Shopa, New Age Islam
19 May 2016
Life is a
blessing, a gift, they say. I suppose it is. But for me, it doesn’t always seem
that way. Sometimes, I feel as if life is a terrible burden. Like just the
other day, for instance, when, for a while, almost everything seemed to go
out of bed and switched on the light but discovered that the voltage was very
low. So, I couldn’t do my morning reading. That wasn’t all that terrible
really, but it was enough to make me mildly irritated. The irritation would
probably have passed just as easily as it had arrived but, shortly after this,
I stepped out for a walk and on the way spotted an innocent-looking,
pathetically skinny dog who, I was told, was fed by its so-called ‘owners’ just
once a day for fear that otherwise it would sleep ‘too much’. How can people be
so cruel to animals, and that, too, to ‘their’ pets? Cursing the ‘owners’ of the poor thing in my
mind, I walked on, only to bump into a giant scorpion that lay sprawled out
near my feet. Luckily, it was dead, but even a dead giant scorpion can be
really eeeeeky (you know what I mean, even though my laptop doesn’t recognise
that word)! That made me even more upset than I already was.
off by my reactions to this series of ‘unpleasant’ encounters, my mind was
rapidly transformed into a theatre where a furious storm of negative thoughts,
mostly totally unrelated to what I had just experienced, raged uncontrollably.
And all at once, life seemed such an onerous burden!
with me the other day, a single situation that we might find troubling can
easily trigger off a whole host of negative emotions and thoughts in our minds,
many of which may have no connection whatsoever with the original situation
that occasioned our initial reaction. This can make life seem intolerable, an
enormous burden almost too difficult to bear. Our reaction to even a minor unpleasant
experience can sour our mood for the rest of the day if we allow ourselves to
yield to the temptation to nurture negative or depressing thoughts as a
reaction. I, for one, find that I sometimes need almost no excuse to waste
several precious hours nursing a jungle of negative thoughts in the wake of
what I later realise was a relatively minor difficult experience.
occasions, I find that I love to revel in negativity, the pain of which gives
me some sort of perverse pleasure, even as it makes me miserable and makes life
seem like such a terrible chore.
the storm of negative thoughts that danced about in my mind other day quieted
down after a short while. Later in the day, as I reflected on the experience I
realised that, as had happened with me that morning, when we find ourselves
feeling miserable, it is because we have chosen to feel that way. No matter how
irritating or difficult the external situation we may be faced with seems—low
voltage, dim lights, a starving dog, cruel-hearted dog ‘owners’, a dead
scorpion—we can choose to be happy if we want to, by choosing the appropriate
way to respond.
with a difficult situation, directing our minds to focus on possible solutions,
rather than obsessing about the problem itself, is a much more helpful way of
responding. Not only might this help to resolve the issue that’s troubling us,
it will lighten the burden of negative emotions that fretting about the problem
will inevitably generate.
So, for instance, while it was but natural for
me to feel pained at the way the starving dog was being treated, instead of
cursing its ‘owners’ in my mind and making myself miserable (which didn’t make
any difference to the dog’s plight), I could have thought of taking some
meaningful action to alleviate its suffering. That very thought itself would
have uplifted my spirits. (I am happy to report that I did take some meaningful
action in this regard later on. With God’s grace, I met one of the dog’s
‘owners’ and pointed out that the animal seemed underfed and suggested that he
give it food more than just once a day. I put the point across as
diplomatically as I could and said that I hoped that he didn’t think I was
interfering. He said he’d do the needful. Meanwhile, there’s another thing I am
doing: praying to God to bless the dog with regular food and water and to guide
its ‘owners’ to take good care of it).
Even in the
seemingly most trying situation there’s at least one redeeming feature—if only
that, like every other situation, this one, too, will pass. Without ignoring
the other aspects of the situation, if we train our minds to also recognize the
situation’s positive aspects, we can make the situation seem less grim and
difficult to bear than it might otherwise appear, even as we go about trying to
do what we can to remedy it.
it isn’t always easy—though in theory it is entirely possible—to carefully
choose the right thoughts, words and actions to respond with when faced with a
difficult situation. We can remain peaceful and happy even in such situations
if we choose to focus on possible solutions instead of obsessing about the
problem as such and by training our minds to look at the positive aspects that
every situation, even the seemingly most difficult, is bound to contain. If we do
so, the situation might no longer seem to be as overwhelming as it might
and misery are a result of our own choices. They aren’t forced on us. No one
can force us to be miserable against our will. No one can compel us to be unhappy
if we choose not to be so.
have no control over the difficult situations we are confronted with. But what
we can certainly control are our responses to them. If we choose the right
responses, even in the midst of very trying situations we wouldn’t want to give
up on life or fall prey to the temptation to think of life as a heavy burden,
and not the blessing that it is.