Panic struck when I lost
access to myself

This is an account of a struggle with one major, and sudden revelation life offered while this writer was entering her 30s. With broken dreams, a sudden void which had no apparent reason and a feeling of loneliness... the writer pens down her way out from these precious teachings and experiences of life.

A lot of changes happen when you hit the 30s - pressure to perform well at work, reach milestones quickly, keep up with the peer pressure, look your best. Add that to the realization you’re a fully functioning adult in the real world, make the right decisions. Be responsible!

Most of the times, we don’t realize that answers are discovered and they may take time in coming. We are living in the present, yet the past is still with us. Sometimes, a memory or an impression could just come up.

Life was all right, enthusiasm was high and mental strength, seemingly healthy. There were sprinkles of confusion, worries, fear, anxiety, restlessness, and impatience. Things were not drastic though. Life was manageable. Things, however, changed gradually. Events started affecting me, words hurt, emotional weakness was apparent. It was all unusual. Just out of nowhere, like a flash, realizations dawned - nothing had gone as per plan.

I reminded myself what I had heard a million times over: life gets real when you’re nearing 30. But that’s not true in every life-story; life can be real at any stage, at any age. Who can predict it?

The meaninglessness of the very existence is the first sign of struggle. There was no apparent reason for this - I had everything going. Almost perfect!

I could not understand my behavior. There was joy one day, the next day, there was misery. It was like a pendulum, a constant struggle: between drowning in negative thoughts and sudden spouts of extreme positive assurances about life. It’s not easy living a lie. Nor to be happy when there was no apparent reason to be. It’s a state of blankness. Days were filled with emotional outbursts. Nights were spent being anxious. I had lost connection with myself, and those around me. Sadness and loneliness made cameos, but it could not bury me under its weight. A part of me was a deserted fortress, but all was not lost.

It was all of a sudden, yet gradual. Now, I preferred an empty room. Less communication with pals, family. I just wanted to be alone. Solitude was not new to me, but I didn’t realize when it turned into loneliness. Avoiding colleagues to remain in an uninterrupted silence was gratifying. Silence was covering the upheaval within.

An unsettling change

I was a mess. I smiled, laughed, spoke like a pro at the workplace, but there was a different inner world. It is difficult to gauge who is genuinely happy and who is faking it. I faked my happiness and not a single person would know till I spilled the beans on my mental breakdown.

I aggressively pursued meditation (pun intended!) - something that came naturally since childhood. What a relief! I was not a regular, but whenever I meditated, I experienced an uplifted state of mind. Closed eyes, few deep breaths were helping me remain afloat. But...

My ability to sit still was fading. Bombardment of thoughts. Restlessness aboard. Rescue was failing. Where was my beautiful experience?

The practice which gave me access to my Self is now weakening. I had lost access to myself.

Never give up, says the world. So I didn’t

I persisted. I resorted to silence to go to the depth of my problem. One day, while I was meditating, the root cause of my unhappiness struck me like a flash of lightning.

Patterns are a real deal in life. Patterns can be good or bad. Lucky enough to identify the pattern, I confronted myself. In my already-grilled internal struggle, this realization burned a lot of the unnecessary chatter. It hit me hard; I was bound to my past.

Survival of fittest is an eternal statement, but fittest in today’s time and age majorly includes mental strength. I took a few days off.

The Art of Living Advanced Program became my refuge. I had done this program earlier once, but this time it was a desperate SOS call. It programed my inner being. I did not get a halo. I got a hello from life instead. After my Advanced Program, the air cleared, the silence helped me go deep in the hidden chambers of my being and clear the trash. Delete the unwanted memories and accept my life, events, and experiences. No victim consciousness or culprit consciousness. I have already started my journey to really understanding what living in the present means.

Here are my few bits after I learnt to release the past. You could begin with meditating daily for 20 minutes or whenever you find a negative thought coming to your mind, immediately shift your attention to positive things in your life. Let bygones be bygones:

1) Get more into meditation:

We perceive the world through our senses and our mind converts it into an experience. True we need our mind to be healthy, stable, strong, and calm to enjoy this world. But truer than this is the fact that we do not focus on our mental health. Like a newborn needs constant help from parents to grow, similarly, our mind too needs the constant support of certain practices which are specially designed for mental engineering. Meditation, breathing techniques like Sudarshan Kriya, yoga are needed to help align the mind. Mind’s tendency is to pick on the negative, dwell between the past and the future, to hold on things that do not matter.

Hopelessness will stare you in your face, but if you’ve been honest with yourself and had had some practice like meditation or yoga, it will not defy your being. You may appear to be on the verge of shattering, but the shield you’ve been building for years with your practices will turn into your superhero and safeguard you. So, do not lose hope on your practices. No matter how difficult it gets. Just. Keep. That. Practice. Going.

2) Awareness is the only anchor:

All said and done, the level of your awareness will filter uninspiring thoughts from uplifting ones. Some people go on with life without realizing the consequences of their actions, thoughts, speech, while some have the innate ability to be mindful of themselves and their surroundings. In our times, when challenges are more about proving our worth in the outside world, shifting our attention on achieving the peak of peace inside needs awareness.

3) Life is all about growing:

I find the positives in every situation. Since I was a child, I found nothing bad or I never uttered the words, ‘I did not like it.’ Be it a movie, a novel, a delicacy, an experience. Count it as my blessing or sheer luck, but this brought the attention back on the possibility of my survival. I knew that something will work in my favor.

4) Redefine failure:

Who coined this term, really? Failure?! There is never any failure. At a young age, I heard Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar say either you win or you make others win. This remained ingrained in me and on my worse mornings, I tell myself: Maybe yesterday I let my demons and my past win, but today I may win! Failure is like saying the sun does not exist after sunset! Perspective plays a crucial role in dealing with unfavorable times in our lives.

5) Listen to your Self, not the murmurs of the mind - your silent voice:

In any phase of life, amidst the routine, there will be one point in the day when our inner voice will shine. Psychologically, when in such intense moments of mental struggle, the flame of life will work doubly hard to show you signs - you must hold on. When you’re eating, taking a shower, a stroll, or just lying on the bed staring at the ceiling, a voice will give you some message. And you will get the cue if you listen carefully. The inner voice asked me to give up is quite an unrealistic figment of your imagination. Because the inner voice is the voice of life. It would not throw you under the dark. That’s something I figured after a long time.

Since the time I took these steps to better myself, I saw a difference in my approach to life. Today, with regular meditations and silence retreats, I handle my emotions better. Negative emotions do not hang onto me anymore. I have become stronger and wiser. Positivity comes natural, without effort. Surely, my attempts to not let the dark hour of my life drown me has worked in my favor. Happiness is not dependent on situations or people, but it is now a state of mind!

Written by Monica Patel
Based on wisdom talks by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
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