The Other

by Wednesday, August 27, 2014

So a friend recently asked me why I was reading a particular book again, a book I had already finished reading many years ago (thanks Jai!). And I answered, because I remember it had taught me some very important lessons in my life back then, and for some reason I felt it was time to pick it up again. Because (and I really believe this) at every different point in our lives, we are different people. We have been through personal battles that only we know about, we have scarred, we have fought, we have survived and we have learned lessons…. and all of those combined make us a newer, different person every day. So as this new me, when I pick up a book I read a long time ago, I know that this time around this book will open my eyes to a lesson I may not have realized before, or a lesson that I wasn’t ready for before.

Anyway, long story short. I picked this book up a couple of weeks ago and have been re-reading it, albeit slowly this time. And today while I was at home, this sketch I had made of Paulo Coelho many years ago just seemed to be staring me in the face from across my living room. I thought, hey let’s upload that in the Art section this week, but then I forgot about that and went back to reading the book again. The book is “By The River Piedra I Sat Down And Wept” by Paulo Coelho.

And all these days, I was getting a lot from the book yes, the things I had underlined years ago, the stuff I needed to read over again that made me feel that yes, I’m doing ok, I’m bringing back the child in me who is baggage free and who doesn’t understand (or blocks out) emotions like fear, hurt, disappointment etc etc… but I was really not understanding the main reason why I picked up this book again. And then I finished a particular chapter and it suddenly hit me.

This is the book that first introduced the concept of “The Other” to me. And it was only because of this book that, in the past, I was able to do the exercise of The Other, and expel it from my life when I had most needed to. Today, I don’t need to do that, because I realised that I had already just done it! And that was the reason I was feeling so different about my life of late… that was the reason I had been going through this transformation inside.. and I have just been trying to figure out myself why I have suddenly started feeling this different. I have been trying to explain to friends that I can’t understand what’s happened to me, and what’s made me see things the way they really ought to have been seen and felt this entire time. Now I know. Because, without realizing it, I had done the exercise of The Other and expelled the Other from my life.

What is The Other you ask. It’s a very simple concept told via a simple story by one character in the book to another character.

This is how it goes:

A man runs into an old friend who had somehow never been able to make it in life. “I should give him some money,” he thinks. But instead he learns that his old friend has grown rich and is actually seeking him out to repay the debts he had run up over the years. 

They go to a bar they used to frequent together, and the friend buys drinks for everyone there. When they ask him how he became so successful, he answers that until only a few days ago, he had been living the role of the “Other”. 

“What is the Other?”, they ask.

“The Other is the one who taught me what I should be like, but not who I am. The Other believes that it is our obligation to spend our entire life thinking about how to get our hands on as much money as possible so that we will not die of hunger when we are old. So we think so much about money and our plans for acquiring it that we discover we are alive only when our days on earth are practically done. And then it’s too late.”

“And you? Who are you?”

“I am just like everyone else who listens to their heart: a person who is enchanted by the mystery of life. Who is open to miracles, who experiences joy and enthusiasm for what they do. It’s just that the Other, afraid of disappointment, kept me from taking action.”

“But there is suffering in life,” one of the listeners said.

“And there are defeats. No one can avoid them. But it’s better to lose some of the battles in the struggle for your dreams than to be defeated without ever even knowing what you’re fighting for.”

“That’s it?”, another listener asked.

“Yes, that’s it. When I learned this, I resolved to become the person I had always wanted to be. The Other stood there in the corner of my room, watching me, but I will never let the Other into myself again – even though it has already tried to frighten me, warning me that it’s risky not to think about the future.”

“From the moment that I ousted the Other from my life, the Divine Energy began to perform its miracles.”

🙂

And that was it. I had, without realizing it, gotten the Other out of myself and not allowed it back in. To really understand the exercise of ousting this Other from yourself, you have to go through the journey that Pilar, the central character in the book, goes through. She’s trying hard to resist love, and the Other is keeping her from listening to her heart when love comes knocking on her door again. The internal struggle..the fight within… it’s amazing how accurately the author captures it.

There is a scene where the two of them have rented a room in a lodge on their road trip to some town in Spain… and she wakes up the next morning to find him gone. Immediately, the Other takes control of her thoughts, and makes her think things like, see you trusted him and he let you down, he’s left you here in a strange town with no money, now go to the bank and get money and get on a bus and get away from here immediately! Then suddenly she sees a note from him saying he’s gone to get them some breakfast and will be back soon and that he loves her. She clutches the note feeling miserable and relieved at the same time. And she realizes how quickly she had once again let the Other take control of her thoughts. At that moment in the book, she also realizes how the love she felt for him was growing and transforming her. She decides that she would watch herself more carefully, and watch her thoughts more carefully, and make sure she kept the Other away. Because the Other always made her feel miserable. I will not talk to my own darkness anymore, she promises herself, closing the door on the Other. A fall from the third floor hurts as much as a fall from the hundreth. If I have to fall, may it be from a high place.

Some people refer to the Other as the ‘dark side’. Some people call the battle between the Other and your True Self a battle between your Head and your Heart. Truth is, whatever name we give it, we all wage this internal war everyday. We all constantly fight this internal battle, one side versus the other. Why?! Why all the fighting?! Just let the Other go. Be who you are, and not who ‘should be’. Love the way you loved as a child, instead of loving the way your past fears tell you to now. Love with an open heart, the way that gives you the feeling of joy in your heart. Love without prejudice or fear.

It really is a very simple idea, this idea of the Other. But it could take a person years to realize (as it did for me) unless due to some extreme emotional journey they suddenly find their heart freeing itself open again. That’s what I’ve been through, and that’s why after suddenly opening this page in the book today, it hit me. That this is the reason why I am feeling like this new person today.

I don’t want to write anymore because I know all of this may already sound very intense (and I had sort of decided to keep my next few blog posts ‘lighter’)… but hey, like the Buddha couldn’t control when Nirvana finally struck him under that tree while meditating, we can’t control when some simple, obvious truths decide to smack us in the face 🙂

To leave you with some beautiful lines from one of the chapters in the book:

Before I fell asleep, I decided I would do what he called ‘the exercise of the Other’.

I am here in this room, I thought, far from everything familiar to me, talking about things that have never interested me and sleeping in a city where I’ve never set foot before. I can pretend – at least for a few minutes – that I am different.

I began to imagine how I would like to be living right at that moment. I wanted to be happy, curious, joyful – living every moment intensely, drinking the water of life thirstily. Believing again in my dreams. Able to fight for what I wanted. Loving a man who loved me. 

Yes, that was the woman I wanted to be – the woman who was suddenly presenting herself and becoming me.

I felt that my soul was bathed in the light of a god – or a goddess – in whom I had lost faith. And I felt at that moment, the Other left my body and was standing in the corner of that small room.

I observed the woman I had been up until then: weak but trying to give the impression of strength. Fearful of everything but telling herself it wasn’t fear – it was the wisdom of someone who knew what reality was. Putting up shutters in front of windows to keep the joy of the sun from entering – just so the sun’s rays wouldn’t fade my old furniture. 

I looked at the Other, there is the corner of the room – fragile, exhausted, disillusioned. Controlling and enslaving what should really be free: her emotions. Trying to judge her future loves by the rules of her past suffering.

But love is always new. Regardless of whether we love once, twice, or a dozen times in our life, we always face a brand-new situation. Love can consign us to hell or to paradise, but it always takes us somewhere. We simply have to accept it, because it is what nourishes our existence. If we reject it, we die of hunger, because we lack the courage to stretch out a hand and pluck the fruit from the branches of the tree of life. We have to take love where we find it, even if that means hours, days, weeks of disappointment and sadness.

The moment we begin to seek love, love begins to seek us.

And to save us.

When the Other left me, my heart once again began to speak to me. It told me that the breach in the dike had allowed the waters to pour through, that the wind was blowing in all directions at once, and that it was happy because I was once again willing to listen to what it had to say. 

My heart told me that I was in love. And I fell asleep with a smile on my lips. 

 

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(Thank you Paulo. As always, I’ve found answers in your books. When I met you, you said to me we seem to be connected in some way.. maybe this is it.)

And now I can go to bed with a smile. 🙂

JS

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