No point in ‘DISLIKING’ anything in Life

A friend lost her close friend. And she shared her grief on facebook as a status message. 15 people ‘liked’ her status in a matter of seconds. People ‘liking’ someone’s grief? Doesn’t it seem odd? But when I thought about it deeply, I saw that facebook for all its quirks teaches us something very spiritual. By not allowing a Dislike button it forces us to (only) Like a status. If you examine the absence of the Dislike feature on facebook closely, you will find that many people end up clicking Like on their friends’ tragic statuses. This has often led to arguments on facebook that people are must rein in their sadistic instincts.
But I see this slightly differently. Not so much in the context of a facebook Like, but in the context of Life itself. Even when terrible things happen to us, truly, we don’t have any other option than to accept it – and to move on! Indeed, we may not like the situation. But we have to live with it. So, in effect, we might as well like it. Because if we dislike it – and so wish that the situation did not exist – we are inviting misery into our Life!
The message here is simple: Happiness is wanting what you get! Or liking whatever happens to you – being in total acceptance. You may want to change the situation. No harm with that thinking. But make your plans and attempt the changes while accepting your current reality and while moving forward peacefully, happily. Disliking or hating a situation is not going to make a situation better. To be sure, nor is liking it going to change it immediately. But when you proceed with acceptance and joy, any journey becomes worthwhile – however arduous it may be!

Nothing impermanent can ever make you feel secure – or happy

As long as you seek security from material things you will never be truly happy. This is the truth. But the human mind will convince you that just the opposite is true. So, you go on accumulating or trying to accumulate material stuff – a bank balance, jewellery, real estate and such – and the more you get, the more you have, the more you want. And the more you are fearful and insecure. And, resultantly, are unhappy.
There was once a man who was obsessed with making money. He was forever pursuing new frontiers. He acquired companies and expanded his business empire globally. Soon, he had more cash than anyone else in his country. He had a private jet to travel the world and hordes of personal staff that paid attention to his every personal comfort. But he was not happy. Nor was he secure. He feared that someone would kidnap him. So he had personal bodyguards. One day, he discovered that his wife was having an affair with one of his managers. When he asked her why she cheated on him, she replied that she did not find love in her relationship with him. She said he had given her all the comfort – a car, an Amex Credit Card, liberal shopping budgets and total freedom to indulge herself – but he was never there to love her. This revelation shattered the man further. He immersed himself in his business, and over the next decade or so, he became richer. He was ranked by Forbes as among the richest people in the world.
One day, when he was traveling through the Kumaon range in the Himalayas his car – a latest edition Merc – developed a snag. He was forced to spend the night in a small hut which overlooked a precipice in the middle of nowhere. Two armed bodyguards kept vigil outside the hut as the driver went away trying to secure help to fix the Merc.
The owner of the hut was a scruffy looking man in his late 50s who had a long, flowing beard. He made the his billionaire guest some hot spinach soup.
The billionaire decided to strike some polite conversation with his host. He asked his host: “What do you do?”
The host replied: “Nothing.”
The billionaire persisted: “What do you mean? I asked what do you do for a living.”
The host answered, nonplussed: “I live. That’s it.”
The billionaire looked around the hut. There was nothing in it. Just a mat on the floor. An old kettle. A traditional stove (a chula) and some old aluminium utensils. There were two glasses. One of each the two men held in their hands as they sipped the piping hot soup. The billionaire concluded that his host must be telling the truth after all. For there was nothing to speak of to show that this man really earned a living.
He asked the host: “Don’t you feel wretched that you have to eke out such a living?”
The host replied: “I enjoy living. I am happy.”
The billionaire lost his cool. He told his host in no uncertain terms that the essence of Life was achievement. To make an effort. To work hard. To succeed. And to conquer new frontiers. He declared, pompously, that he had worked hard for 30 years and was now 10 ranks away from being the richest person in the world.
The host was not provoked by his guest’s sudden belligerence. He calmly asked: “And what would you do after you get there, I mean, after you become the world’s richest person.”
The billionaire replied enthusiastically, thinking that his host was now recognizing him for his genius and business acumen: “I will then be happy. Because I would have achieved what I have set my eyes on.”
The host asked: “And what would happen if someone overtook you in some time and became the world’s richest person?”
The billionaire was agitated by the mere thought. He shot back: “I will fight that move. I will claw my way back. I will not rest until I am number one again!”
The host replied: “Let me offer you some unsolicited opinion my friend. You can never be happy as long as you are restless. You can never be secure as long as you are attached to money, to fame, to a ranking that is impermanent. You think I have nothing. Indeed I have nothing that can be taken away from me. So, I don’t need bodyguards. I am happy and I am living fully. I wake up each morning feeling great. I walk the mountains. I pluck herbs and berries. I enjoy a fresh water bath in the stream. I sing to myself. I cook a hearty meal. I eat well. I sleep peacefully. I am living my friend, while you are earning a living!”
The story goes that the billionaire couldn’t sleep that night. He thought deeply about the lesson that his host had unwittingly taught him. He changed his outlook to Life, gave away all of his wealth to charity and went on to live, happily, peacefully, somewhere in the hills, all by himself – without any bodyguards!
Our way of Life need not be as dramatic as the billionaire’s or the host’s. We will do well to simply understand the key message contained in that story. Our material attachments, and our desires, are merely expressions of our continuous search for security in Life. The tragedy is that nothing that is impermanent can ever make us feel secure. Yet, because we are conditioned to believe otherwise, we keep on barking up the wrong tree. Only when we realize that we will feel truly secure when we have nothing, will we seize the opportunity and simply live!

Be unmoved. Be peaceful.

Don’t let neither praise nor insults affect you. Be unmoved. And you will be peaceful – always.
Who doesn’t love to be praised? Or be recognized? Everyone loves it and enjoys being praised thoroughly. And, by the same logic, everyone loathes being insulted or slighted. We often get angry when someone is nasty and react with a typical “how dare you” in such situations. Neither the joy when being praised nor the anger when insulted is justified. Both will bring grief. If you really want to be peaceful choose to be unaffected, unmoved.
A Zen story comes to mind.
There once lived a great warrior. A Master. Though quite old, he still was able to defeat any challenger. His reputation travelled far and wide throughout the land and many students gathered to study under him.
One day a villainous, scheming, young warrior arrived in the village. He was determined to be the first man to defeat the great Master. Along with his strength, he had an uncanny ability to spot and exploit the weakness in any opponent. He would wait for his opponent to make the first move, thus revealing a weakness, and then would strike with merciless force and lightning speed. No one had ever lasted in a match with him beyond the first bout.
Much against the advice of his students, the old Master gladly accepted the young warrior’s challenge. As the two squared off for battle, the young warrior began to hurl insults at the old Master. He threw dirt and spit on his face. For hours he verbally assaulted him with every curse and insult known to mankind. But the old warrior merely stood there motionless and calm. Finally, the young warrior exhausted himself. Knowing he was defeated, he felt shamed.
Somewhat disappointed that he did not fight the insolent youth, the students gathered around the old Master and questioned him: “How could you endure such an indignity? Yet, how did you manage to drive him away?”
“If someone comes to give you a gift and you do not receive it,” the Master replied, “to whom does the gift belong?”
Reacting to insults is a waste of energy.Because if you don’t accept the “gift” it is really not yours – so why bother? And getting carried away by praise is of no use either. Because if you really know your Self, you will realize that you have created nothing and so don’t deserve any accolade or recognition! The best stance to take is to be unmoved in either situation. That way you will be forever peaceful!

To tune into Life, simply move on!

No matter what, Life simply goes on!
Life is programmed to go on. Something terrible happens to you. You lose your job or a lot of money or someone you love. You are in shock. You are numbed. But Life goes on. You struggle for a while with your new reality. But over time – could be a few hours, months or even years – eventually, you find your rhythm back with Life. And you too move on – because there’s no other way forward!
To be sure, it’s perfectly alright to move on. Because that’s what Life is all about – it is like a river, never-stopping, ever flowing. You find yourself lost or searching for meaning or feel incomplete because you are held hostage by your mind. Here’s a little secret – you don’t need your mind to live! Seriously. When you are present in the moment, in the now, there is no mind involved. The human mind only thrives in the past – clinging on to memories – or in the future – going on worrying about things that really have not happened!
Understand that the mind and Life can never be in sync. They don’t tango at all. This explains why we all suffer when faced with pain or have to deal with uncomfortable situations in Life. Let’s say someone you love is dead. By the time you confirm the person’s death, a new moment has arrived. In that moment, there’s just you. Not that person. There’s nothing wrong with that moment per se. It is just a new reality that going forward in Life it is just you. So the moment, the new reality, is not capable of causing you any suffering. However, your mind is fully capable of causing you agony, distress, grief and suffering. It will go on reminding you that the person you love isn’t there. And through that incessant reminding you wallow in grief, wondering how beautiful Life would have been had this person not died at all. Or you may spend time worrying about how fearful the future looks without this person for company. The truth is that even your present is beautiful and so may be your future – surely, you can never say it will be otherwise because it has not even arrived! When you recognize that it is always your mind working up your grief or drumming up your fears, you learn to appreciate the present and to actually move on!
To live Life fully, you have to learn to stop getting stuck with the past or fear the future – essentially stop allowing the mind to lead you – and simply flow with Life, moving on from one new moment to another! When you are not controlled by your mind, when you are present in the moment, you are in tune with Life. Then you see the magic and beauty in every moment. And you experience bliss!

Never lose joy and sleep while competing!

Whatever you do, do it for the joy it gives you, do it with love – don’t do it to be the first or the only one or to be famous!
Our education system is such that it forces us to be competitive even before we understand what it means to compete. The whole social environment of a child (particularly in India) is focused on academic excellence. And that is measured not by how much the child has learned and imbibed, but by what grades the child has got. So, naturally, there is anxiety among young, impressionable children – they all want to be the first in class – even if not for themselves but to do their parents proud! However, the nature of any competition is such that there can only be one first. Everyone else will have to follow. So, the ones who do not get to be first in class, continue to compete, often vainly, rabidly. And the one who stood first is competing to protect and so becomes possessive of her or his first position! This continues through college. At work. And in society. Look around you. You will find this evident in all walks of Life – even in a queue in India, where people simply have to push and jostle to get into a movie hall or a plane!
Let me clarify. I am not against aggressive people or against competition. But if competing is going to make you miserable – thinking about winning all the time and feeling depressed if you don’t win – then what’s the point in doing whatever you are doing? A constant state of urgency and the often-avoidable aggression, takes away the joy that any activity can deliver, especially when the focus is only on winning, on coming first, on being hailed, on becoming famous!
Whatever you do in Life has to fundamentally give you joy! If you are not feeling the joy when you are doing something, it is simply not worth doing it. Good coaches will always inspire people to strive to be the best, deliver what they are truly capable of, while enjoying themselves in the process. If what gives you joy also gives you wealth, fame and recognition, great! But if you work with only wealth, fame or recognition in mind, if you play the game only because you have to be the first – it may just not always be possible. Because, chances are, someone may be better than you are on any given day. That doesn’t mean you are worthless. But your hunger to win and your lusting to be number 1 will make you believe you are good-for-nothing. The Bhagavad Gitaexplains this simply, beautifully. Krishna says: “Don’t focus on the result at all!” – just make sure the “motive is pure” and the “means are right (ethical)”. Offer whatever you are doing to “Me”.
Look at any great artiste or sportsman or actor or business leader. You will find one trait common in all of them. They simply lose themselves to whatever they are doing. They are not bothered about what people are thinking or about winning or losing or about coming first. They are offering themselves, and their craft, to Life (cosmic parlance for the “Me” in the Gita!). When the doer becomes the deed, when the singer becomes the song, when the painter becomes the art – magic happens. If the magic delivers a world-class performance, and with it material rewards, fantastic. But even if doesn’t, a truly great professional will not bother. Because she or he has enjoyed the process of doing thoroughly!
Life is not a 100-metre race. How you run in Life and did you enjoy yourself running – these are far more important aspects to consider than any medal that you may win at the end of the run! So, the next time you are placed in a competitive context, compete by all means. But do so only so long as you don’t lose the joy of doing, or sleep, over wanting to win or be the first or the only one!

If something makes you come alive, go do it!

You can make your Life worth it by living your dream.
All of us have dreams. But few actually live them – because most of us are often trapped in the rigmarole of everyday Life: earning-a-living, procrastinating and finally just not being able to break free from a deceptive sense of “security” that actually cripples us and prevents us from taking off!
The Family Massaro: Darold, Dante, Jennifer
Here’s some inspiration from a threesome who are to set sail on a voyage later this Saturday! Jennifer Munchow Massaro is a good friend of mine who works as a communications professional in Silicon Valley. She’s married to Darold Massaro, her best friend from college, who heads a creative social media enterprise called Connected Social Media. The couple have a son, Dante who is barely 10. Jennifer, Darold and Dante have decided to give up all their predictable pursuits – a career, a business and conventional school – for a couple years and instead, on Saturday, September 28th, are setting sail on their 40-foot boat Benevento on a journey that will take them through the Panama Canal, into the Caribbean, up the East Coast, across the Atlantic and into the Mediterranean. 
The Benevento
Jennifer has this to say about the whole plan: “It’s true that the hardest part of embarking on an extended sailing trip is actually leaving. It is an unbelievable amount of planning. Getting the boat ready, renting our house, home-schooling, vaccinations, medicines, provisioning…it’s enough to discourage anyone from realizing a dream; especially those of us who are an innocent bystander of someone else’s dream! I have realized that the only difference between someone who says they want to do something big and someone who actually does something big is not genius or inspiration. It’s the drudgery of planning and working the plan! We are excited to shove off – September 28. And in addition to the thrill of traveling to new places we are even more thrilled to leave the grind of Silicon Valley and have quality time as a family. We are going to ease the main (shipping lingo!), spill some wind from our sails and just slow down!”
Jennifer could not have articulated this better. She says she took time understanding and sharing Darold’s dream of sailing around the world. But once in, she decided, with Darold, that Dante’s best education would be to learn from Life and through traveling. So, she calls herself the Head Mistress of Open Ocean Elementary and, apart from being Darold’s First Mate on Benevento, she will school Dante in more areas than what someone in 4th and 5thgrade can ever learn!
I believe all of us have this desire to go do something that will make us come alive. But we all struggle with getting started. I am often in awe of another friend of mine, Ramesh, who almost always finds the time and the means to pursue what he loves doing. He’s been an entrepreneur, an educationist, has been on a gruelling trans-Himalayan bike rally, has been on several nature expeditions, does his bit for cleaning up the environment and is now understanding and exploring making films with a cause. While many of us find it difficult to juggle between a career and home, Ramesh keeps diving into whatever gives him joy. And I believe he’s able to pull it all off, every single time, only because he focuses on what makes him come alive.
I have learned that to follow a dream you need to stop looking for guarantees in, and from, Life. One of the reasons people don’t get started is because they want to know if things will be okay when they try to do what they love doing. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees in Life. And if you wait to get everything logically set or for outcomes to be forecast with certainty or for safety nets to be in place – socially, financially or for the family – you may never quite feel reassured. Remember: you have only so much time (left) to follow your dream! So, if you really want to live your dream – simply go after it. Plan for sure, as Jennifer says, but don’t hold yourself back. Take the plunge – dive in! And watch yourself come alive, as Ramesh has perhaps felt every single time!

Experiencing Pain is an inevitable – and interesting – part of Living

How long can pain be endured? Well, for as long as you don’t wish it didn’t exist in the first place!
This may sound paradoxical. But that’s really a good way to deal with pain. Any pain. From a headache to a cancer to a relationship breakdown to a loss – even of a dear one.
When you have a headache, it is a simple, painful fact. There is a headache. Period. That pain, of the headache, is converted into suffering the moment you start wishing that it were not there. Your wish that “it” – the headache – did not exist is causing “you” to suffer. You can understand this better if you become an observe that merely observes the headache. As an observer you are seeing the reality – a form of pain is affecting a human body that you are currently residing in. Is the observer – you – in pain or is the body in pain? Obviously the body is feeling the pain. Because you are able to see it as distinctively different from your real Self. So, in reality, the pain is not affecting “you” when you are an observer. It affects you, however, when you begin to relate to the body, identify it as yours and wish that the pain was not there. That’s when pain, in this case a headache, becomes suffering.  
This is true in every painful context in our lives. The key is to become a witness, observe the pain, accept it and not wish it weren’t there. This may not take away the pain in any manner. Nor even reduce it. But it will surely free us from suffering. And incredibly enhance our ability to deal with any kind of pain. When there is no suffering, there’s an inner peace, an indescribable calm that makes journeying through Life, despite the pain, an interesting, at times even beautiful, experience.

Much of Life is Tax-Free – Enjoy it by Living it fully!

A couple of days ago, I read an interview that the famous film director Rajkumar Santoshi (who made Damini, Andaz Apna Apna, The Legend of Bhagat Singh, Khakheeand, recently, Phata Poster Nikla Hero) gave the Times of India (TOI). Santoshi tell TOI’s Priya Gupta that he regrets not having spent enough time with his mother. He says candidly: “My mother died three years back due to cancer and I cry thinking I could not spend as much time with her. We all live thinking we will live forever, but Life suddenly goes away. Even though she lived with me, she would be sitting on the terrace while I would have my discussions inside for three hours. Now I regret not having spent one hour out of those three with her. Even though my work will continue, I cannot get my mom back. We cry only once we don’t have something, but don’t value it when we have it. I have bought this house with a terrace where I can see the stars and feel the breeze which is tax-free but still we do not want to enjoy it.
This is so true.
Not just the breeze, but most priceless aspects of Life are tax-free. Yet we spend so much of our time lamenting over things that are not there in our Life. Instead, if we focussed on what is there, we would be so much more happier. Because then we will be celebrating Life for what it is.
The essence of Life is to experience its many facets. Its ups and downs. Its trials and tribulations. Its joys and sorrows. Going with the flow of Life__without resisting it at any point__is one sure way to experience it fully. This doesn’t mean you sit on the terrace and enjoy the breeze all the time. Nothing wrong with it. Except that you will get bored in some time. So, do everything, do it well and in good measure. What is happening perhaps to many people today is that they are working harder than ever before, postponing living their lives fully and are therefore unhappy.
Instead of complaining that you are unhappy, choose to be happy! If you can create time for an unscheduled business meeting in an already busy week, can’t you create time to spend an hour with someone you care for, love and enjoy being with? Who’s stopping you from planning your time differently but yourself?
Each moment that you spend complaining that you don’t have this or that, or that you don’t have time, is one more moment gone – wasted, without having been lived fully! Enjoying Life for what it is, doing what you love doing, and experiencing Life fully, is a full-time job! Remember to complete that job too before your time’s up!  

Happy Birthday to you…!

Vishaka Hari
Earlier today I had the opportunity to listen to renowned Carnatic and Harikatha exponent, Vishaka Hari, who performed at a friend’s mother’s 80th birthday celebration! What Vishaka said at the end of her performance was inspiring. She said, while wishing my friend’s mother a great birthday: “The actual birthday for us, voyagers through this journey called Life, is not our date of birth. The day when enlightenment is born in us, through the flowering of internal awareness, is when we are truly born. That’s when we really start living.”
I completely agree with her.
Enlightenment is not what you attain because you give up everything and go sit in a cave or under a tree. What I have learned is that enlightenment is when you realize that the light you seek is within you. Enlightenment being fully conscious, aware, of your divinity. Of the Oneness of your creation with the Higher Energy that has created you. This consciousness leads you to understand the frivolity in chasing a material Life – the folly of being attached to all things that are impermanent, including your own Life! When this consciousness is born inside you, there is tremendous clarity. Suddenly you feel sure about who you are, why you are here and what you must do while you are here. It is more than a Eureka moment. It is as if a veil has been taken off, a cataract has been removed – so now you have the ability to see clearly! This happens in each of our lives. At some time or the other. So, in essence, all of us attain enlightenment in our own unique ways – because there’s no way forward without becoming conscious. Without being aware. Without being awake.
You __ or I __ don’t have to do anything special to become conscious or aware. Just be. Feel everything that you experience deeply. Train your mind – through whatever method works for you – to not be caught in a past memory or a future worry and be present, in the moment, in the NOW! When you are fully present, awareness blooms, and through that experience “you” are actually, really, born – to live and not simply exist!

Play and Replay: to “win” Inner Peace

Last evening we watched a unique theater performance: “Re:play”! I had had a very rough day and I walked in tired and curious. “Re:play” was promoted as a performance duet inspired by traditional Indian games. It was designed and directed by a young, creative genius, also known as a perfectionist in theater circles in India, Aruna Ganesh Ram. The show, which had stellar performances by two young artistes Supraja Narayanaswamy and Manav Chidambaram, celebrated several Indian traditional games – Pallankuzhi, Chaturanga, Pacheesi, Goli, Tossed Shells, Paramapadham, Aadu Puli Aatam (Baag Chaal) and Kabaddiamong many others! The show took our breath away – and totally refreshed and reenergized me!
Most impressive __ and awakening __ was the climax. The artistes decide to close the mythical Pandora’s Box which has been “open” for ages. So they invite the audience to surrender one emotion or trait in them that they would like to rid themselves of. Soon the Pallankuzhi wooden box goes around among the audience. Each member in the audience has to drop a tamarind seed into the box, metaphorically ridding herself or himself of a wasteful emotion or trait. So, someone drops anger, another drops wealth, a little girl drops sadness, someone drops jealousy, yet another drops poor health…and in some time, the box is full. Then the artistes close the box forever and toss it away.
Talking to Aruna after the show, I discovered that the final act was not a traditional Indian game. She had conceptualized this act as part of her show’s design to leave a message with the audience that it was time we all worked towards cleansing ourselves to make this world a better place. I reckon that’s a fantastic idea we can all implement too.
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Why not set up a little jar or a wooden box or even a soup bowl on your desk at work or in a corner of your living room? Each time you experience a negative emotion, let’s say ‘fear’, write ‘fear’ on a small piece of paper, roll it up, and toss it into your own “Pandora’s Box” – be sure to trash its contents weekly or fortnightly or monthly! And every time fear raises its ugly head in your mind, think about ‘why’ it is recurring, go to its root, its cause, and remind yourself that you have already tossed it away. Over time, your ability to deal with your fears will improve dramatically. Because you are not brushing it aside. You are facing it, you are thinking about it constructively. You are taking simple, cognitive action. I did something similar during my ‘mouna’ (silence periods) sessions a few years ago. I wrote about my emotions, in notes to myself, in my journal. It helped me immensely. The “Pandora’s Box” ‘game’ is in the same league. And will surely work for all those who are not so comfortable with writing how they are feeling. Because the very act of thinking about a debilitating emotion or trait, and metaphorically tossing it away, is progressive. It opens up a dialogue within yourself – between you and what holds you hostage.
The key is to face whatever torments you firmly. Anger, fear, hatred, sorrow, jealousy, insecurity, inferiority, anxiety, worry – whatever. Look it in the eye. Do not wish it away. Understand it. Deeply. Your understanding will help you deal with it effectively and efficiently. And then, giving it all your attention and focus – mindfully – toss it away! Through repeatedly playing your “Pandora’s Box” ‘game’, you will discover that freeing yourself of all wasted emotions and traits has actually led to the flowering of internal awareness and inner peace. Now, if that’s the priceless prize you win playing a simple game – what more can you ask for?