In crisis situations, just carry on stepping!

Don’t expect your problems or challenges to vanish into thin air. Don’t try wishing that they weren’t there. It is the nature of Life to have problems. Deal with Life, especially in a crisis, one step at a time.
Life in a crisis is pretty much like the headlights of your vehicle. You know where you want your vehicle to go. You know the destination. But in the darkness of the night, the headlight can’t get you to see the destination. But it sure can light up some part of the way, a few feet at a time, and as you make progress you get to see what lies ahead. This goes on, until of course, it is daylight or you reach the destination you were driving to. Life works exactly the same way. The night, the crisis, is not likely to go away immediately. A new dawn awaits you, but it is never dawn until daylight arrives. So, in the darkness of the night, follow the headlight principle. Don’t expect the entire road to be lit up. Be content with being able to see just a few feet at a time. In Life, therefore, when in a crisis situation, don’t expect clarity and answers to what lies a week down the road, a month, a year or in the distant future. Just believe that you will survive. Know that you will ultimately prevail. Know that you will eventually achieve your goal, reach your destination, realize your dream.
This is as true a statement as it is to say that a day always follows each night! Live each moment and each day completely__keeping your focus on where you want to go, living in the awareness that if you can see a few feet ahead, if you can survive today, you are making good progress. Don’t ask why are you in the dark phase or why you are groping with a crisis? Don’t wish and pine for the crisis not to have been there. These sentiments will cause you agony and hamper your ability to think clearly. The truth is that the crisis exists. The truth also is that you are caught in the throes of it! Accept it. Tell yourself that if you can last the next few steps of the journey, you will be blessed. Then when you pass each day, when you last that phase of the journey, work on lasting a little longer. And keep going until time relents, the crisis blows away and you are bathed in the warm glow of daylight, or what the world will call, ‘your success’! 

An old Chinese proverb reminds us that to get through all journeys, even the hardest ones, we need to take only one step at a time, but what’s important is, we must carry on stepping!

Your ‘Mahamaham’ moment awaits you – not in Kumbakonam, but within you!

A dip in a ‘holy’ river or tank can never ‘cleanse’ you. Pausing, reflecting and awakening alone can.

A friend feverishly texted me on WhatsApp a few days ago. He’s close to me and believes that the financial challenges that my family and I are enduring, for close to a decade now, is directly related to my past karma– a ‘carry forward’ of sorts of ‘sins committed in a previous birth’. He furiously appealed to me I must make the pilgrimage to the Mahamaham tank in Kumbakonam and take a dip to ‘wash away all my bad karma, my sins’. “You will see an immediate change in your fortunes,” he insisted. I merely thanked him for his compassionate perspective and offered no justification for my choice not to accept his advice.
Mahamaham – Kumbakonam
Picture Courtesy: Internet
The Mahamaham is a Hindu festival that happens every 12 years in the Mahamaham tank in Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu. I have no disrespect for the Mahamaham. Nor do I intend questioning its legend that’s drawing several millions in (what they think is) piety. Yet, I sincerely don’t believe a ritualistic dip, however ‘holy’ the site may be, can ever cleanse anyone. In his memorable 2003 classic, Anbe Sivam (Love is God), Kamal Hassan beautifully explains to his co-star Madhavan why the God within us – the Universal Energy that keeps us alive – must awaken for us to realize the magic and beauty of Life. That realization, to me, is the biggest awakening. And only an awakening from within can truly cleanse us.
To be sure, there is a Mahamaham moment waiting for each of us – provided we are ready and willing to understand Life and have seeker’s, a student’s, attitude. And that moment need not be at a temple tank, where millions are crowding with a herd mentality, throwing personal and public hygiene to the wind! My own Mahamaham moment happened in my living room, some time in 2007, when I was having my favorite Royal Challenge whisky, and was utterly bored with two other things I was trying to do at the same time – swap channels on TV hoping to find something interesting and make sense of the English translation of the Sai Satcharita, a book on the Life and teachings of Shirdi Sai Baba. My search for something meaningful on TV drew a blank. And I soon turned it off. My family had long gone to sleep. Even as I poured myself another drink, I tried – but failed miserably – to understand what the Sai Satcharita was trying to say – it will easily rank as among the most horrible works of translation ever, from the original Marathi to English! I put the book away. And I thought deeply about what Shirdi Baba had taught the world in his lifetime. In a Eureka-like flash, it dawned on me that the two principles around which all his teachings were anchored are – Shraddha, Faith and Saburi, Patience. To face Life and to overcome the challenges that you are faced with, I realized that, you must keep the faith and learn to be patient.
Over time, I employed this awakening very constructively, through my daily practice of mouna (silence periods), to understand the impermanence and inscrutability of Life. I learned that this is the only Life we have. And to live this Life well – and happily – we must train our mind to be in the present moment. In the now. I discovered that the way religion is practiced in the world today is that it encourages you and me to fear people (who peddle religion) than inspire faith in creation – that if you have been created without your asking to be born, then the same energy that created you will care for you, will provide for you. When there is fear, how can there be faith? When there is no faith, how can you be patient?   
This clarity is helping me live my Life with total inner peace, despite the storm that rages on outside, in my business, professional and material Life. This clarity makes me believe that a dip in an insanely crowded temple tank will hardly cleanse anything – not even your body, let alone your mind. I am more with Kabir, the 15thCentury weaver-poet, here. He said:
Kabir Man Nirmal Bhaya, Jaise Ganga Neer 

Pache Pache Har Phire, Kahat Kabir Kabir

Translation
Kabir Washed His Mind Clean, Like The Holy Ganges River
Everyone follows behind, Saying Kabir, Kabir
That is, Kabir urges us to remove all impurities from our mind, from our thinking process, thus letting the light of divinity to shine forth. Truly, there is divinity in each of us. That divinity is suppressed, lying buried under layers and layers of grief, guilt, anger, fear and such debilitating emotions. This is why we are searching for God outside of us. This is why we are running to a Mahamaham.

Seriously, you don’t need to wait for 12 years to scramble to a Mahamaham for cleansing yourself. Your Mahamaham moment awaits you if you can simply pause, reflect and awaken to the opportunity of cleansing your mind, of living in the now! 

Spike Fear, Embrace Uncertainty, Have Faith

To peacefully journey through Life you must understand uncertainty and let go of all that you fear.
Indeed, none of us knows what lies in store for us in each approaching moment and, most of the time, we are running scared of this uncertain, unknown, dark future. The way to nullify the impact of the lethal cocktail of fear and uncertainty in Life is to have faith. The faith that can remove fear and help you embrace uncertainty is not the faith that religion tries to dispense and that we all claim we profess. All religious faith is dogmatic, puerile and fanned by seeking to identify with a power that (we are made to believe) is outside of us. God, per all religions and their diktats, fatwas, gospels, is external. Which is why anyone who is deeply religious will still be plagued by worry, anxiety and fear. Whereas, true faith is having conviction in creation itself, in the Universe and its Master Plan. The same energy that powers you__and me__and keeps us alive also created the mountains, the trees, the gorges and the valleys, the petals and the fruits, the oceans and the drops of water. It is part of the Master Plan that the Earth goes around the Sun and not the other way round. It is the same Master Plan that divined you were born to the family that you call your own and were endowed with whatever faculties you had at the time of your creation! That Master Plan has no flaws.
Knowing this, feeling this and living this reality in wondrous amazement is faith. When there’s this real faith, no imposter__religion, dogma, beliefs, rituals, superstitions__can get anywhere close to you. Nor can fear and uncertainty torment you! Where people have true faith, no explanation is required and no amount of explanation works for those who don’t have faith!

Jaluddin Rumi, the 13th Century mystic Persian poet, described living in faith thus: “Do you think I know what I’m doing?…As much as a pen knows what it’s writing, or the ball can guess where it’s going next.” He compared himself to a flute, a wind instrument made from bamboo reed, that cannot create music, unless it is played by a master flautist. So are we, he said, played on by Life. Thinking that we have no song in us is letting fear and uncertainty get the better of us. Knowing that our lives will be music is faith. Spike the fear, embrace the uncertainty, keep the faith and you will live happily ever after! 

Life has to be faced, not feared

Your fearing something is not going to take that something away.
There are times in Life when nothing will go your way. There will be so much unsaid, so much unresolved. And it may just seem like everything is wrong about your Life. Every effort you make, each step you take, you will be stonewalled, tripped or pushed to a corner. The mind will invite you to despair. Decline that invitation artfully and let Life lead you.
Relax. Get yourself a cup of tea or grab a drink if you can. The mind is like a tennis-ball practice machine. It keeps spewing out worries and fears endlessly. These debilitating thoughts will tell you that you can and must solve the problems that face you just now. But what if you have already tried all that you can think up of. And failed. And the problems persist. The very thought that there’s no way forward may force you to allow your fears to take hold of you. Please don’t let them. Your fearing something is not going to take that something away. Life has to be faced, not feared.

The truth is that Life has always been flowing on its own. You and I have done precious little to make our lives happen. So, let Life happen as it has been happening and as it is happening. When things don’t go your way and when you don’t know what to do, accepting that there’s no choice than to wait and watch is an intelligent choice in itself.  Exercise it.

Facing your fears makes you courageous

Guts and glory are mere perceptions. The reality is in experiences and in learning from them. It’s through the experiencing and the learning that the soul is enriched.
When we watch a movie and admire a hero for the way he or she has fought for justice, against perpetrators of evil or crime or injustice, we come back feeling good. We loved the movie. But we don’t really think any of it is real. Because it’s just a story enacted for our entertainment. In real Life when we meet the actor, we do say we admire him or her and their ‘acting’. We know little about who they really are for us to be able to see the person behind the actor.
So it is with real Life heroism. Often people look at others around them and call them courageous and celebrate their valor or the stance they have taken in Life on fighting injustice or simply meeting a challenge head on. Someone who has found a deadly disease like cancer is often seen as a champion. Someone who has lived on despite the passing away of a loved one is believed to be very bold. Someone who fights injustice is seen as a ‘fearless’ crusader. And someone who refuses to run away from a seemingly impossible situation is believed to be incredibly resilient.
To be sure, everyone who has ever lived has had to encounter fear. Fear spares no one. Interestingly though all of us have the ability to be courageous. Because courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is what fear delivers when you face up to the fear. Because only when you face up to something, will you realize that it cannot harm you. Only what you run away from chases you, haunts you.
In a health challenge like cancer, you can feel fearful of death. But as long as you run scared of death, it will torment you. But the moment you discover that death is a non-negotiable eventuality that all of us who are born have to confront, you will no longer fear death. Then you start living. And despite your speeding to death, owing to your personal situation, you begin to feel blessed that at least you reasonably know how much time you have left to live. And you start investing in the living than obsess with the dying. Fear of death has delivered to you the ability__courage__to live simply because you stopped running away from death.

This is true with every Life situation. The more you run away from a problem, the more fearful you will be. When you face it, the problem, even if it doesn’t go away, will at least stop tormenting you. So, face your fears. It is from facing them that you become courageous!