“Life is suffering” – the first of Buddha’s ‘Four noble Truths’

“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.” This phrase has always captured my attention since the first time I read M. Scott Peck’s book “The Road Less Travelled

I have always looked at life in retrospect. Sometimes I sit down and open my mind to the challenges of life and I have come to realise that it really is about a lot of things. Over time, I have come to challenge my own paradigms and views of life as I soldier on, however, one of the key things I have appreciated is that life is difficult…and  that It is not fair (By the way God is Not fair, He is JUST. Big difference! So stop crying around in search of pity and mercy about fairness and get tough. We will talk about that in The FOURTH PERSPECTIVE).

In life, we get what we bargain for and sometimes even that is taken away from us. In my daily life as a spectator and participants, I have learnt that four things are quite essential and here I will only discuss two: One being Discipline and the other Love. Why I choose these, you may ask, see, without discipline we can solve nothing but with discipline we can solve everything. As a kid, when mummy gave us food, sukuma wiki, Beef Stew and Ugali, most of us would start by eating Ugali and the Sukuma wiki, Delayed Gratification is a concept that we grasp early in life and it is an element of life that in retrospect spans all our actions. We then proceed to eat the beef stew as some sort of final celebration. Same thing with life, we as individuals must have the discipline to delay gratification. However, in today’s life, the youth especially are quick to want it all now. It is important that we learn that we must deal with life’s problems as soon as they present themselves and that gratification or success has a price to be paid. The greatest mistake we can make as individuals is to assume that problems will go away in their own accord. In relationships for instance, we must strive to pay the price for future gratification and long term happiness. When we make a conscious decision to be involved in one, then we as individuals must be willing and committed to it. Discipline, is what breeds commitment to a cause. In relationships just like in families, delayed gratification is a skill we learn and get to master over time. It requires a climate of great love (My second concept), self-worth, respect and security.  It is only when our partners feel secure, loved and Respected that they can make sacrifices for the relationships.

So what is Love? Many a people have tried to describe what love is. But for me, I will stick to the good book (The Bible). It says “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. Love never fails.”  This is the most comprehensive definition of LOVE I can find all the others are “SUBJECTIVE”.

When I look back at my life, I have come to realize that without Love we are nothing. The best place that I have experienced love is my Family. Looking back, I have come to realize that family forms the main unit where as individuals we come to know the essence (and our paradigm) of life. See, within the family unit, we experience unconditional love right from the time we step into the world but we must also realize that there are some of us who are not so lucky to experience this kind of love in their family. Ultimately, we as individuals must choose what we want in life because like the English poet William Ernest Henley says:

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll.

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.

So looking back, I have realized that I need more Love and Discipline in my life. The Discipline to know the Truth, The discipline to Speak the Truth in Love, The discipline to Condemn in Love without Judgement and to always realize that in the final analysis I am the Master of my fate, I am the Captain of my Soul.

The 5th Perspective

Relationships are difficult and when things become a little challenging, we all have a tendency to rush in and try to give advice or fix things before taking valuable time to listen and diagnose the issue. Simple, the tricks is to always try and understand the other person then try to be understood. In relationships like in life, things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which least matter (Goethe). The most important ingredient each of us involved in a relationship can contribute is not what we say or do but who we are, if our actions , attitudes and reasons come from a superficial technique rather than an inner core of deep commitment our partners will see us for who we really are – well at least eventually.

One of the habits that Stephen Covey asserts in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is the fifth Seek first to Understand, Then to be understood. Most of us do not realize the reason as to why the good Lord gave us two ears and just one mouth. Empathic listening – Really trying to understand what the other person is communicating plays an important role in building strong relationships.  This is specifically important in relationships first when disagreements arise (they always will) and when opinions differ. Even with this, those in relationships must realize that synergy draws its energy and effectiveness from differences between people and that all the facets – Emotional, mental and psychological differences all contribute to this. It is only when couples value the differences in perception that they are able to transcend the limits created by their individual respective paradigms of life and the situation at hand.

In practicing the 5th habit, one of the most important aspects is that we make ourselves vulnerable as we give ourselves away to the other person. However, it is only when we truly make ourselves vulnerable that we are able to lower our guards and emphatically listen and understands.  Remember this, needs that are satisfied do not motivate us to action and similarly, each of us in the relationship must not move to solve a problem before ensuring that the other’s need of being understood has been fully met. Diagnose before you prescribe.

Finally, remember that whenever your partner has a problem and you really listen to understand them, you will be surprised at how fully he or she will open up to you. Empathetic listening is not easy, and takes time to learn and master, however, it is not nearly as costly and as much time-consuming as it will be to correct misunderstandings further down the road. Maturity, which is the balance between courage and consideration, is thus a major ingredient in practicing the Seek first to understand then to be understood principle. Seeking to understand requires consideration whereas, seeking to be understood takes courage.