Life is a blind date – Take it as it comes

Life is a journey into the unknown in every moment. If you seek predictability, you will suffer. If you embrace the unpredictability, and go with the flow, you will find the way to be happy despite your circumstances.  
We are all creatures of routine. And Life is never routine. It is full of adventure. So when it disrupts, you don’t like the change. So you ask, Why? Then, Why Me? Then, Why Now? With each of these questions, for which you are unlikely to get answers, you are losing time, are feeling miserable and are suffering. Think of your routine. You like to wake up, go to work, have a drink in the evening, lounge in front of the TV, read a book, sleep. Then, wake up, do the same stuff again. And you believe you have a happy Life – a good spouse, wonderful children. That’s a nice routine. That’s when Life stirs your pot a bit. A heart attack. A job loss. Or a loss in business. A child having a troubled teenage. Death of a child. Or a parent. Or a sibling. Any of these happenings can plunge you into grief. You argue that you have been good, ethical, faithful. Then why do horrible things have to happen to you? While all your grief is understandable, no one can stop things from happening to you. The truth is that things simply have to happen. And because it’s your turn now, they are happening to you. Plain and simple. Don’t imagine Life to be wicked, sinister and scheming. Whatever happens in Life, just happens. There’s no conspiracy. Just an inscrutable cosmic design. It is the same Life that gave you your most memorable moments. Your first school successes, your first romance, your first international trip, your first raise, your first profits, your first child. And then, as in most cases, everything happened a second time too. So, the Life that makes you smile, gush with joy, also stirs things up a bit, mischievously. The way to deal with such an unpredictable Life is to retain your spirit of joy and fullness – always, no matter what comes your way.
Life is this continuous journey into the unknown. If you want predictability, you can never be happy. Because when everything is predictable, like in a routine, you don’t live. You simply exist. You are alive. But you are as good as dead. Someone asked Mark Twain (1835~1910), the American author and humourist, once, “What do you think are the three best things in Life?” In jest, but also with deep sarcasm, Twain replied: “The first best thing is never to be born. The second best thing is to die immediately after birth. And the third best thing is to die as soon as possible.” This may sound like Twain’s trademark humor. But there’s a great truth in his humor. If you want to live, and live happily, you have to be prepared to face the unknown, you have to approach Life with the spirit of adventure. If you are scared of the unknown and seek predictability and security, you are better off dead!
In Chennai, we have a cinema multiplex called Sathyam. Every Thursday evening they have a screening called “Blind Date”. The concept is that you get to watch any of the movies releasing the next day, Friday, that Sathyam chooses to screen. True to the show’s name, you don’t get to know which film is being screened until the movie begins. If you choose to go for the “Blind Date” show, you wait with everyone else in the audience, with expectation and apprehension, not knowing which movie is going to play. Chances are it may be a movie that you like or it may be something that you dislike. But whatever it is, you take it as it comes.
The best way to live Life is to treat it as a blind date. Just take it as it comes!

Enjoy, Experience and Learn from the Journey of Life

This whole lifetime is, at one level, meaningless. There’s no success. And no failure. When you die, you take nothing, not even memories of your experiences.  
You may wonder what’s the point in living – earning, creating, saving – when you can’t take anything or anyone with you when you die? But this is the truth. This is the way it is. None of us knows what’s after death. So, we can only ensure that we live this one Life that we have well. This means we treat everything that comes our way – sadness, joy, love, anger, fear, passion and peace – with respect, with acceptance and with gratitude. In his immortal poem “The Guest House”, Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi, the 13th Century Persian poet says, receive both Life’s sorrows and joys with respect, greeting them at the door “laughing” and “invite them in”, for each has been sent as a “guide from beyond”. There’s only one reason that I believe there is to describe why we go through so many experiences in our Life – and that reason is to teach us to be humble. What education, success, fame and money do to us is that they all make us, even if subconsciously, arrogant. We start gloating over how well we have planned out lives, how much we are in control and how well we have crafted our own tiny worlds. And then, in one fell swoop, Life changes everything. It’s like a wave that comes and sweeps away a sandcastle that a child has built on the beach. For some of us, these waves come multiple times and with each blow, with each upheaval, we become more and more humble.
Ustad Zakir Hussain
Picture Source: Internet
Those who have understood Life and the way it works, will have learnt also to be unswayed by whatever is happening to them. Neither grief nor glory can move them. I recently read an interview that Tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain gave ‘Times Life’. He was asked how he dealt with being a celebrity and how he would deal with losing all his fame. His reply is so beautiful, so awakening: “I am a figment of everyone’s imagination. That’s what I am. And I know that I’m the dog today and I’m having my day. And there’ll be someone else to take over and really, there’s no problem in that. I’m not going to be the famous number one Tabla player all my Life. I took over from someone, did I not? And someone else is going to take over from me. And there’s no problem at all, as far as I’m concerned. Because, I am not the best. There is no best. You know, someone once told a maestro after a show ‘You were perfect today’ and the maestro replied ‘I haven’t played good enough to quit’. You know, that’s a very profound statement. In other words, if I had done what I think is the best I can do, I might as well hang up my boots. There’s nowhere else to go. So, there’s no perfect. You will never reach the horizon but that doesn’t stop you from enjoying and experiencing the journey, learning from it.” 
That’s all there is to Life. Keep enjoying and experiencing the journey, learning from it, every step of the way. Don’t cling on to anything. Neither your sorrows nor your joys. Take everything as it comes. If possible, during the time that you have here, on the planet, touch another Life, make a difference. That’s the only way to create meaning in an otherwise meaningless Life! Because, when it ends, when death comes, your lifetime will be a memory for those who knew you, and for you…it may, well, just mean nothing.

On why hopelessness is not a bad thing

To be hopeless about a situation in Life is, after all, not a bad thing. It helps you gain great clarity about living Life – fully, in the now!  
I recently read the story of a lady who was diagnosed with last-stage cancer. She talks about how, when she first heard the diagnosis, she went from one specialist to another, hoping fervently that she would hear a different diagnosis and the prognosis would be positive. She continued to work at her job – and the stresses of both her health situation and a demanding job began to take their toll on her. Finally, when she met a very eminent oncologist, he told her that she had “only six months more”. The lady recalls that she was shaken awake from her “hope-filled reverie”. She says she had been hoping badly, madly, that she would be told that she would live longer. But when she was told of her possible expiry date, coming up in just the next few months, she decided to “live” fully – in the time that she had left with her! She quit her job, made a list of all the people and places she wanted to visit, took to painting (something she loved doing but never found the time when she was working) every day and chose to be happy over feeling mournful about her health. She explained that “as long as she was hopeful of being cured she was clinging on to a Life which she was hardly enjoying, but the moment she realized her health situation was beyond hope, she began to live her Life – intensely, joyfully!”

This lady’s experience teaches us something invaluable. It helps us understand that while hope is a good thing, in certain situations in Life, it may hold us hostage and blind us from seeing reality. Reality, however, cannot be escaped. So, while you live through certain unchangeable phases with unalterable realities in Life, being hopeful in a hopeless situation can indeed make you feel miserable. Your intelligence will tell you what the reality is. But hope will make you delusional – vainly wishing that the reality did not exist. This conflict will cause you to suffer – day in and day out. There’s a way to break this jinx. And that way is to simply accept a situation to be hopeless – when it really is so. For instance, if you lose someone to death – it’s pointless to hope for that person to come alive. Or if someone loses their limbs or eyesight or hearing or speech – it is futile to hope that it will be restored without a specialist medical intervention or, perhaps, a cosmic miracle!

Hopelessness is not about giving up. It need not only be about feeling desperate or despondent. It can, if you allow it to, help you see the reality as it is and can teach you how to face it. For, whenever you are hopeless about some situation, you can always ask yourself “what does this mean” and “what must I do now”. The answers you get for these questions can inspire to move on, in acceptance, and in peace.

From sadness to happiness

When you are consumed by sorrow and suffering, choose to do something that makes you happy!

Sorrow is a very natural, real human feeling. Someone dies. You lose something. You are misunderstood. You break-up in a relationship. You suffer a crippling health setback. Each of these situations can apply to any of us – at any time. And when something like that happens, chances are that you will be grief-stricken. You will wish your Life was different. This wishing will make you feel miserable and cause all your suffering. You will go down a depressive spiral and will continue to remain stuck in that cesspool of grief for a long, long time. Over time, you will not even know what you are sad about. Sadness would have become embedded in your subconscious.

The way to haul yourself up in a situation like this is to focus on whatever gives you joy. Could be music, art, watching a movie or being alone with nature. Whatever makes you forget that you are sad, in a natural manner, do it. Drinking or smoking do not fall in this category because they are artificial and you impose them on you. Look for an immersive experience – where you can lose yourself, without count of time or without thinking about your grief! 

Sadness and happiness are the same energy – expressed differently. Look around you. There are so many happy people. Why are you not happy in their midst? The reason is that when you look at them, you feel you can never be like them. You have conditioned yourself to thinking that way. Because the truth is, if you can be sad, you can be happy too! Not by replacing the factors that have caused your sadness. But by accepting the fact that you have reasons to be sad, and that, despite those reasons, you can chose to be happy doing what gives you joy!
Sorrow and suffering must not be resisted. Or controlled. Or repressed. They must be transcended. You can go past that – in fact, any – feeling if you are aware. Awareness will always lead you to happiness!

You decide what you want out of your problems

Your problems can lead you to either suffering or joy.  Problems causing joy? Is it possible at all? Indeed it is.
You, and only YOU, can decide what you want out of your problems. The immediate response to a problem situation is denial. And despite your denying, the problem doesn’t go away. So you start getting angry, frustrated, depressed and eventually start suffering. Does your problem go away with your suffering? It only breeds newer problems – physical ailments, depression, poor decision-making and a perpetual state of ‘grumpiness’!
Let’s get this straight. Problems will be there. Whether you like it or not. If you are born and are living__as we all are__your Life WILL have problems. The tenure and intensity of problems may vary, but there cannot be a time in your lifetime that you DO NOT have ANY problems! Since this is true, as you would have realized about your Life by now, what is so intelligent about grieving over your problems? Isn’t it far more a mature and intelligent response to think of your problems as an opportunity to challenge yourself__to find joy where others find suffering?
Take time to understand your situation, your predicament, from all dimensions. Understand further that you cannot solve anything in a nano-second and that sometimes you have to live with your problem. This acceptance will NOT take your problem away, but will help you deal with it better. When you operate from the core of your inner joy, you feel the pain, but you don’t suffer. If you have a physical condition you may be writhing in pain, but your sense of joy will not allow the pain to cripple your soul. If you are in an emotional trauma – someone dies, someone betrays you – your joy will not allow the loss, the deceit to affect your mindfulness. Not to say that your thoughts won’t go back to the one who is no more or pine for an understanding where a misunderstanding prevails, but you will be able to rein in your thoughts and look at what is than what should or would have been!
Of all the moments that make up your lifetime, it is this choice to find joy in times of suffering, that makes the difference between “living” those moments and “enduring” a lifetime!

Pause to listen to your soul too

Life is full of unlimited possibilities. The more free and open you are with Life the more you will experience it.
A friend recently told me that he was disillusioned with his job. The work culture in his organization is bad, his boss is a tyrant and his targets are unreasonable. “Basically, I don’t feel like going to work anymore,” he confessed. I asked him why he was not looking for new opportunities. He said he wouldn’t want to do that because the pay he is getting now is very good, and besides, given his qualifications (he only has a basic engineering degree) and his age (he’s in his late 40s), he feared his compensation may not be matched if he moved.
There are many like my friend – who are clinging on to their jobs or positions even though there’s no joy in it. They are insecure and unhappy. At the end of the day, all of us want only security and happiness. But money, or anything material, cannot make us secure. Only being happy can. So, is it even worth earning a living if you are not alive, if you are not living the Life you want, if you are not happy?
The moment you realize that you are not happy doing what you are doing it is time to take stock. It is time to ask yourself some soul-searching questions:
·         What’s causing my unhappiness?
·         What can I do to be happy?
When you operate from the inner core of your joy, when you make choices based on what makes you happy, you will find that newer opportunities, more fulfilling than ever before, always  appear before you. Building a successful career and a healthy bank balance are important needs no doubt. But also be open to Life. Listen to what your soul is saying. When something’s not giving you joy, Life may well be urging you to look beyond what you see. You may then want to try doing what you love doing. This is the only Life you have. Pretty soon you will be at a stage when all you will have is lots of time on your hands – and much of that time will be spent on looking back at your Life that’s gone by. Make sure the flashback is memorable!

Never lose joy and sleep while competing!

Whatever you do, do it for the joy it gives you, do it with love – don’t do it to be the first or the only one or to be famous!
Our education system is such that it forces us to be competitive even before we understand what it means to compete. The whole social environment of a child (particularly in India) is focused on academic excellence. And that is measured not by how much the child has learned and imbibed, but by what grades the child has got. So, naturally, there is anxiety among young, impressionable children – they all want to be the first in class – even if not for themselves but to do their parents proud! However, the nature of any competition is such that there can only be one first. Everyone else will have to follow. So, the ones who do not get to be first in class, continue to compete, often vainly, rabidly. And the one who stood first is competing to protect and so becomes possessive of her or his first position! This continues through college. At work. And in society. Look around you. You will find this evident in all walks of Life – even in a queue in India, where people simply have to push and jostle to get into a movie hall or a plane!
Let me clarify. I am not against aggressive people or against competition. But if competing is going to make you miserable – thinking about winning all the time and feeling depressed if you don’t win – then what’s the point in doing whatever you are doing? A constant state of urgency and the often-avoidable aggression, takes away the joy that any activity can deliver, especially when the focus is only on winning, on coming first, on being hailed, on becoming famous!
Whatever you do in Life has to fundamentally give you joy! If you are not feeling the joy when you are doing something, it is simply not worth doing it. Good coaches will always inspire people to strive to be the best, deliver what they are truly capable of, while enjoying themselves in the process. If what gives you joy also gives you wealth, fame and recognition, great! But if you work with only wealth, fame or recognition in mind, if you play the game only because you have to be the first – it may just not always be possible. Because, chances are, someone may be better than you are on any given day. That doesn’t mean you are worthless. But your hunger to win and your lusting to be number 1 will make you believe you are good-for-nothing. The Bhagavad Gitaexplains this simply, beautifully. Krishna says: “Don’t focus on the result at all!” – just make sure the “motive is pure” and the “means are right (ethical)”. Offer whatever you are doing to “Me”.
Look at any great artiste or sportsman or actor or business leader. You will find one trait common in all of them. They simply lose themselves to whatever they are doing. They are not bothered about what people are thinking or about winning or losing or about coming first. They are offering themselves, and their craft, to Life (cosmic parlance for the “Me” in the Gita!). When the doer becomes the deed, when the singer becomes the song, when the painter becomes the art – magic happens. If the magic delivers a world-class performance, and with it material rewards, fantastic. But even if doesn’t, a truly great professional will not bother. Because she or he has enjoyed the process of doing thoroughly!
Life is not a 100-metre race. How you run in Life and did you enjoy yourself running – these are far more important aspects to consider than any medal that you may win at the end of the run! So, the next time you are placed in a competitive context, compete by all means. But do so only so long as you don’t lose the joy of doing, or sleep, over wanting to win or be the first or the only one!

Happiness comes only from celebrating what “is”

When you learn to focus only on what you have, and not dwell on what you don’t have, you will find yourself soaked in inner peace. This understanding is the simplest way to attaining bliss.
Do this little exercise for yourself on your commute to work today. Make a list of all that you have. Flip the page and make a list of all that you don’t have. Spend a minute reviewing each list. Surely, the first “what you have” list filled you with joy and gratitude. And the second “what you don’t have” list triggered a yearning, an anxiety, a concern for having to still working on making that list a reality. The truth is, because you spend a lot of your time, subconsciously, on the second list, more often than not, the emotions connected with that list magnify, and manifest as anger, depression and/or restlessness. You simply are under the spell of that list – completely oblivious of what you have. Happiness and contentment are possible only when you celebrate what is. Neither happiness nor contentment can ever be experienced over what isn’t there. This is an irrefutable law of Life.
Obviously, goals, aspirations and ambitions, come from the second list. And without those, there can be no progress. So the import here is not to tell you to be less ambitious or aggressive. Please stay doggedly on the path of your ambition – but don’t sacrifice what you have on the altar of your aspirations. Love and keep celebrating what is, even as you pursue what you want! This you can do only when you learn to live in the moment. And you can live in the moment by accepting and wanting what is, than by wishing that what isn’t were actually there.
On the futility of merely wishing, here’s a story that Osho, the Master used to say!
Bryant, an Irishman, was out fishing. And he caught a fish that spoke to him! The fish said that it was actually an elf that could grant Bryant three wishes if he let it live. So, Bryant threw the fish back into the river and rushed home. He shared this piece of good news with his wife and the two of them decided to go to the market in town to look for three things they could “wish” for. The wife decided to open a can of beans so she could make them dinner. The can opener, for whatever reason, was not to be found. And the lady “wished” she had a can opener so she could get done with dinner faster. Bingo! A can opener arrived in her hand. As Bryant looked on, angrily, his wife felt sorry having wasted a “wish” on a stupid can opener. Bryant was vocal: “Why did you wish for such a stupid thing? I wish the can opener was up your ass!” Bingo! Again! Sure enough, that’s where the can opener ended up being. And you can imagine what the couple would have done next – they had to use up the third wish to get the can opener out of where it was!
So, wish, dream, pursue, by all means. But live with and love what is. Remember: being in the moment that “is” always far more valuable, enriching, and productive than trying to wish for something that “isn’t”!

Dial Life: 1-800-NO-GUARANTEES

There are no guarantees in Life. It is in seeking them that we encounter grief and suffering.
The human creation is not a product that comes with a warranty card, a user manual complete with a trouble-shooting guide, and a 1-800 service to call up in case of we have doubts or seek clarifications or require online support! In fact, if each of us came with that kind of back-end support offered by the manufacturer (a.k.a Creator), while our Life may have been so much simpler, it wouldn’t be fun anymore. What makes Life interesting and exciting is this lack of clarity, this fuzziness, the uncertainty __ and, ironically, the lack of guarantee. When we accept and celebrate the uncertainty, we are in total peace. The moment we seek clarity or guarantees, we invite suffering into our lives.
In fact, look at nature. No creation in nature demands more clarity than WHAT IS except man. We humans crave for all that is not essential to live intelligently and therefore create our own suffering. Osho, the Master, invites us to look at a seed. He explains that as a seed, the seed is incapable of knowing of its future as a flower. It has no idea that it can be a flower or what it means to be a flower. As a seed it can survive for millennia in the security of its hard shell. But the seed decides to let go of the shell, of its sense of security, and embraces uncertainty. When it does that, it has to surely battle the hard rocks and breakthrough the surface of the soil, heading in the direction of sunlight, to germinate, to sprout and to flower! All this, with absolutely NO GUARANTEE that it will ever meet its destiny! Osho invites us to stop seeking guarantees in Life and, like the seed, head in the direction of (inner) light so that we too can bloom, flower and radiate joy!
Don’t avoid or deny the dark periods of your Life or the challenges that confront you. Don’t seek guarantees from Life. Because it can offer you none. Only when you face Life, encounter each hurdle and overcome them, will you become the flower that you have been created to be. Simply, dial Life without fear, with no apprehension, and live happily ever after!

Remain unmoved to stay unscathed

Just as it is important not to get bogged down by failure, it is equally, perhaps more, critical not to get carried away by success.
M S Dhoni: Unmoved
At the presentation ceremony of the ICC Champions Trophy at Edgbaston, Birmingham, two nights ago, former England captain and Star Cricket’s anchor Nasser Hussain asked India captain M.S.Dhoni: “The T20 World Cup, the ICC World Cup and now the Champions Trophy….you have seen and got them all. What would you want next?”
Embarrassed and smiling, Dhoni, in his characteristic down-to-earth, grounded, style, replied: “I am not here to prove to anyone how good I am. My focus is on the game. We are off to the West Indies from here and we will be keen to put in our best there and work as a team.”
Many observers and commentators have been amazed with Dhoni’s unflappable leadership and his ability to remain calm in a crisis. I feel the biggest reason why he continues to be successful is the because he doesn’t get all that he’s achieved go to his head. He doesn’t let defeat affect him either. And that’s a remarkable quality. An ability. Something each of us can consider, reflect upon and try internalizing.
Think about it. In this lifetime, which has been given to us without our asking for it, there are many things that will happen to us. There are many experiences that we will go through. Some of them will work to a plan. And we will start imagining we caused or created them. Some will happen to us without any effort from us. And sometimes things will simply happen – causing us pain, joy, grief, suffering and often leaving us numbed, shocked, defeated, delighted or humbled. Osho, the Master, invites us to consider the example of the wheel. He says a wheel moves. While its center remains unmoved. So, if your Life were a wheel, with its own fair share of ups and downs, you, the real you, your center, your soul, must remain unmoved. Only this state of staying unmoved, despite whatever is happening to you, can keep you perpetually blissful! The best way to respond to Life is to remain unmoved – by joy or by sorrow, by victory or by defeat. Then, and only then, can you hope to get through this lifetime, unscathed!