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!

Demystifying Nirvana

Living without enlightenment is like choosing to walk in the dark in your home, without turning the lights on!

We have all been brought up with a romantic view of enlightenment. That it is something special which only the ‘chosen’ few can attain. Wrong. Enlightenment, or ‘nirvana‘, as explained in Buddhism, means simply to blow out__’nir‘ meaning out and ‘vana‘ meaning to blow. So, reaching this stage means to blow out the darkness of ignorance and, consequently, invite the light of awareness to brighten up your Life. Attaining ‘nirvana‘, therefore, does not require us to abdicate the Life we have been given.

One day a rich man came to Gautama Buddha. And calling him the Awakened One, he asked Gautama if he too should give up his wealth, his work and sit under a tree, to understand the meaning of Life and find his true Purpose. “Should I give up everything to find Truth and Happiness,” asked the man. The Compassionate Buddha replied patiently,”Anyone can receive the bliss of finding Truth as long as he follows the path of unselfishness. If you are going to cling to your wealth, then it is better to throw it away than let it poison your heart. But if you do not cling to it, and use it wisely, then you will be a blessing to people. It is not wealth and power that make people slaves, but clinging to them sure does.”

So, you__and I__too can attain ‘nirvana‘ if we recognize that living in this world with what has been given to us is not sinful. Being attached to our worldly acquisitions – including material things, relationships and opinions  is what brings us misery. So, the way to enlightenment is to live in this world and yet be above it. To remain free of all attachments. To invite this awareness requires nothing more than the effort you will need to make to turn on the lights in your home. If you choose not to, despite the fact that you know the layout of your home, you will stumble, trip, even fall, hurting yourself in the process. But the moment you turn on the lights, you move freely. Unrestricted.

Osho, the Master, exhorts each one of us to be a Buddha. “It is just a question of opening your eyes. You are asleep. If you awaken, you too can be a Buddha. There have been many Buddhas before Gautama, many after him and there will continue to be many more in the future,”he says. Buddha really means ‘the Awakened One’. Gautama Buddha’s message simply was ‘Be a Light unto yourself’. Here’s hoping you turn on the light in your Life and live with awareness and in joy hereafter!

Let go of what makes you unhappy and you will be happy!

There are no barriers to happiness except the ones you erect for yourself. Let go of what makes you unhappy and you will be happy!
Indeed. It is as simple as that.
I met a friend yesterday who is breaking up with her husband. Her business is not doing too good – she’s in a lot of debt. And her two children are still very young – they demand a lot of her time. She’s not able to focus on her passion – dance – as her failed relationship, her struggling business and her little children are taking up all her time and attention. “I am under a constant cloud of unwantedness, unhappy with whatever’s happening in my Life. I want to be able to devote time to my kids. It makes me sad that I really can’t do that either,” she confessed.
Many of us are this way too. Seeking happiness while doing what distinctly makes us unhappy. Sticking around in situations and relationships that drain us out completely and then lamenting that we are unable to break free. We don’t realize that the only reason we are unhappy in any situation in Life, is because, perhaps, we choose to be so.
Consider what my friend declared to me: “There seems to be no way out of this quagmire. I have hit a dead end.” I then asked her why she thought there was no way out. She said because she couldn’t see a way out. Now, those are two different things – there being no way out and your inability to see a way out. Most often, we don’t see the way out, because we are not looking in the right direction or we are not looking hard enough. Or, maybe, we just don’t want a way out? For, sometimes, being unhappy is so comfortable. The whole world will come to console you when you are unhappy. And to deal with unhappiness is so simple – you just have to frown at everything and everyone. It is addictive. And keeps you constantly engaged – wallowing in self-pity and self-declared hopelessness. This is exactly what I told my friend too. I advised her that all she needed to do was to end her relationship, shut down her business and spend quality time pursuing her passion and raising her children. She needed to focus on those factors in her Life that are enablers of happiness than on those that are debilitating. Simple.
But what does one do when you can’t get rid of what makes you unhappy. Like a failed relationship or business can be walked out of. But how can you walk away from the memory of someone whom you have lost? And what if that memory continues plague you – making you unhappy? Interestingly, the same approach will work here also. Let go of those memories of loss and pining. Replace them with memories you have of all that you enjoyed doing with that person who is no more now. Your unhappiness will instantaneously disappear. Again, as you will realize, focusing on the happiness enablers than on debilitating factors is the only way to rid yourself of unhappiness.
This is true for all of us. Without exception. In all situations. Happiness is not a state to be attained. It is who you are. Through conditioning – both economic and social – you have built walls or barriers around you, within you. These walls need to be torn down. In other words, if you throw out whatever makes you unhappy, you will end up being happy!

Responsible children come from responsible parenting

The best education you can give your child is to always teach them to do what’s right than what appears to be right; and to always own up a mistake, say sorry – and face the reality as it is.
Source Internet
This past week there have been rumored reports on social media sites of a top industrialist’s son being involved in a hit-and-run case in Mumbai. The reports suggest that the young man was driving an Aston Martin Rapide in a drunken state. His car is believed to have crashed into two other cars and injured two people. The reports allege that the industrialist hushed up the matter by influencing the country’s top media houses to “black out” the news of this incident and also by getting one of his company’s chauffeurs to “own up and surrender” for the accident. The only reason why I am not naming the industrialist in this post is because I don’t want to be party to a rumored report. Besides, the issue for examination and review here is not who did it.  That is best left to the investigative agencies of the land. What’s important is to look at what we can learn from this instance.
Undoubtedly all parents love their children above all else in the world. But that affection can sometimes blind parents and cloud their vision for their children. Here are some thoughts on mature parenting that I believe are relevant here.
The first principle to imbibe, internalize and initiate in parenting is ‘responsibility’. To groom responsible children, the parents must first display responsible behavior. We must recognize that it is in their teens that children seek independence. They are driven by a passionate sense of adventure. They want to explore this beautiful world, they want to explore their bodies and their sexuality, they want to express themselves and they want to do things that they believe has not been done before. The normal approach that parents take in such cases is to restrict their children, admonish them and often make them yield under emotional pressure. And often when much of this is being forced upon the children, the parents are not conforming to or following any of this themselves. For instance, at least in an Indian context, parents will openly watch pirated movies, will drink and drive, will pay petty bribes to get “stuff” done and flout any inconvenient law like wearing a seat belt. Yet the same parents will insist that their children speak the truth, are ethical, don’t drink and drive and grow up to be sincere law-abiding citizens. How much more ironic can it get? In India, working around an established legal framework, is considered “normal”. It is obviously not right to bribe a traffic cop if you are caught driving without your seat belt on or fail a breathalyzer test – but it is considered or appears to be right to most people. And this is where parents miss the point. How can you have anyone – let alone your children – do something which you are not willing to do yourself? So, be responsible. Lead responsibly. And you will have responsible children following you.
The second principle is to inculcate in your children the courage to own up. Let’s recognize a child’s, especially in the teens, spirit of adventure will drive him or her to take risks. How much ever you may advise, counsel, lead by example or even show case through examples from Life around you, every child will learn his or her lessons only from his or her personal experience. Whether it is having pre-marital sex or getting drunk or drinking and driving or whatever – more than all your preaching, what wakes up a teenager, or even a young adult, is when things blow up on his or her face. So, whenever something goes awfully wrong, be there for your child. Don’t rub it in by saying “I told you so!”. Instead teach your child to own up the experience, whatever it may be, and face Life squarely. Covering up or shielding a child from the consequences of his or her actions will only mean that you endorse such deviant behavior. Which is surely not true. I am sure that industrialist is as distraught as any other parent in his position will be. But by not teaching his child, if at all those reports are not rumors but are true, to own up and face the legal process, he’s grooming, however unwittingly, his child to be an irresponsible parent and citizen.
Let’s remember that as we grow older – and hopefully wiser – as parents, the most gratifying thing in Life will be to see our children lead happy and responsible lives. For that aspiration to come true, it’s very important that we lead the generation that we brought into this world – responsibly!

This whole Life is but a dream

This whole lifetime is an illusion, a dream – to struggle with it is simply an unintelligent thing to do. If you really want to snap out of ‘your’ dream – just awaken!  

Last evening, I watched an Italian movie, La Grande Bellaza (The Great Beauty), made by the brilliant Paolo Sorrentino. The film deals with a man’s discovery, as he turns 65, that the whole Life he has led is a ‘trick’, an illusion. His Life, for decades, has been spent in the extravagant social and literary circles of Rome. Now, in the evening of his Life, he finds how hollow the lives of the people he knows are, how shallow their thoughts are and how they desperately try to hide their despair and shroud their darker sides. He realizes that somewhere along the way he has lost a lot of ‘his’ time too, ‘doing what he really does not like doing’ and so he decides, in one brilliant awakening moment, as the movie ends, to write his second book – something he had been postponing for years!
You need not watch the movie to get its message. You don’t need to wait until you are past 60 to wake up. If you realize that your Life is running out and you are speeding towards your death, just as everyone else is, you will awaken! As Omar Khayyam, the 11th Century Persian poet, has said so beautifully: “The wine of Life keeps oozing drop by drop and the leaves of Life keep falling one by one.” Soon your Life too will end. Just as mine will. And this entire lifetime we have experienced may simply appear to have been a dream. What’s the point then in clinging on to characters in the dream, to events in the dream and to memories of the dream?
Really, if you think about Life deeply, there is nothing to attain in Life. There’s nothing to abstain from or give up

or renounce in Life either. When you watch a three hour movie, you don’t cling on to it as it ends, do you? You just get up and walk away. The movie was an experience. Simple. It was make believe. That is what Life is too. So everything you have now – and you cling on to – is make believe too. You think it is ‘yours’. You think all of what you are experiencing is real. But the truth is different – and the only reality! Your family, your children, your business, your assets, your money, your nationality, your religion, your name – all this is make believe. None of this is either the real you nor is it yours. When an entire lifetime is like a dream, at the end of it, how can you even stake a claim to anyone or anything that was part of this illusion?

So, stop struggling with your Life. Let go! Live Life fully – do only what gives you joy! And, yes, please enjoy the dream, this experience, as long as it lasts!