Let people and their opinions just be – you carry on living the Life that you love living

Don’t measure your Life in terms of success or defeat, asset value and brand value or on what people – including the media – have to say. Nothing matters in the end; except whether you lived each of the moments you were alive and except the lives you touched!    

This morning’s Economic Times had a story on Indian cricket’s most successful captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Written by Ratna Bhushan and Ravi Teja Sharma, the story (“Is Brand Dhoni on the wane?”) seeks to analyze if Dhoni’s appeal as a brand endorser is under threat and if it is worth betting on post the ban on Chennai Super Kings’ from the IPL. Nothing wrong with the story per se given that ET is a business paper and they have the need to comment on subjects such as brand value and asset value. But there’s a naïve perspective, in fact an avoidable opinion, that the story plays up. It reads: Dhoni was listed by Forbes in 2014 as the world’s fifth most valuable sportsperson brand, valued at $ 20 million. And only last week, he was named as the world’s ninth most marketable in a study by London School of Marketing. But can this change? It can.”  I infer the statement to mean that if you thought Dhoni was invincible, infallible, indispensable, think again; because his brand aura is waning with his poor ODI performance as captain, with CSK in trouble and with his retirement from Test cricket. My point is – whether any of the reasons Bhushan and Sharma attribute to Dhoni’s dropping brand value are relevant or not, the irrefutable truth about Life is that what goes up has to come down. Such is the nature of Life. The question whether someone’s position in a given context (in Dhoni’s case it is his supremacy in the game) can change or not is both irrelevant and naïve at the same time. Of course, all Life is about change. And nothing lasts forever – including the social definitions of success or failure.
Mercifully, the Dhoni we know is the man he is. He is unlikely to be bothered by the ETanalysis. 

Yet, I find so many people grieving over what other people have to say about their lives. They put on a mask and pretend to be living a Life to contend with social and peer expectations than to live fuller, wholesome lives. They work overtime on how they are perceived than how they simply are. So people suffer bad marriages because they have to protect their social identities. They get stuck in lousy careers because the money is more important than the quality of work they do. They work overtime, often vainly, to look presentable and appear good on Page 3 or on TV, while within them they are rotting – feeling empty, lost and unwanted by their immediate circle of friends and family. All of this is wasted, misplaced effort that only accentuates personal suffering.

Remember this: your Life will mean nothing to you when you are gone. You can’t take anything with you when your time here runs out – not your money, not your assets, not your memories, not your family and definitely not your rewards, recognitions, media stories and public opinion. What really matters are two things – First, how did you live your Life? Did you live it fully or did you merely exist? And second, did you do work that touched people’s lives and made a difference? When you believe you lived all the moments of your Life fully, when you believe you touched even one Life in your lifetime, then, you can say your stay here has been meaningful. Only then you can say your lifetime mattered. Else, it was all fluff. Before you know it, it’s gone with the wind! Pooh!  

So, drop all pretentions. Get real. Let people say what they want to and let their opinions be where they are. You simply carry on living – being who you are and living the Life you love living! 
Advertisements

Stop becoming and start being

What have we done to our lives?
We have become so mechanized. So robotic. We are trying to constantly ensure our incomes go up, our families are provided for and yet we are not even bothered if we are happy? In fact, our unhappiness has become so much a part of us that we have stopped knowing that we are unhappy. We imagine that running the household, driving the kids to school and back, preparing reports and presentations, taking the annual vacation, IS Life! Is that really so?
Step off this treadmill. For a second. Take a brief moment. Focus on a flower in your neighborhood, in your garden, in a vase in your home. Just find a flower this morning. Look at it intently. Examine every aspect of its creation __ the color, the shape, the texture. Feel its pollen with your fingertips. Smell it. And ask yourself, how often have you stopped, even paused, to look in the direction of this flower? How you have chosen to ignore this flower represents the way you live your Life. You are doing everything else except living, my friend. When you are in front of the mirror, getting ready to rush to work, you have time to examine that pimple on your forehead, the dark circles beneath the eyes, or to certify the quality of your shave. But you don’t have time to look into your own eyes and ask yourself how are you?
As people we are becoming more and more efficient. There’s an App, an application, for everything on our smart-phones. From music to medical tests to running our schedules to buying stuff. Our phones can get us anything and everything we want. Despite all this efficiency, why are we still so lost? What are we searching for? What are we trying to complete in us?  Ask anyone__yourself to begin with__as to what will make them happy, and you would hear people express it differently of course, but most will say that they would like to live a different Life from what they are leading currently. Then why is it that nobody is willing to make that change in the way they live?
Remember: to go back to being who you are really are, you must stop becoming something. Our entire efficiency race is about becoming: successful, rich and, eventually, happy__as if it were some destination. How would your Life be, if you just focus on being happy, being rich, being the way you are __ with WHATEVERyou have? Have you ever tried that? To find your Self, you must stop running this rat race, and make the journey within. Pause. And dive within. Listen to what, Osho, the Master has to tell you this morning: “Constantly remember that you are not here in Life to become a commodity; you are not here to become an utility, that is below dignity; you are not here just to become more and more efficient — you are here to be more and more alive; you are here to be more and more intelligent; you are here to be more and more happy, ecstatically happy.”
 
And that you will surely be, my friend, when you stop becoming and start being! 

Are you taking advantage of the time you have here?

Actually, the choice to live – and not to exist – is a no-brainer if you keep reminding yourself that “you live only once”!

Picture Courtesy: Internet
The latest issue of TIME features an interview with acclaimed American photojournalist Lynsey Addario, 41, who specializes in covering war and champions human rights and the role of women in traditional societies. In 2000, she photographed in Afghanistan under Taliban control. She has since covered conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Darfur, the Congo, and Haiti. She has covered stories throughout the Middle East and Africa. She has photographed for The New York Times, Time, Newsweek, and National Geographic. Addario was one of four New York Times journalists who were missing in Libya from March 16 ~ 21, 2011. The Libyan government released Addario and the other journalists on March 21, 2011. She reported that she was threatened with death and repeatedly groped during her captivity by the Libyan Army. Penguin has recently published Addario’s first book, It’s What I Do – A photographer’s Life of Love and War. TIME asked Addario to explain her unique, albeit risky, career choice – “Is it because you think you have a lot of time left that you can tolerate danger?” And Addario replied: “It is important to take advantage of the time that we each have.”

Her reply is awakening. Addario says it so well – and simply. In fact, it reminds me of what the Buddha has said: “The trouble is you think you have a lot of time.”

And that indeed is the problem with most of us. We go on postponing the Life we want to live by kidding ourselves with our earning-a-living logic: the family has to be provided for, kids have to be schooled, raised and sent to university, retirement has to be planned and saved for … The list of things to do, to prioritize, over living a full Life, is endless. This is why so many of us feel that our lives are incomplete, listless and monotonous. My wife and I have been, since January this year, running an Event Series in Chennai called “Follow Your Bliss” (inspired by Joseph Campbell’s famous thought/quote) which celebrates people who have had the courage to break free from “financially safe and secure” careers to do what they love doing. Almost everyone who attends this Event Series concurs that they are keen to do “something more meaningful” in their lives. But few actually take the first step. One gentleman, in his 50s, who quit his 26-year run with the IT industry last month, told us: “It had to happen. I realized that I had to give up running on the corporate treadmill if I really wanted to get some place else in Life. And I am not getting any younger either, you see.” I am sure you too agree with his view here.


Indeed, Life is a gift. And you should not waste it. The way to use this gift – effectively and efficiently – is to take advantage of the time you have on the planet, doing what you love doing. That’s the only way to live a Life of meaning and happiness! 

It is sinful to waste Life by merely “existing”

“You live only once, so please LIVE! Don’t Exist!”
This is what I have learnt from my dear friend Ejji Umamahesh. I got to know Ejji providentially! I used to write a weekly column for The Indian Express (now The New Indian Express) called “Positive Signs”. I shared inspiring stories and perspectives from my experiences through my column. Ejji, as I was to discover, was an avid reader of my column. One day, almost 12 years ago, I received an email from him. He introduced himself as a “retired rat race runner” – and that was it, we became, and have remained, great friends ever since.
Ejji in Varanasi last week on the “Highway to Swades
Ejji started his career as a toilet cleaning supervisor at the once-iconic Safire Theatre, in what was then Madras. In 1970, he set up Ejji Maintenance Contracts, the first building cleaning service company in India. A year later, he founded Ejji Domestic Services which offered on call services of electricians, carpenters, plumbers and such at home, which again was the first of its kind in India. In 1991, Ejji “quit the rat race” because he had wanted to “earn a living” for only 20 years of his Life. Ever since, Ejji has been living his Life, “doing only what he wants and only when he wants to do anything”. Right now, as you read this, at 65, Ejji is driving through India, capturing the “The Idea of India”. He is on the journey, aptly called Highway to Swades, with three other like-minded seekers – which covers 20,000 km, over 55 days, traveling the entire east coast of India, the North-East, the Hindi belt of Bihar and UP, going high up into Himachal, through Jammu & Kashmir, down through Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, coastal Karnataka, Kerala and back to Chennai! Ejji is a collector of vintage cars, loves car racing (he is the Deputy Secretary, Formula 1 Indian Grand Prix), is a theatre enthusiast and has even done a cameo in Mani Ratnam’s ‘Aaytha Ezhuthu’! Ejji, to me, is the quintessential explorer – always experiencing Life by living it to the fullest. However, since 2011, he calls himself a “congenital sybarite” – a sybarite is one who is self-indulgent in their fondness for sensuous luxury!!! That’s Ejji, Unplugged, for you!!! He’s never in one place – peripatetic as they say – having been at Katchal, one of the Nicobar Islands in India on January 1, 2000, to witness the “millennium sunrise” to traveling to most (often lesser known) parts of the world and to currently picking up the sights, sounds, smells and voices of India in this high-voltage election season.
I have often asked Ejji how he manages to do all what he does. And he has always replied: “I have just enjoyed being myself. Most people give up on being themselves only to be conforming to what is considered to be normal. People fear what others may think of them and their actions. So they don’t live their lives the way they want to. Thankfully, I did not care and still don’t care about what others think of me!” Ejji is also quick to add, lest we conclude that he has done what he has at the cost of his “worldly” responsibilities: “My Life has had just one important obsession – my family! There’s nothing that I have done which took precedence over the rightful duties I owe my family. Only after my obligations to my family were met, did I venture into the bohemian lifestyle that became my hallmark.”
I believe the greatest lesson anyone can draw from Ejji’s Life is to live. Not necessarily the way he has lived. But to live Life the way you want to live. Most of us postpone doing what we love doing for social, financial, career or family considerations. You can postpone something if you have a lot of time. But how do you decide or know how much time you have left to live? With each moment that you choose to do what you don’t love doing – because you imagine you have no choice but to do it – you are losing yet another moment to live your Life.
So, postponing living – the way you want to live your Life – is not an intelligent thing to do. Not all of us may succeed in drawing a line saying enough of “earning a living” – now, let me just live! But we can make a beginning – in doing at least a few things each month, each quarter and each year. Living, like existing, is addictive. Once you start enjoying living a full Life, then nothing else will matter. You will then realize how futile and sinful it is to waste a precious gift called Life by merely “existing”!

Fear and Insecurity aid and abet Life’s adventure

Insecure? Fearful? Just let it be.
There will be times in Life, when you feel insecure. When you will not have any idea what is going to happen. When fear will grip you. At all such times, sleep over the fear. Allow the insecurity to prevail. When you do this, you will discover Life to be magical. To be beautiful. Over time, you will conquer the fear and your sense of insecurity and turmoil will be replaced by a sacred inner peace.
Fear and insecurity are an integral part of Life. They take over whenever you seek predictability in Life. What is the predictability that you seek? That you should have money, that you should be able to provide for your family, that nothing should happen to any of your loved ones, that all your wants must be taken care of? But do you even realize that the predictability you desperately seek is impossible to achieve – money is impermanent, Life is impermanent and your wants are the cause of all your suffering? In fact, nothing is permanent. Everything is perishable. Even you or I have an expiry date – except that we don’t know what that date is! So, to feel fearful and insecure about an impermanent Life, or its various facets, is a totally unintelligent response.
The reason why you feel insecure in the first place is because of what you have been told. You have all along, from the time you could make sense of this world through your school years and through those in college, through your early adulthood and employment, been reminded to focus on everything impermanent – and to cling on to it. So much so that now, insecurity is a habit. It comes “naturally” to you. Which is why when you don’t have what you want you feel insecure. When you don’t have money it worries you. When you don’t have a companion in Life you feel lonely and fearful of the future. When you don’t have a job you feel scared and lost.
I met someone the other day who is exactly in the same situation in Life – not much money, no job and who had just been through a messy divorce. “I feel so insecure. I don’t know what will happen,” he lamented.
Surely, you have felt this way too at some point in Life. Just as the way I too have. The question here, as you will realize when you have a deeper understanding of Life, is not not knowing what will happen. The question is why do you need to know what will happen? The final answer to what will happen is that some day you will die – your Life will come to an end. How does it matter what happens in the interim if the ultimate end is well known and inescapable? Not knowing what will happen in the interim is not at all a problem. But because you conveniently ignore the impermanence of Life, you believe you must have predictability in it. The truth is that the interim period between birth and death is as inescapable a reality as the end itself is. So, the way to deal with your fear and insecurity is to face them as a fact of Life. Remember that they are the weaves that make up the tapestry of Life.
Try living with this awakening. Understand, accept and celebrate the impermanence of Life. Live each moment as if it is your last one. Then fear and insecurity will not cripple you. They will then, in fact, aid and abet your Life’s adventure. Life’s a bungee jump – minus the harness – really. Not knowing if you will survive the next moment or not is part of the excitement. It’s what keeps the game charged. It’s what keeps you alive. Those who embrace the uncertainty actually live, while those who prefer predictability merely exist
                                                                      

Simply blow your whistle if you feel you must

To live a Life of meaning, you must first understand the meaning of Life. And the truth is, in reality, Life has no meaning. Think about it – what kind of a meaning does Life offer when you are born, without choice, empty-handed and you have to die, again empty-handed; even all the experiences that you have during a lifetime and the learnings, they would seem futile because no one knows if there is an afterlife and if you will even remember any of these in that Life!!! So, the whole Life experience is meaningless at one level. But there’s every opportunity to create your own meaning in Life. To do that, though, you must participate in and with Life.

Most people find their lives listless, meaningless, because they are passive. They are lost in earning-a-living, as opposed to living. Earning-a-living is but one aspect of Life. But if you get obsessed with that one single aspect then you lose yourself to its trappings – worry, anxiety, fear, insecurity, sorrow, grief, anger, jealousy, hatred! Then you are not living. You are merely existing.

To participate in Life, be with it in each moment! Whatever Life throws at you, be with it. Don’t be lost in your idea of Life. You will never find it. Because Life conforms to no (one’s) fixed idea. When you say and expect that Life has to be this way only – you have surely consigned your lifetime to misery and suffering. Because Life’s not going to oblige. Instead be open to receiving anything in Life, from Life, in totality, fully. Let your energy flow into Life’s every moment. Something makes you exult, rejoice over it. Something makes you sad, grieve over it. Whatever makes you offer yourself fully to Life, as it is happening to you in a given moment, do it. Don’t stick to one idea of Life, else you will get stuck in a rut!  

There’s this beautiful story of the Hassidic Master Baal Shem. It was a holiday and several of the Master’s faithful followers had gathered for a communion. 

A man had come with his retarded son. He was a little worried about the boy. He was worried that the boy may do something embarrassing. So he was keeping an eye on the boy. When the prayers were said, the boy asked his father, “I have got a whistle – can I play on it?”

The father said, “Absolutely not – where is your whistle?” Because the father was afraid that the boy may not even listen to his “no”. The boy pointed to his trouser pocket, that revealed the bulge of the whistle and the father kept his hand on the son’s pocket to ensure that the boy does not get adventurous.

Soon, Baal Shem led the congregation to ecstatic prayer. Then there was dancing, and the father forgot about his son’s whistle – taking his hand off his son’s trouser pocket – and he also started dancing. Hassids in prayer are dancers, joyous people – the very idea of Judaism is to let go, to be free, to dance as if there’s no tomorrow. When everybody was praying to God and dancing, suddenly the boy could not resist it any more. He pulled out his whistle and blew on it. Everybody was shocked. And the father was embarrassed. But Baal Shem came up to the boy, hugged him and said: “Our prayers are heard. Without this whistle, all was futile – because this was the only spontaneous thing here. All else was ritual.”

There’s a huge learning here for each one of us. Are you living spontaneously like that boy? Or are you trapped in your own rituals – even if you are subconsciously? Do you feel like doing something else – like dancing or singing or blowing a whistle – but restrain yourself because you think you have ‘outgrown’ that stage or think it to be ‘inappropriate’ to do such a thing? Why not abandon all fixed notions and ideas you have of Life and stop searching for meaning in Life? Instead simply let go and create your own meaning of Life! And if that requires you to blow your whistle, whenever you feel like it, you possibly simply MUST!