Growing up, I believed in God. The religion of Sikhism was my route to God. I wouldn’t say I was devout or anything. I’d go to the temple when mum told me to and I’d pray sometimes, mostly around exam time! Life was good, I had amazing friends and opportunities seemed to find me. Like when I stumbled across my first job after graduating and when I’d outgrown it, 3 more jobs presented themselves. I took one of them, I moved to London, I travelled with my job, I travelled with my friends, work was testing me, sometimes pushing me to the limits of what I thought I could do, but I’d still do it, somehow. I was loving it. I was growing in more ways than I could have imagined, good things were happening and I really started to believe that God was working in my life. My beliefs strengthened, I prayed regularly, I helped others and expected nothing in return, I’d go to the temple on my own some weekends when I was in London and I found a comforting peace within myself.
Fast forward 5 or 6 years, I was now married, in a new job, settled with my amazing husband by my side. Yes there were some bumps along the way, no one gets to 30 without a few, but on the whole, my life was good, I was happy. Then, like a bolt out of the blue, we had our first miscarriage. It was devastating. We were devastated. I was in shock. The actual miscarriage was traumatic. This was my first real experience of life not going my way. I was momentarily upset with God, that he could do this to me. Like a friend who upsets you, you keep your distance for a bit, sending the odd message, but not over-doing it – that’s how it was with God, I prayed sometimes, but I was being a bit cold and I had every right to be for what He had done to me. But, we got over it, me and God. It was just a blip and we were back on track and I was pregnant for the second time. When I miscarried again, that was it, I was done, God was in my bad books. How could He have done this to me again? Didn’t He see how painful the first miscarriage was? I am a good person, when did I ever do anything to deserve this? What kind of God inflicts such misery on good people? How could I believe in Him again? I was done believing in this almighty power beyond the sky. I unfriended Him on Facebook. If he wanted to be friends again it would be up to Him to make the first move.
If you remove a bad friend from your life, you’d like to think your life would turn around instantly, you’d be happier and more positive having removed the trouble maker. But this didn’t happen with me and God. I didn’t automatically become happier once I put Him at arm’s length, I didn’t become more accepting of what had happened to me, I wasn’t able to get back to being the eternal optimist that I once was. In fact I felt worse. I felt alone. Yes I had my husband, but I had lost something, I’d lost something within me. I’d lost my inner peace because I’d lost my relationship with the one thing that gave me hope. I went on feeling lost for a while, feeling sorry for myself and being angry at everyone around me who went on with their lives oblivious to my silent suffering.
Anyway, back to God. Did He reach out to me? Did He come to me in a dream and make me understand why He had done what He had done? Did He perform some miracle to win back my support? No. He didn’t. But He did do something, something a whole lot more powerful and profound. He unlocked the door to a whole new world and gave me a tool to deal with all of life’s ups and downs. He did this by introducing me to a concept called Mindfulness, which has nothing to do with faith, religion or God, which is just as well really considering my stance at the time!
With mindfulness I learned for the first time in my life to be ‘present’, not to dwell on the past, not to worry about the future and not to place blame on the universe for what I was going through, but to simply ‘be’. I woke up, I smelt the roses, I heard the birds, saw the beauty in nature, the weather, in other people and I really experienced each breath that connected me to the here and now. Being in the present moment is unlike anything you will have experienced before. You see things that were right in front of you that you never had time to see before, you connect with people in a way you’ve never thought possible, your mental chatter takes a back seat and those things you spent so long stressing over or worrying about seem insignificant in that moment. I stopped re-living my miscarriages, I stopped worrying about the outcome of the next pregnancy and whether I would ever have my own family and I stopped blaming God for doing this to me. Summarising this part of my journey in one paragraph doesn’t quite reflect the time it took to get here, nor does it imply that I’m a permanent resident in the mindful world. I still have ups and downs but I’d like to think I’m a regular visitor en route to my Green Card.
Mindfulness gave me back my inner peace, which brought with it happiness, hope and rekindled my relationship with God. I’d read a quote once that really stuck with me – “If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it”…and He does, He does get you through it, we just need to open our heart, mind, soul and spirit to the lesson He may be teaching us along the way. My lesson was this…
Because mindfulness made me see things differently, I began to see that everyone had problems in life, be they to do with money worries, relationship problems, family breakdowns, job insecurity, health issues, infertility, everyone has something they are fighting to overcome. So instead of questioning why this was happening to me, I thought, “why not me?” I’d not experienced any hardship in my life but people around me were being dealt more than their fair share of it. Instead of looking at the one thing I didn’t have, I became so thankful for all the many things I did have. And who did I have to thank for all the good things?…that’s right, the same power I was blaming for the few bad moments. Everything made sense again. In fact it all made more sense than it ever did before. My husband always said, ‘The sweet ain’t so sweet without the bitter’ and I now understood this better than ever. Without sadness, how can you really appreciate happiness? Without pain how can you appreciate good health? Without hardship how can you appreciate conquering your goal? Without my miscarriages how was I to learn how to feel real gratitude for all the blessings I had been given?
From that point on, each time I got pregnant, I was thankful to God. Thankful that I could get pregnant. Every time I had to take time off work because I wasn’t feeling well in the pregnancy, I was thankful to God. Thankful to have a job. Thankful to be able to take time off. Every time a pregnancy was showing signs it was going wrong, I was thankful to God. Thankful for the speedy access to healthcare. Thankful there weren’t further complications to my health. Every time I cried because one minute I was pregnant and the next I wasn’t, I was thankful to God. Thankful for giving me such a great husband. Thankful for His strength to get me through it. Thankful for the hope of a ‘next time’. Don’t get me wrong, I was still sad to keep experiencing such loss but I was kind and compassionate to myself. I let myself feel what I needed to feel, but I kept my trust in God that He was doing what was right for me in my life at that point in time. I may not know the reasons for it, indeed I may never know, but I trust in His will. He is working in my life in ways I don’t know. God has a path for us all and I said it in my BBC interview and I’ll say it again, maybe I was meant to go through what I went through in order to get back onto the path that God intended…here, right now, talking about my story, sharing the reality of this secret world with those who are outsiders and being the voice to those who are suffering in silence and most importantly, giving hope to those on a similar journey. Who knows? But it is this belief that gets me though. It is this belief that gives me peace. It is this belief that makes me live in hope.
*** As I came to the end of this blog post, I thought, “I wonder whether Sikhism has any teachings about suffering?” Yes, I know what you’re thinking, that maybe I should have googled that when I most needed a way out of my pain a few years ago. The truth is, I didn’t. However, I’ve just googled it and I am pretty surprised reading one of the answers…click here to read the Sikh teaching on suffering. My story is exactly that in the Sikh teaching. Coincidence or not, it seems as though I wasn’t just meant to read the teaching, I was meant to live it in my own way on my own journey.