If you are mindful, you can see beauty in everything you do

Life’s beauty is not in the big events alone. Life unfolds beautifully in the normal, mundane, humdrum of everyday living.
Indeed a wedding, the birth of your child, the success at a job, a windfall – all of these call for celebrations. But even an everyday chore like putting washed clothes away or doing the dishes is beautiful. For the last several days, we have had to cope without the support of a maid. My wife and I have divided the chores between us, with our daughter chipping in here and there. Though initially it seemed strange doing stuff that we normally get done, I soon realized that here was a beautiful opportunity to practice mindfulness. The key about practising mindfulness is to be aware of what you are doing. When you fold clothes to put them away, watch your fingers do such precise work. See the beauty of technology that has allowed you to have your clothes washed reasonably painlessly. Or count your blessings, if you have a maid, who has washed them for you and even folded them__and that all you need to do is to put them away. Every time I have had to step in and help with household chores, I have felt compassionate for the people who collaborate, with reasonable precision, to make our everyday lives painless and seamless – the newspaper delivery person, the milkman, the flower seller lady who drops off the flowers for my wife for the daily pooja, the mineral water supplier, the launderer, the maid, the neighborhood grocer and the person who delivers our cooking gas each month…the list could still go on. I often think how crazy our Life would be without the contributions of these nameless, often faceless, foot soldiers. Whenever I think of them, I pause to send them my positive energy.
There’s beauty in every moment if we are aware. Thich Nhat Hanh (a.k.a Thay), the Vietnamese Buddhist Monk says, there is beauty even in the way we open or close a door. To whatever action, says Thay, if we apply the desire to be aware and mindful, it becomes a way of making peace. In the 2010 Hollywood movie ‘Barney’s Version’ (Richard J Lewis, Paul Giannati, Rosamund Pike, Dustin Hoffman), the main protagonist Mariam, tells the lead character Barney, “Life’s real. It’s made of little things. Minutes, hours, naps, errands, routine__and it has to be enough!”
So, wherever you are, whatever you are doing, do it mindfully. Then, and only then, will you see the beauty in everything__whether you are doing some spring cleaning at home or dropping your kids off at their play dates. If you can make each day mindful and meaningful, you will be soaked in peace and you Life will be ever so beautiful!

Friendship and Relating – the twin factors that make great relationships!

No one is inferior or superior. In a relationship, it is the relating which is important. Not who’s more powerful or articulate or successful.
The Airtel “Priya -Boss” Ad
A TV commercial for Airtel is making news in India for the wrong reasons. It shows a man taking orders from his boss, who is also his wife; while at the same time, she,  as his wife, offers to cook dinner and invites him to come home soon. The debate on social media is on, as one analysis on IBN Live argued, “whether the campaign enforces stereotypes, breaks established family roles, is a modern twist to same old misogynist propaganda or just neo-feminism riding on compromise.”
Watch the ad here

Honestly, I don’t see why there must be a debate in the first place. Why can’t a woman be a man’s boss at work while still offering to cook a meal for them at home? Why do we typecast people in specific roles – that a man should be the boss or should be the bread-winner or that a woman must primarily be a home-maker and not have a career of her own? When I got married, my wife used to earn a salary higher than I did – she worked in the computer education field while I was a journalist, earning a measly income that was determined by a government-regulated wage board! But this never really affected either of us. And then she gave up her flourishing career to stay back at home and help us raise a family. Again this decision never affected our love or respect for each other. I know a couple, both of whom have IIM-A degrees, where the wife is a high-flying software professional with India’s # 1 IT company, while the husband keeps the home and helps their young teenaged daughter cope with high school and now, recently, college. For years now, they both have kept these roles and continue to have a very happy marriage.
So, I don’t think a reversal of roles affects a marriage. Whatever be the role, as long as the friendship between two people is intact, they will continue to relate to each other. I, in fact, salute the Aritel commercial’s director, Vinil Mathew, for choosing to make such a sensitive film. To me, the ad celebrates friendship and relating. And these two are above everything else – even above the label of a “respectable relationship”. There’s no meaning in a relationship if people in it can’t relate to each other or enjoy each other’s companionship. What’s the point in strutting around trying hard to prove that everything’s normal, when nothing really is, to please a decadent society? It doesn’t matter who earns, who cooks, who does the dishes or who fetches the groceries – as long as the two people in the relationship continue to love each other and are willing to grow and evolve through Life – together!

How to dissolve in prayer

Prayer is not sitting in front of an idol or reciting verses or visiting a place of worship. Prayer is simply living Life fully – being content with what you have and being happy, caring and loving!
A Sufi mystic was so full of love, and so full of joy — his whole Life was laughter, music and dancing. And the story goes that God became very interested in him because he never asked God for anything; he never prayed. He felt his whole Life was a prayer, there was therefore no need to pray. He never went to the mosque, he never even uttered the name of God; his whole existence was the argument for the presence of God. If anybody asked him whether God exists or not he simply laughed — but his laughter was neither a yes nor a no.
God himself became so intrigued that he decided to pay the mystic a visit. When he met the man, God said, “I am immensely happy because that’s how I want people to be — not that they should pray for one hour and do everything against it for twenty-three hours. Not that they should become very pious when they enter the mosque, and when they go out they leave their piety in the mosque and they are just their old selves: angry, jealous, full of anxiety, hatred and violence. I have watched you and I have loved you. This is the way: you have become the prayer. You are, right now, my only argument in the world that something more than man exists — although you have never argued or vouched for my existence, you have not even uttered my name. Those are superfluous things… but you live, you love, you are so full of joy that there is no need for any language; your very presence becomes the argument for my existence. I want to give you a blessing. You can ask for anything.”
The mystic thought deeply and said, “But I don’t need anything. I am so joyous, and I cannot conceive there can be anything more. Forgive me, I cannot ask because I really don’t need anything. You are generous, you are loving, you are compassionate; but I am so over-full, there is no space within me for anything else. You will have to forgive me, I cannot ask.”
Osho, the Master, would tell this story to his followers and explain that true prayer is not an action. It is a state of being. In that state you are everything that Life is about – joyous, peaceful, abundant, loving, forgiving and giving. In that state, you don’t need an external God to pray to. You become the prayer. When you reach this stage of evolution, you even learn to wish your detractor, or someone that you can’t relate to, all success, good health and joy. Selflessly. The selfless seeking of another’s joy, success and bliss is true prayer.
It is very easy to love someone you like. But it is very difficult to love someone you don’t agree with, relate to, or even, at times, hate or have hated. Our normal tendency is to distance ourselves from people we don’t agree with or get along with. But if we make an effort, we may still be able to do our duty in a situation where such differences arise and exist, and more importantly, do that duty in peace. Prayer is about practicing to do this. Day after day after day. And include in the circle of influence of such prayer, every person we know on this planet. Slowly, our world becomes the world we always wanted to be in. Full of peace and calm. This is when, as they say, you dissolve in prayer and you realize God or discover Godliness in you!!

Only when you are ready and willing, will you experience Life’s beauty and magic

For you to see Life’s beauty, for you to experience the miracle of Life, you must be both ready and willing!
There is a famous Sufi story I remember reading.
A young man went in search of a Master. He was ready to go around the world, for he was determined to find the Master, the true Master, the Perfect Master.
Just outside his village he met an old man, a nice fellow, sitting under a tree. He asked the old man, “You look like a wanderer…”
The old man said, “Yes, I am a wanderer. I have wandered all over the earth.”
The man said, “That is the kind of person I was hoping to meet who can guide me. Can you suggest to me where and to whom I should go? I want to be the disciple of a Perfect Master.”
The old man suggested a few addresses to him, and the young man thanked him and went on.
After thirty years of wandering around the earth and finding nobody who was exactly fulfilling his expectations, he came back to his village, dejected and depressed. When he was entering his village he saw the old man again, who had become very old now, sitting under the tree. And suddenly he realized that this old man was the Master he had all along been searching for! He fell at his feet and he said, “Why didn’t you say it to me, that you are the Master?”
The old man said, “But that was not the time for you. You could not recognize me. You needed some experience. Wandering around the earth has given you a certain maturity, a certain understanding. Now you can see. Last time you had met me, but you had not seen me. You had missed. You were asking me about some Master. That was enough proof that you could not see me, you could not feel my presence. You were utterly blind; hence I gave you some bogus addresses so you could go. But even to be with wrong people is good, because that is how one learns. For thirty years I have been waiting for you here, I have not left this tree.”
In fact the man, who was not young anymore, looked at the tree and was even more surprised. Because in his dreams, in his visions, he was always seeing that tree and there was always a feeling that he would find the Perfect Master sitting under this tree. Last time he had not seen the tree at all. The tree was there, the Master was there, everything was ready for him, but he was not willing, even if he was ready.
This is why we don’t often find what we are seeking. Inner peace and happiness. Because even if we are ready to seek it, we are not willing to let it enter our lives. Only when we are ready and willing, both, can we experience Life’s beauty and magic!

When you flow with Life, you will be soaked in abundance

Only those who have experienced abundance in their lives will know how to attract it and the value it creates.
Abundance is not about having money and material riches. It is the ability to laugh, smile and be happy even when you have nothing material with you. It is the inner peace that helps you sleep well – no matter what circumstances confront and confound you. This abundance is attracted when you let go and simply flow with Life. Letting go here means not worrying – about a still unborn future – and ridding yourself of grief and guilt – about a dead past. When you live your Life, flowing with Life, you will be soaked in abundance!
A few days ago, we were invited to a Page 3 event at a five-star hotel. The event was being organized by a good friend. And although we are not the Page 3 sort – we had never attended a Page 3 event before this – we decided to go check out what it was all about. The event got over in good time and as we were exiting the hotel, we bumped into a friend who was staying there. He invited us to his room, where a few of his other friends joined us. Soon the get together turned into an impromptu party. Someone sang a song. And then others followed. It was so much fun. Finally, well past midnight, we wound up.
As we were taking the elevator down, one of the guests who was aware of our problems and my forthcoming book , asked me: “AVIS, how is it that you are able to be so happy despite all that you are going through?”
I replied: “I am not sure I know the answer to your question. But I do know that being unhappy and brooding over my problems can certainly not help me solve them.”
To be sure, letting go – dropping the worry and the grief – did not come easily. It was difficult. In almost all situations the human mind strives to make you believe that you control your Life. But what do you do when you make all efforts to put things back in order, turn things around and yet the threads of your Life are snatched away from you, knotted up like a ball of wool would be, and are discarded far and beyond – again and again and again? Letting go does not mean not picking up those threads again. It means not feeling defeated when they are taken and cast away from you one more time. Letting go therefore does not mean being complacent or irresponsible or reckless. It simply means being in a calm, stoic acceptance of your current reality, while working patiently to change it. When you are this way, calm and accepting, you are peaceful and happy.
Now, inner peace and happiness are deeply personal. So, it is possible that someone looking at your Life from outside will conclude that you cannot be happy when you are placed in grievous or challenging circumstances. Or, if such a person had a narrow view of Life, they would be quick to judge and conclude that being happy is a sin. I have learnt to let people say or think whatever they want to. In my choosing to let go and be happy, I have been able to attract abundance in my Life. This abundance, I have realized, is critical to be able to face Life’s challenges and to live each day meaningfully. In the end, it’s not how long you live that matters. What counts is how well you lived – enjoying the Life that you have been given!

For every seed of hatred sown, plant a grove for humanity

The more we allow parochial thinking to lead us, the more divided our world will be.
Shoaib Malik and Sania Mirza
Picture Courtesy: Internet 
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) yesterday opposed tennis star Sania Mirza’s appointment as Ambassador of the newly-formed state of Telangana. Subramaniam Swamy, the redoubtable BJP leader, was quoted in the papers as saying: “I agree with the BJP leaders that when people have divided loyalties, we cannot expect them to represent the country or any part of the country faithfully. So, the BJP stand is well taken.” Sania came under attack from VHP and BJP because she is married to Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik. In fact, Telangana BJP leader K.Laxman called Sania “Pakistan’s daughter-in-law”.
Such thinking is gut-wrenching and numbing. Sania is a successful sportsperson. And Malik is another successful sportsperson. The two decide to marry. Where does, and why should, nationality play any role in this? Mercifully, both belong to the same religion. Else the self-styled mandarins may have had added more logs to the fire.
Interestingly, in October 2009, when former Pakistani pacer Wasim Akram’s wife, Huma, was being flown from Lahore to Singapore in an air ambulance for treatment for renal failure, she developed complications when they were overflying Chennai. An emergency landing was mandated. And doctors at Apollo Hospitals, Chennai, treated her for a few days, before she passed away on October 25, 2009. Dr.Venkataraman, the doctor who treated Huma, is a Hindu. As are several of the fans who gathered outside Apollo Hospitals that morning to show their support for Akram and condole his loss. About a decade earlier, fans at the M.A.Chidambaram Stadium in Chepauk, in Chennai, had given Akram a standing ovation, after he led Pakistan to a memorable win in a closely-fought Test Match.
So, in reality, the common folks, people like you and me, don’t ever get swayed by religion or by partisan thinking. Humanity and the spirit of sport – of letting the best team or player win – rules higher in our minds than anything else. Even so, the games politicians play, often for petty gains or even for demonstrating one-upmanship, are divisive. Not only should we be wary of them, we must express our secular and objective views on all such occasions.
There’s an ad playing on TV promoting the 2014 season of KBC. It shows how a boy from a Hindu family, calls his Muslim neighbor, with whom his family has been having a rift, to ask for the meaning of “as-salaam-alay-kum” using the phone-a-friend option. He gets the right answer and wins the prize money. The jingle in the background goes somewhat like this: “Jab Lahu Ek Ho, To Rang Kaise Do?” meaning, “When the blood is the same, how can it have two colors?”. I believe that the ad’s, and the jingle’s, message is something we must all hold dear in all contexts. We are just one world, one people. We have the same blood in us. The color of our skin may be different, as may be our national flags, or our religious affiliations. Even so, we have the same feelings as another in any given situation – all of us have the ability to love and be compassionate; and all of us feel pain when we lose someone we love. So, for every seed of hatred and divisiveness that is sown, let’s plant a grove for humanity. As Bob Marley (1945~1981), the Jamaican reggae singer, famously said, “The people who were trying to make this world worse are not taking the day off. Why should I?”

Be smarter than your smartphone – use all your features!

We are all endowed with equal potential at the time of our creation. But most of us lead our lives completely ignorant of this endowment.
Just knowing you have potential unlocks it for you. You are like the smartest of smartphones in the market that has several, unique in-built features. But if you instead choose to remain technology phobic or even technology agnostic, you will end up merely using the smartphone for voice__which is its commonest use. And so you will be deprived of benefiting from its various other value-added features like internet access, blue-tooth and video-conferencing! Who is to blame for your inability to use the smartphone efficiently? Are you to blame or is it the manufacturer who is to blame? Now, step back and think about your Life. You spend so much time worrying and complaining that you don’t have the ability to do things that you want to do, and often end up blaming the Creator, your manufacturer!!! This is the reason why you don’t make progress and find yourself in a rut!
Liberate yourself. Know that you are just as endowed as anybody else. Just as the most successful, the most wise and the most caring, most peaceful people you know of in the world: If you think Mark Zuckerberg is endowed, so are you; If you think Indra Nooyi is endowed, so are you; If you think the Dalai Lama is endowed, so are you; If you think Rajnikanth is endowed, so are you. Know that everything that you need is already with you and everything that you seek is within you. Go, discover your true potential. Be smart. Smarter than your smartphone – use all the features that you are endowed with! That’s when you will create your own world in this same world that you think you have to live in!

Let your child live and learn from Life’s experiences

Our children have lives of their own. No matter how much we worry for them, they still have to live out their lives.
A friend recently shared that though her young adult daughter was greatly interested in theatre, she was not letting her join her college’s theatre group because she felt one of her daughter’s classmates was making passes at her (the daughter). The mother confessed that she was worried stiff for the “future” of her daughter.
I believe worrying for our children comes naturally to us parents. But we have to learn to let go.
In our friend’s case, she must appreciate the fact that, naturally, a grown-up, young adult, woman will attract the attention of class-fellows. And that she must trust her daughter to be able to handle any advances, that she may or may not be interested in, appropriately. She can’t forsake her daughter’s interest in something she’s passionate about for the sake of her (the mother’s) perceived peace of mind. Honestly, for how long, and from how many people and things, can we protect our children? When they are in their early teens or younger, we can direct them and have them follow us. But, as they grow older, they will have to be allowed to touch and feel Life, they will want to make choices – some of which will not be acceptable or may not seem correct to us as parents – and they will want to experience Life at their own terms. I strongly believe we must not interfere with the learning curve of our children. While we must always champion what’s the right way to do something, we cannot and must not expect them to accept our view immediately. We must have faith that they will see our point (if we have an objective one, that is) – when they have tried, tested, fallen, failed and learnt from their experience.  
Our children are born through us. And not for us. This is not an original thought – this is what the venerable Lebanese-American poet and writer Khalil Gibran (1883~1931) has said over a century ago. And this is so true now, as it was then. The lives of our children are distinctly different from our own. We imagine that they are intertwined because in the first 15 years of a child’s Life, as parents, we are providers, protectors, planners and directors. So, by force of habit, we get into the control mode as soon as our children want to go out and explore the world. Two forms of worry are intrinsically seeded in us parents – one is that we don’t want our children to make the same mistakes that we made or live the hard lives we have had to live; and the other is that we don’t want them to suffer at all. Now, both worries may be justified, but try explaining these to your child, especially if he or she is over 15, and see what happens. This doesn’t mean you must not counsel or that you must not share an experiential point of view. This just means don’t expect an immediate buy-in. It is this expectation that distances your child from you and that distance is famously touted as a “generation gap”.
Whether you believe in this or not, this is the way it is. Each of our lives is designed in a unique way. Whatever is happening to us has been ordained, most definitely in a cosmic sense, to help us grow and evolve, even as we biologically age. This is exactly the way the lives of our children too are designed. No amount of forethought by you could have changed the course of your Life. Similarly, no amount of worrying by you can change the course of your child’s Life.
Sit back and re-examine your relationship with your child. Especially if you have a teenager or a young adult at home. Reboot your perspective and role – both. Choose to be a good friend who suggests, but does not demand; who shares, but does not control; who is honest, but does not insist; and who is forgiving, but does not say ‘I told you so’ when things don’t go per your child’s plans. None of us can ever claim to be perfect, understanding parents. We are all works-in-progress. And so are our children. If we understand and appreciate this truth, we will stop worrying and let our children live their lives – and learn from their experiences!