In the book Tuesdays with Morrie, the professor of sociology Morrie Schwartz, has his class do an exercise, where each student is to stand facing away from the others and fall backward. The idea was to be caught by one of the classmates before the student hit the floor. No one dared fall all the way and stopped after a few inches, but one girl closed her eyes and fell backwards and was just caught by a classmate before she hit the ground. Summing up, the professor tells her, ‘..you closed your eyes. That was the difference….And if you are ever going to have other people trust you, you must feel you can trust them too – even when you are in the dark. Even when you are falling.’
This is the kind of trust that we should have in God — implicit. We have to believe that He will take care of us, even in the worst of times. And out of this trust comes surrender. ‘Thy will be done,’ is the mantra. And when one lets go, one is free – of fear and doubt and free to find happiness.
(Disclaimer: I am neither an authority on spirituality nor theism, but just wanted to share some of my experiences in letting go.)
Why God? Why not human beings? As was found in the experiment in Tuesdays…, it is hard to even trust someone one can see and touch, to hold us and prevent us from falling. Also it is not often that we can unburden ourselves to another person and hope for a solution. Don’t we then yearn for someone to take away our troubles and relieve us of the burden? Is it at all possible to have implicit faith in some entity, to liberate ourselves?
When I was younger, I didn’t do any religious ritual except lighting the lamp in the puja niche in our house, didn’t go to temples. But I believed God stood by me and supported me in times of need if I did my duty and was a good human being. Those were times when I could get things done too – well, a lot of things. I was young, healthy and had a very strong will power that saw me through many a bad patch. But there used to come times when things just were beyond me despite my best efforts. It was during those times that I experienced the joy of letting go. It is an incredible sense of lightness that I experience when I am able to do it. But unfortunately, I need the water to go over my eyes before I get to this happy state of resignation.
Simply put, I have no choice; I have exhausted all the means at my disposal to solve my problem. So the best thing is to lift up my hands to the Unseen Force, that is God. I quickly convert the feeling into one of surrender and say, ‘Thy will be done,’ and leave it to Him. And the sigh of relief has to be experienced, not related. No wonder the spiritually inclined people look so happy, for they obviously are not carrying the cares of the world on their shoulders!
But how does one trust an unknown, unseen entity and entrust one’s troubles and worries to that entity? Who can trust an invisible God? Some years ago, when I was going through some really bad times, I had a dream. No, there were two dreams – in the same night where I was taught the lessons of faith and surrender by none other than our Guru, Shirdi Saibaba. It was one of those nightmares where I am chased by monsters (yes, I still get those!). So here I was, being chased by a huge creature that looked like a cross between a Tyrannosaurus and a huge anaconda (the result of watching all those movies, I guess!) I jump into a river (In my terror, I forget that anacondas live in water!) to escape it and instantly begin choking as I swallow water.
Suddenly Baba is beside me and instead of helping me breathe, he pushes my head into the water and orders me to keep swimming. ‘But I can’t breathe!’ I remonstrate. ‘Why do you need to breathe, when I am breathing for you?’ he asks me simply. Indeed, why was I struggling to breathe when He was doing it for me? What a wonderful lesson in surrendering! Like the girl who fell backward trusting her classmates to hold her, I let go and stopped struggling to breathe, with the water literally over my head. For the record, I didn’t die. But the dream was so real that I woke up.
When I went back to sleep again, there was another dream. This time, I am staggering with a huge sack of foul-smelling muck – my problems and tensions — towards where Baba is sitting. When I reach him, I try to hide the sack from him but he commands, ‘Empty the sack here!’ ‘But Baba, it stinks and will make this place foul!’ ‘Do it!’ he says firmly. Reluctantly I empty the foul smelling muck, which spreads quickly. But before I can close my nose at the foul smell, I am amazed to find lotuses and roses sprouting out of it and within no time the entire place is filled with the fragrance of the flowers!
What a wonderful lesson that was — that the worst of our troubles turn into something divine and beautiful if only we learnt to let go, have implicit faith and surrender completely. There was another book which I read recently – a beautiful spiritual fiction 3 Lives in search of Bliss by Srini Chandra. The book talks about a man trying to find happiness over three lifetimes. In the second life, the protagonist Anwer is told by God, “You cannot have it all, Anwer. To have it all, you have to want nothing.” In other words, one has to let go.
As the author puts it, one must ‘embrace the uncertainty that embodies the spirit of this universe.’ Though he is talking about the pursuit of happiness, the idea is the same – letting go to find peace/happiness. Two books, two dreams and a lesson in faith and surrender! Isn’t that wonderful?
Pics courtesy: Swati Maheshwari