7 Profound Lessons On Life From A Toddler And A 25-Year-Old

17/09/2015 8:05 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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child alone


He suffers in silence.

Every time he wants to change position to stand or sit, he freezes. The pain is evident in his eyes.

He says, "laga" (it hurts) but continues to attempt to change position. Still, all the while, he smiles. Once he succeeds, he laughs out loud, as if to say I conquered it.

"He" is my 25-year-old son, Mohit.

He has severe back pain, at present.

He can't tell me how excruciating it is or even where exactly it hurts.

Mohit has autism.

I watch her interacting with her mother. They share a beautiful, playful relationship. Cooing, gurgling, trying her best to form words, this little one gives life her 100%.

By the time, she was four months old, she had already had two major surgeries, for congenital heart disease and pyloric stenosis. The doctors had given up on her.

But she emerged from the deepest torment. And she emerged smiling.

She is Meher. A blessing from God. She is only 19 months old. She has Down Syndrome.

Meher's mother, Sia, is an amazing, dynamic young woman. She never questioned Meher's painful diagnosis. She accepted her bundle of joy, wholeheartedly, on the day of her birth -- the day she was told that her baby had Down Syndrome.

"I see Mohit and other students with whom I work living totally in the present. They may even experience a rage or meltdown. But once it's over, it's over..."

For me, the why me, poor me phase lasted a while. Even now, it rears its ugly head occasionally; thankfully not often.

I am overwhelmed by what I observe about Mohit and Meher. My emotional heart totally overpowers my strategising mind. I move into the beautiful space of mindfulness.

Just by being themselves, Meher and Mohit teach me a few truths about life.

1. Carry your burdens lightly

Who doesn't have problems in life? Health problems, relationship issues, financial stresses... These may or may not be apparent. What matters is how we carry these problems. Are we constantly complaining and blatantly bitter?

Surely, our problems can't be greater than the ones Mohit and Meher carry.

We really have no excuse, but yes, we always have a choice. I hope that we make the right choice -- enough times to make a difference.

2. Smile often and laugh a lot

"If we are to die in a minute, why not die happily, laughing?" - Swami Satchidananda

I see Meher laughing and gurgling away. I see Mohit laugh a lot too. I see my husband Anil's yoga teacher working on laughter therapy with him. I am mostly in the next room when I hear them laugh out aloud. It always brings a smile to my face too! Read comics, share jokes, find stuff that makes you laugh. The load feels lighter.

3. Don't take life too seriously

I certainly don't mean this in a flippant, frivolous way. This is a piece of advice that I want to imbibe. I often take things too seriously. So, somebody was rude to me. Well, he may be having a rough day for God's sake! My daughter, Tanya, loves to throw this one at me. "Mom, it's not always about you!" Checkmate.

Be sincere, not serious.

4. Let it go

Once it's over, it's over. Let it be... let it go.

I personally find this difficult too. The octopus mind likes to hold on to situations and events with all its tentacles. But I also know that letting go creates an immense feeling of freedom and light-heartedness, as light as a floating feather.

I see Mohit and other students with whom I work living totally in the present. They may even experience a rage or meltdown. But once it's over, it's over... as if nothing happened. Back to normal, back to facing life head on.

5. Overthinking is a killer

Overthinking is something that everybody can do without. It saps the joy out of the present moment. We can choose to respond to situations with love rather than to react to situations by over-strategising.

By the way, I never see any of my students on the autism spectrum playing mind games. They respond to situations naturally, and from a place of love.

6. What you resist persists

Have you been in a situation that you just didn't want to face? Maybe a relationship issue or a work-related problem that you tried to avoid? We human beings have a certain escapist tendency. We feel that if we avoid something, it will go away. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen.

"He is laughing at me because I'm thinking too much... yet again. 'Just be. Don't think. It's that simple,' he is saying."

Sometimes we need to dive headlong into a difficult situation. We need to embrace the experience and learn the lesson. Easier said than done, and I don't mean to be preachy. As I write this out, I myself am experiencing a difficult situation.

I can picture Mohit trying to stand up from sitting position, when he had the back pain. He faced it with a smile. He persisted and dealt with it. And he recovered in two days.

On the other hand, I have chronic back pain and I'm normally laid up in bed for a week when I have a spasm.

7. This too shall pass

I'm reminded of a story:

A student went to his meditation teacher and said, "My meditation is horrible! I feel so distracted, or my legs ache, or I'm constantly falling asleep. It's just horrible!"

"It will pass," the teacher said matter-of-factly.

A week later, the student came back to his teacher. "My meditation is wonderful! I feel so aware, so peaceful, so alive! It's just wonderful!'

"It will pass," the teacher replied matter-of-factly.

Life goes by in a flash. Everything, I repeat, everything passes. If we're experiencing good things -- they too pass. If we are experiencing storms in our lives -- they too shall pass. A great spiritual truth, if really understood, would make our life so much easier.

So much food for thought... so much to learn.

Mohit and I are lying down for an afternoon siesta. We chat a little about how the day has been. I tell him about this article that I'm working on. He looks at me deeply as I ask him how on earth I'm going to implement what I've just written.

He suddenly starts to laugh aloud. Delightful, uncontrolled peals of laughter from deep within. His laughter is contagious. We both laugh until we have tears in our eyes.

Suddenly the penny drops. He is laughing at me because I'm thinking too much... yet again.

"Just be. Don't think. It's that simple," he is saying.

"While everyone in this world strives to go somewhere and become someone, only to leave it behind after death, you aim for the supreme stage of nothingness. Live life as light and empty as the number zero. We are no different from a pot. It is not the decorations outside but the emptiness inside that holds us straight. Just like that, it is not what we aspire to achieve but the consciousness of nothingness that keeps us going." -- Elif Shafak

What do you think about these children and what they teach us? I would love to hear from you.

This post originally was published on the SAI Connections blog.

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