Noble Silence

Would it be best if I took myself to a mountain top where I didn’t have to say anything, hear anything, understand anything, process anything or feel anything? Is there somewhere I could be free of the wrath of time? Where my heartstrings wouldn’t constantly tug at me. Where I could find the much-conceptualised ‘perfect balance’. Where I could wash off those parts me that ache non-stop. Where I could find an oasis beyond ‘I like’, ‘I don’t like’. Where none of the facts of life would hold any power over me.

My 51st birthday is the 3rd one without Saagar. That’s how it is – two significances attached to one day. Aren’t years supposed to bring wisdom and clarity with them? Do they? Possibly in unnoticeably miniscule doses in my case. I could take myself to a mountain-top but the snag is that the source of the restlessness and pain will come with me – my mind.

Looking for peace and respite from my mind I made my way to the serenity of a Buddist Monastry just outside London for a 5-day Silence Retreat. The first few verses we chant are Buddha’s words on Loving-kindness.

“Be one who is skilled in goodness
And who knows the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech.

Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied,
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and clam, and wise and skilful,
Not proud and demanding in nature.

Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove,
Wishing: In gladness and in safety,
May all beings be at ease.

Whatever living beings there may be,
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small.
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to be born,
May all beings be at ease.

Let none deceive another
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will wish harm upon another.

Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings,
Radiating kindness over the entire world:

Spreading upwards to the skies
And downwards to the depths,
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.

Whether standing or walking, seated,
Or lying down – free from drowsiness –
One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.

By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense-desires,
Is not born again into this world.”

If there is just one thing I can take from these wise words, it is –
“Be at ease.”
“Relax.”
As Saagar would say in his notoriously funny south-Indian accent,
“Mamma. Chhillax.”
I think that’s a good place to start.

Day 950

IMG_3147

Let me not defer…

Rush hour in London is a perfect example of organised chaos. Buses, cycles, pedestrians, taxis and cars miss each other by millimetres and head purposefully towards their respective destinations. The sun shone generously this morning, throwing light on every minute detail.

He sat on the edge of a low shop window on York Road. I saw him on my way from the bus-stop to the hospital. He sat there holding his head in both his hands – the classic pose. He must have been in his mid-twenties. There was darkness in his eyes, a small blue travel bag by his right foot. Not sure if he spoke English. He didn’t look drunk. I walked past him. I wanted to stop and talk to him but I knew this could take time and I would get late for work. I kept walking. Hundred yards ahead, I turned around and looked. He was still there. Still in the same position. Something needed attention. I thought I would quickly go to work, see if I could be spared and come back asap.
I did exactly that. I came back after 40 minutes but he was gone.

What could I have done? There are so many people, each one with their own problems and stories. What difference can I make?

I can ask – Are you ok? Can I help you?
I can offer my phone if they want to make a call.
I can have a phone number handy – 0808 800 4444 (Shelter)
I can have the belief that there is something I can do.

Postponing a positive action is a sure way of missing the entire fleet.
I was unaware that every day 150 families in Britain become homeless.

 

Day 897

If someone we know had a broken leg we would not say to them ‘Well if we don’t talk about it, things will be okay.” That would be unhelpful. Yet some people think that that is the way those who are grieving should behave and be treated. They genuinely think that if they don’t mention it then we’ll be fine.

An autistic child was visciously attacked by another student for “looking at her a funny way”. Her head had been repeatedly banged on the floor until she lost consciousness.

When the mother of the attacker was confronted , she revealed that the child who perpetrated the attack had lost her father in a violent stabbing incident some time ago. The mother said, “We don’t talk about it and she’s (the daughter) okay.”

I guess my point is about the unhealthy attitudes that demand that grief is put away, that the sufferer soldiers on without ever processing their feelings, without absorbing them into their daily life, without being kind to themselves. These attitudes would seem to be at the root of much trouble and strife that we see in our world today.

“Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

(This is an except from a piece shared by a parent from The Compassionate Friends.)

Day 849

School playgrounds are challenging places. Many of us haven’t quite survived them or their equivalents. They are part of growing up and some of the memories created there, stay with us for a long time. Our childhood never leaves us.

The playground has now extended itself into our private spaces via the World Wide Web. There is nowhere to hide. No place is safe. The aggressors can be cowardly and hide but the attacked are exposed even when sitting alone in their bedrooms. Any child from any background can be a victim and any child from any background can be a culprit.

How easy it is to make people feel they don’t fit in, by words or by indifference. Many agonise over fitting in and being accepted for who they are. The deep desire to fit in can cause misery for life. The feelings of non-acceptance are deeply damaging when internalised, leading to long term mental and physical health problems.

It must not be easy for kids to talk about being bullied. It must hurt. It must be embarrassing. Attention needs to be paid to what they say to alert us to the subtle or overt bullying that goes on. Every blessing requires care and commitment. Everyone needs to feel loved and valued. While meanness may afford short-term gains, kindness is transformative.

In Primary school, Saagar’s friend Adam always stood up for him in the ‘school playground’. They were best friends for many years and I am very grateful to Adam for his kindness. Saagar was too even though at the time he did not know that he would not survive the playground. Neither did I. 

Henry James said, “ Three things in human life are important: first is to be kind; second is to be kind; and third is to be kind.”

The ‘Special K’.