Drop Anchor – Move to your Center

When Life becomes unbearable to live, what do you do? What do you do when whatever’s happening to you defies logic and reason and seems totally unresolvable? Clearly, giving up on Life__and taking your Life, committing suicide__is not an option. Facing Life and continuing to live it fully, without expecting it to be any different from what it is, is the only option, and an intelligent, responsible response.  
Whenever you are in tremendous pain and are suffering from it, examine what’s causing you the suffering. Make a serious, conscious effort to understand what about your current situation makes you grieve. When you do this, you will discover that what’s causing you pain is beyond your control and is not really the cause of your suffering. You are grieving because you expect the pain causing factor to have not been there in the first place. So, to rid yourself of any suffering, or grief, you have to fundamentally rid yourself of all expectations. Here’s an irrefutable truth about Life – expectations bring agony! Expunge expectations and you will never suffer with or over anything in Life!
Expectations arise when you live at the periphery of Life. When you are attached to material things – money, fame, property or even to relationships. Attachment to anything perishable, impermanent or transient is bound to bring you grief. Isn’t it simple, plain logic? Isn’t it common sense? Think about it. If you know something is going to be short-lived, and is going to be eventually taken away from you, why not enjoy it as long as it lasts and why not be prepared to let it go when it’s time in your Life is over? Why have the expectation that it must continue to be with you forever? And why, through such irrational expectation, invite grief in your Life? Asking yourself these simple questions, and, through answering them, understanding Life better, can have a profound impact on you. It can take you to your center, to your inner core. Where you will find the strength, the courage, to live your Life peacefully despite whatever’s happening with it on the surface. The ocean is a good metaphor. When you stand at the periphery, among the waves, you witness the turmoil on the ocean’s surface. Wave after wave, comes crashing angrily on the shore. There’s a lot of restless energy at the surface level. But if you go to the ocean’s depths, lower, closer to its center, you will find a beautiful calm. It will be hard to imagine it is the same angry ocean, which is now serene and unmoved despite all the frantic action on its surface. Similarly, for us humans too, there’s a choice to go to our center.
Meditation is the only way to reach your center. And there is no one way to meditate. Don’t get carried away by populist prescriptions that you need to silence the environment to meditate or that you need to ‘go somewhere’ to meditate. Create your own way to meditate – one that makes you forget everyone and everything in the world and unites you with an ‘indescribable, invisible, yet imminently realizable energy’. It could be through whatever gives you joy – dance, music, writing, painting, gardening, cooking, housekeeping, walking, watching a sunrise or sunset, or simply being silent! Don’t force the way on you. Don’t insist that you put a framework to it. Do it once. If you love doing it, and you find losing yourself in it, keep doing it daily. Over time, you will be drawn to doing it effortlessly. And through this experience of losing yourself to what you love doing, you will train your mind to act not on the surface, the periphery, but to stay anchored deep, at your center!
When we drop anchor at the center we will find all that we are yearning and searching for – inner peace, bliss and the reason to carry on living!

Don’t whitewash Life – See and live (with) the Truth

If you give grief too much space in your Life you are ruining yourself. When things go wrong, there will be grief. But break-free from it after initially comforting yourself in its deceptive bosom. Indeed Grief is comforting – because it feeds your ego. It puts you in the spotlight, at the center of your Universe. But this comfort is at first debilitating and, when there’s too much of it, is fatal. When grief consumes you, it will make you invalid and incapable of enjoying Life, of living fully!
I met someone who is struggling, after a lot of inner turmoil, debate and dialogue, to accept that his 20-year-old marriage is over. He reports that his wife has been seeing someone else for over 10 years now. He also confessed that there was really no compatibility between the two of them from the beginning – they never agreed on anything and found themselves fighting every single day!
“So, what’s the problem? Are you not clear this is not working out? Why are you not moving on?” I asked.
“I am hurting. I am not sure I know why this is happening to me. I am not sure I deserve this,” he replied, fighting his tears.
This friend has been carrying a lot of guilt and grief in him for so many years. Despite the fact that his marriage appears to have been over more than a decade ago, he still refuses to accept it. He’s still asking, in vain, “Why? Why me?”
There’s no point asking “Why” in Life. The whole experience of this lifetime that each of is going through is mysterious, is often bizarre. So, when you ask yourself questions that have no answers you are kidding yourself. And in the hope that you will find some answers, you go on searching. You go on stumbling through Life. You go on grieving. What is, is the only truth in Life. In my friend’s case the truth is that he and his spouse appear to have stopped ‘relating’ to each other long, long ago. What they are presiding over is the corpse of their relationship – their dead marriage! They more he sits around with it, the more grief he will be in. And the more he grieves, the less fully he will live.
This is so true of many of the other situations in Life – wherever we try to analyze Life and find reasons and answers. When people do try to offer us answers, with reasons and justifications, they are only consoling us. But consolations are of no use because they always deal with a “dead” past. Consolations are only an attempt to whitewash Life. Instead if we simply accepted Life for what it is__as it is, as THE Truth__and moved on – we would surely live fuller, richer, happier lives!

A lesson in staying grounded – from a Super Star

An anecdote I heard at the opening Talk of the Madras Week celebrations on Sunday was both heart-warming and a great lesson in humility. The Talk, “Chennai (Madras) and Rajnikanth”, was delivered by the famous actor and film historian Mohan Raman. It was a wonderfully presented story of the Life and times of the legend divided interestingly by Raman into eight parts: Rajni’s youth, his evolution in The K.Balachander (KB) School, his early years as a villain, his ascent to hero-status, his maturity as an actor, his attaining Super Star cult status, his role as a worldly, family man and his spiritual pursuit.
Tales abound in Chennai’s Kollywood of Rajni’s down-to-earth demeanor in public Life. But the one that Raman shared was new, untold and very, very inspiring.
Mohan Raman telling Rajni’s story
The story goes that the (then) 8-year-old nephew of Kavithalaya Krishan (a popular actor and key functionary in legendary director KB’s__who ‘launched’ Rajnikanth in Apoorva Raagangal in 1975__Kavithalaya Productions) had come down from Australia and was pestering Krishnan for arranging to meet his (the boy’s) idol Rajni. Rajni had already become a cult figure and though Krishnan had known him well, in Rajni’s early years in Kollywood in the late 70s, he was not sure it would be appropriate to recall those times and get his nephew an audience. But since he worked in KB’s office, Krishnan knew key people in Rajni’s office as well. So, in a few days, an appointment was arranged for the young nephew to meet the Super Star. Krishnan drove the boy and his mother (Krishnan’s sister) to the studio where Rajni was shooting on the appointed day. But Krishnan, not sure if Rajni would recall him, and besides not wanting to impinge on the star’s time, decided to sit out in the car in the parking lot. Only the mother and son went into the studio and the meeting went as planned. The young fan was delirious with delight. Pictures were taken. And, finally, as they were bidding goodbyes, Krishnan’s sister decided to “brag” about her brother’s connection with the film world to Rajni. When Rajni heard that she was was Kavithalaya Krishnan’s sister, he made warm enquiries of his ‘old friend’. Through the conversation that followed Rajni gleaned that Krishnan was waiting in the car. Expressing shock and surprise, Rajni asked his personal assistant to invite Krishnan in and received him warmly – “just the way you would reconnect with a good old friend”.
He asked Krishan: “Why did you not come in with your sister and nephew?”
Krishnan replied matter-of-factly that he didn’t want to ‘disturb’ the star.
Rajni asked: “So, your sister and nephew can disturb me, but you can’t! Isn’t that what you are alluding to?” And he continued: “Krishnan, if you imagine that all this stardom has changed me, you are wrong. I am still the same man you used to help when I entered the industry. How can I forget the innumerable times you have bought me a meal when I was hungry and had no money? How can I forget the milagu rasam that your mother used to serve me at your home? How can I forget the times when KB Sir would be tough on me demanding a ‘perfect’ shot – and how you used to encourage me to keep trying to do better? How can I forget the number of times you have dropped me at my room because I did not have money to commute? Or the times when you have bought me cigarettes when I was out of cash? I am still the same man Krishnan. And if anyone has the right to reach out to me, even unannounced, it is you. My star status has made my Life comfortable, but has not changed who I am!
Krishnan, reported Raman in his Talk, was left speechless and in tears.
Irish wirter C.S.Lewis (1898~1963) once said: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself, less!” I think the folklore from Rajnikanth’s Life reminds us yet again to not get carried away by the trappings of success, fame and money – all of which are impermanent – in the course of our lifetimes.
Indeed. It is never really about what you are or how much you are worth. What matters is who you are. If you stay grounded, no matter how high you rise, you will have a special place in the hearts of people that continue to remember you – long after you are gone! To be sure, what people will remember you for is how did you lead your Life, how many lives you touched, and, if you at all left this world a better place than you found it – and not necessarily for the millions you made!!

No amount of negative thinking can change your Life

Nothing about your Life is going to change unless it does. Life is what it is. Feeling negative about is not intelligence.
At the same time, don’t expect negative thoughts not to rise. They will. Such is the nature of thoughts. They will always keep swimming in your mind. But you can develop the ability to recognize and rid yourself of negative emotions as they rear their ugly head. This calls for being both aware and honest.
For instance, take self-pity and jealousy. When you compare yourself with others, naturally, you are bound to pine for what you don’t have and feel jealous, often subconsciously, of what someone else has. Neither of these emotions is constructive. Self-pity keeps your feet nailed to the ground and jealousy fills you with negativity. Being honest with yourself is a good beginning. Ask yourself: What are you pining for? And who are you jealous of? Continue this train of awareness-based questioning: Is what you are pining for really so critical for your Life? Can you not manage without it? And is feeling jealous of someone going to make you get what you are pining for? These questions can have a eureka effect on your thinking. You will be amazed at your own ability to realize that these emotions are wasted, unproductive and are shackling you. Out of that ruthless honesty will emerge the simple clarity that you are who you are. Unique. And what you have is all that you have. You will awaken to the reality that pining and lusting is not going to make you, or your situation, any different.
Bob Marley, (1945~1981) the famous Jamaican reggae singer, said it so beautifully, “Life is one big road with lots of signs. So, when you are riding through the ruts, don’t complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy. Don’t bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality. Wake Up and Live!”

Be willing to be annihilated by Life so that you can live on!

When you find yourself in a Life-and-Death situation, don’t agonize. Just experience the moment. That moment has a beauty of its own. If you agonize, your suffering will take you away from the present. When you are not in the present, you can’t lead the situation effectively, you can’t think with clarity and you can’t act with focus. Panic may well be a normal reaction in such situations. But if you are present in the moment, your awareness will help you immensely in dealing with it.
But how can anyone be calm in a Life-threatening, crisis situation?
Good question. I recall an Urdu couplet by a unknown poet.
mita de apni hasti ko agar hazaar martaba chahe, ke dana mitti se mil kar hi gule gulzar hota hai!  
It means let go of all your attachment to worldly possessions__including your desire for power and position__and allow yourself to be annihilated – to be razed to the ground. For only when a seed becomes dust, and is buried, does it germinate into a new plant!
Why do you or I resist a crisis in the beginning? Because we fear that something grave will happen to us__or to those who we love. Now if our fears were to indeed become true, what is the worst that can happen? Well someone, perhaps even you, can die. But we all have to die someday – sooner or later. So, let go and accept that eventuality. When you do that, more often than not, death does not come calling. As the poet says, a new beginning often follows. Such is the nature of Life. For something new to begin, the old has to end, it has to perish. Once you understand this truth about Life, you can not only face, but endure and last any situation, however scary, dark and grave it may be, in Life! Be willing to be annihilated therefore! For that’s the only way to live on!!

Walk in Faith to cross the river of Life

In Life’s most excruciatingly painful moments, keep the Faith – fundamentally in yourself. Know and believe that if you have been created (without your asking for it), you will be looked after and cared for.

Swami Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (1836~1886)

Today is Ramakrishna Paramahamsa’s death anniversary. He often used to tell the story of a milkmaid to awaken people to have faith in themselves. Let me share that story with you.

A farmer’s daughter’s duty was to carry fresh milk to customers in various villages. One of the customers was a priest. To reach his house, the milkmaid had to cross a stream by a sort of ferry raft, for a small fee.

One day the priest, who performed worship daily by offering fresh milk to God, finding that it arrived very late each day, scolded the milkmaid. “What can I do?” she lamented, “I started out early from my house, but I had to wait a long time for the boatman to come.”

The priest refused to accept her explanation. He barked at her: “What! People have even walked across the ocean by repeating the name of God, and you can’t cross this small stream?” The milkmaid took his words very seriously. From then on she brought the priest’s order of milk punctually every morning. He became curious about it and asked her how it was that she was never late anymore.

“I cross the river repeating the name of the Lord,” she replied, “just as you told me to do, without waiting for the ferry.” The priest was shocked. He didn’t believe her, and asked, “Can you show me this, how you cross the river on foot?” So they went together to the stream and the milkmaid began to walk on water. Looking back, the woman saw that the priest had started to follow her and was floundering in the water.

“Sir!” she cried, “You are uttering the name of God, yet all the while you are holding up your clothes from getting wet. That is not trusting in God!”

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa used to sum up the moral of his story thus: “If you lose Faith you lose everything. Faith in ourselves, Faith in the God within, this is the secret to greatness. If you have Faith in all the three hundred and thirty million gods… but still have no Faith in yourselves, there is no salvation for you!”

I relate totally to that perspective. Most of the time, most of us are like that priest – holding up our clothes from getting wet, while professing faith in all the religions around us and in an external God. And that’s precisely the reason why we often feel depressed, deprived and lost in the face of Life’s challenges. When we learn to walk in Faith, in ourselves, than by sight alone, we will have learned to cross the river of Life – peacefully and joyfully!

On living free

Some people you meet in Life will be cantankerous, scheming and unethical to the core. Let them be. Who they are, and what they do to you, need not__and must not__change the way you deal with them. A common response we, good, ethical, warm and kind folks, have to such people is that we become depressive or angry or vengeful. This only creates more negative energy in us. And that, you will agree, is simply not worth inviting into your Life!
Here’s a Zen story which is awakening.

Two monks were washing their bowls in the river when they noticed a scorpion that was drowning. One monk immediately scooped it up and set it upon the bank. In the process the scorpion stung him. Unmindful, he went back to washing his bowl and again the scorpion fell into the river and began drowning. The monk saved the scorpion one more time and was again stung.

The other monk, who was watching this spectacle, asked him, “Friend, why do you continue to save the scorpion when you know it’s nature is to sting?”

“Because,” the first monk replied, “to save it is my nature.”
So, stay true to your nature. And let no one affect it. This does not mean you must suffer in silence. There surely are other means to express yourself than to retaliate in a similar manner as the one who’s causing you pain. When you are filled with anger and act from that impulse, you breed negativity in you. When you are negative, your inner peace gets affected. When your inner peace is disturbed, you are held hostage by debilitating emotions. And that essentially means you are not living free!
Think about it: Do you really want to forsake your freedom because someone acted foolishly?

Let Go = non-reasoning, non-analyzing, non-questioning!

Fighting Life, by resisting whatever is happening to you, is a zero-sum game. Every which way, you stand to lose. But the human mind, led by ego, wants you to believe that you can and must do something in a Life situation. So it will goad you to fight. To resist what’s happening to you. And there, through such resistance, you invite misery unto yourself.
Let’s understand this better. There are only two kinds of problems. One set of problems are those that you can solve – either on your own or through a third party resource, expending money or through other means. The other set of problems are the ones that are, humanly, unsolvable. Only Life has to solve them over time. When you are faced with the second set of problems, the best thing to do is to let go! When you let go, your problem may still be there. But it won’t torment you. It will not cause you any misery. You become miserable only when you attempt doing something that you are incapable of doing. For instance, if a mechanical engineer encounters a water pump problem in his apartment, he may find a solution to fix it over time. But if the same engineer attempts to sing like Mohd.Rafi__especially when he doesn’t have a natural talent for music__he will suffer trying to wonder why is he unsuccessful and why people are laughing at him!
Life’s problems are not a punishment for those who have to face them. Religion has made us believe that our problems are a manifestation of past sins and only when we atone for them will we find relief. This kind of reasoning leads people to feel guilty about a past that they don’t even remember and makes them fear Life. So, some of them, foolishly resort to suicide as a means of giving up on Life. Let’s get this straight – Life has no agenda to victimize either you or me. Human beings do things. Life simply happens. These are the only to realities. When you can’t solve a Life problem by doing something about it, let go and enter the realm of allowing Life to happen to you – in total acceptance and humility! Just let it happen. Let go of your desire to control, to solve, to do.
So, when you find that your doing something about a situation is of no use, simply flow with Life. Float like a piece of wood does on a river. Don’t worry where Life is taking you, why is it taking you wherever it is going, and when will this journey end. This does not mean inaction. The choice of allowing yourself to ‘float’ is significant action in itself! Don’t, however, analyze and form opinions about outcomes and possibilities. Don’t reason what consequences will follow an outcome – if you end up here, this is what will happen or if you end up there, this is what it means. Let Go = non-reasoning, non analyzing, non-questioning! Let Go means living spontaneously!
Living in ‘Let Go’ mode is not difficult. It is intelligent living. Because you are doing the most intelligent thing AFTER trying to apply your intelligence at solving the problem or Life situation. When you live in a ‘Let Go’ you will live with your problem, your Life situation – but you will live in peace, in bliss.

Get comfortable with uncertainty

Someone I know told me recently that his family was “living with a lot of uncertainty” at this time, given the condition of a member of their family who is battling a final stage cancer. The phrase ‘living with uncertainty’ made me pause and reflect. Aren’t we all, all the time, dealing with uncertainty?
The nature of Life itself is uncertain. The moment you are born uncertainty follows you like a shadow. Every living moment has no guarantees. Anything, absolutely anything, can happen. The past few days, the papers in India are running the story of a 50-day old baby in Tamil Nadu going up in flames, on its own, every now and then. Doctors treating the baby, that has severe burn injuries, are divided over the theory that the child is affected by the ‘spontaneous human combustion’ syndrome. Apparently, one historical view is that the baby’s case is the rarest of rare, among the very few that have been reported in the last 200 years, from across the world! Even so, can you imagine a human baby catching fire on its own?
That’s how bizarre and uncertain Life is for you – and, therefore, inscrutable.
If Life is intrinsically uncertain, why is dealing, and living, with uncertainty, so difficult? The problem lies in our “educated and informed” definition and interpretation of Life. A common view, handed down the generations, is that if we have money, many things in Life are predictable with some certainty. So, we have all fallen into “earning-a-living” and feel “comfortable” in the knowledge that money can bail us out in uncertain times. Even so, invariably, at least once in our lifetimes, more as a reminder of its true, inscrutable nature, Life will pose us a challenge that money cannot solve. Like that health (cancer) situation discussed above, or a relationship mess or a reputation loss as in the case of Hyderabad-based techie and former employee of HCL, Siddique Taj Kazi. 40-year-old Siddque, a father of five, lost his job with HCL and was jailed for four months (earlier this year) under charges of abetting ‘terrorism’ in a 10-year-old case of a bomb blast at a bus depot in Ghatkopar, Mumbai, in 2003. On August 2nd, the Mumbai Crime Branch pleaded with a Court that they found no evidence against Siddque and that they would like to drop charges against him. The Court has since acquitted Siddque. “But what about the loss of his reputation, his job and our peace of mind,” asks his beleaguered family, through their lawyer, Rebecca Gonsalves. Pertinent question. But am not sure they will get an answer – either from the Courts or from Life!  
The best way then to live in peace appears to be to drop the desire to be certain about everything in Life. Clearly, no amount of security that you garner in your favor ever works in the face of Life’s design. Despite all your plans, only what is to happen will happen. Know that when everything is so secure, or seemingly secure per your calculations, you are actually dead. Because death is the ultimate security – it is fixed, there’s no movement. Life, on the other hand, is flowing. And anything in flux has no form. So, welcome and choose to be comfortable with uncertainty. Then, and only then, despite its intrinsic insecurity, will you LIVE – truly, fully, happily!

Happiness comes only from celebrating what “is”

When you learn to focus only on what you have, and not dwell on what you don’t have, you will find yourself soaked in inner peace. This understanding is the simplest way to attaining bliss.
Do this little exercise for yourself on your commute to work today. Make a list of all that you have. Flip the page and make a list of all that you don’t have. Spend a minute reviewing each list. Surely, the first “what you have” list filled you with joy and gratitude. And the second “what you don’t have” list triggered a yearning, an anxiety, a concern for having to still working on making that list a reality. The truth is, because you spend a lot of your time, subconsciously, on the second list, more often than not, the emotions connected with that list magnify, and manifest as anger, depression and/or restlessness. You simply are under the spell of that list – completely oblivious of what you have. Happiness and contentment are possible only when you celebrate what is. Neither happiness nor contentment can ever be experienced over what isn’t there. This is an irrefutable law of Life.
Obviously, goals, aspirations and ambitions, come from the second list. And without those, there can be no progress. So the import here is not to tell you to be less ambitious or aggressive. Please stay doggedly on the path of your ambition – but don’t sacrifice what you have on the altar of your aspirations. Love and keep celebrating what is, even as you pursue what you want! This you can do only when you learn to live in the moment. And you can live in the moment by accepting and wanting what is, than by wishing that what isn’t were actually there.
On the futility of merely wishing, here’s a story that Osho, the Master used to say!
Bryant, an Irishman, was out fishing. And he caught a fish that spoke to him! The fish said that it was actually an elf that could grant Bryant three wishes if he let it live. So, Bryant threw the fish back into the river and rushed home. He shared this piece of good news with his wife and the two of them decided to go to the market in town to look for three things they could “wish” for. The wife decided to open a can of beans so she could make them dinner. The can opener, for whatever reason, was not to be found. And the lady “wished” she had a can opener so she could get done with dinner faster. Bingo! A can opener arrived in her hand. As Bryant looked on, angrily, his wife felt sorry having wasted a “wish” on a stupid can opener. Bryant was vocal: “Why did you wish for such a stupid thing? I wish the can opener was up your ass!” Bingo! Again! Sure enough, that’s where the can opener ended up being. And you can imagine what the couple would have done next – they had to use up the third wish to get the can opener out of where it was!
So, wish, dream, pursue, by all means. But live with and love what is. Remember: being in the moment that “is” always far more valuable, enriching, and productive than trying to wish for something that “isn’t”!