You can only be happy in the present. Or to say it differently, you can only be happy if you are present!
A friend called yesterday to say that his world is falling apart. His business is doing badly and his marriage is on the rocks. “I am very, very unhappy! I hate being this way. But my worries and anxieties are pinning me down,” he lamented. Surely nobody loves being unhappy! I can totally empathize with my friend. But only he, neither his business doing better nor his marriage being saved, can pull him out of the rut he finds himself in.
It is the nature of worries and anxieties to debilitate. If they are holding you hostage, it only means that you have allowed them to be that way. The human mind plays tricks on you all the time. It consistently strives to take you away from what is and gets you to attend to what once was or what may possibly be. So, most of the time, you are not present in the now. And happiness is always in simply being – present, in the now! When you impose conditions on what is, unhappiness sets in.
There was a time when I did not know, or understand when I eventually got to know, this secret to living. I remember waking up in my air-conditioned bedroom in the nights, some years ago, sweating. Sleep evaded me for months on end. I would pace up and down a long hallway in my apartment each night – worrying, fearing, feeling angry, guilty, helpless. I knew what I was doing was stupid. It was crazy. But I just could not sleep. I could not focus on the present.
Once I went to a live concert of R.D.Burman hits (performed by a fantastic national-level orchestra). The hall was full. And the audience was hysterical. About an hour into the concert, I suddenly realized I had not even known which songs had played until then. I was there physically, I was hearing everything, I was watching everyone clap, shout, whistle and sway to the legend’s unputdownable music, but I was not “in” the concert. I was not present there. What finally woke me up from my worry-filled reverie, was one of my favorite R.D. numbers from the film Golmaal (1979, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Gulzar, Kishore Kumar). The song went like this: “Aane Wala Pal Jaane Wala Hai, Hosake To Isme Zindagi Guzaar Lo, Pal Yeh Jo Jaane Wala Hai…” The lyrics meant a lot to me that day: “The moment which is coming will go away, if you want to, live in this moment, for it will be gone soon too…” Not that I had not heard that song before. But that evening, that song stirred something within me.
|Swami Sathya Sai Baba
As they often say, things happen in Life, when they must – never a moment earlier or later. The next time my inner consciousness was stirred was through an experience I had with Swami Sathya Sai Baba (whose birthday it is today), which happened within a week of the R.D. concert. I confessed to Swami that I was very worried and anxious about the future. I told him I saw no way out of the problems that we were faced with as a family. I said, I simply cannot go on like this. Swami asked me what would it take for me to be happy. I replied that if someone could assure me that my problems would be taken care of, I would be happy. Swami then told me that I would never be happy if I thought this way. “To imagine, to desire, to wish that you will not or you should not have any problems is the biggest problem. As long as you have this problem, you will be unhappy. Being happy means simply being – no conditions can apply!” explained Swami.
That conversation with Swami changed my entire approach to Life. I soon found a wonderful method called ‘shubha mouna yoga’, which is to essentially practise silence periods daily, that helped me discipline my mind. The human mind, I discovered, is like a dog. If you don’t train it, if you don’t discipline it, it will lead you. But if you coach it and teach it to “stay still”, and to obey you, it will never stray. Swami’s inspiration and his awakening message to me, and my practise of mouna, has taught me to be happy despite the circumstances I am faced with in Life.
We have to learn to accept that Life will have problems. And our entire lifetime has to be spent dealing with these problems. Now, we can grieve over the fact that we have problems, and wish, in vain, that we have none, and so be perpetually unhappy. Or we can expunge such an expectation and be happy – in the here and now!
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