I used to think patience is all about our capacity to wait for something to happen, but I have learnt that patience has nothing to do with waiting at all. Patience, I now know, is the graceful act of surrender to time. To be patient is to accept that all we do in any given moment is enough. Patience is to accept that reward does not necessarily follow effort. Patience is accepting that your breath need not have purpose beyond itself. I believe we can only find peace when we’ve become masters at patience.
Patience teaches us to expect nothing. To expect nothing does not mean we desire nothing. It simply means that we are brave enough to desire without being attached to what we desire. It means we are free to want without being held captive by what we want. Patience teaches us how to detach from our egos, our identities, our sense of self. Patience challenges us to let go of what we had planned for ourselves and to surrender who we might’ve imagined ourselves to be. Patience asks us to reconsider our desires. It invites us to consider letting go of them. Letting go of them doesn’t mean we no longer desire them, it simply means to surrender our desires to time, to the universe, to god. Patience reminds us that there is always much more at play in shaping our destinies than we’d like to admit. Patience offers us the most precious gift of all — time. It stretches it out for us. It reminds us that time is elastic, that time is relative, that time might flow at a different pace for me than it might flow for you. Patience humbles us. It shrinks us down as it reminds us of the much larger forces of the universe. And that is too when Patience scares us most as we realise how little we control and how much of our control depends on just one thing — our breath. And even that, our breath, the one thing we trust most to keep us alive and calm, will one day leave us without our control. Patience asks us to surrender all control, to completely let go of everything, even of our most precious breaths. Patience is after all preparing us for the greatest surrender of all — death. Shamans say we die the same way we live. They say the goal of life is to learn to die consciously, and if it is so, if the goal of Life is in fact death, then Patience must be her coach.
We chase proof for our existence in the same way a child chases its shadow or a dog its tail. They are teased by the misconception that it is chasing them. A child will run as fast as it can, in circles and straight lines, trying so hard to outrun its shadow until they realise they can’t. But they’ll keep on trying again and again because maybe next time they can. This hope that next time will be different than a past experience is what keeps us running until we tire ourselves enough to forget about our shadow for a moment or two, only to rest and start all over again.
And not all children are created the same; some will be so fascinated by their shadow that they will run towards it so fast trying their hardest to catch it, and some who started off running away from their shadow will see their friend running towards it and will feel safe and reassured that it won’t hurt them because it’s not hurting their friend so they begin to chase after it as well. While another child who was chasing their shadow might see a friend running away and question their own assumption that the shadow is safe and begin to copy their friend and run away from their shadow too. But in all scenarios, we are always running. Always chasing or being chased. And until a parent points out that the shadow is actually us, and we stop for a moment to observe the ground and see that mother too has a shadow, and that her shadow is different, bigger just like her. It’s then that we finally relax and accept that the shadow is a part of us. But what about the shadows of our inner world?
During childhood, we overcome both our fear and curiosity of our external shadow and embrace it as forever part of us. But when we begin to exit childhood, during adolescence as we approach adulthood, all these internal shadows begin to pop up left, right and centre. We feel trapped because we can’t get away from all of it. We feel overwhelmed, angry and scared. Again, not all adolescents are made the same. Some of us are overtaken with curiosity and chase after our shadows, while others are overwhelmed with fear and repress their shadows. Some are influenced by their friends into changing their approach. Peer pressure goes both ways; some are shamed out of their sexuality while others are pressured into exploring it. In the end, what we learn from this is that like in our childhood, we find ourselves running either way, chasing or being chased. But the difference is that unlike in our childhood, our parents aren’t telling us, ‘It’s okay. This is a part of you. Just accept who you are.’ because they too are running from their shadows like their parents before them and their parents before them. This culture and history of repression has exhausted our psyches and unleashed our monsters onto each other. Some of us are lucky and get stopped by someone or something and asked to take a moment and sit still and look around until we finally realise that this is just like when we were children, that everyone has shadows, that shadows are completely natural, that they are perfectly normal and a significant part of who we are. A key part of our journey into adulthood is accepting our shadows and integrating them into our being. And that is very different from catching them. We can never catch them, we can never escape them, they will always be with us wherever we go.
So in the same way that we can never catch our shadow, we can never have proof we exist. Proof for our being is perhaps the most difficult and biggest of all our shadows to overcome because it seeps into absolutely everything we do and who we perceive ourselves to be. All of us, all of the work we do, all the children we have, the books we write, the buildings we build, the forests we destroy and oceans we pollute, they are all different ways we try our hardest to leave a footprint. To leave something behind that says we were here. But why and for whom? Why do we need to prove so badly that we exist? Because the possibility of the alternative haunts us. The thought of not existing terrifies us. But isn’t that what death is? Not existing, at least from here, from where we stand now in life. So is all this seeking of proof just a way of running away from the biggest shadow of our lives: death? Can all of this running stem from a fear of death? Can we ever fully rest until we accept death first as a part of us, until we accept that a state of nonexistence, a state of being nothing, a state of non-being is too a part of us? Death is of us in the same way our shadow is. And to find any sliver of peace in this life, one must learn to accept all of life, and that includes death. Because you see there can never be any proof of life except our experience of it. And to be able to relax, let go and fully experience life, we must accept life for what it really is — an experience of dying, of approaching death.
“If we are to take it as a truth that knows no exception that everything living dies for internal reasons — becomes inorganic once again — then we shall be compelled to say that ‘the aim of all life is death’ and, looking backwards, that ‘inanimate things existed before living ones’.” — Sigmund Freud1
Till next time,
1 Freud, S. (1920). Beyond the Pleasure Principle.
I write this blog not as advice but as a token of hope from one quarter life to another. We are not doomed. We are not helpless. We are merely a manifestation of the chaos and confusion that has befallen the world. Our anxiety is but a sign of a collective distress. We are not wrong in our feelings of sadness; we are not wrong in our feelings of anger; we are not wrong in our feelings of fear. We are only wrong in believing that love cannot save us, that kindness is not enough to change the world. We do not change the world by changing others; it is ourselves that are dying to change. So let us not resist the transformation, let us accept the invitation to change but it is through accepting that it is only ourselves we can change. We must look inside and avoid no more our Selves for they are screaming loud and clear. Let us open the channel of communication to our Selves and listen to what Self has to tell us. For there is no better angel to protect us than Self. There is no more loving god than Self. So let us grow this connection stronger to Self. Let us have faith once more in our Selves. For it is they who hold the answer to all. It is there that magic can be found, and faith restored. It is through Self that we come to believe in the infinite, in all that cannot be defined. In Love. In God. Let us navigate through the darkness, sit with it, listen to it and find the light within. It is only in the darkness of the night sky that stars can reveal their light. It is the darkness that allows them to twinkle. It is their friend indeed. It is yours too. So fear not the darkness that haunts you, for it is inviting you to reveal your light. Hoard your love no longer, for it is in sharing it with abundance, without fear of it running out, that it can come back to you once again. It is our belief in scarcity that has created this collective state of fear. What is fear but the belief that love is scarce? Once we learn to trust the infinite and believe that no resource in our Universe is finite, we will have peace in the world. No one will need to hoard their love in fear that it might run out. No one will envy another for beauty, opportunity or money because all is abundant. All exists infinitely but only if you believe. We shall prosper together in the infinite space of the Universe, but only if we accept our transformation of faith from that of scarcity to that of infinity. So my fellow quarter lives, I invite you to invite the darkness closer, it is but a friend wishing to illuminate you. Learn to love it for it is your teacher. It will guide you to the light. Remember, the only way out is the way in. So resist no more, for you are just tiring yourself, delving deeper into a loop of fear, so surrender yourself to the journey. Surrender yourself to your Self and go inside. Find the dark, find death, it is how you will find the light and come back to life once more. Remember, energy cannot be destroyed; it can only be transformed. So fear not your death, it cannot destroy you. Death is but a channel of change, so walk through it with trust. Trust is all we have to endure the pressures of change. Trust is what will keep you going when you are tunneling through the darkest corners of your Self. Trust is what will carry you when hope cannot. So trust Trust, she is your treasure, hold her tight. And as you navigate your own individual channels, I invite you into a journey of contemplation, one that has helped me a great deal to survive my own channel of change, my own death. It has taken me a quarter of a life to finally come to accept my fate as a being on this planet. I have been navigating through my fears, through the darkness to find faith again in myself, in love, in god, in peace. Remember, it is only when caterpillars die that butterflies are born. So embrace your death. It is the only way to be born again. May you all love again. May you all come to rest in peace.