Don’t agonize over pain; instead, celebrate!!!

If you think Life has treated you harshly, celebrate, don’t agonize!
Extraordinary pain is not a sign of your “past sins” catching up with you as we are often told it is. Instead it is a precursor to extraordinary grace that is on the way. So, if you are battered, bruised, bleeding from Life’s blows, don’t bemoan your state. Celebrate. Because you have encountered the God that you so desperately seek.
God? In pain? Indeed. The reason why you haven’t seen God so far is because you __and I__have always been told that God is in places of worship. But we haven’t been told that our pain is a place of worship, an arena to surrender to a cosmic design, the Master Plan, that which has no flaws. They say that religion is for those who want to avoid going to hell and spirituality is for those who have been there! Writing recently in The Times of India’s Speaking Tree column,  Rajshree Birla, the Chairperson of the Aditya Vikram Birla Foundation defines spirituality thus: “Spirituality is not about a religion. Neither is it about gods and rituals. Spirituality is a principled way of Life; it’s an attitude.” She couldn’t have said it better and simpler! You can’t borrow that attitude nor can you acquire it through training. You can imbibe it onlyfrom experience. That experience can come to you onlyfrom your deep, personal, pain.
When you are in the throes of such unimaginable anguish__physical, due to some health challenge, emotional, because you have lost someone, something or broken up in a relationship, or have lost your own self-respect because of an act committed in haste or in stupor__you, in your innermost, private recesses, will seek relief. You will want this Life to end. You will want this suffering to go. In that moment, when you plead, when you surrender, you will have felt a stirring in you. That, my dear friend, that’s your God within you. Maybe when you reminisce on your painful experience now, you may relate to my sharing this. When you feel this way, you will realize that your pain was a conduit, a Visa, if you may, to travel within and find the Godseed embedded in you. Just at it is in all of humanity. So, doesn’t pain, if it can take you to your Self, to your God, call for a celebration? Then, why agonize?

Comparisons ruin your inner peace

If you want to be at peace with yourself and the world around you, then stop comparing yourself with others.
Comparison is a lousy mind game. It works big time especially when someone else has got what you don’t have. When someone has a better job or car or spouse or whatever that you don’t have, your mind will keep prompting you to look at that person a bit differently. You will start imagining that this person perhaps does not deserve what she or he has and that you deserve it more. But your imagination, your wishing something alone, cannot make it a reality. As in, for instance, your imagination alone cannot get you that better job or car or whatever. So, when you don’t get what you want and instead when you keep pining for it, you suffer. Your expectations in this context are futile and are what are causing you agony. The only way then to end your self-inflicted suffering is to simply stop comparing yourself with others.
You must remember that each person’s Life is engineered differently. It is not necessary that everyone has everything at all times. And when you don’t have something, just live with that reality. Don’t pine for it, citing another person as having what you want, and believe that you are justifying your case better. Indeed, to whom are you justifying and how can any justification work with Life? For instance, a friend lamented yesterday that while he is out of job and is facing rejection from every quarter, someone who is less-skilled and less-experienced than him has bagged the CEO’s job in a company where he once worked. My friend feels ethics and meritocracy have taken a backseat in today’s corporate world. Possibly. But my friend must realize that his grief is compounded by the fact that someone else has a job while he does not. And this is exactly the point that I am trying to make. When you don’t have a job, focus simply on trying to get one. Don’t focus on analyzing why others have a job while you don’t. This analysis is worth it, if it is constructive and if it can help you prepare and present your candidature better. But it can be very debilitating and destructive if you merely choose to compare yourself with others and wallow in self-pity.

Simply, in any situation, don’t compare yourself with others. Not when you have what others don’t. And never when you don’t have what others do. Comparisons ruin your inner peace. Protect it by looking within and expunging any comparison whatsoever.

“wotsubusu” craving, feel liberated!

No object of desire is the cause of any agony in itself. It is your craving for that object that makes you suffer.

Take for instance, a hot summer day. And you are thirsty. You see nice juicy watermelons on the street and want to stop your car. But you find the parking slots by the stall crowded and you see a policeman standing under a tree nearby. You believe the cop will object to your parking your car outside of the earmarked space. You are miffed and drive away cursing the crowds and the cop, ruing the missed opportunity to take some of those melons home. Even when you narrate this experience to your wife when you get home, you are complaining and are not merely reporting. There’s a sense of loss and evidence of frustration in your reportage. Now, did the humble melon on the street cause your agony or did your craving for it__and your eventual inability to buy it__cause it?

Think about it. All of us are victims of this cravings-brings-suffering trap. What we crave for is not the cause, it is the act of craving that causes misery. We crave for attention, adulation, understanding, respect, fame, rewards, recognition, wealth, opportunity, love and followership. And when we don’t get it, we are disappointed. Now, if you are disappointed and if your disappointment doesn’t affect your Life, it is fine. But when you are disappointed, you are mourning. Your energies are low. You start operating in a low energy__scarcity__spectrum. This naturally affects the way you live and experience Life. On the other hand, consider the situation when there is no craving, and so there’s no disappointment, so there’s no suffering. In such a scenario, you are operating in a high-energy__abundance__spectrum. Remember: Wherever your attention goes, your energy flows. In Buddhist teachings, they advocate the complete cessation of craving. Which means to eliminate all craving. In Japanese, the word wotsubusu means to annihilate. When you wotsubusucraving, you feel liberated. Such freedom opens up a whole new opportunity spectrum of playing to your strengths – to what you have. Than to worry about, lament over, what you don’t have.

Simplify Life: Give up the craving. And you will immediately stop suffering!

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! 

Learn to be yourself and at peace!

Allow people to be just the way they are. And you be yourself. This is the only way to be peaceful with the world around you.
If you examine your feelings about others, especially about those who can’t get along much with, you will find that you are continuously wishing they are different from who they are. And this wishing serves up enough grief to make you feel miserable – about the other person and about yourself! But your wishing that someone is different or behaves better is of no use. Because if anyone has to realize it, it is the other person. And as long as that person does not realize this, and does not change, you are going to experience this person only this way. And, resultantly, you are going to continue to feel miserable too. So, the wisest response in any situation when someone else’s behavior is causing you discomfort and agony, is to simply let the other person be. And you too just be – yourself.
A friend, who’s over 25 years older to me, shared his experience of being in a similar situation with me recently. My friend’s brother-in-law and my friend had entered into a property-sharing arrangement several years ago. As time passed, the brother-in-law felt, for no evident reason, that he had been short-changed in the deal. But instead of addressing the issue head-on with my friend, he started to disrupt the peace in the family. For one, he started to ill-treat his wife (who is my friend’s sister). Then he started to spread canards about my friend in the family. Further, he started becoming abusive of my friend in public. Many attempts by my friend to understand what could be the issue were stone-walled by the brother-in-law. For months on end, this “stand-off” between the two continued. Finally, unable to bear the pain – and the misery – one day, my friend confronted his brother-in-law. The brother-in-law admitted that there was an issue – and it had to do with the way “he was cheated in the property transaction”. My friend says that he had no inkling this was the issue. Once he heard this, my friend spontaneously agreed to transfer the entire property in the brother-in-law’s name. “The problem ended right there. In a nanosecond,” recalled my friend.
But a different problem now arose. My friend’s wife said he (my friend) had been “stupid and foolish” to simply give up control over such a valuable asset. She demanded to know why my friend had acted hastily and why she and their children had not been involved in the decision. My friend says he explained his stance thus: “When we entered into the property-sharing agreement, it was a deal that was defined in black-and-white, in unambiguous terms, and agreed upon by both parties. By making it now seem he was short-changed, my brother-in-law is insinuating that I have cheated him. It is not in my nature to cling on to money or assets or wealth at the cost of my name and the family’s peace. He wanted the asset. And unless I gave it to him, he was not going to be at peace. And unless I gave him what he wanted, I was not going to be at peace. I was not foolish. I was just being myself – getting for myself what I valued most – my peace!”
Our lives and experiences with people around us need not be as dramatic. But in each situation that we are exposed to unreasonable people and their pettiness – by way of their tactics and attitudes, it is best to not try to change them. We can’t. Some people know what they want very well. And they will not rest until they get it. In their drive to get what they want, they will trample on people around them, they will vitiate the atmosphere and they will puncture people’s self-esteem. Reason, logic and common-sense will not work with them. It is best to just let such people be. By doing so, I am not even remotely suggesting that you be a door-mat and allow yourself to be pissed on and passed over. No. Turn around, make your point and make sure you are understood and you are being yourself. In my friend’s case he decided to give up control over the property. You decide what ‘being yourself’ means to you. If you are in my friend’s position, and if you would want to fight for the property, please do. By all means. The bottom-line is please don’t suffer someone and their machinations. Or agonize over others’ behaviour. Learn to push such people back, put them in their place and you be yourself and at peace!

Living without expectations guarantees inner peace

Expectations always bring agony. So, to live without expectations is a personal choice.
Someone I know wrote to me asking if it was possible to live without expectations. Interesting question that is.
That at the root of all agony is an unmet expectation is an irrefutable truth of Life. Think of any situation where you have experienced agony and you will notice that an expectation was always behind it. You do a friend a favor. The friend does not either return it or thank you. You agonize. Now, was doing your friend a favor the cause of your agony? Was the friend not returning the favor the cause of your agony? Or did your expectation that your friend return the favor cause your agony? Obviously, your expectation caused you agony – because, minus the expectation, everything between you and your friend is just fine.
So, living without expectation is simply a choice. If you choose to expect something out of everything or everyone, be sure that you will agonize each time your expectations are not met. If you choose to drop expectations, you will be happy either way – whether you get something or not. So, it is a choice. It is, in some sense, a no-brainer too!
On the surface, at a superficial level, it may appear that you cannot but have an expectation from someone you have a relationship with. For instance, it is right to expect that a mother must trust her children and provide for them. But what if the mother does not trust, does not care? What’s the point in having that expectation just because there is a mother-child relationship? Won’t the child agonize every time the mother fails to meet his or her expectation? The truth is that in any relationship, over time, sometimes, the people in it stop “relating” with each other! This is where the problem arises. Let’s take another instance. If you make coffee for your spouse every morning, you may have an expectation that on a day when you are sleeping in late or are unwell, the spouse makes you the coffee. Now, what happens when your spouse does not either make or offer to make you coffee? Will you then start to re-examine your choice of making coffee for your spouse? Possibly you well may re-examine if you only see the relationship and don’t relate to your spouse anymore. But if you still relate to your spouse, you will make the coffee whether or not your spouse makes one for you or even acknowledges the one you make. Expectations arise when the relating has stopped between people. In such situations the relationship has become a contract, an agreement. It has become conditional. You do this THEN I will do that. But when you are still relating, there are no conditions, no expectations, there’s just being, there’s just doing.
So, whether it is making coffee or doing the dishes or forgiving someone (in a relationship) for transgressions, whatever, simply pour your heart into it and do it. Or don’t do it. That is also fine. But please don’t do it – or anything – with an expectation. The problem with any expectation is that irrespective of the character or nature of the person on whom the expectation is pinned, you are the one who will suffer and agonize if that expectation goes unmet. So do you want to suffer or do you want to live free? Your choice!If you want inner peace though, make sure you choose to live without expectations!

When there’s no one to be touched!

No hurt or insult will touch you if you don’t allow it to.
Whenever you feel hurt at what someone tells you, remember it is your ego which is acting up. You question, often subconsciously, why someone has behaved in a manner that you don’t endorse. That you don’t subscribe to. Your ego tells you to fight that behavior. And then the drama begins. You tell the person something harsh. That person retaliates. Then you must say something in return. And on, and on, this game of ping-pong goes on. Or you are unable to retort and so you suffer within. You carry the injury, the wound from the hurt, all the while. Your ego keeps reminding you of how unfairly you have been treated. It sets you off on a journey of anger, self-pity and grief. And you let the wound fester there – causing you more pain, making you suffer more – and more!
But think of what can happen if you choose to ignore the insult. If you refuse to let it affect you. What if someone calls you an idiot and you just ignore that expression totally. Then there will be no hurt. And therefore no suffering. To reach this state all you need to remember that each one is entitled to their opinion. If someone expresses his or her opinion, take it on board if it is worth it. If it will cause agony – drop it. Or rather don’t even catch it. Let the comment, barb, jibe, insult – whatever, let it pass.
Periodically check out how well you are faring on this evolutionary journey. Choose a 24-hour period and promise yourself that you will not react or retort to whatever may be said about you – no matter what the context is or what the provocation is. Notice that you will feel infinitely better without taking on board all the comments – about you – that come your way. This definitely works wonders when it comes to dealing with hurts and insults. But it also is a great way to stay grounded – especially when a lot of praise is heaped on. If you let both, insult and praise, to pass, you will never be allowing your ego to be in the driver’s seat! When the ego is not driving you, you cannot be touched. Because then, as per Tao, there’s no one to be touched!

Go bell your Ritual Cat

A mind that is free and anchored in peace requires no conditions to be fulfilled to stay that way. It is only in the absence of inner peace that we insist on following rituals and being superstitious.
Some years ago, I was wedded to numerology. I needed numbers to add up in names before we named a product or service offering in our Firm. If I did not get along well with some of my colleagues, I would add up the numerological value of the alphabets that constituted their names, and often conclude that we were numerologically incompatible. I would not stay in hotel rooms whose numbers added up to 4 or 8! I don’t remember how I got hooked on to this practice. But I followed it religiously for over a decade. The times that I ended up getting only rooms whose numbers added up to 4 or 8, especially while traveling in the US where front office agents at hotels were least interested in meeting my room number preference, I found my stays always going wrong! I would be anxious the moment I entered a room with an incompatible number total and would stay frayed at the edges up until when I eventually checked out.
Then, in 2004, when on a pilgrimage to the holy shrine of Sabarimalai, in Kerala, I was forced to stay there overnight because of inclement weather. While Sabarimalai is sacred and the temple itself is beautiful, the way pilgrims, and the temple’s callous administrators, manage the mountain paths leading to the temple, and its surroundings is pathetic. The hygiene quality is abysmal. Since I had to stay overnight, I got myself a room which turned out to be adding to a total of 8. It was the dirtiest room you will ever find on the planet – unkempt with a stained, stinky toilet (Indian squatting type) attached. Although I was exhausted after the 4 hour road trip to the foothills at Pamba, and further after the gruelling 4 hour climb to the hilltop, I just could not get sleep. My body ached and craved for sleep. But my mind was restless and resented being in a number 8 room – dirty and stinking to boot!
I sent my wife a text message wondering why was I being ‘punished’ despite all my piety!
Pat came her reply: “You are punishing yourself! Think of the number ‘8’ as the sign of infinity, of the Lord himself….you will get sleep instantaneously!”
Her message struck me like a bolt of lightning. I suddenly awakened to the futility of my beliefs. The number 8 was not causing me any agony. My belief that it was unlucky was bringing me grief. I realized that my decade-plus-old practice was coming in between me and an opportunity to be free. I let go! I resolved, in a nano-second, to free myself from the shackles of my belief in my unfounded number 4 and number 8 theory, put my head down, and slept peacefully for 8 (!) hours at a stretch!
That day I feel a part of me awakened forever! Not that I disrespect the science of numerology or intend to impune its practitioners. I have simply realized that I didn’t need it in my Life anymore!

Years later, I read this Zen story of the ‘Ritual Cat’. When a spiritual teacher and his disciples began their evening meditation, the cat who lived in the monastery made such noise that it distracted them. So the teacher ordered that the cat be tied up during the evening practice. Years later, when the teacher died, the cat continued to be tied up during the meditation session. And when the cat eventually died, another cat was brought to the monastery and tied up. Centuries later, learned descendants of the spiritual teacher wrote scholarly treatises about the religious significance of tying up a cat for meditation practice.

This is how, I would imagine, almost all rituals and superstitions have come up! In the garb of tradition they hold us hostage. For the one who truly strives for inner peace, nothing can be a source of distraction. And for the distracted, there can be no inner peace!

Think about this. Which is the ritual cat that’s holding you hostage? Go bell that cat and be free….forever….