Make this a Happywala New Year!

Flow with your Life to experience the abundance and grace in it!
We had a meaningful New Year’s Eve. A few of us friends had got together. Through the evening, as the best of R D Burman and Kishore Kumar songs were played, and sung, we also had an interesting activity on. Everyone got a word from Santa’s big red bag that was passed around. Each person had to talk about the word in the context of the year gone by and what they hoped for in 2016 in relation to what the word meant to them!
So words like ‘Celebrate’, ‘Miracle’, ‘Serendipity’, ‘Awesome’, ‘Magic’, ‘Learn’, ‘Unlearn’, ‘Inspire’, ‘Happiness’, ‘Love’, ‘Be Yourself’, ‘Poetry’ and ‘Let Go!’ popped out of Santa’s bag! Most people who spoke related beautifully to their words, pausing to reflect on what the word had meant to them in 2015. Someone shared how the year had been full of celebrations all through! Another spoke of being awesome and celebrating awesomeness. The gentleman who got the word magic asked us to consider the magic in the moment when the year changed! Another talked about how spending time with his father, before he passed on, was an opportunity to re-experience unconditional love. Vaani talked about her inspiration that led her to resume learning music in 2015. And there was this friend, who did not exactly know what serendipity meant but realized upon reflection that everything in our lives is, uncannily, serendipitous.
The word I got was, interestingly, aptly, happiness. To me happiness is not just a state of mind or an attitude, it is a state of being. Over the last few years this state of being has helped us as a family face – and survive – what can be described as, to put it matter-of-factly, a cathartic phase in our Life. To be sure, we continue to grapple with imponderables. But we have learnt the art of being happy despitethe circumstances.
Being happy does not guarantee that your problems will disappear. Or that solutions to your problems will immediately appear. Being happy, we have discovered, has simply helped us feel and experience the abundance and grace that surrounds us. When you are happy, you magically see only what is – and don’t get stuck only complaining about what you don’t have. So, as we enter yet another year when our financially uncertain situation endures, we celebrate that we all have good health, we have a home to come back to, we have each other and that we have friends who treat us with love, compassion and dignity. Through this celebration, we recognize the grace that fills our lives, always giving us all that we need!

Really, it is not what happiness is. It is what happiness does. It makes you live a fuller Life, no matter what’s happening to you!  What comes between you and your happiness is you. You are unhappy only because you are trying to control what’s happening to you. When you try to control Life, you are not in it. You are looking at Life as if it were a problem that you have to solve. As if it is a third party that you have to deal with. Instead if you flow with Life, you will find that it is filled with abundance and grace every step of the way and you too will, as one of our friends last night exclaimed as the clock struck 12, have a Happywala 2016!

Welcome to the party called Life – it’s on 24×7!!!

Celebration is not an event. It is a state of being.
As another year flows past and as yet another flows in, you may quite be tempted to believe that it’s the event tonight – New Year’s Eve – that’s the celebration. The truth however is that your entire Life is – has been and will continue to be – a celebration. You don’t see your Life as a celebration because you are preoccupied with the small stuff. And as Richard Carlson has famously said, ‘it’s all small stuff’! 
Just consider this: what if you didn’t join a New Year party tonight? Won’t you physically be missing all the action? All the fun? All the dancing and the drinks? Indeed, how can you enjoy a party for which you never showed up? This is the problem with most of us – this big, magical, beautiful party called Life is happening 24×7, 365 days, for us but we are not “in” it, we are not present or although we are physically there, we are lost in the maze of our grief, guilt, worries, fears and anxieties.
If I have learnt anything from Life, it is this: Life is one helluva celebration. If we start valuing what we have, instead of pining for what we don’t have or worrying about what may happen to us, we will be soaked in happiness. Celebration, in the context of Life, is a state of being. It is eternal and present continuously!
Okay, here’s a little exercise you can do. Sit down quietly for a few minutes. And make a list of your most memorable moments from your Life so far. Wasn’t that birthday five years ago awesome? Wasn’t that office party where you met you partner unforgettable? Wasn’t the day you child was born your biggest celebration up until this time? So, make the list….but hey, you know what? There’s a catch here. The moment you start counting your memorable moments of your Life, you have lost this game. If you take your age and multiply it with 365 days – that’s how many days you have been around here on the planet. And yet you can count only a handful of days as being memorable among the thousands that you have ostensibly lived, well, isn’t that a tragedy?
Think about it – if you are not celebrating each moment, aren’t you squandering this once in a lifetime opportunity, this limited period offer, called Life? Begin by celebrating what is and what you have. Celebrate the air in your lungs. Celebrate the magic of a sunrise, a dew drop, a flower, the smile of a child or the warmth of a pet. Celebrate that you have access to internet and Facebook so you can pontificate on whether Free Basics is a rip-off or not! Even if someone you love has passed on or moved away – celebrate their Life or your time with them. Life is too precious – and you don’t need me to tell you this – so, go beyond the party you have planned to be at tonight! Make each day of your Life a celebration – and see how it is then filled with abundance and grace!  

Empty your cup to fill your Life with abundance

Only when you empty yourself of your ego will you understand the essence of intelligent living!
Unknown to us we__you, me, everyone__carry a rather unnecessary sense of self-importance than we normally should or even need. Self-importance is different from self-respect or self-esteem. Self-importance means you think your Life is being controlled by you! The more self-importance you perceive of yourself, the lesser you will be closer to realizing your true Self and the angrier you will be with Life and with people around you!
Theatre Nisha’s V.Balakrishnan (in yellow shirt)
with AVIS Viswanathan on “The Bliss Catchers”
I anchor a monthly Event Series called “The Bliss Catchers” which celebrates people who have had the courage to let go of “safe and predictable” careers to go do what they love doing. Earlier this month I was in conversation with one of India’s most talented theatre artistes and directors, Theatre Nisha’s V.Balakrishnan. Bala had given up pursuing his dream to join the Indian Administrative Services (IAS) to join the National School of Drama (NSD). I asked Bala how it was to be coached at the NSD in a craft that has come to define him and his Life over the years. Bala replied, “The teachers at NSD teach you to empty yourself. I went in with the notion that I had the greatest voice and that by throwing it I could be a master of the stage. But the teachers there taught me to first empty myself, they urged me to stop thinking I could master anything, they made me realize that above us all was the stage. And to be worthy of that stage, I learnt, you must empty yourself.”
So beautiful. This concept of emptying yourself is so beautiful. It is downright simple: only when you are empty, when your mind is open and empty, can it receive any fresh inputs. When you are so full of yourself, you can hardly learn anything new. Emptying yourself also means being willing to unlearn so that you can learn – anew!
Several years ago, things were going horribly wrong for me at work. My team was playing truant. People were quitting. They were sharing information with competitors. And there was a whole deal of negative energy flying around. The final nail in the coffin was when one member of my team, an office assistant, filed a police compliant against me for non-payment of a statutory due. It was a particularly ignominious moment. We had, as a Firm, picked up that kid literally from the street. We had supported his education helping him acquire a degree in Commerce and an MBA in Marketing through distant learning programs. I was heart-broken when he did what he did. For one there was no truth in his complaint. Second, he had done that to me!
Over a drink, I shared my grief with a very dear friend, Deepak Pawar, whom I will call Guruji!
“You know how much I have done for this boy,” I lamented. And continued: “I have helped him financially when his mother was in hospital and later when she died. I have bought him clothes every quarter. I have paid for his exam fees and his tuitions. I have enrolled him to a computer training program and helped him become tech savvy. And he still did this to me?”
Guruji smiled back at me calmly and asked, “Are you finished with your tale of woe, AVIS?”
“Are you finding something funny with my plight,” I shot back, quizzically.
“Indeed. I find it funny that you think your team is the problem. To me you are the problem!” said Guruji bluntly.
“What are you saying? I have been a good employer. I have led with care and compassion. I have uplifted the lot of my team. I have provided them with rewards, recognition and opportunity. And you say I am the problem?” I roared.
“Just count the number of times you have used ‘I’ in this conversation AVIS. You are so full of yourself. Empty yourself of the ‘I’ in you. Be humble and you will grow and glow!” said Guruji.
It was as if a ton of bricks had fallen on me. I was devastated. But over several days and weeks of introspection and rumination I understood what Guruji had meant. I realized that is we who come between us and our opportunity to grow spiritually by imagining that Life happens because of us. The entire principle behind Life is that it happens despite us and never because of us. I soon learnt how to empty my cup. But the interesting thing is, when you empty it, the cup doesn’t stay empty. You have to keep on emptying it. It is a continuous process.

Each time someone slights you, each time someone rubs you the wrong way, your mind will tell you “How dare he or she?” Immediately, remember Guruji, remember Bala’s teachers at NDD, and empty your cup. When things are not going according to your plan, and you are getting angry, irritable, disturbed and your inner peace is destroyed, empty your cup. The more you stay empty, the more grace you will receive. Because Life can only fill an empty cup with abundance. How can a cup that is full receive any grace or abundance? 

Don’t shut yourself to love

It is fine to fail in love in Life. The bigger tragedy is to not get any love or, worse, shut yourself to love.   

I read the story of a 62-year-old man from Bihar yesterday. In his early twenties he had an affair with a South-Indian, Tam Bram, girl. Her parents had her hurriedly married off to a Tam Bram engineer when they heard of the affair. Today, 39 years hence, the man still pines for her. He lives in Nainital presently but visits Hyderabad each year just to see her. He recently wrote this on facebook: Today she has 2 kids; one son married and the other son is in the United States. She also has a grandchild, a girl. She lives in Hyderabad. Every year for the last 39 years, I have gone to see her. I don’t meet her or make her even aware that I am there. I don’t want her to feel embarrassed. I guess I live my Life through her. I never knew why she didn’t have the courage to fight for “us” – something that I was willing to do. I guess I will never know. I am 62, unmarried, retired; I live alone in a three bedroom cottage, and today, when I reflect back, I wonder if I made the right choice?”
Clearly, this man is clinging on to his past. He has simply shut himself to love. It is fine to fail in love. Sometimes things don’t work out. Either before marriage or, as it often happens, even after marriage. The truth is marriage plays no role in helping two people relate to each other. When the relating stops, the relationship ends – whether or not you marry someone. In this man’s case, his beau succumbed to the pressure she faced from her parents – a story that has been played over and over and over again in many a Bollywood film right up until the late 1990s. In fact, films of those days merely portrayed what society was experiencing. By clinging on to what he believes is true love, the man has shut himself out for 39 long years. He need not have married again. But he surely could have been open to allowing himself to be loved and cared for.
Interestingly, this man and his story are but a metaphor. The learning from his story applies to all of us – whatever be our contexts. His is a tale of a lost relationship. But so many of us are trapped in the past too. We are clinging on to something which is dead. By holding on to what isn’t there, we are missing out on what is. And what is, is the perfect present – the now. Where love is in abundance. Where peace is in plenty. But to experience all of it, we must be present here – in the now.

Ask yourself: “What am I clinging on to?” Let go of whatever that hasn’t worked out or worked for you. Simply let go! Open yourself up and offer yourself to the opportunity in the moment. Then you will feel the difference. Your Life will be filled with love, peace and joy! 

In which Nithyanand, a Buddha, teaches me to live with ‘anand’ (inner joy) ‘nithya’ (daily)!!!

When you look for things that you don’t have, you remain incomplete. When you look at what you have, including who you have in your Life, you are complete!

Nithyanand – The Buddha
Yesterday, I spent a transformational hour with a young man called Nithyanand, in his 20s, who is visually special (I hate to call him visually impaired). He lives in Korrukkupet (a Chennai suburb). He commutes every day to Express Avenue Mall, where he works at an exhibition tour company called “Dialogue in the Dark” (Google them – go check them out). Nithya, as he prefers being called, says he doesn’t have any problem when I ask him how he “manages with Life on a day-to-day basis”: “Sir, we work on getting oriented to spaces and with basing all our responses to the velocity of sound around us. I take bus # 18 and get to work pretty much without a hitch. When I do have to cross the road, I just wait for a good, helpful soul. The Universe always has such people around. There are so many good people in this world. Someone always comes by to help me.” There’s a joie de vivre about the way Nithya is. He is happy, content and peaceful with the way he is. Actually he truly, simply is. There is no self-pity. There’s no lament. In fact, there’s so much dignity with which he conducts himself – even you don’t feel pity for the young man. You come away inspired. Now, how many times will you come away inspired after meeting a rank stranger for barely an hour?

Much of our grief and suffering comes from lamenting over what we don’t have. This pushes us into a, often subconscious, depressive spiral out of which we rarely climb out. But always, when the focus shifts to what is, the result is magical. The reason why we struggle with making this shift from what isn’t to what is, is that the negative is always seductive. Its reasoning power is far more logical. The good in us rarely speaks. It merely states. It does not profess, it doesn’t argue, it doesn’t convince. Nett Nett, we succumb to the wily designs of scarcity__what we don’t have, what isn’t__thinking. This results in incompleteness. Whereas, with all our quirks, defects, chinks, blemishes, scars and handicaps, we are complete. There’s so much abundance in our lives. Such is the way we have been created. To recognize this complete state of ours, we need to be in a state of total acceptance, we need to be peaceful.

My learning from Nithyanand: when there is peace within, when there is acceptance of the Life you have, the focus will shift to what is. And then the wholesomeness of your Life will become clear to you! This the way, we__you and me__too, just like Nithya, can become a Buddha – and experience ‘anand’ (inner joy) ‘nithya’ (daily)!

Start living freely, unfettered by fear

Know this for sure: Nothing can derail the Life that’s been designed for you. Most definitely not the lack of money!
Much of our worries come from how much money we have or don’t have. Think about it! When has the lack of money stopped anything in your Life__or mine? Well, if it has denied a want, you probably did not need it. Life always provides everyone with everything they need just now. Let me clarify, money is important. But you don’t need money__especially when it is unavailable__to live happily! Besides, why are we embracing fear worrying over economic indices that feed off human greed? Every stock market operator, watcher and speculator, is responding to (and is in) greed. Every billionaire listing speaks of wealth in the hands of a few people who have the power to change the world and lives of the have-nots, but very few seldom really do or want to do anything. So, why focus on a negative influence__greed?
Another perspective. Our parents earned a fraction of what we do now. Their parents a much lesser fraction of that. And yet Life has been going on. We have all been educated by our less economically privileged parents. And, miraculously, are holding positions of influence in our own small ways. We are, in fact, managing to rear our children with more comfort than we were provided. So, why the fear? In fact, here’s a counter argument. If each of us can stop fearing the lack of money, and stop imagining that the world is coming to an end, we will be more productive than we are just now. And that may just revive and grow the economy faster__if it becomes a global trend.

So, stop thinking of what’s wrong with the world and with your Life. Stop cribbing. Stop wishing things were different. Start living freely, unfettered by fear. Have faith that all that you need will continue to be available to you, just as it always has been. Up until this moment. Think abundance. Think prosperity. Every time you read about the crumbling global economic indices, job losses, falling currencies and begin to wonder how you will survive, think of the most beautiful sunrise you have seen, the most intimate moment you have spent with your companion, or the most joyous vacation you have been on in Life. Define one spot outside your window that is beauty__believe me, you will find beauty everywhere, most definitely in unexpected places. And view that sight each time you feel worry and fear gripping you. The beauty of Life and nature can revive even the most hardened, numbed, human spirit. This is abundance thinking. Realize that it is from abundance that peace is born. It is from peace that prosperity flows. Will you make a new beginning today?