Make this a Happywala New Year!

Flow with your Life to experience the abundance and grace in it!
We had a meaningful New Year’s Eve. A few of us friends had got together. Through the evening, as the best of R D Burman and Kishore Kumar songs were played, and sung, we also had an interesting activity on. Everyone got a word from Santa’s big red bag that was passed around. Each person had to talk about the word in the context of the year gone by and what they hoped for in 2016 in relation to what the word meant to them!
So words like ‘Celebrate’, ‘Miracle’, ‘Serendipity’, ‘Awesome’, ‘Magic’, ‘Learn’, ‘Unlearn’, ‘Inspire’, ‘Happiness’, ‘Love’, ‘Be Yourself’, ‘Poetry’ and ‘Let Go!’ popped out of Santa’s bag! Most people who spoke related beautifully to their words, pausing to reflect on what the word had meant to them in 2015. Someone shared how the year had been full of celebrations all through! Another spoke of being awesome and celebrating awesomeness. The gentleman who got the word magic asked us to consider the magic in the moment when the year changed! Another talked about how spending time with his father, before he passed on, was an opportunity to re-experience unconditional love. Vaani talked about her inspiration that led her to resume learning music in 2015. And there was this friend, who did not exactly know what serendipity meant but realized upon reflection that everything in our lives is, uncannily, serendipitous.
The word I got was, interestingly, aptly, happiness. To me happiness is not just a state of mind or an attitude, it is a state of being. Over the last few years this state of being has helped us as a family face – and survive – what can be described as, to put it matter-of-factly, a cathartic phase in our Life. To be sure, we continue to grapple with imponderables. But we have learnt the art of being happy despitethe circumstances.
Being happy does not guarantee that your problems will disappear. Or that solutions to your problems will immediately appear. Being happy, we have discovered, has simply helped us feel and experience the abundance and grace that surrounds us. When you are happy, you magically see only what is – and don’t get stuck only complaining about what you don’t have. So, as we enter yet another year when our financially uncertain situation endures, we celebrate that we all have good health, we have a home to come back to, we have each other and that we have friends who treat us with love, compassion and dignity. Through this celebration, we recognize the grace that fills our lives, always giving us all that we need!

Really, it is not what happiness is. It is what happiness does. It makes you live a fuller Life, no matter what’s happening to you!  What comes between you and your happiness is you. You are unhappy only because you are trying to control what’s happening to you. When you try to control Life, you are not in it. You are looking at Life as if it were a problem that you have to solve. As if it is a third party that you have to deal with. Instead if you flow with Life, you will find that it is filled with abundance and grace every step of the way and you too will, as one of our friends last night exclaimed as the clock struck 12, have a Happywala 2016!

Welcome to the party called Life – it’s on 24×7!!!

Celebration is not an event. It is a state of being.
As another year flows past and as yet another flows in, you may quite be tempted to believe that it’s the event tonight – New Year’s Eve – that’s the celebration. The truth however is that your entire Life is – has been and will continue to be – a celebration. You don’t see your Life as a celebration because you are preoccupied with the small stuff. And as Richard Carlson has famously said, ‘it’s all small stuff’! 
Just consider this: what if you didn’t join a New Year party tonight? Won’t you physically be missing all the action? All the fun? All the dancing and the drinks? Indeed, how can you enjoy a party for which you never showed up? This is the problem with most of us – this big, magical, beautiful party called Life is happening 24×7, 365 days, for us but we are not “in” it, we are not present or although we are physically there, we are lost in the maze of our grief, guilt, worries, fears and anxieties.
If I have learnt anything from Life, it is this: Life is one helluva celebration. If we start valuing what we have, instead of pining for what we don’t have or worrying about what may happen to us, we will be soaked in happiness. Celebration, in the context of Life, is a state of being. It is eternal and present continuously!
Okay, here’s a little exercise you can do. Sit down quietly for a few minutes. And make a list of your most memorable moments from your Life so far. Wasn’t that birthday five years ago awesome? Wasn’t that office party where you met you partner unforgettable? Wasn’t the day you child was born your biggest celebration up until this time? So, make the list….but hey, you know what? There’s a catch here. The moment you start counting your memorable moments of your Life, you have lost this game. If you take your age and multiply it with 365 days – that’s how many days you have been around here on the planet. And yet you can count only a handful of days as being memorable among the thousands that you have ostensibly lived, well, isn’t that a tragedy?
Think about it – if you are not celebrating each moment, aren’t you squandering this once in a lifetime opportunity, this limited period offer, called Life? Begin by celebrating what is and what you have. Celebrate the air in your lungs. Celebrate the magic of a sunrise, a dew drop, a flower, the smile of a child or the warmth of a pet. Celebrate that you have access to internet and Facebook so you can pontificate on whether Free Basics is a rip-off or not! Even if someone you love has passed on or moved away – celebrate their Life or your time with them. Life is too precious – and you don’t need me to tell you this – so, go beyond the party you have planned to be at tonight! Make each day of your Life a celebration – and see how it is then filled with abundance and grace!  

Don’t agonize over pain; instead, celebrate!!!

If you think Life has treated you harshly, celebrate, don’t agonize!
Extraordinary pain is not a sign of your “past sins” catching up with you as we are often told it is. Instead it is a precursor to extraordinary grace that is on the way. So, if you are battered, bruised, bleeding from Life’s blows, don’t bemoan your state. Celebrate. Because you have encountered the God that you so desperately seek.
God? In pain? Indeed. The reason why you haven’t seen God so far is because you __and I__have always been told that God is in places of worship. But we haven’t been told that our pain is a place of worship, an arena to surrender to a cosmic design, the Master Plan, that which has no flaws. They say that religion is for those who want to avoid going to hell and spirituality is for those who have been there! Writing recently in The Times of India’s Speaking Tree column,  Rajshree Birla, the Chairperson of the Aditya Vikram Birla Foundation defines spirituality thus: “Spirituality is not about a religion. Neither is it about gods and rituals. Spirituality is a principled way of Life; it’s an attitude.” She couldn’t have said it better and simpler! You can’t borrow that attitude nor can you acquire it through training. You can imbibe it onlyfrom experience. That experience can come to you onlyfrom your deep, personal, pain.
When you are in the throes of such unimaginable anguish__physical, due to some health challenge, emotional, because you have lost someone, something or broken up in a relationship, or have lost your own self-respect because of an act committed in haste or in stupor__you, in your innermost, private recesses, will seek relief. You will want this Life to end. You will want this suffering to go. In that moment, when you plead, when you surrender, you will have felt a stirring in you. That, my dear friend, that’s your God within you. Maybe when you reminisce on your painful experience now, you may relate to my sharing this. When you feel this way, you will realize that your pain was a conduit, a Visa, if you may, to travel within and find the Godseed embedded in you. Just at it is in all of humanity. So, doesn’t pain, if it can take you to your Self, to your God, call for a celebration? Then, why agonize?

Celebrate the diversity in people

Learn to accept people for who they are. Don’t try to get them to fit into your idea of who you want them to be. Expecting people to be any different from what they are is a sure way of making yourself miserable. This particularly applies in a family context where people despite all the closeness still have some very different ways of thinking and living. Maturity demands that in such situations you simply let people be.
Yesterday a friend of mine said he was having serious challenges in “controlling” his 18-year-old son. The boy apparently had little interest in academics. And his parents’ paranoia was only making him more rebellious. I told my friend that the problem lay in him trying to “control” his son. I have found that as children grow up to be young adults, parents too must grow up. We have to recognize that our ‘kids’, when they are young adults, don’t need us to support or protect them. What they expect from us is that we respect their integrity, their intellect and their privacy. Being available to them is what they will value more than being there all the time all over, and around, them!
I have another friend who has a pretty interesting way of dealing with diversity in his immediate circle. Within his family, he has told everyone that they are free to do whatever they want as long as they don’t interfere with whatever he is doing. Everyone meets every quarter and reviews this arrangement in a mature manner and if there are new agreements to be arrived at, they do draw them up. Result: there’s complete peace and harmony even as people do their own stuff. For instance, my friend is either out trekking or racing in car rallies, while his wife undertakes pilgrimages even as she runs a business, and his children are busy building their own careers having chosen their companions without having to toe a ‘family’ line. The family does converge on common vacation times annually or simply gets together some weekends to goof off. But they do it more as friends than as people having to live under the influence or shadow of each other.
People, including children, don’t need to, and can’t, be controlled. They can only be conversed with. You can share a point of view. Either there can be agreement or disagreement. If you disagree, fine, agree to do so. Recognize that it is perfectly fine to disagree.  Just don’t grieve over the disagreement.
Let’s celebrate the diversity in people around us. This celebration is what will make living a pleasant experience!

Creation will take care of you


A fundamental belief that comes in the way of our living fully, totally, is the view that we have to take care of ourselves and of others ‘dependent’ on us. There’s this huge protector-provider role that we all have self-imposed upon ourselves. Or a better way to say it is that we have self-assumed this. And so we go about our lives obsessed with an avoidable sense of self-importance. We believe every problem around us needs our immediate, urgent attention__and resolution. That everything from money to succor, in our immediate circle of influence, must be provided for by us. And when it doesn’t happen that way, as it often may not, we feel something’s wrong with us, or with creation, or both and so we grieve, agonize and suffer!

Through our suffering we miss the celebration called Life. All around us there’s celebration. A sun rise is a celebration. A moon rise is a celebration too. It is through the darkness that you can see the celebration of the stars. A gaggle of birds chirping is actually a symphony. A bleating lamb is an expression of Universal love. A flower waiting to bloom, in a bud stage, is a celebration of how pregnant Life is, creation is __ with hope, with ecstasy, with color. A raindrop signifies the arrival of a cosmic blessing, to drench you in abundance. But we are so complete in our suffering that we are perhaps witnessing this grand cosmic festival, but we are not seeing the beauty in it! Our inner ugliness__acquired from that skewed sense of self-assumed, self-importance__blinds us from seeing the magic and beauty of Life.

Osho, the Master, says, and only he could have said it so well: “If the whole existence is one, and if existence goes on taking care of trees, of animals, of mountains, of oceans__from the smallest blade of grass to the biggest star__then it will take care of you too. Once you have started seeing the beauty of Life, ugliness starts disappearing. If you start looking at Life with joy, sadness starts disappearing. You cannot have heaven and hell together, you can have only one. It is your choice.”

So observe what’s causing you grief just now. And let it go. Let go of your self-assumed need to be problem-solver, protector, provider. Instead just be. And then through your being, you will witness the celebration of Life. Happening in your world, all around you. Simply for you. You will discover that creation will take care of you, and all that you call your own. That moment of discovery is your bliss! And once you taste it, you will want nothing more. You will simply want to just be!

Your idea of Life is never going to happen

All of us, almost all of the time, wish Life were different. That it were not this but that. And when our wishes don’t come true, as they almost always won’t, we grieve, we plunge into misery and suffer.

Now, here’s the truth: Your idea of Life is never going to happen.

Life is not about those great moments when everything that you envisioned for yourself is happening. Much of Life is about doing the dishes, driving to work, attending painfully boring meetings, dropping the kids to art class on Sundays, having meaningless cups of tea with the boss, paying bills, filing them, attending inconsequential meetings of your condominium’s administrative association, mowing the lawn, cleaning your car, picking up laundry from the cleaners and so on and on and on…..The key to enjoying Life is to be able to enjoy these “listless” moments too!

You will die a thousand deaths, even as you are alive, if you are going to spend your Life mourning about “work” that you don’t enjoy. There will always be work to do and therefore there will always be stuff that you hate doing. Complaining about it, hating it and treating it as a burden is going to make your work__and Life__a drudgery. Surely.

Instead treat Life as a festival. Celebrate it. In a celebration, in a festival, even the most menial task gives you joy. I have a Bengali friend. He leads the Bengali Association in Bengaluru from the front. Every year, during the Dusherra festival, he and his friends in the Association, organize the Durga Puja in Bengaluru. Several years ago, when we used to work together and we also lived in Bengaluru, my friend invited us to the witness the festival, the Durga Puja. I remember him saying, “It is fun. Come along if you have the time. I have a very small role in organizing it. I have taken the responsibility to have the waste, the garbage, cleared without it causing a mess, a litter there. But it is fun!” I recall wondering how clearing garbage can be fun. Now, I know it can be.

Life can be fun, a celebration! Or drudgery. It really depends on what you want it to be!

Think about it. Why do you work? So that you can live! Now, why would you want to live, while dying every single moment? Living is not going to be fun unless you want it to be. Unless you make it fun! Remember this: Your idea of Life is never going to happen! So, might as well enjoy__and celebrate__Life’s idea for you!


Pause and celebrate the miracle of your family


An intrinsic aspect of intelligent living is to not just earn a living but to learn to spend quality time with your family. In such a connected world, where there are so many options for children to learn and display their talent, I do agree that Life for us parents, especially in an urban or metro context, can at times be harrowing. Ferrying the children to and from events, activities, hobby classes and school, in the midst of our ever-demanding work schedules and corporate careers, can often appear thankless. And then there is the time that you need with your companion, just to chill out, doing nothing! Phew! Where’s the time for yourself?

Sometimes family Life can get very demanding and complicated. With so many schedules to coordinate, with so many things to do, with so many aspirations to fulfill. Even so, there’s great value in learning to pause, and celebrating the miracle of your family.

Some years ago, when I was based in Singapore, I had a friend Steve, who was the general manager of the hotel I stayed in as a long-term guest. He was a big-hearted man from Vancouver, Canada. He must have been in his late 40s then and I was in my late 20s. He and his wife loved Singapore and he was doing a great job leading the hotel he was employed at. Then suddenly he told me over dinner, one night, that he was going back to live in Canada. His three daughters, it appeared, were in various years of finishing undergrad and grad schools. And he said, “We want to be with them, for them.” I remember wondering, as a career-obsessed youngster, what a crazy idea it was to give up such a great job and go back to take care of three ‘grown up young adult daughters’. Steve perhaps read my mind. He said rather prophetically, “When you grow up to be my age, all you will want is happiness for your children. Your success and happiness will lie in their own.”

I certainly did not take Steve’s words to heart. So, even as I continued my quest to build a career, flying around the world, at the cost of not being able to spend time with my family, I did not quite realize what I was missing. Those were very early days of the internet. Hotmail was not even around as a free-for-all service. Phone calls were mighty expensive. So, we had a fax machine installed at home for my wife and I to be in touch. One day, as I was lounging in my hotel room in Rome, after a long day’s work, the bell desk slipped a fax message under the door. It was from my son. He must have been hardly six then but he knew how to operate the old Compaq 486 (!!!) we had at home. He had managed to pull out a computer clipart picture of a globe, pasted it on a document, printed it and faxed it to me. Below the clipart, in his scrawly handwriting, he had written, ‘Where in the world are you? Come soon!”  My eyes welled up, and I remembered Steve, as I read that message. I was not sure I did it consciously, but over the next several months I worked hard and eventually managed to relocate back to India.

Even after I came back and set up a business here in India, it took me a long, long time to discover the magic of my own family. I often ended up getting trapped in the rat race, letting clients, business and my team take over my time, all the time! I am glad, am grateful to Life and am humbled, that I finally did manage to yank myself out of that rut!!! When my daughter was born, 18 years ago, I was that ambitious, globe-trotting CEO. I often used to ask my wife, when I called from airports half-way across the world, half in jest, half in trepidation, if our daughter would even recognize me! Today my daughter (and of course, my son) and I are the best of friends. As they say, every cloud has a silver lining. The upside of a business slowdown, I have come to believe, is this amazing friendship I have struck with my children. Today Steve’s words ring so very true to me.

Unmistakably, living fully is a full-time job!  Living fully surely involves experiencing the family we create and raise than just providing for them. There’s nothing more valuable in Life, you will realize, sooner than later, than the friendship of your children and the companionship of your spouse. A family is where you learn to live. You learn compassion, you learn to teach, you learn to lead, to serve, to give, you learn to understand the value in constructive confrontation, in forgiveness and in simply having a lot of fun, laughing, and goofing off! You may not realize it but your family not just complements you, but completes you! As someone has said so wisely, “Family is not just important. It is everything!”

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