No-one is anyone’s

Suraj and Sawan, when they were kids

Written by Suraj Shah. Inspired by greatness.

As I spend more and more time as a bereavement support visitor, helping those who have lost a loved one to get through their suffering, I would have thought that I’d be pretty good at loosening my own emotional grip on the people I care about.

Yet, as time goes on, I seem to feel more and more heartache at the thought that those closest to me will inevitably one day be no more – in particular, my kid bro.

Sometimes I envision how I might receive the news about his death, or react to finding out about him being hurt in some serious way.

I imagine myself frozen in time, initially standing like a stone cold statue, riddled with shock, and then the next moment collapsing to the floor overcome with the pain of my insides being crushed by the grip of my very own hands.

The grip of my attachement. The pain of my loss.

Nobody is for anybody

In the timeless Jain tradition, there is a reflection titled “anyatva bhavana” which (in Gujarati) states:

“Aa sansaar ma koi koinu nathi.”

This roughly translates to:

“In this worldly life, no-one is anyone’s.”

So why do we feel such strong attachments to our younger siblings, and how can the “anyatva bhavana” reflection help us reduce the torment we relentlessly place on ourselves?

This perplexing attachment toward our siblings

The feeling we have towards our younger siblings, particularly when we grow up after all those initial years of teasing and squabbling, is of care and concern for them, blended with pride of what they have achieved in life so far.

When I look at my brother (he turned thirty this week), I see a confident caring man who has the company of a loving wife, a stable roof over his head, doing work he is committed to and the loyalty of friendships he has been growing and strengthening since childhood.

However, beneath his confident and joyful exterior, I notice his fears and his concerns. Somehow, I can feel his deepest pains that he appears to cover up. The same pains and doubts and fears that we all have – each and every one of us.

The daily discomforts of our body. The financial constraints of hectic western life. The busy-ness and habits of a time-poor society gradually creeping in.

So yes, I notice his incredible strengths, and I notice the depths of his hurt caused by the strain on a typically fractured worldly life.

It makes me want to hold him high above my head and boast about him to the world, while embracing him with a tight grip, to let him know that everything will be ok.

This is my attachment to my kid bro. The very same attachment you may also be having to those you adore.

Understanding that nobody is for anybody

In this world we realise that nomatter how much we try to help take away someone’s suffering or ask others to reduce our pain, we are ultimately truly alone.

If I am deep in debt and someone hands me a bundle of cash, that may temporarily alleviate my financial problems, but it will not cure me of the greed that led me to that state.

That greed is my own that I need to work on and resolve, so that it need not trouble me forever more.

Whatever we currently experience is a result of our past actions. All the trouble, torment and harm we have caused to others in our past has resulted in troublesome situations for us right here, right now.

Someone may run a red light and crash into the back of the car, or your house may get burned down, or business become bankrupt, or get kicked out of your job, or racially abused or anything else under the sun that causes pain, suffering, disease, despair.

But it needn’t cause pain, suffering, disease or despair.

No-one, nomatter how much they may love and care for us, can truly take that situation away from us. We have to endure it ourselves, witness it, and calmly let it pass.

If we don’t stay calm and let it pass, then what will happen? We get consumed by it, wishing that we didn’t have to deal with it, fighting to shift it from our lives, indulging in anger and causing more harm. This inevitably leads to more trouble for us in the future.

What you do now massively impacts the situations that arise for you at a later point in time.

Guaranteed.

So we must understand that everything happening to us right now is completely our own doing, our fault, our responsibility.

It doesn’t mean sit back and do nothing – we need to deal with the situation appropriately.

But while dealing with it, remain calm and let the matter gradually pass.

No-one can truly take away our pain, nor can we truly alleviate anyone’s suffering.

However, our compassionate hearts give us an opportunity to reach out to another.

When you see someone suffering, you can help them out practically and emotionally, all the while knowing that in all honesty, the only true beneficiary… is you.

(picture: Suraj with his younger brother Sawan when they were kids)

Ride out the storm

Written by Suraj Shah. Inspired by greatness.

With millions of people affected by super-storm Sandy on the US East Coast, President Obama declared a “major disaster” in New York state.

His advice?

“The most important message to the public I have right now is: ‘Please listen to what your state and local officials are saying. When they tell you to evacuate you need to evacuate.”

So my question to you: What does this mean for those of us who have lost a loved one and are going through a storm of our own?

What about when our emotions are turbulent and life feels like it has been turned upside down? We may feel trapped, struggling to breathe. We may feel stranded and alone. We may feel like life is not worth living, that there’s nothing more to live for. We think that perhaps the only solution is to depart.

Lets talk about our very own ‘evacuation plan’ for dealing with the loss of a loved one.

Making a departure

By ‘evacuation plan’ you may think we’re talking about departure in terms of moving out of town, or taking our own life.

No.

That’s not what we’re talking about here.

Doing a runner, moving out of town, turning our back on the storm is not the solution.

Nor is suicide. Nomatter how much it may hurt, nomatter how alone we feel, nomatter if nothing makes sense anymore — ending our own life is not the route we’re considering.

The ultimate evacuation plan

Our evacuation plan is of a different form.
Our evacuation plan involves riding out the storm.

There’s no need to run, there’s no need to die.
It’s ok to feel sad and hurt, and it’s ok to cry.

Our evacuation plan is different to the norm.
Our evacuation plan involves riding out the storm.

Step 1: Sit

Find a place to sit.

Move some things around if you have to clear some space on the floor and then sit there. Perhaps grab hold of a cushion or a pillow. Perhaps there’s a blanket in easy reach – wrap that around yourself.

You don’t need anything else. Just sit there.

Close your eyes and breathe.

And sit. Just sit.

And breathe. Breathe gently. Breathe gradually. Just breathe.

Gradually allow yourself to move into the calm, the quiet, the peaceful centre.

Gradually move into the eye of the storm.

Now lets sit together and ride it out. Lets ride out this storm.

Step 2: Take stock

Think about what you have in your life – what you have around you, what you have within you.

Start with the cushion you’re sitting on, or the blanket wrapped around you.

Consider the clothes on your back or the shoes on your feet.

What about the phone by your side or the roof over your head.

How about the people in your life who care about you so deeply – your family and friends, your neighbours and colleagues, your local community and those in distant lands, and me. I care about you – and if I care about you, then so many others do too.

We care for your warmth. We care for your happiness. We care for your safety and we care for your comfort. We care for your freedom and we care for your heart.

What about your virtues and who you are at your core. The world around you is touched by your warmth, inspired by your strength, melted by your smile.

When you are in the same room as me and you look me directly in the eye and show me that genuine smile, you offer everything that I could ever ask for, because you let me see you, the real you.

See yourself. Your real self. Take a good look at who you are at your core. Someone with great strength, great love, great care. Someone who is naturally here to serve the world around us. Someone who is responsible for their own calm, their own happiness – and loves it!

Step 3: Awaken

Now gently open your eyes, gradually stand up and look around you.

Notice how the storm is receeding. The tides are edging away. The chaos is getting calm.

That leaves you, with who you are, where you’re at, right now.

That leaves you, with your calm, with your peace.

That leave you, with your clarity of mind and warmth of heart.

You have everything. Everything worth living for.

This is your evacuation plan – your way out of the storm.

Reach out and lighten the load

Written by Suraj Shah. Inspired by greatness.

Struggling to breathe and overwhelmed by all there is to do today? Reach out – it’ll make sense once you’ve done it.

This morning my car wouldn’t start, so I called the recovery company who sent someone round to start it up for me. I got to work just fine, but turns out that it wouldn’t start again. So in the midst of trying to get the day’s work done, I started feeling the heavy burden of having to find a garage and arranging for my car to get there and for me to get home.

It then dawned on me that I don’t need to deal with this on my own. My colleague was prepared to drive me to the store to pick up jump cables or a new battery if needed. My wife was on the end of the phone, happy to ring round and find a garage.

So why the burden of having to deal with it alone?

I got consumed by my ego of wanting to deal with it myself and get the job ‘done right’. I was suffering (in advance!) at the thought of paying for new parts and work required to the car.

But this was silly – it needed to be done, regardless of how I felt about it.

So I sent my wife a message and reached out to her for help. And she delivered. She enquired about local garages and sent me a narrowed-down list, leaving me with an easy choice. I called up the garage, arranged for my car to be towed there this afternoon, and got on with the work I needed to do today.

The car hasn’t been fixed yet, but I feel better already. I told Heena how grateful I am of her quick response and now she feels wonderful too.

Whatever heaviness you may be feeling right now, think about what needs to get done (ask yourself whether it really does need to get done), then consider who you can reach out to help you and contact them.

It’ll lighten your load and will help them feel great too.

Finally remember – the people around you care for you massively – they won’t let you fail.