Updated: Apr 4, 2020
I was finding it tough… to find that spark of joy…amidst certain difficult times... I was bogged down by the weight of my thoughts! Thoughts such as ‘what’s the meaning of life?’, ‘what are we chasing when one day we are sure to leave this world?’, ‘I can never be happy when my loved ones are suffering!’, ‘How can I be happy when people are fighting and getting killed around the world?’ etc., etc.
I was going about doing my duties, and what was required of me, but deep down were these questions that I was constantly seeking answers for. I was lacking the positive energy that usually sees me through the multiple things I handle each day! I would look at my eyes in the mirror and realize that they had lost their twinkle…that spark!!
It was an unusual state of being for me, to get so buried in questions about life and not getting a clear answer/guidance. These thoughts were a result of my recent experiences, starting with being in a natural disaster last year and then a series of news about people I know facing life-threatening illnesses, injuries from fatal accidents, becoming bed-ridden and losing lives….
I was so grounded by life’s realities that even in certain moments when I would normally have been ecstatic, I found myself detached. Joy seemed elusive! For once I felt that being positive at all times is easier said than done. In fact, a friend of mine pointed out that it’s tough to express a sad state of mind these days due to the social pressure of positivity. It becomes worse when one starts receiving unsolicited advice on staying positive. So, most people who go through such times either put up a brave front or become aloof, especially from social media, which is deceptively brimming with pictures of people beaming with joy and leading the best of lives. I wish we could simply remind ourselves that it’s normal to feel sad as much as it’s normal to feel happy and one needn’t feel the pressure to be happy at all times.
One question that haunts the mind during tough times is ‘why me?’ or ‘why my family’?! Many people would be able to relate to this. However, this is a crippling question that can make one feel stuck. For a simple reason that there is no answer! After all who doesn’t go through challenges? In fact, accepting tough times to be a normal part of life’s journey is important in moving forward. The resilient ones are those who know this. 'Accepting' is not putting up a brave front, rather It’s being true to how you are feeling about the situation- bad, sad, overwhelmed, distressed, angry, frustrated etc. and knowing that it’s okay to feel these emotions and let it out.
There was an earlier time in my life when I faced a huge challenge, a time when I had felt the pressure to put up a brave front - a time when I didn’t want anyone to know what I was going through! The reason - I didn’t want to be judged!. I was already labeled ‘sensitive’ and ‘emotional’. I was ashamed of my true expressive nature! I was breaking down inside without providing a vent out for my broiling feelings within. It was only when these bottled up emotions manifested as a nagging stomach pain called the ‘irritable bowel syndrome (IBS}’ that I understood the consequences of being in denial.
I recognized that my true nature was really my superpower- the ability to express myself genuinely in both happy and sad situations. Showing vulnerability and asking for support during tough times is indeed an important element of resilience.
Once we let ourselves and situations be, it becomes easier to take steps to move forward without feeling stuck.
Four Powerful Ways to Find that Spark Again
1) Finding moments of inner SILENCE: In moments of silence, truth shines! The truth that ‘I’ am insignificant in the large scheme of life, to ‘let go’ and most importantly ‘let be’. Both joy and sorrow are inevitable truths just as birth and death are. We need to let those things be that are beyond our control. When one of our family members went through a horrific accident recently, my 8-year old son, Madhav, said he wished he had a time machine through which he could go back in time and changed what happened. I was touched by his kind heart and pure intent. But the fact is at the moment we do not have such capabilities, so we accept and do what is within our abilities to move forward.
How do you find those moments of silence? Meditation and exercise (yoga, walking, running) are great ways to incorporate moments of silence. Most of us lack the motivation to incorporate these practices in our lives and do not really understand how to. I suggest getting a teacher and a support group so that you learn the right techniques and remain motivated through the group.
2) SMILING unconditionally: When going through painful times, it is but natural that the corners of our lips go down making it very tough for a smile to appear. The sad part is that these days we do not even smile unless there is a reason to smile. How often do we smile at colleagues we see every day but do not work with? The lack of a simple courteous smile has made it possible to work under the same organization for years as strangers. Why? Are we afraid that our smile won’t be reciprocated? Or have we become extremely conditional about a smile? An unconditional smile is a really a ‘secret power’ that not only benefits the person who holds the smile, but also others through a ripple effect. Even during tough times it’s possible to light up a smile if we can remember and count our blessings, including our own life.
3) SURROUND oneself with loving people: The number of people who truly love and feel genuinely for you may be not many. What’s important is to know who they are and surround yourself with your well-wishers. I used to be such a people pleaser in the past that I found myself constantly chasing after people who would never appreciate or approve me. Today I recognize people-pleasing as a self-sabotaging habit. It’s a waste of time and energy to be around people who zap your energy. Instead spending time with people who loves you as much as you love them is an energy booster and is uplifting.
4) SURRENDER: Let’s stop pretending that we know everything. We can be subject matter experts, but that doesn’t give us the qualification to know it all. I am pained to see people thrashing each other on social media, including our leaders, to prove a point or to demonstrate their views to be correct. As a mother I am ashamed that there are no examples I can show my children on good global leadership which needs to be based on values, caring (for people, planet and others views) and sharing. It’s when we surrender and accept that ‘I DON’T KNOW’ that the ‘learning’, which is truly the cherry in the pie, in any tough situation becomes evident. Every challenge we face comes with a learning that teaches us something.
Those who know this move forward even stronger than ever before with a spark - of love, gratitude and peace!!
Lakshmi Ramachandran, PhD is the founder of ' A Productive Life', a concept through which she aims to enable people to live a life of 'Clarity', 'Consistency' and 'Contentment'. Dr.Lakshmi is a Professional Speaker, Coach and Writer. She has a PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology from SUNY Buffalo, USA, and has over 15 years work experience in science as a researcher, communicator and administrator. Read more about her here.