When Life slows down, enjoy it in slow motion!

There will be times in Life when you have to simply hang in there. Nothing you do will work for you. And each day will be slow, dreary and hard to live through. All you can do in such a time is to believe that Life is teaching you to keep the Faith and develop Patience.
Nobody loves a problem situation. So, really, no one wants a challenging phase in Life to prolong – joblessness, a business slowdown, a critical health condition or a messy relationship drama. But what can you do in the face of Life’s onslaught? As they say in cricket, when the bowling is intense and difficult to play, simply let the ball go past you. Don’t stick your bat out, don’t play a rash shot in desperation or you will lose your wicket! In fact, India Captain, M.S.Dhoni, told the media, after his team’s Tri-Nation Trophy triumph at Port of Spain (West Indies) yesterday: “Sometimes you have to play boring cricket.” He was referring to the difficult-to-negotiate overs in between when the Indian run rate slowed down and the team lost wickets in quick succession.
So it is with Life too – when it becomes boring and painful, you can avoid the suffering by simply accepting that your Life, for now, is playing out in slow motion. Actually, why must Life always be fast paced? Why do we need to be running from meeting to meeting, chore to chore, commute to commute all the time? Why must everything be an agenda item or on a To Do List?
A good metaphor to hold is that of a clock that’s ticking away even in a thunderstorm. Un-fluttered. Unmoved. A strong mind is like the clock. It remains untouched by the vagaries of Life. Neither exulting vainly in success nor tormented in failure. To be sure, Life is not only about winning and losing. It is, in fact, all about living. And living does not need a pre-qualification. Living simply means being present in the moment, no matter where you find yourself. Jalaluddin Rumi, the 13th Century Persian mystic and poet, has said it so beautifully: “Take sips of this pure wine being poured. Don’t mind that you have been handed a dirty cup!”
I have learned that Faith is not about a God or religion. Faith is knowing that everything happens for a reason. And since the reason will not always be immediately evident, you must have Patience to last a trying phase, till the reason shows up! Life is not a 100-meter race. If you rush through it too fast or keep brooding its slow pace you will surely miss the scenery! And since you can’t ever go back in time or Life, the most intelligent thing you can do is to live fully every moment of the Life that’s playing out for you, enjoying its magic and beauty!  
                                                                                                                                                                                

If you can’t avoid the rat race, at least enjoy the scenery!


We don’t have to wait for the big, dramatic, Life-changing moments alone to learn our lessons. Life offers a teachable point of view in each moment – all the time!

Yesterday I was in a long queue to clear security at the airport. The gentleman behind me, it appeared, was in a tearing hurry. He elbowed past me and even nudged his way ahead of the person in front of me. He did not stop at the yellow line and landed himself in front of the security officer even as the officer was frisking another passenger. The officer was, naturally, irritated and told Mr.Hurry to back off and return to the yellow line. But our man was not inclined to comply. He argued that he was tired of waiting in the queue. An altercation followed. The security supervisor arrived and demanded that the man step back. He physically escorted the man to the end of the mile-long queue! While many passengers smirked, giggled or shrugged their shoulders, the man’s sullen, grumpy look got me thinking.

Why do we hate queues? Aren’t we all in a perpetual queue__waiting to depart, ever since we arrived on the planet?

To be honest, I used to hate queues too. In the years I was a journalist, I would flaunt my “PRESS” identity card and get ahead of others in public places. I have argued with many a cop or officer, like Mr.Hurry, too. When I look back at those times, I do feel ashamed of my conduct. I have learned that getting ahead in Life does not mean elbowing people and being impatient. In fact, many a time, I have wondered what’s the big hurry, the rush? Think about it. Everybody around us is running faster and faster, edging past others, wanting to be the first one to complete the rat race. And then do what? Many people still don’t understand that at the end of the rat race we will still be rats! In wanting to get ahead, beat the queue, be the first to arrive, we are missing the scenery! Life’s beauty, its magic, is not simply in arriving at any point__it really is in enjoying the scenery too. I have, over the years, found that queues are a great place to meditate, to drop anchor, to go within and connect with the source. It’s the time to revisit and relearn patience. It’s when you can reflect on the inscrutable nature of Life!

Jetsun Milarepa, the 12th Century, Tibetan Buddhist monk has said it so beautifully – “Hasten slowly and ye shall arrive!”. It means keep walking, keep running the rat race if you must, but enjoy the scenery too. Stop and smell the roses. And don’t worry about finishing. For we all must finish our pre-ordained tenure on the planet, every which way, and finally depart. So, next time you are in queue, and are beginning to lose your cool, breathe easy. Think of Mr.Hurry. Think of Milarepa! Enjoy the scenery!


You can’t fast-forward your Life

When you believe you can no longer go on with your Life, when the odds are stacked against you, when you feel you are up against a wall, when you vainly wish you could simply fast-forward such a phase of your Life, choose a quiet place and think deeply. Ask yourself: why is it that you feel you can’t endure your situation anymore? Is the situation forcing you to want to give up or is it your refusal to accept it for what it is? Be objective. Be practical. Be honest. You will quickly realize that the situation is simply, well, a situation. Let’s say the situation you are faced with is a broken marriage or a phase of acute unemployment or a stifling legal quagmire or fourth stage of a rare germ cell cancer or even something as common as a splitting, unbearable headache. Is the situation the problem or are you, and your inability to deal with it, the problem? Pain in reality comes without suffering. Your belief, expectation, desire, wish, whatever, that it must not exist in the first place, as pain, as a situation, is what makes you suffer!

Often thinking deeply about yourself and the way you are receiving and responding to Life helps. But when despite that effort, when your mind slips back into its default self-sympathy mode, it is perhaps a good idea to zoom out and look at Life around you. Almost always, when you stop obsessing with yourself__in sympathy or from grief__you will find how much more blessed your Life is, compared to so, so many peoples’ lives out there!

This morning’s newspapers reported that Anand Jon, the India-born fashion designer, who has been tried for fresh charges of sexual abuse this time in a New York court, had been awarded an additional five years in jail. So, that makes it 64 years in jail in all for Anand, with a Los Angeles court having already awarded him a 59-year sentence. Anand is only 39. If we take into account the years he has spent in jail so far, Anand’s got over 50 years of imprisonment still left. Without going into the merits of his case, because I am not entirely sure he has received a fair trial, I am just contrasting his situation with the one I am faced with. And I can’t help but internalize these two unputdownable lessons from his Life and my own:

  • Even wishing a situation doesn’t exist is a luxury many don’t have. Anand Jon surely doesn’t!  
  • The only way to be free from suffering is to accept pain: Assuming his cases are not immediately reopened through appeal (at the moment, the family does not have the financial wherewithal to support this) in a higher US court, what other way does Anand Jon have than to accept his Life for what it is?

I have no idea how Anand Jon feels about his Life just now. His last recorded sentiment in public is through a November 2010 blogpost. In that he writes: “…I do know that there is a Purpose to all of this and it is beyond my own exoneration. God clearly had bigger plans for me than just influencing the hemlines, and though I can and will win this ordeal, I may not survive it, and this makes me concerned about the pain my loved ones will go through. It is a fascinating concept that I think more about them than myself. My pencil (I only get two per week) is running out of lead, so I also learn patience. Maybe that’s what it’s all about – taming the ego and revealing love…” But, thanks to this reflection this morning, I do have a deeper understanding of how to face the Life that I have been given.

Maybe my sharing here will help you too to face your Life situation with equanimity. Because wishing that a situation didn’t exist is what triggers the suffering. And simply accepting that it does exist, and that you can’t do anything about it, is what makes it endurable. Some see this endurance as the indomitable human spirit. Some see it as raw courage. I believe it is nothing but an awareness of the humbling reality that you can never fast-forward your Life. You have to live through some of Life’s grueling situations __ however long it takes. You can comfort yourself though __ that, like Anand Jon says, along the way, you will grow to become more patient, more humble  and more loving!


Only a woman can make a house a home!


Anybody can live in a  house. But few can call it a home. Invariably, it is a woman who can make a well-designed house a beautiful home by filling it with love, warmth and care.

 

I have often wondered about this. What makes some families special? What makes some children special? What contributes to the phenomenal positive energy that you can feel the moment you enter some people’s homes? And, over the years, I have come to understand and appreciate that my question really must have been asked with a ‘who’ than with a ‘what’! Because it is the lady of the house that makes the place special and anchors by practicing the values that make the children grow up to be responsible, compassionate, successful adults! This is not to impune the role the men-folk play in any manner, but somehow the flavor that a caring woman can bring to better home-making is matchless.

 

 

Over the last two days we met a fine gentleman whose story is unique. He’s an Indian, a Marwari Jain, who lives in Pittsburgh in the US. He and his family (wife and two children) live with his parents, his two brothers and their families in a large multi-bedroom villa. They still live together, continuing an age-old Indian tradition which has come apart even in India for various factors __ from individual preferences to more evolved family/community perspectives. But his family still loves this way of living and finds great joy in this. Even his grandmother used to live with them until she passed away a few years ago. The children in their home touch the feet, as a mark of respect, of any older guests visiting the family. They make annual trips to India to connect with their extended Indian family in Rajasthan and get to refresh their Indian language skills and are initiated into new facets of Indian culture, music and dance on each of their visits. A common friend who knows his family and has been to their home describes it as one that is filled with ‘love and a rare warmth’ where the mother and her three daughters-in-law live in ‘complete harmony’!

 

 

Surely this family may have its own share of inter-personal issues. So I am not making a case for us to believe a fairy tale! But what makes this story special is the fact that this family lives together in the US even as the joint family system has gone ‘out of fashion’ in most parts of urban India. I am neither for nor against joint families. I don’t live in one. And I may not want to live in one either. But I liked this story when I learned about it because it substantiates my theory that women make our lives__and worlds__better. Importantly, they play a key leadership role in shaping our own destinies and those of our families and children. And please don’t get me wrong. I am in never in favor of relegating women to play just home-makers. I feel that they truly deserve and must have (not given – because who’s anybody to ‘give’ what must be freely available to anyone?) dignity, respect and complete empowerment in every aspect of Life. In fact, I marvel at their ability to pull off a world-class feat every single day __ without grudging, without complaining, without citing an excuse __ in so many millions of homes across the world. It is wonderful to see them juggle between their own successful careers and social commitments, even while looking after even the mundane responsibilities in the household, and yet being compassionate, caring while dealing with the children and their ever increasing, demanding needs and still providing us men undiluted attention and love. It’s the most perfect example of flawless multi-tasking and selfless service that you will find anywhere in the world. And if you can find it in your Life, in your home, realize that you are indeed blessed!

This isn’t about gender or about what a man can do and what a woman can. This simply is a sharing of what a huge difference a woman’s love can make to enrich the lives of so many in her immediate circle of influence. This is a celebration of that beautiful love that only a woman is capable of!