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. 
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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…