Simply be. Drop this urge to constantly become this or that.

Life simply is.  There is really no objective to Life; there are no goals to be achieved, no responsibilities to be fulfilled. Nothing. You are born. You live. You die. Period. This is the truth – so simple, so uncomplicated. It is only society that brings in expectations of goals and outcomes, and labels of success and failure or joy and sorrow. You take away the social denominators from Life – starting with money – and suddenly Life simply is.
The other day, we were sitting at a coffee shop. I was thinking of something I had seen on Facebook, I was looking up from my phone and I was smiling – staring blankly into space. A friend walked up and tapped me on my shoulder and asked, “Wow! What are you thinking deeply about? What next creative idea are you pulling out of your hat?” I replied, “Hardly…No creative idea or such…I am just in the moment, enjoying it, savoring it.”
Our friend, and his wife who was with him, were hardly able to comprehend what I meant. They smiled and waved their goodbyes and walked away. I can understand what they must have been thinking about – “how can anyone not be doing anything?” And they are not alone. I believe the whole of humanity thinks this way and so is missing this beautiful opportunity to just be in the moment – because everyone is trying to become someone, by trying to do something or the other.
I am not saying you must not work or that you must not earn money or that you must not raise a family. But don’t get so caught in earning-a-living that you miss the opportunity to live itself. Look at nature around you. The trees, the birds, the flowers, the river, the ocean, all of them simply are. They have no concept of time nor do they have any targets or goals to achieve. It is only man who has time-bound goals in focus. Nothing wrong with that. But if the same goals start haunting you, when they make your Life miserable, then you have a problem. Earning money is not a problem. But complaining or worrying that you are not having enough is a problem. Working is not a problem. But feeling stressed out over your work is a problem. Having a family is not a problem. But sweating over the behavior of your family members is a problem.
Osho, the Master illustrates this point with the example of a rose and a hundred-rupee note. “Life is not a logical process. It is poetry, it is a lovesong — without any meaning, yet it is utterly beautiful. In fact, when something has a meaning, it can’t be beautiful – it is utilitarian. The rose is beautiful because it has no utility at all. Its sheer being is enough; it need not have any other significance. But a hundred-rupee note has no beauty; it has utility, it has meaning, it is a means to some end.”
The nub is this: to live your Life fully, celebrate each moment. Simply be. Drop this urge to constantly try and become this or that. Don’t try to desperately make a meaning out of your Life. Meaning is a social requirement. Life doesn’t care about any meanings. So, why don’t you also live your Life for what it is, as it is? Don’t seek meanings. Don’t get keyed up. Don’t complain. Be alive, be with your Life – as is!

Zen and the Art of Celebrating Life

Don’t grieve anything. Celebrate everything. Success. Failure. Defeat. Crisis. Tragedy. Joy. Sorrow. Everything!

Celebrating when we are successful or happy, we all know how to do it and do it very well. But celebrating failure and defeat? Well, you first overcome the initial sense of shock and surprise from each setback in your Life and replace it with celebration. How can we celebrate a loss __ of something, someone __ you may well wonder. Here’s the nub – you don’t (have to) celebrate the loss itself. But you can always celebrate the times you had with that something, that someone. You can celebrate the learning that you are now being subjected to through experiencing this loss. You can celebrate the opportunity called this moment.

Harnish Patel, 35, was among the victims of the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. A British-Indian, he was on a backpacking trip to India and was at the Leopold Cafe that evening when the terrorists struck. At least three bullets passed through his legs and chest, skimming past his bones and major organs. 7 years ago Harnish was lying in the ICU of Mumbai’s Jaslok Hospital with tubes sticking through his legs and chest, not knowing if he would ever walk again. But with determination and grit, Patel, who narrowly escaped death, has not just overcome his injuries but also astounded doctors, family and friends by running in a marathon and joining the British Royal Navy. Just four years after the gruesome attack that left him debilitated, he was the flag-bearer for England in the team-welcome and victory ceremonies for the London 2012 Olympics! Simple learning: do you think Patel would have even gotten out of his hospital bed had he stayed grieving?

Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore (1861~1914), has said, “If you cry that the sun has gone out of your Life, your tears will prevent you from seeing the stars.” To grieve is to see Life through a myopic perspective. To celebrate Life is to see it on a 70mm or an IMAX canvas! When you zoom out and see your Life from a higher plane, you see each event as a blessing!

To celebrate Life, just Let It!

Let It? Yes! We need to move from a state of Let Go to a state of Let It to experience the beauty and magic of Life!
Many people say letting go is tough! Let Go does mean that you are holding on to something and letting go connotes attachment, pain and a struggle to attain detachment! But letting Life do what it pleases is a simple, magnificent way of celebrating Life. Where you don’t become a party to Life’s trials, tribulations, vicissitudes and vagaries, but are just an observer.
Swami Sathya Sai Baba, whom I have never met, but always experienced, taught me this practice of just letting Life do what it pleases. One of his simplest, yet most profound, teachings says: “You just Let It! Let problems come. Let problems go. Let happiness come. Let happiness go. Let debt come. Let debt go. Let grief come. Let grief go. Let death come. Let death go. Just Let It!” I struggled with the concept initially. But soon discovered that only when you are party to something are you in grief. When you are a witness, there is a momentary disturbance, but you are quickly reminded by your soul that you are a not involved! When something goes wrong with your child, you are stressed out. You are anxious. You want a resolution. When something goes wrong with a neighbor’s child, you profess concern, you lend a shoulder, you support but do not get involved or attached. So can you look at your own Life like the way you would look at your neighbor’s? Can you be a mere observer? A bystander? When you are in that state will you realize that this whole lifetime is a celebration.
You can expunge the darkness that engulfs your soul, because of debilitating emotions like anger, grief, guilt, fear, anxiety, worry and such, by choosing not to get involved with your Life. It doesn’t mean you should not live, you should not act. Of course you must act and do what you can, and what you think you must, in any given situation! Just don’t get involved. For example, in a fractious family situation, in which I find myself embroiled just now, I made an attempt to speak up and make people see reason. I would have done injustice to my Life and my family if I had not spoken up. The act of speaking up was mine. But the outcome has been Life’s. And it has been disastrous. More insult and ignominy have been heaped on me. The family has been pushed farther away from coming together and being at peace! I don’t grieve the outcome though. I know it is not ‘my’ outcome. Because I let Life lead the outcome. I just let it. And I celebrate the light, the joy, the song in my soul!

This is not at all difficult. It is outright simple. If I can, you too can let it! When you are involved, is when attachment will come. And where there is attachment there will be agony. But if you are a mere witness, an observer, a doer of what you can and what you must, and let Life lead, you will be in a non-stop celebration called your Life! Try it with your Life! Just Let It! Celebrate! 

Learn to accept and celebrate the non-negotiable, inevitable, part of Life – Death!

Accepting and celebrating death is an important aspect of learning to live intelligently.  
Picture Courtesy: Internet
Cricketer Phil Hughes’ tragic accident on the field, and his passing away so suddenly, has shocked the entire world. Cricket Australia (CA) has confirmed that the first Commonwealth Bank Test Match between Australia and India, scheduled to begin on Thursday, December 4, 2014, will now be rescheduled. CA says three of its senior players, Shane Watson, David Warner and Brad Haddin, are among those who have said that they are not in the perfect state of mind to return to competitive cricket. Now, contrast this view with those expressed by two former Australian captains, Ian Chappell and Mark Taylor. They feel next week’s first Test in Brisbane should go ahead as it would help the cricketers and the fans to come out and share the loss of Phillip Hughes. Taylor feels it will be difficult for the players to deal with the massive loss but “cricket is probably the best medicine to heal the pain”. Chappell, too, echoed Taylor’s views, saying going back to the game is the best way to deal with the loss. “In a strange way I think it’ll be best for the players if they play the first Test,” Chappell was quoted in an agency report. I tend to agree with Taylor and Chappell. When someone dies, the best way is to celebrate the person’s Life – and what she or he stood for. To Hughes, cricket was his Life. And what better way to celebrate his Life than play a fascinating game of cricket?
I remember how Carnatic musician Nithyashree Mahadevan returned to singing within a couple of months after her husband committed suicide in 2012. The famous Chennai music season was on then and Nithyashree was booked to sing various concerts through most of December 2012.This sudden development shocked everyone and most definitely Nithyashree. The pictures that appeared in the media made everyone’s heart go out to her. They showed a forlorn, distraught Nithyashree and most people, while sympathizing with her, wondered how she would cope. But just two months after her tragedy, Nithyashree was back on the concert circuit. She was singing better than she had ever been. And, most importantly, she was not in grief. She presented a picture of complete acceptance and inner peace. I remember The Times of India carried a picture of her singing at that concert. The picture was captioned ‘Like A Song’. Indeed Life’s like a song. It has to be sung, and sung well, no matter what’s going on! What Nithyashree has done is truly inspiring. She has shown all of us the way that we must continue to live our lives, doing what we love doing, irrespective of what happens to us.
I believe that the human ability to cope with death is hugely crippled by the way society treats death. Death is not some gory end that society makes it out to be. It is the only thing that you can be certain of in Life. If you are born, and are alive, as you are, you will die. Period. So, you must learn to accept and appreciate death. Every one of us will die. In fact, we are all speeding towards our death, albeit at different speeds. So, death must be accepted as a logical end, and, as some would believe, as a new beginning, of yet another journey through another unknown. But let’s not lose our focus in over-intellectualizing death either. Simply accept death as a reality. And do everything that you can to celebrate the Life of the person who has died in your midst. Do not grieve. Do not mourn beyond a point. Recognize that death is inevitable. Take inspiration from those who live in the slums of Chennai.These people get drunk and dance as they go to cremate their dead. Reason, as one rickshaw-puller once told me, “The dead have been liberated from living on this planet! And that calls for a celebration!”

Wise words those are. And we will do well to learn from them. For, only when we accept that death is a constant, an unavoidable, non-negotiable part of our Life, that we will actually begin to live fully! And only then will we learn to celebrate the lives of those who are no longer with us! 

Let your sadness make way for joy!

Don’t approach anything that happens in your Life from sadness.
A loss. Pain. A heart-break. An insult. All of them are not what we expect. And so we respond with shock, anger and sorrow. But after we get over the initial response, we must develop the attitude to shift the attention to joy. Exult in the opportunity that each of those surprising, often times even shocking, events has thrown up. A loss always points to a gain in the future. A loss also teaches you, through your grief, what is more valuable to you in your Life. You grieve a loss because you attach a value to it. This awakening to the realization of what’s important to you must call for celebration. And joy, not grief and sorrow!
If someone insults you, you must celebrate because you have now the opportunity to learn to live with an insult. A capability that you never thought existed in you. Your spouse tells you that she or he can’t carry on in the relationship with you anymore. Beneath the obvious layer of shock and tears, it actually opens so many more opportunities to start afresh in Life. To explore newer horizons rather than be stuck in a bad relationship in grief, in sorrow, in pain. Joy here means the suffering for both of you has come to an end. Yes the pain of going through the process of separation will have to be dealt with. But eventually it too will lead to joy!

So, in effect, there are no sad endings in Life. Why then be sad about the interludes over which we have no control? A beautiful song from the John Abraham movie ‘Jhoota Hi Sahi’ (2010, Abbas Tyrewala, A R Rahman, Javed Ali, Chinmayi) comes to mind. It is among the most spiritual songs to emerge from Bollywood recently. The message is simple: Why Cry! Life’s too short to be spent in sadness and worrying! 

Being happy makes living through tough times easier

How do you celebrate Life when nothing’s working out, the chips are down and you simply don’t see a way out!? Simple – focus on what you have, instead of agonizing over what you don’t have, and learn to live with your reality!
Depression over things not working out the way you had planned them to be can be very crippling. You may find it even cruel that someone can suggest that you “celebrate Life” at such a time. Let me tell you that I too have been there – I have been through depression, have protested against “motherhood concepts” like “celebrating Life” – and yet, now, totally believe that the only way to live is to keep on celebrating the Life you have!
First, understand that to be depressed is not a crime. It is a natural, human response to situations that have arrived in your Life despite your efforts or desire to keep them away. So, when you feel depressive, accept it as yet another emotion that you have to deal with. Examine what is causing the depression. For instance, if you are looking for a job and are meeting with no success, your depression can be stemming from any of these questions that you may be struggling with – “Am I worthless? Is my career over? Is everyone scheming or conspiring against me? What if this jobless state prolongs, how will I provide for the family and pay my bills?” There could be more questions. But the point here is that all these questions are based on your perceptions, your apprehensions, your fears. Very rarely are such thoughts backed by evidence. And even if you have data, or see a pattern, if you examine your reality – and your depression – closely, you will realize there is nothing much you can do about it.
I remember, some years back, in 2007, we submitted 500 proposals for projects from our consulting business. Now, if you have reached the proposal stage with 500 prospective clients in 12 months, it means you would have met several hundred more prospects, some of whom may not have wanted to engage with you. However, despite such a brilliant sales and marketing effort, we got no business that year. Not even a day’s engagement in 365 days!!! It was very depressing. Very humiliating. The data on hand told me that we were being rejected. But I refused to look at it that way. Because none of the business leaders we had met got back saying we were not the right fit or that they couldn’t afford us. They all had internal reasons not to engage with us. And in fact, none of them engaged with another similar partner either. Now, when I re-examined my depression, I realized that I did not have any control over the outcome of my efforts. Just because I did not get the result I had envisaged, it didn’t necessarily mean something was wrong with me or my effort. Yes, one could definitely make a better effort going forward, but being depressed, I discovered, doesn’t solve anything.
Over five years later, since 2012, pretty much the same situation has prevailed on the work front for me – no assignments and therefore, no money. But this time, I did not feel depressed or insecure or scared. Actually, I decided to focus on what I had, than what I didn’t have. I realized, for one, that I had a whole lot of time on my hand. I decided to put that time to good use than simply mourn a reality that I had no power to immediately change. Definitely not with sulking and being bitter or by feeling insecure. That’s really how my first book “Fall Like A Rose Petal – A father’s lessons on how to be happy and content while living without money” came about. It is being published by Westland and is due for release in three weeks. So, while it may seem incredible that during a phase of acute, often numbing, cashlessness, and severe, crippling emotional pain, a book that celebrates Life got written – the truth is that’s how it really happened!
Celebrating Life doesn’t mean jumping up and down and screaming from rooftops. It simply means cherishing and valuing what you have and valuing what you cherish. It is knowing that no matter what the evidence may be pointing to, every dark, depressive phase in Life will pass. It may take longer than you wished it took, but it will pass, for sure! Until then, intelligent living calls for the understanding that there’s no point being depressed. Being happy, instead, makes living through tough times that much more easier!

Making Mondays Magnificent and every day a celebration

Why are Monday mornings manic? Because, we make them so!
How would you deal with a Monday if there was no concept of weekdays and weekends? If every day was just the same. Where you did what you love doing. And you worked, relaxed, chilled out, played, enjoyed, ate, slept – all of it, at complete ease with yourself! Well, this is possible, if only you dropped the labels that you have stuck on the days of the week. Manic Monday is a label. ‘Thank God It’s Friday!’ is not just brand, it’s a label. Weekend is a label. Drop all of them. Just treat each day as special, as a miracle, and see how you feel. And how your days and weeks feel.
People struggle with achieving a work-Life balance because they think of work as drudgery. They are forever lost in it. They think that they have to slog to earn-a-living and that “some day” their lives will become better. But when does that day come? At 60, when they retire, if they are lucky, that is? Which means for 40-odd years you have been working your butt off so you can finally “enjoy”. But what happens if you have a health condition at age 60? How active can you be as you walk into the evening of your Life? There’s no pointing reaching a dead-end, literally, and wishing that you had taken another road in Life. A work-Life balance is never achieved, it is taken – because the opportunity was, and is, always there.
The day you started your career and you made a choice to work in a particular industry, in a profession, you either chose to do what you love doing or you traded your passion for earning money. If it was the latter, either you had to love whatever you decided to do (if you can’t do what you love, that is) or you go back and change your career. There’s no point in wasting the years, the only available, irretrievable years of your Life, by thinking you can earn now and live another day. Even now, it’s not too late. Just take stock of your Life. Either quit what you are doing and go do what you would love or start loving whatever you are doing. Treat each day then as an opportunity to live drenched in that joy. See the miracle then. No more stress, no more deadline pressure, no more seeking a work-Life balance. Your “work” then becomes “living” the Life that you love living! And each day becomes a celebration!
When you reach this state, you will realize that you will have all the time in Life for doing everything. You will work more efficiently and effortlessly. And there will be a never-ending song playing in your heart. Then Mondays will cease to be Manic. They will be Magnificent!

Celebrate Life, don’t cerebrate it

Life cannot be lived fully trying to make meaning out of it!
At one level Life is meaningless, in fact. You come with nothing. And you will go with nothing. So, what’s the point in doing anything about a Life which is meaningless? Undoubtedly, this argument will hold true if you bring logic into Life. But in reality you can’t apply logic to Life. And so you can’t derive any meaning.
A disciple asked his Sufi Master what is the meaning of Life?
The Master replied: “Can you tell me the meaning of a lotus flower? Or the meaning of a raindrop falling on you? If you can, I will tell you the meaning of Life.”
The disciple replied: “Master, a lotus flower is a lotus flower. And a raindrop is a raindrop. What’s the point in looking for a meaning beyond what you see, beyond what is.”
“Exactly my son. What’s the point in understanding the meaning of Life beyond what is? Life is what you experience, what you see, in a given moment. It keeps on happening, moment to moment,” explained the Master.
Life’s meaninglessness, inscrutable nature, makes it beautiful. Life has to be lived. Not understood. A 1000-rupee note is not an object of beauty. It has a utility. It has to be used. There’s meaning to money. But a lotus is beautiful. It is to be seen and celebrated. It does not have a meaning the way money has. Which is what Life is all about – it is a continuous celebration.
We miss this opportunity to celebrate each moment because we are leading our lives – working harder and longer than before – hoping that someday soon “everything will be fine” and we can live a perfect Life – happily ever after. The truth is everything’s fine with our Life, just the way it is, and a perfect Life may never be possible. So, in postponing the celebration, we are postponing living. Be sure, even on the day we die, our inboxes will not be empty, our to-do lists will still be pending and we will still be worried about incomplete goals and dreams in our lives! So, stop seeking for meaning in Life. Stop the cerebration of Life. Start celebrating it!