Stop whining, start living!

The amount of time we spend complaining about Life can actually be spent living it fully, spiritedly!
Justin Vijay Yesudas
Picture Courtesy: The New Indian Express
I read an inspiring story in this morning’s New Indian Express (NIE). Archita Suryanarayanan profiles 34-year-old Justin Vijay Yesudas who has recently won three gold medals at the National Paralympic Swimming Championship at Indore. An accident in 2004 left Justin paralyzed. Save his shoulder and elbow, Justin cannot feel or move any other part of his body below his neck. Yet he took to swimming and has managed to get this far. He tells NIE’sArchita that he’s now ready to aim for the Asian championships. Justin is not just a swimmer. He also has a corporate job as a Deputy General Manager at Cognizant Technology Solutions. He accepts his special condition as part of his Life’s design. He does not complain about it. In fact, he keeps a tight schedule daily – swimming, weight training and his regular corporate work. I simply loved this quote that he gave NIE: “Everyone tries to walk, but I know that I can’t. So, I continue doing what I used to (before the accident) instead of trying what I can’t. I see many able people who find excuses not to do things. What I do is find reasons to do things, Life can be beautiful even after paralysis.”
Reading this and seeing his million watt smile in the paper today lit up my morning! I just thought to myself – Isn’t it a shame that we, well-endowed folks, succumb to negativity and depression so often? Don’t we always end up complaining about what we don’t have? And aren’t we quick to cite constraints for not being able to do several things in Life? People like Justin invite us to re-examine our attitude to living and encourage us to live more spirited lives!
If you reflect on the way you approach your Life, you will find that complaining about what you don’t have comes naturally. To complain about lack of resources, lack of time, lack of money or lack of understanding is comfortable. You don’t have to do anything to complain. You just have to state what isn’t there and sit back and pine for it. We miss the whole point of intelligent living this way. We don’t realize that it is part of our Life’s work to work around constraints – whatever they may be. When we complain the lack of something in Life and feel deprived, we are actually beginning to suffer. Over time, this suffering holds us hostage and keeps us depressed. That’s really how you lose the yen to live and be happy. But if you work around your constraints – either by getting what you don’t have or by learning to live without what you don’t have – you may surely feel the pain, but you will not suffer. Justin surely feels the pain of being paralyzed. He will feel it all his Life. But clearly he is not suffering.

It is only when you end your suffering that you can actually live fully and spiritedly. That’s when you feel inner peace and happiness. But it all begins first with stopping to complain. Inject yourself with Justin’s spirit today – stop whining, start living! 

Stop complaining, rejoice in the beauty of Life

If you stop complaining, you can see the magic and beauty of Life! 
Having to use auto-rickshaws in Chennai is no easy task. Most auto-rickshaw drivers lack sensitivity. They are rude. They ply only when you agree to pay over the meter. And almost all of them violate every single traffic rule – they break traffic signs and are sure to enter one-ways from the opposite direction! Over a period of time, I have stopped fighting (with) these guys. I greet them with a polite thank you when they stop in response to my call. I begin the conversation saying, “You turn on the meter and I’ll pay you over that amount when I alight at my destination.” As I engage the vehicle for the journey, I do insist that the auto-rickshaw driver goes per my directions and follows all traffic rules – including not speaking on the mobile phone. Nine times out of 10 this approach works. The only time I fail to get an auto-rickshaw driver to buy in is when he is headed in different direction from where I want to go.
This morning, as I flagged down an auto-rickshaw, the driver went past me and stopped in front of a couple who too wanted to engage him. They were within ear-shot of me. I could make out that the driver was haggling with them for a fixed fare as against plying per the meter. The driver refused to take them on board. Instead he backed up and came to me. I went about the conversation the way I normally did. I was calm and firm. The driver agreed to drop me to my destination. And, surprisingly, refused the tip over the metered fare saying, “Saar, I normally get people who refuse to pay me anything extra. Since you started by thanking me and offered to pay me extra, I want to thank you for being nice to me. Please pay me by the meter only.”
This approach has helped me transform not just the way I experience auto-rickshaw drivers. It has also helped me stop complaining about things around me, and in my Life, that I am currently incapable of fixing.
It is so true in India that we have millions of things to complain about. The state of our roads, the power situation, the garbage on the streets, the insensitivity of road-users that compounds our traffic woes, the mosquitoes, the rate of crime, the attitude of law enforcement agencies – these are among the several issues that affect us gravely, and in the face, on a daily basis. And, of course, if you are in Chennai, the auto-rickshaw drivers are sure to leave you irritated and fuming! As I started using auto-rickshaws more frequently, and as I found a way to deal with them efficiently, I found myself complaining less. About everything. I realized that when we have a problem with a situation, we must either fix it – if we can – or simply keep quiet.
Complaining doesn’t help. It only increases our stress levels and makes us bitter with Life. Much of the rage and insensitivity that we see on Indian roads is a result of pent up anger that comes from incessant and unresolved complaining. People who go on complaining about this or that or the other are never at peace. When we are not at peace with our world, and with ourselves, we cannot see the magic and beauty of Life. To be sure, there is beauty in every context or situation in Life that is available for us to see. It is available 24 x 7. Amidst all the ruthlessness we see around us, there is a lot of kindness and compassion which is still there. For all the disrepair that we human beings cause our cities, the sun and the moon and the stars still continue to rise and shower us their grace and brilliance; the birds continue to chirp and make music despite all the cacophony below. But, of course, we will be able to see all this beauty, experience it and rejoice in it, only when we stop complaining.

Stop Complaining. Start Living!

Be eternally grateful for this Life and this experience! Life is a mixed bag. You often will get what you don’t want. And you will also often get what you didn’t expect. Every which way though the best you can do to be anchored in peace is to be grateful for whatever happens to you, for whatever you get!
Zen practitioners advise using this mantra in all contexts: “Thank you for everything. I have no complaints whatsoever!” This may not appeal to most people instantaneously because when you are caught in the throes of your everyday challenges, the last thing on your mind is gratitude. And this Zen practice seems almost escapist – as if you are choosing to deny what is, to deny reality! But if you examine Life closely, you will appreciate that there is no other way to respond to Life than with gratitude. Being thankful is the only way to live peacefully. And if you live without being grateful, for everything that’s given to you in each moment, you will never be in peace.
The human mind always craves for what is not there. And rarely appreciates what is there. Look at you: don’t you bemoan scarcity all the time, rarely celebrating the abundance in your Life? Years of living like this have conditioned you to miss the opportunity in gratitude. To break free from this self-defeating attitude, do a simple exercise. Make a list of all, absolutely ALL, the things that you are grateful for in Life. And make another list of what’s not there, what you miss, in your Life. Now, do a dispassionate assessment asking yourself: Do you really think what you miss outweighs what you have?  What you will discover through this exercise is the power in the Zen mantra we discussed above.
You will then conclude that the best way to live is to simple be thankful for everything that Life’s given you. And you too will stop complaining and start living!