Demonetization of Life, not just currency, can make you happier

Live as if money were not an object. And you will live a fuller, happier Life!

The hope among Indians is palpable.

For the first time, the generations that were born after Independence, appear to nurture hope that ‘something worthwhile to seriously cleanse India’ is being attempted. That includes people like me who have been critical of Modi and skeptical about his promise of ‘achche din’. I am not rubbishing his leadership and the efforts of his team over the last 30 months. But I did not see anything worthwhile being done by his government. There was a lot of drama, PR and optics over all his utterances and policies, but it seemed nothing would crack open Indian culture, stamp out its crab mentality and build an ethos of co-ownership and pride in building a clean, efficient nation. To be sure, I liked the Modi idea of a Swach Bharat – but I know it will never be an immediate reality because for that to happen, every Indian must transform. And that is asking way for too much from our aam aadmi! But the idea to demonetize the Rs.500 and Rs.1000 notes and strangulate the parallel economy, theoretically, holds out hope. Yesterday, while traveling in Uber cars, at coffee shops, talking to rank strangers on the street and going by the conversations on social media and WhatsApp, I got the sense that India is hopeful of this progressive step helping us cleanse her of corruption! Even if this new system does not sound fool-proof – in that corrupt officials and dishonest citizens, unscrupulous politicians and wily black money hoarders will surely do jugaad to work around and through the system – at least, existing stockpiles of ill-gotten money has been reduced to nothing and the so-called rich, notorious and powerful have been rendered momentarily powerless. So, theoretically, the political and governance aspects of this demonetization move appears worthwhile.

But I also see a human dimension playing out across India over the last 24+ hours. Indeed people are helping each other with methods and means to survive the ‘unsettled’ phase till normalcy in cash-based transactions is achieved. A small-time bangle seller in Hyderabad, reports today’s Hindu, gave away a pair of bangles worth Rs.50/- to a bride-to-be because her family did not have change and had only Rs.500/- to transact. People have been reporting of a new ‘way of living’ where they have the money but not the currency to transact. Friends have been talking of ‘feeling lighter and liberated’. And several people have been reaching out and helping the less educated, daily wage earners, get food and basic supplies till they start re-earning a livelihood. It is heart-warming to see humanity thrive in these apparently cold, material, insensitive times.

avis-viswanathan-dont-get-used-by-money

Living without money is not new to Vaani and me. Over the last 9+ years, we are only too familiar with this ‘way of Life’. In fact, my Book Fall Like A Rose Petal talks about how we were left with just Rs.2000 on 31st December 2007 and the film Rise In Love shows the last Rs.80 we had in April 2014 that we gave away to an auto-rickshaw driver. After that incident, for 70 days, over four months, we lived penniless in Chennai. In this time most devices and appliances at home also broke down. So we had no money, no washing machine, no TV, no micro-wave, no mixer. Besides, my mobile phone and Vaani’s laptop crashed too. But Vaani and I never let all this material dysfunctionality affect our spirit. We had no work, no money and no car. So spent a lot of time speaking to each other about our Life, our experiences, our learnings, our love for each other….we went on long walks, for 10 kms, often for over 2~3 hours daily….our walking shoes wore out in this time and we didn’t have money to buy new ones! But we kept walking – literally, figuratively. There was a lot of pain, but we don’t remember suffering!

One day, Vaani discovered that she had only one onion at home. No other vegetables were there. There was no money to buy fresh veggies. So she made khichdi and onion raita. It was a beautiful meal. We focused on the joy of being able to eat the meal together and not on what it comprised of. On another occasion, we suddenly realized we had Rs.236 available in a bank account that we were not using anymore. We felt we could do well with that cash. So we walked a long way to that bank’s ATM to try our luck on whether the account was a. functional and b. if it would allow us to withdraw Rs.200. Our effort paid off on both counts. There was so much joy when the ATM spat out two hundred rupee notes. We both observed that while it seemed so bizarre that we had come to such a level of abject penury, we were grateful for the miracle of that Rs.200 in our hands that evening. We celebrated our fortune by treating ourselves to Rs.5 worth of roasted and salted peanuts we bought from a roadside thelawala. It was an unforgettable, magical experience.

The lessons we have learnt from living without money are invaluable. We have learnt to celebrate Life. We have discovered that watching sunrises and sunsets costs nothing. We have felt magic and beauty in hearing the birds chirp and seeing the trees sway in the breeze. We have learnt to value conversations between ourselves, with our children and among our friends. We find the joy of our companionship priceless. There’s bliss in walking together, through treacherous terrain, even when we are penniless, when we are virtually check-mated legally and financially. All the expensive, candle-lit dinners that we have had in the past, in the most exotic locations across the world, pale in significance and comparison! And we have found great inner peace in giving our time and in sharing our Life learnings, with all those who care to pause and reflect. In fact, we have now understood that while money is very important, money is just a resource. It must be used. And we must never get used, or consumed, by it, by clinging on to it. The real opportunity of happiness, being available free, and 24×7, became visible to us only when money ceased to be an object in our Life. For this realization, we will remain ever grateful to our enduring bankruptcy that truly demonetized our Life. Which is why, I see this 24+-hour currency demonetization experience in India as an opportunity for everyone here to learn to live happily ever after!   

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Our true work is the journey of Life, of moving on, and never clinging

The easiest way to let go is to never equate events, actions and people to money.
Money is important. No doubt. But you don’t necessarily need to have money to live intelligently! When you lose your job, fear grips you. Why? Not because you are incompetent and worthless. But because you are worried about the lack of a revenue source in the present moment and perhaps in the immediate future! The more you cling on to that job, which you already have lost, the more difficulty you will have moving on and moving forward. It could be a job, a position, a lover, a title, a piece of land….whatever you have lost…..the same principle applies. Why do you need a position in society? So that your stature can attract career and professional/business opportunities. Why? So that you can earn more money. Now, what if this position is taken away? You can still earn money through some other means. But you want to cling on to what is already lost because you are thinking scarcity __ of what isn’t, instead of thinking abundance, of what is possible with a fresh start! Money and all the conditioning related to money, from the time you are born, has led you to hide behind money’s façade of security. Money can surely buy you things. But it can’t buy you inner peace or love or a Life.
So, if you are agonizing over letting go of something (or even everything), because all you want is to live in peace, in love and be blissful, then stop thinking about money. Your decision to let go will then be easier to make. When you let go, you are free, unfettered and are ready to go where you want and where nobody ever has!
In ‘Illusions: The Adventures of A Reluctant Messiah’ American author Richard Bach (who also wrote Jonathan Livingston Seagull) shares a story: “Once there lived in a village creatures along the bottom of a great crystal river. The current of the river swept silently over them all – young and old, rich and poor, good and evil, the current going its own way, knowing only its own crystal self. Each creature in its own manner clung tightly to the twigs and rocks at the river bottom, for clinging was their way of Life, and resisting the current what each had learned from birth. But one creature said at last, ‘I am tired of clinging. Though I cannot see it with my eyes, I trust that the current knows where it is going. I shall let go, and let it take me where it will. Clinging, I shall die of boredom.’ The other creatures laughed and said, ‘Fool! Let go, and that current you worship will throw you tumbled and smashed across the rocks, and you shall die quicker than you will of boredom!’ But the creature heeded them not, and taking a breath did let go, and at once was tumbled and smashed by the current across the rocks. Yet in time, as the creature refused to cling again, the current lifted him free from the bottom, and he was bruised and hurt no more. And the creatures downstream, to whom he was a stranger, cried, ‘See a miracle! A creature like ourselves, yet he flies! See the Messiah, come to save us all!’ And the one carried in the current said, ‘I am no more Messiah than you. The river delights to lift us free, if only we dare let go. Our true work is this voyage, this adventure.’ But they cried in unison more, ‘Savior!’ all the while clinging to the rocks, and when they looked again he was gone, and they were left alone making legends of a Savior.”
Our current is this Life. It is constantly offering to take us to where we have never gone before. But we are not willing to let go; we are clinging on our deeply conditioned sense of ‘financial’ security. It is because we cling on to money or sources of money, that we find our lives listless, monotonous and boring. This is why we are unhappy. The truth is that only when we let go and move on will we see newer horizons. Remember too that our true work is the journey of Life, of moving on, of living, and not of clinging on to what we perceive as ‘safe and secure’ pastures!

Lessons from a Star and a Super Star

Never get deceived by success and fame. They are both fickle and fleeting.
Yuvi: With Player of The Tournament Trophy and ICC ODI WC 2011
Picture Courtesy: Internet
As the curtains came down on the ICC T20 WC at Dhaka last night, India’s sad loss in the Final led to angry fans venting their fury against Yuvraj Singh, once India’s Star player, online. While many critical views were expressed, questioning the pace of his innings (11 runs off 21 balls) and his very place in the team, some were outrageously rabid. Many called Yuvi a traitor. Some called him an “idiot” or such other uncharitable names. Although in Life, and in sport, you are only as good as your last effort or innings, and while critique is understandable, my personal view is that mindless criticism must ideally be avoided. Yuvi’s classic performance in the ICC ODI WC in 2011, which India won, and in which he was the Player of the Tournament, seems to have been forgotten. Also his record-making, six sixes in an over in the 2007 ICC T20 WC in South Africa, seemed a distant, historic data point last night. What was uppermost on everyone’s mind was that Yuvi had failed – yet again in the just-concluded championship – and that he needed to be crucified for India’s defeat in the Finals.
There’s a lesson for all of us from this chapter in Yuvi’s roller-coaster Life – if we care to pause and reflect. I am not suggesting that we should not review M S Dhoni’s decision to play Yuvi in the Final or in the slot that he batted. That’s the job of Team India and the selection committee of the BCCI. I am not saying fans don’t have a right to feel outraged. All I am saying is that here’s a lesson for all of us. No matter who you are or what you have achieved and how well you have served, when you fail, at whatever you are doing, you will find yourself alone. In that moment of loneliness, introspection is the key. Don’t grieve over what the world says, don’t agonize over the loss of fame or name, don’t brood over you actions – simply take Life as it is happening to you just then.
The nature of Life is that it can never keep you in one place. If you are on top, a fall is inevitable. If you are down, you can’t stay there for too long either – you will be hoisted up for sure. No fall is permanent. No conquest is forever. And no pole position is permanent. Each of us is a product of the time that we go through. For Yuvi, the fall will hurt harder because it is cricket – the sport is a religion in India, the fans are very demanding and unforgiving, and so he has to deal with a public scrutiny of his intent and talent. For many of us, our falls happen in our own limited, private, often small worlds. Even so, our pain will be the same as Yuvi’s. Whether you lose in business or in career or in a relationship – whatever be your loss, analysis by peers, family and society only makes the loss even more difficult to fathom and accept. The best way to deal with such situations is to remind yourself that everything is transient. Most certainly, fame, money, glory, success, defeat and loss are impermanent!
I remember an acceptance speech that Bollywood’s first and original Super Star Rajesh Khanna delivered at an India International Film Award event some years ago, when he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the man who dethroned him from superstardom, Amitabh Bachchan. Khanna said: “Everything – name, fame, glory – everything is impermanent. Where I am now someone else was in this place and someone else will be in this place when I am gone…” (Follow this link Rajesh Khanna IFFA Acceptance Speech to listen to that memorable acceptance speech) This is the irrefutable truth about Life.
The lesson from Yuvi’s fall from grace last night – and from Khanna’s wisdom – is that we must learn to take success, defeat, fame, fall, glory and loss all in the stride. We must learn to practice equanimity – which is really the ability to be untouched and unmoved by anything, in any situation. This may appear difficult to do. But this is the only way you can be peaceful within – and avoid all suffering – even as you deal with Life’s vagaries outside. 

Nothing impermanent can ever make you feel secure – or happy

As long as you seek security from material things you will never be truly happy. This is the truth. But the human mind will convince you that just the opposite is true. So, you go on accumulating or trying to accumulate material stuff – a bank balance, jewellery, real estate and such – and the more you get, the more you have, the more you want. And the more you are fearful and insecure. And, resultantly, are unhappy.
There was once a man who was obsessed with making money. He was forever pursuing new frontiers. He acquired companies and expanded his business empire globally. Soon, he had more cash than anyone else in his country. He had a private jet to travel the world and hordes of personal staff that paid attention to his every personal comfort. But he was not happy. Nor was he secure. He feared that someone would kidnap him. So he had personal bodyguards. One day, he discovered that his wife was having an affair with one of his managers. When he asked her why she cheated on him, she replied that she did not find love in her relationship with him. She said he had given her all the comfort – a car, an Amex Credit Card, liberal shopping budgets and total freedom to indulge herself – but he was never there to love her. This revelation shattered the man further. He immersed himself in his business, and over the next decade or so, he became richer. He was ranked by Forbes as among the richest people in the world.
One day, when he was traveling through the Kumaon range in the Himalayas his car – a latest edition Merc – developed a snag. He was forced to spend the night in a small hut which overlooked a precipice in the middle of nowhere. Two armed bodyguards kept vigil outside the hut as the driver went away trying to secure help to fix the Merc.
The owner of the hut was a scruffy looking man in his late 50s who had a long, flowing beard. He made the his billionaire guest some hot spinach soup.
The billionaire decided to strike some polite conversation with his host. He asked his host: “What do you do?”
The host replied: “Nothing.”
The billionaire persisted: “What do you mean? I asked what do you do for a living.”
The host answered, nonplussed: “I live. That’s it.”
The billionaire looked around the hut. There was nothing in it. Just a mat on the floor. An old kettle. A traditional stove (a chula) and some old aluminium utensils. There were two glasses. One of each the two men held in their hands as they sipped the piping hot soup. The billionaire concluded that his host must be telling the truth after all. For there was nothing to speak of to show that this man really earned a living.
He asked the host: “Don’t you feel wretched that you have to eke out such a living?”
The host replied: “I enjoy living. I am happy.”
The billionaire lost his cool. He told his host in no uncertain terms that the essence of Life was achievement. To make an effort. To work hard. To succeed. And to conquer new frontiers. He declared, pompously, that he had worked hard for 30 years and was now 10 ranks away from being the richest person in the world.
The host was not provoked by his guest’s sudden belligerence. He calmly asked: “And what would you do after you get there, I mean, after you become the world’s richest person.”
The billionaire replied enthusiastically, thinking that his host was now recognizing him for his genius and business acumen: “I will then be happy. Because I would have achieved what I have set my eyes on.”
The host asked: “And what would happen if someone overtook you in some time and became the world’s richest person?”
The billionaire was agitated by the mere thought. He shot back: “I will fight that move. I will claw my way back. I will not rest until I am number one again!”
The host replied: “Let me offer you some unsolicited opinion my friend. You can never be happy as long as you are restless. You can never be secure as long as you are attached to money, to fame, to a ranking that is impermanent. You think I have nothing. Indeed I have nothing that can be taken away from me. So, I don’t need bodyguards. I am happy and I am living fully. I wake up each morning feeling great. I walk the mountains. I pluck herbs and berries. I enjoy a fresh water bath in the stream. I sing to myself. I cook a hearty meal. I eat well. I sleep peacefully. I am living my friend, while you are earning a living!”
The story goes that the billionaire couldn’t sleep that night. He thought deeply about the lesson that his host had unwittingly taught him. He changed his outlook to Life, gave away all of his wealth to charity and went on to live, happily, peacefully, somewhere in the hills, all by himself – without any bodyguards!
Our way of Life need not be as dramatic as the billionaire’s or the host’s. We will do well to simply understand the key message contained in that story. Our material attachments, and our desires, are merely expressions of our continuous search for security in Life. The tragedy is that nothing that is impermanent can ever make us feel secure. Yet, because we are conditioned to believe otherwise, we keep on barking up the wrong tree. Only when we realize that we will feel truly secure when we have nothing, will we seize the opportunity and simply live!

To stop suffering, embrace your insecurities!


Fear of the unknown often kills you in each of your living moments. Many of us have already died a thousand deaths in our lifetimes, worrying stiff about what will become of us, if this or that happened or did not happen to us. Anxiety and insecurity hold us in their vice- like grip. We are all like the character Thenali, in Kamal Hassan’s comedy movie ‘Thenali’ (2000), who is fearful of everything in Life. In one epic dialogue he tells his psychiatrist that he is scared of the sun, the stars, the moon, the sky, the water, the earth, Gods, angels, demons and just about everything in the Universe. He confesses that he has become a nervous wreck and some way, any way, to get out of this fear-trap! So it is with you__and me!

You may not be fearful to Thenali’s bizarre extent, but there’s a lot you worry about. Principal, and common, among your anxieties are:

  • Will I ever have enough money?
  • Will I be successful__with money, business, career, academics, love, relationships, whatever?   
  • Will I be respected, recognized, famous?
  • Will I die sooner than I want to?
  • Will people cheat me, betray me?
  • Will the people I love be around me as long as I want them to?
  • Will my health be good?
  • Will my children be happy, healthy, successful, safe?
  • Will I get all that I want?

Obviously, the list can be endless. And a global list may be close to Thenali’s too!

Anxiety breeds insecurity. Insecurity causes suffering! Understanding insecurity can help us deal with it better. Fundamentally, insecurity haunts you because you dislike it. Instead welcome it. Anything that you resist persist. If you are feeling insecure about something don’t hate it or fight it anymore. Just accept it. Because insecurity is the very essence of Life. Life is all about change, impermanence, uncertainty. So, it is perfectly fine not to know what’s your Life all about or how things will be or what will befall you. You are suffering only because you demand security in a compulsively, naturally insecure scenario. Yet you insist on being convinced that you are secure and will be secure forever. So, when that sense of security is unavailable__because it can NEVER be available or given to you__you grieve. You plunge yourself into worry, anxiety, depression and enslave yourself to such dark, debilitating emotions.

Someone I know was telling me that he has saved over a million dollars in cash in his bank accounts. Besides these he has invested in shares and real estate. He has two apartments. One in the heart of Chennai and another in an up-market suburb called ECR. Yet he said to me on his 60th birthday a few weeks ago that he was feeling insecure. He said, post retirement, his monthly inflow had stopped. And that gave him sleepless nights. He confessed: “I feel so incomplete and insecure. I wonder what will happen if my wife or I fall gravely ill and all our assets have to be liquidated to meet our healthcare expenses. So, I am desperately trying to create an income stream by seeking a retainer assignment with a couple of companies I know so that I can feel confident that the money I have saved will not be touched and will be available for an emergency on a rainy day!”

A family we know insists that their 22-year-old daughter must marry before she gets into grad school in the US (for a post-graduate program). Since we are reasonably aware that the young lady is not interested in anyone presently we asked why is marriage a pre-condition to her academic pursuit? “So that we can feel secure that she’s with someone she knows and also to ensure that we complete her marriage before something happens to us,”explains the girl’s mother. The girl’s parents are in their mid-40s and they don’t necessarily believe it is important their daughter be with someone she loves than someone she knows!

This is how most people define, and perhaps invent, their insecurities. They define them through demanding a sense of security in an environment, in Life, where none can be guaranteed. Demanding means you insist Life should be the way you want it to be. But Life works only the way it IS and never works like it SHOULD. And how Life IS you can only say in the moment, in the now, in the present. You cannot create a Life by aspiring it, anticipating it, fearing it or demanding it! You can only live the Life you are given in the moment. So, there will always be a fuzziness, a certain insecurity, a cluelessness that you will always experience about Life. You will have to yield to this insecurity by welcoming it, by accepting it and by living it!

Referring to our prolonged bankruptcy, a creditor asked me and my wife the other day how is it that we have managed at an emotional level when we see no evidence of Life improving for us financially.

“It must be very fearful__living the Life that you live,”declared this person.

I replied speaking from, and sharing, our experience: “It used to be fearful. It used to be scary as long as we demanded that evidence__that semblance of security. It is only when you want to seek the light that the walk up to it becomes fearful. Supposing you don’t want the light anymore? Because you have tried you damned best to get to the light but it hasn’t happened. All your attempts have come a cropper. And the fear of what-will-happen-now suffocates you every single time, makes you insane, leaves you to suffer. It was such a horrible, reclusive existence we led. So we broke free. We gave up on seeking the light. And accepted the darkness and began to love it instead. We have accepted that we will never know what will happen to us next! We have also realized by now that we wouldn’t have known any better had we been financially secure. So, we live in a newfound awareness__call it happiness__having made peace with our insecurity. The light of our awareness makes it possible for us to love our insecurity and live in it peacefully!”

Accepting and embracing insecurity in any Life situation does not mean inaction. It simply means stopping to look for or demand evidence that comforts or reassures you. It means to know that such evidence does not exist in the first place. So, it is foolish to demand it. Instead it means starting to live with the insecurity and working through it, with it. It means realizing that nothing is permanent. Nothing is certain. Nothing is secure.

When you embrace your insecurities, all your suffering will magically, instantaneously, cease! So, don’t demand security from Life. Learn to love it for what it is. Then, and only then, will you be able to live it in peace, joy and bliss!

Give yourself, of yourself, selflessly!


There’s great joy in giving.

 

Even you have lost everything in Life, you still have one thing to give – yourself! One of the reasons why you don’t give__your time, your understanding, your love, your money__in most situations is because you are worried about the eventuality of what if your don’t have enough for yourself! So you try to protect what you think you can possess, protect and prevent from being taken away! But what if everything is taken away? What if you don’t have enough time, or even the understanding of people, don’t have anyone loving you anymore or no money? Then, you can take a depressive approach to Life and say Life is not worth living anymore. Or you can start living__at least now__and start giving!

 


Here’s a little secret: only by giving can your become rich! Whatever you give, you get more of. But never give for the sake of getting. Just give. Give when you don’t have to give. When you don’t need to give. Because you WANT to give!

 

The other side of the story is that when you don’t give then what you don’t give is possessing you. Only when you give can you own something. When you can’t give, you are being controlled, owned and possessed by the possession. Of what use is all your money if it can touch a Life and make a difference to someone? Of what use is your love if you cannot be compassionate? Of what use is your time if you can’t invest it in serving humanity? Of what use is your faith, your patience, if you can’t understand someone?

 

 

So give! GIVE. Give without expectation. Give yourself, of yourself, selflessly. Simply, GIVE! Give your understanding, despite the circumstances, to someone who craves for it. Give your time, even on a busy nerve-wracking day, to those who need your counsel/support. Give someone a hug. Or give a small token contribution to a deserving stranger on the street whom you don’t even know! You could give a box of sweets or a simple dress, whatever you feel like. In your giving, you will light up your Life and another’s! That’s how we bring Peace, Prosperity and Light__words we so randomly use__in our worlds!

Who says Making Money is not Spiritual?


Spirituality, simply, is the flowering of inner awareness. When there is awareness, when you are awake, everything is spiritual _ including making money!

 

One of the most preposterous myths we psyche ourselves into believing is that making money is not spiritual. If being happy is spiritual, so is being wealthy. If seeking bliss is a honorable pursuit, so is seeking money.

 

The problem arises when we confuse the pursuit of wealth creation as the purpose of our creation. Money is a good, useful invention. And therefore must be used. It is when we cling to the money we have or crave for the money that we don’t have, which is, when we get used by money, that we suffer! We deny ourselves the opportunity to live fully, meaningfully, when we get addicted to making money and we are struck by avarice. Or when we don’t make or have enough money and when we look at those who have and either feel jealous of them or pine for more for ourselves.

To understand the Power of Money, recognize that it is but a cog in the wheel of Life and not Life in its entirety. The cog is important for the wheel to turn smoothly. In its absence, the wheel will still function, albeit struggling. That only means we must slow down the wheel and not waste energies trying to rue why we are without this cog called money. That’s scarcity thinking. Abundance thinking means that so many important cogs in the wheel of Life are working just great: health, family and career, for instance.

 

The other way to leverage the potential of money is to use some of whatever we have to share and to enrich another person’s Life. Half the world’s population goes hungry without even one square meal daily. This is no longer a problem if the other half recognizes that all they have to do is to feed one hungry person one meal a day. However broke we may be, if we can read this post, it means we have the ability to feed one hungry person in our circle of influence today. And every single day. So, seek money by all means. But make the pursuit meaningful by undertaking to feed another daily. And watch how your own Life transforms from pining for money, or feeling insecure about it, to being blissful about wanting it not just for yourself but to make our world a better place.

Be aware therefore of money’s incredible potential to make Life simpler, but don’t let it come in the way of your happiness. Money can enable and it can cripple. Money can attract and it can distract. Be conscious of its power to make or mar you. Then, you will be perpetually rich with happiness__something which no money can buy!