Joy can be a disaster as great as sorrow if we don’t know how to control it. Dogs are born to practice joy, they wag their tails, smile, enjoy life with enviable lightness, but don’t quite handle sadness. People, on the other hand, are champions at it.
A few years ago, while driving my old car, a small Mitsubishi Colt, I was rear-ended by a Jaguar. The driver of the gorgeous car, a lawyer, got scared, while I couldn’t stop laughing. Seeing me so cheerful he became quite confused. I tried to calm him down by telling him I was physically intact, but I’d never been in a car accident before. On that day, I was extremely happy, full of energy, like I hadn’t been in years and I just did not manage to control myself so, I drove like a monkey. The poor man rear-ended me because in my condition of well-being I was undecided and I braked suddenly, for an unknown reason.
Habit directs our lives and when our habit is one that pushes us into drama, everything around us comes about as such. Much of my life, like most people, my behavior was prone to the dark areas of mental and emotional manifestations. The states of well-being were not familiar to me, but I was trained to be unhappy and that explained why I had never had an accident before. I kept myself safe by making up sadness, anxiety, depressions, and problems, although I was spared from unpleasant events. I had always been healthy, I looked good, I had everything I wanted, but I was terribly afraid of being happy and I was doing everything in my power to keep myself in a depressing mood out of the fear that something bad would happen to me. And I was right because when I finally let the joy show, I had my first car accident. That was the day I decided to change my perspective.
My name is Sandra Sanada and I was told that I was born on July 25th, yet I have no memories of it. All I can do is to take for granted the word of those people who attended the event, without having any evidence of my birth and my first cry.
I’ve never felt like having my own identity even though, like everyone else, I was imprisoned in one. A name, a race, a religion, a nation, a sex, a continent, until the day came to get rid of all this.
The memories I have about me, as a being living on Planet Earth, start from the moment I became aware of my parents, all six of them. The first to take care of me were my grandparents from my mother’s side, Nastasia and Sidor, and then, ten years later, I was sent to live with my biological mother, Livia, who, together with my stepfather, Mihail, raised me up over the next ten years. Finally, although I was aware of their existence, I met my biological father, Șerban, and his wife Christina.
Being brought up by six parents, my mind became very flexible, having to adapt to their different styles and the information I received from them. This helped me later to understand the concept of “Bardo” which, in Tibetan, means “between two”, between two worlds. “Bardo Thödol” is a book that refers to the path a spirit travels between the discarding of the physical existence and the resurrection into a new form of material existence, but this concept also refers to the “bardos” of life, when we move from one city to another, from one marriage to another, when we change our job or hobby, and so on. The phenomena occurring in Bardo and those happening in the “bardos” we go through in life are similar. Between worlds, everything must be abandoned: ties, weakness, intimacy… We belong neither to the world we have left behind nor to the world to which we are heading and these moments create terror, despair, loneliness, feelings of panic and uprooting. However, the return is impossible and the only solution is to move forward until we reach a new world. During the Bardo we do not belong to the world we are heading to and we feel the void strongly. We have to accept it and enjoy it as if we were experiencing weightlessness.
Understanding this Tibetan concept made it possible for the novel entitled “The Training of Joy” to emerge. During my early years, I did not really belong to any of the three families. My grandparents raised me impeccably, but being aware of the fact that I was not entirely their duty and so they gave me a lot of freedom. Moving to my biological mother, the same thing happened. I was only half-accepted in her house, because I wasn’t her husband’s biological daughter, and in my father’s house this situation went on in the same manner, only the other way round. For a long time, I did not understand that the circumstances of my upbringing made me special, that I had a unique chance to become as free as possible in the conditions of life on earth and I was able to deal with the often dramatic changes in my life.
This constant change in family life created side-effects that continued to manifest throughout my life and my personal history was forever marked by the various areas of activity through which I have “traveled”. I started studying theatre and I was an actress for a few years, acting on stage, but also in television and film productions.
After several years, I gave up acting and spent years studying martial arts, becoming an Aikido instructor. During this time, I attended the Civil Aviation School, the module for private pilots, after spending two years in sports aviation. When I became aware of the fact that I had studied in detail three very different areas of activity and I had become proficient in each, I clearly saw how this had been a direct outcome of the time I had spent with three families growing up.
Things did not stop here, as I thought at some point. I was hoping to follow one of the three paths and continue studying it until the end of my life, but my hunger for knowledge, my desire to learn, to discover, to study, took me further and I became a theatre director for a short period of time in which I set up three shows: “Novecento” by Alessandro Barrico, “Măgura” a dramatization of the novel “Village life” by George Smarandache and “Amedee or how to get rid of it” by Eugene Ionesco.
Once more, I thought I’d stop and direct for the rest of my life, but it did not happen that way. A few years ago, I divorced from my ex-husband after twelve years of marriage, and I suffered terribly, especially since it happened at the same time my first flight instructor died.
I had to give myself three years of loneliness to find my path again. I spent some of this time studying scriptwriting, but the fact that I was flying and I had friends in aviation, linked me to a Tibetan Air Traffic Controller living in Europe, Tenam, to whom I told the drama I was going through.
Tenam said I chose to suffer and I could not have imagined a different reaction following the two simultaneous dramas. I did not consider suffering to be a choice, but a natural consequence. However, Tenam contradicted me by saying that I was totally lacking the training of joy and well-being and that I was quite terrified of the possibility of experiencing happiness and as long as I continue to live in the habit of suffering, no matter what event takes place, I will always see the bleak side of life.
I remembered the car accident I had during a moment of strong happiness and I accepted his invitation to live with him for a while in his home located in a remote mountain village. While enjoying a beautiful holiday, I spent a lot of time in the company of this charming Tibetan, listening to him and practicing techniques for the training of joy, drinking tea or going on nature walks with his son Mark and their dog, Bars.
In his company, I had the most amazing experiences, which cost me nothing financially but did cost me a lot of energy. I needed to investigate layers very deeply hidden in my being that, once awakened, made it possible for me to have a profound understanding of the past events in my life.
Part of my journey inspired me to write this novel. While I was living there, in the Tibetan’s house, I kept a diary, recorded all our conversations on tape, and when I went back home I worked on them and decided to write about it. It was not easy because at first, I thought it was enough to write everything in chronological order and to tell some of the events that happened there. After a few attempts, I understood that I had to turn the reality into an artistic act.
The stories in this novel are stylized, the characters are interpretations of the people who inspired me and the place of the action, which I described as Switzerland, is another, out of respect for Tenam’s privacy. The most important thing is that there, in the Tibetan’s home, by learning a few techniques, I managed to change myself while living a beautiful love story.
I am grateful to all the people who built up my personality until I was ready to meet Tenam and I understood that there is no random encounter in our lives, every person we come into contact with, shapes us, helps us and prepares us for the meeting with our destiny. However, this personality built by others does not belong to us, it’s just a collage of all life events and encounters with other people. I believe there comes a time in one’s life when we have to discard everything that does not belong to us and to consciously create our own personality. The mechanical repetition of what we have seen or heard is insufficient. We are here to receive an “inheritance” to work with and then alter it into a valuable new thing. Only then we can discover our true identity, give the world something new and return our gratitude to those who have invested in us.
Together with Tenam I understood that it is necessary to control my mind, to train it to cope with well-being and to detach myself from everything that might drag me down, through meditation and the awareness that we are passing through a tunnel of mirrors, we mirror every person or life situation, everything is just a projection of ourselves and we must take it as such. Just as we cannot entirely see ourselves physically without a mirror, we can only perceive our true identity as it is reflected by the people around us.
Because none of us exists independently and we are an outcome of our interactions with others, I am grateful to all those who have invested in me so I could become who I am today.
My book ”The Training of Joy” is available on Amazon in both formats, paperback and eBook. Check the link and see if you’d like to read it or give it as a gift to a friend. Because for me, a Tibetan made a huge difference in my life, I donate 40% of the royalties to support the Tibetan cause. This nation is living in distress for over 60 years and many of them, grown-ups and children, live as refugees all over the world. Tibet has been suffering a lot in the last decades of occupation by China. This, without any help from the international community. But every day, in our modern lives we like to learn from the teachings of the Dalai Lama who is a spiritual reference for many of us.