A lesson in empathy from a national tragedy

Empathize, above all, with everyone. Even if you can’t help them in any other way, simply empathize.
This day, 23 years ago, Rajiv Gandhi, India’s former Prime Minister was assassinated in Sri Perumbudur, near Chennai. I was working as India Today’s state correspondent then.
A set of quirky circumstances that evening kept me away from proceeding to Sri Perumbudur, where then Tamil Nadu Congress heavyweight Vazhapadi Ramamurthi had agreed to let me meet Rajiv personally for a quick interview on the party’s poll prospects in the state (India was readying for elections to the Lok Sabha at that time). I heard of the assassination at 10.40 PM through a friend in The Indian Express, who called my landline at home. I called my editor Aroon Purie soon after and he did not make any bones about the fact that I had “blown a perfect first person account” of such a “huge story”. Journalists and media people are pretty much that way – news and story are above all else. Aroon and Rajiv were classmates from The Doon School, Dehradun – and they were also very close friends. But, despite his personal loss, Aroon focused on getting the best coverage of the assassination for India Today.
“I want you to salvage the story now. Get me every detail. Why and how did the security lapse happen? Who is responsible for this? What does the local state administration have to say? Get to the bottom of the plot – we must have the most exclusive coverage,” thundered Aroon over the phone, as I took down notes at an STD phone booth on Sardar Patel Road, near IIT, Chennai. (Please note: there were no mobile phones at that time and the landline at my residence did not have direct national dialling facility!). Rioting (by miscreants, in the garb of protesting against the assassination) had begun in the city as I navigated through much of it on my dilapidated Vijay Super scooter gathering information through the night.
The Rajiv Assassination Cover
I had promised to call Aroon every other hour. And I did. On the call, around 3 AM, he told me that he had withdrawn the magazine’s edition (India Today was a fortnightly then) which had gone to print and said the assassination story will now run on the cover. He told me that he had information that Sonia Gandhi was coming to Chennai in a special Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft with Priyanka to claim Rajiv’s body. “I want you on that plane come what may. Take pictures. I need the most exclusive coverage of this national tragedy in our mazagine,” he instructed me.
I didn’t then know where to begin. Get on a plane? Carrying Rajiv Gandhi’s body? With Sonia and Priyanka Gandhi? That too, an IAF plane? I was in my night clothes – pyjamasand kurta – I had no money on me other than a couple of hundred rupees.
I headed straight to the Raj Bhavan and met the then Governor, Bhishma Narain Singh. Journalists have both the instincts and the privileges to gate crash anywhere, anytime. I convinced him that he must help me get on that plane. I also got details of all the intelligence reports he had of the assassination. Governor Singh did not promise anything but asked me to show up at the airport at 5 AM. I managed to connect with our staff photographer, Shyam Tekwani, and we both reached the airport and talked our way through the heavy security cordon. Governor Singh, seeing us, talked to a senior IAF official. And much to the surprise – and angst – of other journalists gathered there, on the tarmac at the old Meenambakkam airport, the IAF officer waved to me and Shyam to go onboard.
We boarded the plane soon after Sonia and Priyanka did. As I entered the cabin, I noticed Sonia fasten her seat belt. She looked up at me, through the dark glasses she was wearing. I am sure she must have been surprised to see someone in night clothes! But she looked away, lost in her grief. Mid-way through the flight, Shyam peeped through the curtains that separated the area where Sonia and Priyanka were seated, and where Rajiv’s coffin was fastened to the floor of the plane, from our side of the aircraft. There were only three more passengers with us – then Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Janardhan Reddy, the Gandhi family confidante R.K.Dhawan and an IAF doctor. I peeped over Shyam’s shoulder as he took pictures. Sonia had been sedated (the IAF doctor told me this) but Priyanka was sprawled on Rajiv’s coffin, which was draped in the national flag, and was crying inconsolably. Shyam took many, many pictures. No one stopped him. The tragedy was too big to think of anything else, I guess.
When we met in Aroon Purie’s office in Connaught Place, New Delhi, for an edit meeting later that afternoon (May 22nd), we gathered that Sonia had got wind of us being on that plane. She had also been told about Shyam taking all those pictures by R.K.Dhawan. It appeared that she had called Aroon personally and asked him not to publish those pictures or write details of that plane journey. I surmised that those pictures would now not be carried in the magazine.
I must admit I was upset. I was hardly 23 then. This was the BIG STORY of my Life. Being on a plane, carrying a former Prime Minister’s assassinated body, where no other journalist in India could even think of being was indeed big. And it now appeared that we were not going to run that story on the Gandhis’ moment of personal grief or carry those exclusive pictures?
Aroon read my mind perhaps. He simply said, “Above all else, let’s empathize with a wife who has lost her best friend and husband, and with the two children who have lost a father.”
I cannot claim I truly understood the value of being empathetic immediately, at that moment. But over the years, that perspective shared by Aroon, has helped me empathize better with people in difficult situations. All of us are so caught up with our work, and our worlds, we have no time to pause and think of how others are feeling. About what we are doing to them or about what they are going through. Someone’s gain is always someone’s loss. In some form or the other. And sometimes, it’s difficult to even imagine the grief of someone who has lost something valuable, unless you have been through a similar situation yourself. Learning to empathize with others is however something that can be developed over time and with experience.
Words cannot ever express empathy. But actions – a hug, a simple holding of hands, a moment taken to pause and be with that person – can. To be sure, being loving and compassionate takes a lot of doing. But being empathetic just requires being there and making an effort to understand someone’s pain and suffering. Maybe, someone needs your empathy just now?

Meant to be or not meant to be – accept both!

What is not meant to be, is not meant to be. Period. Such is Life!
Tejpal arrived late at his mother’s funeral
Picture Courtesy: Indian Express/Internet
Tarun Tejpal’s mother passed away in Goa on Sunday, May 18. Tejpal, who is in a Goa jail facing charges of allegedly raping his junior colleague, moved the Supreme Court on Monday, May 19, seeking interim bail for three weeks. The bail was granted late afternoon yesterday but the paperwork governing his release from jail took an awful amount of time. Resultantly Tejpal could reach the crematorium in Goa only an hour or so after his mother’s funeral pyre was lit by his younger brother Minty. When I read this story in the papers this morning, I just thought of the Family Tejpal. What would have been going on in Tejpal’s mother Shakuntala’s mind when she arrived in Goa to see her son, in jail, although her own health was so fragile – at 87, she was suffering from a brain tumor? What would have been Tejpal’s feelings over being unable to attend his mother’s last rites, despite the best lawyers in the country securing an order from the highest court of the land? The most ideal situation would have been that Tejpal did not do what he allegedly did in an elevator at the Hyatt, Goa, in November last year. Ideally too, it would have been best if he had been available to attend to his ailing mother. And ideally again, if none of that was possible, at least he could have made it on time for her last rites. But that was not to be. And that’s Life! Some things, however hard you may try, may simply not work the way you want them to.
It is important and relevant to know that we can’t always have everything in Life. Some things will remain elusive, incomplete or unfixed – forever. Our grief comes when we don’t accept this reality about Life. We think we must solve every problem, mend every relationship and fix every broken part of our lives. But that’s not the way Life works. There are many aspects of our lives where we cannot get answers to all our whys and why-me questions. Life does not offer any justifications or explanations ever. If we seek any, it will only cause our suffering. To be free of such suffering, the best way to respond to Life is take it as it comes. Whatever comes your way, embrace it. Don’t fight. Don’t resist. Just simply accept your Life, the way it is.
Intelligent living, simply, is about knowing what is meant to be, knowing what is not meant to be, and in accepting both!

Travel light – travel far and in comfort

The concept of good health immediately points to our physical condition. But many of us are carrying too much weight in our minds – excess emotional baggage, born out of past experiences and anxieties about the unborn future. Unless we offload them, we can’t make much progress in Life!
The human mind is always engaged in thoughts. It’s like a freeway. Thousands of thoughts keep coming on that freeway. And most of these thoughts pertain to anger, hatred, fear, insecurity, jealousy, grief, guilt, sorrow and very few deal with inner peace and joy. Resultantly, each day, we are carrying the excess emotional baggage of several debilitating negative thoughts. Just like a flight agent will charge you for excess baggage, you have to pay a price for your emotional baggage too in Life. And that price is through a challenged physical and/or mental condition – diabetes, hypertension, stress, depression, insomnia and what not!
The way to offload your excess baggage is to do two things: 1. When you wake up every morning focus your attention on the day ahead for a few minutes and remind yourself that you will not bring any of the past or the future into your day. 2. Before you go to bed focus your attention on a peaceful night’s sleep and remind yourself that you will not bring any of your past or the future into your night. This could include reminding yourself about anything that’s going on in your Life – from a relationship issue to a fear of someone or something that’s gnawing at you to anger over a business deal or an insult someone has heaped on you to anxiety over losing a job…whatever. Whether you pray daily or not (depending on your religious preferences), do this twice daily, religiously. Watch yourself slowly, over just a few days, anchoring in inner peace.
This practice is adapted from an ancient Zen story.
Two monks, one of them in his 60s and the other in his 20s, were once travelling together along a mountain road. A heavy rain was falling. Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross a small stream that was overflowing. The current was ferocious. And obviously the pretty young thing was scared she would be washed away should she step into the water.  

“Come on, girl,” said the younger monk. Lifting her on his back, he carried her across the stream and set her down on the other bank.


The older monk was aghast at what had happened. Monks were not to touch women under any circumstances. He angrily crossed the stream and grunted several times to see if the younger chap would notice his discomfort. He did not speak again until late that night when they reached the monastery. He no longer could control himself. “We monks don’t go near females,” he said. “It is forbidden by our monastery’s law. Why did you do that?”

“Sir,” said the young monk, “I left the girl there, by the riverside. Are you still carrying her in you?”

This lifetime is too short to be weighed down by emotional baggage. So, as much as you would focus on your physical health, focus also on losing, or offloading, the weight you carry around in your mind. When you travel light, you travel far, and travel comfortably!

Awaken the saint within with gratitude

Gratitude is magical. But only when we look back and see how far we have come in Life. Only when we look at our NOW and see what we have despite whatever we don’t have. And only when we look at tomorrow with a sense of hope.
Remember that even the ability to hope is not stemming from our own abilities. It is coming because we are blessed with that sense of hope by creation. I remember this definition of blessing somewhere. It goes somewhat like this: “If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than a million who will not survive the week. If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture or the pangs of starvation, you are ahead of five million people around the world. If you are able to walk around in your country without fear of harassment, arrest or torture of death, you are more blessed than several hundred million people in the world. If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of the people in this world. If you have money in the bank, in your wallet and spare change in a dish someplace, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy. If your parents are still married and alive, you are very rare.” How true. It is this spirit that gratitude, or thanksgiving, celebrates.
Thanksgiving does not mean waiting for the last weekend of November each year to say your thanks for all that you are blessed with. Thanksgiving must be a daily celebration. Much as we postpone happiness, we postpone gratitude as well. We have in fact made gratitude conditional to our wants being met. I can be grateful if I get what I want, has become the excuse we subconsciously keep giving ourselves.
Remember that Life acts in ways beyond our comprehension. Yet every now and then you will find people who are grateful to Life for the opportunity they have to serve humanity. These are folks who rise above their current realities and problems and look at themselves as solution providers, enablers, who serve because another’s need is more than their own. If Mother Teresa is an ultimate example of selflessness, let us also know that there is a serving saint dormant in each of us. That saint within us will become awakened only when we practice gratitude. In the Bible, the disciple Paul instructs, “In everything we give thanks.” What he means is that it is impossible to know the outcome of each event in our Life. But if we remain grateful for each moment, each experience that we live through, we will find ourselves being happy and peaceful with whatever is.

What I have learnt from the NaMo Wave

The biggest lesson I glean from Elections 2014 is “acceptance”.  

I am not a Narendra Modi fan. Simply, I cannot relate to someone, however brilliant he may be as an administrator, who used religion to build both his party and himself. But this is a verdict that my country’s people have given emphatically. And I can do nothing to change that. So, the best way forward, I discover through my awareness, in such a scenario, is to accept what is and simply move on.

A lot of our problems and miseries come from wanting people and situations to be different from what they are. The moment we drop the “wanting” and accept a situation for what it is or a person for who she or he is, we are instantaneously at peace with ourselves and with everyone else. We often fail to realize that in our wanting people or situations to be different, we are actually letting our ego play up. We are saying that we know better than others how they should be leading their lives or doing things.

Cartoon Courtesy: India Today/Internet
For instance, as the election results started coming in yesterday, my ego told me that the people of India were making a mistake. My issue was no longer with Modi. It was with the people of India. I was alarmed that we were handing over power to someone charged with genocidal racism. Whenever I am disturbed I have learnt to drop anchor and be silent. When I reflected on whatever was happening with the election results, I realized that I was being unduly paternalistic about the situation. Who am I to tell the people of India what to do? They are informed and responsible enough to have done what they did. My awareness again helped me conclude that there was no point in resisting the reality. The people of India had either decided to overlook Modi’s credentials on a key aspect like secularism or they had backed his very ideology that I was uncomfortable with. Every which way, they had voted for change, voted for Modi and he is now our new leader. When this reality sunk in, I simply accepted it. I even wrote on my facebook wall wishing Modi and his A-Team all the best. With that acceptance, I found myself immensely peaceful, within.

Acceptance is not resignation though. And I want to clarify this. Resignation has a quality of discomfort to it. It is really about not being able to do anything about a situation that you hate. So, you resign to it. But there’s no scope for hatred in acceptance. Acceptance is really a celebration of the way people and things are. It reasons that while Life is imperfect it is also beautiful. When you accept imperfections in you, around you, your Life can only be beautiful. Because you are not complaining anymore. Or wishing or hoping or wanting that things were different.

So, the day after the resounding mandate, I am seeing, through my acceptance of my country’s new reality, the beauty of it all. For the first time in over 30 years, someone will lead India with a complete majority. And even if half of what he has managed to get done in Gujarat (I have seen it first hand and have great admiration for what has been accomplished there in the past decade) can be implemented across India, we will be a different, and a far improved, nation. Just as I have accepted the way I am, I have accepted the way my country men and women are, the way our new reality is, and I hope, we will all enjoy, despite the imperfections that abound, the development and governance that’s been promised!

‘Nirvana’ Demystified

Is it possible to do nothing? Doesn’t doing nothing amount to inaction? So, when you don’t act, when you don’t do what you must, aren’t you failing in your duty? And if there’s nothing to do, nothing to achieve, what’s the purpose of Life?

Any seeker will encounter these questions. They are perfectly normal, logical questions. The answers to these have to be understood at two levels: at the spiritual, inner awareness, level and at the everyday action, practical, level.

First, let’s view it from an inner awareness angle. Rinzai, the famous Chinese mystic, considered a Master in Zen Buddhism, has said famously: “Sit silently, doing nothing, and the grass grows by itself.” By this Rinzai does not mean you should do nothing forever. He calls for a deeper level of observation – every day. Everyone’s in a tearing hurry to get things done. There are the dishes to be done, groceries to be fetched, the kids to be dropped and picked up, meetings to go to, deadlines to be met, targets to be achieved, bills to be paid, mortgage dues to be settled….and on and on…you go. From one commitment to another. From one small crisis to another. Hours, days, weeks and often months have gone by rushing until you realize that you need a break. Phew! But a break has come to signify again accomplishing a set of things you always wanted done. Go to the spa, change the upholstery, get the air-conditioners serviced or have the whole house re-painted! And just in case you managed a vacation, it is always about “seeing” whatever you can in the “limited” time that you have. Again it’s a rushing of a different kind. Rinzai says, drop everything, and sit silently. Just observe. See how Life goes on. Be silent. Thoughts will come and go. Let them. Bring your attention back to your present – to the now. You can sit in your balcony and see the crowded street below or the clear blue sky above or you can go to the park or you can go to the beach or even to mall. Go somewhere. But you be silent. You be a witness. Then, says Rinzai, you will see the beauty of how nature works on its own.

A friend had posted this status message last evening on his facebook wall: “The pigeons who made a home of my sit out have flown away with their babies. It was interesting to watch how the momma pigeon and her boyfriend cajoled the younger ones to fly as they started growing. In the last four days they got the first of the baby pigeons flying while the second one preferred the comfort of the nest behind my flower pot. Today the mom-pop combo persuaded the other one to fly too. It was a heart-warming experience to see those babies born in my backyard flying”. This is what sitting silently and doing nothing can help you with. It will help you experience the magic and beauty of Life. It is through being silent that you realize what inner peace is. It is through inner peace that you become aware of the true nature of Life. That Life goes on not because of you, but in spite of you. When you have realized this, then everyday living becomes stress-free and, in fact, meaningful!

Next, at a practical level,  you must never abdicate your responsibilities. You have to continue doing what you are doing. You may have a job, you may have a business, you may just be a home maker, you may be a student – whoever you are and whatever you have to do, keep doing it. If you don’t like what you are doing, change it. Do something else. Philosophy and spirituality cannot pay your bills. You have to earn an income. But don’t earn to pay your bills. Earn from what gives you joy. Then you won’t think of your Life as a drudgery. And if someone’s earning for you, do something with your time that makes you joyful. Don’t sit and complain about Life and say you are bored. So, from an everyday action point of view, keep doing whatever you must do. Just don’t complain. Don’t hanker for results. This is what sitting silently for a while each day can help you understand.

When you combine spiritual practice and everyday living, then you learn to live intelligently. Completely at peace with yourself and your immediate world. In this zone, you become the most productive and whatever you do works out just great. And whatever you need, the Universe always provides you with. Because your rhythm’s in harmony with the Universe’s.

This is the state that the Buddha called ‘nirvana’. ‘nirvana’ is often misunderstood as enlightenment, and worse, as enlightenment that’s got under a tree. ‘nirvana’ is downright simple, easy to attain, anywhere, anytime, provided you are ready, you are tuned in!  In Sanskrit, ‘nirvana’ literally means ‘blown out’ as in a candle. “Just as the candle ceases,” the Buddha says, “I will cease.” So, ‘nirvana’ does not really mean ‘moksha’or liberation, it means a cessation. When a candle ceases to burn, the flame disappears, but it is still there in the cosmos. Because nothing can disappear from the cosmos. Similarly, the metaphor of the extinguished flame means that your desires have ceased to be. So ‘nirvana’ is the state where all desires cede. When all desires are extinguished or expunged, there can be no agony, nothing to worry about, nothing to grieve over. In such a state, what remains is just you, doing your daily bit diligently, often sitting silently, and watching the grass growing!

Real achievement lies in knowing that there’s nothing to achieve

When you realize that Life is not about achieving anything, but is about experiencing everything that comes your way, you can say you are awake, aware and enlightened!

I have a very close friend who is much older than I am. I will call him ABB. He’s the consummate networker, yet he’s a very genteel person – someone who goes out of his way to help people. He has served the Indian Air Force and post his voluntary retirement, he has been a very active member of the corporate circuit in Hyderabad. He’s been an office bearer of many an industry body or management association. And has been a champion of several voluntary causes in South India. I have known him for over 2 decades now. And he has always left me inspired with his energy and enthusiasm. Even so, he’s extremely modest about his achievements and truly believes that he’s just an ordinary person – which is why I have chosen not to name him, but have just used his initials, so as not to embarrass him. I was in touch with him recently and he had this to say about Life, at 72, for him: “I am not looking at name or fame. If some work or request comes my way and I feel like doing it, I do it. I have nothing to prove, nothing to achieve, nothing to grab!

I took away a profound learning from his simple expression: “Nothing to prove. Nothing to achieve. Nothing to grab!” The way we are conditioned – both by our upbringing and through social demands and pressures – we are always doing just the opposite. It is almost as if, if you are not driven, you are wasting your Life. And the word “driven” itself is misunderstood. It has come to mean – prove yourself through your feats, your achievements, your assets, your wealth, your estates. Whereas, we should have been driven by an urge to live fully, to enjoy and celebrate the gift of this lifetime. But in order to prove ourselves, we are postponing living all the time. Osho, the Master, explains the fallacy of living this way and champions living enlightened: “Enlightenment is not an achievement, it is an understanding that there is nothing to achieve, nowhere to go.” Beautiful!

Several years ago, as a young business journalist, I had the rare privilege of interviewing R.Thiagarajan, the chairman of the Shriram Group of companies. I had asked Thiagarajan why his Group was structured the way it was – with no “famous or well known” people heading its various companies. Thiagarajan replied: “Fame is not a criteria for creating value. Ownership and passion are. The people in our Group have lots and lots of that.” When I think back about that conversation, I realize how much power there is in knowing the meaning of the word achievement. We associate the word achievement to something material all the time. But real achievement lies in knowing that there’s nothing to prove to anyone, that there’s nothing to achieve in a material sense, and, yet, that we must do everything within our means to live Life to our fullest potential at all times! When you employ this knowledge you end up creating value – Thiagarajan is the most understated leader in corporate India today, yet the Group of companies he leads are the largest and the most profitable in each industry segment they operate in. To be sure, the Group’s various CEOs, like Thiagarajan, are extremely media-shy, modest and relatively unknown.

The key to intelligent living lies in internalizing ABB’s and Thiagarajan’s philosophies. It means to live Life fully, doing whatever you can with whatever you have in each moment, not really worrying about what you are achieving. When you begin walking, often, the road unfolds on its own. When you let go and live, driven by the urge to live fully, and not by material goals, always, Life takes care of all that it has created. And that includes you – and me!

Until your time comes

Dealing with death requires a deeper understanding of Life – through an awakening from within.

Our most normal reaction as children to death is total puzzlement. When we asked someone in the family why someone is ‘not waking up’ or ‘not coming these days’, we were told ‘the person has become a star in the sky’ or ‘gone to God’. Therein begins our misunderstanding of death. Slowly, as we grow older, while we begin to appreciate, albeit subconsciously, the certainty of death, and its tendency to arrive unannounced, we loathe it, we fear it. Anything that we fear will torment us. And death is no exception.

A friend passed away yesterday – consumed by cancer of the stomach. He was in his late forties. Seeing his picture in the obituary of The Hindu this morning, an eerie feeling crept into me. Is this it, I wondered. One day, you are there; and the next day you are gone? If this is an unchangeable reality, an eventuality, about Life, why and how is it that some are able to handle death, when it comes calling in their families, calmly while some others suffer endlessly in sorrow?

The answer lies, like with Life itself, in accepting Death for what it is. Osho, the Master, as always, is helpful in promoting our understanding: “Death is always close by. It is almost like your shadow. You may be aware, you may not be aware, but it follows you from the first moment of your life to the very last moment. Death is a process just as Life is a process, and they are almost together, like two wheels of a bullock cart. Life cannot exist without death; neither can death exist without Life. Our minds have an insane desire: we want only Life and not death.”

All desires will bring agony when they are not met. You ask for a cappuccino in a restaurant and you get an espresso instead. You are angry. You want a raise. And your boss says no. You are angry. In the case of desires such as the cappuccino and the raise, your anger__and resultant agony__may result in your desires being fulfilled. But let us say you live in Chicago and you desire that there be no winters? Or you live in Chennai and desire that there be no summers? Is there any point in having desires that are NEVER going to be fulfilled? To have a desire that death must not visit you, your family and your social circle is meaningless, absurd and sure to cause you a lot of suffering. Instead of fearing it, accept, embrace and welcome death. This is the only certainty that Life can offer you. The only guarantee. That you will die. So, what this knowledge calls for is celebration. Not grief. Each time you encounter death around you__to someone you knew, or knew of, or just heardabout it in the news__remember that it is Life’s way of nudging you awake, to remind you how precious, how fragile and how impermanent your own Life is. It is a wake up call to live fully and intelligently. We will do well to know that, as departures keep happening in our lifetime, we are all in the same queue, and until our time comes, we must live, share, love and serve.

Compassion holds the key to happiness

When you are compassionate, even to the least important entity in your Life, you are happy.
I was reading an anecdote shared by environmentalist and author Joanna Macy, 85, on the net. Several years ago, she says, she had gone to visit Drugu Choegyal Rinpoche, a teacher of the Drukpa Kagyu tradition in Tibetan Buddhism, who lives in the Khampagar Monastery in Bir, Himachal Pradesh, and is especially well-known for his paintings. Rinpoche, now 65, was barely 18 then. Macy recounts the meeting:
“On this particular afternoon a fly fell into my tea.  This was, of course, a minor occurrence.  After a year in India I considered myself to be unperturbed by insects – by ants in the sugar bin, spiders in the cupboard, and even scorpions in my shoes in the morning.  Still, as I lifted my cup, I must have registered, by my facial expression, or a small grunt, the presence of the fly. 
“Choegyal Rinpoche leaned forward in sympathy and consternation and asked: “What is the matter?”
““Oh, nothing,” I said.  “It’s nothing – just a fly in my tea.”  I laughed lightly to convey my acceptance and composure. I did not want him to suppose that mere insects were a problem for me; after all, I was a seaseoned India-wallah, relatively free of Western phobias and attachments to modern sanitation.
“Choegyal crooned softly, in apparent commiseration with my plight, “Oh, oh, a fly in the tea.”
““It’s no problem,” I reiterated, smiling at him reassuringly.  But he continued to focus great concern on my cup.  Rising from his chair, he leaned over and inserted his finger into my tea.  With great care he lifted out the offending fly — and then exited from the room. 
“When Choegyal Rinpoche re-entered the cottage he was beaming.  “He is going to be all right,” he told me quietly. He explained how he had placed the fly on the leaf of a branch of a bush by the door, where his wings could dry.  And the fly was still alive, because he began fanning his wings, so we could confidently expect him to take flight soon…
“That is what I remember of that afternoon – not the agreements we reached or plans we devised, but Choegyal’s report that the fly would live.  And I recall, too, the laughter in my heart.  I could not, truth to tell, share Choegyal’s dimensions of compassion, but the pleasure in his face revealed how much I was missing by not extending my self-concern to all beings, even to flies.  Yet the very notion that it was possible gave me boundless delight.””
Some years ago, Rinpoche was featured on the cover of National Geographic. The article, “What’s in Your Mind?” describes how a researcher measured how positive and negative thoughts stimulated the brain. Choegyal’s brain activity was further to the left prefrontal cortex than anyone the researcher had previously measured. This is where positive emotions sit, leading the researcher to describe him as “the happiest man in the world”.
Almost all of us are compassionate. We love to help people and care for them. That’s our innate nature. But, over the years, through social conditioning and individual experiences, in an increasingly materialistic world, none of our self-lessness surfaces without a “What’s in it for me?” reasoning. Besides, we are so obsessed with our own lives that we have no time for others. So, expression of compassion, if any, is limited to our own immediate families. We want to care, but we don’t believe we can and if we do believe we can, we feign lack of time! This is the reason why we lead such unhappy lives. We have everything material, but we are still wanting something that’s missing in our lives. And that something is happiness.
Compassion is the key to being happy. Not just being compassionate with people we have something to do with – like family, friends, bosses, co-workers – but being kind and caring to rank strangers. Or, as in Macy’s anecdote, even with a fly! As the “sloka” in Sanskrit goes: “Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu” – meaning, “May all the beings in all the worlds be happy!”

Making Mondays Magnificent and every day a celebration

Why are Monday mornings manic? Because, we make them so!
How would you deal with a Monday if there was no concept of weekdays and weekends? If every day was just the same. Where you did what you love doing. And you worked, relaxed, chilled out, played, enjoyed, ate, slept – all of it, at complete ease with yourself! Well, this is possible, if only you dropped the labels that you have stuck on the days of the week. Manic Monday is a label. ‘Thank God It’s Friday!’ is not just brand, it’s a label. Weekend is a label. Drop all of them. Just treat each day as special, as a miracle, and see how you feel. And how your days and weeks feel.
People struggle with achieving a work-Life balance because they think of work as drudgery. They are forever lost in it. They think that they have to slog to earn-a-living and that “some day” their lives will become better. But when does that day come? At 60, when they retire, if they are lucky, that is? Which means for 40-odd years you have been working your butt off so you can finally “enjoy”. But what happens if you have a health condition at age 60? How active can you be as you walk into the evening of your Life? There’s no pointing reaching a dead-end, literally, and wishing that you had taken another road in Life. A work-Life balance is never achieved, it is taken – because the opportunity was, and is, always there.
The day you started your career and you made a choice to work in a particular industry, in a profession, you either chose to do what you love doing or you traded your passion for earning money. If it was the latter, either you had to love whatever you decided to do (if you can’t do what you love, that is) or you go back and change your career. There’s no point in wasting the years, the only available, irretrievable years of your Life, by thinking you can earn now and live another day. Even now, it’s not too late. Just take stock of your Life. Either quit what you are doing and go do what you would love or start loving whatever you are doing. Treat each day then as an opportunity to live drenched in that joy. See the miracle then. No more stress, no more deadline pressure, no more seeking a work-Life balance. Your “work” then becomes “living” the Life that you love living! And each day becomes a celebration!
When you reach this state, you will realize that you will have all the time in Life for doing everything. You will work more efficiently and effortlessly. And there will be a never-ending song playing in your heart. Then Mondays will cease to be Manic. They will be Magnificent!