Own up your mistake, drop the guilt, be happy

Beware of the one you see in the mirror. Because you can never hide the truth from those eyes.

When you feel naked in front of those eyes, humbly accept your mistake and reform yourself. To make mistakes is human. It is but natural and an integral part of growing up. But never allow yourself to get carried away by the power of your own arguments that make you justify your mistakes. To try to justify them to others is bad enough, but don’t try to kid yourself with your own misplaced logic. A mistake is a mistake. It has happened and it is over. And it ceases to hurt or come in the way of progress and inner peace when you fundamentally accept it as one. That’s when it becomes a learning opportunity. All transformation__within or otherwise__happens when you recognize the transgression you have made, accept its outcome, and are willing to move on.

However, when you accept the truth to yourself, you cannot escape feeling guilty about what you have done. But with acceptance and introspection you can overcome guilt. Undoubtedly, guilt is a way of being truthful. But holding on to guilt can be debilitating. Feeling constantly guilty for what you have done means that you are living in the past. When you are in the past, you are not present in the now. But Life is happening in the now. Which is why, guilt often holds you to ransom and prevents you from enjoying what you have. When there’s no guilt, happiness follows.


To find your peace, look at yourself in the mirror and accept, acknowledge, own up humbly before those eyes. Drop the guilt when it surfaces. This is the way to happiness.
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Partnering with the inevitable present is your passport to inner peace


The present moment is inevitable. What happens in it is inevitable. So, why are we resisting the present moment?

The beauty of Life resides in the moment. In the present. Whatever you may do, you cannot prevent the present. You can grieve your past. You can worry about your future. But you can do nothing__other than live through it__about the present moment! Before you know it, it is here. In front of you. And you are in it! And then it is gone. And a new present is born. So, how can you ever avoid the present? It is impossible. As people who have gone through a basic education, who like to live Life by understanding it better, this one powerful unputdownable thought should lead you to a lifetime of peace and bliss.

A friend sent me a quote over mail sometime back. And it says exactly what I have been thinking and have shared here today. It, quoting spiritualist and writer Anthony D’Mello (1931~1987), says:

“What is the secret of your serenity?” asked the disciple. 

“To cooperate unconditionally with the inevitable,” answered the Master.

So beautiful. And so simple. As you finish another Monday, or begin one (depending on where you are reading this), resolve to accept, collaborate, partner, and be in the inevitable present. See how it transforms your Life __ helping you stay happy, peaceful and blissful __ despiteall your circumstances.


See Life for what it is and not as you are!


Everything’s so perfect about our lives. We just don’t see it because we insist on seeing Life not as it is but as we are!

Just reflect on how you perceive Life on a daily basis. It is always about you. About your needs. Your wants. Your worries. Your anxieties. Your fears. And you fear, sometimes, about losing everything, because you are attached to them. So, on a daily basis, your Life revolves around you. Right from your maid not showing up to work (more prevalent in an Indian context!) to your commute to work being affected by a lousy traffic snarl to your meetings running behind schedule to your child having to be driven to the evening’s game to your report having to be readied for your customer __ everything, absolutely, everything about your Life is about you! And when you look at Life so myopically, the imperfections loom large in front of your eyes. Things are amazingly dysfunctional. Maids are thankless, so you believe. Traffic management in our cities is getting from bad to worse. You find the work-Life balance too hard to maintain and sometimes want to quit working but without the double income, the family cannot afford all the small luxuries it presently has! Arrrrrrrrrrrggggghhhh! And damn those reports. You wonder whether your customer hardly reads them __ but they want it because they are the ones who pay your bills! It is such a hard job living in this harsh, mad world!

There’s a way out of this tyranny. You just need to zoom out. Take your attention away from yourself for a while. And see Life as it is. You will then discover that you are having a hard time living, because you are trying hard to simply earn a living. You are making an effort. And there’s imperfection in every effort. Instead allow yourself to flow with Life. Look at nature. It just exists despite the scars on the mountain faces and the undulating depths of lakes and oceans. Or despite the stark contrasts of seasons. Or the waning and waxing moon leaving more nights dark than aglow. Nature doesn’t protest. But you and I do it all the time. We complain about what we have to do or what we don’t have. We protest. We resist. Therefore we see a whole Life of imperfection. Because the focus is on becoming something, than on simply being.

There is a Zen story that I once read in a book by Osho, the Master:

A Zen Master was making a painting, and he had his chief disciple sit by his side to tell him when the painting was perfect. The disciple was worried and the Master was also worried. Because the disciple had never seen the Master do anything imperfect. But that day things started going wrong. The Master tried, and the more he tried, the more it was a mess.

In Japan or in China, the whole art of calligraphy is done on rice-paper, on a certain paper, a very sensitive paper, very fragile. If you hesitate a little, for centuries it can be known where the calligrapher hesitated — because more ink spreads into the rice-paper and makes it a mess. It is very difficult to deceive on rice-paper. You have to go on flowing; you are not to hesitate. Even for a single moment. split moment, if you hesitate — what to do? — missed, already missed. And one who has a keen eye will immediately say, “It is not a Zen painting at all” — because a Zen painting has to be a spontaneous painting, flowing.

The Master tried and tried and the more he tried — he started perspiring. And the disciple was sitting there and shaking his head again and again negatively: ‘No, this is not perfect.’ And more and more mistakes were being made by the Master.

Then the ink was running out so the Master said, “You go out and prepare more ink.” While the disciple was outside preparing the ink, the Master did his masterpiece. When he came in he said, “Master, but this is perfect! What happened?”

The Master laughed; he said, “I became aware of one thing: your presence. The very idea that somebody is there to appreciate or to condemn, to say no or yes, disturbed my inner tranquility. Now I will never be disturbed. I have come to know that I was trying to make it perfect and that was the only reason for its not being perfect.”
 

So beautiful. In our trying to become something, like the Zen Master, we obsess with ourselves. And the myriad dimensions of our lives. Because we are attached to things and people in our lives and in trying to be very good at earning a living, providing, in trying to make our lives perfect, we don’t live at all. That’s why we don’t see the beauty of Life, of our lives, and we miss all that is flowing around us. We miss the perfection in Life’s ways, its timing of our lives’ events, our experiences, our learnings, our inner growth and our joys__which always emerge from our deepest sorrows! In Life, with Life, it is always__and only__what it is. So, stop expecting your Life to be any different from what it is now. And flow with it. Over time, Life will change. Your Life will change. And when you look back, you will find that had it not been for what you have gone through, you will not be the person who you are today and you will not have got to where you are too! So, don’t see Life for the way you are, but for what it is. Then, only then, will the Life that is waiting for you will unveil itself! Only then, as the Buddha said so famously, you will look up at the sky and laugh __ because everything, everything about this world and your Life, is so perfect!


Gift yourself the Miracle of Mindfulness


As you start a New Year, gift yourself mindfulness. 

Mindfulness is not an impractical, difficult to do, practice if you understand the concept clearly. It is the ability to just stay engaged in the moment. Because Life is happening only in the present.

After last night’s revelry, it’s possible you slept late and woke up late too. But while you may have woken up, you may not be awake in the true sense. Mindfulness is being awake to the miracle of what’s happening to you in the present.

But the mind is cruel. It doesn’t easily listen to what you want it to do. It slips back into guilt or grief about the past or begins to worry for the future. When you are stuck in the past or peering into the future you are forgetting to look at what is. You are then forgetful, not mindful!

The Vietnamese Master Thich Naht Hahn, also called ‘Thay’ by his followers, helps us with a simple, 3-step process to become mindful. Whenever your mind strays, which is ever so often, bring it back by:

1.     Smiling

2.     Focusing on your breathing

3.     Going about whatever you are doing slowly

Let’s say your mind starts thinking of an important commitment you have to keep, say, an EMI is to be paid. And you don’t have the money nor visibility for the money. As you dwell on what you don’t have, the money in this case, you will start worrying. And soon worry will breed insecurity. Instead, the moment your mind starts to worry, smile, focus on your breathing and bring your attention to what needs to get done to raise the money required to pay the EMI. Mindfulness may not take your problem away. But will help you see a solution instead of simply worrying about a problem. And only a solution can solve a problem, not worrying!

If you like the idea, put it into practice by declaring one day of the week, starting this year, your Mindfulness Day. Spend the entire day doing everything only within the framework of the 3 steps that Thay recommends. Whatever you do, from waking up, brushing your teeth, sipping your coffee, reading the papers, looking out the window, watching a movie, having sex, taking an evening walk, drinking wine, whatever, do it mindfully. Review how you feel at the end of the day. And you will find that it would have been the most beautiful day of your Life. Make sure you have a Mindfulness Day, each week. Over weeks, you will want to make your entire week have Mindfulness Days only!

This doesn’t mean you don’t pursue goals. That you don’t remain aggressive. That you abstain from something.

It only means quit brooding and quit worrying. This will be the best gift you can give yourself this New Year! That’s when you will discover the miracle in Mindfulness.

When you really get this practice embedded in the way you live, you will have a really Happy, because it is Mindful, New Year!

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!

                                                                                                                                                                                          


Whatever happens, let your music play…..


Whatever happens, know that Life will go on. And you too must flow with it, ‘letting your music play’!

There are times in Life when you wish you could do something about what you are faced with. But you will be unable to. So, instead of hating what you have been served, just start loving it and live in the moment.

I watched ‘Titanic’, James Cameroon’s classic movie, one more time during the weekend. And learned one more time from the amazing musicians on how to ‘let the music play’ till the very end.

Wikipedia says: “After the Titanichit an iceberg and began to sink, Wallace Hartley, the bandmaster and violinist, and his fellow band members started playing music to help keep the passengers calm as the crew loaded the lifeboats. Many of the survivors said that he and the band continued to play until the very end. None of the band members survived the sinking and the story of them playing to the end became a popular legend. One survivor who clambered aboard ‘Collapsible A’ claimed to have seen Hartley and his band standing just behind the first funnel, by the Grand Staircase. He went on to say that he saw three of them washed off while the other five held on to the railing on top the Grand Staircase’s deckhouse, only to be dragged down with the bow, just before Hartley exclaimed, “Gentlemen, I bid you farewell!” A newspaper at the time reported “the part played by the orchestra on board the Titanic in her last dreadful moments will rank among the noblest in the annals of heroism at sea.””

I wouldn’t say it is heroism. It is simply intelligent living. Because you can only control what’s within your control. All your worries and anxieties, fears and insecurities, come from what you can’t control. Now, instead of worrying, fearing and suffering, if you can just look at the situation and say, “Well, well, well….if this is what it is, let me see how I can find peace within this situation.” This really is the only way to live a Life which we didn’t ask for and whose game-plan we have no idea of either!

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa
Let us remember that there is the opportunity, always available to us, to change our most dreadful moments into ones full of grace! All we need to do is to be open to the opportunity. When we are grieving, mourning, sorrowful, we are closed. We are not open to the Universe’s energy __ its compassion, its warmth, its grace. As Ramakrishna Paramahamsa has said, “The winds of grace are always blowing. You must open and hoist your sails to catch it.

So, unfurl and open your sails, open up your soul. If you are in a difficult time, accept it. Don’t resist it. This may not take the pain away. But it will help you immensely by ridding you of all your suffering! This then is the only way to ‘let your music play’….

Just keep walking, the path will always unfold on its own!


Sometimes, it is best not to get what you want in Life. Because when you review the reasons why you did not get what you wanted, you will really find what is truly ordained for you.
Life is inscrutable. The path you choose may not always be available to you. But a closed door or a dead end will, ALWAYS, often miraculously, open up a whole new path for you. You may trudge on it reluctantly to arrive at an unknown place, only to discover that you really, truly belong there!
This is so bizarre at one level. You are encouraged to set a Vision for yourself, have goals and diligently pursue them. Yet you are now being told that despite what you have planned, Life will take you on its own course! Well, it may seem incredible, but it is the way it is. At another level, it is so simple and easy. You can only make a Life out of what happens to you __ irrespective of what you planned or wanted. That’s really the only way to bliss!
16-and-a-half years ago, in 1996, after three successive disastrous employment stints, I presented myself in the office of a high-profile recruiter in Chennai. He subsequently built his company up well and sold it recently to a global recruitment firm. But back then, the recruiter was a big name, and his firm was still a start-up. I had known him through my years as a business journalist. So, I sought his help in getting me a good, well-paying, purposeful corporate job. He spent three hours speaking with me and assured me of a quick turnaround. Post that meeting, over the next three months, I must have called him a few dozen times. Email was not so big then. So, one had to follow up only via phone. He neither answered my calls nor he did return even one of them. It was bizarre. I remember agonizing then: at least he could tell me why he was not successful in pushing my case with employers?
Frustrated, and perhaps also driven by the fact that I had been ‘rejected’, I resolved that I should perhaps go on to be an employer. And not be an employee anymore. One fine day, in August 1996, I went ahead and set up a tiny consulting Firm with my wife! We were moderately successful financially in our early years. But by the end of our first decade in business, we were staring at a big, dark,  black  hole of accumulated losses and an unimaginable pile of debt. Eventually, we went bankrupt and, in many ways, continue to be in that state.
Initially, I hated where we had ended up finding ourselves: presiding over the debris of a debt-laden, problem-ridden firm. I used to hate that feeling__of guilt, ignominy, hopelessness, fear and resentment__ which would gnaw at me from within in each waking moment. But now, after all these years, when I look back, I find that without the rejection I faced in the job market, I may not have embraced entrepreneurship and without having failed at entrepreneurship, I may never have understood what Life is, what intelligent living is and understood what contentment is as I do now!
When I introspect, I am grateful for the experiences I have been through that have transformed me from being an angry, foul-mouthed, obsessive, possessive, egotist to being a simple, accepting, mindful voyager through Life. My learnings from the path that I did not choose, but which unfolded itself in front of me as I walked, have brought me to, I earnestly believe, my Life’s purpose: to awaken people to the right way of thinking, living, working and winning! I am reminded of what John Bunyan, a 17thCentury English writer and preacher, had to say: “Although I have been through all that I have, I do not regret the many hardships I met, because it was they who brought me to the place I wished to reach.”  
So celebrate Life’s inscrutability. Don’t grieve, don’t mourn over what you wanted and did not get. Keep walking, knowing that the path will always unfold, and always take you to where you must eventually arrive and truly belong!