The stumbling blocks of life
All of us want a life that is peaceful, happy, joyous, abundant, successful, and fulfilling. But there are many things that prevent it from happening. These are the stumbling blocks of life, which we need to factor in and understand. Let’s examine a few of them.
The existence of evil and evil people is a part of the design of life. We are programmed such that we have a choice to be cruel, insensitive, sadistic, brutal, harsh, unforgiving, etc. Some choose to exercise these options thereby making life painful for others. If they are powerful or at the helm of affairs, we cannot even fight them. We simply have to suffer them. History is full of potentates who inflicted suffering on others. Similarly in our daily lives, in family, in our work environment, we could encounter such people and we may not be able to do anything much about it. To counter the trauma that such people create we will need to spend more time in the company of people we enjoy being with.
War has been a way of life since time immemorial and is likely to remain unchanged until nature intervenes and rewires us. The tribal mindset which evolved as civilization progressed has still not left us. We will wage war over resources, territory, religion, ideology, and beliefs. Many innocent people will invariably suffer the consequences of war becoming refugees and losing all their possessions. Those living under such conditions need to cultivate a strong mindset and a resilient philosophy of life that is capable of withstanding such disasters.
Disparities in wealth are inevitable. All of us have not been endowed with equal talents, skills, intelligence, and inheritance. A person born in a rich family will have access to better quality education. Those who have beauty and charisma will be much sought after and be paid handsomely. This will lead to huge differences in earning capacities. Entertainers can earn in a day what some may earn in many lifetimes. All this will lead to heartburn, envy, and feelings of unfairness in life. Not everyone can be number 1. Only one person can. The rest will have to accept their lot and do their best in their chosen fields. Accepting this aspect of life that we all are not designed to be equal will go a long way in bringing peace of mind.
Interest and enthusiasm
We do have not the power to become interested in anything we want. Innate interest is required in many areas of life, such as music and the arts. Similarly higher mathematics is reserved only for a few brainy souls. Not many in this world can be interested in classical music. We cannot choose to become interested in nuclear physics or paleontology by sheer will. Some spark from within is required. Most people want to be rich but are unable to dedicate the time and energy to subjects that will make them rich as they do not have the enthusiasm from within and it is not possible to create and sustain the interest through willpower. Those who proclaim you can do anything that others can do and be anything you want to be, are leading you up the garden path. It is better to follow our innate nature even if it doesn’t make us rich or famous. Without interest, there can be no enthusiasm. Interest is a gift of nature to us. When there is interest there is no need to exercise willpower.
Our mind is not necessarily our friend. The mind can be very troublesome. It can distort our thinking, make us believe untruths, cause addictions, create unreal fears and worrisome thoughts, make us live in denial, bring ego into relationships, and a whole host of negative aspects. Dealing with the mind is a full-time job, for a lifetime. It is the greatest stumbling block in our lives. But we also need the mind. We don’t know and will probably never know why the mind behaves the way it does. Random thoughts appear from nowhere, the mind keeps chattering away, it loves to waste time fantasizing, it keeps quiet when it should speak up and speaks up when it shouldn’t. Since the mind is an autonomous entity and thoughts come on their own, we don’t know what thoughts will appear at any time. We have to deal with thoughts after they appear. Some of them can be very persuasive and demanding. Unless we learn how to deal with our mind we can never be at peace. The first step is to realise that we are not the mind.
The confusion caused by language is enormous. We are not precise in our communication. We may have something in mind to convey but the words we use will convey something else. Misunderstandings are common. The person whom we are communicating with may not be at the same level of maturity as us. We also do not assess the maturity level of the person we are talking to before communicating. Different people have to be spoken to differently. Not only words but the tone of voice and body language also convey meaning, which can easily be misunderstood. If the person is from a different culture, it becomes doubly complicated. Communication is a great stumbling block. Those who master the art of communicating clearly are one step ahead in life mastery. It requires constant practice and observation
One of the great stumbling blocks is unrealistic expectations. We cannot live without expectations. Expectations are mental models and can be of futuristic outcomes, other people’s behaviors, or our own capabilities. If these mental models are over-optimistic, we will suffer the consequences. As a rule, we should never give a person a task that is much higher than his capabilities. Invariably we misjudge the capacity of other people as we benchmark it against ours. If we can do it, we think they can too. Nothing could be further from the truth. Similarly, our expectations of outcomes can go wrong. In a married relationship, mismatched expectations are the major cause of unhappiness. If you marry a person who does not have the skills required to fulfill your expectations you are going to be frustrated. But if you demand from him only what he is capable of fulfilling then you will be happy. Learning to manage expectations is a life-long endeavor but well worth the effort. We have to learn by trial and error.
The human mind is capable of being corrupt. It has been given that choice and some people exercise that choice. They demand extra money to do their normal job. They are not satisfied with their salaries. They could delay or deny if not paid. But no one likes to pay bribes. It feels unjust, immoral, and unfair. Why pay extra for something that you are entitled to? But there is nothing much most people can do about it. In some countries, it is a way of life. Those who have fought the system have fallen by the wayside since the person you are complaining to is himself corrupt. If everyone is corrupt from top to bottom there is nothing that anyone can do because the person who could do anything is himself corrupt. Powerful people whose voices are heard, never raise their voices over corruption. We must learn to manage this aspect of life however disconcerting it may be. Otherwise, it will make us frustrated and produce extreme stress.
The design of life is such that what happened eons ago during our childhood can affect us for the rest of our lives. We may have long forgotten the incident but our bodies and memories haven’t. It is a bad design but that is the way it is and we have to deal with it. Bad memories can be a great stumbling block to happiness. Unearthing these memories and deconstructing them is hard work and will require the help of a specialist. Not many have the time, money, and patience to do this work. But it needs to be done. The unconscious forces that control our lives are far more powerful than the conscious ones we know about. These forces lie buried within and can cause havoc. We will never be able to link our psychosomatic illnesses and repeated difficult life situations to these past events. Erasing past memories is a continuous exercise.
Lack of money is one of the greatest stumbling blocks to a happy life. Not everyone is going to make big money since there is not enough of it. Also not many have the skill sets required to make money. But we are given hopes that every single human being on this planet can become a millionaire by all the self-help gurus in town. It is never going to happen. Then they will tell you that you did not work hard enough. Our relationship with money is critical. If it is a source of power and prestige and that’s what we aspire for, then it will begin to dominate, obsess and corrupt us. If it is a source for doing good then it will have a benign relationship with us. Money in the right hands is a blessing and in the wrong hands is a curse.
Other people can be great stumbling blocks too. Some can aid in our growth while some can deter it. We need to choose, if possible, the people we want to have in our lives. We must also avoid, if possible, those that disturb our peace and well-being. Don’t imagine you can reform them. Some people enjoy the discomfiture of others. They don’t want to be changed. When we cannot avoid people who make us uncomfortable then spend more time with those who make us comfortable. Drown the memory of your encounter with them with pleasant activities before the memory hardens and leaves a bitter taste within.
We are all victims of international politics. We are pawns in their deadly game. It is a vicious game, where self-interest rules supreme. A human being can be very compassionate at a personal level but when he becomes a leader of a country, he has to become ruthless when dealing with leaders of other countries. Compassion doesn’t exist in this sphere. No one trusts anyone in international politics. Some leaders believe in destroying weaker countries. All citizens of weaker countries are fated to be subservient to stronger countries. Might rules. Our happiness and well-being are controlled by someone not from our country. A decision taken far away in another country could affect us badly. If our country has weak leaders, they could be arm-twisted with ease. In an intertwined world in which we live this is happening almost on a daily basis. There is nothing much we can do about it at an individual level. All we can do is make our country as strong as possible through our actions.