Sometimes, you can’t unentangle a web unless the master-weaver awakens!

If things don’t work out the way as they should, it is perhaps best to let go and let everything – and everyone – just be!!
Angel Glady and Sunil Menon in conversation with Vaani and AVIS
This weekend has been more than interesting. Vaani and I have led a public conversation with people who have a special orientation. This is part of a non-commercial, by-invitation-only Event Series called ‘Heart of Matter – Happiness Conversations’ that we host quarterly in partnership with InKo Centre. Last evening, we had renowned fashion designer Sunil Menon and theatre artist Angel Glady as our guests – it was a conversation that was intimate, intense, thought-provoking and awakening. It helped people in the audience reflect on their idea of happiness and invited them to turn unequivocally inclusive. Elsewhere in the city, my brother, a well-known theatre director and entertainment industry coach, staged a production that had actors with special abilities perform in it. His production, I am told, championed inclusiveness too and was highly, critically, acclaimed. Isn’t it beautiful that both brothers, supported by their spouses, are doing work that’s meaningful, in the same city, on the same weekend? Yet, what makes this rare coincidence ironical too is that we brothers don’t speak to each other!!! We haven’t connected in several years now. We remain strung, clinging on to our own positions, in a web of deceit, manipulation and self-obsession that has been cast by someone else. A third sibling, our sister, is strung from somewhere on the web too. We all live in the same city and yet we can never quite figure out a way out of this web. I have made attempts in the past, to unentangle this mess, but I have found myself getting stung, not just strung, every single time. So, I have let it all go. Concluding that perhaps the best thing to happen for all of us is for us to be where we are, the way we are; but being happy, at peace with ourselves, in spite of ourselves and each other!

Sometimes your Life’s design is so intricately constructed by a web of actions that someone has woven that you end up just being a helpless victim! But you have a choice to not feel like a victim – just let go and let everything – and everyone – just be! And sometimes this is the way Life has to be lived. There are no hard and fast rules in Life. There is no guarantee that all homes and families will be the same. We all have to do what we have to do. If in some cases, like in mine, things don’t work out the way they should, it is best to just be. For, if you are not weaving the web, how can you ever hope to unentangle it unless the master-weaver awakens? 

You suffer only when you partner with your grief

How can anyone forgive when in grief and when still mourning the betrayal?
It is possibly true for all of us that we have all been, at some time or the other, let down by people whom we trusted and loved deeply. It is always numbing to discover such a let-down. You will feel beaten and betrayed. The after-taste of the episode will continue to haunt you for a long, long time. At all such times, remember this: People do what they do because they think they are right in doing it that way. So, there’s no point in either talking sense to them in such a time that they are gripped by their own stupor or in grieving over their behavior. The best approach is to take the one that Jesus took on the Cross – “Forgive them O! Lord, because they know not, what they do!”
You will perhaps argue that this is easier said than done. How can anyone move on when the heart aches, when the mind is lamenting why such a thing has happened in the first place?
I have learned that it is fine to be a fool sometimes in Life. A fool is one who doesn’t know anything. He or she is not worldy-wise. So, he or she, will continue to trust despite the evidence pointing to the contrary. The fact that you stand betrayed points to your having been a fool. So, simple. Continue being a fool. If you find forgiveness difficult, just continue being trusting or being vulnerable. A few more times people will continue to hurt you. But they will soon give up when they realize that you are refusing to get hurt. People love, in a sadistic sense, to see that their actions, in this case negatively, impact their target audience. When you subtly, through your, even if feigned, foolishness, deny them that pleasure, they will cease to persist with their designs.
The other case for ‘moving on’ and not ‘retaliating’ is that the world is already divided. By several zillion factors. If it is a close friend or relation, perhaps from the family, that has let you down, your sulking or wanting to avenge, is only going to divide your already fractured world further. It is only going to make the distances between you both grown wider, and often, render them unbridgeable. It takes two hands to clap. Suppose you don’t offer yours, there will be no thunder. And hence no issue. Or at least a complicated situation will not get further confounded with your participation.
Here’s an interesting story that came my way.
“In the forest there is a banana plant with its smooth wide leaves next to the thorny berry tree. The wind causes both to dance and to sway. The thorns of the berry tree rip the leaves of the banana plant. 

Who is to be blamed? The wind for causing them to sway?

Or the banana for growing close to the berry tree?

Or the berry tree for having thorns? 

The sage wonders, and realizes that if he did not exist, these notions of who to blame would not exist. Only humans blame and begrudge and resent, because we can imagine an alternate reality. 

The rest of Nature go about their own business.”

So, let go. Go about your own business as if nothing’s happened. In a betrayal, as in any other situation involving pain, you suffer only because you choose to partner with your grief. Choose instead to be a fool and go on trusting or choose to believe as if you do not exist. Know that there is no alternate reality. It is what it is. This the only way you can be happy, and untouched, in the wake of the pain that follows let-downs!

Drop your sense of self-importance, just be!

You have to do nothing to take care of your Life. Actually, Life has always been taking care, is taking care, and will take care of you!
At a coffee shop the other day, two friends were catching up at a table that was very close to mine. I was immersed in checking Facebook on my phone. But something one of them said to the other caught my attention. He said, “My Life is not in my hands anymore. I have to take care of my family, my parents, my sister who is going through a divorce, and I have to work by butt off trying to achieve my targets at work. It is insane, but I am no longer living my Life. I am constantly running, earning, providing for and serving others. I feel so lost, so overworked, so stressed – all the time!”
Many of us may well be in this person’s position. We may have the same feeling that we seem to be alive only so that we can provide for other people. And perhaps we are tired of such an existence. Some may even be suffering. To be sure, this is a very natural feeling when we are overwhelmed by the challenges we face and the responsibilities that we carry.
The way to deal with this situation, if you are feeling this way, is to stop giving yourself too much importance. A fundamental belief that comes in the way of our living our lives fully, totally, is the view that we have to take care of ourselves and of others ‘dependent’ on us. There’s this huge protector-provider role that we all have self-imposed upon ourselves. Or a better way to say it is that we have self-assumed this role. And so we go about our lives obsessed with an avoidable sense of self-importance. We believe every problem around us needs our immediate, urgent attention__and resolution. That everything from money to succor, in our immediate circle of influence, must be provided for by us. And when it doesn’t happen that way, as it often may not, we feel something’s wrong with us, or with creation, or both and so we grieve, agonize and suffer!
Osho, the Master, says, and only he could have said it so well: “If the whole existence is one, and if existence goes on taking care of trees, of animals, of mountains, of oceans__from the smallest blade of grass to the biggest star__then it will take care of you too. Once you have started seeing the beauty of Life, ugliness starts disappearing. If you start looking at Life with joy, sadness starts disappearing. You cannot have heaven and hell together, you can have only one. It is your choice.”

So observe what’s causing you stress just now. And let it go. Let go of your self-assumed need to be problem-solver, protector and provider. Instead just be. And then you will discover that creation will take care of you, and all that you call your own. 

When you simply be, giving up the need to become, you are FREE!

The true meaning of Life is being free!

And to be free you must just let everything be. When you wish that things were different is when the shackles of pain, agony, suffering, sorrow, guilt, anger, jealousy, remorse and fear imprison you.

How do you let it, or anything, be?

This question has to be answered by understanding why it is being asked in the first place. What is the difficulty in letting things be? One clear idea can be that if you don’t do something about some situation, you will have abdicated responsibility. Or if you don’t do something, something worse will happen. Or that you may grieve later that possibly you could have done something. So, for these reasons and perhaps a few more, you will find it difficult to let things be! And you want to get back into control.

Let’s also be clear about what situations call for action and which ones call for letting them be. Your house is on fire, obviously, you can call the fire service. Your teenage child is taking to drugs. Surely you can counsel him and take him to a de-addiction center and work on getting him back. So, you act when you can act and must act. No issues. But there may be situations in Life when you cannot do anything. Someone close to you is dead. What action can you take to bring the person back to Life? So, let it be. Or someone is seriously ill. The doctors are trying. But they too say only a miracle can save her. What can you do to work that miracle? The best you can do is to let it be. Or a relationship is suffering because someone is hell bent on interpreting whatever you say. You have clarified, apologized, fallen at their feet, but the person keeps on bludgeoning you. What can you do? You want the situation to heal, but what can you do? Healing takes time. So, you just let it be. Or you try your best to resurrect a failed business and your Life, but every single attempt meets with zero success. It’s not that you lack talent or purpose or values or ethics. But still the business doesn’t happen. Money just refuses to come to you. You have tried getting an employment but nobody even wants to meet you, let alone hire you. What do you do? Other than letting it be, do you have a choice? So, when you have tried everything and nothing works, while you may still want to try newer approaches to dealing with a Life situation, you just let it be.

When you let things be, the mind will make matters worse. It will remind you that you are doing nothing about a grave situation. It will amplify every small fear into something draconian, gruesome. But fear has to be dealt with head-on by facing it. Only then can you overcome it. Once you have crossed the threshold of fear, all other emotions become manageable. If you are not scared of what will happen, how can worry even exist? When the future doesn’t worry you why will the past haunt you anymore? Your entire being slips into just being.

So, to practice letting things be, take stock of your Life:

1.     Make a two lists: areas that you can act on and areas you cannot act on
2.     Act on all areas that you believe there are options available to act on
3.     And on those areas where you can’t do anything anymore, where you don’t have any more options left, just let them be. Watch your emotions as they obsess with you. Meet them head-on. Only that way will you transcend them.
4.     When you transcend your emotions, beginning first with fear, you will slip into just being
5.     This may take days, weeks, months, years, but only through continuous practice can you arrive at that state of just letting your Life be
6.     And once you have let it be, you have given up the need to become, you are NOW free!

That’s how you experience true freedom. Freedom means a certain inexplicable blitheness of the spirit. You feel alive – because fear, anger, worry, guilt, everything, every uninvited guest who was residing in you, holding you in their grasp, has taken leave. The house is empty. And what resides there is a lot of free spirit and light. It’s pure. It’s beautiful. And that is what the true meaning of Life is __ being free, unshackled, unencumbered, detached, being alive.

Fundamentally, happiness is an inside job!

Happiness is just being. Being available to what is, being present in what is, being accepting of what is and moving on with what is.

If we can’t understand the concept and value of just being, we simply will never be happy.

In the July-August 2015 double edition of Harvard Business Review (HBR), Senior Editor Alison Beard writes about “The Happiness Backlash – Investigating the seemingly universal insistence on feeling good”.Reviewing a set of new books on happiness (mostly in the ‘Self-Help’ genre) and sharing her own perspectives candidly, Beard confesses that reading about happiness depresses her. “Because there’s too much advice out there about how to achieve it,” she explains. And she continues, “…And yet for me and many others, happiness remains elusive. Of course, I sometimes feel joyful and content – reading a bedtime story to my kids, interviewing someone I greatly admire, finishing a tough piece of writing. But despite having good health, supportive family and friends, and a stimulating and flexible job, I am often awash in negative emotions: worry, frustration, anger, disappointment, guilt, envy, regret. My default state is dissatisfied.” I feel sorry for Beard. That she has come to believe that her default state is one of dissatisfaction if not of complete unhappiness. To be sure, millions out there are unhappier than most others and, unfortunately, they remain unhappy almost perpetually. And the reason these people are this way is because they have not understood the value of just being.

Fundamentally, happiness is an inside job. As Beard rightly surmises, just because there is a wave of activity in the “happiness industry” with books being churned out and people talking about it more and more – actually tweeting and #tagging about it – it cannot be assumed that the people of the world are getting any happier. No one – or no thing – can make you happy unless you learn to simply be – be with yourself, be with your true Self, be with what is, be yourself, be in the moment. And to be, you must understand Life. You must realize that Life does not happen because of you. It happens in spite of you.   of what you do or don’t do. You cannot control the Life that’s happening to you. All you can and must do is to accept the Life you have, do the best in any circumstance and again be accepting of whatever outcome or result your efforts may generate.

Per ancient Roman philosophy, the Goddess Fortuna, rotates the wheel of fortune, rota fortunae, of our lives. The wheel has the picture of a king on top and a picture of the same man as pauper at the bottom. So when the wheel of Life turns, as it surely will, you are pushed down if you are on top and you are pushed up if you are down. But we as people, as a race, we have all been conditioned to cling to the periphery of Life, holding on to the material aspects of our lives – power, wealth and assets. This basically means that as long as you are on the periphery of Life you will have to deal with the ups and downs, with the highs and lows, with gain and loss, with success and with defeat. But if you move inward, to the center of the wheel, you could be unmoved by all that happens to you in Life. In a way, at the center of the wheel is where the opportunity to move beyond mortal and material abundance transcending health, wealth, power, pleasure and fame is available. This is where you are in a state where you just accept what Life is offering you at the moment. Which is, kahbi khushi, kabhi gham – sometimes joy and sorrow. The nub is this: when you are accepting of the Life you have, of what is, you may feel the pain, but you will not suffer. You will learn to be in this material world and yet be above all the attachments that lure you and want to hold you hostage!
There are only two ways to live Life. You can enjoy it. Or you can endure it. Enjoyment comes easily. When what you want comes your way, you enjoy it. But how can you enjoy death, separation, illness, misunderstanding, hatred, conspiracy, break-ups, loss, penury? These you simply have to endure. If you learn to just be, you can indeed be happy, even while you are enduring the Life that you never wanted, never wished or never expected.

So, I would like to humbly disagree with Beard – even though she is one of my favorite writers at my favorite HBR. There is no backlash against happiness. There can never be – who will ever say no to being happy? Besides, happiness is not an industry. It is not a pursuit. It is a state. A state of being. Really, happiness is in you. You are unable to find it, or uncork it, because you have heaped layer upon layer of negative, debilitating emotions on happiness. To be happy, you simply have to be. When you are, accepting of the Life you have, no matter what the context or circumstance, you will find that all the negativity in you has evaporated. Or better still dissolved. When you are, you are in the moment, in the present. All your negativity stems from living in the past – anger, grief, guilt over what happened in a period of time that is dead, is gone – or from living in the future – worry, fear, anxiety over what may happen in a moment that no one has really known or seen. In the present moment there is no negativity. In the present, there is only one way, and that way is to simply be. When you simply are, you are happy!

To be happy, stop wanting and start being

There is no price to be paid for happiness. Yet it is the most prized and priceless possession!
I met a young man just now who said he had chosen to lead the marketing function for an institution that groomed next gen leaders, instead of joining a tech start-up, because the marketing role was closer to his idea of “happiness”. I salute the young man. How many people really care to follow their bliss, or choose to do what gives them joy? Most people’s choices are driven by the earning potential these choices offer than by the opportunity to be happy doing what they end up doing!
You cannot be happy by working harder, being more successful or by having more wealth. You can be happy only by being yourself. Your natural state is happiness. And if you are unhappy, it is in going back to that native state is where you will find happiness again. Within you. That state can be found by stopping to think who we think we are. You are not your degree, you are not your position, you are not your apartment or car or bank balance. You are you. Just you.
I met someone, a noted movie actor, sometime ago who was saying he was upset with the way certain sections of the industry were treating him. He was well past his prime but felt he must still be treated like a star. And he was suffering because of the way some young turks in the industry were ignoring him. His suffering came from his idea of himself. Not from his real Self. His real Self was pristine, past its professional prime, but beautiful, remarkable and talented. But his idea of himself as a star was hurting him. That was the cause of his unhappiness.
There is no blame game in this. All of us have a skewed idea of who we are. Because we are often asked this question – ‘what do you do?” So, we end up thinking that we need to have a calling card, a vocation, a social perch, a money-making crutch to answer a question that really means ‘who are you’ but is disguised as ‘what do you do?’. Now if you answered this question saying I am a doctor, a lawyer, an actor or a teacher, you are fine; you are socially correct and ‘respectable’ therefore. But supposing you said, in response to the ‘what do you do?’ question: ‘I live’ or ‘I enjoy’ or ‘I just be’, you would be seen as a ‘socially (in)different being’. But those answers are the ones that really pertain to you. And if you understand the question, understand the answers to be true, only then will you understand happiness.
Happiness is loving what is. Simple. So, stop wanting and start being. You will be happy. Instantaneously!