Getting to the “un-frustrated” state of mind

Ultimately, you cause your own frustrations.
Whatever reasons you find to justify as to what or who created a situation that makes you feel frustrated, in the end, the buck stops with you. And unless you decide not to feel frustrated with your situation anymore, you will feel no better. Whether you invited it upon yourself or whether it was forced on you is immaterial.
Whenever I have used an auto-rickshaw, especially in Chennai, I have reasons to be frustrated. I am sure you have had similar experiences. The drivers are normally reckless, they don’t follow traffic rules, they speak on their phones while driving and are almost always argumentative over the fares. In the past, I used to often get into principle-based duels with auto drivers. Each encounter would leave me drained and exasperated. I would carry my rage from the experience on the road through the day and, at many times, back home too. When I saw a pattern to my irritable behavior, I discovered that an argument with auto-drivers always played havoc with my moods. So, for a long, long period of time, I simply avoided using auto-rickshaws. But, owing to my car breaking down, and me being car-less for now, I have had to rely on auto-rickshaws largely. Even now, there are many challenges and provocations in dealing with auto-drivers daily. But I realize how much better my response to each situation is now because I choose not to react to any of them – and therefore I do not get frustrated with them anymore.  
There’s no magic way to deal with everyday frustrations. Everyone struggles. Including me. But one way, that often helps snap out of series of frustrating thoughts that torment me when things go wrong, is to ask myself, “What could I have done to avoid feeling frustrated?”. As you can see, this question is not directed at taking on the blame for the situation nor is it a solution per se to the problem on hand. It is only focused on the aspect of how you are feeling at the moment. Which is, you are frustrated. Period. So, how do you deal with that feeling? When you go to the root of that feeling, you will find that you could have responded differently to the situation which would have at least prevented you from feeling frustrated, helpless, despondent. Asking this question, again and again, each time that you feel frustrated, you learn the art of “non-frustration”. Over time, you develop an attitude of tolerance and acceptance in any situation.
When you are in an un-frustrated state of mind, you begin to think more clearly, more rationally and start addressing the problem on hand from a solution point of view rather than feeling frustrated about it!
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“Everybody is slipping on banana peels!”

Often times, you don’t need a big crisis to disturb your equilibrium. Even a small, mundane event – what they call “small stuff” – can upset the balance! In such an event, use your awareness to restore your balance. Then, laugh over it and, simply move on!
Yesterday, I had an insipid argument with an auto-rickshaw driver. I am sure you have had several such showdowns too. But mine was not over the fare – as is normal. My driver claimed he did not know the way to a popular landmark in the city. So, while I was surprised at first, I guided him. Then, as we rode along, I got on to a phone call. I told the caller, in English, that I had had a rough day and that now I find myself in an auto-rickshaw whose driver did not know his way around the city! The auto-rickshaw driver slammed the brakes, pulled the vehicle aside, turned around and spoke in English to me even as I was talking over the phone. He accused me of taking my “anger” out on him and for “affecting his dignity”. He seemed very hurt. So, even though I was shocked at his behavior, I abruptly ended my call. I tried explaining things over to him. But it was of no use. I decided to engage another auto-rickshaw.  So, I settled this driver, apologized to him and moved on. It all seemed so bizarre. He genuinely did not know his way around town. And all I was reporting to the caller over phone was this fact. I seriously couldn’t understand where or how my statement had meant an “assault on his dignity”. My only conclusion was perhaps that the auto-rickshaw driver was hurt because I was speaking to someone about him in English, and he thought that I was doing so, so that he would not understand. So, his retorting in English (and he was very good) may have been an attempt by him to assert his education. While I did apologize to him, for even inadvertently hurting him, I do hope I meet him again – both to understand his perspective better and to also convey my heartfelt apology one more time.
Life’s like that. We don’t really know what people are carrying in them when they are interacting with us. Each one’s got a story. Each one’s got a pain area. Sometimes we tread on people’s toes unwittingly. Or we press their pain buttons. Sometimes, people try to interpret – than understand – us. So, that leads to a lot of misunderstanding. You can go on and on thinking about why someone did what they did to you or how you could have dealt with someone better. Or you could simply let go of each event – and it’s memory, which is disturbing your inner peace – and simply move on!
Last night, just before I went to sleep, I thought about the bizarre incident with this savvy auto-rickshaw driver! At the same time, I felt both stupid and good. I felt stupid because it was such a silly misunderstanding by him and good because I appreciated his command over English – it was excellent! Then I recollected what Osho, the Master, had once said: “Everybody is slipping on banana peels – you just need an insight to see that Life is one, big, cosmic laughter!”
I laughed to myself and don’t remember when I fell asleep!

Don’t judge and don’t bother about being judged!


One of the first lessons we are taught in school is “Don’t judge a book by its cover”! But that’s precisely what we do.We do it all the time. We are always judging someone or something __ events, governments, government policies, sporting teams, movie stars, politicians, children, parents, siblings, companions and partners.

Why do we judge? Because judging is free. Nobody is stopping you. So you indulge in pronouncing judgments. It comes easy. It is exciting. It gives you an air of superiority. That superior feeling you may not be seeking consciously at all. But your subconscious loves it. You feel like an exalted member of the jury, looked up to by your own private circle of courtiers, while pronouncing someone guilty.

And why do we loathe being judged? Because you almost always are being judged for a single act and not for the real person that you are. Let’s say, in a country like India, in a city like Chennai, where autorickshaw drivers are known to fleece people, you are seen haggling with an autorickshaw driver for about Rs.20/- (less than 50 cents). You are attired in business formals, are carrying a laptop bag and looking every inch a well-heeled white collar manager. Two people passing by, who are new to Chennai, watch you haggling. One of them tells the other that he thinks you are a miser who is finding it difficult to part with Rs.20/-! You hear that comment and feel hurt. Why? Because your fight with the autorickshaw driver is on a matter of principle and not a function of affordability. That you are a man of principle is not being considered by the opinion-makers. That you are a miser, which you believe you are not, is what they perceive. So, you hate being judged because it is never based on the complete reality though it may well be based on some sound perception! When you are judged, you feel like a worm. You feel like a criminal, standing helplessly in the dock, who’s being judged and indicted without the full story being heard!

The simplest way to avoid judging is to put yourself in the shoes of the person being judged and ask if you would have liked to be talked about that way! This is not easy to do. But it is simple. Over time, employing empathy and compassion, you can kill your urge to judge __ yourself and other people!

No one is perfect. No one is complete. No one is a saint. And no one is a born villain. Left to themselves, even the people who commit heinous crimes, who are tried, judged and punished by law, may not have ever wanted to end up that way. Given a choice, they would not have wanted to commit those acts at all or they may well want to undo those acts. Take Oscar Pistorius for example. Who would have thought this global icon would have ended up facing charges of murdering his girlfriend? In his statement he has said, “I am absolutely mortified by the events and the devastating loss of my beloved Reeva…I cannot bear to think of the suffering I have caused her and her family, knowing how much she was loved….” Pistorius has his own reasons, his own defense for shooting at Reeva (as he says, accidentally) and the court trying his case will focus more on the act than the person he is. In fact, that is the way law is drawn up in all parts of the world. Where the criminal act, with the related evidence, coming into weigh more on the final judgment than sentiment. The judgment rarely indicts the person. It merely punishes the act, though the person who committed the act is pronounced guilty of it!

Perhaps there’s a lesson from the legal system here for all of us who indulge in recklessly and wholesomely judging people. Perhaps, it’s also a good idea to fundamentally evaluate whether judging people, including ourselves, is worth it at all? A lifetime is a much bigger, vaster, varied experience. A single act may well mar and scar a person’s reputation __ as we found in the case of Shiney Ahuja or Tiger Woods or Bill Clinton __ but cannot incinerate a lifetime of work. So much time and emotion is wasted in judging. So much so, that sometimes, we end up judging ourselves and plunge into either depression or float in a fake sense of exaggerated self-importance.

This does not mean that we should not step in when we see someone headed in a wrong direction. We sure must. A teacher must judge the performance __ both academically and morally __ of her ward and prevent and prohibit factors that inhibit good performance. Don’t judge does not mean don’t correct. It means don’t condemn. It means don’t dump. It means focus on the act and still respect, love and appreciate the person for who she is. Place the act not in the backdrop of your morality, your virtuousness or your principles alone, but in the context of that person’s well being and the well being of the people in his or her circle of influence. For all the same or similar reasons, should you agree with them, don’t bother about being judged. Because if you are being judged, there can be two reasons. One, your actions must have led to the judgment. Second, the people judging your actions may be less evolved and may have ended up condemning you wholesomely. Either way, it doesn’t change who you are. So, live with that truth and make peace with yourself that way!

To judge __ others or yourself __ is as heinous a crime as the act being judged itself. It is wasteful, regrettable and, therefore, imminently avoidable. Instead, a better position to take is to be a witness. A silent observer. No opinions. Just quiet learning. Take what you want to take from that person’s action or experience and discard the rest. Most important, when you are a mere observer, there is no anguish, no pain, no suffering, no victim, no villain…there’s just you, in total bliss.