Choose happiness over worry or sorrow in each moment

Don’t try to make meaning out of Life. Make your Life meaningful.

Don’t dismiss Life as a game of Snakes and Ladders where you will always be getting the Snakes. Nor is it a game of Chess where you are a mere pawn. Life is such an inscrutable experience that it has a mind of its own, an agenda of its own and has a pace of its own. So, you will find it dealing you a hard blow when you least expect it or it will give you a bounty when you have completely lost all hope. When we label Life as “terrible, a pain, agonizing” in the first instance, or, when we call it, “benevolent, fortunate, gracious” in the second one, we are trying to make meaning out of it. Either meaning will disappoint.

Life is like water in your palm. It is not going to be there forever, and definitely not in the same way that it once was. So, the only way to make Life meaningful is to do something that makes you happy each day. Choose happiness over worry or sorrow in each moment. In the toughest of situations, you will find a reason to smile. Choose that moment to cling on and claw your way back. Once you have learnt this method, you can then start making Life meaningful in more ways__by touching other lives. Be there for people. Offer your time, your shoulder and your helping hand. Know that only you can make your Life meaningful. Because it’s your Life. If you don’t find any meaning in your Life, to your Life, it’s only because you have not exercised the option to be happy or you have not reached out to touch another Life. Think about it. It will make a lot of sense!
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Only YOU can make your Life beautiful!

When Life deals you deadly blows you have two options – either to feel depressed or to simply take it in your stride and move on! The second option may appear to be a difficult one. But when exercised can be truly liberating.
Let me share with you the story of my friend, who’s in his 40s. I met him earlier this week, many years after he had separated from his wife. His wife actually had dealt with him rather unusually – taking over his property, deserting him and migrating to the US with their child. While she may have had her own reasons for her actions, my friend was devastated. He just could not reconcile, for several months, with what had happened. I remember him telling me: “I loved her and still love her a lot. She could have just told me that she wanted to break away from me and I would have walked away without a question. That she chose not to trust me with her decision hurts me more than her leaving me. And why deny me access to my own child?”
Over time, my friend immersed himself in his work. And all of us around him felt he had managed his emotional state pretty well. When I met him a few days ago, I asked him how he was coping. What he told me blew me away completely and my admiration for him has swelled. Here’s how the conversation went.
Me: “So, how are you coping with Life?”
Him: “Life’s beautiful. I married a Kashmiri woman whose husband died of cancer some years ago and adopted her son as my own.”
Me: “That’s wonderful. How old is the boy? And how has he adapted to you?”
Him: “The boy is 12 now. It’s been three years. He calls me ‘daddy’ and we are great friends. My wife and I are also great friends. To tell you the truth, I have a special and beautiful friendship with her. After her husband’s death, her in-laws were not supportive. They harassed her and blamed her for their son’s death (he was diagnosed with cancer within a few months of their marriage). She even contemplated suicide as she could not handle them nor get over her loss. She loved her husband a lot and did not see a meaning in her continuing to live. We have a mutual friend who asked me if I could consider marrying her so that she could get out of the tyrannical clutches of her in-laws. When I met her for the first time, she told me openly that she did not want to ever physically consummate our marriage. Because she still feels the presence of her husband in her Life. So, she told me that our own marriage may not work out. I liked her openness. And her concern for me. I told her we could still marry and be great friends. That’s how it all started and all three of us are very, very, very happy!”
Me: “That’s such a great choice and gesture. I respect you. But don’t you miss something: maybe physical intimacy? Maybe your first wife?”
Him: “Life’s not about sex and physical relationships alone. I still love my first wife. But she’s gone. What’s the point in pining for her or holding a grudge against her? I decided to channelize my love for her and my first child, who’s with her, toward my second wife and her son. Their presence in my Life keeps me anchored and their friendship keeps me going.”
Even as I recall this conversation here, I feel blessed that I learned something from my dear friend.
  1.   .  Life’s not only about physical intimacy with a spouse. There’s a special friendship that’s possible if you make the effort. And if nurtured, through sharing, caring and compassion, as in my friend’s case, it can make Life meaningful!
  2.     Carrying a grudge against someone, however wrong they may have been or however badly they may have treated you, affects you more than the other person. It makes youunhappy and depressive.

My friend’s story leaves us all with a powerful message – No matter what has happened in your Life, you can still make it beautiful if you want to!

Being Useful: The meaning of Life


To live a Life of meaning, we first have to understand the meaning of Life!


Life’s meaning cannot be understood when we are nailed down by negative, debilitating emotions like doubt, anger, jealousy, sorrow and fear. It cannot be understood too when we are held hostage by our ego. It can only be understood when we let go of what cripples us, what worries us and what scares us. Only when we practice detachment__from what holds us and what we hold on to__can we find meaning in Life.


Thanks to our conditioning and to our upbringing __ where we are encouraged to start running a race, as soon as we begin to make sense of our world, and are taught that Life’s meaning is to come first, to win, to acquire, to accumulate, to conquer. In this context, by always wanting to win, we don’t realize we have to willy-nilly ‘vanquish’ or ‘deny’ others the opportunity to win. Or when we try but when we don’t win, we end up feeling depressed and despondent. This is when we start searching for meaning in Life. We sometimes seek meaning also when we discover that despite all the winning, all the conquest, all the accumulation, we are still missing something __ the essence of Life, of simply being happy.

In Viktor Frankl’s 1946 epic book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ __ chronicling his experiences as an Auschwitz concentration camp inmate during World War II __ he concludes that, as time passed and as he looked back at all that he had been through, the gut-wrenching experience he had in the camp was nothing but a “remembered nightmare”. Even his desire to kill his tormentor was now gone. He awakens to his Life’s meaning which is “to help others find theirs”.

In summary, the meaning of Life, as I have discovered it__and I am still learning__is to be useful than merely wanting to be successful. It is not that wanting to be or being successful is wrong. But the pursuit of success often blinds us and takes us in the direction of being successful at the cost of others. Whereas, being useful, is what true success is all about. Being useful is the meaning of Life.


Choose not to remain stuck with pain


You have two options in your Life and with it! Either to learn from your suffering and move on, finding in the process the true essence and meaning of Life, or you live your Life remaining stuck with your pain and misery.

Think about it this way. Just as you cannot control the seasons, or the sunrises and sunsets, or the rain, or the rainbow, you cannot control Life. Nor can you control what happens to you through your lifetime. So, pain and pleasure are both inevitable. Pleasure you never have a problem with. Because who will say no to pleasure? But when pain arrives, you have a huge problem. You wish it weren’t there. Whenever and wherever there is a wishing, an expectation, agony and suffering is assured. So, in effect, nobody can escape suffering the first time you are afflicted by pain. But surely you can learn not to suffer when pain strikes the next time!

Intelligent living is to learn, appreciate and accept the nature of Life as being so uncontrollable and to understand its essence. It is to know that if you are born, you will be subject to some pain, some time or the other, in Life. It is also to know that you have the choice to learn from Life’s painful episodes and moments, and move on, by choosing, therefore, not to suffer. On the other hand, if you cling on to your pain, or the sources that cause you pain, you will be stuck with it. You will then be wallowing in a cesspool of suffering, misery, agony, accompanied often by low self-esteem and self-sympathy!

Only those who know that freedom from suffering, and peace, comes only when you stop fighting Life, will be able to move on. And unless you discover this truth about Life, you will remain stuck.

Ramana Maharishi by Henri Cartier-Bresson April 1950
The great Indian guru Ramana Maharshi (1879~1950) eventually died of cancer. It was a very painful end. There was no way even a seer like the great Ramana could escape it. Many doctors came, and they were very puzzled because while body seemed to be writhing in pain, there was no sign of any pain in his eyes. His eyes remained the same – as serene as ever. Through his eyes only the witnessing Self arose; it was the witnessing Self that looked, that observed, reported people close to him at that time. The doctors would ask, “You must be in great pain?” Ramana would reply, “Yes there is great pain, but it is not happening to me. I am aware that there is great pain happening to the body; I know that there is great pain happening. I am seeing it, but it is not happening to me.

Again, the fickle human mind will argue one of two ways. How is it that a sage like Ramana Maharishi can be afflicted by cancer? And when he himself could not avert any pain, what is the point of all this – how can you or I, lesser mortals, escape pain then? The answers lie in the questions themselves. Nobody can avoid or evade pain. None can. Your awareness, like Ramana Maharishi’s, can, however, help you understand that whatever is happening is not happening to you, the real you, but to the body or to a world that you are only visiting! That understanding is the way out of suffering. This is the truth! The other truth, though paradoxical, is also profound – without suffering you cannot understand Life!

Examine your Life. Refuse to remain stuck with pain. Use whatever is causing you pain__and suffering__as a means, a channel, to understand Life. And liberate yourself through that understanding.