On witnessing the miracle of your Life

Stop, pause, breathe and witness the miracle of your Life!   
In everyday living, the business of earn-a-living, keeps us so much on the edge that, sometimes, we don’t even know whether we are coming or going. There’s always so much to do. And so little time. Technology should have made Life easier – to be sure, it has – but we have complicated it by being addicted to it. Some people have got so addicted to facebook and Twitter that they are always feverishly typing away statuses and comments from their phones. Think about it. The first thing most of us do when we wake up is to reach for our cell-phones.
A quick look at your emails, facebook and Twitter notifications, WhatsApp messages and SMSes is now a subconscious first action. Even before you have brushed and freshened up, this is what you do. And the mind starts pounding away responses to what you have seen and read. By the time you are at work, you are so pumped up that, you carry that “rushed” frame of mind all through the day. Even when you are back home for dinner, you are still looking at your phone even as you eat. The same charade repeats itself day after day, even on weekends, and often on vacations too.
There may be nothing apparently wrong with this lifestyle. Except that you are probably missing the miracle in everyday living. Over time, as age catches up, you realize that you haven’t really lived the Life that you wanted. You have merely existed, gotten by, by surviving! This is why perhaps the venerable Russian dramatist Anton Chekov (1860~1904) famously said: “Any idiot can face a crisis. It’s day-to-day living that wears you out.”
A Zen story comes to mind. When Bankei Yotaku (1622~1693), the Japanese Zen Master, was teaching at the Ryomon Temple, a priest, who was jealous of Bankei’s large following, decided to debate with him to put him down. So, one day, when Bankei was in the middle of his Talk, the priest arrived and created a commotion. Bankei stopped his lecture and asked the preist what he wanted. “The founder of our sect,” boasted the priest, “had such miraculous powers that he held his brush in his hand on one bank of the river, while his disciple held a paper on the other bank, and yet he would be able to write the name of God on the paper – through air. Can you do such a thing?”
Bankei smiled. He replied: “Perhaps your founder, who is a genius it appears, can perform such a trick. But this is not how Zen works. My miracle is that when I feel hungry, I eat and when I feel thirsty, I drink.”
To be alive, to experience this Life that you and I have been given, is the biggest miracle of them all. It is also the greatest wealth we can ever have. The truth is that we have it and the tragedy is that we don’t realize we have it. So, we keep searching for it and in the process squander it. Remember: your Life is not going to change, unless you change the way you live!

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The Intelligent Living Imperative

At the end of the day, each of us has to go. But before we go, we can make this entire earthly sojourn of ours memorable. This calls for intelligent living!
Isn’t a vacation more memorable than routine, day-to-day existence? Now, why is a vacation memorable? Because you let go, you leave your worries behind and engage with your family or friends or even, in solitude, with nature. You know you have invested in the vacation and you feel the need to maximize the tenure of that vacation. Think about it. Why not treat each day as a vacation? You don’t need an exotic locale to holiday. You need the attitude to enjoy each day as you would while on a vacation.
Do the following: 1. Imagine for a moment, you have no worries and you are on a vacation. 2. Play out that attitude at work today. Work in an easy, unrushed, unruffled manner. Savor each moment. Even if you are getting pulled up by your boss, admire the color of his tie or her dress. Look at the opportunity in the feedback. If you are stuck in terrible traffic, look for signs of Life and beauty around you on the road. A young boy helping a blind man cross the road, a child sleeping peacefully on her mother’s lap. If you have to do mundane household chores, do them at your own pace, choosing to do one thing at a time, giving it the fullest attention.
This simple approach can change your Life dramatically. It can make you transform your driving-yourself-and-others-crazy approach to slowly, smoothly, enjoying the miracle called now and the gift called today! Remember: You are not going to live forever. Not me either. To live intelligently, fully, is therefore not a choice, it is imperative.

Pause and celebrate the miracle of your family


An intrinsic aspect of intelligent living is to not just earn a living but to learn to spend quality time with your family. In such a connected world, where there are so many options for children to learn and display their talent, I do agree that Life for us parents, especially in an urban or metro context, can at times be harrowing. Ferrying the children to and from events, activities, hobby classes and school, in the midst of our ever-demanding work schedules and corporate careers, can often appear thankless. And then there is the time that you need with your companion, just to chill out, doing nothing! Phew! Where’s the time for yourself?

Sometimes family Life can get very demanding and complicated. With so many schedules to coordinate, with so many things to do, with so many aspirations to fulfill. Even so, there’s great value in learning to pause, and celebrating the miracle of your family.

Some years ago, when I was based in Singapore, I had a friend Steve, who was the general manager of the hotel I stayed in as a long-term guest. He was a big-hearted man from Vancouver, Canada. He must have been in his late 40s then and I was in my late 20s. He and his wife loved Singapore and he was doing a great job leading the hotel he was employed at. Then suddenly he told me over dinner, one night, that he was going back to live in Canada. His three daughters, it appeared, were in various years of finishing undergrad and grad schools. And he said, “We want to be with them, for them.” I remember wondering, as a career-obsessed youngster, what a crazy idea it was to give up such a great job and go back to take care of three ‘grown up young adult daughters’. Steve perhaps read my mind. He said rather prophetically, “When you grow up to be my age, all you will want is happiness for your children. Your success and happiness will lie in their own.”

I certainly did not take Steve’s words to heart. So, even as I continued my quest to build a career, flying around the world, at the cost of not being able to spend time with my family, I did not quite realize what I was missing. Those were very early days of the internet. Hotmail was not even around as a free-for-all service. Phone calls were mighty expensive. So, we had a fax machine installed at home for my wife and I to be in touch. One day, as I was lounging in my hotel room in Rome, after a long day’s work, the bell desk slipped a fax message under the door. It was from my son. He must have been hardly six then but he knew how to operate the old Compaq 486 (!!!) we had at home. He had managed to pull out a computer clipart picture of a globe, pasted it on a document, printed it and faxed it to me. Below the clipart, in his scrawly handwriting, he had written, ‘Where in the world are you? Come soon!”  My eyes welled up, and I remembered Steve, as I read that message. I was not sure I did it consciously, but over the next several months I worked hard and eventually managed to relocate back to India.

Even after I came back and set up a business here in India, it took me a long, long time to discover the magic of my own family. I often ended up getting trapped in the rat race, letting clients, business and my team take over my time, all the time! I am glad, am grateful to Life and am humbled, that I finally did manage to yank myself out of that rut!!! When my daughter was born, 18 years ago, I was that ambitious, globe-trotting CEO. I often used to ask my wife, when I called from airports half-way across the world, half in jest, half in trepidation, if our daughter would even recognize me! Today my daughter (and of course, my son) and I are the best of friends. As they say, every cloud has a silver lining. The upside of a business slowdown, I have come to believe, is this amazing friendship I have struck with my children. Today Steve’s words ring so very true to me.

Unmistakably, living fully is a full-time job!  Living fully surely involves experiencing the family we create and raise than just providing for them. There’s nothing more valuable in Life, you will realize, sooner than later, than the friendship of your children and the companionship of your spouse. A family is where you learn to live. You learn compassion, you learn to teach, you learn to lead, to serve, to give, you learn to understand the value in constructive confrontation, in forgiveness and in simply having a lot of fun, laughing, and goofing off! You may not realize it but your family not just complements you, but completes you! As someone has said so wisely, “Family is not just important. It is everything!”

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