I'll never forget the day I discovered the sheer joy that is found within even the saddest of times. It was in Mumbai, India, nearly forty years ago. My father's business had been completely decimated. We'd been living day to day, not knowing how we'd get our next meal..
I'll never forget the day I discovered the sheer joy that is found within even the saddest of times.
It was in Mumbai, India, nearly forty years ago. My father's business had been completely decimated. We'd been living day to day, not knowing how we'd get our next meal. One day, frustrated that we couldn't afford ice cream anymore, I complained to my mother, "These sure are sad times!"
Her response shook me to my roots and forever changed my clich?ideas about happiness and sadness. She pulled out a coin from her purse and placed it in the palm of her hand. I thought the coin was for ice cream. But she extended her palm towards me and asked, "What do you see?" Unsure of what was going on, I replied, "Heads!"
Mom lovingly ruffled my hair and said, "Right now, you see heads. But if I toss the coin again, you might see tails. Stop looking at what shows up with each toss. Look beyond. Tell me what you really see in the palm of my hand!"
It took a few moments before I understood what she was saying. All of us have a tendency to see things in life as they show up. But when we look deeper, we get a completely different perspective.
Two Sides of a Coin
With a coin, we focus on the side that's up, completely forgetting that heads and tails are merely different aspects of the same thing, that heads and tails depend on each other for their existence.
Similarly, with the events in our lives, we focus on the feelings of happiness or sadness they generate, completely forgetting that happy times and sad times are merely different aspects of experience, that we need them both in order to have full and meaningful lives. After all, how would we truly appreciate our happy times if we weren't able to contrast them with our sad times?
What my mother taught me that day is that we should never label an event as simply happy or sad, but instead remember that no matter what shows up, it's all a part of life.
Happy times and sad times are both part of everyone's existence.
It's only when you embrace this perspective completely that you realize how powerful it is and how true.
See Both Sides
When you give up your attachment to experiencing only happy events, you no longer harbour unrealistic expectations. You are no longer stressed or worried about the future. And you are no longer disappointed by what happens. You can begin to move through life with grace and dignity and a deep inner peace. You come to realize that the stress you experience doesn't come from the sad events themselves, but from the expectations you create.
Now, at this point you are probably wondering the same thing I was wondering the day when my mother transformed my perspective with the simple toss of a coin: Shouldn't we be striving to make our lives better and happier? And how can we ever attain a happier life if we don't set expectations?
A Simple Answer
Everything we experience in this world starts with how we see the world. When we see happiness and sadness as separate and unrelated, we go against the very tide of life. Without realizing it, we become the reason that turbulence enters our life.
On the other hand, when we strive to make our lives better while accepting that the outcome may be either happy or sad, then we get into the flow of life. Instead of reacting emotionally, we become rational and objective. We come to see how we can make even a sad event work in our favour. Ultimately, we are able to see how powerful we really are.
As my mother explained, "We can use these sad times as a gift, an opportunity to learn to be resourceful and resilient, adaptable and flexible. If we do this, we will experience the pure exhilaration that comes with self-empowerment."
She couldn't have been more right. Today, when I look back on those difficult times, I draw from them inspiration and courage and exhilaration because I know that, no matter what happens, I have it within me to emerge more powerful and successful.
Each event, whether happy or sad, can open the doorway to a life of sheer joy. It all comes down to how we see things.