Apr 26, 2021
A BREATH FROM DEATH: A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE THROUGH SUFFERING
Many speak about the bigger picture, but most forget without the minuscule, minute and microscopic elements the bigger picture is useless. It means nothing at all. Unfortunately, most leaders are just in title and misuse their authority thus are unable to fathom the importance of the minuscule, minute and microscopic elements. History has shown leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr, Nelson Mandela, and Maya Angelou as great examples of leaders who knew the importance of these elements.
May I request together we deep dive into this through a simple exercise in breathing? If need be, feel free to close your eyes. Focus on your breath. Take your time. Please breathe in and breathe out, breathe in and now breathe out, breathe in and breathe out.
Feel free to open your eyes. Today, I truly appreciate this minuscule, minute and microscopic act of breathing. This breathing in, breathing out is the only moment we have. This breathing is the now, it is truly being.
The reality, the evidence, the science is very precise that this thing we call breath is exceptionally small but without this, the bigger picture of our existence will never be there.
On 10 Jan 2021, I was taken on an unexpected journey where I experienced for several days that “death is only a breath away”. Rushed into emergency at approximately 10:00 AM and even with no beds available some phenomenon happened that around 01:00 AM of 11 Jan I was moved into the ICU COVID ward. It was on 31 Dec 2020 that the whole of my family (11 of us) was struck by COVID. We all were recovering very well as we had slight to mild symptoms.
Yet, on 10 Jan 2021, that day I became part of the millions who got engulfed by the seriously nasty symptoms of COVID: difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, chest pain, jaw throat was clenched and constricted, the speech was slurry and the voice was barely audible. Dangerously low oxygen levels and severe pneumonia were visiting me. They decided to make my body their guest house for numerous days. Yes, these unwanted guests were residing in me and they took over. It reminds me of Rumi's poem The Guest House:
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
The energy from my body was completely sucked out. Psychically, mentally and emotionally I was in a total state of vulnerability. Trust is powerful, very powerful. In such a vulnerable disposition I had to give my trust in the hands of the medical fraternity. I salute these front liners, the selfless unsung heroes. They are the true superheroes.
What does one do in such a helpless and defenceless scenario? From memory, I recall getting messages from well-wishers that you have to fight this, you have to win over this, you have to conquer this. You have to beat it. You have to dominate this. You have to crush this.
But I never did that. Instead, the path I was given was to embrace it. Yes, embracing the truth that I could either die or live. That required me to have jigra, which means to be brave of heart and know whatever will be, will be.
Yes, you heard it right I never fought as some source of energy made me embrace my situation with joy, love and compassion. I did nothing as the four noble truths took over. For centuries the four noble truths have been practised and lived by many on a daily basis across the East in countries such as India, Tibet, Vietnam, Japan, Thailand, Sri Lanka. And nowadays there are people in the West who follow and live by its wisdom.
For the first time in my life, I got a nanoscopic glimpse of the immense practicality and abundance of the four noble truths. What does it mean taking refuge in the four noble truths?
"I made the joyous discovery that humour, smile and laughter brings compassion to remove suffering." - Rohit Bassi
1. There Is Suffering (Symptom) - Cognitive-behaviour therapy such as Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT) is used for psychological treatments which takes inspiration from this truth.
You may say, think and feel “there is suffering” is morbid and pessimistic. Thus, let me dig deeper and say this means there is dissatisfaction, disillusion, problem, pain, challenges in life. This could happen with your health, wealth, relationships or any aspect of your existence.
In my world, I translate this suffering into “Courage”. Ask yourself the question are you willing to tap into courage to be aware and realise life is not suffering (although there is suffering in life) but life is full of abundance?
2. Cause of Suffering (Diagnosis) - Our intensity of suffering/ dissatisfaction is caused by our perception, experience, beliefs and the way we have been conditioned from our childhood. This happens especially when we are facing conflicts, misunderstanding, doubts or going through adverse times.
In fact, Dr Garbour Mate research shows, we carry our ancestors’ expressions in our DNA that we can experience as our own suffering/ dissatisfaction. We reincarnate certain behaviours, thought patterns, emotions, actions on a regular basis and many of these we do it on daily basis thus label as life sucks.
In my world, I translate this cause of suffering into “Clarity”. Ask yourself the question are you willing to gain clarity to clean the suffering whenever you encounter it?
3. Cessation of Suffering (Prognosis) – We play a major part in our difficulties; thus we are also the solution to our dissatisfaction.
We may not be able to change the things that happen to us or what others do upon us but we can transform our responses. That means one can end suffering and that does not mean that you stop getting suffering in life. The father of evolution, Charles Darwin, summaries what hinders us from the cessation of suffering as: “It is our arrogance, our admiration of ourselves”.
In my world I translate this cessation of suffering into “Conviction”, getting into a state of being free from doubt, the deep knowing there is a solution to suffering. Ask yourself the question are you willing to strengthen your conviction that suffering can end whenever you encounter it?
4. Walk The Path (Prescription) – There is a solution to all suffering and the only way to discover it is by passing through it. Not conquer it, not fight, not crush but embrace it. That means to be in a state of compassion.
A non-struggling, peaceful mind-is a possibility when we bring compassion into our existence. Think about it why would Stanford University's setup Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, there must be something extraordinarily amazing about compassion. Compassion is the key as it encompasses intelligence, conscious communication and emotional wisdom.
In the teachings of the four noble truth and my world "walk the path "translates into “Compassion”, not apathy or sympathy or empathy. Compassion is the solution. Ask yourself the question are you willing to take the hand of compassion for yourself and others whenever you encounter suffering?
As I laid in the ICU COVID ward experiencing “death is only a breath away” there was gratitude for each breath in, each breath out. By taking refuge in the four noble truths gave me the knowing and faith to rise and let go.
As a leader for yourself and others remember the bigger picture is pointless, powerless and purposeless without the minuscule, minute and microscopic elements.
Que sera, sera whatever will be, will be. Thank you. Peace be with you. Amor Fati.