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!  

No matter how messed up your Life is, suicide is not the answer!!!

When did you ever ask to be born? Your lifetime is a gift. How can you then decide to end a Life that you has been ‘given’ to you?
I saw a note from a young reader this morning saying she read my post of two days ago – “Are you ‘sad sad’ or are you ‘happy sad’?”She confessed that she was just out of ICU after attempting suicide for a second time. She felt no one “really shared her sadness or was willing to understand why she was depressed”. Her note indicated that she was learning to cope with her reality: that she was perhaps having to deal with her Life, herself!
Indeed. Each of us is messed up in one way or the other. And we all have to deal with our quota of problems – some call it “s*%t” – by ourselves. Often times, Life may well be lonely. But sorry, I am not one who will ever support suicide as an idea – whatever may be the circumstances that drive anyone to that point.
Here’s what we need to understand. This lifetime of ours is a gift. None of us asked to be born. Life has been given, gifted, to us. For heaven’s sake, consider the miracle here. Isn’t it a miracle that you have been created as the human who gets the H1N1 (swine) flu and not as the swine that gives the flu? Even the swine did not ask to be born. Life has been given, gifted, to the swine as well. For all that the creator – if there is indeed one – cares, you may well have been created as a swine! So, know that, if you have been created as a human being, there must be a reason for it. And that reason is certainly not to feel depressed and to take your own Life!
A principal reason for depression is that your Life is not going the way you want it to. Simple. This reason may manifest itself in myriad ways but the basic concept is of not getting what you want. But hey, hold on a sec, will you? When did Life promise you anything? When was any guarantee given that your Life is going to play out this way or that way? Life does not promise anything. There are no guarantees in Life. Every product you buy comes with a user’s manual and a warranty. You – and I – are the only products, us humans, who come without any user manual to guide us or any guarantee that can assure us of a Life that we want. What this essentially means is that the best way to live Life is take it as it comes, to live with what is and to have no expectations from Life. The moment you expect Life to be this way or that way, and when it doesn’t go your way, you feel depressed. So, who is causing your depression, you – or Life? Besides, how intelligent is it to feel depressed over something that was never in your control?
Also, let’s not expect people to understand us either. It’s better to assume that no one will. And then when you find someone who understands you, well, won’t that relationship be worth celebrating? Your sadness is your own. Your happiness is your own. Don’t agonize over friends who don’t want to share either with you – the brutal reality is that such people were never your friends! You have made the mistake of calling mere acquaintances your friends, and you brood over their behavior? How intelligent is that? One of the best features that Facebook offers is when you add a friend, it asks you to categorize that relationship – is this a ‘close friend’, ‘an acquaintance’ or should this person be added to ‘another list’? I do this diligently for all my friends – even offline, off Facebook. And I would recommend you do it to. Let me tell you, it works!
Life has to be faced no matter what the circumstances. My wife and I have been enduring a bankruptcy for years now. For many spells over the last 8 years we have gone penniless. I have been called a cheat by my own mother and have been ‘disowned’ by my own family. As I write this, Vaani and I are not sure where our material Life is going – honestly there is so much debt to be repaid and no effort to reboot the business has kicked in place, the way we want it to. Yet, we are sure, that this Life must be lived, till it naturally ends, it is own inscrutable way, just as it all began! This is our story. But look around you – in your family, in your circle of influence, among your neighbors and colleagues – everyone’s got a personal story of pain, grief, guilt, sorrow and of facing Life stoically. If they can look their Life in the eye and live it, all of us too can!

I not going to tell this young reader – or anyone – that everything shall pass, that things will get better, that there will be dawn at the end of every dark night. I believe anyone attempting to take one’s Life is smart enough to know that all this is both true and fluff at the same time. Fluff because Life takes time to change. And it is people’s intrinsic impatience with Life, and a lack of understanding of what Life is, that drives them to suicide. But from experience I can tell this for sure: it is in enduring Life patiently that you evolve, you grow and you come to a point where you believe, like we do, that if you have been created you will be cared for, provided for, looked after – and loved! That you may not always get what you want, but you will always, always, be given what you need!    

No matter what, it is still a very kind and compassionate world!

Every once in a while, people will remind you that they care. And that compassion still thrives in this cold, seemingly hostile, inhuman world.
Last evening, Chennai had a non-stop torrential downpour for six hours. This was already a city that was struggling to return to normalcy after last week’s floods – caused by an aggressive North-East monsoon. What’s worse, two things that Chennai and Chennaites don’t know how handle are rain and traffic. So, the whole city choked and crawled taking, on an average, 4 hours to move less than 1 km. This, even as it mercilessly pelted from the skies!
Photo Courtesy: Times Of India/Internet
We had miraculously found ourselves a cab. And had decided to brave – our decision was made much ahead of the rain intensifying – it to attend a bhajan at a friend’s place to celebrate Swami Sathya Sai Baba’s 90thbirthday. This is an annual affair and is a spiritual fellowship that Vaani and I rarely miss. Understandably, we were also stuck in the traffic and rain. As our cab moved a millimeter at a time, we noticed hapless people returning from work, drenched, waiting at bus-stops for buses that probably would never have come last evening. Several people decided to walk, wading through knee-deep, and rising, water. The traffic cops were resilient and were trying to be helpful, despite being soaked under their rain gear, in a literally helpless situation. Everyone was patient though. Not too many people honked with frustration – something that strangely is a practice that we Indians revel in, when we are stuck in traffic snarls.
Between looking out the window, chatting occasionally with Vaani and listening to some great Bollywood numbers on Fever 91.9 FM, that the cabbie was kind enough to play, I was checking Facebook – often aimlessly.
That’s when this status from a young friend Joe popped up. Right now on the road, I’ve taken two people into my car. In case any of you have an SUV or any other car capable of wading through knee-deep water in Chennai at this point, now is the time. Go help. ‪#‎helpchennai I thought this was an awesome and inspiring gesture! It touched me.
It took us over 2 hours to cross a 700m distance to reach our destination. Our friend Kumar, and his father Ram, had made elaborate arrangements for the post-bhajan prasad (actually a full dinner spread including steaming idlis, hot sambar, bissibelebath and curd rice) to be served. Several people who were expected at the bhajan that evening could not make it. But several people, passing by, hearing of hot food being served, trooped in. They were welcomed with opens arm and fed personally by Kumar, Ram and their family. I just marveled at the spirit of service that thrived in the moment.
A lady who had also made it to the bhajanvenue in an Ola, could not find one to get back home. We discovered she lived in our neighborhood. We offered to drop her back home. It was actually not a drive on the way back; our cab seemed more like a motorized boat and the roads looked like over-flowing canals. We got back home close to midnight and as we went to bed, Vaani and I were both content that, in our own small way, we had been useful.
As I scroll through my Facebook Page and catch up on FM and newspaper updates, I just see how many, many people have come together, stepping out of their comfort zones, to help those who need some warmth, some care and love. All this leaves me feeling human, feeling good.
This is no appeal. I don’t wish to preach. I just make an observation. No matter what we see on TV or read in the papers (#Paris, #Mali, #intolerance, #Beef, #Muzaffarpur, #awardwapsi and such), it is still a very kind, compassionate world out there. The truth is we too can see its magic and beauty – if only we pause to look up from all our ‘busy-ness’! This observation, I believe, is the best way to amplify Swami’s Life’s message: “Love All, Serve All!”

No one can live (with) a lie for too long

If something makes you happy do it, don’t crave for social acceptance. The time you spend trying to make others happy, if you invest on what makes you come alive, you will find your Life having more meaning than it has just now.
Last evening I watched Bombay Talkies (a 2013 anthology featuring films by four directors) one more time. The opening film Ajeeb Dastan Hai Yeh by Karan Johar tells the story of a man Dev who discovers that his entire Life has been a lie – he is gay but he doesn’t want to admit it.
The 30-min short ends on a moralistic note – jhoot bolna buri baat hai; “It is wrong to lie”. This may sound like a clichéd, lofty message. But it is important, every once in a while, to pause and ask yourself if you are living your Life the way you want to? Or are you living your Life to please others? Simply, to put it bluntly, is your Life a lie that you are trying to hide from?
Interestingly, I don’t believe there’s anyone out there who does not know what they want from Life. I think people have a fairly clear idea. Yet people don’t want to go do what they want to because they are keen to secure social approval. Recently, a young friend said he doesn’t believe, at a deeply personal level, that securing “likes” on Facebook matters to him but he wonders if those “likes” are a sign of his social stature – of acceptance, of popularity. I feel my friend has answered his own question – as long as something doesn’t matter to him, why should he worry about gaining social acceptance? The same logic applies to each of us in all contexts of Life.
The key to intelligent living is to simplify Life. Be true to yourself. Do what gives you joy. Trying to work for social approval will only make you feel miserable over time – because no one can live (with) a lie for too long.  

You are unhappy only when you compromise with your happiness!

Don’t attach meanings to events, people, or technology. Just be yourself – with whoever, with whatever is. If you can’t be yourself, simply move away from whatever or whoever makes you uncomfortable!
I saw a story doing the rounds that quoted a recent study conducted in Copenhagen which found that people who got off Facebook were a lot happier than those who were addicted to being on it. I humbly disagree.
Nothing external can make you happy or unhappy. Ultimately you alone are responsible for your happiness. Period.
Technology is a mere enabler. What Facebook has managed to do is that it has brought people closer. It offers us an opportunity to share our lives, experiences and learnings with people we know who are living elsewhere in this world. What can Facebook do if you choose that platform to get into ideological debates with people that you know or start talking to people who don’t know you, who you don’t know, and who make you unhappy? A friend on Facebook is no more or less than someone who is your neighbor or colleague. Either you trust that friend and relate to the person or you don’t. If you do relate, you will enjoy hanging out with that person. If you don’t you won’t. It is simple – as simple as that.
We have a simple thumb rule. We don’t add anyone on Facebook who we think we can’t invite into our home. It doesn’t mean everyone who sends us a friend request will either be invited in/accepted at once or will never be accepted. We prefer getting to know newer friends better before adding them. This way we keep our Facebook walls clutter and litter-free.
I must make a confession here – I simply love Facebook. It gives me a continuous opportunity to share and learn from the people I like to hang out. I like to learn and unlearn from the stories and experiences of my friends – who I have let into my Life. So, here lies the nub: only I am responsible for how I am feeling on Facebook.   

To be sure, this is not about Facebook alone. In all contexts in Life, your happiness is directly linked to the choices you make. And let me hasten to add, there are really no right or wrong ways to make choices. You just choose. Some experiences work for you and make you happy. Others don’t. As long as you lean in the direction of what makes you happy, you can never go wrong. It is only when you make compromises with your happiness that you become unhappy. 

In order to find time for yourself, simply create it!

If you can pause and reflect, for a quality period of time daily, the quality of your Life will undoubtedly improve.
Yesterday, at The Brew Room, a beautiful café in downtown Chennai, I caught a hand-written sign that read: “Everything gets better with coffee.” I smiled as I took a picture of this sign. And I thought to myself, how true this simple promotional line for coffee is – in a real world context.
If there’s one thing that we all need desperately in Life it is time. And if there’s one thing that’s available in abundance, and uniformly, to all of us it is time. To be sure, we have the same 24 hours at our disposal. Within our reach. No one has a minute more or a minute less than the other. Yet we scramble along, stumbling and falling, struggling and heaving, complaining forever that we don’t have enough time! Now, the reason why time seems elusive is because we expect all our responsibilities to be settled, all our tasks to be completed, all our goals to be achieved, before we sit down to experience some quality time for ourselves, with ourselves. That certainly is not going to happen. Because each gone moment is gone. It is never going to come back. With each moment that is past, we have lesser time on this planet. This is the bitter truth. And unless we invest time we are not going to be able to create quality time – for ourselves, our families and for doing what we love doing. Period. Just as investing money wisely helps multiply it, investing time wisely alone helps create time.

So, the simplest way to find that time for yourself is to create it. Just drop everything and sit down for 15 minutes to half-an-hour quietly, each day, and feel your breathing. Read something. Check Facebook. Listen to music. Just don’t be under pressure. Think through your day and week. Do this diligently, daily, and watch the quality of your work and Life improving with this practice. I am not sure really if “everything gets better with coffee” all the time, but everything does get better when you pause and reflect. As someone has wisely said, “Now and then it is good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.”

Patience is the way

If you have learnt to be patient in Life, with Life, you have mastered the art of living!
My friend and I had a creative and spiritual disagreement a few days ago. My friend argued that you cannot be patient when the whole world is impatient around you. The boss is breathing down your neck. The guy behind you is honking. People rush into elevators instead of filing into them with order and decorum. Your colleague is pressurizing you to finish up your part of the work fast so that she can get her job done faster. So, patience, really? It doesn’t work, my friend protested: “You live in a Utopian world, AVIS. Here, in today’s world, if you are not moving at the speed of light, if you are not overtaking slow-coaches and laggards, someone else is going to overtake you and them. The one who is moving fast, has the advantage. Patience does not work anymore today!”
Yet, despite my friend’s well-reasoned pitch, today’s world requires patience more as a must-have quality, a necessity, than as a rare virtue which, when available and used, can create value! Because patience alone can lead you to a Life of peace, personal well-being and prosperity.
Patience comes from a deeper understanding of Life. We are impatient with people, events, circumstances, service, technology, and with Life, because fundamentally we want things to happen our way. But that’s just not going to happen. Despite our living in a time of instant gratification – WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter surreptitiously aiding and abetting it – Life works only in its own way, at its own pace. You can have your way only if you are patient with and in Life.
Osho, the Master, often narrated these three lines to help people understand Life better. He would say:
1.     Everything comes in its own time
2.     Everything comes when you are ripe
3.     Everything comes when you deserve it
Now, review your own Life in the context of these three statements. You will find that anything you have got so far from Life, stuff you have welcomed and have wanted, has come only per these three dimensions of Life. You may have wanted something and may have even been frustrated. And it has never come. You know your story better than anyone else. So, think back, and ask if you got anything you wanted any earlier or any later than when you needed it – when you finally got it? Were you not in total receiver mode to have got it? And you only got something when you truly deserved it, right?

Patience is about simply understanding these three dimensions of Life and reminding yourself of them every time you mind grieves or when frustration sets in. Simply, there is a no way to be patient; patience is the way!

Of a Priest, Prayer, God and Job Security

Does prayer really work? Does it lead you to God? Does it solve your problems?
I guess these are questions that often rise in our minds at a deeply rational, logical level. But I have come to believe that the questions are misplaced! The question we really need to ask ourselves is, of what use are all the religious rituals that we conduct monotonously and mindlessly when we are not mindful of Life’s gifts__the grace, abundance, blessings in our lives__ itself and we continue to still worry, fear and agonize over what the (unknown) future holds for us?
I am reminded of a conversation that I had with our family priest a few years ago. A self-confessed champion of piety, who called himself a ‘strict Brahmin’, he came to me asking for career advice for his son who was looking to join an IT services company after completing his undergraduate studies in software engineering. He explained that his son had been selected by a leading software company through campus interviews. Yet he claimed he was worried. Our conversation went somewhat like this:
Me: Why are you still worried Sir?
Him: I don’t know if IT companies can offer job security the way the government can!
Me: Why would you, a faithful servant of the Lord, for years now, be insecure __ and want to seek security in a government job?
Him: Sir, how can God guarantee job security?
Me: What is God there for then if HE/SHE can’t guarantee you security?
Him: Sir, velayadathengo! Don’t pull my leg, Sir! God can’t come and tell me that my son’s future is assured!
Me: If God can’t tell you that, the one who has direct access to HIM/HER, who else can reach God? Why do you pray then?
Him: Sir, praying to God is my profession. I still need ‘something else’ to tell me that my Life is on track and that my family and I will be secure!
With due apologies, and respect, to my family priest, I must confess that this is the problem with praying mindlessly. That ‘something else’ which my priest was looking for__and I hope he found it in his own way subsequently__is ‘mindfulness’. When you are mindful of the present moment, and are grateful for it, that would be prayer enough to make you realize your God!

You will then find God in this blessing__that you have to access Facebook and are able to read a post. You will then find God when you feel the air in your lungs. You will the find God in the sunrises and sunsets that happen outside your window every single day without fail. You will then find God in a child’s smile, in leaves rustling in the night breeze, in a cow mooing and in a dew drop! You will then find God in every form of creation that you connect with. You will then find God in each moment. And then you will understand and value what being prayerful is all about. You will then realize that such true prayer, of living in the moment, alone can lead you to your God! 

Don’t shut yourself to love

It is fine to fail in love in Life. The bigger tragedy is to not get any love or, worse, shut yourself to love.   

I read the story of a 62-year-old man from Bihar yesterday. In his early twenties he had an affair with a South-Indian, Tam Bram, girl. Her parents had her hurriedly married off to a Tam Bram engineer when they heard of the affair. Today, 39 years hence, the man still pines for her. He lives in Nainital presently but visits Hyderabad each year just to see her. He recently wrote this on facebook: Today she has 2 kids; one son married and the other son is in the United States. She also has a grandchild, a girl. She lives in Hyderabad. Every year for the last 39 years, I have gone to see her. I don’t meet her or make her even aware that I am there. I don’t want her to feel embarrassed. I guess I live my Life through her. I never knew why she didn’t have the courage to fight for “us” – something that I was willing to do. I guess I will never know. I am 62, unmarried, retired; I live alone in a three bedroom cottage, and today, when I reflect back, I wonder if I made the right choice?”
Clearly, this man is clinging on to his past. He has simply shut himself to love. It is fine to fail in love. Sometimes things don’t work out. Either before marriage or, as it often happens, even after marriage. The truth is marriage plays no role in helping two people relate to each other. When the relating stops, the relationship ends – whether or not you marry someone. In this man’s case, his beau succumbed to the pressure she faced from her parents – a story that has been played over and over and over again in many a Bollywood film right up until the late 1990s. In fact, films of those days merely portrayed what society was experiencing. By clinging on to what he believes is true love, the man has shut himself out for 39 long years. He need not have married again. But he surely could have been open to allowing himself to be loved and cared for.
Interestingly, this man and his story are but a metaphor. The learning from his story applies to all of us – whatever be our contexts. His is a tale of a lost relationship. But so many of us are trapped in the past too. We are clinging on to something which is dead. By holding on to what isn’t there, we are missing out on what is. And what is, is the perfect present – the now. Where love is in abundance. Where peace is in plenty. But to experience all of it, we must be present here – in the now.

Ask yourself: “What am I clinging on to?” Let go of whatever that hasn’t worked out or worked for you. Simply let go! Open yourself up and offer yourself to the opportunity in the moment. Then you will feel the difference. Your Life will be filled with love, peace and joy!