The Privilege Of Living Whatever Life Brings

Posted by Pavi Mehta on Feb 18, 2016
16091 reads  
As most of you know, mid-August of last year, Viral was very unexpectedly diagnosed with an acute form of bone marrow suppression. The past six-months we've been in near-seclusion. With the help of many skilled health practitioners, a detailed regimen, and the invisible support of the community, Viral has been slowly getting better. Updates from this journey to recovery are archived here. Below is a conversation that explores Viral's grounded perspectives on this latest surprise twist in the road.

Very early on in this experience with serious illness you referred to it as a privilege. Can you expand on what you mean by that?

I think our core happiness is determined more by the ways in which we respond internally to the situations we find ourselves in, than by the situations themselves. As Viktor Frankl put it, "No one can take away man's last freedom. The freedom to choose his or her own attitude given any set of circumstances." So if you understand your own mind that way -- as an agent in your well-being, then regardless of the situation you can look at the consequent state of mind that you're experiencing as a choice. Much of the time we don't actively choose our state of mind -- our habitual thought patterns and tendencies choose it for us. In that sense our state of mind can be a kind of window into some of our unarticulated patterns, our unconscious beliefs and sense of identity. Basically our experience contains both the conscious and the unconscious mind. It holds both explicit and implicit beliefs and tendencies. When you start to pay close attention to what the mind is doing, then you gradually start to understand which tendencies are helpful and which are not. And you increase your freedom to choose the most skillful response, both internally and externally.

So any experience, and especially intensive ones -- give you a window into your own subconscious mind and its blindspots -- ie it can uncover where there is a hidden tendency of mind. For instance at a rational level you may know you're going to die, that you're likely to go through illness, and that these things are inevitable, and you may think that you're well-adjusted to these realities and yet, the lived experience of coming face-to-face with that -- with your own mortality... you start to see that you actually have a lot of subconscious and unconscious tendencies. So in a way the privilege is really the privilege to, in short, purify the mind.

Can you clarify what you mean by 'purify the mind'?

To make it-- no actually, let me rephrase that -- to *experience* it becoming more harmonized and less self-undermining. Our tendencies of mind aren't always in our best interest. And so, the more that we can become aware of and support those tendencies in dissolving, the more we can actually act from a place of freedom and from a place that is cognizant of what is real in this moment, and the less dis-ease we experience.

What do you mean by 'a place of what is real in this moment'?

Experiencing reality more in alignment with how it actually is, in an unfiltered way. Or filtered consciously, without *distortion* from your own strong patterns of perception, interpretation and reaction.

It's hard to project anything on anybody else -- not knowing their lived experience. But speaking from my own experience, I've tried to hold that space within myself in structured ways over the years through meditation, and I see a direct relationship between that and a progression on this path of a more fluid immersion into reality.

What has that process been for you?

I practice Vipassana (a specific meditation practice). And the process for me, in a way, has been to endeavor to simplify, or come to a more root level of experience within the dimensions of being. The thoughts that you have, the emotions that you feel, the sensations that you experience etc all of this is operating simultaneously -- in a massively parallel, highly unconsciously generated, and propagated manner. We live in the midst of the swirl of what it means to be alive. So coming to the root level for me in my experience has been being at a place where I am actually increasingly aware of all of these things, but in particular remaining rooted in the experience of literal feeling in the body.

The body is a very sensitive instrument, both in our perception of reality but also in our grounding of reality. The body always exists in the present moment. You can only feel the body and its sensations in the present moment, whereas thought and emotion can very easily sweep you away from your present reality. The bodily feeling -- even within that there's an entire spectrum. You can touch your hand and that's one level of feeling. But in fact at a subtler level the body is in constant contact with the mind at all times, and so the greater your perception of the subtle things happening in the body, the greater your direct perception of the impact of the mind from moment to moment.

So at a more concrete level we know that there are all these hormones and electromagnetic impulses that are constantly being triggered and regulated throughout our system. Whether it's the connection between the release of dopamine and the surge of happiness that we might feel. Or at an experiential level the pit in your stomach when you're anxious or nervous, there's no questioning a deep, rapid and continuous, iterative connection between the body and the mind. Iterative in the sense that it goes in both ways -- it's not just that the mind is affecting the body, but that how you experience that feeling on the body, is in turn then affecting the mind again -- which in turn connects to the body and so on, on a very minute and rapid basis.

One part of the process or exercise is to actually *feel* at increasingly subtle levels. And the other part is to not generate the type of reactivity to what you're feeling, which actually -- or otherwise would just keep the propagation going.

This 'not generating' -- is it a clamping down?

I think the subtler thing that's happening is that you're just seeing the cause and effect of your reactions and so in that sense you are really basically putting yourself in a position where deep, root-level learning can occur.

I was talking to my friend J and she was talking about how as a very young child she was just puzzled by why people ever got angry because anger just felt so bad. Anger was concomitant with feeling terrible. And why would we ever choose that for ourselves? Why do we choose that for ourselves? So somehow for her that deep learning had taken place for her at a very early age, and even to this day, she just doesn't really get angry. But going back to that question of -- how do we not react, we also have to realize that it is a very iterative thing. We might hear the example of J, but in reality effective learning doesn't happen at an intellectual level, you actually have to keep learning internally and iteratively until the habitual neuron firing pattern that we've built up over time, gets, over time, de-programmed. So when we talk about learning it's not an intellectual learning it's really a deep neuronal level learning -- and actually it's also more about un-learning at that level.

How is this different from passivity?
It's actually a greater more refined kind of aliveness in the sense that you're more alive to so many different dimensions of your experience instead of being limited by and herded along unskillful corridors of reactivity. You can actually and *do* actually start to make active choices. So it's not about avoiding action, but about choosing action consciously and in wisdom and consistent with your actual greater self-interest.

Your recovery path has it's own pace and unpredictability. How are you feeling about it all :)?

Right now I'm feeling more clear about feeling unclear :) Meaning that, when uncertainties of this sort surface it's a reminder to remain rooted in the unknown. And in actuality, life is fundamentally that way, in the sense that no one can definitively say what is going to happen -- it's all emergent, including at the level of one's own literal life. Anyway, with this most recent turn, it's a great signal that here's still some work to be done to really make that notion the basis of this whole period. This newer uncertainty that has come back up again with the dip in the counts -- there's something to learn from this. You can get lulled into thinking you are past something, or through with something, when that isn't the actual reality.

Every situation gives you an opportunity to work in a particular dimension. And right now what's surfaced is this sense of 'Let's not Assume'. And a renewed conviction that our sense of stability or security needs to come from a deeper place than a set of favorable external conditions. And this period of uncertainty is a great opportunity to continue deepening in that practice. That said, I actually feel good at all levels, physically, mentally etc. I don't think we fully understand the underlying patterns of what's happening here. But it's spurring us to patiently trust the natural emergence and not look too deeply into the numbers. Intuitively things feel like they are in process towards balancing. But psychologically the emphasis is on engaging with this state of 'not knowing' and finding a truer stability in that.

It's a good life :)

Posted by Pavi Mehta | | permalink

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Comments (29)

  • Becky Jaine wrote ...

    Dear Pavi, Thank you for sharing this beautiful journey and Viral's profound wisdom and meaning. I wish you and Viral peace and love, and beauty unfolding. <3

  • Birju Pandya wrote ...

    those pictures are priceless!

  • Jay Shah wrote ...

    Dear Pavi Thank you for all your updates about Viral so beuatifully and also sharing this interview with amazing Viral showing so much inner wisdom under very difficult external circumstances. I will continue to pray God for Viral's quick recovery. Salute to both you and Viral for such a high level of inner stability.

  • Mihir Kaji wrote ...

    Thank you so much

  • saroj wrote ...

    Pavi and Viral: Thanks for sharing and enlightening with such wisdom: "security needs to come from a deeper place than a set of favorable external conditions." and your pictures are priceless. Love to both of you beyond what words can express..

  • Neha Phukan wrote ...

    Dearest Pavi, I'm so inspired by how Viral is processing this entire period..reading these reflections refreshes my own commitment to practice in a very deep way. Prayers and gratitude for both of you!

  • Afreen Malim wrote ...

    So utterly beautiful - loved reading this! Brought another wave of love and admiration toward you two :-)

  • Pancho Ramos Stierle wrote ...

    <3!!! as am reading this song, couldn't help to recall that when we move from "i" to "we" even "illness" becomes "wellness" ;-) Jai Jagat!

  • Sam Bower wrote ...

    Sending so much love! It feels like forever since I've seen you but you are in my prayers daily. I feel so inspired by your journey and the implications it has for all of us. Interesting to me how making something "personal" carries greater weight somehow. Thank you for sharing your experiences and example. Deep bow, healing and metta.

  • Michaele Premet-Rosen wrote ...

    So many pearls here. Grateful for your sharing. Blessed be.

  • Patricia-C Prada Jimenez wrote ...

    I appreciate your experience (and your sharing it) very much indeed. Thank you! I like the idea of experiences being windows into ourselves...

  • Ariel wrote ...

    I often wonder how I will react when I have my the fullest reality of impermanence, and just how much these dharmic practices will support equanimity. Your words provide additional evidence that the practice works! May you continue to transform dukkha into compassion and wisdom.

  • Neil wrote ...

    This is the best :)

  • Jyoti wrote ...

    Blessings and prayers. Thank you for getting clearer on what's unclear.

  • Harpreet wrote ...

    Beautifully said Viral.... and I can relate to this very vividly and physically as I too went through similar ups and downs when I had the situation about 11 years ago.

    You are doing so well, and a great inspiration to us all...

    I found then, and still do now, that many of the fears we find in ourselves, or those deep neurological impressions of old fears, are also remnants of the fears of our forefathers and mothers.

    I feel that part of our journey here and now, is to help heal those old fears for our family lineage!

    Isn’t it fun... Most of the time at least. Sometimes we just wonder.... and thats OK too... :-)

    Many blessings and good wishes to you dear friend.
    You and Pavi have been in my thoughts...


  • Sima Sanghvi wrote ...

    Thank you so much for sharing this interview, Pavi! Viral's words are wise as always - and he's inspired us to also live and be present to what is emerging naturally. So much gratitude for you both!

  • Varsha wrote ...

    Grateful to read your shared journey of togetherness, inner strengths and collective, Pavi and Viral. Am awed by how balanced Viral seems to be throughout-- a great inspiration. :) I think it points to the mind-body connection and how we are not our bodies or minds, but something more than that. Thank you for sharing so eloquently a journey towards healing that many do not have words to express. Wishing you well-being as participants and caregivers in the process. Namaste.

  • Bela wrote ...

    Time stops when I read your blogs and updates Pavi and Viral.... So much leaves me in awe... Not in a pedestalyzing way.... but more from a deeper place of constant learning. To share with such grace and beauty in this time of very real, in your face uncertainty is an incredible teaching, learning, and gift. A deep bow to both of you and to everyone that's holds each other with this depth of love.

  • Aryae wrote ...

    Dear Pavi -- love and hugs to you and Viral. There is courage and practice and wisdom in these words to last a lifetime. I shall carry them with me in my mind and heart.

  • Roshni Shah wrote ...

    such a beautiful sharing, Pavi & Viral. Thank you for remaining vulnerable in your journey so that we all can learn. Lots of love, light, and laughter to you both!!

  • Anne-Marie Bauer wrote ...

    Carrying you both in my heart. Thank for this incredible gift of a window into your journeys. And for the gems of insights that are saturated from a well that runs deep within. A deep bow to you both. Lots of love!

  • gayathri wrote ...

    PaViral :)) many many times at wednesdays have always felt your deeply silent presence which gave me this wonderful sense of know 'this is what it actually means to be present so beautifully', even when you would be doing your meditation upstairs..and now to get a deeper and a fuller perspective on Vipassana through your experience and words is truly a "Present"....much gratitude n deeper dwellings to you n hugs, gayathri

  • Meghna Reva wrote ...

    Deeply deeply humbled in the rootedness of it all. Ever since Pavi's last update I've been contemplating a statement Viral put towards her.. "everything is fine.. you have to expand your definition of fine". Thank you for sharing and expanding on it in so many ways.. I would want to request more of such candid interviews if possible :) :) Love and prayers always!

  • Brinda Govindan wrote ...

    Dear Pavi and Viral,
    Big hugs to you both as you experience this new journey, and huge gratitude to you for sharing so much wisdom and truth with all of us in the process. You both handle everything in life with so much equanimity and grace--it is uplifting and inspiring to all who come across your path.
    Sending much love and lots of smiles your way,

  • Prasad wrote ...

    Dear Pavi: I learn so much from you and Viral... with much love and prayers to both of you

  • Mike Ludgate wrote ...

    Tx. For the generous, personal portal in "what heals".

    purify the mind'👣triggered these reflections for one's Adventures in Wholeness:

    The Meaning Of Life
    The meaning of life is felt in relationship
    Relationship with others and with one's own self
    From what it is as child to who it becomes as adult,
    Parent, grandparent, and ultimately,
    as ancestor.

    The meaning of life flowers through relationship,
    Parenting, teaching, serving, creating,
    Learning through nature, the sages, our peers,
    Through our emerging selves in a state of becoming.

    Little by little, human consciousness is prepared to feel the ubiquitous, mysterious 'rapture of being alive' and be increasingly gifted as one may embrace 'an embodied knowingness' and spaciousness/presence of how God loves and liberates us [becoming more harmonized and less self-undermining].

    As Marcus Aurelius of antiquity notes:
    "When you arise in the morning, think of what a prescious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love."

    And as Emily Dickinson so poetically offers, across time and space:
    "We turn not older with years, but newer everyday."

    Be well, my friend.

    PS ~ "Happy Leap Day" into continued wellness.

  • Rish wrote ...

    Thank you for this

  • Dhaval wrote ...

    Dear PV team,

    Great words of wisdom! Who needs the fountain of youth anymore!

  • Preeta wrote ...

    Dear Pavi and Viral - what an amazing gift! Such a deep expression of insight and wisdom.