(Aug. 11th, 2020)
A while back, read two stories that changed my attitude about life, for life.
Story 1 – Two terminally ill patients were sharing a hospital room, who couldn’t walk or do anything but stay in their beds. Patient one who arrived there first got a window-side bed, and the second patient didn’t have any view of the outside world. While staying there, they became good friends and would talk to each other quite often. Since the second patient didn’t have a window view, he would ask the first patient to tell him what he is seeing outside so he could also visualize and enjoy the scenery without actually seeing it. So several times during the day, patient-one would describe to the second patient, beautiful blue skies out there with sunlight shining on a beautiful garden below, flowers are blooming, and people are sitting in the sun enjoying the surroundings and each other. He would talk about beautiful women walking around in nice clothes and children playing in the garden, etc. So that went on for a few days, where the second patient was able to enjoy the outside view via patient one’s description. One day patient one’s time came, and he died of his ailment. A couple of days after they removed patient one from the room, patient two got the window bed. Excited, he looked outside, saw a cloudy sky and no sunshine above, then he looked down for the garden and to his surprise he found nothing of the sort that patient one had described. It was just a narrow alley with a bunch of dumpsters filled with garbage and garbage trucks collecting it. Patient two’s eyes were filled with tears.
Story 2– A man got severely injured in an accident. He was brought to the hospital, bleeding profusely, ripped open in a few places, and barely could breathe. Doctors and nurses tried hard to stop his bleeding as soon as he arrived at the hospital. Once surrounded by the doctors and nurses, the man started to smile, started joking with doctors, flirting with nurses, then slowly he fainted because of loss of blood but a smile stayed on his face. Doctors patched him up and stabilized him with a couple of surgeries and the man became conscious after a few hours. The attending doctor asked him, I have seen many patients but never seen a patient who was about to die from injuries but you kept smiling, laughing, and joking with everyone, how did you manage to do that? The patient said, doc, at that moment I had two choices, either to cry and scream, make myself miserable, distract you all from doing your job efficiently, OR knowing that I am in good hands, there is nothing I can do to change what has happened to me and what is going to happen to me, so I decided to make it pleasant for you all; obviously, my life was in your hands, so I wanted you all to do your job well.
The moral of both stories is, We always have two choices, and which choice we select mostly decides how we live our lives, in misery or in peace. It’s about positive or negative, it’s all about our attitude.
But is it a practical thing to do? Can we really find positives in a situation where our life is hanging by a thread? Do you know any such person?
I have seen my maternal grandmother, my Nani, in a similar situation. She was the first person I have seen literally dying in front of me. She had this indescribable attitude. She knew she was dying; she had lost her voice but she kept on asking my mother to execute her last rites with hand signals. Being a traditional Hindu woman in the 60s, her dying as a widower was the ultimate satisfaction for her. She raised her wrists filled with red bangles and showed everyone that she is dying a widower, she asked to put Ganges water and Tulsi leaves in her mouth and had my mother and my Nana Ji do all those traditional things that Hindus did in those days. Asked my mother to sing her favorite devotional song to her. And only after completing those rituals, did she quietly let her soul go. That was one of the most memorable events of my life that I will never forget. She managed her own death with the right attitude. That control was driven by unflinching faith in her “god”.
But not all who have unflinching faith in something, die the same way. The story is about attitude. Her death was imminent, but her mind controlled the process. She found joy even in those moments when most people would have taken her to the hospital for one more breath. She decided to manage it her way. Such is the power of our mind.
Our mind has so much power that we don’t even know, we don’t know how to actualize it. Because we are the product of our environment. If we are brought up and trained by people who themselves have not actualized their own brain power, how can we do it? To awaken our minds, we must stir them up. What Gautam Buddha did was one way of achieving wisdom and heightened awareness but that is not practical for most people. What is that we can do without taking sanyas and meditating for years?
We may not reach the level of heightened awareness or awakening, aka, Super-Consciousness, like Buddha but there are simple practical ways to reach a heightened state of awareness by (in no specific order):
- independent thinking, and analyses,
- questioning your own actions, reactions
- questioning underlying motives
- challenging our beliefs
- challenging our routines
- facing our fears head-on
- understanding both sides of issues before settling on one
- accepting ourselves completely with all shortcomings
- challenging our shortcomings
- reaching into an uncomfortable zone of thinking
- meditate and open the unopened rooms of your mind
The mind is a malleable piece of mass that learns whether you train it intentionally or not. It will learn no matter what, it’s up to you to decide whether you want to feed it desired content or uncontrolled content. It’s like parents, they have a choice to let their children learn “unintended content” about life on his/her own from others in the community or provide intentional teaching with desirable values and content. Most parents focus on academic teachings, but life’s lessons and deeper thinking are very limited in training young minds. Imposing our own limitations, our own fears, and miseries make our children just like us.
Creative, fearless, boundaryless thinking can possibly make a person open to higher levels of awareness and awakening, a state of Super-Consciousness.