It’s your Life!

A young man I met over the weekend asked me what he should do about other people’s 
views/opinions of him.

“I am constantly wondering about what others are thinking of me. I don’t agree with many things that are going on around me – in my family, among my colleagues at work, in society. But I never say anything because I don’t know how my views will be received,” he said.
I asked him if he was happy living the Life that he was living – suppressing his opinions and always wary of how he was being perceived.
“Of course I am not happy. I am gritting my teeth when things that I don’t agree with happen and am often angry with myself,” he confessed.
I told him that he must stop worrying about what others think of him. The moment you try to please others you have lost the game of Life. The ego thrives on others’ opinions of you. But the real you, your being, needs no such crutch. It can stand on its own. The person whose ego needs others’ opinion to stand up will always be compromising. And any compromise, whatsoever, in any circumstance, is always against your real state, your “being”. When you compromise, you have allowed your true self to be affected. This is what makes you unhappy.
The other way of looking at this is – don’t let anyone, anything, anywhere, anytime, come in between you and your inner peace and your happiness. The moment you are feeling unhappy about a person, a situation, an event, pause and ask yourself why you are feeling the way you are. Go to the source of your unhappiness and make sure you remove it. If it is something that you cannot get rid of, at least, accept it.
Bottom-line: don’t grieve. For, it’s hardly intelligent to live your Life grieving, worrying about what others will say or think of you. Remember – it’s YOUR Life. No one, no one absolutely, other than you, has a right over it.

You are the Light that you seek!

No matter what’s happening to you in Life, learn to just be a witness. Just be. Don’t fight. Don’t resist. Don’t detest. Be patient. Just accept. Just be. When you are this way, peace will engulf you, drenching you in bliss. You will then see yourself as the Light that you seek. 
When faced with Life’s inscrutable ways, we often spend a lot of time in denial__of what’s happening to us. Or we end up asking, ‘Why?’ or ‘Why Me?’. We hope that by asking, we will be answered. We hope to reason with Life. We demand logic.
But Life doesn’t understand those questions. Life doesn’t work that way. Life’s mechanical, in a manner of speaking, like a tennis ball machine, that keeps spewing out ball after ball – event after event, experience after experience. Non-stop. When the experience that comes your way meets or exceeds your expectations, you call it opportunity. You say ‘WOW!, Life’s Great!’ When the ball that comes your way does not meet your expectations and shocks you, you say ‘Life Sucks!’ or you ask ‘Why?’ or ‘Why Me?’.
There’s no way you or I can control what comes our way. Instead of greeting what’s coming with shock, resistance and disbelief, we can be accepting and patient. This way, we can work on solving our problems to the extent we can or face each new day, and its attendant challenges, with grace and resolve. Remember each of Life’s experiences is to make you mature, better and stronger. Jalaluddin Rumi, the 13th Century Persian mystic and poet, said it so simply, so meaningfully: “No mirror ever became iron again; No bread ever became wheat; No ripened grape ever became sour fruit. Mature yourself and be secure from a change for the worse. Become the light.”
Which is, when we learn to be more accepting of Life, we become the light we seek!

Make sure you live when you are still alive!

Someone I know told me recently that he found it very difficult to “give up” worldly Life. And so, he concluded, he would never be able to lead his Life with detachment or be able to let go!
I politely reminded him that there really is no need to “give up” anything in order to live! I invited him to understand the true essence of spirituality before he came to his conclusions!
Here’s what (I have learned from Life and) what I shared with him. Spirituality is the flowering of inner awareness. It is the realization that at the end of this lifetime, nothing, not even your experience through this Life that you are living right now, will matter. And through this realization, what is also known as enlightenment, or bliss, you learn to be happy with what you have and lead a Life of contentment and inner peace. Over time, through continuous practice, you cultivate an attitude of detachment. As your awareness grows, so does your ability to live fully, in a “let go” mode!
To be sure, a person who is spiritual, or enlightened, need not abdicate anything. She or he can continue to live in this world, surrounded by all things material, and yet, as the Bhagavad Gita recommends, be above it. As one Zen Master taught his disciples, who wanted to know what enlightenment was: “It is not at all complicated. It only means when hungry, eat. And when tired, sleep!” Most of the time, we complicate our lives by making choices that are clearly avoidable! And then we complain that our lives are meaningless, are not getting us anywhere and that we are unhappy!
Being enlightened does not mean you are more knowledgeable or holier or that you have all the answers. It only means you are more aware – that, often times, in Life, there are no answers. That you simply live the Life that you have been given! Here’s another Zen story to illustrate this point.
The Emperor asked Master Gudo, a renowned Zen Master of his time.
“What happens to a man of enlightenment after death?”
“How should I know?” replied Gudo.
“Because you are a Master,” answered the Emperor.
“Yes Sir, I am” said Gudo, “but not a dead one!!!”
Spirituality clearly is no rocket science. We believe it is because we are trapped in our own small worlds – bogged down by worry, fear, anxiety, grief, anger, hatred and jealousy – and are so caught up in the worldly cycle of earning-a-living, that we have stopped living! Step out and break free from whatever is limiting you. Go live your Life the way you want to. Remember: we live only once – as far as we can believe. Make sure you live when you are still alive!

Your soul is always free

Preethi Srinivasan: Pic Courtesy TOI
Early this morning, I found my inspiration for the day and learned an important lesson from the Life of an amazing young lady, Preethi Srinivasan – who refuses to give up on__and in__Life! Today’s Times of India reported the launch of a unique initiative called SoulFree (www.soulfree.org) by Srinivasan, 34. 15 years ago Srinivasan was getting set to qualify for the national women’s cricket team – that was before an accident crippled her for Life, leaving her a quadriplegic. For someone who loved swimming (she was then competing at the national level) and the great outdoors, she had to reconcile to a Life in a wheelchair. It must have been, quite obviously, difficult, depressing and traumatic. But she did not let her condition affect her spirit. She’s developed, through her own painful, Life-changing experience, the 4-P model of empowerment in Life. She invites people to focus on these aspects whenever they are up against a wall in Life:
·         Perspective – shift from ‘Why Me?’ to ‘Why Not Me?’
·         Purpose – understand that you have been created with a reason
·         Present Moment Awareness – Be in the Now
·         Peace – Find it within
Sharing Life Lessons with Audiences: Pic Courtesy TOI
SoulFree aims to inspire people who are specially abled – owing to spinal cord injuries – to lead a Life of dignity, positivity and hope. As a sought-after motivational speaker, Srinivasan shares her learnings from Life. She tells her audiences: “I am your worst case scenario. I want you to know that it doesn’t take much to be where I am, just a split second of misfortune.” 
Srinivasan is truly an embodiment of the soul being free. Her accident led her to this realization, this awakening. You and I need not wait for one to reach that state. Your circumstances can cripple you but not your spirit. They can limit you physically, but your soul will always be free – ready to take wing whenever you want to take off. No matter what you are dealing with in Life, know that you have not been given a situation that you can’t handle. When you approach Life with this awareness, with acceptance and are willing to live it just the way it is, you will often find Life making way for you. And that path will always lead you to where you are ordained to be!

Sail freely in this big, beautiful, bountiful Universe

Last evening I was at a doctor’s clinic. The doctor, a wonderful lady, was seeing off her friend – who ostensibly also appeared to be her patient – at the door while I waited for my turn to be called in. As the two ladies stood at the clinic’s entrance, the doctor told her friend/patient: “There’s nothing wrong with you. Cheer up! It’s all in your mind! Just learn to be detached. Life is too short. Learn to let go and try not to control anyone or anything in Life! Don’t expect your Life to be perfect either. It never will be. Just live the Life that you have, stay prepared to depart when your turn comes and you will just be fine!”
I am not aware of what the patient’s actual complaint or condition is. But I found the doctor’s perspective truly awakening!
Almost all the time, our suffering comes from our attachments – to people, things, opinions, habits, events and such!  Think about it. Every attachment fuels a desire to control. To possess. To own. Unknown to us, we end up being possessed by it! There are people who are worried about their status and prestige in society. To them, being humble, being ordinary, being vulnerable is suffering because they are constantly worried about what others will think about them. They no longer earn their status, they are controlled by having to keep it! Some are attached to their property, their car, their phones, their desks, their cameras and sometimes, to their opinions. Even attachment to an idea can cause suffering. For instance, some have an idea that they will be happy subject to certain conditions being fulfilled. So, if those conditions are not met, they will be unhappy. This applies to habits too. Are you owning a packet of cigarettes or is it owning you__when you are in a no-smoking area and your mind is on the packet with you and on your craving to smoke, it is controlling your every thought, isn’t it?

 
There’s a poem that describes The Buddha thus: “The Buddha is like a full moon sailing across an empty sky.” Meaning that The Buddha’s happiness was immense because he possessed nothing. When our mental landscapes are full of things that we possess__ideas, material objects, opinions, habits, worries__we are no longer in charge of our lives. When we let go of every single thing we possess__physically, literally, figuratively and metaphorically__we will be bliss. This does not mean abdication. This means remaining detached so that we too can sail freely in this big, beautiful, bountiful Universe.

Happiness is where awareness is

Is it really possible to be happy despiteyour circumstances?

Some years back, a factory hand in Pune, who was attending a workshop on “Taking the elevator to Happiness” that I was leading, made a profound remark. He said: Bhaashan se Raashan nahin bharta, Sahib!” (Sir, ‘philosophical’ speeches can’t help us buy groceries/rations to run the household.” Indeed, he is right. Understanding Life better cannot solve your problems. You still have to work hard, and consistently, on them. But what a better understanding can do is help you deal with Life’s vagaries better. More important, help you deal with them peacefully, happily!
Surely, there is no set way to live Life – so no way can be called right or wrong. Living Life completely – facing, accepting and dealing with what you are given – is the way! This is what I have learned from Zen teachings. Zen is not a philosophy. Because philosophy still operates at a mind level. And Zen goes beyond the mind. Zen draws you out of the mind, further, higher. So, when confronted with Life’s inscrutable challenges, you are invited to experience them fully, while learning to transcend them over a period of time – by training the mind – to be able to reach a ‘witness’ stage, to be merely an observer of your own Life. This does not mean inaction. This is a lot of action, a lot of hard work. Obviously, when you try to address a challenge you are facing, you work on finding a solution. If the solution works, great. When the solution doesn’t work, what do you do? You get angry, frustrated, sad, fearful – Zen teaches you to get past these debilitating emotions, understand that these, like Life itself, are transient, and experience the true nature of your creation.
Zen is awareness. Of just the present moment. Being aware does not mean a past hurt, guilt or memory will not rise in the mind. It does not also mean that a worry, of something that is likely to happen in the future, will not arise in the mind. The nature of the mind is that it can only live in the past or the future. The mind knows no present. And Zen teaches you to transcend the mind, go past its treacherous ways, and anchor yourself in the present. In the now.
                                                                                              
This is what happens to us when we are in nature’s lap. Each of us must have experienced that rare moment of completely losing ourselves to an ocean’s vastness or a mountains majestic beauty. Or sometimes losing ourselves to an art form that we cherish – like painting, cooking, music or writing. In those rare moments, you have lost your identity as so-and-so, with such-and-such problems, and have united with the Universal energy. Zen teaches you that this is possible in everyday Life too! Which is why, when a Zen Master was asked, “What is Zen?”, he replied: “Chopping Wood, Carrying Water”. These were everyday chores, even for a Master, in those days. And the import is that you have to be “immersed” in whatever you are doing in that moment without letting your mind wander into the past or the future. So, irrespective of what you are doing – or going through – be in it fully.
My experience is that you can be in the throes of a challenge and still be happy if you choose to be. Owing to our bankruptcy, and an inexplicable set of professional challenges, we have a lot of debt on us as a family, and absolute cashless-ness at most times. It is not that I don’t feel responsible or that I don’t recognize the enormity of the task ahead – of rebuilding our business and repaying our creditors – of us. It is not that fear and insecurity – or even the guilt of having caused this financial mess – do not arise in my mind. But my awareness helps me gets past those thoughts, and helps me take actions that I must take every single moment, each day. When my actions don’t bear fruit – as they haven’t over several months – my awareness again helps me stay anchored and get past the grief that failure often brings with it. I sleep well each night and wake up the next day to do another round of ‘chopping wood and carrying water’.
I am not sure I am “successful” with Life, but surely, I am peaceful living it! This may not be the only way to live. This may not even be the best way – may well be contestable, arguable and even admonishable. But it has helped me__and my wife__stay anchored and peaceful through tumultuous times and has taught us to be happy despiteour circumstances.

Awaken the child in you

Last evening I met a couple of interesting people – just social and professional acquaintances – and we laughed a lot. About silly things. We talked for a long time about inconsequential details that we obsess over in Life – and we laughed. This morning when I woke up and reflected on the evening’s camaraderie, I thought, why are we not this way all the time? Why must every meeting – at least in the professional circuit – conform to an agenda? Why can’t we be like kids – simple, uncomplicated, funny, happy?

Look at the children in your family, up until the age of 5 at least. Don’t they deal with people as they are? Never judging. Always trusting. Full of energy and enthusiasm. When you are child-like, and see the world with curiosity, with a raging quest for each new experience, you will find your soul singing and you will find bliss in every moment!

When you awaken the child in you, you will never have a problem living__and you will never feel old! While it may be a good idea to choose a successful adult to be a role model for your dreams, ambitions and professional aspirations, in terms of your attitude to Life__and to practice intelligent living__it may just be a great idea to make an infant your role model! Children teach us innocence, to forgive and forget, to trust and to be joyful at all times! British author, known most for his science fiction works, Brian Aldiss painted a bleak, but awakening picture of adulthood with these words: “When childhood dies, its corpses are called adults and they enter society, one of the politer names of hell. That is why we dread children, even if we love them; they show us the state of our decay.” As adults we have stopped being innocent. There’s a lurking suspicion we have in every encounter, judging motives and evaluating people all the time. We carry baggage of past hurts and often want to avenge insults and betrayals. We are never happy for whatever moment we are living through __ always choosing to wallow in the past or worry for the future.

Each of us has the opportunity to be the child that we once were. When nothing else but the pitter-patter of raindrops or a butterfly sitting on a flower or a passing train’s whistle really mattered. So, if you are walking around a puddle and not through it, if you are worried about what people at the table will think if you dropped sauce on yourself, if you are conscious of people looking at you at an airport while you peer at and count the planes, if you are unable to sleep deeply, peacefully, instantaneously, it’s time for you to go back to your childhood. And do all those things NOW that you did then.

There is still the child in you__rediscover your true self!

This is IT: stop wanting, start living!

Life is not what will happen to you sometime later. Nor is it what once happened to you. Life’s not in the future, nor is it in your past. This is it. Life is not a dress rehearsal, as someone has said. It ISwhat is happening to you now. Our tendency to forget this simple but unputdownable piece of wisdom is what robs us of the opportunity to LIVE!
Know that Life is benevolent. It will take care of you, no matter what, just as it has been taking care of all creation down the ages. To incessantly worry about what will happen to you, or to those around you, is the most unintelligent response to Life. You haven’t been created for worrying. You are here, on this planet, to live – and to live fully!
So, let go of your worries, drop all your guilt – be free. Live in the moment, however painful it may be at times, and experience Life fully. Your agony comes from your expectation that Life must be a bed of roses, a cakewalk – that Life must happen the way you want it to. Know for sure that your expectations may, well, never be met. Life’s intrinsic nature is to be unpredictable, inscrutable. So, as long as you are alive, and you know it, live each moment – by being fully present in it!
It is when you are not fully present in the moment that you struggle. And none of us has been created to struggle. It is only the human mind that broods, that worries, that remains hostage to a dead past or is a victim of an unborn future. No other aspect of creation has this problem. It is only we humans who invite suffering into our lives by expecting Life to be different from what it is. Think about this deeply. If it makes sense, dive deeper. Your Life is beautiful as it IS. You too will feel it is so ONLY when you stop wanting and start living!

Namaste!

Yesterday’s The Hindu carried a story of an atheist teacher in Nashik, Maharashtra, who refused to fold his hands in prayer in the school assembly and so invited the wrath of the government-aided school’s management. He has been denied promotions and increments over the years. He is currently fighting his school management’s actions on a constitutional plane through a case in the Bombay High Court.
I have nothing to opine on constitution rights or on religion. But I do want to share what I think and feel about this word/action called “prayer”.
Prayer is often referred to as a religious expression of a wish, or even as a thanksgiving, to a higher energy – “a” God who ostensibly, as many will have us believe, resides outside of us. I too started my Life on such a premise. But over the years, I have come to realize that Life is the highest energy we can all relate to. Because Life is what keeps us alive. If we didn’t have Life we would be dead, won’t we? So, isn’t being alive, living, that too in human form, the greatest of blessings? Why, you or I, or both of us, could have been created as the swine that gives the flu and not as the human who gets the flu? The fact that we have been created human, that we have been ordained with a set of faculties, that work normally in a large mass of us, is a gift. Further, Life is the biggest teacher. Each moment a test is being placed before us. Every test has a lesson that we discover, infer, after we are through with that test. And each lesson is humbling, making us grow and evolve better, through the experience of living and learning. So, in effect, isn’t Life theAlmighty? And so, shouldn’t we bow, even if we find the concept of a ‘third party God’ hard to digest, to Life – in reverence, in gratitude?
In Sanskrit, and in Indian tradition, we are encouraged to greet each other with the word “Namaste”. It is commonly understood, and even used, as “Welcome” or “Good Bye”. But Namaste really means this: “Namah” = Bow in obeisance and “Te” = To you. The scriptures explain the significance and meaning of “Namaste” thus: “The God within me bows to the God within you!”
My understanding is that Life is the God that is resident in each of us. And any prayer must rightfully be to Life. In reverence for the might and beauty of creation and in gratitude for the opportunity to be human – for this lifetime and this experience!
Namaste!

To heal a hurt, simply forgive!

Ever so often we encounter people that cause us pain, injury and grief. When such people are the ones you trusted, your suffering is unbearable. You begin to question humanity itself and wonder if you were foolish enough to have trusted someone like that. In hindsight all of us are wise. And while we may continue to suffer, we swear never to trust another person another time. Wrong. Continue to trust. Continue to believe that your detractor is behaving so only because she or he is passing through a time that is making you experience her or him that way. Dealing with detractors does not need strategy, guile or tact. It needs love.
Osho used to tell a story that illustrated this point so beautifully.
One of the greatest Sufi mystics was Rabiya al-Adabiya, a woman who was known for her very eccentric behavior. But in all her eccentric behavior there was a great insight.
Once, another Sufi mystic, Hasan, was staying with Rabiya. Because he was going to stay with Rabiya, he had not brought his own copy of the holy Koran. He thought he could borrow Rabiya’s holy Koran.
In the morning he asked Rabiya for the holy Koran and she gave him her copy. He could not believe his eyes when he opened the Koran. He saw something which no Muslim could accept: in many places Rabiya had corrected it. It is the greatest sin as far as Islam is concerned; the Koran is the word of God according to them. How can you change it? How can you even think that you can make God’s teaching better? Not only had she changed it, she had even cut out a few words, a few lines – she had removed them.
Hasan said to her, “Rabiya, somebody has destroyed your Koran!”
Rabiya said, “Don’t be stupid, nobody can touch my Koran. What you are looking at is my doing.”
Hasan asked, “But how could you do such a thing?”
She replied, “I had to do it, there was no way out. For example, look here: the Koran says, ‘When you see the devil, hate him.’ Since I have become awakened I cannot find any hate within me. Even if the devil stands in front of me I can only shower him with my love, because I don’t have anything else left. It does not matter whether God stands in front of me, or the devil; both will receive the same love. All that I have is love; hate has disappeared. The moment hate disappeared from me I had to make changes in my copy of the holy Koran. If you have not changed your Koran, that simply means you have not arrived in the space where only love remains.”
I have not read the Koran. I am not even sure if this story is factual. But I believe that it’s essence is unmistakeable. The story reminds us to replace hurt and hatred with love. For ourselves and for those that let us down. You carry a hurt as long as you think about the person that caused it as someone who has wronged you. Instead think of that someone as one who is lost in Life. Who knows not what he or she is doing. And then watch your anger, your hurt, transform into something beautiful and liberating – forgiveness!