Wear your Life on your sleeve.
Yesterday we met a reader of my Book Fall Like A Rose Petal. He had traveled all the way from Bangalore to meet us. He said that his Life was in a shambles, he was deep in debt and his wife had “almost disowned” him. “I am lonely. I have nobody in the world,” he said, fighting back his tears.
Vaani told him reassuringly that he’s not as alone as he imagines. “We are here. The very fact that we are meeting you shows that we care,” she explained.
That’s so true. None of us is as lonely as we imagine we are. If only we step out and share our stories to the people around us – even to random strangers – we will find compassion and kindness in places where we least expect to find them.
I remember a night, from some years ago, when I was sitting alone and drinking in a hotel’s bar in Chicago. A lady joined me on the bar stool next to me. And soon she got talking to me. She said she was lonely and had contemplated going to the “edge” of Lake Michigan which was just across the highway from our hotel. I asked her to why she felt lonely. And she told me her story. Her 10-year-old marriage had ended badly, her new boyfriend was cheating on her and she was out of job – facing a string of rejections in every new place that she applied to. “I see no point in this Life,” she said, breaking into a sob. I asked her stop drinking and go back to her room in the hotel. I told her to get up the next morning and instead of going to the “edge” of Lake Michigan, I suggested that she walk along Lakeshore Drive. I told her: “Ask yourself this – if you had no problems in Life, what would you like doing? Focus on that one thing. And go do it.” Though I didn’t expect her to follow my advice, she actually gulped her drink down, bade me good night and went away.
Two days later, I saw her again in the coffee shop of the hotel. She rushed towards me, shook my hands joyfully and said, “I took your suggestion seriously. I walked along Lakeshore Drive and asked myself what did I want to do with my Life? It wasn’t a difficult question. Because all my Life I wanted to be a musician. So, I have decided to go join a music school and be a musician.” As she spoke, her eyes lit up, she beamed a radiant smile and oozed positivity.
I asked her: “So, between two nights ago and today, what has changed? What made you transform yourself from being lost, forlorn and lonely to being so full of Life?”
“Well, I guess, I shared. And when I shared, you helped me with perspective. I don’t think I was lonely really. I was just imagining so. And I was keeping so much bottled up within me – not just my emotions but also my deepest aspiration,” she explained.
And that’s so true of so, so many of us. We only imagine that we are lonely. In reality, the world is a warm, compassionate place with a lot of warm, friendly, loving, caring people. To connect with them, you just have to open up, you just have to wear your Life on your sleeve and you will always find people willing to hold your hand and help you along your way!
Why I raise a mid-morning toast to Life!
After my morning walk today I remarked to Vaani: “It feels so good to have walked. It is so energizing.”
Just about 15 years ago, I loathed exercise. I was perpetually on the “busyness treadmill” – running from meeting to meeting, traveling 21 days a month, managing people – their shortcomings, attitudes and tantrums – more than harnessing their talent or managing our business! I had diabetes and hypertension; I weighed 95 kilos and had a tobacco habit. I also drank considerably large volumes of alcohol – frequently, sometimes daily.
And look at how my Life has changed in these years!
I read a story on Albert Einstein’s idea of happiness in the papers a couple of days ago. He has said this is 1922: “A calm and modest Life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.” That was almost 95 years ago, but even today I can relate to his philosophy. Simply because I have lived that restless Life and understood its futility. When we went bankrupt in 2007 (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal), and in dealing with worklessness and pennilessness for most of the past decade, I realized that the greatest wealth in Life is the ability to celebrate what is, to live fully in the present moment. I believe I squandered a large part of my 20s and 30s pursuing success – name, fame, money – and so I was constantly restless. I was searching for something; I don’t ever remember feeling fulfilled or complete at that time. And then – poof! – everything material was snatched away from me, from us. And I was forced to learn to be patient with Life. That’s when – and how – I learnt the value of being calm and of enjoying, savoring, each moment – no matter how tough our circumstances have been.
Interestingly, I am reading ikigai – The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life (by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles) currently. ikigai is an ancient Japanese concept that means ‘reason for being’ or ‘a reason to jump out of bed every morning’! The book’s interesting. Though I feel it is more focused on the idea of longevity than on happiness itself. And I come from the Anand (1971, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan) school of thought of “Babumoshai, zindagi badi honi chahiye, lambi nahin”!!! (Life must be a grand celebration and not necessarily long!) Even so, I completely relate to the idea of ikigai! Because only when we understand the reason for our being, only when we have a reason to jump out of bed every morning, will we learn to be happy – despite the circumstances!
It’s been a fascinating morning for me…yet another day worth celebrating despite our zillion problems…there are so, so many broken parts of our Life that we don’t know how to fix, but re-reading Einstein’s idea of happiness, living my ikigai, worshipping a carefully cultivated sense of equanimity and relishing every sip of Vaani’s coffee…make me look forward with enthusiasm. To Life!
Non-worrying delivers happiness!
“Is there a method or technique with which you can stop worries from arising in your mind,” asked a gentleman over a message to me on my App (“AVIS Viswanathan” – available for free download on Google Play and the App Store).
The simple answer is that you can’t stop worries from arising in your mind. You can only choose to be non-worrying.
Let me explain further what I have learnt about being non-worrying.
Non-worrying means that when a worry arises in your mind, you simply let it pass. Anything that you don’t attend to will not bother you.
Consider this: in some months of the year the population of flies in India usually multiplies – particularly in humid conditions in Chennai. Even the cleanest five-star properties in Chennai will not be spared by the flies in such times. So, if you walked into a swank coffee shop and found a couple of flies on the tables there, you will not make a hue and cry. You will simply ignore their presence thinking to yourself, “well, this is India, this is Chennai, this is common occurrence” and move on. Non-worrying means treating the worry that arises as you would treat a housefly in India. Accept that it exists, accept that you can’t do anything about it and move on.
A worry controls you only when you feed it with your attention. It controls you only when you allow it to control you. Just ignore it. Let it be. And you be too. When you make a worry powerless, it will simply recede – the same way it arose in the first place.
Of course, the human mind, like the human body, must be trained to practise non-worrying. And that requires 24 x 7, consistent, practice! When you master the art of non-worrying, you can only be happy!