If someone has a problem with you, whose problem is it?

If someone sees you as their problem, it is, seriously, their problem – not yours!

A friend called me to share how his brother has been making Life miserable for him in their family business. Although a formal separation has been gone through between them, my friend’s brother is insinuating and charging his sibling with transgressions and non-compliance. “I have no problem with him. And I have no problem with the share of the business that I have been left with to manage. I feel very disturbed that my brother has a problem with me,” lamented my friend.
Now, this could be anybody’s story. People often have problems with other people. And if you happen to be, like my friend, with whom someone has a problem, you too may want to learn to simply ignore it. What can you do if someone has a problem with you? At best you can hear their point of view and if there’s something to learn, something to unlearn and something to change in you, you can go to work on it. But what if someone continues to have a problem with you despite your best efforts and intentions to appease them? More important, what if you are someone’s problem – not what you do or what you don’t do? Well, the most sensible response must be to shrug off that viewpoint saying ‘too bad’ and move on. It is when you lack that discerning ability, and instead grieve over why you are being perceived wrongly, that you suffer.

When you grieve and suffer over such inconsequential opinions, you sometimes end up becoming a problem for yourself. And that’s such a sad thing to happen. So, develop a more evolved and mature view of Life. You can only control what you think and do. You cannot control what others think and do. So, if someone’s insists on having a problem with you, let them have the pleasure of keeping it that way! Why work overtime to displease or dissatisfy them?

Look into the mirror before you opine

No one is good or bad. Everyone is a product of the time that they experience/go through.
There’s so much talk about corruption in high places in India today. And the lack of morality in power centres. All of us lament of a basic erosion of value systems. Social Media offers the perfect platform for people to give free, unsolicited advice and opine on how other people must be leading their lives. So much time and energy is being expended on hashtag activism against the political class, the corrupt and those who invite public scrutiny and attention. Let’s divest ourselves of indulging in such wasteful opinions and invest in introspection instead. We are all as corrupt as anyone else is. If you pay a bribe to have a cop let you off for breaking a signal, if you drink and drive, if you support a communal (anti-human) point of view, if you pollute the environment by indiscriminately using plastic, if you private ogle at someone, you are as corrupt as the people who are accused of financial and criminal wrongdoings. Period.

True character is who you are when you are in a dark room, alone, when no one is watching. So, before rushing off to opine, let us look into the mirror. As someone famously said,”Every Saint has a sinful past and every Sinner has a saintly future!” Amen!

What others think of you does not really make your Life tick!

Learn to accept that people have a right to their opinions. Don’t resist either the people around you or their opinions. Simply move on.                                                                                                     
A lot of our quality time is lost in giving credence to other people’s opinions. From experience I can tell you that this is an absolute waste of time. What others think of you does not really make your Life tick. Period. Only when you give an opinion attention does it grow to be a problem – as in something that you have to deal with. If you just view an opinion as a mere statement, a string of words, and choose only what you want to internalize and discard the rest, there will be no problem.
Consider this example. I give you a pen as a gift. If you accept it, who does the pen belong to? It belongs to you. If you choose not to accept it and say that you don’t take gifts as a matter of principle, who does the pen now belong to? It belongs to the giver, me. Now instead of a pen, if it was an insult or an opinion, you have the same option. You can leave it, the “gift”, with the giver and not take it. You grieve only when you accept the opinion or insult and agonize over it in your mind – she said that, but why?; how dare he do that to me?; I need to teach them a lesson; I need to show them who I really am and such. The more you grieve the more you suffer. And that’s why most relationships end up withering away – simply because you don’t have the ability to let people have their opinions!
Opinions are of two kinds – serious, honest feedback and frivolous, even destructive, criticism. You have a choice to internalize and learn from the first kind. If you do, don’t let your mind complain about it by chewing on it endlessly. Someone said something you can learn from. Learn and move on. The second kind of opinion, the destructive criticism, just ignore and move on. Now, moving on is not always easy. The legendary Bollywood film-maker Yash Chopra would take weeks to recover whenever his films flopped. Obviously the reason why a film flops is because of audience opinion. Chopra would lock himself up in his room and step out only at meal times. For weeks he would do this until he “healed” from the criticism and until he “learned” from the feedback. So, like Chopra, choose your own method for dealing with opinions. But whatever it is, don’t grieve and agonize, and resultantly suffer, over what others have to say.
We create our own problems by wanting people to be different from who they really are. It is because they are a particular way that they have opinions such as the ones they make. Accept people for who they and know that they are entitled to their opinion, just as you are entitled to yours. When you remind yourself of this empowering perspective, every time you hear an opinion contrary to your own, you will find the energy and the ability to drop the opinion, to not judge the person who delivered it and to move on!

Don’t give a heap of words the power to injure you

What others think of you is none of your business! Seriously!!

A common trap we all fall victim to is to grieve over the perceptions that others have of us. For some strange, inexplicable reason, what others think of us, always, matters more than what we think of ourselves. And while these opinions, that others have of us, cause us untold hurt and, often, suffering, we still continue to give them the importance that they absolutely, simply, don’t deserve.

There are only two kinds of opinions. One that creates value – which is, when you heed them, they help you become a better person, professional and human being. The other kind debilitates. It hurts. It is the second category of opinions that we must be wary of. We can’t escape them. But we sure can choose not to let them affect us when they are thrown at us!

I learnt this lesson the hard way in Life. For a long, long time, well into my late thirties, I would hurt from others’ opinions of me. Which, predictably, varied from the banal to the absurd. I would work hard at clarifying to people who had read me wrong or strive, even harder, to change their opinion of me. In trying to do all this I would grieve and suffer endlessly. Then, one morning, I read this quote by the famous philosopher and thinker Jiddu Krishnamurthi (1895~1986): “The ability to observe oneself without evaluating is the highest form of human intelligence.” I remember that I was in the middle of my daily practice of mouna – observing an hour of silence. My business had collapsed. There was no money to even support the family. I had to deal with a lot of creditors – each of whom were driven by their urgency to recover their money that was stuck with me/in our business. So, each one employed a different method to force me and my business to pay up. A common approach many used was to accuse me of being a cheat. It was humiliating at one level and very, very painful at another. Soon the perception that I may be faking a financial crisis spread to my own family. And when I was called a cheat among people with whom I shared a blood relation, I was devastated. That was when I came by Jiddu Krishmamurthi’s quote. I read it a few times that morning. Then it struck me that if one had to ‘rise’ above judging oneself, in order to stay anchored and peaceful, what purpose did it serve to worry about others’ opinions of you? In a flash I awakened to the pointlessness of it all.

Ever since, I have let my awareness build a protective shield around me. People still opinionate about me, my actions and my Life. These opinions come flying at me. But they bounce off my awareness – unable to touch me or affect me.

A few weeks back, a close friend, called me a ‘coward’. He called me a ‘coward’ because I was not willing to debate a point of view with him. He shared this opinion of me over facebook chat with me. I simply pasted a smiley emoticon as my reply to his unsolicited opinion. I am not sure what he made out of my benign response. It doesn’t matter to me at all though. But another mutual friend, who heard of this other friend’s effort to “chat” me up, called me and asked me not to take the latter’s actions seriously. This is what I told that friend: “Choosing not to enjoin in a pointless debate is not cowardice.” I was only expressing myself. But my caller friend summed it up brilliantly: “As long as we are sure of what we are doing and are at peace with ourselves, it shouldn’t really matter how people perceive us.”

That is so true. And that’s all there is to it! Let people keep judging and opinionating. If their opinions are constructive, take them on board. If they are aimed at only causing you insult and injury – beware! You can’t stop them from coming at you. But you can well choose to ignore them! An opinion that you don’t allow to affect you is nothing but a harmless heap of words. You give that heap the stature of an insult and the power to injure you by taking it seriously!

Judgments and Opinions have no place in a Life that spares no one

As much as is possible, stay opinion-less and don’t judge anyone. For, anything can happen in Life to anyone – including you – at any time!  
As the Aarushi Talwar whodunit continues to flummox an entire nation, a CBI court, in perhaps a first of many sentences to follow in this case, holds the parents guilty and has awarded stringent punishment for them. This is a case where it’s common knowledge now that crucial evidence has been either lost or destroyed and where the investigators have evidently, consistently, bungled. The latest issue of Outlook magazine runs a cover story titled Everybody killed Aarushi! The story details how several gaps exist in the CBI theory, how, mysteriously, evidence has gone missing, how, curiously, the CBI court refuses to ask pertinent questions and how everyone – the media that has thrived on sensationalizing the case all the time, the inefficient UP Police and CBI teams and the public at large, who have been recklessly pronouncing judgment from day one – has contributed to the trial being driven more by popular opinion than by intelligent, evidence-based reasoning.
In the midst of all this, one can’t even imagine what the dentist couple, Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, must be going through. Whether the Talwars are guilty or not should have been ideally determined through an unimpeachable investigation and an unchallengeable judicial process. From all that is available in the public domain, it just appears, at least to many, that the Talwars did not get a fair trial. Yet, I am not going to invest myself in dissecting the case more than it already has been. Instead, I invite you to consider another opportunity here. This bizarre (ongoing) episode can teach us something about the nature of Life – if we care to pause, reflect and learn from it!
If we look at ourselves, we will realize that all of us have opinions about anything and everything under the sun. Further, we like to offer these opinions, freely, with complete abandon – often when they are never really solicited. Worse, we rush to judge people and events based on hearsay or on what we imagine or, as sadly is the case these days, on what the media has to conjecture! In an urban, educated, tech-driven world, ruled by nano-second social media virality, trial by the people, by popular and ill-informed perception, is as irresponsible as it is instantaneous. Really, of what use are opinions that don’t concern us? Why comment on someone or something, without knowing the truth, just because you want to make a statement, and, more important, be seen as making one?
All of us are a product of the time that we go through. What is happening to the Talwars can happen to anyone – not so much in terms of the specific context but in terms of being put in the dock with nowhere to go to or hide! Life can be totally unfair and can sock you again and again and again – without respite – leaving you no opportunity to even find your bearings or gather yourself. You can go on beating your chest and keep crying from rooftops saying you have been dealt with unfairly. But since Life never guaranteed anything, and most certainly does not promise any fair-play, it will simply go on. Life’s events and course have no logic or explanation. For instance, you can be in the wrong place at the wrong time and may be implicated in situations that you did not bargain for. Or you can invite a situation because of your actions. Either way, you have to endure what the cosmic design has ordained for you. You simply can’t escape it. People with a different perspective will refer to the cosmic design as destiny and explain it by way of Karmic theory. Without refuting such thinking just because we don’t necessarily understand it, let’s remember that Life’s just the same, inscrutable and unpredictable, for everyone – no matter what the packaging looks like with respect to each person’s lifetime and what the individual label reads.
Judgments and opinions have no place in a Life that spares no one! So, if you are the Talwars, you stand accused and, now convicted, for murdering your own daughter. Or someone can call you a cheat simply because your  business sank and you went bankrupt. Or someone can say your marriage failed because your spouse suspected you of infidelity. The stories are endless – as many as there are people on the planet. And each one will have a twist of its own, its own tale of Life’s vagaries and, often, injustice. Each and every one of us has to live the Life that’s already cast and is in store for us! Remember though that each Life event or encounter is not an accident. It is there by design – to teach us something new, while making us better, stronger and humbler.  
So, just because your Life-changing crisis hasn’t arrived yet, just because you think nothing dramatic will ever happen to you, it’s probably not a great idea to let your opinions and judgments about others run amok. A simpler, and definitely more peaceful, way to live will be to wish everyone well. Don’t judge anyone. Don’t offer an opinion for the sake of making one. Let people live their lives per their unique designs. While you live yours knowing fully well that the Master Plan has no flaws!

It’s your Life!

A young man I met over the weekend asked me what he should do about other people’s 
views/opinions of him.

“I am constantly wondering about what others are thinking of me. I don’t agree with many things that are going on around me – in my family, among my colleagues at work, in society. But I never say anything because I don’t know how my views will be received,” he said.
I asked him if he was happy living the Life that he was living – suppressing his opinions and always wary of how he was being perceived.
“Of course I am not happy. I am gritting my teeth when things that I don’t agree with happen and am often angry with myself,” he confessed.
I told him that he must stop worrying about what others think of him. The moment you try to please others you have lost the game of Life. The ego thrives on others’ opinions of you. But the real you, your being, needs no such crutch. It can stand on its own. The person whose ego needs others’ opinion to stand up will always be compromising. And any compromise, whatsoever, in any circumstance, is always against your real state, your “being”. When you compromise, you have allowed your true self to be affected. This is what makes you unhappy.
The other way of looking at this is – don’t let anyone, anything, anywhere, anytime, come in between you and your inner peace and your happiness. The moment you are feeling unhappy about a person, a situation, an event, pause and ask yourself why you are feeling the way you are. Go to the source of your unhappiness and make sure you remove it. If it is something that you cannot get rid of, at least, accept it.
Bottom-line: don’t grieve. For, it’s hardly intelligent to live your Life grieving, worrying about what others will say or think of you. Remember – it’s YOUR Life. No one, no one absolutely, other than you, has a right over it.