Lessons in Equanimity from a waiter!



It is from acceptance that equanimity comes. 

Often we see people who have been exceptionally courageous in Life – in just accepting Life for what it is stoically. Karambir Kang, the General Manager of the Taj Mahal Hotel, Mumbai, who lost his wife and two children to the 26/11 terror attacks at his hotel in 2008, is a case in point. We are quick to conclude that these are people who are extraordinary. Importantly, we overlook that they were and are ordinary folks who just chose to live Life as it came to them. The tag of extraordinariness is what we, the people who see them from the outside, have given them.

I have had a fairly rough morning today. Several things didn’t go to a plan. People were increasingly irritable and driving me up the wall. More than a few times, I lost my cool. 

Then, in a desperate bid to gather myself and find equanimity, I followed Thich Naht Hahn’s three-step process. I smiled. I watched my breathing. And I slowed down my mind that was racing in different, mostly irrelevant, directions.

I looked at my checklist for the day. And I shifted my attention to a piece of paper on my desk. It was the bill of a coffee shop that I frequent. On the rear of the bill were a couple of phone numbers that the waiter there had written last evening. I wanted to enter those numbers in a place I could find them when I needed them.

Calvin Lunmangte: “Will love what I get”
The waiter’s name is Calvin Lunmangte. He is a Manipuri from a village near Imphal. Last evening he came up to me, smiled his characteristic smile, and bid goodbye. He declared that he was leaving the coffee shop and the city forever. He said he was returning to Manipur to take care of his father’s business, a retail garment store.

“I am unhappy but I have accepted it,” said Calvin with a tinge of sadness in his voice..

‘Why are you unhappy?” I asked.

“Well I never wanted to be doing business. I like this job. I love meeting people. I like this city. My child goes to a good playschool here. My wife has a good job in a parlor here. Where I am going back to, in my village, there are no job opportunities. There’s a lot of militant activity there. But I have no choice. I have to take care of my aged parents. My father wants me to come and run his business,” he explained.

“Is there no way in which you can convince your dad?” I asked hopefully.

“He is too attached to Manipur. He won’t relocate. Then I realize that some things in Life will never happen your way. You only have to accept what comes to you. So, I am sad. But my sadness will go away once I go home and immerse myself in what I have to do with the business. If I can’t do what I love doing, I will love what I have to do,” he answered with amazing clarity of perspective. As he said this, I noticed that the sadness in his tone was now replaced with equanimity. He spoke slowly, peacefully.

This morning as I held the bill with his numbers on the rear, I reflected on what I had learned from Calvin. You may not always get what you want – from Life, from people. But you can always want what you get! And, as I have often discovered, this acceptance, wanting what you get, is what happiness is all about!

Over the years that I have known Calvin, I recollected this morning sitting at my desk, I had never found him irritated with Life or complaining. Being in a front-end service role, as a waiter, it was obviously difficult for him to meet all expectations. Many a day I have seen him chasing his tail. Taking orders, fetching stuff from the kitchen, seating guests, settling their checks and often also being at the receiving end of an irate guest or handling a bunch of temperamental teenagers, possibly half his age! He did all this and more without the slightest hesitation and with a smile always. Some days when I was busy, immersed in my writing or reading, he would quietly come up to me, excuse himself and remind me that I had not eaten or drunk anything in hours. When I would say I don’t feel like it just now, he would say, “You must eat, Sir. At least drink a soup. You can’t work when you are hungry.”

Karambir Kang’s grim tragedy or my trivial upheavals of the morning or Calvin’s Life-altering career decision may not be comparable given the varying magnitudes of their contexts. But the principle of equanimity applies to all of them uniformly. And Calvin’s extraordinary attitude is inspiring. Also because he is so very ordinary. He reminds us that there is hope for all of us ordinary folks. There is a certain compassion about him that is genuine. He’s probably half my age but has taught me an important lesson – to go with the flow of Life, to accept what is given gracefully. Truly, that is the secret of equanimity! Important also is the fact that equanimity does not mean you will not feel unhappy. It means you will transcend unhappiness and find peace beyond it. That’s when, as the Buddha said, “Equanimity will make you imperturbable.”

Follow your intuition to arrive at your bliss!


There is nothing wrong in being reasonable, being rational and approaching Life with logic. But there will be times in Life, when what’s happening to you will defy logic, appear to be irrational and reason will cease to apply.

When all reasoning fails, simply accept Life for what it is and operate from your intuition. Each of us has an innate intuitive ability which we normally hesitate to use. Intuition works from within. It is based on what is. But our scientific conditioning leads us to time and again, dump the intuition, abandon what is, and keep seeking what should be! 

So your definition of success too is based on rationality. How much have you made in terms of assets, what position do you have in society, do you have enough cash to live a cushy Life? It is such a logical thing. If you have been around so many years, earning, and if you are an intelligent, capable person, then you must be having so much built up in your savings and investments. Now what if you have years of experience behind you, are intelligent, sincere, hardworking, and have nothing with you? Then per the world definition of success, you are a zero. A failure. You can heed that reasonable argument and give up on Life or you can look within and, now, start living! That’s when your intuition will kick in and tell you that the best kept secret about living is to live in surrender. In acceptance of what is.

This awakening is what happened to King Alexander too. He arrived in India, with his army and was about to enter the country. There at the border he found a man, with flowing beard, in his loin cloth, in deep meditation. Alexander was amused that someone could be so blissful and so peaceful doing ‘nothing’. He spoke to the man.

Alexander asked, “Are you not wasting your time? You look capable to me. Why do you sit like this wasting your time and talent away?”

The man replied: “And what else can I do and why?”

Alexander said: “You can do so many things. You can lead a far more productive Life. Look at me. I have conquered the whole world and have all the riches and all the power that my money and position can buy. And now I have come to conquer your land too!”

The man smiled and said: “And pray what will you do when you have nothing more to conquer?”

Alexander quickly shot back: “I hope that happens soon. Then I will also sit under a tree and blissfully, peacefully meditate.”

The man looked serene, glowing, as he replied, asking a defining question: “So, do you now see why I am doing what I am doing?

Intuition, the ability to relate to the real, to the Truth, to what is, is embedded in our DNA. In the mindless material chase that we set out on, thanks to our conditioning, a lot of success is defined by what you amass, accumulate, display and have to ‘spend’. By the worldly view, Buddha was a beggar, who squandered his emperorship. He could have been so successful leading men and women, as a King. But instead he threw it all away and sat under a tree in contemplation. But he did what he did because Buddha’s intuitive side overtook his logical side. And his intuition took him to the truth. And the truth took him to inner joy and happiness, to bliss.   

I am not advocating that we should abhor the worldly view. Just remember that the worldly view of success built on rational, reasonable, logical thinking can only ensure success of one kind. It cannot ensure happiness. And sometimes when Life’s design works differently for you, no reason, no logic, no rational thinking can save you. Only your intuition can. And when you think of your Life intuitively, then and then alone, will you be in bliss. Will you be a Buddha yourself.

That’s no small achievement. That’s a far more lasting, profound form of success. Isn’t that what Alexander wanted for himself too after he had finished with all his material conquests? So, when you can’t do the regular stuff__be successful per world standards__do the intuitive. It will get you to where you truly belong__surer and faster!

 

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.

To rid yourself of your negativity, go to the source within!


Learning to deal with emotions you don’t want in you, requires a deeper understanding of yourself. You are the source of all your joy, your miseries, your habits and your overall attitude to Life.

Fundamentally, no one wants to be angry or sad, worrisome or anxious, fearful or complaining. Ask anyone and you will be told that all they want is to be happy. Yet why do the other emotions come into play?

The simplest way to understand this is to know yourself. Let’s say someone did something nasty to you. Broke your trust, or cheated you or conspired against you. Then your entire system erupts in response and emotions like anger and hatred come to the fore. “How dare you?” and “Let me teach you a lesson!” are the manifestations of these emotions. And you project your anger or hatred on that person or on that object. That is really of no use. Because while that person will perish, at times, unable to bear your shower of negativity, the source also gets scarred. And the source is you. So, if you want to check your emotions, go to the source. This happens also when you are sad. Someone dies. And you feel sad. You feel infinitely sad for days, weeks, months. The person who died is no longer there, the object of your grief is absent. But you keep on projecting your emotion on your memories. These emotional projections are like cinematic projections. They are magnified and become larger that you! They rule you, possess you only because you allow them to. For them to become inconsequential, you must go to the source. And that source is within you, not in the object that you project your emotions on. So, if you want to get rid of your anger or sorrow or fears or anxiety, stop focusing on what triggered it and focus inside you, on what’s continuing to cause it! You will need to turn off the projector if you want to stop the projection!

We are doing this projection business all the time. With a variety of emotions. In India people go to the beach for various reasons early in the morning. A jogger sees the rising sun in the Bay of Bengal and feels refreshed and energized. A child sees it and is excited about wanting to make sand castles. A man sprinkling the ashes of his dear father who he has just died the previous evening, wonders sadly, fearfully, anxiously, how the first day of his Life without his father will be. A lady looks at the sun and later at the sea, which appears surreptitiously calm, fearfully and angrily wondering how it will react the next moment – because that has been her experience with the tsunami of 2004 when she lost her entire family! The fact is that the sun and the sea are the same. It is the same sun and sea that people are seeing. But each one’s projection is different.

So the hatred, the sorrow, the fear, the worrying about that comes out on to objects that are causing you to behave that way are actually a reflection of how you are at the source. Some part of you dies each time you express yourself with any of these negative, debilitating emotions.

That’s why in Buddhism, everyone is encouraged to be a Buddha. And a Buddha is about compassion. In being unmoved by what’s coming at him or her, the Buddha projects compassion, because she or he is compassionate at the core. To reach that state, we only have one way, to understand who we are. We are all centers of love. If we bail out all the negativity in us, what will be left is love. Become that center of love, and you will be unmoved. In fact, you will attract everyone in the Universe, just as a magnet does.

Osho, the Master, often shared this marvelous Zen story: “One of the greatest of Zen Masters, Lin Chi, used to say, “While I was young I was very fascinated by boating. I had one small boat, and I would go on the lake alone. For hours together I would remain there.” Once it happened that with closed eyes I was in my boat meditating on the beautiful night. One empty boat came floating downstream and struck my boat. My eyes were closed, so I thought, ‘Someone is here with his boat, and he has struck my boat.’ Anger arose. I opened my eyes and I was just going to say something to that man in anger, then I realized that the boat was empty. Then there was no way to move. To whom could I express the anger? The boat was empty. It was just floating downstream, and it had come and struck my boat. So there was nothing to do. There was no possibility to project the anger on an empty boat.” So Lin Chi said, “I closed my eyes. The anger was there, but finding no way out, I closed my eyes and just floated backward with the anger. And that empty boat became my realization. I came to a point within myself in that silent night. That empty boat was my Master. And now if someone comes and insults me, I laugh and I say, ‘This boat is also empty.’ I close my eyes and I go within.””

Maybe you may want to use this technique of the empty boat. It works miraculously!

Strive to be authentic, not want to be right!

Be authentic, 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 believed to be the right thing, you don’t have to 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 decide if your actions will be useful or not is available. Ask yourself before you act in a 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 always will 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, you end up doing good in your view/eyes, but causing 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 not have acted at all.

Play the game of Life, to not win or lose, but to enjoy!


Winning in Life is not about how much you made or what you got, but, simply, is about how well and peacefully you played!

It is fantastic to win. To compete. To work hard. To want to get all that you want! To be on top of the world and to celebrate your conquest of hitherto uncharted waters. But it is also important you play. And just play. And play to enjoy the playing than wanting only the winning. This I say from a Life attitude point of view. Several of us have a ‘winning obsession’. Nothing wrong with it. Without wanting to win, there can be no discoveries, no conquests, no progress and no excellence.

Yet know also that Life may always not be fair. What if, despite your best effort and intent, your Life doesn’t fit into any logical framework? You have no idea of what’s happening to you and how you are going to handle it. How would you classify winning in such a scenario? When WHATEVER you try, how much ever you try, Life keeps plucking away from your hand?

In Life you can keep asking these questions, including others like ‘Why (only) Me?’ or ‘Why now?’. But there are no immediate answers. Your measure of success, financially, socially, physically, is always disproportionate to both your effort and intent. This is the harsh reality. Which is, the harder you work, the more ethical you work, the lesser you get rewarded in proportion! Yet you must play on. Remember, you DON’T have the option of quitting the game. Because quitting is easy. It is simply conceding defeat. It is in the playing, staying on, fighting every single day, getting better, not BITTER, with Life, that there is the winning, in this game of Life!

The world may define success as performance on parameters that are ‘visible’ and measurable __ the most easily available metric being money. You will be encouraged, actually coerced, to believe that success is only equated with how much you have in the bank, what is your credit-worthiness and what is the ‘method’ you employed to get rich?

But true wealth is your rich experience of having lived a full__irrespective of your circumstance__Life. Real success is not giving up and being positive and being present when Life is happening to you. 

I don’t know what you think. Or which side of Life you are on. But what I can tell you, and what you may want to tell your kids, is that Life will come at you, despite your best effort and intent, not to see you winning with riches and rewards, but to teach you how to win when all you have is a crown of thorns and a cross to bear! Winning then is just being present. Just being. When you are just being, you are  refusing to lose. And know that we cannot quit the game, because while giving in is an option (giving in = loving what IS!) in Life, giving up is not! We may depart some day, as all of us will, but it must not be because we quit the arena. But because we were called back by Life!     

Here’s an old Tao story on an archer’s obsession, his desire, to win! And there’s a great learning there for all of us too.

WHEN AN ARCHER IS SHOOTING FOR FUN
HE HAS ALL HIS SKILL.

IF HE SHOOTS FOR A BRASS BUCKLE
HE IS ALREADY NERVOUS.

IF HE SHOOTS FOR A PRIZE OF GOLD
HE GOES BLIND
OR SEES TWO TARGETS –
HE IS OUT OF HIS MIND.

HIS SKILL HAS NOT CHANGED,
BUT THE PRIZE DIVIDES HIM.

HE CARES.

HE THINKS MORE OF WINNING
THAN OF SHOOTING –
AND THE DESIRE TO WIN
DRAINS HIM OF POWER.

Don’t intellectualize Life, just live it!


You can’t intellectualize Life. You can only live it.

And the best way to live is to see from your soul. From the real core of your being. When you open your soul, you will see the light.

You are really not what you think you are __ you are not your name or body or qualification or your job! You are the Universe’s energy that’s powering you, and is actually powering all of creation. This isn’t complex at all. Every thing that’s happening to you and has happened or will happen in the future, is transient. Which is why in Indian culture, we refer to Life as ‘maya’ or as an illusion. So, in the end, this entire lifetime will be over, this experience you have had will end, but you soul will go on.

All your problems, worries, anxieties, fear, suffering come when you intellectualize Life. I have no money, what will I do? I am starting a new job, what will happen if I don’t fit into the new place’s culture? I have cancer and I will die soon. All these are intellectual responses. You have been conditioned to believe that you need money to live. That you cannot survive cancer. That people are unkind and that you must be wary of them in general. The soul has no such issues. It is impregnable. Nothing can touch it. If you understand your true Self, and see from your soul, you will live Life. And not merely exist.

Swami Ramakrishna Paramhamsa explains this very well. He was asked: “What is the logical, rational support for your illumination?” The question really was to understand what as the evidence for Ramakrishna’s enlightenment. He replied: “I am the argument. If you can understand me, if you can feel me you will know my illumination. It is radiating but your eyes are closed. Now I am not responsible for your eyes. If you want to know me, open your eyes — and not only the outward eyes but the inward too, because my illumination is of the inner.”

So it is with each of us. Our souls are closed. We operate as if our excel sheets and smart phones and our decisions make our lives happen. The truth is that Life makes our lifetimes happen. We don’t! If we accept this reality, Life will be simpler and much, much, much more beautiful!

When you pause for a while and watch lazy raindrops fall rhythmically on water puddles, when you see a baby sleeping peacefully with no care about the world around it, when you hear the bleating of a goat, when you see the sun magically disappear over the horizon, when you reflect on your breathing…..in those times, your soul will be open. The key is to make this experience consistently repeatable. And that can happen ONLY when intellectualization stops and living begins!
                                                                                                                                                                                          

Astrology is like a weather forecast: prepares you better if you use it well!


As long as the information you receive is reliable, use any tool to further your decision-making process. But apply your intelligence, gut feel and your FAITH too to make your choices. You may make some right decisions and you may make some decisions that go awry in Life. But whatever happens, you will have learned!

A friend told me yesterday that astrology doesn’t work. And wondered if I believed in it!

I am often asked this question. And my simple answer is the problem is really not with astrology as much as it is with astrologers. Astrology is a science. And it works pretty much like the way computer science or space technology or aviation works, Practitioners of science can do both __ for instance, they make life saving drugs and they make chemical weapons. Similarly, astrologers can be two kinds too. The ones who are like good scientists – precise, reliable, modest and ethical. And the others who are good with their craft but yet are greedy, want to control you so they can fleece you and therefore employ questionable practices and rituals in the name of ‘God’ and ‘religion’.

Obviously, people are free to choose. I am one who likes the truth up front, on the table and completely abhor religion and rituals. So, the astrologers I consult are those who are Masters __ they are as good as Sachin Tendulkar or A R Rahman are in their crafts.

Even so, I have also learned that astrology cannot change your Life. In fact nothing can change your Life’s design. And astrology can’t solve your problems. At best astrology serves as a dashboard __ just as you need to know various parameters to be able to drive your car efficiently, astrology can enable you to lead your Life better. It can help you deal with your problems better. But the aspect of leading your Life __ living it, being present, making choices, taking decisions, all of this is, and will forever remain, ONLY YOUR responsibility.

And this is where Faith comes into play. Faith, again what I have learned, is not about religion. It is about understanding and celebrating Life. It is about being. Being present, than about worrying or fearing, when Life is happening to you! I have learned to simply trust Life, which has given me this lifetime, and trust people who are Masters in their craft, their science, and lead it to the best of my ability. I employ astrology like I do a weather forecast. If I know it is going to be squally, I may prefer being indoors. Or if there are going to be showers, I will be better off carrying an umbrella. Just because the weather forecast says a storm lies ahead, I don’t plunge into a depression. And I sincerely hope no one does too. To be sure, praying to a God is not going to stop a Sandy hurricane from hitting you. A weather forecast and a natural calamity doesn’t mean you stop living. It only means you work on being better prepared. And you learn to accept whatever’s happening with the weather. So it is with you, your Life and astrology. Trust if you will, choose not to if you won’t!

Now you may wonder, and it is quiet logical, as to why and how do you trust someone who knows a science that you don’t. That’s precisely why you need that person. If you knew about something why would you need someone else to guide you? And don’t you trust a doctor, who knows how your heart or kidneys or lungs or liver work better than you do, with your Life when you sign up for a surgery? And don’t you also trust a pilot, whom you have not even met nor demanded to see his pilot’s license to check his credentials, with your Life when you board an aircraft to fly? So, why not trust an astrologer__who, by the way, is no small subject matter expert!

Good astrologers, like good doctors, are not charlatans or soothsayers. They are seers __ they have seen Life and see its inscrutable nature several-fold better than you or I do!

There was a time when, under advise from some quarters, I wore rings with special gems in them, on my fingers to ‘help protect me during my difficult times’. I was not convinced with this. But I still wore them because I thought I was not losing anything by wearing them. On one visit to my astrologer, a 75-year-old veteran, I showed him my rings and asked for his opinion.

He laughed heartily first! Then he asked: “Kallaala vidhi-ya matra mudiyuma, Saar?” ‘Can a stone change your destiny?’

I stared at him curiously. The absurdity of my choice and expectation that a pre-ordained design can be altered by wearing a ring became evident to me in a nano-second! I felt woefully stupid.

Then, he answered his own question: “Bhakti ala matrum mudiyum.” “Only devotion can change it.”

I also understood that the devotion he was talking about was not religious fervor. He invited me to stay devoted to the experience I was going through. He said experience is the ONLY teacher. And the more I resisted the experience of the challenging time I was being subjected to, the more I would suffer. Instead if I embraced it, loved it and devoted myself to the learning process, I may not suffer. Not that I can immediately change my current reality, he said, but I would be able to deal with it infinitely better.

I just loved his perspective and could relate to it completely. So, I put my faith in his advice. Astrology to me is a tool. It helps me take informed decisions. I use it as well as I use my cell phone. And both work on science!

As you can see, my Life goes on __ ridden with squally weather, hailstorms and cyclones, volcanoes, forest fires and earthquakes, but there’s phenomenal inner peace. Occasionally, I go back to astrology to refresh the forecast and my Life’s dashboard, so that I can lead myself and my family onward, on the path, that much better!

                                                                                                                                                                                          


Will you be a Santa today__and all year round?


The true purpose of Life is to serve. And that’s what the spirit of Christmas is all about too.

As kids we have all grown up adoring Santa. We have waited for our gifts. Or in families such as mine, where Santa was seen as something Western, Christian, we perhaps quietly envied those whose lives were touched by Santa. Even if it was about some wishes coming true or about surprise gifts coming clothed in stockings, there was an admirable quality about Santa. He toiled to make others happy. I remember, as a young boy growing up in New Rajinder Nagar in New Delhi, in the year preceding the imposition of Emergency in India, wondering if Santa would not be tired visiting so many homes. My bed was beside the window. And my neighbor Buba, whose family had a Christmas tree up in their balcony with festive lights adorning the frontage, making it all, look surreal and beautiful, had told me that he had wished for Santa to deliver a battery operated toy car to him! Buba’s balcony was in front of my window. I remember sitting up all night, keeping vigil on Buba’s balcony, trying to see if Santa really came by. I must have slept at some point because I did not see Santa come in. But Buba had his wish fulfilled. He came running home first thing the next morning to show off his new toy car!

My own views of Santa have changed obviously over the years. From thinking of him as a religious father figure __ because he visited only Christian homes! __ to seeing the message of selfless service in his legend. And now I see Santa as a metaphor for service, for touching lives and for making a difference. Santa is also an inspiration for serving selflessly __ have you ever wondered what wish Santa may be wishing, what gift Santa wants or who will grant him his wish or give him his present?

Surely, as each generation grows up, it will realize, just as we all have, that Santa is what parents play to their excited little ones. But perhaps there is value in teaching our children, and their children, that a true Santa is really one who touches lives and makes a difference.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, try something different today. Don’t try it because I invite you to or that you want to feel good. Even wanting to feel good is an expectation. Do it because you genuinely want to give! Take anything that you have not used in 6 months __ except your passport __ and which you think will be more useful to someone else. It could be books, clothes, shoes, blankets, pillows, suitcases, a table lamp, utensils, a pen drive, an old wristwatch, a bunch of music CDs, whatever. Go around a couple of blocks in your neighborhood. And give away whoever needs whatever you have with you. Someone may not need any of these things you carry with you, but may just want a hot coffee, or some soup or a meal. Buy them that. Or sometimes people may just need someone to talk to. Give them your time, your presence and your attention. When you are handing over whatever you eventually will, look the person in the eye and say, from the bottom of your heart, ‘Thank You. Feel genuinely grateful for this opportunity to serve. If you felt blessed and drenched in a rare energy, do it every day. Or at least when you get time or whenever you feel depressed, trampled upon or lost in Life.

The essence of intelligent living is in understanding that it is far more significant to be useful than just be successful. A small mass of humanity is successful. An equally small mass of humanity is useful. But it is only the latter that make a big difference to a large mass of humanity that is suffering and lives in hunger and depravation __ yearning for food, clothing, warmth, shelter and above all, compassion.

You can choose to be Santa and touch those who form this unfortunate majority. Go touch a Life this Christmas __ that would be a far more intelligent thing to do than just post hollow greetings, that you have not even applied your mind, forget soul, to, on social media or instant messaging services.

In reality, Santa is timeless. And seasonless. When you value someone’s need as higher than your own, when you make an effort with no self-gain in mind, when you simply give because you want to give, you will be a Santa too and each day will be merry __ Christmas or not __ meaningful and memorable.