Because, ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’

Do what you love doing! And live Life up as long as it lasts!

Another year is ending. And a new one begins in a few hours from now. Across the world people have made plans for night-long revelry and partying. Soon, as a new dawn breaks, the new year too will become predictable – and at the end of the first week, will even become routine, boring and pedestrian. We will all have returned to our daily lives, back from vacations and parties, running faster and faster on Life’s treadmill – only to discover that we are not getting anywhere. We will continue to complain: that there isn’t enough time to follow our dreams, that whatever we earn is just not enough, that we never seem to be finding true love or that our health challenges are becoming more and more unbearable.

Why is it that we often feel good when we are vacationing or are at a party and never quite feel good about the biggest party of them all – Life?

The answer lies in our understanding of Life. Or the lack of it!

Michael Schumacher’s Helmet
As reports about F1 racing legend Michael Schumacher suggest, it’s tragic that he finds himself where he is. Someone who defied death on the racing tracks has been felled, rather uncannily, off it. As he battles for his Life, there’s no better message for the coming year that I can think of than the one Michael always displayed on his helmet: “Life is about passions (sic!) – Thank You for sharing mine.” To be sure, Michael lived this message! He followed his passion, he followed his bliss!

With each passing year, you are drawing closer to your death. The only thing constant and predictable about Life is that it will end. So, there’s as much a responsibility that each of us has, as there is opportunity, to live this Life, that we have been given, fully! And your Life could not have been lived fully if you have not followed your bliss – if you have not done what you loved doing.

Many of us are so caught up with earning-a-living that we have not lived. There’s a gnawing pain within, a regret that gets only more pronounced with each passing year. Every birthday is a grim reminder that there is lesser time available. And then, when something tragic, like in Michael’s case, happens to us, we look back in regret – wondering if we could not have lived Life differently. If we could not have followed our dreams. While saying all this, I am not belittling the importance of keeping your economic engine running. Of course, each of us has a responsibility towards our families – to our parents, spouses, siblings and children. Providing for them requires reprioritization of Life’s To-Do lists and, of course, money. Therefore, I am not recommending that you focus only on yourself. I am only suggesting that let your selflessness not consume your passion, your inner joy, your bliss.

So, as you enter another year, as the festivities die down, pause and reflect on your Life. Ask yourself what would you have liked to have attempted doing in Life? Work on a plan that helps you maintain a balance between what you need to keep your income stream steady and what you need to do to keep you inner joy flowing. Execute that plan in 2014. Undoubtedly, as you get started, you will struggle. You will stumble. You will fall. But keep at it. And soon, you will have learned the art of living – fully, happily!
Make each moment, for the rest of your Life, memorable. Livethem! For, you live only once! Because, ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’!

Wishing you and your precious family lots of love, peace and abundance all through 2014…

Don’t label Life’s experiences; learn from them

Defining events as “good” or “bad” or “ugly” is a human trait. The truth is that there are only experiences in Life – irrespective of what label we stick on them!

Everywhere that you turn, every social media platform, all newspapers and magazines, all over television and on FM radio – there’s so much review of 2013 as it winds down. Events and memories are being categorized as good, bad and ugly.

I don’t think that’s a very productive exercise. In fact, at one level, it’s entirely pointless. Whatever has happened is over. It’s dead and gone. Why review? Why analyze? And, more important, why label what has happened? You come across a fortune. So, it is good? You get laid off, so it is bad? Someone you know dies, so it is ugly!? Life is just a continuous set of events. Or happenings. Each of them teaches us something more, something new about Life. It is up to us to learn from them. This is the essence of Life. There’s nothing ahead of or beyond this. Period.

So, when you can learn something from Life, from each moment, from each experience, how can you label such an event as bad? Which is why you often hear the older people in your family say, with alarming equanimity, when they are faced with a grave situation: “Whatever happens, happens for the good.”

People, including my children, often ask me how can something painful – like the bankruptcy we are going through – be something that’s good? And I direct them to what the experience of being bankrupt has taught me. It has taught me Faith and Patience, it has taught me the value of money, it has showed me how kind and compassionate people are in this world, it has brought me closer to my wife and children, it has made me feel grateful for all the abundance (integrity of purpose and the powerful intent to rebuild the business and repay all our creditors) in my Life in the face of apparent scarcity (lack of money)! So, the truth is that while the events in Life may be painful, ghastly and numbing, experiencing Life through pain can teach you a lot. Provided you are open to learning from it.

But how does one learn through pain? That’s, undoubtedly, a fair question. When you are socked by Life, when you are down in the dumps, when everything you held close to you has been snatched away, the last thing on your mind is to seek a learning from that experience. But in its apparent impossibility lies the opportunity. Now, you can’t do anything – in most Life-changing situations – to put things immediately back. So, the only opportunity available is to ask yourself what you can learn from the experience. When you seek to learn, you gain. And that learning makes the experience of enduring the pain worthwhile!

I remember learning long back that Life is a great teacher. Because she always gives the test first and the lesson later. Each experience in Life therefore is nothing but a test. In this test, there’s no GPA (grade point average – in any case, no one bothers about your GPA once you leave school!). You neither pass nor fail in Life’s tests. You only learn. The faster you learn – and internalize – the faster you graduate to the next test and to the lesson it has to offer!

A goose in a jar, Jai’s death in Sholay, and a lesson in being happy!

When you step back and witness your own Life, objectively, dispassionately, you can then find bliss even in a tragedy or catastrophe.

When you are in the throes of a big crisis, when you don’t see a way out to end it, take a deep breath, step back and watch the situation with the eye and view of an observer. Be a witness. Don’t participate in the situation by thinking, by worrying, by attempting to solve it! Just watch the crisis, your place and role in the situation, and let an awakening happen within you – that enlightens you!

A Zen Master once gave his disciples a ‘koan’ to deal with. A ‘koan’ is a paradox to be meditated upon that is used to train Zen Buddhist monks to abandon ultimate dependence on reason and to encourage them into gaining sudden intuitive enlightenment.

The ‘koan’ given here was the one of a goose within a jar. When the goose was small, the task was to simply feed the goose. Soon the goose grew big. And was barely fitting in the jar. Now the task was getting the goose out of the jar without either breaking the jar or killing the goose. Disciple after disciple kept thinking of achieving this task by looking at the situations from different angles. Each of them concluded that it was impossible. They saw it possible only if the jar were to be broken or the goose was killed. Now, neither of these actions was allowed. They gave up.

But one disciple persisted. He too was tired of examining the situation from every conceivable dimension. He too wanted to give up. That’s when he concluded that his Master may not have recommended this situation without a reason. In a flash, it occurred to him that the Master was perhaps not interested in either jar or the goose. The Master wanted the disciples to learn something else. He recognized that the jar represents the human mind. And the goose represents you – the individual. He concluded that the Master wanted them all to understand that to experience bliss, the ‘you’ goose must detach itself from the ‘jar’ mind.

So, the disciple rushed to the Master and declared: “Master the goose is ‘out’!”

The Master applauded him: “You are right! You have understood the essence of this ‘koan’. The goose was never ‘in’!”

Zen Masters have taught that the mind is at work 24×7. It is eating you up all day with thoughts of worry, anxiety, anger, fear, insecurity and hatred, among many, many more. Now, in a crisis, unless you realize that you are like the goose in the jar, and stop believing that you were ever stuck in the jar, you cannot feel freedom. For this to happen you have to step away from the problem situation and merely ‘witness’ or ‘observe’ it. If you don’t do this, your mind will continue to hold you hostage and keep you trapped. A mind at work, or being controlled by the mind, means being susceptible to misery. The mind is a procession of thoughts. Like a full length movie. The thoughts are like the characters or the actors or the locales in the movie. The key is to not to identify yourself with these thoughts – the characters or the actors or the locales. Because once you identify yourself, you will get stuck with both the beautiful and the terrible moments in Life – as in a movie.

Dharmendra (Veeru) and Amitabh Bachchan (Jai) in Sholay
As a young boy when my parents took me to watch ‘Sholay’ (Ramesh Sippy, Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Hema Malini, Jaya Bhaduri and Amjad Khan) in a New Delhi cinema hall called Rachna in 1975, I remember I refused to come out of the hall when the movie got over. I was grief stricken that Jai (Amitabh Bachchan) was dead. I had come to identify with him. It was only when my dad sat me down and counselled me that the ‘real’ Amitabh Bachchan was still alive, and this was just a movie, did I understand and, therefore, went home with my parents!

Many of us are in so much grief with our Life situations. This is because all of us are like that goose or like I was after watching ‘Sholay’. Struggling with our ‘jar’ minds. Unless we step back and away, as my dad counselled me, and see that our whole Life is just an illusion, like a movie, we will continue to be miserable. Life happens. And keeps on happening. There were crises, there are crises and there will be crises as we go through Life. Each of those Life crises or tragedies or painful situations will leave us numb and confounded. The only way out, and the only way to find inner peace and happiness, is to stop identifying with anything or anyone.

You are not your problems. You are not your relationships. Identification is the root cause of all misery. And the only way not to identify with anyone or anything is to simply witness Life. Be and behave like a third party. Then, through your awareness, you will discover that there was, is and never will be a crisis. What there always was, is, and will be, is happiness!

This New Year, throw out all resolutions! Choose “awareness” instead!!!

Be spontaneous. Let Life happen and you flow through it, with it. This is the only secret to living a full Life!

As another year winds down to an end, many on the social networks are assessing the year gone by – recording its highs and lows, basically analyzing and dissecting the past – and  are also drawing up resolutions, hoping to make the coming year memorable. In my humble opinion, neither analysis nor resolution can make your year – or Life – more memorable than it will be.

Resolutions indicate that you are going to restrict what happens to you to a few choices. Let’s say one of your goals is to lose weight – for which you resolve to work out daily. Now, if you cannot work out for a whole week, for whatever reason, you will feel miserable about your resolution, about yourself and your incapability to lose weight. Given your knowledge of your Life and lifestyle, a point worth considering is, why restrain yourself with a difficult choice that you are unlikely to sustain? Anything that you restrain, anything that you try to control, or resist, will bring you misery.

This does not mean that you must not have a vision for yourself or that you must not set a goal. But don’t hold a gun to yourself. Don’t impose conditions. Instead, flow with Life. Choose to be in the now, to be aware. As your awareness increases, your ability to create new opportunities or seize opportunities, in the direction of your goals or vision, enhances.

Let’s go back to the weight loss example. You have a resolution to spend an hour at the gym daily working out, or walking for an hour. Now, you haven’t done this all your Life. Or you have been erratic going to the gym in the past. The New Year comes and goes. You are still are struggling to hit the gym. Work pressure, travel, matters at home and social engagements continue to keep you occupied. Soon, the ghost of your resolution comes to haunt you – especially because you have already enrolled at the gym but have not showed up there ever. And so misery sets in. Instead of things being this way, consider how would it have been had you been open to each day’s schedules, allowing yourself to go with the flow, and yet creating time for physical exercise or activity. This could be at the gym or it could be a swim or a walk in the park. Whatever. The key is get your body to exercise at a convenient time slot that is in sync with your schedule. This is what going with the flow means. As you continue to exercise physically, your body too responds beautifully and within a few weeks you have fallen into a rhythm. Well, surely, you have not lost any sleep over scheduling physical activity in your daily calendar. Besides, there’s no misery. You are going with the flow of Life – aware and happy!

Awareness is a beautiful tool to employ in your Life. You don’t have to do anything to activate it. Just let go of all conditions and restrictions. Don’t resolve. Don’t decide a particular way. Visualize an outcome and just flow through Life each day and make choices that are connected to your vision or goals. A principal reason why most New Year (and birthday or anniversary) resolutions fail is because they are force-fitted by you into your Life. You are making them to console yourself. You are making them under pressure and not quite out of happiness. Make sure you are happy when making any choice. If not, re-examine your choices. Find ways to tweak your choices to allow you to be happy. More happiness leads to more awareness. More awareness leads to more responsible choices. With awareness, more gets done without any misery, without any agony, spontaneously.

True Love is Total Freedom

True love is when two people who are experiencing each other are totally free together!

It seems so weird. People fall in love so easily, get married quickly and yet they struggle as they fall “out of” love and suffer as they go through the pain and agony of a divorce. The principal cause of all this is the flawed notion that love and marriage, or a relationship, are synonymous. A marriage is nothing but a contract. It is the personal version of a business arrangement or relationship. There is often a stated or unstated memorandum of understanding between the two people in the relationship – that subject to certain conditions being fulfilled, or met, one shall love the other. So, in some situations, as is naturally bound to happen, some of those conditions will not be met. In one case, a couple I know broke up because he has been unable to earn an income. Or in another, the spouse felt that there was no physical fulfilment in the marriage. In yet another case, one of the partners complained of betrayal owing to the other’s affair with someone else. If each of these cases is examined, a common factor is that certain agreed upon, or even unstated, parameters have not been met.
But true love is when there are no conditions. When there is complete freedom and harmony between two people.

The very nature of a relationship is that it is restrictive. It ends all freedom. Which is why many men and women like to talk of their marriages as having ended their freedom! Most of such comments are made in jest – yet they reflect sentiments that are representative of the loss of individual freedom of expression. So, just because two people are married or in a relationship it does not have to be that they love each other. They may just be together but may never be there for each other!

A mature experience of two people is when love continues to be the bonding glue between them irrespective of the circumstances in which they find each other. Such love thrives on freedom – of thought and expression. Classification of their mutual experience, per social definitions, is just incidental. If they are married, it is just a data point. If they are living-in together, it is again a data point. If they are living away from each other, geographically separated by distance, that too is a data point. What is important is they are able to relate to each other no matter what name people may give their relationship.

Examine the choice you have made with regard to companionship in your Life. Are you free in the relationship? Do you allow your partner total freedom? If you do, and if you recognize that there are no conditions being imposed by either of you, then, and only then, are you blessed with true love. In the absence of freedom, any relationship is but another contract. Which, as is always true in business, will suffer the moment there is any deviation from a defined or presumed clause.  

Actions, Choices, Decisions and Destiny

Your decisions and choices make your destiny. Always!

My son and I had an interesting discussion last evening. He said that he could not get himself to accept that Life was pre-ordained. He has a point. Life is at one level very mystical, very inscrutable. At another level, if you review your Life so far, all your past actions have seeded your present. What you do today creates your future. So, if there is a destiny, surely there is a role you – through your actions, choices and decisions – play in shaping it uniquely for yourself. Even so, you can only understand this truism in retrospect. You can only, as Steve Jobs famously said,  connect the dots backwards. And irrespective of where you find yourself, in whatever circumstance, whatever has happened, whatever is happening and whatever will happen to you, will only make you better, stronger and more evolved.

So, in a way, this whole concept of destiny can be deemed as escapist. And yet it can be understood as inevitable. It is escapist when we try to blame our destiny for our tragic current realities. And inevitable because, whatever was to happen, alone happened irrespective of who caused it. So, instead of analyzing Life and arguing for or against pre-ordinance, the best way forward, the way to live fully, is to simply own each action and each outcome. You need not have any expectation of the outcome – as the Bhagavad Gita has said – but you can certainly own it.

Essentially, Life is simple. It means do your best in any situation. And whatever be the outcome, accept it with all humility. If it’s an outcome you wanted, be grateful. And if it’s an outcome that you did not want, and one that you dislike, still go on and accept it, welcome it and embrace it. The Life that you reflect upon is what is your destiny. Many people, through scientific and other means, will tell you about your future. You don’t have to disregard them or avoid them. Listen to them. In a tough season, their perspective could have a balmy influence. In a great season, they could be reiterating what you already know. But no one can really cause you to escape your reality, your present. And it is in this present that you can experience Life. It is in the now that your decisions get taken. It is in the now that you stumble, fall, rise and conquer. It is your now, and what you do in it, or don’t do, that shapes your destiny!  

On the Failure of Success

The F-word that we must all not avoid or feel embarrassed to confront does not have four letters. It has 7! It is FAILURE.

Fear of Failure prevents us from doing things that we love doing. We have been brought up, groomed, conditioned, to believe that Failure is bad and Success is good. And Failure is dubbed as coming last in class, not having enough money, losing in love or not being famous. Truth however is that Failure is inevitable. Not every effort will produce the result we expect. And yet we must plough on. Living each moment in full. Not be swayed by joy or depressed by sorrow! Because, even what we call Success, will, at times, fail us.

Here’s a short story that illustrates the point. The Sumeru mountain, accepted in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, is believed to exist in heaven. The significance of the mountain is that any great emperor who has conquered the whole world, when he dies, signs his name on the Sumeru mountain for his incredible achievements. One great Emperor, after his death, reached the gates of heaven, with his wives, who had also given up their lives on his pyre, as was the custom in those days. At the gate, the gatekeeper obstructed his wives from entering in order to accompany the King to sign his name.

The King was upset: “How can you not let my wives in to witness me signing on the mountain?”

The gatekeeper laughed and said, “O King, I have been the gatekeeper for generations and my ancestors were all gatekeepers here. I have said the same thing, that I’ve told you, to all those who have come here before you. You will actually be thankful. However if you still insist , you may go ahead with your wish!”

The King felt that the gatekeeper would know better and hence went alone to sign on the Sumeru. To his amazement, contrary to his belief that he was one among the few to sign on the Sumeru, the king found thousands of signatures on it, with hardly any space to fit his own signature. He immediately felt grateful towards the gatekeeper – for if his wives had seen what he was seeing just now, they would have lost all interest in him. For he was now not a great emperor but just another ‘also ran’!

He said in a tone of disappointment, “I always thought that I would be the only one to sign on the Sumeru mountain, but there are thousands of others who have signed before me. Where shall I sign now? I feel humiliated!”

The gatekeeper said, “There is an option. You can erase one of the names and have yours in its place!”

The King said, “What is the point, then one day somebody will erase my name and will have his name on it.”

“That is most likely to happen, but it’s up to you!” said the gatekeeper.

This is the inevitable Failure of Success! So, let us not chase Success and abhor Failure. Let us appreciate and understand that even Success fails us when we reach the metaphorical Sumeru. Live each moment, learning from it – even if you fail at achieving what you wanted to. That learning – from trying, falling and failing – is more valuable than grieving the inability to achieve a goal or gloating over at having got it!

Meet the worst, when it happens. Until then – just chill!

When the worst happens, face it. Until then relax – and stop worrying!

K.Kamaraj (1903~1975)
This morning I was speaking to my father. It was a casual conversation that covered all topics under the sun. My father, to illustrate a point, said that one of the best approaches to Life is what former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, and revered statesman, K.Kamaraj (1903~1975), followed. Apparently Kamaraj always said “agattum parkalam”, meaning “let it come, let it happen, we will see, we will face it!”, whenever he was asked for his opinion on “what if” scenarios. The import of Kamaraj’s philosophy is simply that “we will cross the bridge when we come to it”.

I find that approach very valid in everyday Life too – as much as it must have been relevant in politics then.        

All our worries are of a future that has not yet arrived. We imagine worst case scenarios that, most often, really don’t happen. Yet we endlessly worry in anticipation of them. The very nature of a worry is of something unreal. It is always over something that hasn’t happened. Now if worry did not take you away from the reality of the present moment, of the now, it is fine. But worrying means not being present here – in the now. And Life is always happening in the now. So, worrying is futile. It drains you of your focus and pushes you down a spiral of fear and insecurity. This is not to say that you must not see reality. For example, someone you love is dying. The doctors have told you to be prepared to lose her. What I am saying here does not mean you must not see the reality of her death, which is due to happen in some time. Of course, you are sensible and you can and will see that she is slipping away. Her impending death is not the issue here. What may be a problem is your worry that you cannot think of a Life without her. That worry is what needs to be dealt with astutely. You cannot expect that worry not to arise. The nature of the human mind is that it will spew out thoughts, often worries, ceaselessly. When a worry arises, be aware. And tell the worry to subside saying you will deal with the, in fact, any, situation, when it arises. When you say this, in the context of your dying friend for example, you will be able to focus on spending the last few minutes with her “freely”. You will be “present” with her. You will not be consumed by either guilt or grief or remorse or anxiety. You will simply bewith her.

I have painted this morbid picture here only by way of illustrating this learning in a dramatic manner. Often, our anxieties are not and need not be about Life-changing issues. We tend to project what-if and worst-case scenarios in all contexts in Life. And therefore worrying has become an integral part of our everyday Life. To understand the futility of this compulsive habit of worrying, understand the way of Life. Know that when the future does arrive it will always be as the present moment, as the now. So, when you are worrying, the future arrives, but as the present, but you miss that moment, because you are still worrying about an unborn future. This way an entire lifetime passes by and finally, when death arrives, you realize, when it is too late, you have not lived your Life at all.

I have read of a story that Osho, the Master, often used to say. Three professors of philosophy were at a train station waiting for the train to depart. They were so engrossed in their discussion that they didn’t realize that the train had begun to move. When they did realize, the train had picked up some speed and was chugging out of the platform. Two of the professors managed to scramble on to the train. But the third could not make it. The train left without him. He was in tears on the platform watching his two friends frantically waving out to him from the train, at a distance. A porter asked the man on the platform what made him so upset. He said the man should actually feel happy that his two friends managed to get on to the train even if he couldn’t! The professor replied sorrowfully: “That’s the whole problem. Those two men came to see me off. I was the one who had to be on that train.”

And that is the way it is with all of us. We are so anxious about the future that we miss our trains – metaphorically – in each moment. Such living is simply squandering a lifetime. The venerable Kamaraj’s “agattum parkalam” approach helps us remember that when the (worst) future has not yet happened, there’s great value in just chilling!

Befikr, Bejijhak, Bindaaz!!!

Live Life without worry, without doubt, with total abandon!

Amitabh Bachchan and Sri Devi: English Vinglish, 2012
Yesterday I watched English Vinglish (2012, Gauri Shinde, Sri Devi) one more time. I simply love Amitabh Bachchan’s cameo and how he encourages Sri Devi’s character Shashi to enjoy her first visit to the United States of America – ‘befikr, bejijhak, bindaaz’ – without worry, without doubt and with total abandon!

I believe these three attributes apply to Life too!

Most of us are tentative about Life! We seem to be keen on getting our economic resources in place before we enjoy the Life that we have. Resultantly, we find one excuse or the other to postpone living – to pursue what will give us joy. My classmate from college tells me that someday he “hopes” to do what he loves doing. He says his primary task now is to get himself out of a job which he loathes and find himself one that secures his monthly income. “I am full or worry, fear and insecurity,” he concedes. Another friend is “worried” that his son, who’s in 12th grade, is inclined to pursue literature and art, than take up science, in which he is brilliant. “I have no problem with literature or art except that he can’t earn well enough from careers in those fields. I am worried for my boy,” my friend laments. Someone else, who’s a self-confessed millionaire, does not want to set up a gaming studio because he doesn’t want to raise cash for it by liquidating his real estate assets. Another is stuck in a horrible, complicated, marriage but does not want to step out of it because there’s too much “property and assets involved.” To be sure, these are not isolated cases. Each of us has an insecurity issue – primarily concerning finances or relationships or sometimes both. These insecurities are consuming us. They are chewing us up from within. So, we are never living Life freely. Every key Life decision of ours is subject to certain conditions being fulfilled. So, no decision really gets made. And we stumble along through Life – incomplete and unhappy in our own unique ways.

All scriptures point to the ever-changing landscape of Life. Besides, from our own experience we must know that Life is not something static. It is like a river – ever flowing. So, to seek security in an ever-changing scenario, particularly through something as impermanent and perishable as money – or assets – is futile. Yet, we all seek security from just those same factors. All the time. And that’s why we miss out on living. We merely exist. Earning a living, alright, but never actually, really living!

To live fully we must stop seeking insurance from Life. When there can be no insurance against death, which is both the ultimate and the inevitable, why worry about Life? When we seek security, primarily through economic considerations, we are choosing to limit our living potential. We are living on the periphery. We are then living tentatively – so, we don’t enjoy ourselves fully.

It’s another Monday morning! And the season’s energy is simply awesome. Celebrate this energy by choosing to be befikr– without worry, bejijhak – without doubt and bindaaz – with total abandon today! And see how ‘abundant’ you feel despiteyour circumstances!

Don’t give a heap of words the power to injure you

What others think of you is none of your business! Seriously!!

A common trap we all fall victim to is to grieve over the perceptions that others have of us. For some strange, inexplicable reason, what others think of us, always, matters more than what we think of ourselves. And while these opinions, that others have of us, cause us untold hurt and, often, suffering, we still continue to give them the importance that they absolutely, simply, don’t deserve.

There are only two kinds of opinions. One that creates value – which is, when you heed them, they help you become a better person, professional and human being. The other kind debilitates. It hurts. It is the second category of opinions that we must be wary of. We can’t escape them. But we sure can choose not to let them affect us when they are thrown at us!

I learnt this lesson the hard way in Life. For a long, long time, well into my late thirties, I would hurt from others’ opinions of me. Which, predictably, varied from the banal to the absurd. I would work hard at clarifying to people who had read me wrong or strive, even harder, to change their opinion of me. In trying to do all this I would grieve and suffer endlessly. Then, one morning, I read this quote by the famous philosopher and thinker Jiddu Krishnamurthi (1895~1986): “The ability to observe oneself without evaluating is the highest form of human intelligence.” I remember that I was in the middle of my daily practice of mouna – observing an hour of silence. My business had collapsed. There was no money to even support the family. I had to deal with a lot of creditors – each of whom were driven by their urgency to recover their money that was stuck with me/in our business. So, each one employed a different method to force me and my business to pay up. A common approach many used was to accuse me of being a cheat. It was humiliating at one level and very, very painful at another. Soon the perception that I may be faking a financial crisis spread to my own family. And when I was called a cheat among people with whom I shared a blood relation, I was devastated. That was when I came by Jiddu Krishmamurthi’s quote. I read it a few times that morning. Then it struck me that if one had to ‘rise’ above judging oneself, in order to stay anchored and peaceful, what purpose did it serve to worry about others’ opinions of you? In a flash I awakened to the pointlessness of it all.

Ever since, I have let my awareness build a protective shield around me. People still opinionate about me, my actions and my Life. These opinions come flying at me. But they bounce off my awareness – unable to touch me or affect me.

A few weeks back, a close friend, called me a ‘coward’. He called me a ‘coward’ because I was not willing to debate a point of view with him. He shared this opinion of me over facebook chat with me. I simply pasted a smiley emoticon as my reply to his unsolicited opinion. I am not sure what he made out of my benign response. It doesn’t matter to me at all though. But another mutual friend, who heard of this other friend’s effort to “chat” me up, called me and asked me not to take the latter’s actions seriously. This is what I told that friend: “Choosing not to enjoin in a pointless debate is not cowardice.” I was only expressing myself. But my caller friend summed it up brilliantly: “As long as we are sure of what we are doing and are at peace with ourselves, it shouldn’t really matter how people perceive us.”

That is so true. And that’s all there is to it! Let people keep judging and opinionating. If their opinions are constructive, take them on board. If they are aimed at only causing you insult and injury – beware! You can’t stop them from coming at you. But you can well choose to ignore them! An opinion that you don’t allow to affect you is nothing but a harmless heap of words. You give that heap the stature of an insult and the power to injure you by taking it seriously!