Via Basel: Successes, Failures, and Disasters
What an irony: we crave success, but it’s mostly fleeting and rarely educational. We abhor failure, though it can be deeply transformative. As with all of you, over the years I’ve had my share of both many times over. My successes were in the professional and material realm but also in raising a new family, while keeping my connections to the one I came from, as well as discovering and sustaining friendships. Of course, even with my so-called successes some were more meaningful than others. On reflection within these same domains lay my failures and losses. Any errors and oversights in treating my patients made me a better and more humane physician over time. Any financial setbacks I encountered were lessons in humility and where my true treasures resided. The most painful and difficult to confront were the breakdown and loss of relationships, especially the closest ones. In many of these I acknowledged my responsibility in causing them and the suffering they generated, exposing my faults and weaknesses in the process and opening the door for healthier and more balanced relations in the future.
And, at times, disaster just strikes, and it is totally out of our will or control. A certain acceptance, realism, and practical adjustments, along with a steady resolve and patience over time, are the best antidotes. Taking care of self, kindness to others, and avoiding blame and anger are also key ingredients in the recovery, knowing that the situation may never go back to what it was prior to the catastrophe. Underlying all that is the ongoing transformational process to evolve and be adaptable to the new reality. It is a remarkable phenomena that has been happening to us “Sapiens” time and time again. Somehow it is easy to conceive of it on an individual level but is more complicated and difficult on a community scale.
Which brings me to our present universal challenge today, the COVID pandemic. Deep inside we know that just complaining or ignoring it will not take away its effects on our physical and mental health, jobs, education, relationships, and other aspects of our existence. Precisely because of the magnitude of these losses, the potential for learning and wisdom is unparalleled, whether in dealing with unsustainable material consumption, individual well being, care for each other and for all beings and resources on this most beautiful planet.
In this season, whether we are celebrating the holidays or the Holy Days, let us resolve to transform, even transcend the losses and failures of the past into new beginnings with Peace, Unity,* Joy and, yes, even Success.
Basel Al-Aswad, father of EIL founder Christopher Al-Aswad, is a yogi trapped in an Orthopedic Surgeon’s body. His loves in life include reading, writing, hiking, enjoying nature, meditation, and spending time with his large Iraqi family, and now, semi-retired, he is exploring new avenues in medicine, education, and social engagement.
*In Aramaic, the language of my tradition, “Alaha” means “the one” signifying Unity. The word “Ruha” stands for breath as well as spirit. Since we are all breathing the same air that can literally circulate the planet, we are then all united and connected with breath. In that spirit, let us repeat and meditate on this simple phrase “A-la-ha Ru-ha,” or if you prefer “Unity in Breath” and, yes, even chant it… [See Abwoon, above.]