Facing Inner Tigers, Authentic Courage, & the Life of Pi

Yesterday, I was compelled to go see the movie Life of Pi. I decided that it is a film  I need to see by myself, as I’m currently on the  path of self-discovery that requires that I do some meaningful things on my own.

And so…

There I was in the dark watching the Life of Pi — A boy loses his entire family in a shipwreck and he is left alone with nothing but a lifeboat,  zebra,  hyena, gorilla and lion. It is a long story as to how a  wide-eyed Indian teenager found himself in such a precarious situation. Understanding requires that you go see the film.  Please do…

The movie pushes you into the uncomfortable space called “alone-ness.” On the sea, with no land in sight…no one to talk to…thoughts of the past, terrifying present, and uncertain future drumming through your head. You can’t pull out your iPhone…turn on your car radio…or invite a friend over to save your soul. No…you only have your thoughts and the expansive world around you.

The character named Pi has  a choice. He can either be swept away into oblivion as result of his fears – the pains of losing his family – or find meaning in it all. Finding meaning requires that he has unyielding courage – owns a thing called purpose – and clings to a concept named faith.

Courage. Purpose. Faith.

It is easy to get all whacked out in the modern world when someone throws out the word faith. It implies for many that one is willing to believe in fairy tales or is tied to religious dogma that binds humanity. Early on the the film, Pi’s father argues against the idea of faith and urges his son to rely on science.  Regardless, Pi is forced to survive on the endless sea and finds himself with no choice but to leave his fate to the elements. A highly spiritual boy, at one point in the movie he throws his hands towards the sky and cries out to God…”what do you want from me!!! I submit everything I have to you. I have nothing else to give.” He sobs. The ocean that surrounds him is vast. Still no land in sight. Silence.

I’ve found myself in that space in time a handful of times. When I was told that my father had died unexpectedly when I was 10, I cried out hysterically. When I lost one of my dearest friends in a car accident, panic raced through my limbs as i realized I’d never talk to her again. And recently, ending love for the sake of differing journeys has led me to feel as though I am on the lifeboat — asking the universe “why?”

I’ve really tried over the past few weeks to face my pains and fears head-on. When feeling the urge to turn on the radio to drown out an intense feeling that rages through my mind and body, I’ve worked to resist the impulse and dared myself to feel it…and then let it pass. Or when asked by a friend if I wouldn’t like to go on a date to replace what I’ve lost instantly, I’ve said no. Another friend told me jokingly…just start drinking and time will pass in a blink of an eye. I knew he was being sarcastic…but it really is no joke…I know many people who have taken that approach to loss and one day awoken to the fact that they still had to face their loss/pain.

My mission is to arise from challenge authentically. I don’t want to bury my pain or fill my void with something out of desperation. I seek something new — to set out on a journey in which I can arrive in a new land — a truly bold and courageous individual.

In order for Pi to survive, he had to do two things: (1) Face himself. Know himself. Be himself and (2) Face the tiger that has survived the shipwreck with him (once again to understand why there is a real life tiger that survived the wreck with him…go see the movie). The Bengal tiger that survived was quite vicious, but he relied on Pi to feed and care for him. Pi at one point decided that he would need to kill the tiger if he were to survive (for the tiger had already eaten all of the other animals on board), but as a Hindu with a love for all living creatures couldn’t do it. And so…he seeks to tame the tiger.

He realized that in taming the tiger — in taming the mind — in saying no to fear — survival could be attained. Killing the tiger would be a cop-out — for after killing the beast there would undoubtedly be another challenge that arose.  In taming the tiger, he could have a fearless companion with which to survive. Pi now had a purpose that extended beyond himself. He was determined to save two souls — his own…and the tiger.

Without a doubt, our minds have raging tigers within them. Tigers that if left untamed will consume us and negatively impact those we love. The greatest minds throughout history have revealed that the only way we can tame the tiger is to find silence – get acquainted with our pains – and make friends with them.  Forgive. We tell ourselves some wild stories and we think by telling them, we will find true freedom. For example…mine used to equal…”My dad died when I was 10, this is why I am vulnerable and fearful.” I am not sure how many times I have told that story…thinking that it would free me from something…but it imprisoned me.

I know now that it takes much more than that. I must be still and face the tigers that rage within my soul. I can focus on the 10-year-old I was when my dad died in my mind’s eye…and wrap her up in a warm embrace. I can tell that child about courage…purpose…and faith. The wounds then can heal for real. My new story then can be transformed into what I am doing in the present…and how the courage I have gained by weathering my very own shipwreck is empowering me to undertake an authentic journey. One that will unfold in beauty and love.

What stories are holding you back? I promise that when you get down to the root of your challenges and feel the rawness of your truth, you will survive. It isn’t as scary as it seems…

“Life is an act of letting go.” – Pi – From the movie Life of Pi

– Post by Jen Engevik

 

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