Simply be. Drop this urge to constantly become this or that.

Life simply is.  There is really no objective to Life; there are no goals to be achieved, no responsibilities to be fulfilled. Nothing. You are born. You live. You die. Period. This is the truth – so simple, so uncomplicated. It is only society that brings in expectations of goals and outcomes, and labels of success and failure or joy and sorrow. You take away the social denominators from Life – starting with money – and suddenly Life simply is.
The other day, we were sitting at a coffee shop. I was thinking of something I had seen on Facebook, I was looking up from my phone and I was smiling – staring blankly into space. A friend walked up and tapped me on my shoulder and asked, “Wow! What are you thinking deeply about? What next creative idea are you pulling out of your hat?” I replied, “Hardly…No creative idea or such…I am just in the moment, enjoying it, savoring it.”
Our friend, and his wife who was with him, were hardly able to comprehend what I meant. They smiled and waved their goodbyes and walked away. I can understand what they must have been thinking about – “how can anyone not be doing anything?” And they are not alone. I believe the whole of humanity thinks this way and so is missing this beautiful opportunity to just be in the moment – because everyone is trying to become someone, by trying to do something or the other.
I am not saying you must not work or that you must not earn money or that you must not raise a family. But don’t get so caught in earning-a-living that you miss the opportunity to live itself. Look at nature around you. The trees, the birds, the flowers, the river, the ocean, all of them simply are. They have no concept of time nor do they have any targets or goals to achieve. It is only man who has time-bound goals in focus. Nothing wrong with that. But if the same goals start haunting you, when they make your Life miserable, then you have a problem. Earning money is not a problem. But complaining or worrying that you are not having enough is a problem. Working is not a problem. But feeling stressed out over your work is a problem. Having a family is not a problem. But sweating over the behavior of your family members is a problem.
Osho, the Master illustrates this point with the example of a rose and a hundred-rupee note. “Life is not a logical process. It is poetry, it is a lovesong — without any meaning, yet it is utterly beautiful. In fact, when something has a meaning, it can’t be beautiful – it is utilitarian. The rose is beautiful because it has no utility at all. Its sheer being is enough; it need not have any other significance. But a hundred-rupee note has no beauty; it has utility, it has meaning, it is a means to some end.”
The nub is this: to live your Life fully, celebrate each moment. Simply be. Drop this urge to constantly try and become this or that. Don’t try to desperately make a meaning out of your Life. Meaning is a social requirement. Life doesn’t care about any meanings. So, why don’t you also live your Life for what it is, as it is? Don’t seek meanings. Don’t get keyed up. Don’t complain. Be alive, be with your Life – as is!

Life is not trying to victimize you

Stay anticipating and welcoming the possibility of an exciting adventure and you will never be in grief in Life. On the other hand, you will be able to feel and be the bliss in each moment.

What is a sudden health diagnosis: a cancer or any other debilitating disease? It is an adventure. What is a job loss? An adventure. What is a broken relationship? It’s an adventure. You call something an adventure when it is an experience that you have not been through before. Almost all the time, since you and I were born, we have been encountering Life at its own terms. One surprise after another. But we see it in a linear fashion. We see our Life go through only these stages: from birth to starting school; starting school to finishing school (pre-school to high-school); starting an academic course to qualifying for a college degree; starting a job to starting a family; finishing actively raising a family and caring for children to retiring from a job, starting retirement to reaching death. So, while are essentially flowing with Life, we think we are in control. Surely, a lot of these stages apply to almost anyone who is capable of reading this post now. But if we look deeper, peeling off layer after layer in each stage, we will notice that there have been so many unforeseen events in each stage. The bigger news is also that we have been able to overcome each of them and get to where we are today. So, why this anxiety about Life’s next surprise or adventure? Why the fear of an ‘unknown’ future?

The other truth about these stages in Life is that each one begins and each one ends when it must. Much like Life itself. It has begun. So it will end. So, why this fear of death? When you understand that the two dimensions of Life that you worry about the most are the most predictable, you will be able to live intelligently. Consider both dimensions: a. Life will always surprise you in each moment and b. you and everyone you know will eventually die. Haven’t you dealt with both dimensions in some measure already? This means you are capable of living with acceptance of what is and living with insightful action.

Know that Life is not trying to victimize you. Life is doing its job. And you must do yours by meeting each situation sportingly. “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable,” wrote Helen Keller (1880 ~ 1968), in 1940, in a poem called ‘Let us have Faith’.

Indeed. Don’t expect any more security from Life than what you already have __ which is the fact that you are alive, can read this and have most of your faculties intact. Have the faith that this roller coaster called Life is a non-stop adventure sport that you can enjoy only if you stay happy and stay in the now!

Life offers no control; just impermanence and change!

Learn to live with Life’s uncertainties. Because Life’s like that!
Understand that everything that you call your own, will perish or cease to be yours someday soon. Know that your iPhone, this facebook account, your health, your relationships, your job, your bank balance, your health and your Life, all are, every one of them is, impermanent. You know this is true, of course, don’t you? But you conveniently ignore this truth because it’s comfortable to live imagining that what is yours is yours forever. Because to worry about things withering away, people passing away and you moving on, is uncomfortable, fearful and therefore, avoidable. But to kid yourself that Life is permanent and you will have lot more time to live in the future than in the now, is outright foolish. Since you consider yourself intelligent, since you know that both Life and Money are impermanent, wake up, and start living.
Here’s a simple Zen story that makes the point. There once was a young man who wanted to face “real” Life. So he left home and travelled to seek the real world. During his travels he reached a village and met a young family, where the wife was pregnant and the husband was hard-working. They welcomed him and invited him to stay with them. He was there for just one day and night.  During that time, the husband suddenly died and his wife mourned so much that it affected her pregnancy and she gave birth prematurely. The young traveler saw death and birth in quick succession and at close quarters. He saw the impermanence of Life that caused both grief and happiness. The wife grieved at the loss of her beloved husband and yet was happy to have a baby. He helped that family with the funeral service and then continued his travels.
He arrived at another village. Here he knew two brothers: one was successful in business and the other was not. He smiled at Life and moved on to another village. A year went by and he returned to the same village and met the same two brothers. Then he discovered that the one who was successful had failed and the one who had not been successful was now doing well in his business. He saw how change happens in Life; how success and failure had brought both fulfilment and disappointment.
Time passed by.  After he had travelled for many years he realized that he was getting old. He had learned that Life offered no control, but only impermanence and a series of changes. He had witnessed that youth changed to old age, past to present and the present to the future. Impermanence means that there is no guarantee that there would be a tomorrow.  The here and now is the only time which everyone has. It took a lifetime for this man to understand Life as it was. At the end of his Life, he rested in peace and happiness.
Do we need to spend a lifetime trying to understand this simple truth about Life? Heraclitus, the pre-Socratic philosopher, (535~475 BC), said, “Everything flows and nothing abides, everything gives way and nothing stays fixed.” So, embrace this uncertainty, flow with Life, knowing that when you get called, you too will have to go away!

Bliss is when you lose yourself to the moment

No job or activity is dull or boring. Something becomes boring only when your attention wavers.
This is what I have learned from my guru, Eknath Easwaran (1910~1999). He has taught “Passage Meditation” as a way to reign in the mind, so that it attends to whatever you are doing and experiencing in the present moment. I have understood, from my own experience, that this is possible. The key is to immerse yourself in whatever you are involved in. It may not always be what you love doing. But if you have to do something, do it with full awareness – lose yourself in the process. When you are lost in whatever you are doing – you are living fully, you are then (in) bliss!
A very accomplished musician once accepted a King’s invitation to perform in the royal court. The King had been inviting the musician for years. But the singer was always elusive and reclusive. Finally he agreed. But he laid down a condition – nobody should nod their head or sway or even move when he sang. The King was a maverick himself. He immediately announced that if anyone violated the singer’s condition, he or she would be beheaded. The people of the land, who were eager to listen to this singer, for it was indeed a-once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity, were taken aback. Many of them felt that the condition stipulated was draconian and could not be fulfilled at all. How can you not nod or move when you hear great music? So, they backed out of attending the concert. Several people, however, still showed up on the morning of the performance. The King had stationed soldiers, who had their swords drawn, all around the royal court. The singer arrived. And he sang. It was magical – he sang with such purity, such class. Everyone in the audience froze. It was not hard to say if they remained unmoved because the singer held them in his spell or if they were that way fearing his condition and their King’s absurd order! Soon, as time went by and the concert became even more blissful, a few heads swayed, then some more and then some others even moved their hands and blew flying kisses to the singer. The soldiers made a note of every person who violated the King’s order. As soon as the concert ended, they rounded these people up separately and looked to the King for his order to behead them – then and there.
The musician however told the King to let these people go.
The King was not amused: “But these are the people who have violated your condition and my order. I don’t understand this!”
The musician replied: “They did. No doubt about that. But they did so only because they lost themselves to the music, in their inner joy! They are the true listeners. They risked their Life for their bliss. Those who did not move were always thinking about the order, fearing for their Life, and worried about the soldiers with their swords drawn. How could these people have even listened to my song, let alone enjoy it!”
The musician told the King that in future, whenever he visited, he would sing only to this select audience.
The import of this story is that when you are totally immersed in the moment, even Life becomes insignificant and inconsequential. When you are engaged this way, worry, grief, guilt, anger, fear – nothing can touch you. Because, in that moment, you are (in) bliss!

Meet the worst, when it happens. Until then – just chill!

When the worst happens, face it. Until then relax – and stop worrying!

K.Kamaraj (1903~1975)
This morning I was speaking to my father. It was a casual conversation that covered all topics under the sun. My father, to illustrate a point, said that one of the best approaches to Life is what former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, and revered statesman, K.Kamaraj (1903~1975), followed. Apparently Kamaraj always said “agattum parkalam”, meaning “let it come, let it happen, we will see, we will face it!”, whenever he was asked for his opinion on “what if” scenarios. The import of Kamaraj’s philosophy is simply that “we will cross the bridge when we come to it”.

I find that approach very valid in everyday Life too – as much as it must have been relevant in politics then.        

All our worries are of a future that has not yet arrived. We imagine worst case scenarios that, most often, really don’t happen. Yet we endlessly worry in anticipation of them. The very nature of a worry is of something unreal. It is always over something that hasn’t happened. Now if worry did not take you away from the reality of the present moment, of the now, it is fine. But worrying means not being present here – in the now. And Life is always happening in the now. So, worrying is futile. It drains you of your focus and pushes you down a spiral of fear and insecurity. This is not to say that you must not see reality. For example, someone you love is dying. The doctors have told you to be prepared to lose her. What I am saying here does not mean you must not see the reality of her death, which is due to happen in some time. Of course, you are sensible and you can and will see that she is slipping away. Her impending death is not the issue here. What may be a problem is your worry that you cannot think of a Life without her. That worry is what needs to be dealt with astutely. You cannot expect that worry not to arise. The nature of the human mind is that it will spew out thoughts, often worries, ceaselessly. When a worry arises, be aware. And tell the worry to subside saying you will deal with the, in fact, any, situation, when it arises. When you say this, in the context of your dying friend for example, you will be able to focus on spending the last few minutes with her “freely”. You will be “present” with her. You will not be consumed by either guilt or grief or remorse or anxiety. You will simply bewith her.

I have painted this morbid picture here only by way of illustrating this learning in a dramatic manner. Often, our anxieties are not and need not be about Life-changing issues. We tend to project what-if and worst-case scenarios in all contexts in Life. And therefore worrying has become an integral part of our everyday Life. To understand the futility of this compulsive habit of worrying, understand the way of Life. Know that when the future does arrive it will always be as the present moment, as the now. So, when you are worrying, the future arrives, but as the present, but you miss that moment, because you are still worrying about an unborn future. This way an entire lifetime passes by and finally, when death arrives, you realize, when it is too late, you have not lived your Life at all.

I have read of a story that Osho, the Master, often used to say. Three professors of philosophy were at a train station waiting for the train to depart. They were so engrossed in their discussion that they didn’t realize that the train had begun to move. When they did realize, the train had picked up some speed and was chugging out of the platform. Two of the professors managed to scramble on to the train. But the third could not make it. The train left without him. He was in tears on the platform watching his two friends frantically waving out to him from the train, at a distance. A porter asked the man on the platform what made him so upset. He said the man should actually feel happy that his two friends managed to get on to the train even if he couldn’t! The professor replied sorrowfully: “That’s the whole problem. Those two men came to see me off. I was the one who had to be on that train.”

And that is the way it is with all of us. We are so anxious about the future that we miss our trains – metaphorically – in each moment. Such living is simply squandering a lifetime. The venerable Kamaraj’s “agattum parkalam” approach helps us remember that when the (worst) future has not yet happened, there’s great value in just chilling!


When you simply “are” you are bliss

When you are (present) you will experience Life in all its beauty, its majesty!

Whatever you do, do it while giving it your fullest attention. It may be the most mundane task, like helping your wife take out the peas from the pod, but if you are mindful about it you will see what a beautiful creation a pea pod is. Mindfulness is integral to the art of intelligent living!  

Here’s a Zen story I have heard some time back that illustrates this point.
A Zen Master saw five of his disciples return from the market, riding their bicycles. When they had dismounted, the Master asked the disciples: “Why are you riding your bicycles?”
The first disciple replied, “The bicycle is carrying this sack of potatoes. I am glad that I do not have to carry them on my back!” The Master praised the disciple, saying, “You are a smart boy. When you grow old, you will not walk hunched over, as I do.”
The second disciple replied, “I love to watch the trees and fields pass by as I roll down the path.” The Master commended the disciple, “Your eyes are open and you see the world.”
The third disciple replied, “When I ride my bicycle, I chant my prayers.” The Master gave praise to the third disciple, “Your mind will roll with the ease of a newly oiled wheel.”
The fourth disciple answered, “Riding my bicycle, I live in harmony with all beings.” The Master was pleased and said, “You are riding on the golden path of non-harming.”
The fifth disciple replied, “I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle.” The Master went and sat at the feet of the fifth disciple, and said, “I am your disciple.”

The ability to simply be, without letting your mind wander, without worrying, without analyzing, is the only requirement for you to be (in) bliss – and experience inner peace and joy!

Immerse yourself in the moment to be free from worry, anxiety and insecurity!

The other day, I left my laptop bag behind at home while I reached the airport. I had brought along my carry-on but the laptop bag, which had all the important papers and even my wallet, was left behind. There was just about an hour left for my flight. It was still possible to salvage the situation and have the laptop brought from home, while I waited at the airport’s kerbside, but it was going to be a close call. Nevertheless, since we had no other choice, my wife decided to send over the laptop.
As each minute passed my thoughts raced in two, opposite directions:
  1.        What was with me? Was I getting old? And forgetful? How stupid of me! I felt the pangs of guilt gnaw at me. I was stuck in an already past, dead, moment and was wallowing in anger (at myself) and guilt over my carelessness, irresponsibility, whatever!
  2.        What if I missed my flight? What would happen to the client meetings planned for the day? How would I explain a no-show to my client? I had fast-forwarded to live in a future which had not arrived. This is where – and why – I was insecure and fearful of a consequence that was still not upon me!

As I stood at the kerbside, I was anxious. Yes. So I tried to calm down by telling myself to “Let Go!”. Just then a taxi pulled up in front of me. An old couple in their late 70s – they may well have been 80+ too – disembarked. They took several minutes to even walk up to the kerbside. The taxi driver helped set their bags down and waited patiently as the old man paid him his fare. Then the couple dragged a bag each, held each other’s hands, and slowly started to walk towards the terminal’s entry gate. The lady suddenly stopped and wanted to take the bag that the old man had slung over his shoulder. The old man gestured that he was fine carrying it. But the lady was insistent. She leaned forward, planted a kiss on the man’s check, rubbed his back (almost gesturing that carrying the bag was not a great idea for his back!) and took the bag away. Then, they inched forward, slowly, hand in hand, dragging their bags and disappeared into the terminal. I watched them for several minutes as they joined a queue of passengers checking-in. Then, even as I was lost in this beautiful display of togetherness, I felt someone tapping my shoulder. I turned to find my assistant, who had been dispatched by my wife with the laptop bag, standing there with my precious cargo.
Phew! My flight was due to leave in 25 minutes. I rushed in. I completed the check-in process and was the last passenger to board the aircraft! As I settled down in my seat, I thought to myself. What had happened of my worry and anxiety,  my anger and guilt, in the time that I watched the old couple. Those several minutes were completely different from what I was going through before they arrived. I was present in the NOW, in the moment, when I watched the couple. So, neither my immediate past – the guilt and anger over my folly – and nor my unborn future – the fearful ‘what-if’ scenario that my mind was painting – were of any relevance in my present! What mattered to me in the now was that I was witnessing a beautiful display of care, compassion and companionship! Not that I don’t experience living in the moment opportunities otherwise. But this one was special. Because it happened through a cosmic simulation, if we can call the ‘forgotten laptop bag episode’ one!
Life will test each of us in big and small ways. And it will test us all the time! The human mind needs no excuse or opportunity to cling on to a dead past or race ahead into an unborn future. When it dwells in the past or in the future then you are not present! Your mind then is controlling you. When you are present in the now, the mind is powerless. When the mind is powerless only you, the real you, remain. When you are, worry, anxiety, anger, guilt, grief – nothing can touch you! Then you simply are bliss!

To tune into Life, simply move on!

No matter what, Life simply goes on!
Life is programmed to go on. Something terrible happens to you. You lose your job or a lot of money or someone you love. You are in shock. You are numbed. But Life goes on. You struggle for a while with your new reality. But over time – could be a few hours, months or even years – eventually, you find your rhythm back with Life. And you too move on – because there’s no other way forward!
To be sure, it’s perfectly alright to move on. Because that’s what Life is all about – it is like a river, never-stopping, ever flowing. You find yourself lost or searching for meaning or feel incomplete because you are held hostage by your mind. Here’s a little secret – you don’t need your mind to live! Seriously. When you are present in the moment, in the now, there is no mind involved. The human mind only thrives in the past – clinging on to memories – or in the future – going on worrying about things that really have not happened!
Understand that the mind and Life can never be in sync. They don’t tango at all. This explains why we all suffer when faced with pain or have to deal with uncomfortable situations in Life. Let’s say someone you love is dead. By the time you confirm the person’s death, a new moment has arrived. In that moment, there’s just you. Not that person. There’s nothing wrong with that moment per se. It is just a new reality that going forward in Life it is just you. So the moment, the new reality, is not capable of causing you any suffering. However, your mind is fully capable of causing you agony, distress, grief and suffering. It will go on reminding you that the person you love isn’t there. And through that incessant reminding you wallow in grief, wondering how beautiful Life would have been had this person not died at all. Or you may spend time worrying about how fearful the future looks without this person for company. The truth is that even your present is beautiful and so may be your future – surely, you can never say it will be otherwise because it has not even arrived! When you recognize that it is always your mind working up your grief or drumming up your fears, you learn to appreciate the present and to actually move on!
To live Life fully, you have to learn to stop getting stuck with the past or fear the future – essentially stop allowing the mind to lead you – and simply flow with Life, moving on from one new moment to another! When you are not controlled by your mind, when you are present in the moment, you are in tune with Life. Then you see the magic and beauty in every moment. And you experience bliss!

Happy Birthday to you…!

Vishaka Hari
Earlier today I had the opportunity to listen to renowned Carnatic and Harikatha exponent, Vishaka Hari, who performed at a friend’s mother’s 80th birthday celebration! What Vishaka said at the end of her performance was inspiring. She said, while wishing my friend’s mother a great birthday: “The actual birthday for us, voyagers through this journey called Life, is not our date of birth. The day when enlightenment is born in us, through the flowering of internal awareness, is when we are truly born. That’s when we really start living.”
I completely agree with her.
Enlightenment is not what you attain because you give up everything and go sit in a cave or under a tree. What I have learned is that enlightenment is when you realize that the light you seek is within you. Enlightenment being fully conscious, aware, of your divinity. Of the Oneness of your creation with the Higher Energy that has created you. This consciousness leads you to understand the frivolity in chasing a material Life – the folly of being attached to all things that are impermanent, including your own Life! When this consciousness is born inside you, there is tremendous clarity. Suddenly you feel sure about who you are, why you are here and what you must do while you are here. It is more than a Eureka moment. It is as if a veil has been taken off, a cataract has been removed – so now you have the ability to see clearly! This happens in each of our lives. At some time or the other. So, in essence, all of us attain enlightenment in our own unique ways – because there’s no way forward without becoming conscious. Without being aware. Without being awake.
You __ or I __ don’t have to do anything special to become conscious or aware. Just be. Feel everything that you experience deeply. Train your mind – through whatever method works for you – to not be caught in a past memory or a future worry and be present, in the moment, in the NOW! When you are fully present, awareness blooms, and through that experience “you” are actually, really, born – to live and not simply exist!

This is IT: stop wanting, start living!

Life is not what will happen to you sometime later. Nor is it what once happened to you. Life’s not in the future, nor is it in your past. This is it. Life is not a dress rehearsal, as someone has said. It ISwhat is happening to you now. Our tendency to forget this simple but unputdownable piece of wisdom is what robs us of the opportunity to LIVE!
Know that Life is benevolent. It will take care of you, no matter what, just as it has been taking care of all creation down the ages. To incessantly worry about what will happen to you, or to those around you, is the most unintelligent response to Life. You haven’t been created for worrying. You are here, on this planet, to live – and to live fully!
So, let go of your worries, drop all your guilt – be free. Live in the moment, however painful it may be at times, and experience Life fully. Your agony comes from your expectation that Life must be a bed of roses, a cakewalk – that Life must happen the way you want it to. Know for sure that your expectations may, well, never be met. Life’s intrinsic nature is to be unpredictable, inscrutable. So, as long as you are alive, and you know it, live each moment – by being fully present in it!
It is when you are not fully present in the moment that you struggle. And none of us has been created to struggle. It is only the human mind that broods, that worries, that remains hostage to a dead past or is a victim of an unborn future. No other aspect of creation has this problem. It is only we humans who invite suffering into our lives by expecting Life to be different from what it is. Think about this deeply. If it makes sense, dive deeper. Your Life is beautiful as it IS. You too will feel it is so ONLY when you stop wanting and start living!