The door to happiness is always open

Last evening, I heard this song “Tujse Naaraaz Nahi Zindagi…” from Masoom (1983, Shekar Kapur, R.D.Burman, Gulzar, Anoop Ghoshal). It’s a beautiful, soulful song! A line in it, “…jeene ke liye socha hi nahin, dard sambhalne honge…”, holds the key to why we often struggle with Life! The line means, “I never thought I have to deal with/manage pain to live Life!” Interesting, isn’t it? Almost all of us have encountered pain__and resultantly suffering__without preparation. As kids, our painful moments would be anchored and cushioned under the protective care of our parents. But when we step into adult Life, our first experience socks us. And the reason why we are numbed by the first episode of pain in our independent lives is that we have never been educated on Life in our early years. We haven’t been told that:
  •          Life never guarantees any fair-play
  •          Life will keep on happening to us – no matter what we want or expect
  •          Pain in Life is inevitable
  •          The only way to be happy in Life is to decide to be happy – no matter what!

Had we been exposed to these truisms about Life, as much as we have been introduced to Math, Science, History, Geography and the languages, perhaps, we would have been better prepared for Life.
Nevertheless, it is not too late either. You can make a beginning now by deciding to be happy!
Once you make that decision, make sure nothing comes in its way. You are standing on the threshold of happiness, knocking on the door to open. After much knocking you will realize, much to your amazement, that the door was always open. All you had to do was to DECIDE to push it, than keep knocking on it, for you to enter the kingdom of happiness. This is what you are doing with your Life too. You are choosing NOT to be happy. Being happy means being so despite your circumstances. But you choose to stand on that threshold and hope that your circumstance will change and THEN you will be happy. How will you? If you can’t be happy with what you have, with what is, with what you can see, with your present, what are the chances you will be happy with what you may get, in a future that you can’t see yet?
So, stop running from pillar to post, stop the procrastination, stop knocking, just decide. Your one decision can change your Life!

Beware – being sad is comfortable

Yesterday I saw a comment by someone on facebook that he was going to be away from “facebooking” for several months as he was “feeling low” and wanted to deal with his depression. His comment made me wonder – can stopping to engage with people (isn’t that what facebook allows you to do?) help you deal with your feelings – low energy, distaste for anything and everything, and depression?
Yes, surely, we all need some time and space to be left alone, to pause and reflect. But you don’t have to go into a shell, into a cave, into hiding! When you feel low, examine your ‘feeling’ closely. You will find that what you think is causing your depression is not actually causing it. On the contrary you are causing your own depression. You are feeling low because you are ‘comfortable’ feeling low.
Consider this: your work and career are plateauing, you don’t enjoy the work you are doing anymore. Now is your organization and the nature of its business to blame for your feeling low? Or are your colleagues? Or your boss? The truth is that none of them is. You are. You don’t like the work you do so you don’t like going to work anymore on that count. What’s the point brooding about it. Take action. Simple. Look for a new job. And move on.
I am not advising or even suggesting that “feeling low” is bad. In fact, when you feel low, “feel” that energy with your soul. Give it all your attention. Don’t slip into the comfort that sadness, lethargy, distaste provide. Beware – being sad is comfortable. You don’t have to do anything. Just sit brooding and people will do things for you. You can go on staring at the walls or the ceiling. You don’t have to smile. You need not go for walks. You can just eat your meals or even skip them. You can say you are depressed and not go to work. So, in essence, wallowing in low energy is comfortable. On the other hand, feeling good about Life is a lot of work. You have to make a choice to stay positive. And you have to do it with all your soul.

Grieving over Life is not going to make living it any easier. Hiding from people is also not going to help either. The only cure for “feeling low” is to stop looking at what “isn’t” there in your Life and to start focusing on what “is” there! Shift your attention from scarcity to abundance. When you are soaked in abundance, your will find your energy levels soaring! 

We are all works-in-progress!

Everyone who comes into your Life is teaching you something, somewhere, all the time.The learning may not be always packaged as one, but if you are tuned into Life’s experiences, you will pick up the learning nevertheless.
Yesterday, I had to request for a service to be delivered to my home by a reputed brand. The company sent me a service representative who was impolite, impudent and, to top it all, was inexperienced. He was a young man who had little patience to understand the problem that he had been sent to solve, let alone solve it! Predictably, I had to turn him away. But the urgency to find a solution to the problem we were facing and my own desire to provide feedback to the company’s management, led me to escalate the matter to the brand’s senior management in my city. The person who took my call was apologetic and immediately sent me a more diligent and experienced representative. The man, in his mid-30s, fixed my problem in some time. And when he was taking my leave, thanked him and I narrated my unfortunate experience with his younger colleague. He apologized, and then, sheepishly smiling at me, he said: “Sir, to be honest even I was like him. I was very ineffective with customer service. But I guess you learn from each experience – good or bad – in Life. As long as you learn, you are growing. I take your compliment as a sign of my personal evolution. Thanks!”
His mature and profound articulation blew me away completely. He was the most unlikely candidate to extol the virtues of learning from Life. Or to be honest about his own learning curve. Yet what sets him apart are precisely those two factors – that he is a learner, and he is not afraid to either make a mistake or own up one!
We are all works-in-progress. No one’s born perfect or experienced. As long as we can learn from each experience in Life, we will grow. Our personal evolution is truly a function of how much we are learning – no matter who we are learning from!

To avoid suffering – simply let go!

We all resist and grieve when things__or people or opportunities__get taken away from us. Actually, what has to happen will happen – so why cling on to what’s being taken away from you and create so much suffering for yourself in the bargain?
Sunita Naik: Pic Courtesy: Shailesh Bhatia, India Today
I read the moving story of journalist-turned-editor-turned-millionaire-turned-pauper-turned-destitute Sunita Naik, 65, last week. A former editor of the Marathi magazine Grihalaxmi, Naik had at one time, just over a decade ago, two apartments in prime locations in Mumbai, cars, a good, steady income and a solid cash reserve. She is single and does not have anyone in the world. Then, over the years, she lost her job, got into debt, had to sell off her apartments, and live off the interest her cash reserve was generating each month. However, someone known to her, under the pretext of helping her with her banking work swiped her accounts clean, leaving Naik penniless. Evicted from her rented house in Thane, Naik came to the streets. She took refuge on the pavement outside a gurudwara in Versova and lived there for a few months with her pet dog, Sashi. A Mid-Day reporter bumped into her one day and ran her story in the paper. People pitied with her. But few showed active interest in helping her. She was not begging. She was just homeless and penniless. Finally, a compassionate couple, Christine and Gregory Misquitta offered her shelter in their home. They love dogs so Sashi found a home too!
This story, of course, reminds us yet again of the fickle and fragile nature of Life. But I also learned from Sunita’s story that she displayed a great sense of “let-go”. She seemed to be in great acceptance of the whatever was happening to her Life – whether it was a career-high at one time or numbing penury and homelessness at another! And things did happen to her – just the way they had to, right up to good folks, the Misquittas, taking her home!
A prime cause of suffering in our lives is that we resist whatever we dislike. But whatever’s happening to you does not pause to enquire whether you like it or not. It just happens. So, when you can’t prevent whatever’s happening, the best way forward is to stop wanting to and trying to control it. Simply let go. And let things happen! Irrespective of what you believe or think, whatever happens, eventually happens for your good __ every single time!
On this Gokulashtami, Sri Krishna’s birthday, revisiting the Essence of the Bhagavad Gita, can, I believe, have a calming, uplifting effect on you – no matter what you are dealing with currently!
Whatever happened, it happened well.

Whatever is happening, it is happening well.

Whatever will happen, it will also happen well.
What of yours did you lose?
Why or for what are you crying?
What did you bring with you, for you to lose it?
What did you create, for it to be wasted or destroyed?
Whatever you took, it was taken from here.
Whatever you gave, it was given from here.
Whatever is yours today, will belong to someone else tomorrow.
On another day, it will belong to yet another.
This change is the Law of the Universe.

Faith or Fear – you decide

When faith is there, fear cannot exist. If fear does, faith is in question.

How do you anchor in faith? Go deep within you and experience the true nature of your creation. Experience the fact that you caused nothing. Neither the success in the past or the current reality which may be deemed as a struggle or failure. When you look at each of those realities as mere instruments/opportunities of learning, of growing, of evolving, the labels of success or failure that have stuck to you get peeled off. And when those labels are off, the burden they place on you, too come off.

In this new liberated present, faith blossoms.

How are you paying your rent to the Universe?

Someone who I got to know recently wrote to me about the concept of paying our dues, as a rent, to the Universe – for having been created human and for enjoying the abundance that is available to us. The idea of paying back to the Universe appeals to me greatly.
If we pause to look up from the earning-a-living spree that we all find ourselves caught up in, if we step back and away from being obsessed with the imperfections in our lives and if we stop being attached to material things – we will find that there are many opportunities in everyday living that can help us touch another Life, make a difference and contribute to make this world a better place than it is now!
The way to do this is to transform passion into compassion. We are all passionate. About people, about vocations, about events. Passion is very individual and is directed only at someone or something. It is basically a lot of personal, possessive energy. This sense of possessiveness often makes people want to control, dominate and demand. And so, ever so often, passion becomes a selfish, draining pursuit. On the other hand, compassion is not at all about being possessive about someone or something. It is the same energy as passion is but it is about making that energy in you available to everyone. It is like a rain that showers and drenches whoever and whatever it falls upon. Simply, compassion is expansive – a radiation, a glow, while passion is regressive – controlling and possessing.
When we stop obsessing about what isn’t there in our daily lives and employ ourselves selflessly in whatever small way to make a difference, we can transform our passion into compassion. It’s not difficult. What it requires is an effort. The most inspiring example of this transformation is Mother Teresa, whose birthday it is today! And she taught the simplest way to get started on this transformational journey when she said: “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed only one.”
This is a practice my wife and started four years ago and follow till date. We feed one person, randomly – someone who we find on the street – at mealtimes daily. When we do offer the packet of food, we look into the person’s eye and say “Thank You!” Because while the act of service may make us feel warm within, what humbles us and keeps us anchored really is the opportunity to serve. This practice is our own small way of paying our rent to the Universe.
Perhaps you have your own practice too. More power to you if you do. Or if you haven’t started to pay your rent, you may now want to, going forward?

Only YOU can make your Life beautiful!

When Life deals you deadly blows you have two options – either to feel depressed or to simply take it in your stride and move on! The second option may appear to be a difficult one. But when exercised can be truly liberating.
Let me share with you the story of my friend, who’s in his 40s. I met him earlier this week, many years after he had separated from his wife. His wife actually had dealt with him rather unusually – taking over his property, deserting him and migrating to the US with their child. While she may have had her own reasons for her actions, my friend was devastated. He just could not reconcile, for several months, with what had happened. I remember him telling me: “I loved her and still love her a lot. She could have just told me that she wanted to break away from me and I would have walked away without a question. That she chose not to trust me with her decision hurts me more than her leaving me. And why deny me access to my own child?”
Over time, my friend immersed himself in his work. And all of us around him felt he had managed his emotional state pretty well. When I met him a few days ago, I asked him how he was coping. What he told me blew me away completely and my admiration for him has swelled. Here’s how the conversation went.
Me: “So, how are you coping with Life?”
Him: “Life’s beautiful. I married a Kashmiri woman whose husband died of cancer some years ago and adopted her son as my own.”
Me: “That’s wonderful. How old is the boy? And how has he adapted to you?”
Him: “The boy is 12 now. It’s been three years. He calls me ‘daddy’ and we are great friends. My wife and I are also great friends. To tell you the truth, I have a special and beautiful friendship with her. After her husband’s death, her in-laws were not supportive. They harassed her and blamed her for their son’s death (he was diagnosed with cancer within a few months of their marriage). She even contemplated suicide as she could not handle them nor get over her loss. She loved her husband a lot and did not see a meaning in her continuing to live. We have a mutual friend who asked me if I could consider marrying her so that she could get out of the tyrannical clutches of her in-laws. When I met her for the first time, she told me openly that she did not want to ever physically consummate our marriage. Because she still feels the presence of her husband in her Life. So, she told me that our own marriage may not work out. I liked her openness. And her concern for me. I told her we could still marry and be great friends. That’s how it all started and all three of us are very, very, very happy!”
Me: “That’s such a great choice and gesture. I respect you. But don’t you miss something: maybe physical intimacy? Maybe your first wife?”
Him: “Life’s not about sex and physical relationships alone. I still love my first wife. But she’s gone. What’s the point in pining for her or holding a grudge against her? I decided to channelize my love for her and my first child, who’s with her, toward my second wife and her son. Their presence in my Life keeps me anchored and their friendship keeps me going.”
Even as I recall this conversation here, I feel blessed that I learned something from my dear friend.
  1.   .  Life’s not only about physical intimacy with a spouse. There’s a special friendship that’s possible if you make the effort. And if nurtured, through sharing, caring and compassion, as in my friend’s case, it can make Life meaningful!
  2.     Carrying a grudge against someone, however wrong they may have been or however badly they may have treated you, affects you more than the other person. It makes youunhappy and depressive.

My friend’s story leaves us all with a powerful message – No matter what has happened in your Life, you can still make it beautiful if you want to!

Perfection and Problemlessness ain’t happening!

Being happy does not require ‘perfection’ or a ‘zero-problem status’ as a pre-condition.

In fact, both perfection and ‘problemlessness’ are impractical goals. We will never get a problem-free or perfect Life. So, you can go on postponing happiness as much as you want, in the hope that you will first ‘sort out things’, ‘mourn your losses’ and then ‘be happy’. Only that, when you do finally ‘wake up’, ‘willing’ to be happy, you will find that the years have gone by, you are walking towards your sunset and that there’s very little or no time left __ to live or be happy!
Examine: Are you grieving? Are you mourning a loss? Are you facing a seemingly unrealistic challenge? If yes, ask yourself, how is postponing happiness, going to remove the condition that is causing you grief or replace what you have lost or tide over your challenge? You get the point? So, just chill.
Enjoy the weekend!

Your lifetime is counting down…

I met someone briefly yesterday who is young and who has recently lost her two-and-a-half month old baby. She came across as someone who is stoic and who is learning to cope with her loss. Yet there, naturally, was a tinge of sadness in her eyes. I reflected on the brief conversation I had had with her as I sit down to write this morning. How can you console a mother who has lost a child?
The truth is you can’t. And you mustn’t. Not about this mother and her loss. But also about any loss, any crisis, any tragedy in Life. Life’s realities have to be faced. They can’t be justified or reasoned with.
In this mother’s case, she has to realize__and accept__that death is an integral part of Life. If you are born, you will die. You know this. But it is your expectation that Life last longer. This expectation is the one that causes you grief. The moment you drop that expectation, you will be able to deal with any loss__including death__better. A friend of mine lost his grandson within a few hours of the child’s birth. The child was born in San Jose, California. Everything was normal: the pre-delivery medical reports, the delivery itself and the baby’s condition post-delivery. Apparently the baby had suffered a heart attack as his heart was weaker than that of most infants at birth. So, one minute, my friend wrote to me over mail sharing his joy at being elevated to grandfather status. And within a few hours he wrote to inform that they had lost their grandchild. A line he wrote in his mail is worth reflecting over: “We are all still coming to terms with this. But I guess each of us has a role to fulfil in creation. Our little fellow’s was to remind us that, at the end of the day, Life is fleeting and fragile. He taught us, through his brief stay with us, to celebrate each moment of it and not to ever waste it!”
To be sure, we lose a bit of our lifetime every single day – 24 hours daily to be precise. None of us knows when we will have to depart. But know for sure that you__and I__have to depart. Someday. Our expiry dates are already set. Except, unlike in all the products that we consume, that date is not visible to us. So, here’s the choice we have to make: we can live our lives pining for all that we have lost or we can live celebrating what we still have left with us – even as our clocks keep counting down to our own ends.

Be alive in each moment in Life

Merely breathing is not being alive. Being alive is when you are in the thick and swirl of Life and are enjoying each moment! Being alive is when you are living each moment as if it were your last!
In the movie Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011, Zoya Akhtar), there a beautiful poem by lyricist Javed Akhtar (rendered by Farhan Akhtar), that talks about what it means to ‘Be Alive’! I am sharing here the original Hindi version (in English script!) and the English translation – courtesy
Hindi Version:

Dilon me tum apni betabiyan leke chal rahe ho,to zinda ho tum

Nazar me khwaabon ki bijliyan leke chal rahe ho,to zinda ho tum

Hwa ke jhokon ke jaise aazad rehno sekho

Tum ek dariya ke jaise lehron mein behna sekho

Hr ek lamhe se tum milo khole apni baahein

Hr ek pal ek nya sama dekhe nigahein
Jo apni ankhon mein hairanian leke chal rahe ho,to zinda ho tum
Dilon mein tum apni betabian leke chal rahe ho,to zinda ho tum

English Translation
If you have eagerness in your heart, it means you are alive,

If your eyes are filled with dreams, it means you are alive
Learn to be free like the wind, (copyright
Learn to flow freely like the river,
Embrace every moment with open arms,
See a new horizon every time with your eyes,
If you carry surprise in your eyes, it means you are alive,
If you have eagerness in your heart, it means you are alive…

To be sure, you can be alive to the moment even when you are in enormous pain, as long as you are not grieving! Grief is a killer. Just as guilt, anger, worry or hatred are! When you welcome each moment, no matter what it brings with it, with open arms and are willing to accept it for what it is, you are alive!
Wishing you a wonderful and ALIVE day today!
Enjoy the original poem rendered by Farhan Akhtar here…