Sunny Leone is more spiritual than most people around us

Important Note: This Blog will continue to feature my daily blogposts. In addition, on Sundays, public holidays and long weekends, I will feature The Happiness Road Series and my #HelpYourselfToHappiness Vlog Series!
Here’s today’s blogpost!
Spirituality does not impose any conditions on your being. It is the flowering of inner awareness that brings you to be present in whatever is.
Sunny Leone
Picture Courtesy: Internet
There’s this whole song and dance, well we can call it drama too, over Bollywood actor Sunny Leone’s interview with CNN-IBN’s Bhupendra Chaubey. I have not seen any of Sunny Leone’s movies nor have I dug up her footprint, as an erstwhile porn star, online. I have also had no interest in any interview she has given up until now. That’s when my friend BG’s story on the actor and her interview appeared in The Hindu this morning. Now, BG’s someone I respect a lot. And his concluding line, “…Until now, she was a small-time actor, the interview made her a heroine.”…caught my attention. So I googled and pulled up Chaubey’s interview with Leone and watched it. I not only concur with BG’s perspective but I go a step further: I don’t just think Leone is gorgeous-looking, sexy if you will, I believe she’s very, very, spiritual too.
I have no comments to offer on Chaubey’s interviewing style or the quality and tone of his questions. That’s his way of Life. So, my perspective here is not because I disagree with what Chaubey asked or did, but is here because I agree with, and can relate to, everything that Leone said. It takes an evolved person to say that I have no regrets about the past. And Leone does not just say it, she says it with a deep conviction. She says, “ …Everything that I have done in my Life, has led me (in)to this seat…it’s a chain reaction that happens…everything is a stepping stone…when you are young you make decisions that lead you to who you are as an adult…” To me, Leone’s interview offers an unputdownable lesson in spirituality. It left me admiring this young lady for her ability to hold herself up with dignity, when so many people are hell bent on judging her. Watch the full interview here:

I make no comparisons here. But interestingly, at the recently concluded Hindu Lit for Life event, ace photographer Raghu Rai, who was in conversation with renowned art editor Sadanand Menon, said something very similar: “I am just a sum of all the experiences I have been through in Life. Everything that I have done in my Life has made me the person that I am today.” Everyone who heard Rai share with Menon came back feeling reflective and spiritual.

And truly, that’s all there is to Life. We all are a product of the time and the experiences we go through. There’s nothing right or wrong about the choices we make. Each choice leads us to another one and that one leads to yet another. And through choosing, falling, crawling, getting up, flying and falling again, we learn to choose better and cruise along in Life. Leone’s choice of opting to be in the porn industry was not very different from my choice of having been a salesman early on in my career or Rai’s choice of being a news photographer for several years. In the end, really, no experience is a waste and no experience is bad. Each one teaches you something, provided you are willing to learn.

As I see it, there’s a lot I can learn from Leone. She displays humility, acceptance and a keenness to just let things be. For instance, she says that she has neither been “haunted” or “held back” by her past. She tells Chaubey that she does not want to think of a future – of acting with a big star like Aamir Khan – that is not yet born: “At this moment I don’t know (about the future) any better.” I wish, instead of bringing a hypocritical sense of morality into play, that people pause and reflect on Leone’s interview for the honesty she inspires through it. That and her ability to be who she is, celebrating herself, without any regrets of a past that is dead and gone, and without any anxieties over an unborn future, are very spiritual qualities.  To me, those qualities make her more spiritual – and not just sexy – than most people around us are. 

Your past can be your teacher

In hindsight, all of us are wise. The key is to learn from experiences and not either cling on to grief or guilt.
A recent issue of TIME magazine carries an interview with ace golfer Tiger Woods. Lorne Rubenstein asks him: “Your private Life was exposed in 2009. What would you have done differently?” And Woods replies: “In hindsight, it’s not how I would change 2009 and how it all came about. It would be having a more open, honest relationship with my ex-wife. The relationship that I have now with her is fantastic. She’s one of my best friends. We’re able to pick up the phone, and we talk all the time. We both know that the most important things in our lives are our kids. I wish I would have known that back then.”
Woods nails it. It is very important to pause, reflect and internalize what you can learn from a past – any – experience. With reflection, and introspection, grief and guilt may arise. But you must develop the ability to stay detached from these debilitating emotions. You must look at your own Life – and the past – dispassionately. Ask yourself if there is any point in brooding or feeling angry and guilty? There really isn’t! Once you realize the futility of harboring these emotions, you let them go. This does not mean you don’t either feel them or don’t learn from them. You will feel them. And you can learn from them. But just don’t get bogged down by them!
The past always teaches you – something about you and about Life! The past can also hold you hostage. It is up to you whether you want your past be your teacher or your captor!

Don’t churn the past or the future – just let it all be

The human mind is powerless in the present moment. That’s why it insists on dragging you back to the past or into the future.

An important and fundamental clarity we must all have is over the functioning of the human mind. It thrives in the dead past – spewing thoughts of anger, grief, guilt over what has happened. And it thrives in the still unborn, unknown future – throwing anxiety, worry and fear over what may (or may not) happen. So, as long as the mind is controlling you, you are oscillating between the past and the future. The mind never allows you to settle. Such is its nature. 60,000 thoughts arise daily and all of them invariably dwell in the past or concern the future. This is why we often feel chewed up and are desperate for clarity. And this is where mindfulness comes in. When you are mindful of the present moment, immersing yourself in your current reality, your mind is powerless. When your mind is not controlling you, and when you are directing it instead to be in the present, there can neither be grief or guilt nor can there be worry or fear.
Once you understand this basic concept about intelligent living, you can begin the practise of mindfulness. It requires that you train your mind. And the principle to remember is that just like the human body can be trained, the human mind can be trained too. Mindfulness begins when you stop churning the past or the future in your mind. Just let it all be. You focus only on what is, on what is available, in the present moment. It may be difficult – as is the case with any new practice – but if you keep at it, you will make progress. Surely, over 21 days of daily practise, you can learn to be mindful.
I love what the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh has to say about mindfulness. He says it so simply, so beautifully: “To be mindful is to bring body and mind back to the present moment so that you do not miss your appointment with life.”

Eat the strawberry or stop complaining – either way choose to be happy!

Focus on what is happening than on what was happening or what will happen.
Distractions in our Life come from two sources. The past. And the future. There’s no worry about the present moment. Because you are in it already! There’s no choice with the present. This is where we can be happy.
But while we want to be happy, we don’t recognize the opportunity to be happy when it comes in front of us. The truth is we don’t know how to be happy. We like to indulge in self-pity and in worrying. So, we conveniently exercise the debilitating choice of slipping into the past or moving into an imaginary future state. Neither of which is in our control. The past is over, it HAS HAPPENED. It is dead. The future is still TO HAPPEN, it is the unknown. Anything can happen and not necessarily what you imagine. So, stay in the present. Stay here knowing fully well that you CANNOTstop the worries from coming to you. What you can do is STOP WORRYING!
Worries are like waves. Their job is to keep coming to the shore. Come, crash, ebb, recede, resurge, come, crash, ebb….this is a non-stop cycle. So will your worries keep coming to you, non-stop. Their job is to keep coming at you. You will have to learn to be unmoved. Don’t try to be untouched though. Because the nature of a worry is like the wave, it will drench you if you are standing at the shore. But don’t be influenced by it. Remain unmoved. And that you can achieve by focusing on what is happening. Worrying from a guilt or a burden from the past or fearing the unknown future is going to take away the beauty of the moment you are in. 
There’s this Zen story called ‘Cliffhanger’ that should help us understand the power of being in the NOW. One day while walking through the wilderness a man came across a vicious tiger in his path. He ran for his Life but soon came to the edge of a high cliff. Desperate to save himself, he climbed down a vine and dangled over the precipice. As he hung there, two mice appeared from a hole in the cliff and began gnawing at the vine. Suddenly, he noticed, on the vine, a plump wild strawberry. He plucked it and popped it in his mouth. It was incredibly delicious, he thought, and enjoyed himself! Imagine, the man had the following options: 1. Continue to hate the Tiger, his past, at the moment, that had, in a way, led him to his present. 2. Fear the mice for what they were about to do to the vine and worry about the future__for his Life. 3. Eat the strawberry and celebrate the moment’s delicious opportunity. He chose the third. This is the secret of intelligent living. To make the right choice.
Remember: Life’s offering us delicious strawberries even as the tigers from our past are chasing us and the mice are chewing away and possibly ruining what we imagine to be our future. Know that the tigers can’t come down to the present__they are only there to haunt us. And that the mice can’t do anything to stop you from enjoying the strawberry, if you decide to eat them! The simple non-negotiable reality is that if you want to be happy, you must eat the strawberry, you must ACCEPT WHAT IS. And if you don’t like strawberries, then, please stop complaining about the lack of happiness in your Life!

To meditate is to learn to live meaningfully all the time

Learning to live in the moment is when you can bring your mind to attend to that moment and not to your worries or your fears.
Whenever I share this perspective with people they immediately equate it to their experiences with meditation which they must have tried at some point or the other. And they quickly conclude that because they do not do meditation anymore, they continue to struggle with their lives. Or there are others who say they struggle despite meditating for an hour daily! 
Conceptually, there is a problem here. You don’t schedule a mediation. It is not a session. You just meditate. Meditation is just mindfulness. Awareness. Alertness. Just being. When you have reached the point of staying in the now, doing whatever you are doing, consciously, then you have begun meditation. It is the ability to be present. Because the present moment is all that you have. Meditation need not be done at a particular time of the day or at a particular venue. It is the continuous, conscious feeling of being in the present. If you are peeling onions, do it with full awareness. Then you are meditating. If you are drawing up an excel sheet and crunching numbers for tomorrow’s meeting, you are meditating. Now, that’s the quality you have to bring into every living moment – which is, immersing yourself in whatever activity you are doing without letting your mind wander. This also applies to tasks you have to do, even though you don’t like doing them much. For example, I don’t like book-keeping and accounts. But I have to do it. There’s no one I have who can help me with that. I postpone it all month. Then, one day, I just do it. Fully. Without hating it. I love it the day I do it. And then I feel liberated. That’s the power of living in meditation.
I learnt this technique through the practice of ‘mouna’ or silence periods. I began by first practicing it at a particular time each day. But over years of practice, now I can slip into ‘mouna’, anywhere, anytime __ even at a busy traffic intersection or in a crowded airport or in a boring meeting. I trigger my awareness by slipping into my ‘mouna’ spells. I choose to be silent at these times and it floods me with a sublime energy instantaneously that helps me see each situation or circumstance in which I am placed with amazing clarity. Often when my mind works up to worrying, my auto-pilot, the ‘mouna’ switch embedded in my mind, gets self-activated and awareness steps in to remind me to let go of my ruinous emotions and focus on the miracle of the moment. To meditate is to learn to live meaningfully all the time.
Here’s a Zen story illustrating the same point. A Japanese warrior was captured by his enemies and thrown into prison. That night he was unable to sleep because he feared that the next day he would be interrogated, tortured, and executed. Then the words of his Zen Master came to him, “Tomorrow is not real. It is an illusion. The only reality is now.” Heeding these words, the warrior became peaceful and fell asleep. Now, many of us will have a problem with this story and its lesson. Some will say, that it is defeatist. Others will say that it is impractical. How can you sleep soundly with an impending catastrophe tomorrow? That really is the problem. When you think of a past that is over, and of a future that is yet to arrive, then, you are really not present in the moment. All your Life’s challenges, fears and insecurities come to torment you only because you are absent from the now. Just learn to do one thing at a time. As an old Japanese saying goes, if you try to catch two rabbits at the same time, you will get none. If you want to worry, worry incessantly. Then don’t aspire for peace. If you want to fear the future, then fear totally. Don’t hope for that fear not to come true. But if you want to be happy, drop the worry, stop fearing and just be. That really is what meditation is all about.

Life goes on … you too move on with it

In each moment, Life is new, fresh. As long as you don’t cling on to the past, and instead move on, you too can enjoy and enjoin in this freshness!
A friend was chatting with me some time back. She shared what she called a predicament with me. Her husband had died some years back. She married again. But she was not happy in that marriage. She said she liked her partner as a person but she could not imagine a Life with him. So, she separated from him. She has two children, from her first marriage, who are young, independent adults. Now, she told me, two men were actively interested in her. She wanted to know what to do and if there was anything wrong, at her age (she’s over 45), for her to seek companionship.
I asked her to explain why she thought anything would be wrong in the first place. “I loved my first husband dearly. Somehow I feel it’s wrong for me to move on. I feel I will be betraying that relationship. Besides, when I tried with my second marriage, I failed miserably. So, I am not sure if anything will work out for me if I try again,” she replied.
I told her: “Do whatever makes you happy. If someone’s presence in your Life makes you happy, be happy. Don’t hold yourself back. Your late husband and your marriage with him – both are not there anymore. Don’t cling on to that. Just because your second marriage did not work out, it doesn’t mean you will not be happy in a new relationship. Don’t look to validate everything. Let your inner joy alone be your reference point. You have a lot of Life still ahead of you. Just do whatever makes you happy.”
I haven’t heard from her since. I hope she chose her happiness over everything else.
But her story, while unique in its own way, reminds us of a classic conundrum that all of us face – which is, how do we move on in Life? Let me tell you from my own experience – and from what I have learned from Life – that there’s only one way to move on. And that way is to let go of the past.
Life is reborn, afresh and new, in each new moment. But you are stuck in the past, so you are not seeing this freshness, this newness, even if you are seeking it. Think of a situation where an infant is playing with your cell-phone and you want it back because you fear the phone will be dropped. So, you offer the child a bright-colored rattle and the child quickly parts with the phone and accepts the rattle. There’s great wisdom in the child’s action. The child intuitively knows that unless she lets go of what she has she cannot get the new toy. As adults, we must revive this child-like quality in us. Only then can we see the magic and beauty of the Life that we have.
No matter how much you cling on to the past, no matter how much you postpone or avoid living the Life that you have, Life keeps going on. Someone you love dies, Life does not stop for you. It goes on. You lose your job. Life goes on. An earthquake happens. You lose everything. Yet Life goes on. Now, you can either move on with Life. Or you can keep wishing that things are different. The truth is that all your wishing will always be in vain. Only your moving on can make you happy.

Life happens only in the ‘NOW’

As the season’s energy peaks, remember this: living moment to moment, fully, and in complete gratitude, is the best celebration.

Life is a gift. You didn’t ask for it. Yet you have been born and given this lifetime. That you have been created human is a blessing. So celebrate your creation, make your lifetime memorable. Don’t squander this priceless gift away.

There are two factors that inhibit your living fully, intensely. One is worry. Worry is only about the future. It is always about what isn’t yet! And the other is guilt and/or grief. Guilt and/or grief are always about the past. About what has happened – about what is dead and gone. So, as long as you are steeped in worry and guilt/grief, you are not in the now. But Life happens only in the NOW! If you are not present in the now, in the moment, it will be gone – never to return again.

One sure way of expunging worry and guilt/grief is to understand Life deeply. Ask yourself – What am I afraid of? What am I worried about? What am I grieving over? What am I feeling sorry for? When you examine these questions closely and try to find their answers, you will find that invariably you will connect back to fearing a loss – of something you possess, of someone you love or perhaps, the loss of your own Life. But dig deeper and you will reckon that you came empty-handed and you will go empty-handed. All that you gained here in this Lifetime, including your relationships and your memories of this experience, will not go with you when you depart. So, where is this fear of perceived loss coming from? Only when you internalize this truth, will you awaken to living joyously, in the moment!

Drop all your worries. Get rid of your guilt. Let go of all grief. Life is not about doing. It is about being. When your whole being is tuned as a thanksgiving to Life, you will be soaked in abundance and bliss! This does not mean inaction. This means acting with total awareness. This means living fully – maximizing the opportunity to live and celebrate each moment!

Have a magnificent Sunday…

Get Better from Life, not Bitter

You can either be bitter from Life or better from it.
A key reason why many of us turn bitter, over time, with Life is because we are not able to treat events as events. We hold on to them, analyze them, and regret them, refusing to let go. Let’s say someone says something harsh to you. In reality, it’s just an event. But if you keep mulling over it, wondering why it was said, and what will others – who heard this person say this of you – think of you, then you are surely going to end up feeling miserable. Chewing endlessly on by gone events, holding on to past grudges and painful memories, is a sure way to invite suffering into your Life.
I am reminded of the Zen story of the two monks who were walking in the Himalayas.  
A senior monk and a junior monk were traveling together. At one point, they came to a river with a strong current. As the monks were preparing to cross the river, they saw a very young and beautiful woman also attempting to cross the river. The young woman asked them if they could help her cross to the other side.
The two monks glanced at one another because they had taken vows at their monastery not to touch a woman.
Then, without a word, the younger monk picked up the woman, carried her across the river, placed her gently on the other side, and carried on with his journey.
The older monk couldn’t believe what had just happened. He simply stood there staring as his young colleague briskly walked up the hill. After re-joining his companion, he was still speechless, but seething with rage nevertheless.
An hour passed without a word between them. Two more hours passed. Then three. Finally the older monk could contain himself any longer, and blurted out: “As monks, we are not permitted to touch a woman, how could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?”
The younger monk looked at him, startled at first, and then, comprehending the full import of his senior’s question, replied, “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river, why are you still carrying her?”
Unfortunately, many of us, even if we have grown older, like the senior monk, have not grown up. We still carry baggage from our past with us – principally, hurt, regret, resentment and grief. And so we stumble along through Life. Our painful memories enslave us to the past and ensure we stay bitter. And this way we remain unhappy – unable to enjoy the present moment, the now! This is true of a lot of people, a lot of the times.
Siddharth Varadarajan: No Bitterness
Therefore, it was indeed refreshing this morning, to read Siddharth Varadarajan’s (the former editor of The Hindu) views on his unceremonious exit from the paper, following some Boardroom intrigue at Kasturi & Sons Ltd. (KSL – the company that owns The Hindu) earlier this week. An online portal asked him if he was feeling betrayed. And Varadarajan replied: There is no question of feeling betrayed. I came to this job with my eyes wide open. I had a great run as Editor of The Hindu, which is India’s finest paper, and am grateful to the KSL Board for appointing me to the post.
Clearly, whatever be the event that you end up having to face in Life, you have two options. You can be bitter or better from it. If you choose to be bitter, you will miss the opportunity to live fully and to experience the magic and beauty of Life in each moment. If you choose to be better from the experience, you will find yourself soaked in abundance and inner joy!

Immerse yourself in the moment to be free from worry, anxiety and insecurity!

The other day, I left my laptop bag behind at home while I reached the airport. I had brought along my carry-on but the laptop bag, which had all the important papers and even my wallet, was left behind. There was just about an hour left for my flight. It was still possible to salvage the situation and have the laptop brought from home, while I waited at the airport’s kerbside, but it was going to be a close call. Nevertheless, since we had no other choice, my wife decided to send over the laptop.
As each minute passed my thoughts raced in two, opposite directions:
  1.        What was with me? Was I getting old? And forgetful? How stupid of me! I felt the pangs of guilt gnaw at me. I was stuck in an already past, dead, moment and was wallowing in anger (at myself) and guilt over my carelessness, irresponsibility, whatever!
  2.        What if I missed my flight? What would happen to the client meetings planned for the day? How would I explain a no-show to my client? I had fast-forwarded to live in a future which had not arrived. This is where – and why – I was insecure and fearful of a consequence that was still not upon me!

As I stood at the kerbside, I was anxious. Yes. So I tried to calm down by telling myself to “Let Go!”. Just then a taxi pulled up in front of me. An old couple in their late 70s – they may well have been 80+ too – disembarked. They took several minutes to even walk up to the kerbside. The taxi driver helped set their bags down and waited patiently as the old man paid him his fare. Then the couple dragged a bag each, held each other’s hands, and slowly started to walk towards the terminal’s entry gate. The lady suddenly stopped and wanted to take the bag that the old man had slung over his shoulder. The old man gestured that he was fine carrying it. But the lady was insistent. She leaned forward, planted a kiss on the man’s check, rubbed his back (almost gesturing that carrying the bag was not a great idea for his back!) and took the bag away. Then, they inched forward, slowly, hand in hand, dragging their bags and disappeared into the terminal. I watched them for several minutes as they joined a queue of passengers checking-in. Then, even as I was lost in this beautiful display of togetherness, I felt someone tapping my shoulder. I turned to find my assistant, who had been dispatched by my wife with the laptop bag, standing there with my precious cargo.
Phew! My flight was due to leave in 25 minutes. I rushed in. I completed the check-in process and was the last passenger to board the aircraft! As I settled down in my seat, I thought to myself. What had happened of my worry and anxiety,  my anger and guilt, in the time that I watched the old couple. Those several minutes were completely different from what I was going through before they arrived. I was present in the NOW, in the moment, when I watched the couple. So, neither my immediate past – the guilt and anger over my folly – and nor my unborn future – the fearful ‘what-if’ scenario that my mind was painting – were of any relevance in my present! What mattered to me in the now was that I was witnessing a beautiful display of care, compassion and companionship! Not that I don’t experience living in the moment opportunities otherwise. But this one was special. Because it happened through a cosmic simulation, if we can call the ‘forgotten laptop bag episode’ one!
Life will test each of us in big and small ways. And it will test us all the time! The human mind needs no excuse or opportunity to cling on to a dead past or race ahead into an unborn future. When it dwells in the past or in the future then you are not present! Your mind then is controlling you. When you are present in the now, the mind is powerless. When the mind is powerless only you, the real you, remain. When you are, worry, anxiety, anger, guilt, grief – nothing can touch you! Then you simply are bliss!

If you carry your guilt for too long, you are as good as dead

You cannot enjoy Life when you are continuously feeling guilty. Almost all the time, we are making decisions in Life. Some of them work well. Several blow up in our faces. If we start feeling guilty for those decisions that misfired, we will be stuck in the past. When you are not present in the now, in the moment, how can you enjoy it?
Of course, guilt cannot be avoided totally. It has to only be faced, and overcome, with awareness. Every time something does not go per your design, or expectation, you are bound to feel responsible, and accountable, for the outcome. So, you cannot but feel guilty. But if you are aware that guilt is debilitating, that it is a wasted emotion, that traps you in the past, you will successfully overcome it!
First, however, try and understand why you feel guilty. We human beings have this notion, both through our education and upbringing, that we are in control of our lives. So, when things don’t go according to what you envisioned them to be, you hold yourself responsible. In a very subconscious, yet sure, way, your guilt is always a manifestation of your ego! “Ishould have been better prepared”, “I should have thought through this better”, “Ishould have planned for a worst case scenario”, “I should have not taken this decision or made this move”…these and more emotions are bound to gnaw at you from within. But do you recognize the existence of the big “I” in each of them? That’s your ego screaming out aloud! Your guilt is the shadow of your ego – it goes on vainly reminding you that you are all powerful and now that your power did not work in the current context, you have failed yourself, you should now brood over your action! You should, therefore, wallow in self-pity and guilt!  
But remember your awareness is far more powerful. When you attain a state of self-realization, where you understand that nothing is being done in Life, in the Universe, by anyone, that Life is happening on its own, your guilt disappears. This is not escapist thinking. This is the truth. Whatever has happened, was bound to happen, even if you were to murder someone! If it could have been avoided, it would have not have happened. Being trapped in your guilt and by brooding, nothing is going to be achieved. If anything, you will be dead, because you are not living in the present anymore, even if you are biologically alive! In the Hindi movie Raanjhaana (2013, Aanand L Rai), Kundan, played masterfully by Dhanush, sits on the banks of the Ganges brooding over the death of Jasmeet (Abhay Deol in a cameo), which had been caused by circumstances triggered by Kundan. An anonymous man with a camera confronts Kundan and says: “You look like you have murdered someone. Your face says it all. No religion can grant you forgiveness for taking the Life of another human being. So, no point in feeling guilty over what you did and what has happened. You are not going to attain salvation sitting like this by the Ganges. So, get up, go, go do something about your Life and make things better by living your Life fully, meaningfully!” Kundan gets the message and takes charge of his Life the best way he can! What the film’s nameless character told Kundan applies to you and me too. There’s no point drowning yourself in guilt over anything – the best you can do is to try not to repeat the same action, pattern, decision, whatever that misfired, again. That’s all!
The moment you let your guilt get the better of you, you are as good as dead. You, me, we all, are but small cogs in the big wheel of an inscrutable cosmic design called Life. And Life happens, not because of you or me, but inspite of us. When this awareness dawns and remains in you, you will see each guilt-forming moment as an opportunity to learn, and unlearn, and keep moving on.