This is IT: stop wanting, start living!

Life is not what will happen to you sometime later. Nor is it what once happened to you. Life’s not in the future, nor is it in your past. This is it. Life is not a dress rehearsal, as someone has said. It ISwhat is happening to you now. Our tendency to forget this simple but unputdownable piece of wisdom is what robs us of the opportunity to LIVE!
Know that Life is benevolent. It will take care of you, no matter what, just as it has been taking care of all creation down the ages. To incessantly worry about what will happen to you, or to those around you, is the most unintelligent response to Life. You haven’t been created for worrying. You are here, on this planet, to live – and to live fully!
So, let go of your worries, drop all your guilt – be free. Live in the moment, however painful it may be at times, and experience Life fully. Your agony comes from your expectation that Life must be a bed of roses, a cakewalk – that Life must happen the way you want it to. Know for sure that your expectations may, well, never be met. Life’s intrinsic nature is to be unpredictable, inscrutable. So, as long as you are alive, and you know it, live each moment – by being fully present in it!
It is when you are not fully present in the moment that you struggle. And none of us has been created to struggle. It is only the human mind that broods, that worries, that remains hostage to a dead past or is a victim of an unborn future. No other aspect of creation has this problem. It is only we humans who invite suffering into our lives by expecting Life to be different from what it is. Think about this deeply. If it makes sense, dive deeper. Your Life is beautiful as it IS. You too will feel it is so ONLY when you stop wanting and start living!

If you carry your guilt for too long, you are as good as dead

You cannot enjoy Life when you are continuously feeling guilty. Almost all the time, we are making decisions in Life. Some of them work well. Several blow up in our faces. If we start feeling guilty for those decisions that misfired, we will be stuck in the past. When you are not present in the now, in the moment, how can you enjoy it?
Of course, guilt cannot be avoided totally. It has to only be faced, and overcome, with awareness. Every time something does not go per your design, or expectation, you are bound to feel responsible, and accountable, for the outcome. So, you cannot but feel guilty. But if you are aware that guilt is debilitating, that it is a wasted emotion, that traps you in the past, you will successfully overcome it!
First, however, try and understand why you feel guilty. We human beings have this notion, both through our education and upbringing, that we are in control of our lives. So, when things don’t go according to what you envisioned them to be, you hold yourself responsible. In a very subconscious, yet sure, way, your guilt is always a manifestation of your ego! “Ishould have been better prepared”, “I should have thought through this better”, “Ishould have planned for a worst case scenario”, “I should have not taken this decision or made this move”…these and more emotions are bound to gnaw at you from within. But do you recognize the existence of the big “I” in each of them? That’s your ego screaming out aloud! Your guilt is the shadow of your ego – it goes on vainly reminding you that you are all powerful and now that your power did not work in the current context, you have failed yourself, you should now brood over your action! You should, therefore, wallow in self-pity and guilt!  
But remember your awareness is far more powerful. When you attain a state of self-realization, where you understand that nothing is being done in Life, in the Universe, by anyone, that Life is happening on its own, your guilt disappears. This is not escapist thinking. This is the truth. Whatever has happened, was bound to happen, even if you were to murder someone! If it could have been avoided, it would have not have happened. Being trapped in your guilt and by brooding, nothing is going to be achieved. If anything, you will be dead, because you are not living in the present anymore, even if you are biologically alive! In the Hindi movie Raanjhaana (2013, Aanand L Rai), Kundan, played masterfully by Dhanush, sits on the banks of the Ganges brooding over the death of Jasmeet (Abhay Deol in a cameo), which had been caused by circumstances triggered by Kundan. An anonymous man with a camera confronts Kundan and says: “You look like you have murdered someone. Your face says it all. No religion can grant you forgiveness for taking the Life of another human being. So, no point in feeling guilty over what you did and what has happened. You are not going to attain salvation sitting like this by the Ganges. So, get up, go, go do something about your Life and make things better by living your Life fully, meaningfully!” Kundan gets the message and takes charge of his Life the best way he can! What the film’s nameless character told Kundan applies to you and me too. There’s no point drowning yourself in guilt over anything – the best you can do is to try not to repeat the same action, pattern, decision, whatever that misfired, again. That’s all!
The moment you let your guilt get the better of you, you are as good as dead. You, me, we all, are but small cogs in the big wheel of an inscrutable cosmic design called Life. And Life happens, not because of you or me, but inspite of us. When this awareness dawns and remains in you, you will see each guilt-forming moment as an opportunity to learn, and unlearn, and keep moving on.

To be free of guilt, be free of yourself

To be free of guilt, be free of yourself. Your guilt is not going to make things any better. Cognitive action will. We all feel guilty of our actions at times. We feel remorseful. And we seek forgiveness. When we are not forgiven, we feel even more guilty. Guilt is a debilitating force. It can make you feel depressed, pity for yourself and wasted. Guilt thrives in you because of your ego.
There’s no use allowing your conscience to be ridden by guilt. The awakening that you have made a mistake is the first step to offload your guilt. When you are awake to your misdemeanor or impropriety, you will want to seek forgiveness. That’s the right step forward. However, when you are not forgiven by the other party, don’t let your guilt and self-pity consume you. Feel good that YOU recognize your mistake. Heal yourself by loving yourself. Use that love as energy to propel you to affirmative action. Unless you act on your resolve not to repeat the mistake or make good a situation, you will not transform. The process of transformation requires you to not only focus on what you WILL do but also on what you WILL NEVER do. Remember, you can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do. You HAVE to do it. And you can’t do it if you continue to feel guilty of your past actions. So, be free, awake, arise and act!

From nonsense to non-tense living


Living completely requires you to be non-tense. Which is you must not allow anxiety, worry, guilt, fear, anger __ in fact anything that makes you tense or stressed __ to affect you in any manner. To be non-tense, we must learn to drop all memories, all expectations, all desires and simply embrace the present, the NOW.

At the core of all human suffering are memories, expectations and desires. Most of the time we are saddled with painful memories of what once was. We either want to go back in time or we want to rid ourselves of the pain and suffering we have been through. But how can you get rid of anything that you cling on to? Then there are our expectations. We expect that all our integrity and hard work is always rewarded. That all our wants are always met. When that does not always happen, as it may possibly not, you agonize. Then there are our desires. For a future that is not yet visible. We want Life of a particular order. We don’t know if it will happen or not. So we worry about the possibilities, about the odds, all the time.

To avoid all this suffering, you need to do three things:

  • Stop living in your past __ and the memories will no longer come back to haunt you
  • Expect nothing – simply receive what you get, with joy, with humility, in acceptance
  • Desire nothing – In the absence of desires, think about it, there will be no future to worry about

Earlier this week a friend from the hospitality industry pinged me. He frantically wanted some advice. He lived and worked out of a South Asian country and served in one of the most premium beach resorts there as an Assistant Manager. His wife and one-year-old daughter live in India. He said he had been to India on vacation until 10 days ago. And confessed he was very homesick. He had stopped enjoying his work because he wanted to be living together with his family. His wife was not too keen on leaving India for another South Asian country and preferred moving to the Americas, if at all. To compound matters, his company had overlooked him for a promotion. He was disillusioned and wanted to quit his job and get back to India. He said he wanted to do something to make his situation better. We chatted a bit on Skype. Here are snatches from the conversation.

Me: How does quitting become the “something” you want to do to make your situation better?

Him: At least it will get me back to being with the family!

Me: Oh! So, you don’t need to be earning right now to support your family?

Him: No. No. I do need to be earning. I have not much savings, so, yes, I need to keep my job.

Me: Then how does quitting the one you have help?

Him: I am so frustrated. I just think quitting will help.

Me: Since you ask, let me tell you, you must not be quitting, but must create value in whatever work you do.

Him: Create value in a job for an employer who does not value me and has passed me over in the recent appraisals? I don’t get you!

Me: The employer has passed you over. That does not stop you from creating value. Yes, you probably need to find a lasting solution to your twin problems of a. living with your family and b. finding an employer that values you. But clearly quitting is not the way forward. Accept first that you are not living with your family now. So, let go of the immediate past, your vacation, that haunts you and makes you homesick. Accept also that your employer does not value you the way you would like to be. So, drop that expectation totally. And think of what best you can do every day. You can probably make your tenure as an Assistant Manager invaluable by creating value in your role every moment from now on! Just do that. Because that opportunity is in your control.

Him: So, what do I do about getting another job? Are you saying I don’t try at all?

Me: That doesn’t mean you should not try! Of course, just as you can create value in your role every day, you can apply to new positions every day. But do both these things without delving too much into the past or without worrying about the future. Work without pressure….work immersing yourself in the present, in the opportunity available to you, to create value!

That was my friend’s story. He signed off promising he would think over our conversation. Yesterday he pinged me again saying he had had a candid conversation with his current boss __ the one who had overlooked him for a promotion. And he said he kind of understood now the rationale behind his appraisal being the way it was. He declared that he was a lot more peaceful now. He said: “When you accept things for the way they are, you are no longer tense about how they will be or over how they once were.”

Honestly, I did not expect such a meditative point of view from my friend. But so deep has been his learning – he discovered the power of non-tense living! And I share it with you.

Your own Life situation may be different. But a non-tense way of looking at it may help you create value too than just acting in haste, and emotionally, in times when you don’t get what you want. A non-tense Life is always more fulfilling, more practical, more peaceful, because it is based on the only reality, the only truth available to each of us __ which is, the NOW! When you are not in the now, you are actually dealing with a lot of nonsense – emotions like worry, fear, anxiety, anger, that waste your now away. If you are focused on the now, on the other hand, there is no past, there is no future. There just is, what is. And so, in the present, there is no tension of what was or what will be. So, there will be no more wasteful emotions, literally, no nonsense!

Here’s hoping you live a truly non-tense day today!


Living with worry, fear, guilt, anger and more…


Many of us hope, through techniques and methods, to get rid of debilitating emotions like fear, worry, guilt or anger. But the truth is you can’t ever rid yourself of worry or fear or guilt or anger. You can only__and have to__learn to live with them. By learning to not give them any attention, you make them powerless. When they don’t rule your thinking, your mind adapts to your native state of peace, love, abundance and joy!

There are two states in which we naturally operate. Sub-conscious Doing and Conscious Doing. Intelligent living lies in making the important shift to Conscious Doing.

Let’s take the example of driving a car on a highway. There are so many things you are doing. And most of them are being done sub-consciously. You are driving, of course. But you are also having a conversation with someone riding with you. As you are doing this you are changing gears, switching your feet between the pedals on the footboard and keeping a sharp watch on the road ahead. This kind of doing is Sub-conscious Doing. It also comes from practice – when you are habituated to doing something.

Take another example of driving the same car through a very bad traffic jam. You are doing the same things with the highest level of focus and intense vigilance. This is Conscious Doing.

When we worry or fear an outcome or  grieve over something we are often actually doing it sub-consciously. Think about it carefully and you will agree with me. Which is, we don’t even know we are worrying, but because we are worrying we are not present in the moment. Long periods of time in a day are spent by many of us being absent from the present. You are, for instance, in a meeting at work. It is closer to 3 PM. And you are actually worrying if your kids got home and ate their meal because you have not got an SMS yet from your older one. You are worried how your younger one, who went to school with an upset tummy, is now feeling. A colleague shoots a question at you and you snap out of your worry-filled reverie and quickly struggle to get back into the meeting. Worrying cannot be eradicated entirely. But you can choose to shift from such sub-conscious worrying to, let us say, conscious worrying. Which is, by shifting from not knowing you are worrying to knowing exactly why you are worrying and knowing how to not feed your worry any attention anymore! You make this shift by increasing your level of awareness. And that comes from practicing, diligently, daily, not to give certain, especially those debilitating foursome, emotions too much attention. The secret lies in choosing what you want your mind to attend to.

So, if you choose being calm consciously, you avoid sub-conscious worrying. And even if you must worry__let us say over the health of a loved one__you do that from a positive, productive perspective. Your worry then leads to constructive action and not to debilitating grief or sorrow. Through repeated practice, and through consciously, consistently, choosing to be calm, you become your state of being __ you are then aglow with the Universal Energy.

The Buddha was asked this question: Why do the noble beings who have developed their minds appear so calm and radiant? The Buddha replied:

‘They sorrow not for what is past,
They yearn not after that which is not come,
The present is sufficient for them:
Hence it is they appear so radiant.
By having longing for the future,
By sorrowing over what is past,
By this fools are withered up
As a cut-down tender reed.’

Indeed. It is not as if the calmer folks you see around you have nothing to worry about or fear or get angry over. Anyone will get angry if there is a provocation. Anyone will fear a consequence which one has not experienced. Anyone will carry the guilt of a mistake. And anyone will have to face worries that surface in the mind. Because all of these emotions are led by thoughts. And thoughts are like waves. They keep ceaselessly, untiringly, lashing on the mind’s shore. By training the mind to only do things consciously__including thinking__we have an opportunity to live freely, fully, without fear, anger, guilt, worry and more bothering us. Without any of them taking us away from living in the moment!


Be a willing loser, be ‘fanaa’ about Life


In the Urdu language there’s a word called ‘fanaa’ which, I believe, means ‘annihilation’ or ‘to be annihilated’ in a Sufi context. In chaste Urdu it means to be ‘destroyed in love’, which is, to be ‘willing to be annihilated in (your) love for someone or something’. This morning I thought of this word. In the context of Life.

There will be times when Life will bring you to a point from where you will see no way forward. You will face an impregnable wall. Fear of, anger and hatred for, the situation will overtake any other sensible response you may still find brewing inside you. Yet, at such times, break free from anger, fear and hatred. Be willing instead to be destroyed by Life. Surrender yourself to the situation and let it take you to wherever you must logically__per Life’s design__end up. Just be ‘fanaa’ about the Life you have been given at that moment. And then watch the magic!

While we all understand detachment, having grown up hearing about, witnessing, learning from, Life, we seldom are able to bring it into play in our own Life situations. Because detachment cannot be practiced when you are still attached, when you are in possession. You may know what it means, but true understanding of what detachment really means or entails, you will get only when you lose something__whatever__that you are clinging on to in Life. So, when you are losing a Life battle __ losing someone you love to a misunderstanding, or death, or losing your money, your assets, your health __ be a willing loser. Be happy with the loss. Because while there may be a physical loss, often irreplaceable if it is a person, you are actually gaining an invaluable experience. You are learning a lesson in detachment through the loss. What is the worst that can happen when you are facing a grave situation in Life? You can die. Or you may lose some (a person or a thing) more?  Expunge your fear by recognizing that this Life was given to you without your asking for it. So, why cling on to your preferences or wants of how you want Life to treat you?

Actually, Life creates all of us to be free, to be in bliss. How many of us remember suffering when we were infants, before we turned 5, for example? Do you remember worrying, being anxious, angry, hurt, insulted or in grief? That freedom is our true state. That is the state we have been blessed with by creation. It is we, as we grow in Life, who create and invite problems into our lives. Soon, when the problems, become unsolvable, we blame Life. And as a result of such pointless, mindless blaming, we suffer!

There’s a story of Gautama, the Buddha, that I remember. One day the Buddha comes to his morning discourse carrying a handkerchief. It appears to be a costly one – perhaps some king has presented it to him. But everyone knows he does not accept such gifts, so everybody is looking, and thinking, what is the matter with the Buddha?

Gautama comes and sits, and keeping the handkerchief in his hand, says to his followers, ”Look very carefully.”

They all look. There is nothing to look at. It is just a beautiful silken handkerchief. And then the Buddha starts putting knots in the handkerchief – he puts five knots in it. There is a curious silence in the hall… everybody is simply watching what he is doing. Then the Buddha asks them, “Is this the same handkerchief, the same one that I had brought with me, or is it a different handkerchief?”

Sariputta, one of his chief disciples, stands up and says, “Why are you joking with us, O! Holy One? This is the same handkerchief” The Buddha says, “Sariputta, think again – because the handkerchief that I brought had no knots, and this one now has five knots. How can this be the same?”

Sariputta immediately sees the point. He says, “I am sorry. I do understand. Although it is the same handkerchief now it is in a very knotted condition – such as a man in anguish. He is the same man; a man in suffering is the same man that was born but now, one who is in knots.”

The Buddha replies, “Exactly. That’s what I want to show to you: that the man who is suffering is not different from Gautama, the Buddha. I am just a handkerchief without knots. You are a handkerchief with five knots.”

Of course the Buddha’s philosophy is of five basic problems that trouble man: violence, greed, untruthfulness, unawareness, and the ego. Each of us end up adding our own knots to these basic five – we may add fear, jealousy, anger, guilt, suffering, sorrow and several such. When our problems, the ones we have created, land us in a knotty mess, it is not a time to think of an end-game. You may be losing something material, but don’t think of losing the game of Life. Awaken instead to a higher level of consciousness through the experience. You may have been growing in Life so far, but by being a willing loser, you can actually grow up! When you hit a dead end, you can actually wake up from that impact. Think of the Buddha’s handkerchief in such times. And instead of hating that moment, be willing to be destroyed by Life. Be ‘fanaa’ about Life. And then watch the magic. You will actually become free. Because when you realize that you are responsible for your knots, for your problems, and are willing to live__and die__with the Life that’s coming at you, to you, you will really start living!

You control nothing – and yet you are the Master!


You are a Master the moment you realize that you can never be one! Or, more simply, you can be in control of your Life when you realize that you don’t and can control nothing! This understanding is all that there is to spirituality!  

Most people don’t see spirituality as the flowering of internal awareness. They don’t get it that its essence lies in understanding an irrefutable paradox about Life __ that the less you believe you control, the more you are in control!

People often see any spiritual perspective as ‘beyond’ them because they are so caught up in the quagmire of worry, anger, guilt, sorrow, suffering and the ‘earning-a-living’ syndrome. They have an ostrich-like mentality _ their heads are buried deep in their ill-formed beliefs. Their minds are closed although there’s so much grace, so much abundance, freely available. Kabir, the 15th century weaver-poet asked us to think: ‘What if a fish said it was thirsty?’ Wouldn’t that be the most stupidest of situations? Won’t you tell the fish to go re-examine its brain? How can a fish be thirsty when it is always in water? Quite similarly, the human mind is being foolish by seeking peace outside and by not looking within. By not allowing this flowering of awareness to happen from within. So, you conclude that you can’t be at peace, you refuse to look within and choose instead to be enslaved by your self-imposed limitations. Only when the awareness within you blooms, only when you understand that you can be in control while controlling nothing, only then will you see the Master in yourself.

This understanding is elusive because, while being profound, it is, at the same time, too simplistic. That’s why, it doesn’t come to everyone __ especially when  they are employing their education, their logic, in trying to make sense of Life. The truth is Life doesn’t conform to any framework or rules. Least of all your logic. So, Life is simple__and uncomplicated__when you simply accept its paradoxical, often inscrutable, nature.

Look around you. Everything is illogical. Everything is contradictory to what you have been taught, what you have been brought up with or grown up on.

  • Consider this – People behave thanklessly. There’s no dignity for human Life. Ethics and integrity don’t always make you successful anymore. You are encouraged to be worldly-wise than be honest and sincere. You find that trust is impossible to place and impractical to earn. Yet all these symptoms of a decadent world are true of people, even if they are from within your close circle of influence, whom you have no control over. You just can’t control what others do. Yet doesn’t all your grief come from wanting them to be different?
  • Consider another context – A close friend of mine worked very hard. He was sincere and a genius with his craft __ marketing. He grew up the corporate ladder fast. Because there was none like him in the business. For a man with average qualifications, he earned substantially. He had only one son. And he was saving up for his son to be studying in an American University. Then one day, a few years ago, his 16-year-old son was killed in a car crash by a drunk driver. His son was not drunk. The driver was. I still remember what my friend told me when I visited him to condole his son’s passing away: “I wish I had known this would happen. I would have then spent enough time with my son rather than spending that time earning money for him!” It is so bizarre. A hard-working father saves up for his only son__only to lose him so tragically?

How can you, despite all their education and logic, ever prevent what happens in Life? But you can surely choose how you respond to people and to Life. You can be grateful, you can be human, you can continue to be ethical, hard-working and honest. You may not earn as much as the others do, but you can sleep well. And doing all the things that you are comfortable doing, you can feel good and peaceful __ within you! This is your personal paradox and you must learn to accept it, appreciate it and live with it! You must, for the sake of your own inner peace, know that you cannot control anyone or anything outside of you in Life. If you can control anything at all, it is just how you live, how you relate to and how you respond to what Life throws at you!

I may have shared this before. There’s this story of the Buddha. The Buddha was passing through a village. The people of that village were against him, against his philosophy, so they gathered around him to insult him. They used ugly words, vulgar words. The Buddha listened. Ananda, the Buddha’s disciple, who was with him, got very angry, but he couldn’t say anything because the Buddha was listening so silently, so patiently, as if he was enjoying the whole thing. 
Then even the crowd became a little frustrated because he was not getting irritated and it seemed as if he was enjoying.

The Buddha said, “Now, if you are finished, I should move – because I have to reach the other village soon. They must be waiting just as you were waiting for me. If you have not told me all the things that you thought to tell me, I will be coming back within a few days, then you can finish it.”

Somebody from the crowd said, “But we have been insulting you, we have insulted you. Won’t you react? Won’t you say something?”

The Buddha said, “That is difficult. If you want a reaction from me, then you are too late. You should have come at least ten years ago, because then I used to react. But I am now no longer so foolish. I see that you are angry, that’s why you are insulting me. I see your anger, the fire burning in your mind. I feel compassion for you. This is my response – I feel compassion for you. Unnecessarily you are troubled.”

So beautiful, isn’t it? Another’s thoughts and actions are not in your control. What happens to you in Life is not in your control.

This is the state we must all ascend to. When you awaken to this reality, you will discover that you are in control ONLY of yourself! That you control nothing and yet you are the Master! From that clarity, bliss is born! Then everything that matters fills your Life__love, peace, good health and joy!


Be aware of your feelings to stay on the path!


Be aware of how you are feeling. It surely helps you in more ways than you can even imagine.

 

Many people who embrace spirituality and make progress towards anchoring in their inner core of joy often encounter real-world, real-Life situations when they are provoked by and succumb to external stimuli. They slip and fall on the path and feel even more guilty and angry that they allowed themselves to be provoked. The question is how can you stay on the path without slipping?

 

The way to do it is to stay in touch with your feelings all the time. When you understand Life and start living, one of the first and finest changes you will notice is that you will feel peaceful within you. With acceptance comes peace. And with peace comes unadulterated, pure joy!  

 

Yet, even as you are experiencing this new freedom, of being detached from the travails of everyday living, things will continue to be ‘normal’ in the external world. Which is, people and situations will irritate you, anger you, insult you, provoke you and you may break away from your anchored position, of being safe on ‘your’ shore, and may enjoin, once again, the strife, the chaos, the turmoil.

 

 

When this happens, know that your response is nothing to grieve over. It is perfectly human and normal to react. It’s what you do after you react that you need to watch over.

 

 

Let’s say, you have been having a torrid time in Life. Someone you know has been very, very sick. And besides providing full-time logistical and emotional support for this person, you also have a family to look after and an employment to keep. Life at work has become hell after a new boss has come in. Your days and weeks are always harried. That you are stressed-out, is an understatement. To find relief, you start a yoga or a meditation practice or a simple hour’s walk, all by yourself, daily. Over weeks you begin to love the peace and joy you experience. You find that this new practice has helped you prepare for the remaining 23 hours in the day. You fall in love with Life all over again. Then suddenly, the patient you are tending to goes into a critical stage requiring more intensive care. And around the same time your tyrannical boss gets after you with a vengeance. You explode one day at work and quit in a huff! As you soak in your new reality of being left without a job, it is not so much the act of quitting but the manner in which you quit, choosing to react, to explode, that disturbs you.

 

Now, this is the crucial point of introspection. How are you feeling should be your question? And not why did I explode? Because, remember, however long you have been anchored, however long you have been on the spiritual path of internal awareness, you will be provoked by external stimuli. It is only with continuous awareness and incessant practice that you can learn not to respond to such stimuli. Now, if you don’t become quickly aware of how you are feeling__actually you could be feeling pretty miserable after that explosion__you may slip further, either into depression or into being consumed by your own rage. “Oh God, what have I done?” and “Enough is enough. I can’t tolerate that boor anymore. How dare he?” are both responses that can ruin you. Instead, immediately wanting to know how you are your feeling can help you immensely. “Hey, looks like I am angry” or “Well, I needed to vent out somewhere, someplace. So, I did. Now let me get back to protecting my inner peace” are more ‘aware’ responses to your situation.

May be not the same context, but the same reactions in our own individual Life situations, keep happening to us, to those around us, all the time. The context is different, the characters are different, but the emotions are the same. Resultantly, feelings will be the same. Knowing those feelings and being aware is the only way to stay on the path. Intelligent living is therefore about a series of endless conversations with yourself. It is through this benign chatter that you stay aware and connected. All practices that champion intelligent living are useless until you understand, as the Bible says, how to “be in this world but not of it” and, as the Gita says, how to “live in this world and yet be above it”. That understanding of a seemingly complex principle, which in reality is so simple, so practical and so easy to follow, can only be got through continuously examining your feelings. To use a cricketing analogy, if you want to carry your bat through and play a memorable innings, no matter how menacing and unplayable the bowling may be, you must have focus, patience and stay anchored!

It’s never too late to start living in Life!


It is never too late to start living in Life!

 

We miss the beauty and magic of everyday moments because we are either grieving over what happened or are fearful of what may happen. Truth be told, we are all, always, journeying through Life with more load than what we can carry. We are carrying baggage from the past __ guilt, remorse, grief and we are carrying unreasonable expectations of the future __ fear, worry and anxiety. Either way, we are struggling through Life. So, Life appears to be a drudgery. A burden. And a sad song.

 

To be sure, no one, simply no one, is spared of pain in this lifetime. Everyone who is born on the planet has to deal with their share until, as most scriptures say, death frees them. This is the truth and this reality is inescapable. It is when we label this share of pain as unfair, unjust and unkind, and therefore resist it, that we suffer.

 

Simply, tell you pain off: “Hello, you have come uninvited and I know I can’t do anything about it. So you be where you are, do what you want to do. I am choosing to be unmoved and I am choosing to just be. Now watch your relationship with pain change.” It will potter around with your Life but not at the cost of your missing the opportunity to live!    

 

In most Indian homes, despite the best pest control methods available today, it is rare that you will not find lizards. Now, there are many people who grieve at the sight of a lizard. They are petrified of them and imagine horrible consequences of co-existing with them. They cringe and suffer all the time. But there are several million others, across the subcontinent, that just let the lizards be and they be themselves. Yes, everyone wishes that the lizards don’t present themselves in front of them, but when they know they can’t do pretty much anymore, they make their peace and move on. Pain is like the lizard in an Indian home. It just likes to hang round. And it doesn’t have a vicious agenda to terrorize you and make you feel miserable. You suffer because you hate its presence! The best way to deal with pain is to make your peace with it. Then, Life becomes worth living.

Yesterday, it was very relieving to see a young friend come to terms with Life, making peace with her pain, a year after her husband’s untimely passing away. She celebrated the fact that she had found Life worth living all over again! It will be both impractical and foolish to imagine that she will not have memories and she will not feel sorrowful whenever she reminisces. But acceptance is a gift you can give yourself that will, while not taking away your pain, will help you to live without suffering. The key operative word here is ‘to live’.

So, make a serious investment in the rest of your Life NOW. This is one investment that requires no gestation period to earn you a return. You invest and you harvest instantaneously. Stop grieving over what has happened so far. And stop worrying about what will happen. You will be unable to live if you focus on ‘What Was’ or “What Isn’t’ or ‘What If’. Life thrives only in the ‘What Is’ realm. You can live fully only IN your Nows. And it is never too late to start living (IN) them!  


Lessons from Hansie Cronje: Only the Truth can set you Free!


The truth, and only the truth, can set you free!

All of us make mistakes in Life. Sometimes we succumb to temptations. No one who has lived on this planet has led a mistake-free Life. The big and mighty are no exceptions. When an unknown or lesser-known person slips, his immediate circle of influence are the ones that try him or her, pass judgment, and/or forgive her or him. When a person with a larger-than-Life image makes a mistake, the world tries her or him.

When you are being tried by the opinion of others, when you make a mistake, some of that trial may be what you deserve. Obviously, you caused the conditions, with your adventurous streak, your lack of discretion, your plain foolishness or your guile, that led to your trial. But a good portion of your trial by people, either those in your circle of influence or general public, depending on who you are, may be based on their perceptions of the truth. In almost all such instances, when you have erred in judgment, and have wittingly or otherwise, ending up wronging someone, it is best to own up. Just confess to your transgression, whatever it may be, and tell the truth, the absolute truth, as you know it.

The truth may make the already bad situation worse. But it will set you free and give you the energy and the peace to face the situation.

In recent times in India, I have admired (with no comment on the nature of his deviant actions or their impact) how Satyam’s Ramalinga Raju has actually handled his fall from grace. People say he had no choice. Maybe they are right. But it requires great personal courage to own up a mistake, especially if you did it willfully, and be willing to face the consequences__whatever they may be.

Last night I watched a very unique and lesser-known movie called ‘Hansie’ which is based on the true story of celebrated and controversial South African cricket captain Hansie Cronje. The movie, made in 2008 by his brother Frans Cronje and directed by Regardt van den Bergh, tells the story of Hansie’s rise and fall powerfully. The synopsis on the DVD’s back cover and the movie’s Wiki Page have this to say:

“How do you start over once you have betrayed a nation’s trust?” The news of Hansie Cronjé’s involvement with Indian bookmakers and his resulting public confession rocked the international sporting community. An unprecedented rise to glory was followed by the most horrific fall. A tarnished hero fueled the nation’s fury. Hansie, once South African cricket’s golden boy, had been stripped of everything he had held dear: a glorious captaincy, the support of his former team mates and the respect of a nation. In its place the stinging rejection of cricket administrators and the humiliating dissection of his life on international television, made his retreat into depression inevitable. Hansie’s bravest moment in finally confessing his involvement with bookies had suddenly become a tightening noose around his neck.”

To be sure, Hansie Cronje, at the peak of his stardom as independent, post-apartheid, South Africa’s most successful cricket captain, received money from bookmakers, in return for information. And when Indian police in April 2000 revealed his links, and those of other South African cricketers, with Indian bookmakers, Hansie came clean in front of the King Commission, constituted by the South African government and its Cricket Board, and confessed to his mistakes, accepted having been dishonest, but reiterated that he had “never thrown a match in return for the bookmakers’ payments” to him.

Hansie Cronje at the King Commission hearings (left) and the movie DVD (right)
The movie shows poignantly how a man, who speaks the truth, has to deal with its unimaginable, irreversible, repercussions. Hansie, played admirably by Frank Rautenbach, is dubbed a ‘criminal’ by a large section of the South African United Cricket Board, banished by the international cricket community and has to also deal with his own demons. He is consumed by enormous guilt, has fearful nightmares each time he tries to sleep and can’t even face himself in the mirror. His wife Bertha, played beautifully by Sarah Thomson, and his family are his only support. But he grieves endlessly that he has let them down to. The shame, the remorse, the fall from personal grace is both palpable, as the story unfolds, and wrecks Hansie personally.

Then goaded by Bertha, Hanise goes to meet his mentor on the Cricket Board, Peter (I am unable to presently recollect his full name or find it online). Peter receives him with open arms.

A still devastated, even 18 months after his public confession, Hansie, who is a devout Christian, breaks down on seeing Peter and asks him: “Will God ever forgive me?”

Peter’s remarkably enlightening and mature response is something like this (my recollection): “I believe God forgave you on the day you confessed. You now need to forgive yourself. You have told the truth. But in your clinging on to your guilt, you are enslaving yourself. Feel free. Feel liberated. It is immaterial how people see your truth. The only person who knows you didn’t throw matches for money is you. And that’s all that matters. If this is the truth, stop feeling guilty. You have shown extraordinary courage by telling the truth. Now show it again by living with it, irrespective of what people think or say of you and your truth.”

Hansie gets it! And starts over again. His inner peace helps him find his own, true Self. Magically, he discovers, people around him and the public of South Africa at large, still revere him as their hero. Not just for the great cricketer and the captain that he once was but for the courageous human being he now is. At a football match at his alma mater, Drew College in Bloemfontein, where his teacher invites him to be the Chief Guest, Hansie is overwhelmed when he receives as standing ovation from all students, parents and teachers.

He realizes that the truth has indeed set him free.

Sadly though, his eventful and beautiful Life, was cut short on June 1, 2002, when the plane he was traveling in crashed in the Outeniqua mountains due to inclement weather. At his funeral, his mentor Peter offers a fitting eulogy (as I recall): “Hansie’s truth set him free and has delivered unto him a peace and joy, now (in his death), that is beyond the comprehension of us humans.” Interestingly, South Africans, in 2004, voted Hansie as the 11th greatest South African ever in their country’s history!

So, when you are in the eye of a storm, especially when caused by your own questionable actions, saying the truth, as you know it, may, undoubtedly, make the situation worse. You may invite unprecedented, often hostile, reactions from unknown quarters. But still choose to say the truth. And live with it. Because it will set you free. And where the soul tastes freedom, it finds bliss!