Abandon all logic, see the magic around you!

Logic buries the magic in the Universe. It prevents us from seeing how beautiful each moment is.

To see the magic in you, in your Life, around you, you must stop being an adult, abandon all logic and just see everything with a child-like wonder.

While our logical temperament has been honed by years of schooling and social conditioning and while it has helped us grow our careers, it has really stunted our evolution as individuals. Consider your own Life. You, like me, have problems. And, logically, you want those problems resolved. So if the problem is financial, you may want your income to go up and your expenses to come down. Logical thinking. When your efforts at boosting your income come to a naught, you get depressed. Depression leads to scarcity and negative thinking. If your problem is a relationship, you will want to sit down and resolve it. But the other party is just not interested. You grieve. You suffer. If your problem is your health, logically, medication should work. But the doctors are wringing their hands in despair, because they say their efforts are not working. You think death. You believe it’s all over. In all this logical thinking, in all three contexts, you are tormented, you are anxious and you are not present in your every waking moment. You are living in your problems.

And this is where you are missing the magic of the present. Of the myriad opportunities that Life is still offering you. Remember that despite all the problems you are faced with and are seemingly drowning in, Life is going on and WILL go on. There’s magic everywhere. In the rising sun. In the chirping birds. In the smile of a child. In the few friends who are still standing by you. In the fact that you have a home, food to eat and someone to call family. When you are allowing yourself to be gripped in the stranglehold of your problems, you are missing all this magic. Your being wedded to your problems may appear to you to be very logical – after all, you want to solve your problems. But there are problems that you cannot solve. Only time and Life can heal and solve them. This is why being stuck with logic kills magic. American author Nora Roberts says, “Magic exists. Who can doubt it, when there are rainbows and wildflowers, the music of the wind and the silence of the stars? Anyone who has loved has been touched by magic. It is such a simple and such an extraordinary part of the lives we live.”

So, love this Life. Know that it won’t last forever. Abandon all logic. Then, and only then, will you see the magic – and beauty – in Life! 

There are no full stops in Life…

When your Life changes, do not resist that change. Realign, rebuild and learn to relate to your new reality – that is the key to being happy.
In today’s Chennai Times, Priya Gupta interviews actor Hrithik Roshan. She asks Roshan, who is going through a painful separation from his wife Sussanne, how he’s coping with this difficult time even as he has worked in his ambitious, forthcoming film, Bang Bang. Roshan replies: “There will be a point in Life when the model of your world may change and you may not be able to see the way forward. Because you have been looking at it in a way that you have been trained to look at it. You have grown up with a philosophy of work hard, gain success, have a family and that is equal to happiness. But the model breaks and you have to realize that you have to be happy first and all the other things will follow.”  
I totally agree with Roshan here. What he has understood about Life is at the same time simple and yet not-so-easy to grasp. The model he talks about is our own individual, personal, view of Life. Which means that there are as many models, as many personal views, as there are people in this world. Each of us imagines and expects that Life will be a linear progression. Life, we imagine in vain, will work like this: you study hard, get good grades, go to college, get good grades, land a job, start a family, buy an apartment, raise kids, grow in your career, save for retirement, put your kids through college, see them marry and “settle down”, while you retire and,  eventually, die. But Life does not happen this way, in a straight line, to any of us. Someone may have a hole in the heart, someone may have a career crisis, someone may have a learning disability, someone may get embroiled in a scandal, someone may just lose a close family member – something keeps happening to someone all the time. And crises happen with no apparent reason. Tragedy – and fortune – strikes irrespective of social standing or talent. The only thing you can be certain about Life is that whatever is – a tough time or a great time – will change. Your Life will change, often irrevocably. And, to be happy, you must too change with your Life.
Picture Courtesy: Times of India/Bombay Times/Internet
Getting to this level of acceptance is not easy. Initially, when your Life changes, you hate that change. For instance, in his interview to Gupta, Roshan says, “There was a point in time that I just didn’t want to go ahead with anything in my Life. I think it’s at that precipice that you decide what kind of a man you want to be and that is when I discovered myself. There was a point where I just wanted to put a full stop to my Life and I discovered a whole new world.” I am glad he found that whole new world while discovering himself, his real self! For, the truth is that there are no full stops in Life. Life simply goes on even if you are faced with what you think is a no-go situation.

My Life experiences have taught me that happiness is available and possible in any situation, in any context, in Life. Being grumpy with Life and resisting whatever’s happening to you is the only reason you are unable to be happy. Just accept, as Roshan says, the “new model of your world”, when your Life changes, and you will be the happiness that you seek! 

A lesson in living from the Jayalalithaa episode

Anything, absolutely anything, can happen in Life! You just have to be prepared to accept whatever comes your way and know that nothing is permanent – neither success nor defeat!
Picture Courtesy: Internet
Yesterday’s conviction of J.Jayalalithaa by a Bangalore Special Court in an 18-year-old “Disproportionate Assets” case, under the Prevention of Corruption Act, holds an important lesson in living for all of us. No, I am not going to comment on either the merits of the landmark judgment nor am I going to analyze the political future of Jayalalithaa, her AIADMK party and the state of Tamil Nadu. To me the singular takeaway is this: whoever you are, wherever – even if you are high, mighty and powerful or meek, written-off and in oblivion – you are, your Life will play out exactly per your cosmic design. One moment you can be an immensely popular and powerful – seemingly infallible – Chief Minister of a state and in another you can be prisoner number 7402 at the Parappana Agrahara Central Prison, lodged in VVIP Cell 23, disqualified as MLA and CM and barred from contesting elections for 10 years!
It is this understanding – that anything, absolutely anything, can happen in Life – that we all completely lack in our lives, caught as we are, in trying to make sense of our own individual, inscrutable, Life stories and designs. Even as I write this, news has come in that my wife’s classmate lost her young adult son in an accident earlier today. And next week, on the popular Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) show, host Amitabh Bachchan will hand over the Rs.7 Crore bounty, for the first time ever, to brothers Achin and Sarthak Narula. The Narulas least expected to be on the show. But when they did get there, they thought they will get to the Rs.25 Lakh stage and then quit the game. Little did they imagine, or believe, that they would hit the Rs.7 Crore jackpot and create history! So, anything can happen in Life – an Emperor can become a pauper and a pauper can become an Emperor – at any time!
Which is why you – and I – must develop the attitude and temperament to accept Life for what it is. The truth is that beyond human comprehension, there’s a higher intelligence, a Higher Energy, at work. Different people see this differently. Some believe this Higher Energy is an unseen, invisible Creator, a God – whose works you can touch and feel though. Some, like Apple’s late Steve Jobs described, say that you cannot understand Life as it is happening to you – you can only infer that it all happened per a “larger cosmic design” by “connecting the dots backward”. I simply believe this Higher Energy to be Life itself. The same Life that keeps us alive. This Life is intelligent. As in, it has a mind of its own. Which means whatever has happened, whatever is happening and whatever will happen is per a Masterplan.
You and I can’t ever fathom what this Masterplan is all about – not even in the contexts of our own individual lives. The only thing we can be sure of, based on all that’s happening to us and around us, is the fact that this Masterplan has no flaws. Which is, we must understand and appreciate that everything that’s happening to us is happening only so that we learn, evolve and grow stronger from the experience. When we begin to understand that this is the way Life works, we will get better and better with living, and living intelligently, with each new experience we encounter!

The best way to live, I have learnt, is to know that you and I cause nothing – neither our successes nor our failures. Life is what keeps on happening to us – from birth to death. Some of what happens to us, makes us exult, some of it buries us under its fury. Whatever happens, it is best to stay humble and stay accepting of Life – knowing fully well that nothing is permanent, neither our successes, nor our falls!

Don’t postpone intelligent living anymore

What is yours? What is mine? Everything is so transient.
What is real, true, untouched, eternal is the soul. This concept is so simple and a part of every scripture. But this Truth is lost in the maze of religious brouhaha and communal theatrics. Another reason is that its espousers are all people who have renounced the world, and have taken to wearing orange or maroon or white or black robes, grown flowing beards or matted hair and sit in inaccessible, distant, lonely locales. That too is a way to attain the eternal and to encounter and internalize this Truth. But a simpler, easier, practical way, is TO LIVE IN THIS WORLD and yet BE ABOVE IT.
Enlightenment does not require you to be seated under a tree nor does it champion abstinence, renunciation and running away! Enlightenment requires awareness, it asks for you to open up your soul so that the light can illuminate your Life. And the soul is not some unseen metaphysical dimension to your Life. It is a presence. It is you. It is who you are. Have you seen air? But don’t you believe that there is air in this Universe? Similarly, you must believe that there is a soul, yours and everyone else’s. That everything, including this body of yours, will eventually perish. But the soul, like Life, will go on.
Subhashini Kaul, 43, a former IIM-A professor realized this when she was in her late thirties. So did her husband. Resultantly, both of them gave up their lucrative corporate careers. And decided to find meaning in their lives. While her husband roams railway stations across the country, preferring to be a fakir, Subhashini, has become a ‘sadhak’ (seeker). Her religious views are that the ‘Truth is One’! She’s on facebook and stays connected with like-minded people. “It’s not because of any incident that I turned a sadhak… but I started feeling that all the effort one puts in the materialistic world to get ahead isn’t worth it…God directed me to another way of Life. That was a monkey world where everyone was in the rat race to get ahead. But I blame no one for the happenings in my Life. I have pulled out from all relations. Now, I dance when I want to and sleep when I feel like it. An atheist earlier, now I feel closer to God,” she once told the Times of India.
The God she speaks of, to me, is the One within. The Truth. We don’t have to take such a dramatic step, as Subhashini and her husband took, to renounce the world. We can continue to have our Ferraris, our Single Malts, our First Class Seats….the only thing we must give up is all attachment to any of these. Because attachment brings grief. And detachment is bliss! What happened to Subhashini in her late thirties I believe, happened to me when I was 35. Over time, my awareness has helped me to accept whatever comes my way in Life – unconditionally. You too can get there if you don’t impose conditions on the Life you have.

But please don’t postpone intelligent living anymore. Because, as the Buddha reminds us, “The problem is that you think you have time!” 

Be smart: Live fully, than just ‘earn a living’!

Above all else, prioritize “quality time” with your family! Nothing will count more in the evening of your Life than the memories you have of the time you spent with your family – especially with your spouse and children.
I read a very interesting, heart-warming syndicated story in today’s Times of India. It talked about how a high-profile, globe-trotting finance executive, Mohamed El-Erian, 56, quit his $100m++ job at the California-based PIMCO Investment Fund last year because his daughter complained that he had never been with her for what she thought were important events in her Life. The list of 22 events El-Erian missed included the child’s first day at school, her first football match and a Halloween parade. El-Erian told The Independent’s Cahal Milmo: “I felt awful and got defensive. I had a good excuse for each missed event! Travel, important meetings, an urgent phone call, sudden to-dos. But it dawned on me that I was missing an infinitely more important point. As much as I could rationalize it … my work-Life balance had gotten way out of whack, and the imbalance was hurting my relationship with my daughter. I was not making nearly enough time for her.”
Well, El-Erian was lucky that he heard the “wake up call” and actually “woke up”. There are many, many, many people out there who are too busy building their businesses and their careers at the cost of their families.
I too “woke up” to a “wake up call”. But I woke up only on the day that my son, then 18, took a flight out to Chicago, to join undergrad school. Until that day, back in September 2008, I too, like El-Erian was obsessed with work. The business came first. And business came second. Family, if at all, was treated by me as something that I had to merely “provide” for. But that day, at Chennai International Airport, when my son bid goodbye to all of us, who had gone with him to see him off, and took the escalator to the departure gates, it suddenly dawned on me that we were not just sending him to college, we were actually letting him be independent in this big, huge world. The bird had flown from the nest. That night when I fixed myself a drink and sat thinking of my son, I realized from here on…he would graduate, get himself a job, raise a family and be pretty much on his own. It struck me that he would never be home the way he had been with us for the past 18 years. And it dawned on me then that I had missed much of those 18 years – in fact, I had missed watching him grow. It wasn’t as if I was a reckless and irresponsible father. My son and I always bonded well – and we still are great friends. But that night I felt I could have done better being with him for some more of his birthdays and several more of his events in school and in his theatre group.
My awakening led me to conclude that it is only because we crave and “search” for work-Life balance that we never really find it. I have realized that we have to stop seeing work as different from Life. The truth is that there is just one Life that we all have. And our family is an important part of that Life. As important as work – as in a professional career or a business – is. We cannot claim that we are toiling for the family and kid ourselves that sometime, when we have saved enough for the family, we will enjoy, or invest in, quality time with them. It is because we kid ourselves with this flawed logic that we don’t ever find work-Life balance. Actually, living a well-balanced Life is indeed possible. What is required is that we define for ourselves what’s most important to us in Life. And invest our waking hours prudently among these few areas. It is important that we write for ourselves a list of “never miss” family events – which includes two week-long vacations annually – and stick to fulfilling this list at any cost. On an average, including vacation time, you may require 30 days of family time a year. Of course, this is doable. Especially if you consider the 80~100 work weeks that you end up clocking – often mindlessly – in any case!
As you grow in your career, and as your family grows too, you will do well to remember that no one is getting any younger. Each milestone of your career and family will just be a memory in some more years. There’s no point in arriving in the future to discover that you have no, or far too few, family-related memories because you were busy working your butt off earning a living! Living your Life fully, while earning, is what smart people do. Surely, you are smart. And like El-Erian, will “wake up” too!

Good parenting is all about leadership

Learn to trust your children. If you believe they need direction, give them your perspective, but also allow them to make their choices. Good parenting is all about leadership.
The other day we met a young teenager who is in her first year in college. When she lit a cigarette, I asked her if her parents knew that she smoked. She replied saying her parents were very conservative and did not trust her to be ‘able to take care of herself’. She then, perhaps in an effort to change the topic, said a boy in her class had bought her a dress for her birthday. She pulled out a shopping bag and proudly showed the dress, a designer label, to my wife and me. We asked her how she would account for the new dress to her parents. She said she would tell them that one of the girls in her class had gifted it to her! I encouraged her to stop covering up and urged her to be open with her parents. I then advised her to quit smoking and educated her on the perils of addiction – talking from my own experience of chewing tobacco; I shared how difficult it was for me to quit the habit. The young lady said she would consider my advice of quitting smoking seriously. But she said “open” conversations with her parents would simply not work. “They are not that sort who will ever understand my desire to experience everything in Life and make my own choices. They are over-protective and untrusting,” she declared.
I felt sorry for that young friend of ours. Her parents were clearly missing the opportunity to mold their daughter’s Life and career.
Teenage and adolescence through to young adulthood is when parents and children have the opportunity to really bond. And it is entirely the parents’ responsibility that this opportunity is fully utilized. Children at this stage of their lives – from 13 years to 24 years – are very curious and adventurous. On one side they are exploring and experiencing their own sexuality. On the other side, they are experiencing everything in the world for the first time. Be it smoking a cigarette, tasting alcohol or watching an adult movie. They begin to understand politics, money, business, social and environmental issues. They start questioning religion, faith and rituals. And even as they do all this, they want to genuinely change the way things are. They have this “Why Not?” attitude towards everything that they touch, feel, see and hear. Which is why a parent has to, at the same time, be a child’s best friend and coach.
It is natural, given the impact that social media and advertising have on young impressionable minds, that children, by the time they enter their teens, are very well-informed. It is therefore a logical human urge to want to light a cigarette or have a drink whenever the first opportunity arises. Or even to have a crush on someone. There’s nothing wrong either if your child wants to go out on a date. As a parent, you must learn to accept and appreciate that your child is growing up and has a right to experience Life afresh and first hand. You cannot insist or demand that your child experiences Life on your terms. If you do, please know, as in my young friend’s case, your child will still go ahead and experience Life while covering up those experiences with you! In fact, your relationship with your child is a good one if your child comes up to you and shares openly. You must champion and encourage this by initiating open conversations. Please know that there is nothing “untouchable” about subjects such as masturbation, menstruation, pre-marital sex or marriage, relationships, homosexuality, divorce and death. It is a parent’s principal responsibility to bring a teachable point of view into every such conversation.
Good parenting requires that you educate your child on what matters to the child. And, believe me, there’s a lot more than pure academics that matters to children in their teens leading up to young adulthood. Always share your experiences and perspectives with your child and leave the choice to her or him. Chances are, especially when they are trusted, children will not make wrong choices. And if they do, there’s nothing to panic – simply work on educating them one more time. If the choices they make turn out to be duds – blowing up on their face – help them understand what they can learn from the experience than tell them how right you were all along!

Remember that when you don’t trust your own children you are puncturing their self-worth. The unstated message you are giving your children is this: “You are incapable, so let me handle things for you.” Ask yourself if you would like to be treated that way? Parenting can truly be an enjoyable experience if you lead well. Good leadership demands that you tell your children what’s right, what’s wrong and then, simply, let go – allowing them to learn from their own experiences!

Approach Life, the ‘Chomolungma’ way!

A closed door, an impregnable situation, a no-go stalemate, does not mean it is The End. It only means PAUSE. It only means reflect. It only means TAKE A BREAK.
In Life closed doors come in several forms: an unsufferable relationship, a lost job, bankruptcy, a health crisis or the death of a dear one. And we think it is all over, we can go on no more. But wait! Like in cricket, so it is in Life, it is never over until the last ball is bowled! And since you don’t know which one is the last ball, you really have no right to conclude that it is all over.
Why worry about anything? Because the worst thing that can happen to you, arguably, is that you can die! Which is why they say that anything’s possible when you are alive!! Besides, when you die, after you are gone, you are not even going to know it. Be sure: your last rites will be performed ‘without’ your knowing it!
So, use every challenge that Life is throwing at you as an opportunity to learn something from it. That situation, possibly even a Life-threatening crisis, is teaching you something. Ask for it, demand, and be sure that it will reveal its true purpose in your Life. Know with certainty that every closed door will open. Provided you approach it with complete faith, in total humility and remain patient.
The Tibetans call Mount Everest, which at 29,029 ft is the world’s tallest peak, ‘Chomolungma’ or ‘Goddess Mother of the World’. All climbers preparing for a conquest of the Everest, irrespective of their individual faiths, are advised to first kneel down at the Temple of Chomolungma at base camp before they begin their expedition. The prayer they are encouraged to offer is, “O! Goddess Mother, allow me the opportunity and ability to complete my mission of reaching your peak.” ‘Chomolungma’ has now come to mean ‘I submit in all humility to your might’.

So, approach Life, the ‘Chomolungma’ way. When you resist Life, you are demonstrating frustration, you are demanding the right to conquer, which is not something that Life likes. Instead employ empathy with Life. And you will be offered right of passage. You will find a crack in the door. You will find that door, and all closed doors thereafter, opening, magically!

There’s no conspiracy by Life to fix you!

Sometimes the way Life deals with you, can make you conclude that there is a conspiracy to fix you. Therefore, when you ask why something is happening to you, you have triggered off your suffering!
I was talking to a friend the other day. He reported that his business had slowed down, money due to him from various clients was not coming in and he had also lost a couple of contracts. Over and above all of this, his partner had turned cold and was refusing to take his calls and was not paying him his legitimate share of the business profits. “My monthly income has come down to a few thousands, from a few lakh of rupees, in just under a quarter. I don’t know why these things are happening to me. I am consumed by fear and insecurity. I don’t get sleep at nights. I am unable to bear all this suffering,” he lamented.
If you peel away the emotions from what my friend’s faced with, it is all pretty simple: his business is faring poorly and he is not getting enough money to run his Life. Asking why this is happening is irrelevant in the context of what is happening to him. The truth is that whatever is happening is his current reality. And he has to act on it. He must make efforts to both get new business and collect overdue amounts. Now, what happens if he makes those efforts and still does not succeed? Well, even then there’s no point in asking why. He has to try better ways and methods of doing the same thing – promoting his business and collecting his monies.
When you ask why, why me, why me now, in any context, you have invited suffering into your Life. This does not mean you must not examine and analyze any situation. By all means you must. Only an honest appraisal of any situation can lead to specific, pointed action to remedy it. But don’t make the analysis an emotional one. Don’t bring in self-pity, grief, remorse, anger and guilt into the analysis. Don’t bring in God and religion either. Don’t imagine conspiracy theories when there are none! No amount of pining, agonizing and wishing can change what is. If anything can change a situation, it is only sincere, concerted, timely and relevant action. In any situation, therefore, just do your best, and keep trying harder if you don’t succeed the first time. There is no other way.

Suffering arises when you expect things, people, events and circumstances to be different from what they are. Asking why some things happen the way they do or why some people behave the way they do is futile. Things happen so, people behave so, because that is the way it is. When you decide not to suffer and instead accept Life the way it is happening to you, you will appreciate that there is really no conspiracy to fix you. You will then realize that Life, from birth till death, is just series of events and experiences. Your task, in this lifetime, is to flow with Life while learning along the way. It’s really as simple – and choice-less – as that! 

Attend to your Life to see how perfect it is

Life is perfect. As it is, it is beautiful.
You don’t notice how perfect your Life is, how beautiful it is, because you are not present in the moment, you are not attending to Life! Your body is here, but ‘you’ are lost in your own world. Think about it. A lot of your waking time is indeed spent worrying about what will happen or brooding over what has happened. From financial priorities to relationship issues to just a lot of anxiety over all the work that’s still to be done – you agonize over everyone and everything! And, therefore, your Life appears to you to be far from perfect. You imagine your Life to be imperfect because you want your Life to be different from what it is. This want holds you hostage – it prevents you from realizing this simple truth that your Life cannot be any other way. It is always what it is.
One way to participate in living and engage with Life it is to get up and walk. Every time that you find your thoughts are going astray, and dragging you into worry or anxiety, and are taking you away from the now, just get up and walk. Even if it is within your home or your office. Just walk. When you walk, you will find that your focus shifts from your current reality to your present environment. They may appear to be similar scenarios but they are two different things. Because you are so absorbed in your current reality, you don’t pay attention to Life. When you pay attention, when you attend to Life, you notice its beauty and magic. You will notice the spider on the wall, you will notice the daylight streaming through the windows kicking up millions of dust particles, you will notice the dew drop on the leaf struggle to defeat the intensity of the rising sun, you will notice your child’s scrawl on her desk, you will notice the fragrance of your beloved still hanging in your room long after she has gone to work… You will realize that Life is indeed beautiful – no matter what circumstances you are currently faced with.

The 19th Century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844~1900) has so aptly said, “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking”. When you walk, and pay attention, the greatest thought that can arise in your mind is one of gratitude. Because, very simply, you can walk! There are so many, many people out there who can’t! Isn’t that enough evidence of how perfect your Life is? When you recognize how lucky you are__to be able to walk, see, touch, feel and hear, you will soak in gratitude. When you are grateful, you will discover that, after all, despite all that you don’t have and so badly want, your Life is indeed perfect the way it is.

Give up your craving to be understood and you will live in peace

A lot of our suffering comes from our desire to be understood by others.
It is normal for communication to be misunderstood and misinterpreted by others at times. Just as a spelling mistake is possible in a simple word, so is a misunderstanding possible in relationships. And all of it is caused by how someone wants to interpret what is being said or imagine that something else, than what is being said, is being implied! In a situation when there is repeated breakdown of communication, or even aggravated, angry, violent expressions of communication, it is best to remain quiet. And, more importantly, it is best to give up the need to be understood.
This may also require remaining quiet for long periods of time. Maybe even for years at a stretch. This is true in all contexts__with parents, children, spouses, siblings, extended families, friends, neighbors, workplace teams and such. Time and the truth alone can heal such situations. On the other hand, when you try to force an understanding and try to get people to see you the way you want to be seen, you will undoubtedly suffer. But you have a choice not to suffer in the throes of the pain that such misunderstandings can cause. Just stop feeling pity for yourself, stop demanding that you are understood, and your suffering will cease. The pain may still be there, and so will the factors causing the pain, but you will not suffer.
Accept that this strained situation is the current reality that you have to live with. Give the situation love by practising forgiveness – forgive yourself and the others involved too. Who started it first is immaterial, just accept being a co-creator of the situation and forgive everyone. Slowly, surely, you will find yourself becoming peaceful. When one person is at peace, the entire circle of influence of that person, even if people are estranged, benefits from the peace. Be a peace champion. Begin with yourself.