Don’t leave home without a Hug and a Goodbye!

Every time you leave someone who matters to you, at home or at work, take an extra minute to say good bye, to hug even if you don’t always do. This minute costs nothing but can mean everything.
As the families of the 239 people who were on board MH 370 come to terms with their new reality, pronounced in an understandably painful, yet inevitable, way by the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak yesterday, we can’t but pause and reflect on how we want to live – and love – in the time that we have left on the planet. Death is a certainty – unavoidable and inescapable. In fact, it is the only certainty in Life. All of us know this. But we often still struggle to come to terms with it. And one of the reasons we struggle is because we, subconsciously, take it for granted that death won’t come calling on us or will not touch our lives anytime soon. It’s wishful thinking. It is steeped in the fallacy of imagining that we have all the time in the world. The reality is, we don’t. Now is the only time we have.
A cousin was dying of cancer. He struggled for many, many years. His wife was tending to him dutifully and compassionately, lovingly, all those years. Yet when he passed away, she said, her only regret was that she could not bid him a final goodbye. She was so caught up in rushing him to hospital as his vital parameters sank that when the end came, she was just dumbfounded. She perhaps still carries that regret. Think about it. If there’s so much regret when death and separation come announced and forewarned, then what happens when it’s sudden?
No, I don’t want you to think of death and separation each time you part with someone who matters to you or who you love. That’s morbid. Let’s think positive. Think lovingly. Learn to part carrying their warmth in you. And leaving some of yours with them.
And if there is a possibility of reconciling with someone you have had an issue with, reach out if you can, and if you believe your initiative will be accepted. And if a reconciliation is not possible, spend a minute praying and sending positive energy to that person daily. This is a simple, healing act. It will dissolve, over time, all acrimony in you.
Since 1975, American Express has run a very successful ad campaign, which is rated as among the world’s top campaigns of all time, that says: “American Express – Don’t leave home without them!”, first promoting their Traveler’s Cheques and then their Credit Cards. I believe it’s time now, in today’s rat race-ridden world, to run a global heat-warming campaign saying “Don’t leave home without a hug and a goodbye”! Life is too short to be spent ruing over something that you could have done but never did. Especially if it is something so simple, doable and meaningful like saying a goodbye and giving a hug!
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Suffering comes from arguing with reality

Whatever happens in Life, you can’t escape it. You have to face it, you have to accept it. It’s when you try to fight it or wish it away that you suffer.
As the MH 370 episode drags on inconclusively, befuddling the whole world and over 30 countries searching for the missing plane, I watched a news report on BBC last night that said that the relatives of some passengers on board the flight were “extremely distressed” and were threatening to go on a hunger strike. They demanded better “quality” of information and wanted more frequent updates. A Malaysian Airlines official, trying to calm down the agitated family members, told them: “We know as much as the world does at this stage. What do we do?” It may seem that the official was downright rude, cold and bureaucratic. But I guess he was also being brutally honest. Well, from whatever information is now available, Malaysian Defence radar officials did not report a blip on their screens that fateful night as the plane flew over the Malacca Strait because it is believed they slept while on duty. They weren’t supposed to be asleep – but apparently they were. What do you do now? Malaysia could have shown agility with the investigations – but they took a whole week to realize the seriousness of what they are dealing with. And even now there are reports that they continue to stonewall offers from the USA for help with the search and investigations. What do you do when a government does not appear to be serious enough? What do you do when 30 countries can’t find a plane? While we can empathize with the pain and the agony of the families of the passengers, the truth is that their resisting the reality – that the whole world doesn’t know where MH 370 is – is of no use. Apart from causing them suffering, their agitation is not going to help them in any manner.
                                                                                                                                                      
Closer home, I witness the agony of an 80+-year-old couple. Both their sons live with them but don’t care for them. The mother has just been through a surgery. But neither of her sons is available to nurse her. Both the men, in their late 40s~early 50s, are “depressed” with their own lives and so are not in the “frame of mind” to look after their aged parents. Forget caring for parents. At a basic, human level, if you are living with someone who needs post-operative care, won’t you volunteer to help, to support, to care? Who can educate grown-up men on compassion and being human? The poor mother though grieves and pines for affection from her sons. But what’s the point in her grieving? She’s only causing herself to suffer. The more she pines for what is not likely to happen, the more miserable she will feel.
What causes our suffering often is our desire to see perfection around us. We expect people to understand. We crave for their attention and appreciation. But people have their own priorities, their own views, their own ways of doing things and leading their lives. Many around us are even steeped in shallow thinking – they simply don’t get it! They don’t know what empathy is or what being human means. Expecting to see perfection, where mediocrity abounds, is futile. Such an expectation will make you suffer endlessly. A simpler, more peaceful way to deal with Life is to be prepared for anything. A plane can go missing and no one in the world can find it even after 12 days! A father, who’s rated as one of the country’s most intelligent minds, can molest his daughter’s best friend. Sons can choose to not care for their mother because they are depressed. A mother can call her son a “cheat” when there’s no evidence of such misdemeanor. Parents can lose their only child because the driver of the car he was in was drunk! Well, as disturbing as all this sounds, there’s no doubt that absolutely anything can happen in Life!
Even so, if you care to pause and look around, Life is beautiful despite all these upheavals. But when you are caught in a bind and are dealing with an unforeseen challenge, you don’t notice Life’s beauty and magic. The only way then to respond to Life, when something that you don’t want happens to you, is by not resisting it. Don’t wish that it didn’t happen. Simply accept what is. And begin to work with that reality. As long as you don’t argue with reality, you will never suffer!

“Life is a Taste!” – Simply taste what is!!!

Deal with hope judiciously. It’s good to have it but don’t cling on to it. Just let it be. And you simply be too.  
Picture Courtesy: Internet/Twitter
This morning’s papers carried stories of how Chandrika Sharma’s family in Chennai is coping with the lack of information or even a clue of the Malaysian Airlines flight MH 370 that went missing over the weekend. Sharma was on that flight, going to Ulan Bator in Mongolia, via Kuala Lumpur and Beijing, to attend a conference. Her husband K.S.Narendran and daughter Meghna shared their sense of despair, amidst diminishing hope, with the media yesterday. ‘The New Indian Express’journalist, out of some really-hard-to-fathom, cold logic, asked Narendran if he still “nursed a small amount of hope that his wife is alive”. ‘TNIE’ reports that Narendran, in response to the question, “glanced away, turned his wrist around and smiled wryly”. And the story concludes with this rather poignant line: “Whatever else dies, hope never will, he (Narendran) seemed to say.”
The situation that the father-daughter duo find themselves in is indeed difficult to even imagine. But often times Life will bring you to the edge of such a precipice. When even to hope will be a hopeless thing to do. Yet hope is all you will have in such moments. Understanding how to deal with and handle hope then can be immensely helpful.
What must be understood first is that hope is always about a future which is yet to arrive. And Life is always happening only in the present moment. In the now. So, anything which is not real or true, which is not from the present, has the potential to cause agony and suffering. Not only because the thing or event that you hope for has not happened yet, but because you will agonize wondering whether it will happen at all or not.
Osho, the Master, in one of his discourses, has talked of a signage that some of his followers had put up at Rajneeshpuram, his ashram at Oregon in the United States. The signage, quoting a significant line from Dante Alighieri’s (1265~1321, the Florentine poet) ‘The Divine Comedy’, read: “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here”. Osho urged his followers to abandon hope too, abandon seeking the unborn future, drop the dead past, and start living in the present moment rejoicing in the small things of Life. He famously said: “Meaning is a mind thing. Life is a Taste!” What he meant was this: all of us, based on our own individual Life experiences, try to make meaning out of everything that happens to us – why is something happening to me, why should it happen now, what will I do with this Life in the future, where does this leave me, how will I cope, will I survive…and, on and on, the questions seeking meaning keep arising in you and in me. Osho says it’s futile to ask these questions. He says Life is a taste. He asks, in his inimitable, thought-provoking, unputdownable way: “Do you ever think what meaning taste has? Eating spaghetti, do you ask what meaning the taste has? Having a beautiful shower, feeling the freshness of it, have you ever asked what the meaning of freshness is? Looking at the sunset with so many colors spread all over the horizon, have you asked what meaning the sunset has?”
My inference is that when we try to reason and seek meaning from Life’s events, we will never be successful. Hope, in a way, is about reasoning and seeking to create meaning out of a Life situation. This does not mean that you must not have hope. Or that you must not want to be hopeful. Just don’t cling on to it. Anything that you cling on to, hold on to, will cause your suffering. Instead, just be.  
So, if you are in situations like the one that Narendran and Meghna find themselves in, when even hoping seems futile and yet you can’t abandon hope, remember Osho’s advice: “Life is a Taste!” Simply taste what is. And go on to the next moment, the next tasting session! Don’t try to search for Life’s meaning. Don’t yearn for an unborn future. Life’s a unique experience that is born and dies, anew, each moment. Live in and for the moment. You will never suffer then because nothing else will matter.
PS: My heart goes out to Narendran and Meghna, and to all families of those who are missing in the MH 370 episode. I pray that Life shows them all the light and the way…

Everything happens for a reason and, in the end, does get sorted out

There’s a reason why everything happens in Life. And there’s no way you will know that reason until much later – when everything eventually gets sorted out.
A young couple we know are going through a difficult time understanding each other. Just some years back when they married we all believed they were the most ideal pair – although they came from different communities. Another friend’s house is being repossessed and auctioned by a bank because of his inability to pay up his mortgage dues. He’s a very well-known personality and is distressed with the beating his reputation is taking publicly. Over 200 families are on the edge as there’s still no news of the Malaysian Airlines MH 370 flight that “vanished into thin air” over the past weekend. You may be faced with a difficult situation at work or with your health as you read this. And you too must be wondering why do bizarre things happen? That too to people like you and me – who are hardworking, sincere, ethical and are, by default, “good folks”!
Well, let me tell you a story. A turtle and a wave were good friends. The turtle loved to walk on the wet beach during low tides and create patterns on the sand with its webbed feet and claws. One day, the turtle had made an elaborate design on the beach and was admiring its own work, when the wave came crashing on the shore and washed away the whole design. The turtle was cross with the wave and demanded an explanation for this rude behavior.
“I want to know why you washed away my labor of love,” asked the turtle.
“Honey, I had no desire to spoil your fun. But if you notice, there’s a poacher coming by at the far end of the beach. If he had seen your footprints he would have tracked you down. So, I wiped the beach clean. Now, go hide yourself before the poacher spots you!” replied the wave.
Unfortunately for us, Life is not as forthcoming as the wave was when it comes to justifying each event or happening. At most times, we are left wondering what’s going on or why is something happening in the first place?
Aristotle (384~322 BC), the Greek philosopher, explains this thus: “There’s always a reason for everything that happens. Your experiences are designed to shape you, define you and, hopefully, grow you into the mightiest you possible.” However ridiculous such a perspective may be when you are going through a rough phase, when you feel worn out, trampled upon, pissed on and passed over, there’s no denying the truth that Aristotle put forth centuries ago.
Life has no agenda to hurt you or cause you any pain. Life doesn’t do something grave to you because you have sinned. And Life doesn’t reward you because you have been a good Samaritan or a saint! Life’s nature is to keep on happening – delivering event after event after event at your doorstep. You classify them as good or bad depending on your preferences and expectations. So, it appears to you that Life oscillates between highs and lows, good and bad. But Life just goes on – almost mechanically. If you learn from each Life experience you get better and better with living. You understand then that a break-up is not the end of the road. Or that a pink-slip does not mean you are worthless. Or that a hopeless prognosis does not mean it’s all over. Or that darkness now does not mean there will never be light. Incredibly, Life has a way of sorting out every situation that it creates! It is only when you don’t learn from your experiences and you keep hating whatever’s happening to you, that you become irritable, you hurt and you suffer.
So, if you are going through a Life situation that foxes you, let me tell you what I told my friend whose house is being repossessed by the bank this morning: “Let go. Do your bit – do whatever you must do. And leave the rest to Life. You will be amazed at how, over time, Life sorts everything out.”