Go to work on your problems than just lament about them

When Life’s problems seem insurmountable, take each day as it comes, but keep at your problems without thinking of the outcomes.
There will be times when nothing will seem to go your way. Situations at work will be unproductive – stressful, political and complex. Your relationship could be heading nowhere – often leaving you lonely and lost. The money may just not be enough. And any efforts you make to fix things, to find solutions, to make the situation better, may only end up confounding matters. The normal response to such a situation is anger, frustration and depression. When these emotions arise, observe them. Hold them and give them your attention. Ask yourself if feeling angry, frustrated or depressed is of any use in a situation when you don’t like what you are getting in Life. When you realize the futility of anger, frustration and depression, you will immediately want to let them go.
Running away from Life or feeling sad continuously for what has happened or feeling guilty for what you may have contributed to what has happened – none of these serve any purpose. In fact, Life never cares how you feel. Life just goes on happening. And if you bring debilitating thoughts to the table, if you keep clinging on to the negativity that arises as a result within you, you will feel bogged down and held hostage.
What is a problem situation at the end of the day? Any situation that you dislike is a problem situation. Plain and simple. If what you dislike must go away – one of two things must happen. Either you must work on driving it away. Or you must walk away from it. You can’t forever be lamenting that you dislike a situation. That’s escapism. Of course, in any situation, you can act, you can take remedial steps. So, act. Don’t worry about the results. Simply act. An action may lead you to a result. And you may like or dislike that result. Then act again if you must change that result. That’s how it works. Inaction on account of depression, anger, guilt, grief or worry is sacrilege. For anything about a current reality to change, you have to change something within you first. Which is, you must be ready and willing to go to work on your problem regardless of circumstance, outcome, reward or recognition. Just keep chipping away. When the going gets tough again, when you face rejection, failure and hit another no-go place, you may well face another bout of depression and frustration. Hold your depression again and examine its futility. Then let it all go. And you go back to work, to chipping away at your problem. One day, one day surely, what you are chipping away at will give way. And that day, when you connect the dots backward, you will be grateful for the choice you made – to have gone to work on your problem than sit and bemoan it!   

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! 

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! 

Peel off and junk this label called “failure” – to hell with it!

You fail at something only when you can’t – or refuse to – face the reality. Not when you try, fall and don’t achieve the outcome you planned for.
I read an interesting interview with American researcher, story teller and author, Brene Brown, in a recent issue of TIME. Her most recent book Rising Stronghas just been released and deals with the subject of failure. Brown tells Belinda Luscombe of TIME, “We are handling failure with a lot of lip service. When failure doesn’t hurt, it’s not failure. He or she who is most capable of being uncomfortable rises the fastest…Shame needs three things to grow: secrecy, silence and judgment.”
I can relate to every word of what Brown is saying. I come from the view that nobody fails at anything just because the outcomes are not what society expects or what you want. Failure and success are but social labels. They come from judgment. Now, why judge anyone for any reason in the first place? So, when Brown says that one’s capacity to deal with being uncomfortable contributes to rising strong, she’s right! What does being uncomfortable mean? It means you don’t like what you are seeing. It means you are honest to yourself and are seeing the reality as it is. You are not in denial. When you accept a situation, you can handle it much, much better than when you don’t accept it. It’s as simple as that.
A friend of ours is separating from her husband. Now two people, mature adults, are concluding that they can’t be together anymore. Where is the need for failure as a label to come in here? But it does. The families of both people are labeling the marriage as a failure. And they don’t like our friend talking openly about it. They are trying to cover-up the separation as something that is bad, as if something grave has happened. But our friend is very clear. She says, “Listen, it is not working out. I didn’t sign up for this to be unhappy. I am very unhappy in his presence. I am moving on.” This ability to face the reality, to accept an uncomfortable truth that it’s all over (in the context of our friend’s marriage) – this is what determines how strongly you rise from a setback. Earlier this week, actors Konkona Sen Sharma and Ranvir Shorey too handled their separation – or their ‘failed’ marriage per a social definition – admirably. Here’s what Konkona tweeted: “Ranvir and I have mutually decided to separate, but continue to be friends and co-parent our son. Will appreciate your support. Thank you!”
We must all realize that things just happen in Life. We don’t always get what we want. To feel shameful of a situation is never going to help change it. Shame breeds guilt over what you may have done. Covering up an outcome that you don’t like to accept doesn’t help either. It is only going to accentuate your stress. And please don’t judge yourself. We all try. And we often don’t get what we set out to achieve. The logical next step is to try again – and try differently. It is not to sit and brood over what has happened.
I would go a step further than Brown and say there is nothing called failure. Or success. Both are subjective and are defined by a society that judges people far too quickly without ever having been in their shoes. I think you fail at something only when you refuse to face it. When you face a situation, when you see and accept reality, your desire to change that reality spurs you into action. Only through action can there be change, progress – and inner peace!