Be authentic, be true, to yourself, than wanting to be right all the time.

Being authentic means to do what you must, knowing that, sometimes, even if you have done what you believe is the right thing, you won’t be accepted as having done right.
Life will place you in difficult situations sometimes. In them, you will be always faced with options of doing what is right and what appears to be right. Now, this whole concept of right and wrong is very subjective and relative. Something may be right to some people at sometimes and the same thing will appear to be wrong to the same people at another time. Or something may be right to some people and appear wrong to others.
So, how do you act in such situations? A simple way to act is to not necessarily qualify your action as right or wrong. Because that debate will rage on __ both within you and among people who will have opinions to offer. The important thing is to act. And a simple framework to help you decide if your actions will be useful or not is available. Ask yourself before you act in any difficult situation:
1.     Will my action help all parties concerned?
2.     Am I acting out of care and concern or out of ego?
3.     Am I creating value in the given situation?
It is important you answer yes to all three questions before you proceed. If you answer yes, and you are willing to proceed, you must. It may well be possible that someone else looking at the situation may be answering the questions differently. So, this framework is purely for the individual intending to act in a difficult situation.
Having said that, be sure that any action will always attract attention, critique, criticism and often, unintended, equal and opposite consequences. When you act on something in favor and on behalf of another person, you will be questioned as to why you did it? The argument that it was the right thing to do won’t always work. Because the someone who you tried to help may never be seeing your action as right __ else, she or he may have done it themselves.
So, when you act, be prepared to face the consequences. If you are not, don’t act. Simple.
If as a consequence of your action, while you end up doing good in your view/eyes, you caused anguish to other parties concerned, because they don’t share your sense of perspective, then apologize. Beyond that, I also follow a simple visualization exercise. I seek forgiveness from the person that I feel I have caused pain, through my actions, by visualizing that I am touching her or his feet and giving her or him a hug. The other person may not still see it your way. She or he may not even see the apology as tenable. But at least you feel the power of your intention to have both acted with purposefulness and apologized with humility.
The bottom-line is to be authentic. You can be authentic with action and authentic with inaction, depending on what kind of a person you are. Either way, strive to be authentic, than wanting to be right and be seen as right. I for one know that I can only find peace in being authentic and prefer to have acted__ always acting with the 3-step framework__ learned and apologized, than to not have acted at all.

Understanding the meaning and power of ‘surrendering to Life’

Surrendering to Life does not mean inaction. It means acting duly but without any attachment to the outcome.
Someone who read my blogpost of yesterday pinged me wanting to know if ‘surrendering to Life’ was ‘accepting defeat’ or ‘giving up’. He said, “All our early Life, through being raised at home, through teachers and peers at school and college, through seeing the way the world behaves, we have been taught the theory of ‘survival of the fittest’. We have been encouraged never ever to give up and keep competing. Isn’t then the concept of ‘surrendering to Life’ a sign of weakness, a sign of ‘accepting that Life has defeated you’?” This reader’s perspective merits a discussion.
First, let’s understand that Life is not a competition. It is not a race either. And nor can you compete with Life. It is perfectly fine for you to have goals, ambitions and aspirations. It is absolutely fine for you to go after them with passion and focus. But, as you may have well realized through your own experiences, you may not always get what you want in Life – despite your best efforts. Or sometimes Life may act in such a way that, without any immediately evident cause or reason, your Life will change. And because your Life has changed, your aspirations will have to change. You will have to accept and live with your new reality – knowing and understanding that some things you planned may never be possible any more.
Let me give you an example. I know of a young lady called Preethi Srinivasan. Had Life not literally felled her in 1998, and left her a quadriplegic, Preethi would have played for the Indian Women’s Cricket team. She overcame shock, grief and agony, accepted her new reality and is now a motivational speaker who also runs this wonderful organization called SoulFree (http://www.soulfree.org/who-is-soulfree/) which she set up in 2013 to help people like her who are dealing with spinal cord injuries. Now, can someone like Preethi, just wallow in self-pity and will such wallowing restore her physical condition? What she can do is to live each day fully – celebrating the Life she has. And she’s doing this remarkably well. In fact, her Life is an inspiration to so many people – including me.
Now, if someone feels that Preethi has been defeated by Life, they are sadly mistaken! And if someone feels that she should be competing ‘better’ with Life, they must go live her Life before making that comment! To me Preethi has embraced the Life she has with total acceptance and this is the reason why she is a personification of the indefatigable human spirit.
Labels like ‘defeat’, ‘failure’, ‘loss’, ‘success’, ‘victory’ – all these are irrelevant in the context of Life. People who are labeling themselves or others are “armchair theorists” – they keep rocking away with their opinions but never really get going in Life!
There’s only one way you can respond to Life. Which is to accept whatever comes your way, whatever happens to you, and live your Life one day at a time. The action I talk about is doing whatever you can do each day, doing it well, and leaving the outcome to Life. You just be sincere with your living – and your doing. Leave what you are given at the end of each day up to Life. Not doing what you can do in any context – well, that’s inaction. Therefore, ‘surrendering to Life’ is not inaction. In fact, if you truly understand the power of ‘surrendering to Life’, you will value a ‘good night’s sleep’ as your biggest blessing, your greatest wealth at the end of each day – and never the money you have made or the money that you are pining for!
The best principle, as I told my reader friend, is to not think too much about Life. Just do your best daily – and live with what you have been given, fully!

Why ‘Just Being’ rocks!

Often people think ‘Just Being’ means inaction. Just the opposite is true – ‘Just Being’ is a lot of action, for there is a lot to do, simply being present in the moment!
Yesterday, a friend of mine implored me to do ‘more’ than I was doing currently to deal with a Life situation. He said, “I don’t think you are doing enough. I think you have resigned to your fate. Everyman makes his own destiny and that you make by putting your 150 % into a situation every single day!”
I didn’t want to discuss fate and destiny with him. Because both our belief systems are polar opposites. However, while agreeing with him over making each day count, I made my point that being in the now, in the present, being mindful does not mean inaction at all. I told him that it means two things:
  1.     Being in the moment, engaged, mindful. Thoroughly involved. Which is a LOT of action.
  2.     Being involved with also DOING what is possible, what is right and doing it well, in that       moment, and yet BEING DETACHED from the outcome.

When 1 and 2 are happening simultaneously, where’s the question of passivity or inertia or remaining grounded? You are in flight! You are soaring. Despite the storm, despite the chaos, your sails are filled with grace, energy and momentum! Progress, ahoy!
The reason though why many people see ‘Just Being’ as inaction is because they have this view that they are in control of their lives. So, they believe, that ‘Just Being’ will breed inertia and they will vegetate. So, they feel the need to stay busy and feel important that they are doing many things! This state is where almost everyone finds themselves at some point or the other in Life – running on a treadmill, where you are doing a lot of running, but are still in the same place! ‘Staying busy’ is just that – it doesn’t get you anywhere and leaves you drained, frustrated and beaten! Whereas, ‘Just Being’, gets you to enjoy the magic and beauty of Life, while keeping your energy reservoir within you brimming over!
Vietnamese Buddhist guru Thich Nhat Hanh teaches this so well. He calls ‘Just Being’ non-action, not inaction. “Sometimes if we don’t do anything, we can help more than if we do a lot. We call that non-action. It is like the calm person on a small boat in a storm. That person does not have to do much, than just to be himself, and the situation can change,” he says.
Know that whatever’s happening to you now is part of a larger design that is creating your future. The funny thing about our present, our now, is that it is already happening. Which means we can’t wish it away. The only way to deal with it is to accept it, live it, to stay engaged with it. Just as we enjoy when what’s happening is what we like, we must learn to appreciate whatever’s happening even if that’s not what we wanted or expected or like! This is mindfulness. This is ‘Just Being’. It helps you connect with the source of your creation, helps you drop anchor and find bliss no matter what you are doing, or where you are, or what circumstances you are dealing with!

Step out of a problem if you must solve it!


To even attempt a solution to any problem you are faced with, you need to first step outside of the problem, detaching yourself from it.
Problems don’t have a mind of their own. A problem is a problem because you see it as one. Interestingly, a problem does not even know it exists and does not even know that its existence poses a problem to you!  It is your mind that sees a problem, defines it as big or small and responds with fear, worry and anxiety or, at times, with nonchalance and/or callousness.
Know that you cannot solve a problem by fearing it. Nor can you solve it by being in it! So, really, to solve a problem, and there will be many in Life, you have to step outside the problem. You have to be an observer to your own Life situation and ask yourself what is it that the person in the problem situation must do to solve it? And, interestingly again, if you can step outside and be an observer of your own Life, the most profound awakening__that you have to do nothing about anything__will sweep you in its wake! Yet, while this may be a very simpler way of looking at Life, despite being an observer, you may want to and be inclined to pursue some action on a practical plane. At least you will want to attempt something. Do that by all means, but do that dispassionately. Focusing only on what needs to get done. Go about attempting your solution in a clinical sort of way. Don’t engage with any emotion. Work with the spirit of – “some things have to be done, let’s just do them”. Period.
Let’s say you are struggling with a relationship issue. It’s been going on for years. Nothing has worked between the two of you. Yet every time you propose a solution, speak with a voice of reason, you have been ridiculed. You have been ostracized in the family. And each episode has only grown your grief. The relationship is a burden that you carry with you. You are tired, want to be free and in peace. So, why not step out of the situation? Ask yourself, what would you have done if you were looking at this from the outside and advising someone else? Well, possibly, you would have advised a complete breakaway between the two people who find each other difficult to deal with. Sure. But please also advocate the separation without any bitterness. You can even advise a legal separation when two spouses are involved. But what do you do in a mother-son or a brother-sibling relationship? At best you can advise, just walking away.
Understand that sometimes, some things, including close relationships will not work out in Life. Time changes. People change. So, it’s best to leave the other person to herself or himself. Just stay away. No resolution is needed. No treaty is to be signed. Face it: the relationship isn’t working out. So be it. Let it be. You don’t spoil your peace and don’t spoil the peace of the other party too. This may not make the relationship any better but it solves the problem that’s arisen from the relationship issue.
Now contrast this approach with the conventional one where you try remaining engaged in the relationship and therefore bring in emotions into play while also attempting a resolution. Some typical responses: Why should I walk away? I have done nothing wrong. Why can’t that person understand? Isn’t it basic common sense that we can’t continue to behave like juveniles? What about the future, what if we spar again? The issue will never get resolved this way. It will only get vitiated. Because either party will want to prove that she or he is right. The egos are hurt. So each one will fight back.
Wishing problems away or attempting to solve them when you are in its throes is not going to make any problem easier to solve! While, as I said, the best approach is to let problems be, even as you too just be, if you must at all attempt a solution, do it by detaching yourself from the situation. Intelligent living is continuously making a conscious choice on when to act on and when to accept Life. Dealing with problems, interestingly, requires a bit of both __ action and acceptance!

The Universal Prayer to Life


Life is a continuous process of unlearning and learning, repairing and renewing.

Many a time what you think, what you say and what you do may not be in harmony. And that really is the cause for all unhappiness. Or sometimes you may be thinking, saying and doing things in one way but others, often companions, observers, onlookers, will be thinking differently. And they may opinionate differently. This can be another source for unhappiness.

So, in either of these situations, how do you restore the equilibrium? How do you anchor within? How do you come back to being happy?

Some years ago, I would lean on religion for repair and renewal, but while I found such experiences ushering in peace momentarily, the peace at most times didn’t really last. When the experience was over, the hard-won peace was also gone. Besides, I never understood or experienced happiness through religion. Further, through a Life-changing experience that I have been through in recent years, I have lost all interest in religion, as it is preached and practiced today. I find it ritualistic and divisive. In the name of pluralism it alienates us humans from each other. They say spirituality is the flowering of internal awareness. They also say religion is for those who want to go to heaven, and spirituality is for those who have been to hell! I have been to hell and I identify with both these sayings closely. 

I composed this prayer some years ago. It was a fervent plea from me to Life to show me the right way, through the labyrinth of fear, anxiety and uncertainty that tormented me at that time. It has since become a prayer to Life, whom I have come to recognize as the greatest Teacher. That’s why I always spell Life with a capital ‘L’! To me, Life is the Higher Energy that embraces and nurtures all creation. Each day, during my ‘mouna’ (silence periods) session, I pray to Life, reciting this prayer slowly, savoring each word, and relating it to my experiences of the previous day. Since I don’t understand Sanskrit, and since most of Indian Hindu prayers are composed in that language, I have been unable to relate to any of them seriously. English, however, as a medium, helps me internalize each sentiment and embed my daily learnings firmly in my soul!

Teach me, O! Teacher…

Teach me, O! Teacher, each day as I awake and arise, to be humble. To respect another Life and to accept that just as I am entitled to my opinion, others are too. To contribute selflessly and without expectation.

Teach me, O! Teacher, to forgive every act of unkindness and injustice to me. To unlearn and forget what may not be relevant to me as I journey along.

Teach me to conquer anger and to attain that state of ahimsa, when all violence inside me subsides, and true love prevails.

Teach me to avoid hatred and jealousy. To resist ruinous temptations and to employ discretion at such times that I may waver.

Teach me, O! Teacher, to soak in and converse with the silence that engulfs me and for me to discover the real me in it.

Teach me to lead a Life of action, skillfully and selflessly, to live in this world and yet be above it.

Teach me, to remain detached from the fruits of my action and to know that if the motive is pure and the means are correct, in the end it will all be fine if I do my best and leave you the rest.

Teach me, O! Teacher, to be eternally grateful for this Life and this experience!

You too can try it. Learning, unlearning, repair and renewal, on a daily basis, are guaranteed. Peace and joy are both intended and assured outcomes too!

The true meaning of Life is being free — so let Life simply be!


The true meaning of Life is being free!

And to be free you must just let everything be. When you wish that things were different is when the shackles of pain, agony, suffering, sorrow, guilt, anger, jealousy, remorse and fear imprison you. 

How do you let it, or anything, be?

This question has be answered with understanding why it is being asked in the first place. What is the difficulty in letting things be? One clear idea can be that if you don’t do something about some situation, you will have abdicated responsibility. Or if you don’t do something, something worse will happen. Or that you may grieve later that possibly you could have done something. So, for these reasons and perhaps a few more, you will find it difficult to let things be! And you want to get back into control.

Let’s also be clear about what situations call for action and which ones call for letting them be. Your house is on fire, obviously, you can call the fire service. Your teenage child is taking to drugs. Surely you can counsel him and take him to a de-addiction center and work on getting him back. So, you act when you can act and must act. No issues. But there may be situations in Life when you cannot do anything. Someone close to you is dead. What action can you take to bring the person back to Life? So, let it be. Or someone is seriously ill. The doctors are trying. But they too say only a miracle can save her. What can you do to work that miracle. The best you can do is to let it be. Or a relationship is suffering because someone is hell bent on interpreting whatever you say. You have clarified, apologized, fallen at their feet, but the person keeps on bludgeoning you. What can you do? You want the situation to heal, but what can you do? Healing takes time. So, you just let it be. Or you try your best to resurrect a failed business and your Life, but every single attempt meets with zero success. It’s not that you lack talent or purpose or values or ethics. But still the business doesn’t happen. Money just refuses to come to you. You have tried getting an employment but nobody even wants to meet you, let alone hire you. What do you do? Other than letting it be, do you have a choice? So, when you have tried everything and nothing works, while you may still want to try newer approaches to dealing with a Life situation, you just let it be. 

When you let things be, the mind will make matters worse. It will remind you that you are doing nothing about a grave situation. It will amplify every small fear into something draconian, gruesome. But fear has to be dealt with head-on by facing it. Only then can you overcome it. Once you have crossed the threshold of fear, all other emotions become manageable. If you are not scared of what will happen, how can worry even exist? When the future doesn’t worry you why will the past haunt you anymore? Your entire being slips into just being.

So, to practice letting things be, take stock of your Life:

1.   Make a two lists: areas that you can act on and areas you cannot

2.   Act on all areas that you believe there are options available to act on

3.  And on those areas where you can’t do anything anymore, where you don’t have any more options left, just let them be. Watch your emotions as they obsess with you. Meet them head-on. Only that way will you transcend them.

4.   When you transcend your emotions, beginning first with fear, you will slip into just being

5.  This may take days, weeks, months, years, but only through continuous practice can you arrive at that state of just letting your Life be

6.   And once you have let it be, you have given up the need to become, you are NOW free!

That’s how you experience true freedom. Freedom means a certain inexplicable blitheness of the spirit. You feel alive – because fear, anger, worry, guilt, everything, every guest who was residing in you, holding you in their grasp, has taken leave. The house is empty. And what resides there is a lot of air and light. It’s pure. It’s beautiful. And that is what the true meaning of Life is __ being free, unshackled, unencumbered, detached, being alive.