Go where your music is taking you

Do what makes you come alive – and don’t bother about what the world has to say.
Many a time, we make choices cautiously wanting them to be correct and acceptable in a social context. So, while we may not be entirely happy doing what we have chosen to do, we end up doing it to maintain our status or wanting to “look good” among family, friends and peers. This kind of posturing may make us look socially appropriate but almost always leaves us totally unhappy. Happiness really is about being able to say and do what you really want to and what you love doing!
T.M.Krishna is in the news again. This time for his choice of not wanting to perform in the December Music Season in Chennai anymore. Obviously his fans are upset. But there are those too who think Krishna’s lost it, that he’s become arrogant and that all this “drama” is part of his “radical, sensational” marketing strategy. Some even term his recent choices and actions gimmickry.
T M Krishna – in “One with Music”
Photo Courtesy – Internet
I think everyone’s being judgmental here and in a sense some people are surely being unfair to Krishna. Undoubtedly Krishna is a public figure, an exceptionally talented singer with divinity oozing in his craft – so his fans do expect him to be a certain way. Historically, the Chennai Music Season is the Haj of Carnatic Music – people give an arm and a leg to perform here. So, it does seem so very strange and unusual that a singer who grew in acclaim, thanks to the performances at the Season over the years, should now choose to stay away from it. The best way to look at Krishna’s choice is to see it exactly the way it is – as an unusual one! Let’s not color it with any opinion. Also, excuse me, isn’t there a personal choice that we all have a right to make? Is it necessary that you must always be wedded to doing things a certain way and in ways in which everyone else is doing them? I personally feel Krishna’s choice is driven by his bliss – he is going wherever his music – the music within him – is taking him. And that is indeed the way to live Life. To be able to do what makes you come alive. To do what you love doing.
When we live for social gratification, when we live to “look good”, we are not living – we are merely existing. We suffer, we feel miserable and we eventually lead hollow lives. Is there a point in such living? All you have is this one lifetime. And if you can’t live it the way you want to, doing what you love, what is the point? As Frank Sinatra sang (‘This is all I Ask’, April 1965) so beautifully, “And let the music play as long as there’s a song to sing.” So, whoever you are, be inspired by Sinatra, be inspired by Krishna, go where your music is taking you, don’t bother about what the world is saying. Ultimately, it’s your Life!

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Make your doing, your being

Whatever you do, immerse yourself in it – and your will be one with it. That’s how you make doing, being!
This past Sunday, I read an article by the enfant terrible of Carnatic music, T.M.Krishna, in the Sunday Magazine of The Hindu. No, Krishna was not waxing eloquent on music. Instead he wrote, provoking thought in the bargain, about how “great sportsmen and artists share a transformational quality”. His piece, ‘Beyond the Boundary’ examined if Sachin Tendulkar’s technique is really an art form. Krishna wrote: “I have watched the phenomenal Sachin Tendulkar almost right through his career, especially in his Test innings… there have been phases in his great innings when he seemed to dissolve into cricket itself…. In this state, not just cricket or sport but Life itself seemed to be one uninterrupted flow…. The man and his bat became one; the ball was not an object that needed to be negotiated, caressed or decimated; the bowler, not an enemy; and his wicket, no point of reference…. What actually happened was that everything merged. Sachin became one with that existence and, as a beholder, I saw Life’s beauty in its most natural self, without any burden of names, identities, action or result…To me, at that instant, even the fact that it was Sachin batting was immaterial. This was an artist lost in his moment of Life, living it to its fullest.
Krishna’s keen observation and perspective there has been simply, beautifully, explained by Osho, the Master, thus: “Forget the dancer, the center of the ego. Become the dance. Dance so deeply that you completely forget that you are dancing and begin to feel that you arethe dance. Dance so totally…because the dancer-dance division can exist only when you are not total in it. The dancer must go until only the dance remains.”  
In the Sufi tradition, dervishes of the Mevlevi order, perform the ‘sama’, or dancing meditation, where they abandon their ‘nafs’or egos or personal desires, by spinning in repetitive circles, symbolic of the planets in the solar system orbiting the sun. The dancer is merely a metaphor that Osho and the Sufis use. You could be a cook, a gardener, a writer, an orator, a clerk, a traffic policeman, a painter, a singer, a truck driver or a nurse. Who you are is immaterial. How you are (being) who you are is important. Of course, choosing to do what you absolutely love doing, is critical for losing yourself – for making your doing, your being! While it may be possible to even immerse yourself while loving what you are doing, your inner joy is always several notches higher when you have chosen to do onlywhat you love!
But your Life may not always pan out that way. As it turned out to be with my father. He is an amazing Carnatic vocalist himself – having been trained for over two decades by an accomplished Guru. But way back in the ‘60s, the pressures of having to raise a family forced him to seek a career in the private sector textile industry, and later with the government. “Financial security and stability” were chosen over “what gave him joy”. I don’t understand the nuances of Carnatic music as much as I should. But over the early years of my growing up, and even now, when he is well past 75, I have found that my dad always lost himself to his singing whenever he was or is having a stressful time. In those times that I have watched him sing to himself at home, I found him immersed in the music. In fact, I believe, he always became the song. On the few occasions when he has performed concerts too, I have found the singer (in him) disappearing and only the song remaining. I cite his example here because you may not often get to make a Life – and living – out of what you love. Yet it is imminently possible that if you still do what you love, even if it is done infrequently, it can help you just be! And that just being is happiness!
As I grew older and my understanding of Life evolved, I have come to realize that when you don’t force yourself to do anything, Life flows through you. The cosmic energy then expresses itself through you. Your doing then becomes your being. That state, when you are in unison with the Universe, is what is also known as bliss! And as you can see, from the expressions of Krishna, Tendulkar, Osho and my dad, that state is imminently attainable!

Don’t let any irritant interfere with your living, your Life, fully!


Smile and feel your anger slink away!

Most of us get irritated with the small stuff. And it is how we deal with the small stuff that defines how we deal with the big stuff in our lives. Small stuff are the everyday irritants __ a flat tyre, a delayed flight, your smart phone or your computer hanging, an endless, boring, listless meeting, someone jumping the queue in which you are standing! All of these, and several more, punctuate our daily lives with alarming frequency. And each time we lose our temper or even feel irritated, we are losing that many more seconds, minutes, hours and days of our Life to stuff that won’t matter at all in the long run!

Junior Balamuralikrishna
Yesterday, a young, talented musician taught me an important lesson in how to deal with such small stuff. We were at a Carnatic music concert by the gifted artiste, whom The Hindu calls, Junior M Balamuralikrishna (so that he is not confused with the maestro and Padma Vibhushan awardee who goes by the same name). He was outstanding. I don’t follow the nuances of Carnatic music the way connoisseurs do, but I do know that there is a thing called concert etiquette. This, I believe, is to be normally adhered to by both organizers and audiences. Yesterday’s concert was organized to celebrate the 30th wedding anniversary of a couple we know very well. So, even as the concert was on, several late comers, walked up to the couple seated in the front row to greet them. Flowers were given, hugs were exchanged and wishes showered. Clearly the occasion’s spirit dwarfed the concert brilliance. Impolitely so too. Yet the artiste, Junior Balamuralikrishna, went on singing. What intrigued me was that he smiled each time he found the activity in front of him distractive or disturbing. I found it strange the first few times that he did it. So I thought it to be a coincidence. But, as I started to observe him closely, I discovered that there was a pattern to his smiling. He sang, I assume, flawlessly, immersed in his own joy of being able to create such divine music. And he smiled only when he felt disturbed or, if I have read his mind correctly, when he was irritated. As the concert progressed, something even more bizarre happened. The audio system at the venue acted up and at regular intervals started to give a shrill, shocking feedback through its speakers. I am sure any other artiste would have lost it for the number times this happened. But Junior Balamuralikrishna simply smiled each time, still singing! Then someone insensitively, perhaps inadvertently too, dropped a stainless steel tumbler. The tumbler landed on the ground a few times,  before someone grabbed it, and in that time it was such a jarring interruption. Everyone in the audience turned in the direction of the sound. But not Junior Balamuralikrishna. His smile only got wider and I could see the wonder in his eyes! He went on singing. But if I could have read his smile this time, it was saying: “Wow! Now, that’s interesting!” It was a beautiful, humbling and educative experience to watch this young man systematically turn sources of intense irritation into sources of amusement, wonder and amazement.

After the concert, I caught up with him. And asked him how he managed to smile every time he could have chosen to react with anger, provoked by the irritants. He replied, smiling, “I have been singing for 18 years now. I can’t let these (irritants) come in the way of my singing.

The lesson for me was simple: don’t ever let any irritant interfere with your living, your Life, fully! And there’s a simple way to define an irritant, the small stuff, and differentiate it from a problem or a challenge. I think it was ‘Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff’ author Richard Carlson who said that an irritant very simply is stuff that you will not remember at all a year from now. When you employ this criteria, more than 80 % of stuff that irritate you, bug you, bother you, worry you and clutter your mindspace, will fall in that IGNORE and SMILE bucket. Learn to smile at them rather than be enslaved by them! Only then will you live a fuller, meaningful and trouble-free Life! Besides, when you learn to smile at these daily irritants, your ability to deal with the remaining 20 % __ Life’s really big challenges__goes up phenomenally. (There’s way to deal with the big stuff too in Life. But that’s matter for another post, another day!) Even so, it surely makes sense using your available energy in fixing the big stuff in Life than frittering it all away on non-meaningful, unproductive things!  Doesn’t it?