When I lost my balance


Nirav shares a recent event in his life where he had to overcome an unexpected challenge and find his way back to the present. A help was this quote, “Be the person who breaks the cycle. Vow to be better than what broke you – to heal instead of becoming bitter, so you can act from your heart, not your pain.”


I am just coming back home from a beautiful time in Corfu, ready to go to Italy in four days to co-facilitate a one-week painting workshop with D. My life is flowing at the moment and I am totally excited. The way the project had unfolded was magical from the very beginning and I always felt in the hands of something greater than what I might be able to understand.

I had met D. this summer during an evening meditation. As I walked out, she had tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Nirav, do you want to co-facilitate the next workshop with me?” Osho had appeared during her meditation and told her clearly that the missing link in her upcoming group was sitting right in front of her. I looked at her in amazement as I remembered that Meera – my painter teacher – had just appeared during my own meditation and whispered in my ear, “Nirav, it is time for you to share your gifts, I will take care.”

From then on everything had unfolded like a painting that will never be signed, simply because there is no personal do-er who ever painted it. I felt in the hands of something far bigger than my little me, and in deep surrender in the midst of a big YES.

The day before I had helped D. in a little workshop. Not only had she felt very supported by my presence, but watching me paint just for five minutes she had seen what Meera had seen in me 20 years before: the born painter with a spellbinding energy.

I had told her that I am not a group leader and that I had never led a painting workshop nor was I ever trained to do so by Meera. She had answered that all she needed from me was my presence and my painting.

At that point just three weeks before the start there was only one booking and everybody had suggested she cancel, and even her co-leading partner had just let her down. I said yes to everything she offered and we committed to do this group, no matter what, even with one participant only. I knew very little of D. and I told her that to me commitment means something and that not respecting it would mean betrayal, something I don’t handle well at all. She had asked me to trust her. And I did.

trees by Nirav

We are now four days before the start of the workshop, and I make an unlucky step and twist my ankle. It doesn’t look good and I immediately wrap it in ice, sit down and keep it elevated. I send a message to D., adding a photo of the swollen ankle. The injury is fresh and indeed looks impressive. My intuition is that I will be fine and I tell her that, but I also see with hindsight that no one could have guessed then that it was a fast-healing, mild sprain that would be almost gone in two days and that my doc would give me a clear green light to go and lead this workshop.

The next morning I receive a voice mail: “Nirav take care of your ankle, I changed my mind and I want to facilitate this group alone. Please don’t come.”

I go into shock halfway through the message.

trees by Nirav

The next few hours are spent trying to convince her to change her mind. It is OUR group and she just cannot do that. I know I will be okay. We had both committed to stick with it together till the end no matter what, and I had even flown back from a wonderful holiday for this. Also a group that had previously only one participant booked had now 10!

I thought she is now going to invite her boyfriend to help in OUR workshop and is using my ankle as an excuse, in a last-ditch attempt to save her relationship – an issue we had largely discussed.

The conversation is going nowhere and I obviously need to let go.

But before I can let go, I am left flat on my couch, feeling betrayed and used and manipulated, in shock still, rage right here and an ocean of tears right below the surface. Also the state of my injury is at this point unclear; I feel all alone, freaked out.

I have been with Osho for almost 30 years, and I have a rather impressive background as far as meditation and inner work are concerned. But I immediately see that I am in one of those places no one would ever wish to find themselves in, but one that has the potential to change a life. I know that waking up never happens while sitting silently, but in situations such as this one. At least it has always been so for me.

I am wondering where I am at inside myself – today, after all those years when the shit hits the fan and I am thrown in the fire pit… once again.

For some mysterious reason, in the midst of the drama, I find myself inquiring into a process that usually happens unconsciously. I decide to have a close look at what unfolds inside and I commit to write about it in three days. This is something I have never done in the past and something that surprises me, but that idea entering my mind there on the couch is what brings you here and now reading this account.

The first thing I notice is that I am freaked out. I also notice that I am noticing, hence that I am not “lost” the way I used to be. I feel that old wounds of abandonment and betrayal are being reactivated. I feel the pain of being alone, of being cut off, the rage at being betrayed and manipulated. I also feel fear and worries about my ankle. What if it is serious? What if it doesn’t heal? How will I manage my daily tasks? The insecurities about life as I have it right now get multiplied. So many feelings all at once. I clearly see that I will need to let go, but as the thought “letting go right now” appears, I also notice all those emotions running wild inside. My mind is on fire and I catch it on and off. I feel the tears that are here. I notice how I don’t want to go there, a depth of pain I know too well. “Oh no not again!” This is basically a time of feeling everything that’s here right now, and that’s basically everything I hate to feel.

I can’t help wishing it all to pass, and pass as soon as possible, preferably right now. I can’t fully let go in the now, in what is. I do, however… I squeeze a few pillows, I sob for three hours non-stop, I even lie on the floor, arms open, praying. I have many readily available tools that I learned in my years of therapy, inquiry and meditation. The madness is still here, I need to talk; I would need a friend nearby, a hand to hold, a good hug in which I could fall apart, for a moment at least. I don’t have that. I am alone right now. I feel the hole, the separation, the pain, the longing to connect and be part of a family, a tribe.

The understanding is here that “this too will pass”, that let-go and acceptance are unavoidable and that the longer I resist the more I will suffer. At the same time, those wild, untamed, unpleasant and seemingly contradictory emotions are also here, creating a kind of chaos inside.

What now?

Being with it all is one of the most difficult responsibilities I know. I need to connect with someone. So I take the phone and call friends. I have many resources, and one of them is the ability to reach out and find the right person who will be most supportive in this very situation. Often it is someone on the other side of the planet, but with skype and the new technologies it is easy. Talking helps, I get good feedback, needed mirroring, I feel loved and supported. But then I am alone again and the mind goes wild and the emotions go on roaring once more.

“Time is the thing that heals” says a friend. “How much time?” asks my inner child, “As much as you need,” I catch myself answering.

I feel that I am “doing my thing” the best I can: a mix of feeling what’s here, expressing it, preferably without hurting anyone else; and just hanging in there in the midst of it all. I remember that I could sit and close my eyes and go in and watch. I remember my breath. But the turmoil takes me over and trying to be still doesn’t work right now. I am in the fire pit, and it needs to do its things. I have been here so many times in the past, I have been heartbroken more than once, flat on the hard cold floor for weeks at a time. I also have done so much “work” on myself. It is somehow embarrassing to see myself here, so vulnerable, so raw… so human!

What else did I ever expect?

I notice that there is a quality in what’s happening that wasn’t there even just a few years ago. I am not lost in the same way; but now there is a space that was never so available, there is a certain freedom and delight in being an alive ordinary human being going through an emotional upheaval. There is a sense of free flow, and, as I suddenly realize with a smile, of let-go and acceptance.

Sharing myself in a deep and touching way is something I am rather good at and something I love doing. The urge to write what just happened and post it on Facebook for my friends to read is strong. I talk to a couple of friends about it and the feedback is clear: “Nirav don’t do that.” I agree, half getting the point, but as soon as I am on my own again I can’t refrain from writing my story. Why should I share that on social media I asked myself? To get support, empathy, connections? Yes, all that. Many friends would comment and it would make me feel held – I would be taking care of a real need. Friends whom I had not heard from in a long time would suddenly show up. Others would call me. Opportunities would come my way that otherwise would not have. Many people would feel touched and be grateful, and that too would soothe my heart.

But in the shadow I also see the desire to take revenge, to expose the one who just betrayed me, to get back at her, to make her week in the workshop difficult maybe, to make sure her reputation gets stained. I notice the workings of those inner shadows, and a few friends also point that out to me. I know it’s there and yet I publish that little sharing, and for two days keep the post on my wall. There is no lie in what I share, and it definitely has its use and rewards; it is in many ways done with sensitivity. But the shadows are also unleashed; revenge is being taken in a subtle way. I couldn’t resist. I did leak.

trees by Nirav

Day three is an important day where I decide to paint all day by myself under a huge oak tree, no matter my emotional state, no matter how many tears need to flow. I look like a mess but there is no one else in the forest and the old oak is in this moment my best friend. As the colours, forms and water flow on the canvas my emotional state finds a way to unwind. Healing is happening in the most beautiful way I know.

That evening, as everything starts to settle inside I come across a quote that hits me:

“Be the person who breaks the cycle. Vow to be better than what broke you – to heal instead of becoming bitter, so you can act from your heart, not your pain.”

In that moment I notice how another layer of pain dissolves inside; I remove my post tainted with revenge and post the quote above instead.

Painting by Nirav

May this sharing inspire you to have a deeper look at what happens for you when challenges unexpectedly hit you; how you lose your balance and how you return to the present moment.

This happens on many occasions every single day.

Note: small edits done on 1 and 4 November 2019.


Nirav is a painter and writer. philippenirav.wordpress.com
Painting by Nirav – photos by Naveen.