To simplify Life, be aware, be honest

Nothing about your Life is going to change unless it does. Life is what it is. Feeling negative about it is never worth your while.
Someone asked me the other day if it is possible to not feel negative about Life at times. Of course it is possible. Yet, don’t expect negative thoughts not to rise. They will. Such is the nature of thoughts. They will always keep swimming in your mind. But you can develop the ability to recognize and rid yourself of negative emotions as they rear their ugly head. This calls for being both aware and honest.

Be aware first of the futility of negative thinking. Can you solve any problem by brooding over the fact that you don’t have a solution in sight? And is there any point in brooding over a problem that you cannot solve? Even so, negative thinking will insist – and ensure – that you brood. This is where awareness comes into play. It is simple – if you are aware, if you observe your thinking, you will not heed the negative thoughts that will arise in you. And what you don’t heed, what you don’t give attention to, doesn’t grow. Period.
Take self-pity and jealousy for instance. When you compare yourself with others, naturally, you are bound to pine for what you don’t have and feel jealous, often subconsciously, of what someone else has. Neither of these emotions is constructive. Self-pity keeps your feet nailed to the ground and jealousy fills you with negativity. This when you must be brutally honest. Ask yourself: What are you pining for? And who are you jealous of? Continue this train of awareness-based questioning: Is what you are pining for really so critical for your Life? Can you not manage without it? And is feeling jealous of someone going to make you get what you are pining for? These questions can have an awakening effect. You will be amazed at your own ability to realize that these emotions are wasted, unproductive and are shackling you. Out of that ruthless honesty will emerge the simple clarity that you are who you are. Unique. And what you have is all that you have. You will awaken to the reality that pining and brooding is not going to make you, or your situation, any different.


Employ awareness and honesty to simplify your Life. Being positive about Life may not solve your problems. But it will at least make you smile. As a line I often quote, ostensibly from the Guru Granth Sahib, goes: “Taqdeer teri apne aap hi badlegi aye dost; muskurana seekh le, wajah ki talaash na kar!” It means: “Your Life will change when it must, my friend…Learn to smile (in the meantime), without looking for a reason!”

Don’t compare. Just co-live.

Comparisons always ruin our inner peace. You look at someone and say, ‘How is she so successful? She’s not even as qualified or ethical as I am?’ You may not be jealous of this person, but you are pining for her success. You see someone with a nice car, a beautiful spouse, the latest smartphone and a lustful thought__a pining__crosses your mind. That’s comparison sowing the seed of jealousy in you. Slowly jealousy leads you to want to outdo that person. To live like that person. Your entire effort has shifted from living, being yourself to becoming like that person. And when you encounter difficulties on the path, which you surely will, frustration sets in. Eventually, you are consumed by this urge to become rather than just be.

An organization that we used to consult for was once faced with a peculiar situation. One of their best performers and a senior team member put in her papers. She had been recently feted by the company’s Board and had received a generous pay hike and a promotion. Her issue was that she felt that her colleague, who according to the Board was as capable and as senior as she is, must not be given the same remuneration that she was receiving. Obviously, when logic and counsel failed to make her see reason, the organization simply let her go. It was sad. This lady was one of the most efficient business leaders we had come across in our consulting career. But her ruinous urge to compare herself with another made her lose the plot. Completely. In a matter of a week this lady had sunk into an abyss of depression at a time when she really ought to have been celebrating.

This is not to say that you should not be ambitious or that you should not put in an extra effort in a competitive environment. This only means do it with the may-the-best-person-win attitude and not with the ‘wotsubusu‘ attitude. ‘Wotsubusu‘ is Japanese for ‘annihilate, crush or destroy’. When you live Life to collaborate, to enable, you will win. When you try to win at another’s expense, you will eventually lose (in) the game of Life.


Simply, co-live. Life has a big heart, a bigger canvas, for all us to paint our masterpieces.

You and your mind – BFFs!!!

Your mind can be your best friend. So, don’t try to conquer it. Instead befriend it. Have conversations with it. Reason with it. Laugh with it! This is the only way you can get along with your mind, without it controlling you!

There’s an interesting story I remember reading. A sage was offering his prayers, when a very pretty lady walked past. He got distracted and kept thinking about her all day. The next morning he resolved that he would not get distracted by the beautiful woman. So, he closed his eyes tight. But when the lady walked past him, he was able to smell the jasmine flowers she wore in her hair and so he got distracted again. He was now angry with himself and vowed to close his eyes and nose the next morning. Yet, when the lady went past him, he was able to ‘feel’ her presence because he heard the sound of her anklets pass him by. Angry and completely lost, the sage vowed now to close his ears as well. But despite his intention being right and his making a valiant effort, he could still ‘feel’ her presence the next day, even when his eyes, nose and ears were closed. That’s when the sage concluded that it was ‘all in the mind’.

Indeed. It always was, is and will be so! But however hard you try, you can never control the mind. The mind is like a tennis-ball spewing machine that players use to perfect their strokes. The mind spews thoughts endlessly, like the machine spews tennis balls. On an average, a human mind spews 60,000 thoughts daily. These thoughts range from the bizarre to the fearful to the practical to the anxious to fantasy stuff, all at the same time. Which is, in most unevolved and untrained human beings, the mind is never in the present. It is clinging on to a past memory or dwelling in a future worry! The Buddha describes the human mind as being filled with drunken monkeys __ who never sit still and keep jumping from tree to tree, from banana to mango to orange, screeching and screaming all the time! And, says the Buddha, the only way to calm your drunken monkeys down is to have conversations with them. Which is, to talk to your own mind.

When you speak to your own mind, you can be very sure that you will not be interpreted but will be understood. That you can be candid, you can choose to disagree and still be on ‘talking terms’! Wouldn’t you say the same thing of speaking your heart (or mind!) to and sharing with a friend?

Los Angeles-based sociologist and author, BJ Gallagher, shares her secret for making your mind your best friend on her blog:

I’ve found that engaging the monkeys in gentle conversation can sometimes calm them down. I’ll give you an example: Fear seems to be an especially noisy monkey for people like me who own their own business. As the years go by, Fear Monkey shows up less often, but when he does, he’s always very intense. So I take a little time out to talk to him.

“What’s the worst that can happen?” I ask him.

“You’ll go broke,” Fear Monkey replies.

“OK, what will happen if I go broke?” I ask.

“You’ll lose your home,” the monkey answers.

“OK, will anybody die if I lose my home?”

“Hmmm, no, I guess not.”

“Oh, well, it’s just a house. I suppose there are other places to live, right?”

“Uh, yes, I guess so.”

“OK then, can we live with it if we lose the house?”


“Yes, we can live with it,” he concludes.

“And that usually does it. By the end of the conversation, Fear Monkey is still there, but he’s calmed down. And I can get back to work, running my business and living my Life,” says Gallagher.


So, stop obsessing over your mind. There are NO mind-control methods. You can at best make your mind your best friend. Talk to your mind, to your drunken monkeys – to the Fear Monkey, the Anxiety Monkey, the Sorrow Monkey, the Jealous Monkey and any other, as the situation may demand. And calm them down. Once you have achieved that, you and your mind, the two of you, can be Best Friends Forever! 

Don’t be a fly on a window pane

To get out of a situation that you dislike or despise, first examine how and why you got into it in the first place. What got you in can often get you out.  
Very often we find ourselves in places and contexts that we hate. It could be in a relationship or with regard to your career or your health or your money situation. You may just not be happy being where you are – or being with someone! The normal response is to get frustrated and bitter with yourself, with people around you and with the situation. This isn’t going to help. You have to get out of the situation by going out the same way that you got in. A simple analogy is to consider the plight of a smoker – he or she often detests the idea of chain-smoking. In private, she or he will confess that they feel lousy every time they light up. Yet they keep suffering because the only way they can stop feeling that way is by quitting smoking. They got into smoking from not smoking. They have to get out of smoking by not smoking. Simple. Period. If you recall seeing a fly on a glass pane you will understand this better. The poor fly does not know how to go past the closed window’s glass pane, into the garden, and so, pathetically, it keeps knocking itself on the glass pane until it loses its energy and falls dead on the window sill. Poor fly. All it had to do was to turn around and go out the same way it came in – through an open door or window. Now, a fly can be forgiven for being stupid. Not you and me! We have been endowed with an intelligence that demands that we don’t battle situations mindlessly.
This approach applies to all our daily emotions too – anger, hatred, fear, jealousy, anxiety, worry. Every day living is full of situations that force us to experience some or many of these emotions daily. At times, especially when we are making an effort to transform ourselves, the very thought that we allowed these emotions to take root and rule us, makes us feel disgusted. There’s no point getting angry over having gotten angry. Go to the cause of your anger. Go to the cause of why you fear someone or something. Go to the cause of your worry. When you can go to the root and uproot that cause you can be free of whatever you despise and whatever holds you hostage.   

Drop all comparisons to stop feeling jealous

While it is perfectly normal, thanks to the way we are raised, to be jealous of someone, carrying envy for a long period in you can be ruinous. Take heart though, there’s a way to work around jealousy!
Jealousy does not always express itself as a rabid, avaricious sentiment. Sometimes, it manifests as a subconscious, depressive pining for something you desire but don’t have and someone else has! At the root of all jealousy is the way we have been conditioned to think – which is to compare ourselves with others. Jealousy comes from comparison.. Somebody has better grades than you, someone’s got a better house or a better car or a more beautiful body or more money than you! Understand and recognize that each of us is unique. If someone’s got something that you don’t have, chances are that you have something that the other person doesn’t have. To keep comparing and keep prolonging this self-inflicted agony is meaningless. As long you keep on comparing yourself with others, you will feel jealous of them. Drop all comparisons and you will stop feeling jealous.
Instead of feeling guilty or agitated when jealousy wells up from within, we must learn to deal with it. Here’s how: Give the person who has what you desire all your love. Pray for the person’s continued success and joy. Say, someone has a better car than you, instead of longing for a similar car, wish that person safe drives and joyful rides …with the family! If you see someone happier than you are in a relationship, wish that person more peace, more happiness. If you find someone who is fitter or more good-looking than you are, fervently pray that the person stays the same way all their Life. Drive away the urge to pine and lust for what that person has – every single time that the urge arises in you!  Avoid the tendency to despise that person because you don’t have what she or he has – send the person some positive energy and your best wishes! Keep at this practice for three weeks and you will soon find your entire being in peace. When you are at peace with yourself, you are radiant and full of positive energy. Then others don’t matter to you. Only you – and how you feel – do!
So, don’t squirm when you feel jealous of someone the next time, just love whoever you are jealous of.

Ridding yourself of comparisons and envy

Comparing yourself with others is what ruins your inner peace. Drop all comparisons. You are unique. Just as everyone else is.  
A participant at one of my workshops recently asked me, “How do you not envy someone who has everything that you don’t?”
His question was as profound as it was candid. To compare, and often times, even subconsciously, feel jealous of someone is a normal human quality. But if you are aware, you will find that jealousy does not help in any manner. In fact, it ruins your inner peace. It is only through your awareness that you can drop comparisons and stop feeling jealous of someone!
I remember reading a story. A man was sitting peacefully on a mountain top. He was taking in the scenery. It was a beautiful morning. He had had a very rough time in the past few weeks. So, he had decided to trek up the mountain just to get some quiet time to himself. His girlfriend had deserted him. And he had been heart-broken over that incident. But coming here, up the mountain, had helped him greatly. He must have been sitting there for over four hours. And he did not once think about his ex-girlfriend. He did not feel anger or grief. He was able to see how beautiful Life was – just as it was, despite whatever he was going through. Around noon, a young couple arrived at the mountain top. They were happy to be with each other. The man saw this couple and his thoughts went back to his girlfriend and he started pining for her first. Then he was soon angry with her. And in some time, he was jealous of this other man for being able to have a girlfriend when he did not have one himself! The scenery and nature’s pristine beauty did not matter to him anymore. He was angry with Life. He left the place in a huff.
This story is very relevant. For it helps us understand the sequence of events that lead us to feeling miserable about any situation in Life. When the man was “present” in the moment, when he was taking in the scenery, he had no problems. For several hours he had no problems, no thoughts about his past. But the moment he allowed thoughts of his past, of his ex-girlfriend to creep in, he first started feeling uncomfortable, then angry and finally, miserable. This is the way the mind leads you to misery. When you are in the Now, when you are present in the moment, it is actually the state of no-mind. This is when all you are doing is that you are engaged in whatever is happening. If you are watching a movie, you are “in” it. If you are singing, you “are” the song. If you are reading a book, you “are” the book. There’s no past. There’s no future. There’s just you – in the Now!
The mind comes into play only when your attention wavers. Now awareness cannot stop your attention from wavering. But awareness can help you rein in your mind and bring your focus into the present moment. How do you build a higher level of awareness in you? Simple – by constantly training the mind to not interfere with the present. The mind thrives in debilitating emotions like guilt, grief, anger and worry – in the past or in the future. It is powerless in the present. To be sure, you too can train your mind through daily practices like meditation or mouna (observing silence periods).
So, don’t worry about your tendency to compare yourself with others or feel jealous of them. Those are the effects. Go to what’s causing the effect. Which is the mind. Work on training your mind. The more you train to not let your attention to waver, the more you will be present in the moment. And as long as you are present, no painful past or anxious future, can ever touch you. When you reach this state, through repeated practice, your Life will be blissful. Untouched by the scourge of comparison and envy!

Let the whole world be happy!

A lot of our suffering can be avoided if we stop comparing ourselves with others!
We have been conditioned to compare. Everything from our growing up years to our adulthood is about comparisons. Some years back a popular Unilever detergent brand Rin ran a TV commercial that had the line: “Bhala uski kameez meri kameez se safed kaise?” It means: “Wonder how his shirt is whiter (brighter) than mine?” That ad was immensely popular and signified how deeply comparisons have impacted our lives in a socio-cultural context. Our education system breeds comparisons at a very early stage when small children, who are barely able to speak, are ranked according to their “academic proficiency”. And as these children grow up and emerge from colleges to take up careers in the real world the comparisons only grow more rabid and vulgar – someone’s better looking than me, someone has a more beautiful wife or a bigger apartment or a swankier car or a better pay packet! The comparisons never seem to cease – what class do you travel by, what car do you drive, where do you shop, where do you dine, where do you educate your child – you go on and on. Soon, unwittingly, you have passed on the “method and malaise” of living with comparisons to the next generation.
Comparing does no one any good. Not to the one who compares nor to the one who is being compared with! In fact, comparison breeds jealousy. And jealousy leads to suffering!
When you understand Life better and think about it deeply you will see great value in my humble suggestion to stop comparing yourself with others. You are you. And the other is different from you. Period. Each Life is unique in creation. And each Life’s journey is different. There may be similarities but nothing is, and really no two lives are, identical. So, why compare something, your Life, that is incomparable?
Whenever you indulge in making comparisons, you can be assured that jealousy will raise its ugly head too. And jealousy is often a silent operator. It is not always very expressive or evident. But it subconsciously chews you up from within. It happens this way – your mind keeps on telling you to look at someone and compare. Soon, a painful pining sets in. “Look at him,” you say to yourself, “he’s having all the good things in Life despite having no scruples.” Or, “I deserve better than her because I have worked harder.” Or, “This is so unfair. I have never hurt a fly. But there’s so much pain in my Life. Everyone’s happier than I am.” All these thoughts, and more, are symptomatic of jealousy eating you up from within. When you are jealous you are obsessed with everyone else’s Life, but yours. How can you be happy then – especially when you are focussed on what you don’t have and what others have? To be sure, happiness comes only when you consider and celebrate what you have!
But you don’t have to despair. You are not alone in comparing, being jealous or being unhappy! Everyone else is living this way too. That’s really what’s making the world sadder and meaner. That’s also why people are suffering all over. The way out of this debilitating and depressive spiral is to stop comparing. The moment a thought arises in you – and be sure it will arise – urging you to compare yourself with another, order that thought out. Just ask yourself: “So what?” And tell or remind yourself: “Let everyone be happy!” Try this approach. It works brilliantly! You don’t have to do this for the sake of others. Do it for yourself. Because only when you are happy with yourself, the way you are, irrespective of how things and people are in the world, can you find inner peace!

The Universal Prayer to Life


Life is a continuous process of unlearning and learning, repairing and renewing.

Many a time what you think, what you say and what you do may not be in harmony. And that really is the cause for all unhappiness. Or sometimes you may be thinking, saying and doing things in one way but others, often companions, observers, onlookers, will be thinking differently. And they may opinionate differently. This can be another source for unhappiness.

So, in either of these situations, how do you restore the equilibrium? How do you anchor within? How do you come back to being happy?

Some years ago, I would lean on religion for repair and renewal, but while I found such experiences ushering in peace momentarily, the peace at most times didn’t really last. When the experience was over, the hard-won peace was also gone. Besides, I never understood or experienced happiness through religion. Further, through a Life-changing experience that I have been through in recent years, I have lost all interest in religion, as it is preached and practiced today. I find it ritualistic and divisive. In the name of pluralism it alienates us humans from each other. They say spirituality is the flowering of internal awareness. They also say religion is for those who want to go to heaven, and spirituality is for those who have been to hell! I have been to hell and I identify with both these sayings closely. 

I composed this prayer some years ago. It was a fervent plea from me to Life to show me the right way, through the labyrinth of fear, anxiety and uncertainty that tormented me at that time. It has since become a prayer to Life, whom I have come to recognize as the greatest Teacher. That’s why I always spell Life with a capital ‘L’! To me, Life is the Higher Energy that embraces and nurtures all creation. Each day, during my ‘mouna’ (silence periods) session, I pray to Life, reciting this prayer slowly, savoring each word, and relating it to my experiences of the previous day. Since I don’t understand Sanskrit, and since most of Indian Hindu prayers are composed in that language, I have been unable to relate to any of them seriously. English, however, as a medium, helps me internalize each sentiment and embed my daily learnings firmly in my soul!

Teach me, O! Teacher…

Teach me, O! Teacher, each day as I awake and arise, to be humble. To respect another Life and to accept that just as I am entitled to my opinion, others are too. To contribute selflessly and without expectation.

Teach me, O! Teacher, to forgive every act of unkindness and injustice to me. To unlearn and forget what may not be relevant to me as I journey along.

Teach me to conquer anger and to attain that state of ahimsa, when all violence inside me subsides, and true love prevails.

Teach me to avoid hatred and jealousy. To resist ruinous temptations and to employ discretion at such times that I may waver.

Teach me, O! Teacher, to soak in and converse with the silence that engulfs me and for me to discover the real me in it.

Teach me to lead a Life of action, skillfully and selflessly, to live in this world and yet be above it.

Teach me, to remain detached from the fruits of my action and to know that if the motive is pure and the means are correct, in the end it will all be fine if I do my best and leave you the rest.

Teach me, O! Teacher, to be eternally grateful for this Life and this experience!

You too can try it. Learning, unlearning, repair and renewal, on a daily basis, are guaranteed. Peace and joy are both intended and assured outcomes too!

Life Really Is A Mind Game


Life really is a mind game. And you need to be on top of the game to live your Life fully!
The human mind is an amazing, to use a Gen Y term, App! It can do more things than even your iPhone or the fastest supercomputer on the planet ever can! The key is to use it effectively, efficiently and point it to whatever you want out of your Life.  
Examine each of your feelings. Worry, guilt, anger, jealousy, sorrow, pain, suffering __ all of them are born out of your mind. Have you ever asked yourself why do these feelings arise? Let’s take a case. You lose your job. And are out of money. You need to pay your bills. You are fearful as a new month dawns. Is the month fearful? Is the bill fearful? Is non-payment of bills fearful? Or is it that your mind tells you that a scary future awaits you? Indeed it your mind that induces feelings in you. What if someone told you__and proved to you__that non-payment of bills is moksha or nirvana or salvation or bliss?   
According to the Buddha, the mind is full of drunken monkeys who are always jumping around, aimlessly, boisterously, mischievously, cantankerously. They are noisy and there is an incessant chatter that they cause. The drunken monkeys are Buddha’s metaphor for the 60,000 thoughts that arise in your mind daily. Research has proven that the average human mind throws up 60,000 thoughts daily. And these thoughts are random. They sometimes have no relation to what you are doing. For instance, while driving to work, you may see a lady in a red dress. And that lady could remind you of a girl from your college that you once had a crush on. And soon the thoughts could move to how difficult you found Economics back then. That thought could lead you to how you cheated in exams. And then you start wondering how hypocritical it is to be counseling your adolescent child on integrity. Then you think about the lack of transparency in public Life. You think of the state of your country. And then your mind complains about how bad the roads are and how messy the traffic has become. One red dress took you, in a few seconds, on a trip that spanned several decades and various issues! 
That’s really how powerful your mind is. The Buddha also taught that it is imminently possible to tame the mind monkeys. He said don’t resist them, don’t control them, because what you resist, persists. Instead tame them. And that means give them something meaningful to play with. On a spiritual plane, giving the monkeys awareness of your true Self is a beautiful way to tame them. When your mind knows who you really are__that you are simply the energy that powers the Universe__the mind will quit playing stupid, senseless games. You will begin to see everything__EVERYTHING__as petty, transient, fleeting and inconsequential. Success, failure, sorrow and joy, will mean the same to you. On a more practical plane, taming the monkeys means giving them a higher cause, a Purpose and a Vision, to play with. Which is, when the monkeys know why they do what they do, they will do it with involvement, with passion and with diligence. Then there will be no jumping around. There will be a certain aesthetic quality to your thinking, bringing a beauty, a sense of Purpose to everything that you do! 
On Sunday, Aadya Kaktikar wrote, in The Times of India’s Crest Edition, a piece on Odissi exponent Guru Mayadhar Raut. In the article, reviewing Raut’s biography ‘Odissi Yatra’, Kaktikar asks the Guru how he has such a phenomenal memory at his ripe age of 83. And Raut replies: ‘Ye man ki ekagrata se hota hai. Ye man ek rai ki pudiya jaise hai. Yadi bikhar gaya to use phir saath lana assambhav hai’. Meaning, “This is possible due to the focus of the mind. The mind is like a bag of mustard seeds. Once the seeds scatter it is impossible to gather them again.”
Mindfulness: This is so simple and yet so profound!

That’s at the same time so simple and yet so profound. For all of us who have not tamed our mind monkeys, our thoughts are like those mustard seeds__they are all over the place. Which is why we worry, fear, are anxious, sometimes jealous, often angry and are quickly filled with suffering at the slightest hint of pain! Which is also why we don’t see the beauty, magic and miracle of Life, in everyday occurrences. 

Change your Manic Monday today to Mindful Monday! Point your mind in the direction of your true Self and on your Vision for yourself. Let nothing distract you.  
Remember as long as your thoughts, your mustard seeds are gathered and your mind monkeys stay tamed, you will be alive to the magic of each moment. It is the sum of all these awakened moments that will make up the rest of your Life! To make them memorable or keep them manic, of course, is your personal choice!