How I walked out of my own darkness (part i)

On hindsight, I was very blessed and lucky, because despite all those dark thoughts and feelings I had, there was this very tiny part of me that seemed to be holding on to something. That somehow there is more to life than what I have experienced – all that pain and helplessness – that there is a greater, deeper meaning and purpose to life.

The beginnings of my spiritual awakening

I was 16, heartbroken after ending my first, ever relationship. Yes, the age whereby people assume all relationships are just made up of puppy-love. Looking back, it was the first time in my life when I truly felt loved and appreciated by someone, judged not by my success or results, but by the person I was. It was the first time I knew what it means to be happy, I actually looked forward to every day just to be with the person I loved. So, when the relationship fell apart, it felt like my whole world came crashing down. I thought that I had lost my newfound meaning and purpose to life. Crying intensely day after day for two years wondering how was I going to survive losing what was my entire world, I stumbled upon The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama.

I was never particularly religious, but something compelled me to read that book. I was probably tired of all that crying, and if there was a step-by-step guide of finding happiness, I would gladly try. One particular part of the book propelled a whole string of thought processes in my head, I cannot exactly remember the quote, but it was along the lines of:

“Imagine life like a swinging pendulum. It does not swing up or down, it swings left and right. Happiness and suffering should not be perceived as up and down, but rather as left or right…”

I was struck by that thought. That we like to attach a negativity connotation to suffering. What if we think of pain from a neutral standpoint, that it is an alternative experience to happiness, and not a negative one?

I did not know it then, but that planted the first seeds of my spiritual awakening.

There are no co-incidences

If you have watched Kungfu Panda, you might remember the tortoise master telling the panda that there are no accidents in this world. The first time I came across this concept was when someone passed me her copy of The Celestine Prophecy. It was a fictional story but it used the story to communicate several spiritual concepts. I would not say much of the quality of the writing, but back then, at the age of 19, my hair stood while reading the book because of the many epiphanies I had during the reading process. It introduced me the concept of synchronicity, whereby there are no co-incidences, everything happens for a reason, and that everyone has a purpose in your life.

The book compelled me to review my past, the roles people have played in my life, the seemingly unfortunate events that turned out to be blessings in disguise. Most importantly, I recognised that every time something negative happens to me, I seem to gain something positive out of it, eventually. This major epiphany created a re-processing of my thought patterns.

Most importantly, I recognised that every time something negative happens to me, I seem to gain something positive out of it, eventually.

Previously I would think that life had been unfair and meaningless, I allowed myself to be in the victim-mode and wallowed in self-pity. I pondered to myself, if everything happens for a reason, I can no longer have delusions about the unjust state of my life. I made myself think backwards, and the more I thought about it, the more I was convinced of its truth.

One example of a blessing in disguise

The combination of the above heart-break and my addiction to computers when I was 16 turned out to be too much to handle for me, as I did very badly for my GCE O’ Levels. The child prodigy had turned into the utter failure. My self-esteem plunged, as I blamed myself for being unable to separate my emotions from practicalities, and of course, my parents never ceased to remind me of their disappointment. For many years I could not live with the failure, I desperately wanted to prove myself, subconsciously I wanted my parents to feel like I deserved their love.

However, with the benefit of hindsight, I realised, if I had not done badly for my papers, if I had been a straight-As student as I was in elementary/primary school, I would probably gone on to complete my A levels, and then to University which I had intended to complete a liberal arts degree and step into teaching, in an attempt to follow in the footsteps of my cousins I grew up with, or rather, in a foolish attempt to gain mass approval.

I might have gotten out of that in the middle of it all, but I would probably be much more unhappier, and the fear of disappointment would have been greater, as the expectations would naturally become higher. I might have chosen a career I hated (shudder), and I might not ever get out of it.

I like the route I have chosen, even though it brought me a lot of doubt and pain, but if I had to choose all over again, to be that perceived utter failure or the child prodigy, I would gladly choose the utter failure anytime. At the very least, I can be proud to say that I had fought for what I love to do.

At the very least, I can be proud to say that I had fought for what I love to do.

Matter of perception

If, I had never read The Celestine Prophecy, if it never came to my mind the wonders of synchronicity, I might not have had the benefit of hindsight and the life-changing epiphanies. I would probably have focused very negatively on my past failures and unhappy events, and continued to perceive myself as the victim.

It is intriguing and yet powerful – the power of perception. One can choose to look at the silver-linings, or to think of oneself as the unluckiest person ever.

My original intention is to write one post on how I walked out of my own darkness, but I realised there’s too much to be written for one post. You might just fall asleep reading halfway. :P This will be followed up by a one or more parts. Thank you for your time and patience.