Forgiving someone is the best gift you can give yourself

Forgiveness means to accept people for who they are. Irrespective of their irrationality, of their attitude towards you and of their actions.
I recently met a business associate who had failed to fulfil his contractual obligation to my erstwhile (and now defunct) Firm.
It had been a messy relationship. He was paid a sum of money in lieu of his services that he never delivered. When my Firm demanded the money back, he stonewalled us and refused to even take my calls. I sent him a strongly worded email to which he never replied. So, it was in these circumstances that this person and I met at social event. He was courteous but he was both uncomfortable in my presence and, most certainly, unapologetic. Sensing his discomfort, I clasped his hands, and looking him in the eye said, “Let bygones be bygones. I know we have an issue pending. But I am not carrying any grudges any more. I am sorry if I have hurt you in any way over the episode we both wished had never happened.” That kind of lightened the atmosphere and we spent the rest of the evening drinking and chatting up! 
I am not even sitting in judgment of what I did as right or wrong. I simply forgave the person. Period.
I have learned from Life that nobody is bad. Nobody is out to fix anyone! People do what they do because they believe they are right in doing so. Or they think if they didn’t do so, something grave is going to happen to them. Or if they didn’t do what they are doing, they may not get what they expect from you. All irrational behavior by someone then is a manifestation of what they are thinking, their belief systems at that moment, which again is a reflection of the time that they are going through. Such behavior needs to be responded with compassion not hatred. These people need your understanding. They need your forgiveness, not your anger. Besides, if you think deeply about it, what purpose does anger serve? You burn in it, while the person at whom you are directing your rage is often totally nonplussed about how you are feeling.

To truly forgive means to give someone your deepest understanding. It means to let go of the need to judge, opine, analyze or justify and to simply accept the diversity in human Life. It also means to appreciate that people will think different, behave different from you, because they are different from you!  Besides, forgiving someone unburdens you of all the excess baggage of anger, hatred, grief and suffering that you will otherwise carry around. Forgiving someone who has hurt you is the best gift you can give yourself. Think about it. This awareness can make your Life beautiful!

Let go and simply walk away when you must

When you can’t create value anymore or when you are not enjoying what you are doing anymore, simply walk away!
Graphic Courtesy: PTI/Internet
M.S.Dhoni surprised the cricketing world yesterday by retiring from Test Cricket. As India’s most successful Test Captain ever, everyone believes Dhoni has a lot of cricket still left in him. But the man himself thinks that he’s played enough of that format, having won 27 Tests for India and having led his team to be the # 1 Test side in the world, a slot the team retained for 21 months. Dhoni has always been remarkable – for being able to deal with victory and defeat with equanimity. His ability to stay unmoved in the middle, amidst all the action and chaos, has earned him the title of “Captain Cool”. But with his decision to retire from the oldest form of the game, Dhoni teaches us something far more valuable – he’s telling us that we must learn to let go and simply walk away when we must.
If you examine your Life closely, you will discover that much of your grief comes from clinging on to stuff – people, opinions, positions, things, money and such. The more you hold on to something, the more you will suffer. Such is the nature of Life. Life is in a perpetual, never-ending flow. To imagine that your Life should or will remain unchanged is downright foolishness. Trying to control Life is like holding on to water in your palm – it will simply flow away!
Each of us has a season in the sun just as we have our dark spells in Life. In our chosen vocation or in a field of interest, or in Life in general, we will have our own triumphs and travails. Yet we must never see any of this as permanent. We must learn to move on with time. We must also be willing to accept and appreciate that the generations that follow us will be smarter at doing whatever we believe we are currently best at. So, the intelligent way to live is to make way for others and for Life itself. Coming in the way of Life, by holding on to anything that you imagine is your own, is sure to cause inner strife and suffering. A simple rule of thumb can help here. In any situation, in any context, ask yourself if you are able to make a difference and create value? If the answer is no, walk away. Ask yourself if you are enjoying what you are doing or saying or whether you are enjoying being with someone? If the answer is no, walk away. It is that simple. Really!

Life often opens newer avenues when you let go of something or someone or some situation. Even if it immediately doesn’t, the very act of letting go is liberating. Clinging on is always about being under pressure, about wanting to prove a point – sometimes even to yourself.  But when you let go, there is no proving anything to anyone. When you let go, when you walk away, you are actually telling Life that you are open for new possibilities and opportunities. You are setting yourself free. And only when you are totally free can you be in bliss! 

Have an ego? Try hailing an auto-rickshaw in Chennai!

When you understand ego, you will be able to deal with it and your Self better!  
Cartoon Courtesy: Surendra/The Hindu/Internet
I have come to believe that if you really want a crash course in learning to handle ego, you must try commuting using an auto-rickshaw within Chennai. No matter what your net worth or self-worth is, the auto-rickshaw drivers will cut you down to size. They will be, often without provocation, nasty, irreverent and downright greedy and abrasive. The most humiliating part, the unkindest cut if you may want to call it so, is when you are trying to tell the driver (before boarding) what your destination is, and he simply drives away – no explanations, not even a glance at you, forget a “Sorry, I am headed in a different direction!” … It can be very humiliating and surely the fastest way of ridding yourself of your ego.
Last evening, I was, yet again, subjected to such a treatment trying to hail an auto-rickshaw. And that brought me to reflect on Osho’s, the Master’s, perspective on ego. Osho says the ego does not exist. He likens the ego to darkness. He says just as darkness is the absence of light, which disappears the moment light arrives, the ego too will be powerless if there is self-awareness. He says ego is just that state when there is absence of self-awareness. If you know your true Self, says Osho, you will never have a problem with ego.
On a simpler plane, the ego is the feeling that your mind whips up that you are in control of your Life and of everything and everyone around you. So, when someone, like an auto-rickshaw driver in Chennai, behaves in a discourteous, and often obnoxious, manner your mind pumps up your ego to demand “How dare you?” But a Chennai auto-rickshaw driver cares a damn – neither for law, nor for humanity. He will simply rubbish you. Which is why I say that spending time on the streets of Chennai trying to hail auto-rickshaws, over a period of a few weeks, can help you learn to manage your ego better. To be sure, you will learn to appreciate and value the truth that you control nothing.
Understanding ego is a very important aspect of intelligent living. This whole feeling that you are in control makes you a hostage of your ego. Ilayaraja, the music maestro, was once on Radio Mirchi, talking about the ego. I remember him saying this, so beautifully: “Show me one human being who says he is the one causing the digestion of all that he eats. Everything, absolutely everything, is controlled by a Higher Energy. We don’t even have the ability to control the digestion of the food that we imbibe.” I can totally relate to that perspective. This does not mean we must become defeatist in our approach to Life. This only means that we become more aware.

Know that there’s a Higher Energy leading you and your Life. By all means do whatever you can and must in each situation – but for a moment, never imagine and believe that you are controlling the situation. The more aware you become, the more you understand ego. And the more you understand ego, the more you realize that your Life was never in your control in the first place. How do you control something that you have no control over? The game of Life will be played no matter what you do or don’t do. The best you can do is to simply play along and flow with Life – pretty much the way you will end up learning to hail an auto-rickshaw in Chennai!!!

Forgiveness is liberating

Forgiveness opens the gateway to inner peace. Always.
Ever so often, people hurt us. With their words or actions or both. We end up hating the presence of such people in our lives and are seething with anger at their mere mention. While such a response may appear logical and justified, in reality, it does affect the quality of our own lives. We end up carrying the baggage of that past experience and grieve every single time we reflect upon it. Anything that we carry as a burden will hurt us. Try this exercise: take a full glass of water and hold it up with your arm extended fully. Keep holding. How long is it since your arm starts aching and your shoulder starts hurting? How long can you go on holding this glass of water this way? At some point, you will be compelled to set it down. The sense of ‘aha’, the relief, you will experience when you put down that glass is the same when you forgive someone for what she or he has done to you. Forgiveness, however, must be unconditional. That’s when your inner peace will also be total.
I had the opportunity recently to deal with someone who has caused enormous pain and hardship to me. I hurted badly each time this person’s machinations got the better of me. Then, after much resisting, suffering and learning, when I realized there was no point in laboring over getting this person to see reason, I chose to simply forgive. I did not judge. I did not see who was right and who was wrong in the bargain. I simply chose to let go of all my hatred and ill-will for this person. For a long, long time, there was no contact between us. But because of the choice I had made, I discovered that I was not hurting anymore. That there was no anger in me towards this person anymore. When we finally were to meet recently, I was apprehensive how I would respond. I was hoping all the pain of the past will not surface again. I need not have been so concerned. Because when we met, while I discovered that this person had not changed one bit, my inner peace was untouched. My forgiving this person had helped me immensely.
A key ingredient of forgiveness, I have learnt, is to be non-judgmental. To say you are forgiving someone because she or he has done something wrong is bringing judgment into play. Such forgiving is suppressing your real emotions – your anger, your hurt, your pain. When you are not alert, these emotions can come back and explode on the surface like a volcano. True forgiveness is when you don’t judge, when you let go of your anger, your hurt and your ego. You simply decide that irrespective of what this person did to you, you are simply moving on. Because you don’t want to analyze. You don’t want to dissect what has happened. You simply want freedom from the past. And to be free of whatever you are holding on to or whatever is holding you in its clutches, you have to first let go. Then the forgiveness is complete. And liberating.

Get out of your own way!

There are times in Life when nothing will go your way. There will be so much unsaid, so much unresolved. And it may just seem like everything is wrong about your Life. Every effort you make, each step you take, you will be stonewalled, tripped or pushed to a corner. The mind will invite you to despair. Decline that invitation artfully and let Life lead you. You get out of your own way!
Relax. Get yourself a cup of tea or grab a drink if you can. The mind is like a tennis-ball practice machine. It keeps spewing out worries and fears endlessly. These debilitating thoughts will tell you that you can and must solve the problems that face you just now. But what if you have already tried all that you can think up of. And failed. And the problems persist. The very thought that there’s no way forward may force you to allow your fears to take hold of you. Please don’t let them. Your fearing something is not going to take that something away. Life is to be faced. Not feared. So, let Life happen as it has been and as it is happening. These are times when accepting that there’s no choice is an intelligent choice in itself.  Exercise it.
I recently met the CEO of one of India’s leading retail brands. He shared with me how, about 15 years ago, a vindictive police officer, illegitimately and extra-constitutionally shut down all his stores and threw him in jail, where he had to spend 89 days. “There seemed no way out. This man had cases foisted against me under every provision of the law. It was a legal maze. And with our business shut down, cash was just not available. My family tried to mobilize something, both financially and legally, but it took three months. I was very clear that he could take away everything from me. But he couldn’t take away my spirit. I refused to give up because my conscience was clean. We had not done anything wrong and were simply a victim of circumstance and time,” he said. After a protracted legal battle that took a few years, this CEO was acquitted with a clean chit, has since rebuilt his business and his brand is one of India’s most admired. He told me, as I took leave of him, “Some nights are long and dark. But if it is night, know for sure that a dawn will follow!”

When we try to solve some of our problems and don’t meet with much success, intelligence lies in letting go, letting Life take over, and getting out of our own way. The truth is that Life has always been flowing on its own. You and I have done precious little to make our lives happen. Getting out of your own way is not inaction. In fact, it is a more sensible action than to be perpetually frustrated and fearful! When you get out of your own way, you can see the way that Life has laid out for you clearly! And that way, always, takes you to where you must eventually arrive!

Letting go or walking away is not always giving up!

There will be times in Life when you can’t do anything about a situation or a person, or both! You will feel incapacitated, even helpless. You will want to give up. Instead give in. Sometimes, a good way to make peace with a situation or a person is to give in, to let go, to walk away. But do it with grace, giving the person or the situation all your love and understanding. Do it peacefully. Without malice, without prejudice, without feeling frustrated.

Last week the Pope announced his resignation. An act, I believe, of extreme humility__announced as it was in a much-watched and debated environment__which personifies the message of letting go. The Pope does not have a higher office to direct him. Yet, he treated his conscience as one.  And heeded its silent counsel that he did not have either the health or the leadership acumen to capably discharge his duties anymore as the Vicar of Christ. Even as I ruminated on the learning ensconced in this rare decision, over the weekend I watched the Hindi movie ‘Inkaar’ made by celebrated director Sudhir Misra. It is a story of love and hate packaged in the backdrop of a sexual harassment suit in an advertising agency. In the film’s climax, when it becomes apparent to the viewer that this is a love story gone haywire, and that the ambitious lady protagonist is all set to come to terms with her guilt, the lead male character, played excellently by Arjun Rampal, simply walks away. He recounts a lesson that his father had taught him when he was a boy: ‘When you can help someone experience inner peace by leaving them an opportunity you are clinging on to simply do it. Never hesitate to walk away!”

So two different, and at the same time, unique scenarios. One was in the context of being infirm and incapable of performing and leading anymore. Another was in the context of not wanting to come in the way of someone experiencing peace. Yet both were acts of letting go and walking away. To be sure, there may be a temptation to view these as acts of giving up. Perhaps a third anecdote may help clarify the essence of this learning better.

I have a friend who, apart from being a very acclaimed actor in Tamil cinema, is a very successful entrepreneur. He will not like to be named, so I will not disclose his identity. Some years ago, he was in business in partnership with his cousin. They both held equal stakes in a large, highly profitable, business process outsourcing enterprise. Suddenly, owing to irrevocable differences of opinion between them, it became apparent that they both could not see eye to eye in the management of the company. Resultantly, all Board decisions were getting stalemated. My friend tried to have someone arbitrate the matter with his cousin. But the situation was getting acrimonious, messy and a prolonged, legal battle for control of the company seemed inevitable between them. My friend, however, in one shocking move, relinquished all his claims on the company, including transferring his stake for zero value, in favor of his cousin and walked away. I confronted my friend and asked him what was the whole idea of being a martyr? After all, it was he (my friend) who had built the company up from scratch. I recall my friend replying, smiling, calmly: “The cost of my relationship with my cousin far outweighs my financial stake in and benefits due from the company. That relationship is affected today because of the business. Not the other way round. I don’t want to fight a relationship over a business. In trying to prove each other wrong, we will spend a lifetime in grief and there will be so much bad blood. It’s simply not worth it!”

Indeed. Trying to prove a point at the cost of your peace of mind is simply not worth it. Most often in Life, we don’t grieve over the injustice meted out to us by someone or a system or a situation. Our grief often comes from the fact that we have been taken for granted. That we have been pissed on, trampled upon and passed over. The hurt from having been used causes far more suffering than for having been abused. It is to avenge the ignominy of the treatment that we either fight or give up, choosing to continue to grieve or sulk eternally. Neither approach delivers peace. But giving in does.

This doesn’t mean you must not contest. That you must not compete. That you must not take up the leadership of a situation or run a race. But whenever the sporting spirit is lost, and acrimony is beginning to set in, or as in the Pope’s case, when you are no longer able to create value, clinging on, even if something legitimately belongs or is due to you, is pointless. Letting go or walking away or giving in is not an act of cowardice. It is the most intelligent way to restore peace and equanimity, allowing all parties, including you, the time and space to think things over, sort themselves out and reflect on the learnings without any angst or animosity or fear of losing!