The key to fulfillment is adversity - MyStory with YourStory

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Let’s start with a simple exercise.

All of you please close your eyes for 15 seconds and think about ONE or two defining moments of your life. Those moments that changed the trajectory of your life, career or business.

I have done this exercise with a few people on a 1-1 basis. The results are always the same. The defining moments, all have, one thing in common – overcoming adversity. The growth and change that came,because of that incredible adversity.

The key to fulfillment is adversity

I remember what poet Mary Oliver said,

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.

That secret... the one that leads to fulfillment, is adversity.

Hindu mythology brilliantly illustrates this paradox. It gives us Kali, the Goddess of death.

While many fear her as the symbol of destruction – a force that confronts us, breaks our hearts and blocks our path –the wise revere her for what she truly represents. Her destruction, you see, paves the way for all new creation. She destroys the finite and so reveals something far more powerful: the infinite, in all of its beauty and freedom.

Kali makes her home among death: on the cremation grounds where Pancha Mahabhuta, the five elements are dissolved. Here,she renders worthless our earthly longings: Lust. Wrath. Greed. Attachment and Ego. Burning away these human desires, she sears our hearts: that is when we suffer. But those who surrender to her flame, the pain she inflicts, find a catharsis. They are freed of these trappings as their prior selves are symbolically engulfed. It is then that they experience Gyanagni: knowledge through fire. This is the gift that Kali bestows upon those who survive the darkest moments. This is the enlightenment we receive when we accept that our boxes of darkness are our greatest gifts.

Adversity is humanity’s greatest superpower

My story is one where Kali has had to make frequent visits, even though it took me a while to recognize her for what she truly was.

Speaking at TEDx Bay Area 2014

My family was broken and dysfunctional. Not to give a record of childhood traumas here, but darkness was my constant companion. Little did I know that I was preparing for an exhilarating journey somewhere later in life.

To top that all, I faced the worst test of my endurance a couple of years back. It came about as I watched my mother fight her life’s last with seventy percent burns on her petite body.

She was cooking in the kitchen and talking on the phone, when her saree caught fire. Moments later everything changed for my mother and in turn everything changed for me – forever.

Her skin had melted away but she fought valiantly keeping her spirits up. Watching her literally dissolve away, as I sat by her every day, darkness weighed so heavy on my soul that the breath felt choked from my body. I felt helpless and broken. And I resolved to be strong. Honestly, didn't know how. In the midst of this darkness, something magical happened.

I saw burnt patients all around, suffering alone with no one coming to soothe them or hold their hands. I started spending time with them, making them laugh, dancing and talking to them. The more I could make the patients laugh, the more I could feel my heart being healed. My mother laughed too, though she did not survive the burns.

The feeling of community and togetherness that thrived in that burns ward, despite the obvious tragedy that was all around, cannot be described in mere words. Stripped of their skins, these humans were same, their pain was the same and a moment of laughter was same.

My transformative lesson from this horrific experience was that adversity is humanity’s greatest superpower. Adversity can enrich us. Adversity can heal us. Adversity dissolves into something and makes us totally different than before, if we just let it do that.
The naked realization of our oneness in suffering reinforced my belief in the power of every human story. All of us are so same, All of us are so vulnerable and all of us breathe the same.

YourStory: a platform to share the stories of all superstars

To me, every story matters. Each one stands on its own uniqueness as much as it stands for the combined collective consciousness. These experiences have strengthened my resolve to make every story matter. Why one super star? Why not, truly all of us as superstars?

Looking back, I think this is what inspired me to create YourStory.com, a platform for sharing the stories of people, from the famous to the unnoticed, from those who yearn and shape and lead and those who quietly question, those who suffer. One thing I have learnt in the last 6 years is that every story has actually a story and has a soul. So far we have told 15,000 Stories and we keep adding to this list every single day. We just kept listening and saying you matter.

My dream for YourStory, is to show the world that what separates us is trivial. Accent, color, job, pain, distance, age: none of this has power. It is what unites us that is our true strength, that and the stories that have brought us here.

As I share my story with you today, I ask you to look deep inside and consider the stories that bring you and me together.

What is your Kali? What is the pain you carry with you, the hurt or burden that haunts you, the flame that scars your heart? Are you still suffering with the tragedy or loss that caused it? Or have you begun to see the gifts of hope and healing that turn that fire into your greatest strength?

If so, will you share your story so that others might laugh, or learn, or take courage? Like Mary Oliver’sbox of darkness, can you open it to the world – and perhaps let it then be filled with light, a light that warms others and gives them hope to see our most human gift: the ability to triumph over even the greatest adversity.

In closing, I want to share three points:

  1. Most of our defining moments in our lives are shaped by adversities we face and overcome. They will continue to shape who we are. Lets embrace adversity.
  2. I have a story. You have a story. Everyone has a story. Be bold and share your story. If you are not happy with your current story, go ahead and change what you need to change to make a better story
  3. Lets start Listening and learning from stories of others, people who have faced and overcome adversities. They will help us think better and in turn shape our own stories in a powerful way. We have 15,146 plus stories right on our website if you are looking for a starting point. Lets Start, it.

You can view the complete TEDx Bay Area talk here(58 min onward).

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