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I am a believer in pursuing one's passion and enabling others to realize their potential. Working with women and girls is my passion.

Friday, May 28, 2010

It shall pass

One of my favourite phrases is “This too shall come to pass”. It is one of the phrases that console me and challenge too, since if something very good is happening then I need to enjoy it in full knowing it will come to pass. On the other hand if going through difficult periods am happy to know if it will be forever. I sought to look at the history behind the phrase and the most common one is this story. (http://pravstalk.com/this-too-shall-pass)

‘Once a king called upon all of his wise men and asked them,” Is there a mantra or suggestion which works in every situation, in every circumstance, in every place and in every time. In every joy, every sorrow, every defeat and every victory? One answer for all questions? Something which can help me when none of you is available to advise me? Tell me is there any mantra?”

All the wise men were puzzled by the King’s question. They thought and thought. After a lengthy discussion, an old man suggested something which appealed to all of them. They went to the king and gave him something written on paper, with a condition that the king was not to see it out of curiosity. Only in extreme danger, when the King finds himself alone and there seems to be no way, only then he can see it. The King put the papers under his Diamond ring.
Some time later, the neighbours attacked the Kingdom. King and his army fought bravely but lost the battle. The King had to flee on his horse. The enemies were following him, getting closer and closer. Suddenly the King found himself standing at the end of the road - that road was not going anywhere. Underneath there was a rocky valley thousand feet deep. If he jumped into it, he would be finished…and he could not return because it was a small road…the sound of enemy’s horses was approaching fast. The King became restless. There seemed to be no way.

Then suddenly he saw the Diamond in his ring shining in the sun, and he remembered the message hidden in the ring. He opened the diamond and read the message. The message was – “ THIS TOO SHALL PASS”. The King read it. Again read it. Suddenly something struck him- Yes! This too will pass. Only a few days ago, I was enjoying my kingdom. I was the mightiest of all the Kings. Yet today, the Kingdom and all his pleasure have gone. I am here trying to escape from enemies. Like those days of luxuries have gone, this day of danger too will pass. Calm came on his face. He kept standing there. The place where he was standing was full of natural beauty. He had never known that such a beautiful place was also a part of his Kingdom.

The revelation of the message had a great effect on him. He relaxed and forgot about those following him. After a few minutes he realized that the noise of the horses and the enemy coming was receding. They moved into some other part of the mountains and were near him. The King was very brave. He reorganized his army and fought again. He defeated the enemy and regained his empire. When he returned to his empire after victory, he was received with much fanfare. The whole capital was rejoicing in the victory. Everyone was in a festive mood. Flowers were being showered on King from every house, from every corner. People were dancing and singing. For a moment King said to himself,” I am one of the bravest and greatest King. It is not easy to defeat me. With all the reception and celebration he saw an ego emerging in him.
Suddenly the Diamond of his ring flashed in the sunlight and reminded him of the message. He open it and read it again: “THIS TOO SHALL PASS”.
He became silent. His face went through a total change -from the egoist he moved to a state of utter humbleness. If this too is going to pass, it is not yours. The defeat was not yours, the victory is not yours. You are just a watcher. Everything passes by. We are witnesses of all this. We are the perceivers. Life comes and goes. Happiness comes and goes. Sorrow comes and goes’.

As I reflect on this I think of the many great moments that I wish wont pass but even more challenging the tough moments when I wonder if life has colluded to make me miserable yet they are moments that I wish would not pass. The great humbling news is that it does pass. I remember a time last year when things seemed to be getting from bad to worse and thinking of this now, I am like oh, it did pass! I recall the weeks very freshly even if it’s almost a year ago. I had gone home to for some joyous occasion over the weekend of May 1st, labour day 2009 and just as I was leaving, the unthinkable happened, I dropped my phone (oh and I liked that phone) and it fell into a pit leaving me with the useless phone case in my hands! While thinking about my phone contacts, numbers, videos…I decided to just accept it, and threw away the case which was just a sour reminder. It was not hard to let go, I told myself after all it was just a phone so the main task ahead was to have sim-card replacement. I got back to my house in Nairobi at around 8.00 Pm and for some reason despite being a Sunday night decided to open my emails. The first message I saw left me numb, I could not believe it! There were two messages with the same message ‘Jane Nyambune dead’! I stood there wondering if to open the mails or not. I signed out, and signed in again but the messages didn’t go away, it was true. I felt like screaming at the top of my voice, but didn’t have the energy. Jane (RIP) was a friend I met during the Les Aspin training program at Washington DC in 2005. We had hit off immediately when we met for the orientation week at Safari park Kenya. She was a joyous lady, laughing and making noise and we had a lot in common then.

As I sat there thinking about the implications of the message, images of Jane went through my head. During the 5 weeks training we had bonded quite a lot, to the extent that one of our fellow participants nicknames us ‘shadows’ since where one was, the other was and if not she was to answer ‘where is your shadow?’, with the other nickname being the Chicago girls after we managed to take the short trip to the down town Chicago almost getting late to the airport! We had met a few times sometimes losing touch. She had been unwell and when I had gone to see her at Kenyatta national Hospital she had been weak but determined. Later on we met on the streets of Nairobi, and promised each other that we had to have coffee ‘one of these days’ but the day was never to be. I felt sad for the young enthusiastic lady that was not more, that we would never laugh and the coffee would never be. I felt sad because I had lost touch with her, that as we got busy with life, we thought life would always be here with us, that we would meet ‘one of these days’ and now that would not be.
Before I could fully processes and in the effort to plan myself for the week, I realised I had lost my bank ATM card! What else can go wrong? By that Monday morning I was so devastated and low, and was wondering if was ever going to pass. I reported my ATM loss, replaced my simcard and hoped life would be more manageable. In between the week as we sought to get more information about the funeral arrangements there was little to make me feel this was ever going to pass.
By that Friday, I woke up, prayed and made a decision that the week had started off badly but it was going to end well. The week was ending well, until I got a call from my cousin at around 12.00 am (Saturday), and knew ‘this can’t be good’. She disclosed that uncle, our mother’s first born brother had passed away! Not again! I started a different week, travelling in between mourning the departed ones and hence didn’t even manage to attend funeral of Jane. My uncle was laid to rest the next week Friday May 8th, and I had a sigh of, Ohhh, it has passed!
But not yet,
The following day, Saturday 9th following my uncle’s funeral, my brother started asking for some telephone numbers frantically of some of our cousins on my father’s side. By the end of the say we were to know that in fact my cousin had passed away. By this time I decided nothing was changing and it seemed like the world around me was doomed. As I think of this a year later, there is no pain or tears, neither can I remember how I felt that time, it is gone, passed away like many other occurrences in life.

I have survived set backs, sorrows, heart breaks frustrations, you name it, and I have enjoyed incredibly joyous moments in this life time. And it has passed…and I lived to tell the story! People have different ways of surviving low moments and still have the experiences leave them stronger. I like reading hence one of my ways of dealing with depressing situations is to buy books! Novels, inspirations, books that will energise me among other things. Many times a friend support comes in handy and this is quite uplifting! For sure friends are precious and I am grateful for friends. The realisation that ‘it will come to pass’ makes life more exciting and then we live life, instead of worrying of what is, was and is to come and forgetting to live the moment and anticipate the future..
“Life just passes away. There is nothing permanent in this world. Every thing changes except the law of change. You are just a witness of change. Experience it, understand it, and enjoy the present moment - this too shall pass”!

Friday, May 07, 2010

Quiet moments when I shut out the world, and live!

As I was reading a book by one of my favourite authors, Paulo Coelho’s like a flowing river one paragraph really struck me. As he is describing quiet moments spent in some village, ‘I never think about who I am, I have no questions and no answers, I live entirely in the present moment………at the moment am not interested in what is going on in Iraq or Afghanistan; like anyone else..’(page 2-3) How often do we take the quiet times from the very busy lives?

A few weeks ago I felt in a bad space, and amidst moments of feeling fatigued running up and down busy as a bee, feelings of betrayal and uncertainty I felt that my body was literally without any fuel to run another day. This was a warning bell and this time I went to a quiet retreat centre for a weekend and what a lovely, refreshing time!! The centre offers an ideal quiet place, without a phone or laptop, I set out for this refuelling experience and I wished I could have more! It ended too quickly. I had forgotten the power of quiet moments, having not done this in a while. The venue was ideal in that everyone there is on contemplative mode hence after reporting and getting booked in the only ‘talking’ that happens is singing during the mass service, nothing more, no greetings over lunch hour or good mornings! The 2 days gave me so much strength that as I look back I wonder how I would have survived another week without the refuelling. Many times we are so busy with life, putting off fires and ‘saving the world’ that we forget ourselves, I have been a victim of this more often than not.

I share my experiences of quiet time since they are the most blessed moments yet very rare. It is easy to organise for a party with friends and family and rave for hours as a way of releasing the pressures within that we find ourselves in. For those of us who are social and talkative it’s even harder, life is good when we are surrounded by people, talking, being merry. However taking time ‘away from life’ is the greatest replenishment that we can give our lives. The first day I planned to spend 3 quiet days it was more of a group activity than a personal commitment, and I wondered how this would end. This was back in college and I had never wanted to engage in the retreats but since this was part of the group’s expectations I was eager for this. Still, I kept wondering how I would survive three days without speaking! Shouting! Singing loudly and finding out how my friends were doing! The fact that I was with some of my very close friends made it seem even worse. The first day was difficult and I spent most of it sleeping but by the second day I was so alert, tranquil and wondered why I had taken this long to discover the peace there is in silence. The moments spent end up being such loud and clear communication with self. By the time these 3 days ended, I was so sure I needed more of the ‘me time’ often enough.

Hover, as usual... too busy we get! In mid (last month) April, I realised that I needed to shut down, and be with me! There are several things I do often when am feeling low, writing, reading books (and buying them) are part of my leisure. However sometimes, this doesn’t help, the inside still feels disconnected. I remember setting out for this tranquil place in Karen Nairobi and leaving my phone (which I am addicted to) deactivating my face book (yes...you guessed right, I am a life member!), now with a laptop (so I can survive without internet!) and only carried the few essential clothing, a bible and a note book, and off I went. By the time I finished the 2 days it felt like I had been in a holiday for a month, more energy, more optimistic and more in love with myself. I still had music in my heart, tranquil, not noisy.
Many times we feel that we have to be in touch with the world, not realising that the earth will still rotate in its orbit without our assistance, life will go on even if we don’t know what is happening in all corners of the world. In the current world we are living in, life rotates around work traffic, friends’ weddings, funerals, internet, news…barely is there a break. My beloved Kenya in particular is an exciting place to be in! There is always something interesting happening, some breaking news. Right now we are in the constitution making moment and life can get so crazy, it literally seems like living a drama. There is always some ‘urgent work’ to be done whether at the work place or in the home. In between these moments, we have to take a step back, take a break, and just be with you. It’s rewarding. Being alone, is not being lonely; you can be lonely in a crowd. Quiet moments help one to listen to one-elf, appreciate nature and be alert. Spending time with yourself doesn't mean that there is anything wrong with you. Instead it means that you enjoy your own thoughts, learning about who you are and engaging in recreation that doesn't include everyone else.

Take a break, and be with you!