taking the time to understand the true nature of reality, I would realise that my father, who was once born, will eventually die.  By thinking on this, I would learn to love my father, without being dependent on him being around. I would understand that a strong attachment to my dad is futile, but a bond of love without expectation, would help us have an enriching relationship for the time we have together.

So I continue to ask myself: “Should I reduce attachment to my father? Could I?  How?”

If your father is still with you, how would you answer this?  If your father is no longer around, what would you ask yourself?

(Photo courtesy of dariuszka)

How to support someone at their time of loss

Written by Suraj Shah.

Do you know someone who recently faced the death of a loved one?

What was the first thought that entered your mind?  What was the first thing you did?

Chances are that you first thought “oh no” (or “oh shit!”) and at that moment you stumbled because you had no clue about the best way to reach out to them.

Should I go see them, give them a call, send them an SMS, send an email, write a letter, write on their Facebook wall, send flowers and a card, or do nothing at all?

Then there’s the question about what to say?

Do I ask what happened, say sorry about their loss, ask them how they are feeling, tell them how I’m feeling, or say “It’s probably all for the best”?

In our society, death is such a forbidden topic, that it’s no wonder we stumble when really we have a chance to shine and be a pillar of strength and warmth for our friends and family at their time of greatest need.

What to say to someone who has faced a loss

Although there is no “right” thing to say, certainly avoid the following phrases:

  • “I know how you feel”
  • “Time heals all wounds”
  • “Don’t dwell on it”
  • “It’s in the natural order of things”
  • “It’s time for you to move on”
  • “Be grateful you had him so long”
  • “You’re never given anything you can’t deal with”
  • “It’s probably all  for the best”
  • “Don’t feel bad”
  • “He lived a full life”

All that these insensitive platitudes will do is that they will hurt and upset your friend who will feel that you haven’t really acknowledged their loss.

Instead, consider this approach:

  1. Simply and honestly tell your friend how sorry you are for their loss.  Your honest will give them a breath of fresh air, because most other people will be presenting them with the above insensitivities.
  2. Don’t be tempted to avoid saying anything.  It is horrible for the bereaved person to wrongly feel that you don’t care enough about them and not get in touch.
  3. Do what feels right in your heart that communicates that you are with them, so that they do not feel alone.  They will pick up on your kindness.

Supporting your grieving friend through Active Listening

Although you can not take away the pain of someone suffering from a huge loss, one of the best things you can do to “be there” for them is to actively listen and help them express their feelings.

The technique of active listening can be cultivated by letting the other person express his or her own feelings, whilst suspending your own judgements.

Advice is generally the last thing they are looking for, even if they’ve asked for it.

How to Actively Listen:

  1. Put your full attention onto them and listen to what they are saying.
  2. In your own words, repeat back to them what you have understood from that they said.
  3. Check with them whether you have understood them correctly.
  4. Ask them to fill in any gaps in your understanding.
  5. Offer a response ONLY once they indicate that they feel fully understood.

Supporting your grieving friend by helping out

If talking and listening aren’t your strong points, there are plenty of ways to show your love and support by taking on some chores.  Here are a few ideas:

  • cleaning and tidying
  • organising mail
  • fielding phone calls
  • cooking a few meals
  • chauffeuring
  • washing clothes & ironing
  • helping them pick out what to wear

Your role as a friend

Remember that through all of this, you are in no way responsible for making the situation any better or taking away your friend’s pain.  Only they themselves, through a steady committed path, can overcome their own pain.  The most important thing you can do is empower your friend to keep expressing his feelings.

Have you faced a loss yourself?  What did your friends do well?  What could they have done better?

(Photo courtesy of megyarsh)