“ENCOUNTERING GLADYS”

Posted by: admin  :  Category: Neuro Semantics, Personal Development

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“When a baby comes into the world, its hands are clenched, right?
Like this?” He made a fist. “Why? Because a baby not knowing any better, wants to grab everything, to say the whole world is mine.
But when an old person dies, how does he do so? With his hands open. Why? Because he has learned his lesson.”

“What lesson?” I asked.
He stretched open his empty fingers.
“We can take nothing with us.”

 ― Mitch Albom,
Have a Little Faith: a True Story

 

Last Wednesday, the 16th of October, saw me standing at the entrance of the Church of Saint Francis Xavier’s, Petaling Jaya, paying respects to someone I had been praying for daily for almost two and a half years: a friend and a fellow companion in this “field trip” called life…someone who had taken up some measure of emotional residence in my heart and in the heart of my wife.

Gladys Theraviam, returned home after her “field trip”, spending the last two and half years battling cancer. What actually drew me to her was this fact that she had cancer, much like my own mother whom also succumbed to this illness in 2010 (Incidentally, the 16th of October was my late Mum’s birthday). There is something about such folks that moved me; they somehow seem to live life at a different level of “intensity”, one that stood in stark contrast to the way “normal and healthy” people lived. They are for me “living metaphors” of how one ought to be “fully alive” to life.

What follows are my insights and reflections about my encounters with Gladys, encounters that have become lasting impressions.

 

CHOICE, HAPPINESS AND PRESENCE…

 

“The truth is, once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.”
― Mitch Albom,
Tuesdays With Morrie

 

I just could not believe the joy and radiance that Gladys was diffusing. It was unlike what I expected. It was after service and we chatted outside church. After the usual pleasantries, I enquired about her health and how she was coping. I remember her saying, “I have surrendered everything, I just am happy. I choose to be happy no matter what.” Being trained in the field of Neuro Linguistic, I can spot incongruence in folks; the incongruence between what they say and their tone of voice, their facial expressions and body language. Gladys was 100% congruent! She was smiling with her “eyes”, her tone of voice “drew me out” of my sobriety and put a smile on my face! “ I have my children and my grand children and I am happy. I live one day at a time, now. That’s all. I choose to be happy,” she said.

I recall leaving that encounter feeling more alive than ever. Was I “administering” to her or was she “administering to me”? I remember calling Gerard Theraviam, her son, soon after to share with him her deep sense of joy and happiness. She showed no visible signs of being “troubled” or of being self-absorbed in her illness.

 

“Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.”
-Unknown

 

Gladys made a choice to be happy. A choice not based on her external circumstance nor on her physical condition or health but on the decision to live in the “here and now”, being “all there present”, one day at a time. Is this not living life at a different level of “intensity”?

For me this “intensity” existed at two levels: choosing to be happy independent off and unconditioned by “imperfection and limitation” and being in the “here and now”, present. Both are symbiotic for to be present in the here and now, to be totally in our senses, divorced from of our “mind and its spiral of thoughts” necessarily open us to the “perfection” of the now, the present.

In this PRESENT all that is, is enough. Here in lies the miracle of living “one day at a time”, unencumbered by the imperfections of this “field trip” called life, living “un-choked” by its cares, limitations and concerns. It is here that Gladys found much consolation and may I say God. I recall her saying; “ I believe Jesus is with me, always.” To realize God’s presence “always” requires being present to the “here and now” which in turn generates engagement, connection and happiness.

 

“Everyone knows they’re going to die,’ he said again, ‘but nobody believes it. If we did, we would do things differently.”
― Mitch Albom,
Tuesdays With Morrie

 

Contrast this to how I live most of the time. Is there ever a time when I live “one day at a time”? Is there ever a time when I am truly present in the “here and now”, living in my senses while loosing “my mind, thoughts, concerns, attachments, fears and anxieties”?

How about living and embracing the imperfection of my “field trip” experience on earth? Is happiness a choice or is it conditioned by the attainment of outcomes and circumstances? To be honest, there has always has been something I have visualized as the end-all-be-all in terms of happiness, yet it has always been something that is elusive. Perhaps it was the perfect relationship, the perfect job, business deal, training contract, adventure and holiday.

If I attained this “perfection”, my internal management system would give me a new assignment to target my aching, endless want. There was no reward to achieving; just a new demands to go for the next “outcome” which promised “perfection” and its “golden” produce called “happiness”. Was happiness a choice to be made regardless of external circumstances and outcomes? Hardly!

 

“Most people would rather be certain they’re miserable,
than risk being happy.”
-Robert Anthony

 

Gladys left me a lesson on living life “intensely” at the level of “being”; in living in the “here and now”, making happiness a choice based on an internal disposition and intention, not on an outcome, on trying to correct the past or living for an anticipated outcome in the future or perfecting oneself or ones circumstances. Perhaps when we realize the finiteness of our existence, that life is just a “field trip” do we “awaken” from our slumber of living “abstractly distracted and seduced” by what has been, should be, ought to be, could have been or maybe.

 

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“Stress is caused by being ‘here’ but wanting to be ‘there.”
-Eckhart Tolle

 

This very moment as you sit there reading this blog, right now, is life. LIFE HAPPENS ONLY IN THE NOW and this NOW is perfect. Grace can only touch us in this NOW. And where we are, regardless of our circumstances, is where we have an opportunity to be happy, by choice and by intention and attention.

Living one day at the time, is perhaps “knowledge that is as old as the hills”, but in Gladys words and neurology, it took on a whole new dimension and intensity. Talk about words “becoming flesh”!

Looking back, every time I did encounter Gladys, be in in Church, on the street, at “Kanna’s” or at the shopping mall, she radiated “presence”, a “nowness” and a “freshness of appreciation” which came across as someone who was happy, never ceasing to smile and engage the other. She chose to live life in this fashion…and what better way to do so!

 

“If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it.
This is the most basic kind of peace work.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh,
Being Peace

 

SUFFERING, ACCEPTANCE AND SURRENDER…

 

“Buddha says there are two kinds of suffering: the kind that leads to more suffering and the kind that brings an end to suffering.”
― Terry Tempest Williams,
Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place

 

The last time I encountered Gladys was at the Empire Shopping Mall, weeks before her passing. I remember that day vividly, it was a Sunday and she was “hanging out” with her daughter and her grandchildren. As usual she was her engaging and happy self. But this time round something was a little different; there was a deeper sense of acceptance, surrendering and letting go.

As usual we worked through the pleasantries of our encounter. Then we began talking about the “uncertainties of life”, about how much we try to live life in the best way possible and yet life “happens on its own terms” bring with it so much of “unexpected twists and turns”. We spoke about being “out of control” and the fact there is absolutely nothing outside us that we can control…even our own health was out of our control! We spoken about the “apparent absence” of God, a God who was present and at the same time “hidden” in the “unexpected events” of life, a God who seemed “unrecognizable” and in some ways “distant”, a mystery.

 

“Sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on.”
― Eckhart Tolle,
A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose

 

The sum of such experiences can aggregate in one either one of these two responses. One can choose to hang on to “past certainties and identifications” to try to make sense of the present circumstances in order to have a sense of control and to “manage it”. Or once can choose to accept, surrender and let go, not with a sense of hopelessness but with a sense of clarity of faith. Both options bring suffering.

The first, as Buddha suggest in the quote above, brings a kind of suffering that leads to more suffering; the suffering of struggling, fighting life, being conflicted, hanging on, trying to squeeze fabricated meanings into apparently “meaning –less” events of life, judging, attempting to control and live life on our terms.

The second brings suffering of another kind, the suffering of letting go of ones false attachments, Ego expectations, plans, personal understandings, ambitions, struggles and ones needs in submission to a Higher Power and His will and purpose. Here the suffering is the kind of suffering that, as Buddha suggests, “brings an end to suffering”, the suffering of the cross, the passion that leads to a whole new life, one that we, the living, can only imagine!

 

“Death is a stripping away of all that is not you. The secret of life is to “die before you die” — and find that there is no death.”
― Eckhart Tolle

 

“I have just surrendered everything to Him, to his will. I have nothing more, Conrad, nothing. I give Him all…and all I have is Him, that’s all ”, Gladys said at the end of our exchange. And in her words I sensed some measure of pain and a great deal of surrender, acceptance and a sense of clarity of faith, which was bringing “an end” to all her pain. There was accepting of “what is” at that moment; a surrendering of wanting to “direct life” and the alignment of her heart and faith with a sense of trust and submission to God and His will, “…all I have is Him, that’s all”.

 

“The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven’t yet come to the end of themselves. We’re still trying to give orders, and interfering with God’s work within us. ”
― A.W. Tozer

 

I began this blog “Encounters Gladys” with the quote by Mitch Albom and it is not without relevance for it aptly describes, her life, her struggle and her triumph in her Saviour. I remember gazing at her in the pristine white coffin at the entrance of the Church before her memorial mass began. I remember how we talked for the last time weeks ago and how she currently looked…I missed her engaging smile. I looked at her hands and they were not clenched together but opened, one on the other…and I remembered her words, “…I have nothing more, I give Him all…and all I have is Him, that’s all”. I saw in her hands her parting symbol of “surrendering” and of leaving one of the most important lesson of life, “we can take nothing with us.”

 

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“God, as Truth, has been for me a treasure beyond price.
May He be so to every one of us.”
-Mahatma Gandhi

 

Farewell Gladys, it was a pleasure knowing you, encountering you. It was always engaging and entertaining, good fun! As you enjoy your well deserved rest and new life, remember us, pray for us as we journey in this “field trip” called life, learning and living the lessons you have left us.

 

“If you could pack for heaven, this was how you’d do it, touching everything, taking nothing.”
― Mitch Albom,
Have a Little Faith: a True Story