Knowing the ‘why’ of whatever you want to do is what will drive you to doing it!

If you are postponing doing something you either don’t like to do it or you don’t have a strong enough reason to do it!

Someone I know reached out yesterday wanting to know how to beat procrastination. He said he often finds that he’s postponing what he wants to do. And watching someone else do the same thing with ease makes him feel guilty.

Honestly, procrastination is a demon that we all have to deal with and conquer at some time – or at several times – in our Life. It is an intensely personal conflict and can be overcome only by a deeper understanding of who you are and what you love doing and, important, what you don’t like to do.

procrastination.jpgI have understood that there are only two reasons why you postpone doing something – from laundry to paying bills to writing poetry to reviewing your career to enrolling for a skill-development program or starting a gym routine. The first reason is that you simply don’t like doing that something. Now who wants to do laundry or work out for an hour everyday if you can avoid it. But when you can’t avoid something, you must just get down to doing it before it becomes both urgent and important. If you let it remain undone or incomplete, one day it will blow up in your face. That’s the risk you run with procrastinating over stuff that you can’t avoid doing. The other reason why you postpone doing something is because you don’t have a deeper reason for doing it. These often apply to longer-term Life decisions. For example, if you are a good writer and love writing, yet if you are unable to get started, it means there is nothing compelling about your writing that drives you to write. People ask me how I manage to blog daily – I have been doing it for more than 6 years now, on the trot: first on my school group, then on Facebook and now, in addition, on this Blog. I manage to create time to write daily because I am driven by a sense of purpose to “awaken people to the opportunity called happiness – to tell them that they can indeed be happy despite their circumstances.” So, I don’t write to just satiate a desire to express myself. I write to share my learnings so that somehow, somewhere, a reader may find a connect and value in what I have to say.

The only way to deal with procrastination is to have conversations with yourself. Don’t beat yourself over it ever. That’s not the way to deal with it. Examine all that you postpone. If there’s stuff that you don’t like to do, and can avoid doing, then don’t do it. Simple. There’s no scope for grief here. If there’s stuff you hate but can’t avoid, develop a process – and attitude – to get it done. Again, don’t grieve, don’t rant. Just do it. And if there’s stuff you love doing and yet you postpone – because you are too starved for time or motivation or both – then ask yourself why you should be doing this in the first place. If you find no “why” forthcoming, then set the activity aside. Do it whenever you can. Again, no need to feel angtsy or guilty about it. If you can give yourself a compelling reason – the “why” – to do what you love doing, then use that “why” to drive you to doing it. The bottomline is this: if you know yourself better and if you know why you must do what you must do, you will stop procrastinating! And, important, that’s one way you can stop postponing ‘your’ happiness!  

Be a willing instrument for Life to work through you

Life happens inspite of you and never because of you!

20160428_120241My former colleague, and one of India’s senior-most journalists, Amarnath Menon, profiles celebrated heart surgeon Dr.Devi Shetty (of Narayana Hrudayalaya) in the latest issue of India Today. He quotes a lady, Ishita Bose, recalling how Dr.Shetty, before he went on to operate on her four-month-old son who had a rare congenital heart condition, looked up heavenwards and told her: “I am just a technician. If the man up there decides he’ll live, no one can take him away. You just pray.” Ishita’s son lives on – he’s 14 years old now! Dr.Shetty’s approach to his Life and work offers us a teachable point of view. Just as Aravind Eye Hospital’s late Dr.V’s perspective does – he embedded this approach as his organization’s core Purpose (its raison d’etre): “To be better instruments for the divine energy to work through.” Or just as flute maestro Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia’s belief does – that which he lives by: “Music is created by the Supreme Entity (Brahma) so that we can get an understanding or darshan of the Entity. Music is a prayer, a rare prayer!”

These three lines of thought are similar no doubt. They also offer us an opportunity to understand Life and learn to live it better. While education is important to increase our knowledge of how the world around us works and thrives, the same education, ironically, has made us less and less aware of the inscrutable yet powerful nature of Life.

It is your education that makes you believe that Life happens because of you. But when you stop relying on your education alone, you will awaken to the truth that your Life happens through you and, often, inspite of you! This basically means that you remain grounded and humble no matter how much you are praised for your achievements and success. It also means that you remain stoic and unmoved no matter how many times you face rejection or failure in Life. So, the best way to live is to offer whatever you do as an offering to the Universe.

Surely, there are no methods or mantras to live Life. Just be grateful for this lifetime as a human, offer yourself up to Life, do your best and let Life – the Higher Energy – take over. And let everything happen through you!

Only when you let go of what’s over, can you be happy with what is!

In each moment, Life is new, fresh. As long as you don’t cling on to the past, and instead move on, you too can enjoy this freshness!

A friend was chatting with me some time back. She shared with me what she called a predicament that she was faced with. Her husband had died some years back. She married again. But she was not happy in that marriage. She said she liked her partner as a person but she could not imagine a Life with him. So, she separated from him. She has two children, from her first marriage, who are young, independent adults. Now, she told me, two men were actively interested in her. She wanted to know what to do and if there was anything wrong, at her age (she’s over 45), for her to seek companionship.

I asked her to explain why she thought anything would be wrong in the first place. “I loved my first husband dearly. Somehow I feel it’s wrong for me to move on. I feel I will be betraying that relationship. Besides, when I tried with my second marriage, I failed miserably. So, I am not sure if anything will work out for me if I try again,” she replied.

9666bfdf0ec85290733c325fadad51b9I told her: “Do whatever makes you happy. If someone’s presence in your Life makes you happy, be happy. Don’t hold yourself back. Your late husband and your marriage with him – both are not there anymore. Don’t cling on to that. Just because your second marriage did not work out, it doesn’t mean you will not be happy in a new relationship. Don’t look to validate everything. Let your inner joy alone be your reference point. You have a lot of Life still ahead of you. Just do whatever makes you happy.”

I haven’t heard from her since. I hope she chose being happy over everything else.

But her story, while unique in its own way, reminds us of a classic conundrum that all of us face – which is, how do we move on in Life? Let me tell you from my own experience – and from what I have learned from Life – that there’s only one way to move on. And that way is to let go of the past.

Life is reborn, afresh and new, in each new moment. But you are stuck in the past, so you are not seeing this freshness, this newness, even if you are seeking it. Think of a situation where an infant is playing with your cell-phone and you want it back because you fear the phone will be dropped. So, you offer the child a bright-colored rattle and the child quickly parts with the phone and accepts the rattle. There’s great wisdom in the child’s action. The child intuitively knows that unless she lets go of what she has she cannot get the new toy. As adults, we must revive this child-like quality in us. Only then can we see the magic and beauty of the Life that we have.

No matter how much you cling on to the past, no matter how much you postpone or avoid living the Life that you have, Life keeps going on. Someone you love dies, Life does not stop for you. It goes on. You lose your job. Life goes on. An earthquake happens. You lose everything. Yet Life goes on. Now, you can either move on with Life. Or you can keep wishing that things are different. The truth is that all your wishing will always be in vain. Only your moving on can make you happy.


Teach your children how to keep the faith and to be grateful

Faith, not religion, and being grateful, not ritualistic, are the keys to facing Life’s upheavals.

When I was raised, there was an effort, naturally, to mold me in the classic TamBram culture of being God-fearing and ritualistic. I first resisted that attempt – not entirely to challenge the existence of a Higher Energy but more to rebel against my parents – but soon, as I graduated to adulthood and began a family with Vaani, I developed my own method for communion with divinity. I retained my secular and pragmatic, non-ritualistic, outlook to Life even as I visited places of worship seeking inner peace, answers to existential questions and often to simply recharge myself. Over time, I came to the understanding that religion is completely avoidable – in fact, it is my personal opinion that it must be treated like a narcotic, it should be never tried and must possibly be banned on the planet! I also understood that the real God is the one that is within, your Life source that keeps you alive and going. It is the same Higher Energy that powers the Universe that is in you, in me. So, in effect, you are the God you seek. So the right way to be is to not be God-fearing but God-loving! Which is why, as I have realized, it is very, very important to keep the faith in yourself. Swami Vivekananda sums this up so beautifully: “He is an atheist who does not believe in himself.”

I believe it is the responsibility of all parents to raise their children with this understanding of Life and champion the relevance of faith in today’s times. Faith is not what you have in an external agent or resource. Faith is what you fundamentally have in yourself. It is the awareness that if you have been created you will be looked after and cared for. It is this awareness that can help anyone get through Life’s upheavals and crises. Surely no one’s Life is going to be free of problems and challenges. No one is going to get through Life without facing at least one situation that defies logic and human problem-solving skills. It is to deal with such a situation that we must teach our children the value of keeping the faith in themselves – which is, really, in the Higher Energy that has created all of us! Indeed, the presence of a teacher – someone, who can lead and coach without bringing in religion or rituals – will be highly valuable here. But the absence of such a person is never going to stall one’s inner evolution and awakening. Faith is so unique and intensely personal that when there is faith anything – a.k.a miracles per the world – is possible!

We must remember, however, that faith works miracles only when you develop and retain an attitude of gratitude. Even in the gravest of situations, if you are grateful for the Life you have – at the most elementary-yet-profound level for simply being alive; remember, you are having this experience only because you are alive! – you will find that Life will always open doors. You may not often find all the solutions you are looking for, but you will discover newer ways and means for experiencing Life, for facing your situation and for lasting yet another day.

hqdefaultAs parents we have to teach our children the right values no doubt. We must give them the freedom of choice to live their lives their way surely. But, in addition, we must also teach them how to keep the faith and how to express their gratitude for this free, unsolicited (none of us have asked to be born!), limited-period gift called Life. Protecting our children from going through their upheavals and learning curves in Life will never work. Each one of us has to bear our own cross. So it is for our children too. We can be there for our children, we can be with them, we can walk with them every step of the way, but we can’t live their Life for them or instead of them. The only way our children too can evolve and grow up to be better human beings, more resilient and compassionate, is by learning to keep the faith that all is well and to be grateful for whatever is, the way it is!   

Pray, cry, step away, surrender – do whatever, while trusting the process of Life!

You don’t have to always have the solutions to all your problems in Life!

I visited a temple – Sai Baba’s – after a long time yesterday. I tagged along with Vaani because it was the first anniversary of my father-in-law Venks’ passing – he loved visiting Sai Baba temples, wherever they were. It was a usual Sunday at the temple. The priests were busy with the early morning aarthi service, the crowds were beginning to file in queues and the public address system played ‘om sai namo namah…’ setting the tone for devotees to enter into their personal communions with ‘their’ Baba. One lady did not join the queue. She did not even stand in front of Baba’s white marble idol. She stood in front of his portrait, in an ante-room, and wept inconsolably. It was a cathartic moment for her surely – and for us as we watched her briefly before we moved on.

I could relate to the way the lady was expressing herself. I have done that many times: I have cried at Baba temples, or at other places of worship, or when I have found myself in a private, intimate moment with nature. I have cried whenever I have felt lost, helpless and clueless about how to deal with some situations in Life. My belief that there is a Higher Energy, an inscrutable divinity that shapes our lives, led me to places of worship back then. And while there my form of prayer was to surrender to this Higher Energy. I would acknowledge my “smallness” and accept that I didn’t know what to do and offer myself to be led – by time and by my faith that if I have been created I will be looked after and cared for. The Hindu scriptures talk of this concept too and call it saranagati – total surrender. I have intuitively learnt to surrender myself. This has not always helped me find solutions to my problems but has always helped me find and retain my inner peace. I don’t visit places of worship necessarily to pray – or to surrender – anymore, because I have learnt to live – celebrate, pray, surrender – in the moment! The guiding principles of my Life are the two words that Sai Baba taught the world: Shraddha/Faith – keep the faith that you will be provided for and shown the way; and Saburi/Patience – trust the process of Life.

47761-Go-With-The-FlowI have come to believe that when you don’t know what to do in Life you must do what you can do. And one thing you can always do is to allow yourself to be shown the way, to be guided and led, by Life. It is perfectly okay if you don’t have solutions to some of the problems you are faced with. Just trust that Life will, over time, solve your problems for you or point you in the direction of solutions. As you let go, surrender to Life’s compassion. Indeed given the tough situations and contexts that Life may place you in, you may think that Life is harsh and cruel. But no, Life’s really very compassionate. Because you have always got and you will always get what you need even if you get it from unexpected quarters or through unconventional, unpredictable means. To let go and surrender, choose your own way to express yourself. If you feel like praying, pray. If you feel like crying, cry. If you feel like stepping away from whatever is making you frustrated and unhappy, step away. Basically, when you feel overwhelmed by a Life situation, let Life take over and you simply go with the flow.

There are a lot of Tim-like opportunities and Shaktimans waiting for us

If we make an effort, however small it may be, to touch another Life, we will live meaningfully!  

Reading the news this morning of Shaktiman’s (the horse in Dehradun who lost a limb after he was brutally beaten up by a local politician over a month ago) passing saddened me. A Life so unfortunately, so heartlessly, snuffed out.

Tim Mahoney & Shaktiman Picture Courtesy: Internet

The Shaktiman episode assumed a political overtone no doubt. And people took to social media to express their angst too. Understandable. But the story also leaves us richer with the learning that every aspect of creation gives us perspective on Life’s larger design, it’s purpose. Because, among the many who shared their grief over Shaktiman’s plight, two people actually went to work on it. Jamie Vaughan, an artificial limb expert, who was treating Shaktiman after one of his legs was amputated following the incident, posted, on Facebook, the requirement of a prosthetic leg to be sourced from Virgina and shipped to India urgently. Jamie, who works for an NGO treating animals in Bhutan, was hoping that someone traveling to India would volunteer to carry the precious cargo to her for Shaktiman. But Tim Mahoney, a former Bank of America employee, decided to do something better. He traveled from Kentucky to Virginia, picked up the prosthetic limb and traveled 12,000 km to Dehradun, at his own expense, all for a “call of heart”. Both Tim and Jamie had never known or met each other. Both of them were trying to help the distressed and injured horse – obviously expecting nothing in return.

I read about Tim’s compassion in the Times of India a few days ago. Ever since, I have been thinking of how this reminds us about how much we can do to help Life around us. Truly, I believe that with all that we have, we can do a lot, lot more, within our circle of influence. We don’t have to travel 12,000 km necessarily. What Tim’s selfless, magnanimous gesture does is it inspires us to pause and to think.

All of us are created compassionate. We become self-obsessed because either we are busy fighting our own battles and insecurities or we are busy earning a living. I think if we step out of our shells and look up, there will be a lot of Tim-like opportunities and a lot of Shaktimans waiting for us out there. Make time for someone today, go make a difference!