Are You Choosing Life, Choosing Death, or Choosing Neither?

Exactly two years back, somewhat as a new year’s resolution for 2016 I wrote a poem titled, ‘I’m Choosing Life’. That poem was shared more than any of my other poems and I heard back from several people on how they were inspired to choose more of what was ‘Life’ for them. As it turns out, writing that poem became a turning point in my own life as well. I have since then consciously been choosing more and more of whatever is life affirming for me and have actually been living with an increasingly greater sense of presence. A year after writing that poem I went on to publish my first collection of poems, also titled, ‘I’m Choosing Life’. People have been asking me about what prompted me to write that poem, and this essay is about that.

For many many years I had been ‘secretly suicidal’. Now what does that mean? It means that I had a background voice inside of my head always urging me to “get out of this damned body and this pathetic world’. It might sound harsh and extreme but frankly this is exactly how the voice sounded. True, I mostly never told people about it, and when I tried to tell I realized that most people on this planet are not willing to hear such things. So I suppressed the voices and tried to go about doing normal ‘worldly’ things that other people on the planet were doing that kept them engaged, occupied and alive (and I use the word ‘alive’ here to merely denote the fact that they were not dead). ‘Getting busy’, ‘chasing achievements’, ‘getting into quarrels’, and ‘cooking up fears’ are all amazing ways to distract (or numb) oneself from the pain and void of a meaningless existence and I did all of that.

When I was ‘distracted’ I was sane, but when I had nothing to distract me in my outer world, the demons in my mind would take over and hammer inside my head, whispering annoying questions and statements like, ‘why are you alive?’, ‘what’s the purpose of your life?’, ‘you are worthless and undeserving’, ‘life is for sinners’, ‘why not just get out of this pointless existence’, ‘people and society are massively deluded’ etc. etc. I would weep my heart out, tear at the seams of the fabric of my existence itself, and scream at god. Finally, when I was exhausted of crying, I would somehow find a ray of sunshine to hold on to – write a poem, go spend time in nature and decide to not ‘opt out’ just yet.

Quite frankly, the idea of suicide as a ‘opt out’ strategy has been one of the strongholds of my life. When things would get really really painful, I used to soothe myself with the thought that, ‘Hey but I always have an exit option don’t I?’. Sadly however, this stronghold was soon to be broken. I chanced upon a book (ironically in the lobby of a hotel in Goa during my honeymoon) that was a strong book on hindu philosophy. The author had described the theory of karma as per his understanding and emphatically stated that ‘suicide’ was one of the greatest sins on the planet – one that would accrue truckloads of negative karma that will keep a soul trapped for many lifetimes and severely impede any chances of ‘nirvana’ – or escape from the cycle of rebirth.

Now I did not have a proper foundation of hindu philosophy at that time and although I did not believe the author’s perspective completely, what he had managed to do through his writing was to install a strong sense of fear into me. I was anyway at a place where I was looking at life like a burden, – ‘a compulsory sentence of exile on planet earth’, and by no chance was I willing to do something that would extend this punishment from one lifetime into many lifetimes. So after reading that book I pretty much abolished from my consideration set the thought of ‘suicide’ as an escape option.

However I continued to experience life largely as a struggle – meaningless, and pointless – interrupted with occasions of distraction and merriment. I must admit though that I was fortunate to experience unexplained moments of peace and connection – sometimes with the divine, sometimes with nature – but these moments were few, they came by themselves and I seemed to have no control on how to create or invite more of them into my life. It was at this time that I came up with my second ‘escape option’. I decided to become a buddhist monk. I was really really serious about this plan and nearly went for it, but a strange (dare I say serendipitous) incident turned my resolve around. This incident makes a great story and deserves a separate post by itself so watch out for a sequel post tiled, ‘Why I did not become a monk’. Coming back to the central thread of this post, I had a crystal clear awareness in 2005 that I would not be entering monkhood.‘At least not in this lifetime’ is what I used to tell myself when I felt bad about giving up on my vision of becoming a monk.

I had a baby soon after – the absolute delight of Life seeding Life in my womb, and then trusting me enough to let him grow and play in my lap. I will not say that the world suddenly turned rosy overnight and that it’s meaninglessness and cruelty and pointlessness disappeared for me. However what did happen was that I was super busy and distracted (yes feeding, playing, petting, nuzzling, cleaning and admiring a little baby can take up huge chunks of time and attention). Since I now had a little one to care for I finally stopped contemplating an ‘exit option’ from life. However my reason for living was narrow and one-dimensional – ‘I am living for my child – I am living for this baby’.

A few years after the birth of my son, I had another window open up in my life. I found a ‘professional’ reason to live – what some people call ‘calling’. I don’t really believe in the word calling (see why here https://youtu.be/clitW5SGjmE) but in order to not detract from the main thread of this post I will refer to it as calling. I found work that I loved and which also filled me with a sense of meaning and purpose. I was way better emotionally than I had been earlier in my life – I now had legitimate answers when demons whispered in my ears and asked me ‘why I was living’. However, I still did not have any answers to the bigger questions of existence and why anybody should exist at all and so I carried around with me a deep dark void – one that would pull me in at the most unexpected of times and sink me in the folds of its darkness. I was not actively contemplating death, but I was not actively choosing life either. I was limping along the road of what I had imagined to be a ‘no-choice’ journey of living.

Then I came across the work of Gary Douglass (the founder of access consciousness). I started to see myself as the creator of my life and not just a passive spectator. What hit home for me was the role that choice plays in shaping and creating our lives. I realized then that I had been creating a huge chunk of what I was experiencing as my reality through my choices (and lack of choices) over the last several years. I also realized that since I had been choosing death (even if secretly) for so many years, those choices had limited my own possibilities of creating life, of enjoying life, of savouring life, and shaping and colouring my life as creatively as I could.

Two years since I penned the poem and made a resolve to consciously ‘choose life’, I realize that I am way happier than I used to be earlier. I realize that the world still has things in it that I don’t like – yes there is cruelty, pain and suffering. However I also realize that the world has beautiful and wonderful things in it which I like – art, nature, love, play and wonder. I no longer see myself as a passive ‘consumer’ of the worlds offerings – rather I see myself as a creator of the world (at least creator of my world to start with).

Earlier I had a mental model of having been sent to planet earth as a punishment from some other realm, and therefore I saw my life as an obligation or a sentence that I had to compulsorily serve before I could be free again – forever awaiting nirvana. Now I have changed that to a model where I have choice and where I am choosing to Live – every second and every day. I might not have a complete understanding of life and creation, but with whatever understanding I have at this point in time I still have choice. Each moment I can choose life or I can choose death and I am choosing Life. If I am choosing life then I am going to give it my best and do the things that make it enjoyable and uplifting and meaningful (based on whatever gives me meaning at this point in time).

I am realizing that if I am consciously choosing ‘Life’ and if it is my choice to live then it only makes sense to live it on my own terms. It makes sense to be who I am and do what makes me happy, whether or not that is the same as what others approve of. Earlier when I treated ‘Life’ as a sentence punishment on earth then I thought I had to live it according to the best practices of what everyone else on earth is doing – follow the norms! Now when I see life and living as my choice, I feel increasingly inspired and liberated to create, craft, and decorate it in a way that I intrinsically find beautiful and enjoyable.

I now start each morning with an acute awareness that I am choosing Life for one more day, and so it is up to me to do whatever it takes to shape my life into how I’d want to experience it. Throughout the day, I ask questions about how I can have more fun, how I can learn more about things I want to learn about, how I can be a contribution to others and how I can truly receive everything that the universe is waiting to gift to me.

For 2018 and the years to come, as long as I choose life, I choose to live in a way where I truly feel ALIVE. I wish you a wonderful christmas and a great start to 2018 and a life filled with choices and wonders that keep you fully ALIVE as well. If you are wondering what to get a loved one as a gift this christmas you can gift them my book titled, ‘I’m Choosing Life’. The title itself will serve as a gift even if they never open and read it :-).

Gift it through Amazon (India)-https://goo.gl/18cpBW

(outside India) – https://goo.gl/MK7Fvj

Published by Ramya Ranganathan

My identity is crafted around four Ps - Poetess-Philosopher-Parent-Professor. You can read more about my journey here (https://craftingourlives.com/ramya/)