Understand. Forgive. Love.

It is considered natural to rise in defense or take offense when someone offends you. But another response is possible: Give forgiveness, love and understanding to people that offend you.

Does this sound difficult? Well, it really is not. Consider this: in the first place, you are offended because you allowedyourself to be offended. In that state when the offensive emotion has penetrated the deep recesses of your mind, agitation begins to brew. When you are agitated, you cannot think with clarity. Forgiveness, love and understanding, therefore seem impossible and impractical at this time. But what if you refuse to get offended? Sure enough, there’s a way. Try these three easy steps: 1. Don’t respond mindlessly, belligerently. Be aware of the so-called offensive remarks coming your way. And like a turtle would withdraw into its shell so that it remains secure, withdraw all defense mechanisms. 2. Respect the right of the other person to have an opinion, any opinion, that is different from you. 3. Smile. Accept the reality. Kill the urge to think ‘how-dare-you?’ and respond instead with an ‘aha!’feeling in you. Wish the person who’s trying to offend you all success. Convert the problem situation into a game. Play it! What if the offender was on Reality TV with you and the game was ‘Who-Barks-Least-Wins?’ And the prize money was worth millions. Play the game in that spirit. Like in any sport, practice makes perfect. So it is in this. Very soon, after a few attempts, you will reach a stage where you will be a World Champ and the peace, joy and bliss, that will follow will be worth more than all the money there is in the world!

Awareness is your spiritual Caller ID detection facility

Awareness is a state that you can easily attain. By learning to be aware, you can face any challenge or leverage any opportunity that comes your way!

Phones today have Caller ID detection options so that users can choose which calls they must take. So, you can avoid telemarketers, wrong numbers and unknown callers. Just think of how difficult it would have been had there been no Caller ID facility on your phone? You would have been frustrated receiving calls that you had no interest in or answering people who you would have liked to avoid. Quite like the way the Caller ID facility helps you intelligently discriminate or choose between calls, your awareness helps you ignore or deal with negative emotions or energy smartly. Most of the time we get caught up in a spiral of worry, anxiety, stress, anger and self-pity, only because we are not aware that we are walking down that path. One event triggers a negative emotion and we are off on an uncontrolled roller coaster journey feeling anguish and pain. It is only when a new positive event breaks this flow of thought and we actually reflect on how we were thinking till then that we realize the futility in such thinking.

You have an inbuilt feature in you called awareness. You can activate that with the practice of mounaor silence periods. mouna keeps you alert and aware and helps you identify ‘unknown’ or ‘undesirable’ or ‘pesky’ emotions who come calling on you. When you are aware, you choose if you want to worry or get angry or feel jealous or scared of something or if you just want to ignore that ‘uninvited caller-emotion’. Activate your awareness mode. Stay blissful!

Awareness can help you beat frustration

Frustration fulfills a need to express what you feel momentarily. But prolonged frustration makes you angry and depressive.
The only way to beat frustration is to be aware of it when you feel so. Each of us is entitled to a bad hair day, a lousy mood and explosive expressions. Nothing wrong with it. It is part of living, growing up, learning and evolving. In an instant gratification environment, a piece of technology that plays truant can cause frustration. An inconsiderate fellow-passenger can land you in a bad mood. A spouse or child can lead you on to a depressive spiral. And you may choose to express your frustration: gritting your teeth, thumping the desk, yelling, kicking a piece of furniture or breaking something. Up to this stage it is fine, but when you reflect back, you will often find that your frustration does not linger on because of what caused your explosive behavior but because you chose to express yourself in such dramatic ways. And for several hours, maybe even days, weeks and months, after that bout of frustration, you continue to sulk, grieve and brood over your ‘plight’. In this time the cause of your frustration may no longer exist or may have chosen to move on! But you are still languishing in the abyss of your negative mood or the anger that followed it.
For just a momentary indiscretion, do you want to embrace prolonged agony? Think. How long would you hold on to a matchstick after you strike/light it? If you hold on too long, you risk burning yourself. So it is with frustrations. Be aware. The moment you feel frustration building within you, shift your attention. You see yourself in a long-winding queue, look for the most beautiful sight (may be even a person!) in your vicinity. You receive a disturbing e-mail, get on to facebook for a moment and see what’s going on! You and your spouse have had a lousy argument, go out, stand in the open and look up at the sky! Beat the first frustrating thought that arises within, by shifting focus. If you can play a game on your phone or computer, where you have to shoot to win, you can and will win this frustration-beating game!

Frustration almost always breeds anger – which is a killer! So, be aware and beware! The Buddha says this so beautifully, “You will never be punished for your anger; you will always be punished by your anger”!

A frustration is a clear sign that you are resisting Life

When you feel frustrated about something or someone, stop wanting to control the situation or person, and simply let it – the frustration, the situation or the person – go!
I spent much of yesterday battling with my laptop. My laptop was gifted to me by someone last year. For some vague reason, in today’s age and time, it has only an Intel Pentium processor. For that reason, it is an awfully slow machine. I also have a Norton anti-virus software installed on my laptop which further inhibits its speed. Yesterday, I discovered that the Norton anti-virus program had crashed and when I tried to trouble-shoot and fix it, it made my machine even more slow. Now, I am not a tech geek. I just know how to use my machine and that’s it. So, while I battled with my laptop and agonized over every click of the mouse, my frustration mounted. I realized that I was letting my frustrations get the better of me, when I took it out on someone who rang the door-bell mistakenly. Soon, I was also hopping mad at the maid and beginning to sound irritable with a business associate who had called up proposing something impractical. That’s when I decided to let it all go! I said to myself that if this is the way my machine is going to be, so be it. If this is the way the Norton anti-virus program is going to behave, so be it. If this is the way people – my maid, the person who rang the door-bell and the unreasonable business associate – are going to be, let them be. I shut down my machine and went for a long walk with my wife.
I was healed at the end of that walk. I then returned to my desk and observed 20 minutes of silence. I forgave myself for letting my frustrations control me. I simply surrendered to the situation. I decided to live with the machine that I have – than lament about its idiosyncrasies or its slow speed or pine for a better, faster laptop.
I am sharing my experience – and learning – here just so that you too realize that it is perfectly normal for frustrations to happen in everyday Life. But to allow them to govern and control your moods is to push yourself into a depressive spiral. You feel frustrated only when you dislike whatever is happening to you. A frustration is a clear sign that you are resisting Life. You can’t avoid frustrations from arising though – a flat tyre, a computer that hangs, a phone that loses its display, an unreasonable fellow passenger on a plane, a delayed paycheck – anything, or anyone, can cause you to feel frustrated. But if you refuse to get dragged by that frustration into depression and instead are aware that your frustration is an early warning sign of your resisting Life, then you can overcome the situation and heal yourself. On the other hand, if you let the frustration take over and control you for more than a day, chances are you will let anger consume you soon, and before you know it, you will be depressed. Funnily enough, if you watch your thoughts and behavior patterns when you are frustrated, you will realize that you often end up feeling frustrated about everything around you – and not just with the one thing or person that ticked you off in the first place.
So, at the first sign of a frustration arise, pause, take a deep breath and let it go. Let go of the situation or the person who is frustrating you. Awaken to the realization that your being frustrated with a situation is not going to make it any better. On the contrary, it is surely going to make you feel worse!

Learning to live this “complimentary” Life

When you realize that Life is a gift, you will learn to stop wanting to control it!
Last evening our daughter was performing in a dance-theatre production. Several of our friends had bought tickets and had come to cheer her and her dance company. As the show was set to begin, and we walked towards the gates, my wife and I were advised, by a crew member of the dance company, to take the gate further ahead. It, we soon realized, was the VIP gate and offered the best views in the auditorium. Our friends had gone through their respective gates (depending on the denominations of their tickets) and had taken their seats. As we waited for the show to commence, a pang of guilt pierced through me. We seem to have unwittingly deserted our friends, I thought. Then I reasoned to myself that the only option we had – given our current financial situation, we didn’t have the means to buy tickets ourselves – was to celebrate the fact that we have VIP, “parents’ complimentary” tickets that our daughter’s dance company had offered us. So, indeed, the best thing to do was to sit back and enjoy the performance!
Soon the show got underway and I lost myself in it. On the way back home, my thoughts went back to our “complimentary” tickets. And as I kept thinking about them, I suddenly wondered: “Isn’t this whole Life complimentary? Isn’t it a gift we never asked for?” That realization was awakening. And I chuckled to myself. If only we held this awareness consistently in us, I thought, Life would be so much simpler living.
Most of our young adulthood is lost in “building a career” and “raising a family”. Then our middle-age is spent in “settling down” our children. And post-retirement is really about “managing to cope with our health situation” and if we live any longer, most of us treat that time as “waiting for death”.  Very few people actually manage to do both – which is get about issues like career, family, money, dealing with a Life-changing crisis and such and yet live a Life that they love living. This minority comprises those who have really understood that Life is a gift and we must live it fully – learning from each experience and enjoying each moment! Each of us has this opportunity, without doubt, but we must learn to not want to control Life and take it as it comes – one day at a time, one experience at a time.
The episode of our complimentary tickets brought my focus back, yet again, to the complimentary nature of our Life itself. At a physical level, given our financial challenges, my family is able to survive day-after-day only because of “acts of the Universe and the kindness of fellow human beings”. At a spiritual level, we understand that nothing really belongs to us. We are just guests on this planet, who are traveling this journey, this complimentary journey, called this lifetime! So when we came with nothing, when we own nothing, and when we will soon have to leave empty-handed, what’s the point in trying to control anything?

When you understand that this whole Life you have is complimentary, that it is a gift, you too will learn to sit back and enjoy it! Just as the way you would enjoy a show for which you have free VIP tickets! 

Be mindful to rid yourself of all that which controls you

To get rid of habits that have taken over your Life, just become more aware, mindful and be conscious of the present.
Anything that controls your Life is not worth it. You have been created to be free. To live in absolute joy! But are you joyous when you are in the throes of a debilitating, ruinous habit?
Some weeks ago, a few of us got together for a few drinks. One of the friends smoked several cigarettes through the evening. We tried counseling him. But he dismissed our advice with defeatist logic: “Guys, let’s talk about something which can happen logically!” What he didn’t state but expressed with his refusal to consider our advice was: “This habit is something that I am unable to rid myself of.” Actually, quitting a ruinous habit is not difficult at all. All my friend needs to do is become more aware. If he starts focusing on each puff of his cigarette, and meditates as he inhales and exhales, he will become aware of the destruction he is causing himself; he will be conscious of the meaninglessness of his pursuit. What does smoking do to you? It doesn’t satisfy anything once it becomes a habit. Ask any smoker and she or he will say they loathe themselves. When it becomes a habit, smoking makes the smoker guilty, fearful and depressive. So, he or she will smoke more. And then more. That is how it becomes a suicidal cycle. The idea is not to cure a smoker because we can save that person from dying. All of us have to die someday. But the idea is to make the smoker live fully, blissfully, as long as she or he is alive!
I have been there, on that ruinous path and I know how it feels. I used to chew 20 packets of gutka (a chewable tobacco product) a day. It is now over 10 years since I quit that habit – so, consequentially, I also know that giving up a destructive habit is possible. My perspective comes from my own experience.
This perspective, interestingly, can be applied to any habit. Anger, sorrow, jealously, self-pity, depression, hatred, suspicion, all these negative emotions, are habits too, that we have developed over years of living mechanically, without awareness. They are as dangerous and destructive as smoking or drinking as habits are. Anger, for instance, cannot be avoided. Anyone can and will feel angry when expectations are not met. The difference between an awakened and aware person and an unaware one is that the aware will KNOW that anger has arisen within her or him. This awareness will help that person make a conscious choice to not allow the anger to control her or him. The awareness will replace the anger with tolerance or with forgiveness or with just letting go. Awareness, mindfulness can be learnt through continuous practice. All you need to do is to start LIVING in the now. That’s all. When you are here and in the now, you don’t look back, you don’t look forward. Do that in every single moment of your day today. And see the difference for yourself.

The same approach, the same logic works for any habit. Just don’t try to stop smoking or getting angry or feeling lousy. Because if you try to do that you will replace one ruinous habit with another. Instead start being in the moment. Start being aware. Being mindful. That, and that alone, will help you rid yourself of all that which controls you and keeps you nailed to the ground. 

Spirituality means to live free and live in a let-go!

Nothing is difficult. Nothing is easy. As long as you are willing to experience anything, you will make progress on the spiritual path.
I have often heard people say that spiritual concepts are easy to preach, easier to understand yet they are downright difficult to practice in the real world. The reference here is to practising forgiveness, compassion, detachment and letting go of emotions such as fear, worry, insecurity, anxiety, hatred, grief, suffering and anger. I live in the real world. And I too am challenged by everyday situations where I have to grapple with these emotions. But my awareness helps me immensely. Which is why understanding spirituality is important to make progress on the path.
Spirituality is the flowering of inner awareness. It is to know that you came with nothing and will go with nothing. This understanding will help you stay detached. As the Bhagavad Gita says, spirituality will help you to, “live in this world, yet be above it”! Spirituality is not religion. It is not ritualistic, it calls for no abstinence and it does not hold you hostage to isms and preachings. On the other hand, it sets you free, it is personal and it is awakening!
Spirituality opens the doors to experiencing Life as it is, for what it is. Life is nothing but a string of experiences – of love, loss, companionship, separation, pain, joy, success, failure, betrayal, trust, compassion…the list can be endless. Living really means to experience each moment with the curiosity of a child and the spirit of an adventurer. The reason why we find it difficult to accept a spiritual perspective to living, which is living with this awareness, this understanding, is because we connect everything in Life to a material – and therefore impermanent – sense of security! All our fears, insecurities and worries are connected in some form or the other to money or to health or to relationships – all of which are impermanent and perishable. Which is why we say it is difficult to stay detached. Actually, detaching per se is easy. What scares us is what will happen when we become detached. So the idea of living without money is easy and simple. But the fear of living without money consumes us. And so we cling on to that fear and suffer. So it is with messy relationships. And with health situations that are beyond our control. As long as we cling on to something it will torment us. Spirituality means to live free and live in a let-go!  
Now, doing all of this, which is living on the spiritual path, and making progress, is not easy. Yet it is not difficult too. Just learn to be willing to experience anything that comes your way – absolutely anything. If you have to forgive someone – be willing to experience the struggle that forgiving involves and also the bliss that it can deliver! If you have to let go of fear, be willing to face whatever scares you, look it in the eye and be also willing to awaken to the realization that everything that you are scared of losing – including your own Life – is impermanent in any case! This is how you walk on the spiritual path. One experience at a time. One moment at a time. Living and loving each moment as you go along!