Finding God

Choosing courage

“If you had to choose between courage and patience, I’d say, choose courage. With courage, the patience will come too but with just patience, you’ll never have the courage to live your life your own way and be happy.”

Wise words from a 26-year-old firebrand of a masseuse I’ve recently been associated with. We meet every Saturday when she gives me an Ayurvedic massage with much gusto, going all red in the face, leaving me energised and exhausted at the same time, so that I need to come home and sleep it off. And if the massage is stimulating, the conversation is even more so.

We talk about men and relationships. Falling in love with the wrong man. With the right man. With a married man. With one’s best friend. Being the daughter of a divorcee. Getting drunk on a bottle of beer. Breaking up with a man after three years because he is a sissy. Working hard and still not making enough. Fathers and husbands who aren’t worth it. Betrayal. Children. Commitment.

Today we talked about a friend who is in a bad marriage but continues to be there because she is afraid of slugging it out alone as a divorcee. “I find such people to be real *****,” she said, using a crass Hindi expletive. “Why do they wait to start living? Women are always told to have patience. To wait. To endure. To be stoic. Bullshit. I value courage above all qualities in life. Without courage, you can never be happy. All these other qualities are recipes not for happiness but for compromises, regret and sorrow.”

“Yes, there will be a bit of pain when you take a courageous step in life,” she went on, kneading my shoulders, “but that is short-lived. After the third, fourth, fifth day, you will find so much greater happiness and liberation.” I mumbled a muffled agreement into my neck-rest.

“God tests you. God puts you through situations when you have to show what you’re made of. If you act out of courage, you will win through all obstacles. And what obstacles? They will all fall away when you stand up with courage, anyway,” she announced as she flipped me over.

“Your friend needs to spend time with herself. Take a couple of months and sort herself out. Half her life has gone past in heartache and loneliness. If she can’t make herself happy now, what’s the use of finding happiness later in life? Tell her to be strong—not patient. Tell her to stop seeking happiness from others, from husbands or children. If a person can’t love herself, how can she ever love anyone else?” The young, spirited guru trundled me into the steam room.

The session was short today, and as always, I came home and slept, inspired.

I dreamt of angels with fiery wings.

Finding God

Not alone

Someone recently told me, “It’s very brave of you to be able to bring up two daughters single-handedly in a city like Delhi.”

But I have never felt ‘single-handed’. I’ve felt overworked, yes, tired, exhausted, worn out and any other synonyms you can come up with. I’ve felt physically incapable of juggling all the ‘work’ thrust upon me — by my own choices, I must add. I’ve felt 24 hours just aren’t enough to get everything done, and I have struggled with letting go of certain things in order to make space for others (laundry instead of dusting, bank visits instead of buying fruits, you get the idea). I’ve outsourced as much work as possible, and stopped imagining even in my fondest dreams that my house will look as spanking clean as my mother’s. I have given up on the idea of being superwoman; my choices have made me acutely aware of my limits.

But I have never felt ‘single-handed’. I was introduced to Buddhism at the age of 30, and that is the period of my life I call ‘the opening of the eyes’, which is coincidentally (or not) a chapter in Nichiren Daishonin’s Gosho. At that point, despite my ‘amateur spirituality’ and metaphorical blindness, there was an instant connection with… how should I put it… the Universe (I was too green to call it God then). There was an immediate sense of ‘oneness’ with the forces of Life, a sense of being part of something much larger than I was. As if someone had opened a door and I could suddenly see this truth. Even if my eyes were squinting and blinking in this bright light, I could sense I was in the ‘right place’. Finally.

It is only after this ‘awakening’ of sorts that I was able to put an end to an already dead marriage. So being ‘single-handed’ was never a feeling I have had to deal with. I was able to take on the weight of life as a single mother only because I had the comfort and knowledge of a much larger force carrying all of us along.

Many women my age, in difficult marriages or otherwise similar situations, ask me how I found the courage to take all those steps, how I managed to handle a difficult job along with all the social mountains and this heavy burden of bringing up two kids in a heartless city. I tell them I didn’t find the courage, the courage found me. The minute I embraced my spiritual practice with surrender and devotion, a tsunami of chance happenings, miracles and inexplicable blessings poured forth on me, carrying me along a wave of unimaginable change.

I can almost say I had nothing to do with all of this, I only had to allow nature to take its course in the truest sense. Being a single mother doesn’t have to mean being alone and unsupported.

How can I feel single-handed when I’m sitting atop the innumerable hands of God?