By Kalai Jayaseelan
The uncertainty and unpredictability of human Life is a given fact. Never has this fundamental truth of Life been made so apparent in our lifetimes ever like the pandemic that we are experiencing right now. It has been only a few months since I became a full-time freelancer. Like millions of others in the world, I also experienced the dark hour of chaos as I sat there wiping out my calendar for the foreseeable future, having no clue where Life is heading.
But luckily for me, the chaos was short-lived, lasting hardly for an hour. Like the ripples in the pond cease to be after being cast by a stone; the calm in me emerged naturally as the emotional ripples slowly ceased to be. All thanks to the tools and some helpful realisations I have acquired along the way, which I am pleased to share here with you.
So what is it? What could be the real secret to resilience? In the face of challenge, how do we not only cope but also show up with full vigour, each day, every day?
Here is what I found out after digging-in deep to discover what helped me cope. It comes down to this – it is all about letting go of the paddles! Yes, you heard it correct. Just let go of the paddles.
What do I mean by that? To understand let’s ponder over the following.
Without a tinge of doubt, all of us know that “Change” is the only constant that never changes. Change is at the very fabric of our existence. And yet, we humans firmly refuse to come to terms with it because we think we are in control. Of course, we are in control you would think. And I agree. We are definitely in control – not of the change – but only of our response to the change.
Let’s visualise this analogy for a moment. Consider Life as an ever-flowing perennial river and each of our existence as a boat in this ever-flowing river. Say, all we want to do in this life is to have a pleasant ride. We know the current always flows downriver and so paddling a boat upriver the ride is going to be hard. Whereas, if we let go of the paddles, the downriver’s current will automatically carry the boat and the ride is going to be easy!
Of course, at the start, not knowing where the currents will take us, it is going to be scary as hell. But as we understand the fundamental truth that uncertainty is the natural current of Life, it becomes easy to let go of the paddles, effortlessly achieve alignment with our well-being, and ultimately attain our true freedom. In no time we will be finding ourselves having one hell of a ride, Life seething with adventure and a heightened sense of aliveness.
Now try this out for yourself. Close your eyes for a moment and visualise how it feels like to paddle against the upriver currents. Now, visualise how it feels to let go of the paddles and effortlessly slide through the downriver currents!
What do you notice? Do you feel an immediate sense of ease in letting go? If so, precisely, that is why letting go of our paddles is such a powerful idea!
Here are some more benefits for you to consider.
Few classic examples of paddling against the river are: wanting things to be different than what it is right now, wanting to be someplace else than where you are right now, wishing for someone in your life to be different than who they are right now, you name it!
Wishing for things to be different in itself is not a bad thing, but if that causes you anxiety, stress, fear and worry in the present moment, it is a sure sign of paddling upriver. Let go of the illusion of control; in other words, let go of the paddles. The moment you let go, the current is going to carry you from where you are right now naturally. So this too shall come to pass! Knowing this, you instantly find your inner peace.
Some of us are frantically trying to find a higher purpose and assign meaning to these times of crisis. Some of us are beating ourselves and others up to be intentional and over-productive. Some of us feel utterly demotivated because we see no purpose whatsoever in Life. The range of human experiences for any given situation as always never ceases to fascinate us.
But only a select few amongst us realise that our ultimate purpose of existence is to experience happiness. Whatever we perceive as our purpose, the reason we perceive so is ultimately to feel happy! So, why not let go of all the paddles of imaginary purpose and simply be? Doing this, you instantly achieve your ultimate purpose.
The biggest irony of human Life is this – our ultimate purpose is to find happiness. Still, we subject ourselves to struggle, pain and hardship with a romantic idea that happiness is something to be savoured at the end of the journey in a not so distant future: a future that only exists purely as imagination in our head.
This idea that happiness is through pain is so ingrained in us that we feel that there is no choice other than to suffer, no choice but to wait for normalcy to return our happiness back. Letting go of the paddles and turning downriver, we become present and realise there is no other moment other than NOW to experience happiness. Being an instrument for other’s happiness in the NOW, you instantly find your happiness.
Time to take action
Now, my question to you is this. Knowing rowing upriver against the currents of Life is going to cost you peace, purpose and happiness of your very existence, what choice do you want to make? Are you ready to let go of your paddles and turn your boat downriver? Are you ready to embrace the uncertainty and enjoy this adventurous and alive ride we call Life?
If you choose to do so, all it takes to align with the natural currents of well-being is to bring intentional mindfulness to your day-to-day life. Mindfulness – a simple yet powerful practice of cultivating moment to moment conscious awareness of the way we think, feel, speak, act and be. Practising mindfulness, we become painfully or blissfully aware of how we are doing with our paddles, i.e. how we are doing with our Choices! Simples.
Here is to boldly letting go of the paddles and opening up to boundless possibilities!
And some helpful tools to get you started on the journey.
Free guided mindfulness
Tools for Resilience
Search inside yourself – Book (Short summary)
I hope you enjoy your ride. Onward and forward together!
About the Author
Find out more about Kalai Vanii Jayaseelan – Search Inside Yourself teacher and Co-founder at Sukhaatma. Kalai is currently actively engaged in helping employees of tech, healthcare and research to find calm, clarity, purpose and work-life balance in these times of crisis and uncertainty. Schedule a call or register your interest with her to bring highly practical mindfulness training to your virtual workplace for a transformative experience. It is so timely right now!
Stay Healthy, Stay Safe and get Connected!
Related article: CamAWISE Mindfulness Sessions 2020.