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! 

Why being in Chennai, even in such a time, is so beautiful

“Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment” – Mevlana Jalauddin Rumi, 13th Century Persian poet and Sufi mystic    

Chennai continued to amaze – and humble – me with her attitude on the third consecutive day in the aftermath of the worst rains and floods that it has ever seen in a century!
Here are some moments of sheer bewilderment that I experienced as we went around several parts of the city today.
·    The staff at my bank’s branch were mourning the loss of their colleague – he was swept away in the floods on the night of December 2nd. Yet they attended to their customers patiently, diligently. Raji, the customer service officer, informed us that they were working full days this weekend – Saturday (5th December) and Sunday (6th December). I expressed surprise and called the move to work on Sunday historic – in the annals of Indian banking history! She replied, “The calamity is no less historic Sir. We would like to help everyone get on with their lives.” To be sure, this remark was coming from a public-sector bank officer!
·         
     A part of the busy and important TTK Road was cordoned off by residents from K B Dasan Road as they tried to drain the water in their area. They had been water-logged for 5 days – without power and drinking water. Boats were still plying on K B Dasan Road. But even as some of the residents deployed a professional team to pump and drain water into the sewage system, across TTK Road, on C V Raman Road, several others among them regulated the traffic on behalf of the cops. Again nobody honked or complained. There was order, patience and empathy.
·         
   We heard of a friend’s boss’ story from Kotturpuram. He had barely 15 minutes on the morning of December 3rd to collect all important documents, gather his family and leave his home. The water that came gushing in soon after left nothing – repeat nothing – usable; clothes, furniture, home appliances, computers, everything was destroyed! Yet he and his family have chosen to simply move on; they are not grieving what they have lost – which is, practically everything material they owned!!!
·         
     We stopped at a store to see if we could pick up some milk – something that is in extreme short supply in Chennai these past few days. The storekeeper did not overcharge us – unlike what other opportunistic traders were doing – but allowed us only one sachet (half a litre). He requested us to “adjust” because he wanted to ensure that everyone got a little of what was so scare and so much in demand. Even as he was ringing in our check, he was inviting a bunch of volunteers to “pick up whatever they wanted to from his store – free of cost”. The volunteers, I gleaned, were cooking meals for people from a nearby slum whose homes were still flooded. We thanked the storekeeper for being so generous. But he brushed the compliment aside saying, “It is my duty. The least I can do is to support the relief operations to the best of my ability.”
·         
     
     There were rumors flying thick and thin across social media – predicting a horrendous end to Chennai later next week! A young friend, who was rushing off on relief work, had this to say, “Can we do anything to prevent the future from happening the way it must and will happen? Since we can’t, why not just focus on the present than worry about what is still unborn – the future?” Such a spiritual perspective – born right in the throes of an apocalyptical crisis!  
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Photo Courtesy: Facebook/Internet

    Everywhere we went, people were immersed in relief work. Students, doctors, managers, artists, filmmakers, actors, business leaders, traders, autorickshaw drivers, government employees – everyone is chipping in with whatever they can. Chennai suddenly is a city that is driven with purpose, empathy and compassion. My most enduring image of the day came via Facebook – it showed a Muslim man walking through a Vaishnavite shrine in some part of Chennai; he was there to lend support to a relief camp inside the temple. It’s an image that will stay with me for a long, long time.

·         
My daughter, who’s all of 20, had been saving for months to be at the Bacardi NH 7 Weekender Music Festival in Bangalore this weekend. She had bought her tickets from her student earnings. But she canceled the trip and joined a bunch of people supporting relief work. She told us: “I just can’t take my mind off what’s going on out there. I don’t think I can enjoy the festival when my city and my people are struggling to get drinking water and food.” I teared up hearing of her decision – both as a parent, and as a fellow Chennaiite.
    
Our entire day today, yet again, sums up why being in Chennai, even in such a time, is so beautiful. We are seeing a city that clearly is living up to what Sahir Ludhianvi wrote for Mohammed Rafi to sing, and make immortal, in Hum Dono (Dev Anand, Nanda, Sadhana, directed by Amarjeet/Vijay Anand, music by Jaidev) in 1961.  

मैं जिन्दगी का साथ निभाता चला गया
हर फ़िक्र को धुंएँ में उडाता चला गया

बरबादीयों का सोग़ मनाना फिजूल था
बरबादीयों का जश्न मनाता चला गया

जो मिल गया उसी को मुकद्दर समझ लिया
जो खो गया मैं उस को भुलाता चला गया

गम और खुशी में फर्क ना महसूस हो जहा
मैं दिल को उस मकाम पे लाता चला गया

मैं जिन्दगी का साथ निभाता चला गया
हर फ़िक्र को धुंएँ में उडाता चला गया

Chennai, like Sahir Ludhianvi’s poem, has infinite depth. It has soul. And so it knows how to preserve and persevere.
This is what I have learnt from Chennai over the past few days. As citizens who are ‘earning a living’ we are perhaps cold, business-like and, well, even clever. But as a people who are coping with an enormous crisis, who are picking up the threads of our material Life, we are every bit human! And that’s why we will never quite cease to amaze ourselves!

Get drunk on Life: it gives you an unputdownable high!

Learn to postpone worry! Be in the moment!
Yesterday, I got some quiet time to myself at a café. I find it absolutely necessary to remain silent for some spells – at least one – daily. I use this time to pause, reflect – and importantly to postpone worry!
To be sure, I make a list of all the stuff that worries me – and I have enough and more to worry about, just like you have – and bucket them into two lists. Stuff that I can act on and resolve over time. And stuff that I can’t resolve. Those that I can work on and solve, I convince myself that I need not worry about them. And those that I can’t solve myself, I convince myself again, that I must not worry about them either. This is how, methodically, practically, logically, I postpone worrying on a daily basis.
The biggest benefit of postponing worry is that you are available to the now – and are present in the moment. No past. No future. Which means no grief, anger or guilt over what has happened – the past. And no fear, anxiety or worry over what may happen – the future. No past. No future. You are just present in the moment.
In the present moment there is just beauty. There is complete magic.
Last evening, while at the café, it rained like crazy for about 40 minutes. It was a very heavy downpour. It was also the day after Diwali here in the south of India. Most services were still not available as most people were on an extended festive vacation. I wanted to get back home. But no Uber cars were available. And it was impossible to step out because the rain came down pelting. I stepped out onto the balcony at the café to gauge the intensity of the rain.



A cat meowed incessantly in a corner of the balcony – perhaps feeling wet and cold in the rain. The café had festive, decorative lights running around the trees on their premises. In the rain, these lights came alive differently – they felt surreal. And the rain created a music which was at the same time intense and sublime.

I was reminded of the opening lines of a Kumar Sanu number from Sir (1993, Mahesh Bhatt, Naseeruddin Shah, Pooja Bhatt, Atul Agnihotri) which goes: “Sun, Sun, Sun Barsaat Ki Dhun Sun…”. It means, “Listen, listen to music of the rain…!”

I spent several minutes staying immersed in the music that the rain made. At another time in my Life, in such weather, I would have preferred to drink my favorite whiskey while watching Amar Akbar Anthony(1977, Manmohan Desai) – perhaps for the millionth time! But, over time, I have learned that you don’t need an induced, artificial intoxicant, to get a high. You can get an inexplicable, unputdownable high if you know how to get drunk on Life by being present in the moment. Perhaps that’s why Jalauddin Rumi, the 13thCentury Persian poet has said this of Life: “Be aware of the pure wine being poured. Don’t complain that you have been handed a dirty cup!”

Being ready is not enough – are you willing?

Change, personal transformation, is possible, when you are not just ready, but willing!
Talk to all those people that have a habit, a ruinous temptation which they can’t get over. Smoking, alcohol, being a compulsive skirt-chaser, staying cynical at all times__all these are habits. Yesterday a friend posted a status on his facebook Page saying there’s this man who comes jogging to the same park as him every morning. Except that this person is always on the phone, reviewing the previous day’s sales with his junior colleague. Shouting, ranting, kicking butt and both experiencing and expressing a lot of stress in the bargain! My friend concluded in his post that it doesn’t look like the man is enjoying being the way he is. And perhaps he is consumed by his occupational challenges. Possibly. In fact, no chain smoker or alcoholic enjoys being one. Every cynic wants to stop and see the magic and beauty in everyday Life. They are ready to change. But they are not willing. Being willing means this: you must accept that you will go through some pain as you begin the journey to transform yourself. You must know, believe and motivate yourself that this pain, this change is for the good. Willingness is a soul-related emotion. Readiness is mind-related. The voice of reason readies us. But it is our inner voice that makes us willing.

As Richard Bach, the famous American writer, wrote: “What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls a butterfly!” It is only because the caterpillar is willing, and not just ready, despite excruciating, life-threatening pain, that it becomes the butterfly! So, why crawl, as Rumi, the 13th century poet asked us: “Why crawl when you have been created to fly!” On a cosmic plane, our lifetimes are just about the lifespan of a butterfly’s! We have been created to enjoy the beautiful open spaces, and to drink in the pure nectar of Life. Then why do we crawl? Why are we suffering? The only reason is we are unwilling, even if ready, for change, for personal transformation. Be sure to encounter pain on this path!  But then, what’s Life, without some pain, without change!? You can avoid or escape neither. So, go change folks __ for your own good! 

Budhhahood is a great pain reliever

Every pain, every unresolved relationship situation, every wound, is a disguised opportunity for enlightenment.
There’s a Buddha in you, in me, waiting to awaken. And extraordinary pain, believe me, is not a sign of your past sins and retribution happening to you, as some would want you to believe, but is a sign of extraordinary grace waiting to enter your Life. This entering of grace is what is called enlightenment. It is a state of being and not an event that happens at a specified time at a specified, glorified venue, like,  under a tree. For Gautama, it happened under the Bodhi Tree. For you it can well happen on a potty or at 30000 ft. while you are flying! Buddhahood is a state you will realize, you will awaken to, when you look deeply at what is causing you pain – and understand your pain. Whatever is, look at it intensely. Your first, human and normal, tendency is to resist pain. Instead embrace it. Invite it to tell you why it has arrived in your Life. And it will always tell you why. Be honest. Because pain is not like worry. It is not an imposter. It is a teacher. Initially, you will find external reasoning very powerful to the cause of your pain. As in, he cheated me. So I am in pain. She led me up the garden path, hence I am in pain. My competitor chose unethical means and so my business couldn’t cope and I lost all my money. Instead of apportioning the blame to an external agent, a foreign hand, ask yourself what have you done to have invited this situation? When you know how you invited pain into your Life, your learning will be complete. Jalaluddin Rumi, the 13th Century, Persian poet says, “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” When this awakening happens, you will be able to live with your pain, yet without suffering from it!

In reality, pain is powerless. If you look deeply at whatever is causing you pain at the moment and stay in this moment, in the now of reality, your mind will not even report the pain. The mind always exists in a past grief or a future worry. In the face of reality, the mind is inactive. Which is why people champion the power of now! So, if you want to profit from your pain, it is possible, by choosing to be aware. Something or someone is perhaps your source of pain, but by not understanding your pain, you are inviting it to stay over longer. All you need to do is look at it intensely, ask what have you done to have invited it over, internalize the learning and watch the pain just leave you alone! This state is called Buddhahood. And Buddhahood, indeed, is a great pain reliever! 

Don’t complain about the unsolvable; just deal with it in acceptance!

Not all of Life’s problems can be solved. Because they are not meant to be solved. They are meant to be dealt with.

Dealing with Life, while accepting it for what it is, is a much better approach than trying to solve the unsolvable. How do you solve the death of a dear one? How do you solve the inability to relate with someone? How do you solve a rare form of pancreatic cancer? How do you solve the agony of a family of three, whose 40-year-old son is going through a severe depression, the father is on a catheter and the mother is immobile because of a nervous disorder? The truth is: everyone really gets what’s their share in Life. And some of what may be given in Life, by Life, may be the unsolvable. And dealing with the situation, by the moment, by the day, is always better that grieving about it endlessly. Because the unsolvable will not be amenable to reason, solution and resolution. It is ALWAYS what it is.


Jalaluddin Rumi, the 13th Century Persian poet’s collection of spiritual discourses is called “Fihi Ma Fihi” (It is what it is!). In one of his discourses, he asks,”If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?” The import is that it is Life’s nature to throw us into the deep end, untethered, and it is in our spirit, and best interests, to deal with Life, with forbearance, with stoicism, with acceptance. And when we emerge from each ordeal, we come radiant, shining from the inner recesses of our soul! Deal, therefore, with Life in acceptance and don’t try to solve the unsolvable. That’s living intelligently!