To handle suffering well we need to discipline our spiritual life.
When we have a regulated life and we chant, hear and study scriptures, we get nourished and we are also directed by a superior intelligence to see our suffering maturely.
How to discipline Bhakti?
For young starters we have a morning program that Srila Prabhupada gave us. As we get older, we could tweak this program to adapt to our unique psycho physical nature and challenges of the body and mind. Nevertheless we keep the principle of discipline strong.
One act of discipline that is unique as we cross middle age is: ‘Pause and slow down’
As a young man or woman you took pride in doing many things in less time. But time humbles us. We need to honour the demands of age imposed restrictions. We then need to shift focus to what’s important and what are my limitations. But for many driven by the adrenaline of youth, slow down is difficult until they crash and hurt themselves badly.
An example will make it clear.
As a young man I did ten things before 10.00 am. Now, I can barely do five. If I push myself, saying Srila Prabhupada did much more, then not only do I suffer terribly at the bodily and mental level, but I invite additional suffering of guilt and inadequacy. Therefore suffering increases. However, if I now focus on what are my limitations and what’s really important for me, I can do much better. Thus, pause and slow down is crucial as we get older in life.
I remember some years ago I began cycling at the National park in Mumbai. At the last leg of the journey to canary caves, there is a steep climb when you can’t cycle but you drag your cycle and walk the twenty minute distance. Then when you ride down, it’s exhilarating as the speed downwards on your bicycle thrills you. The first time I came down the mountain on my cycle, I was in ecstasy as I sped down. I knew in a few seconds there would be a sharp curve on my left and I need to brake. But my intelligence was subdued by the adrenaline rush; I assumed I could manoeuvre at the curve while maintaining my speed. It was risky and could even be fatal. But I was blinded by my youthful passion.
Fortunately just a few seconds before I reached the downhill, an elderly tribal man, slowly trudging uphill, saw me and exclaimed, “Slow down dont Kill yourself.” I zoomed past him in an instant but his words had the effect; i applied both the brakes and slowed down and turned safely. It was a close shave.
In life, as we pass from youth, our intelligence knows we need to slow down or the injuries could be deadly. But many live in denial and push harder as curves and turns confront us. That’s when we need to apply brakes.
But that requires discipline- to ‘let go’ the thrills of youth is not easy.
Detachment is the need as we get older and to let go our fetishes and ideas of strength and estimation of our capacities calls for humility. But if we can pass this test with discipline, we end our suffering.
An elderly man I know struggled for a decade until he finally handled the reigns of his business to his son. He just couldn’t muster up enough courage to ‘let go’ – inability to recognize our limitations is a challenge.
And only with great discipline and determination we can make this choice and thus end our suffering.
This is ACCEPTANCE in action- the magic remedy for dealing with our sufferings.