No matter what could have been, it is always what it is

And whatever it is, when you find yourself down in the dumps, get up, dust yourself and move on.
A friend, who had had one drink too many, left his car keys at the bar counter while he stepped into the restroom. When he came back he didn’t notice that the keys were missing. And when he did realize this, he also discovered, to his horror, that his car had been stolen! Obviously, he felt like a worm. Very miserable. He called me this morning. And we had a long chat.
Obviously, he’s been suffering with both grief and guilt over the past week. He told me that the last few weeks have been challenging for him. He’s been having a rough time at work. He’s lost his car now. And he’s not sure if will get one of the positions he’s applied for in another company. “I just feel all this is too much for me to handle. Why should I go through what I am going through,” he lamented.
I empathized with my friend. But I told him that “why” is the most futile question to ask in circumstances where you have no control over what’s happening to you. My friend, however, was angry with himself. “Didn’t my carelessness cost me car?” he asked.  I replied: “Sure it did. But what’s the point in lamenting that you were careless. You were careless. You lost your car. Period. It is what it is. Don’t be careless again. No point in going on brooding over what’s happened. Now that the car is lost, you are no longer in control of the car or the situation. And that is the brutal truth. You have only one option here. Which is to accept what is – your carelessness and carlessness – and move on.”
As he calmed down, my friend was keen to know how much of a role determinism plays in Life. Sure enough, one argument is that determinism governs our Life to a large extent. Whatever has to happen alone happens. This doesn’t mean that free will does not have a role to play. Of course it is free will that led my friend to drink more than he should have, it was also free will that led him to the restroom and it was the same free will that made him leave his keys on the bar counter. But people in favor of the determinism theory will say all of what happened to my friend was pre-determined. It was ordained. But I don’t see a need for a debate at all. It is a waste of time. Determinism, to me, is a theory that you bring in to explain your Life when free will ceases to reasonably justify whatever’s happening to you. So don’t theorize, don’t explain, don’t justify Life – simply accept it!  

The best way then to live your Life is to drop all the grief, drop all the guilt, and stop brooding on what could have been. No matter what could have been, it is always what it is. When you live Life with such clarity and a clinical detachment with the past, and with no expectation from the future, then you will be able to live in this world and yet be above it! 

Don’t fall for the bait and get attached to outcomes – stay detached!

Stay detached from the outcome of your efforts and you will be at peace. Detachment really means to be unmoved in any situation – success or failure, victory or defeat.

Picture Courtesy: The New Indian Express/Internet
Team India’s Captain Cool, M.S.Dhoni, reminded us yesterday, yet again, why he is such a rare human being, player and leader. After India’s comprehensive defeat at the hands of the Aussies in Sydney in the 2015 ICC World Cup semi-final on Thursday night, Dhoni said: “Of course we are disappointed not to be in the final, but then only one team can win. Australia played better cricket today (Thursday). The Cup did not belong to us. We took it from someone and someone else will take it from us. If we had played better cricket on this particular day, we would have won.” This is the simplest, most logical explanation anyone can give in any situation like the one India finds itself in – they played a great World Cup campaign, winning seven out of seven games until losing in the semi-final. Also, when you do badly and lose a game, there are only learnings, never justifications. And finally, staying detached – as Dhoni is and has always been – from the outcome is the best way to preserve and nurture your inner peace.
Indeed, like sports, Life too is competitive. But no matter how hard you work, and how ethical you are, there will be times when you will not get what you want or perhaps even deserve. And there will be other times when you will be successful. In either situation, stay detached. Remember this: Life happens through us, never because of us. So, when we succeed at what we are trying to achieve, stay unaffected by the accolades. And when you fail at something, or rather when someone else succeeds in your place, choose again to remain unruffled. In the game of Life, someone will necessarily have to win. And it need not always have to be you!
To be sure, however, on the spiritual plane, success and failure, victory and defeat, mean nothing. Everything is transient, everything is a mere experience, and if you pause to reflect deeply, everything is an impermanent illusionary experience! So, don’t fall for the bait and get attached to outcomes – stay detached. In any situation, you have only your efforts to focus on and count on. Here’s how you deal with your efforts:
       Good efforts and you succeed at the task – take it easy
       Poor efforts and you succeed at the task – take it easy
       Good efforts and you fail at the task – take it easy
       Poor efforts and you fail at the task – take it easy
Take it easy every which way. Learn every single time. Remember this too: as Dhoni recounted and the Bhagavad Gita says, “Nothing belongs to you. And nothing will be with you forever. What is yours belonged to someone else yesterday and will belong to yet another tomorrow!” So, stay detached. Stay in peace.

A Sufi parable and a Sunday lesson

Don’t identify yourself with your problems and feelings. Stay detached. And you will be in peace.

Junaid, a famous Sufi mystic, was in the market-place with his disciples. He always coached his disciples using real-Life situations.

A man was dragging his cow by a rope. Junaid walked up to the man and said, “Wait!”
He then told his disciples: “Surround this man and the cow. I am going to teach you something.”
The man stopped obeyed Junaid  and stopped. He was also interested in what he was going to teach these disciples and how he was going to use him and the cow.
Junaid asked his disciples: “Who is bound to whom? Is the cow bound to this man or is this man bound to this cow?”
“Of course,” the disciples said, “The cow is bound to the man. The man is the Master, he is holding the rope, the cow has to follow him wherever he goes. He is the Master and the cow is the slave.”
And Junaid said, “Now, see, what happens.” He took out a pair of scissors and cut the rope – and the cow escaped!
The man ran after the cow, and Junaid told his disciples, “Now look what is happening! Now you see who is the Master; the cow is not interested at all in this man – in fact, she is escaping.”
The man was very angry. He asked Junaid: “What kind of experiment is this?”
But Junaid was busy explaining the learning to his disciples: “And this is the case with your mind too.
All the nonsense – your memories, fears, anxieties, grief, guilt, all that and more – that you are carrying inside is not interested in you. You are interested in it, you are keeping it together somehow – you are becoming mad in keeping it together somehow. Only you are interested IN it. The moment you lose interest, the moment you understand the futility of it, it will start disappearing; just like the cow, it will escape.”
This beautiful Sufi story teaches us the power of detachment and the futility in identifying with situations and emotions. The more we identify, the more we will suffer. When we fail at something, for instance, we are quick to label ourselves as a failure. Wrong. Failure is an event. It is not a person. Similarly, you make a mistake. It is an event. Don’t identify with the mistake by feeling guilty. Just learn your lesson from the mistake, from the experience, drop the guilt and move on. It’s all a mind-game at the end of the day. The more importance you give to what your mind is saying, it will lead you and hold you hostage. The moment you disregard your mind, it will, like the cow in Junaid’s story, stop leading you. And you will then be free and at peace!  

The power of, and in, acceptance

When you accept things and people for what they are, it does not necessarily mean you approve of them that way. Acceptance leads you to inner peace – and that, if you really want to, helps you to work on changing the way people and things are.
Let’s say you have been trying to deal with someone who has a drinking problem – a parent or partner or sibling or colleague or friend. You have tried to counsel, inspire, dictate and plead with that person to give up drinking. But all that has been in vain. Now, accepting that person for who he or she is, the way he or she is, will definitely help you be peaceful with yourself and your current reality in matters concerning this person. But will your evolved, “accepting” nature, seem like a sign of approval and invite more of such “unreasonable” behavior by the person concerned? Well, it really will not if you ensure that your acceptance of the situation – of having to deal with an alcoholic in your Life – is not seen as sign of your approval of alcoholism as an act. Your acceptance is for you to see things, and people, the way they are. When you are fighting a situation, you are hoping things will change dramatically by your mere resistance. But some situations – like reforming an alcoholic, fixing a broken relationship, turning around a failed business – take a lot of time. No situation or reality can be turned around by resisting it. It is only through accepting a situation, that you can understand its contours with total clarity. It is only by seeing a situation clearly that you can work on solving it.
Of course, sometimes acceptance can lead you to total detachment too. We had a friend who, over time, became an alcoholic and wasted himself completely. His wife loved him dearly and tried her best to wean him off the bottle. But he was unable to give up drinking. Initially, his wife grieved a lot. But then she learned to accept her reality, learned to accept her companion for the way he was, and, in fact, cared for him compassionately, as he was struck by cirrhosis of the liver and had to spend months in hospital. He eventually died, felled by his ruinous habit! When we visited her, she had this to say: “I had tried everything that I humanly could. When I realized that I could not change him anymore, I simply became accepting of him the way he was. I saw him die. But while he was in hospital, I did everything I again could to care for him. My acceptance of the situation gave me tremendous inner peace. There was no grief anymore. Just peace.”
Acceptance works in all situations and with all kinds of people. You can use acceptance to work on finding a solution to whatever you are faced with or practise detachment if a solution evades you. Importantly, acceptance is what makes you peaceful. When you are at peace with yourself and your world you can make more informed, intelligent choices. It is through such choices that you can live the Life that you truly want. When you live a Life that you love, you cannot but be happy – despite the circumstances that you find yourself in!