To find inner peace, peace is “the” way

Peace arrives when you stop resisting, stop fighting and stop struggling with Life.
Each of us is fighting something or the other. All the time. Someone fights for health. Someone else for wealth. There’s someone fighting for dignity. And someone for identity. Someone out there fights for companionship. Another soldiers on for acceptance. Yet a factor that’s common to all constituencies is that everyone, despite their individual fights, wants peace. You look around. Ask around. And you will find that almost everyone wants just peace. And they will all talk about inner peace __  bliss, joy, plain, good ol’ happiness.
But you can’t pursue peace when you are struggling with Life, fighting its every dimension. You cannot be angry with your situation in Life and expect to find peace in it at the same time. Peace will come, when you suspend all hostility in your mind, and through that act, make your immediate circle of influence peaceful. Peace has a price to be paid for, and that is to be accepting of a situation or a person or an outcome. Many people wonder what is the way to peace. And the simplest answer to their query is what Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh champions: “Peace is the way!”
But by ceasing to fight, are you embracing inaction? And isn’t inaction equal to committing hara-kiri? Let me clarify: ceasing to fight is not inaction. It means acceptance. You can be accepting of a situation, be peaceful, and yet work towards changing it. They are not mutually exclusive. On the other hand, they are complementary. The other day, at a coffee shop, I noticed a young couple argue with each other at another table. The lady was agitated. Often gesticulating wildly, raising her voice just so much that others around could hear and perceive that she was upset with the gentleman. The man, on the other hand, was stoic. He was calm and in control of himself, even if he was not in control of the situation. At the end of their discussions and arguments, I felt nothing had been resolved. Things were where they were when they came in. But the lady stomped out in a huff, and I believe she must have been continuing to fight the situation, or the man, in her mind. The man was calm, perhaps not happy either with the way the meeting ended, and made a slow, peaceful exit. He may also have felt that things could have been better, but for sure, he wasn’t feeling worse. He was peaceful. He wasn’t fighting. Yet he was not abstaining from action. Coming to the meeting, making an attempt, while staying calm, was indeed action.

We too can embrace this way of living. Simply, don’t start with asking ‘WHY?’ of Life at each of its twists and turns. Exclaim instead, ‘Interesting, so, we have a situation…!’, and mobilize your action to resolving it. Even a fight for a nation’s independence can be a peaceful__and successful__one. Gandhi proved it and so did 300 million of his followers, fellow Indians, back then. The same principle applies here. End all violent thinking __ about anyone or anything __ and approach each problem or situation with complete focus and total equanimity. Remember: to find peace, inner peace, peace is the way! 
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Understanding ‘letting go’

Letting go is not difficult. It is deciding to let go that is difficult. So, here’s a simple perspective on what it takes to let go!
When we try to control anything, we experience satisfaction and triumph in the short-term, but we are struggling with pain and suffering in the long-term. When we let go, there’s pain initially, but joy and bliss abound in the long-term. This applies to opinions, money, relationships, children, careers and any challenging situation in Life.
The luckless rescue operation to save Thimanna (inset)
Picture Courtesy: Internet
I read a story in the papers last week of a farmer in Karnataka, Hanumanthappa Hatti, who had to take a heart-wrenching decision to let go. Hatti’s six-year-old son Thimanna had fallen into an abandoned borewell in their farm in Bagalkot. After three days of hectic rescue operations, Hatti pleaded with the district government officials to stop the rescue mission. Already a 75 ft trench had been dug to reach Thimanna who was believed to be stuck at 160 ft in the 300 ft-deep borewell. To reach the boy, the rescue mission team had decided to dig further, in an-L shape, even as almost everyone gave very little chance for the boy to emerge alive. Oxygen levels in the borewell beyond a certain point were nil, and at 160 ft, the chances of survival after three days was nil too. It was at this time that Hatti made the decision. He said already three lakh cubic metres of mud had been hauled out from the borewell. To fill the borewell back and reclaim his sugarcane crop will already require a humungous financial outlay – which was beyond Hatti’s means. If they were to dig further, Hatti reasoned, his costs would only go up with no chance of finding his boy alive. “I won’t get back my son alive after all this that is being done. I should at least save my land for the future of my two daughters,” he told reporters at his farm.
Hatti’s is a classic case of letting go – complete with the difficulty involved in making that crucial decision. Letting go is not about giving up. It is about accepting that there are some things in Life that simply cannot be.
The desire to control is an ego-based response. It represents a view within us, however subconscious it may be, that we are causing_and will want to continue to cause__things to happen the way they are. The decision to let go, is a spiritual decision, made in acceptance of and in surrender to a Higher Energy. When we let go, we feel a pain, an initial ache, but we also feel good. We feel a sense of relief, just the opposite of how we felt while we were clinging on to that situation__fighting, agonizing, suffering. Mitch Albom, the author of the beautiful book, ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’, awakens us to a new perspective: “Sometimes when you sacrifice something precious, you are not losing it, you are just passing it on to someone else.”
What a wonderful way to inspire all of us to let go. So, the choice is with us. Within us. To control or to let go. Let go, because you and I are mere voyagers, who came with nothing and will go with nothing. We will have led a meaningful Life if it can epitomize love and peace. By letting go, as the struggle within us ceases, we will become love and peace!

Inner peace depends on what you feel good doing!


Your inner peace depends on what you feel good doing. Doing good, being ethical, is a personal choice. If being good and ethical gives you joy, continue to do so, despite what the world says or how you are treated or what’s handed or meted out to you. Simply, do whatever it takes to protect your inner peace!  

You grieve and suffer when you try to be something that you intrinsically are not. If you are not unethical, then ‘adjusting’ to the ‘ways of the world’ will only make you depressed. But then you look around you, listen to the voices of ‘compromise’, almost all of them leaning towards ‘adjusting, accommodating, accepting’ the ‘worldly way’, in a seemingly insane world and you conclude that goodness, ethics and humanity are dead. So, you grudgingly join the crowd that just wants to play to the whims of the world. You don’t feel good about this at all. But still you compromise. This compromise is what will kill your soul, will squeeze your inner core and make you miserable. So, the question you have to ask yourself is: are you better off living being good, though alone in the crowd, or are you willing to compromise and live suffering, in misery?

 

Whatever you decide, just stick to it. Don’t grieve after you have made your choice. Know however, that, as long as Life has been around on the planet, and as history has proven time and again, the good will always prevail in the end. No matter what the good sides have had to go through, no war has ever been won by the unethical sides. So, if you are one of those who needs statistical evidence, you can check this premise out. You will find it to be true.

This is not about being a revolutionary. For, our ethical conflicts do not just happen at a social or national level. They happen in close, personal relationships. If you sit down and analyze each of your close relationships, you will find that several of them have been compromised__by you or by the other. Left to yourself you will perhaps not want to continue with some of those. But you have gagged your soul, thinking you have bought peace, succumbing to manipulators, to liars and to vicious and cantankerous people in your circle of influence. This could be a spouse, an in-law, a sibling, a parent, a friend, a neighbor, a colleague, a boss, a subordinate or a business partner. Ask yourself how are you feeling about each of these relationships? Do you feel you have compromised? You will invariably find that you don’t enjoy them, that you don’t belong in that company. Then, why are you there? Because it’s easier to be ‘peaceful’ when you accept the ‘way of the world’ and when ‘you join them if you can’t beat them’? Perhaps, you have not understood the meaning of peace. Peace is what you feel when you are happy within. Are you? You obviously are not. You are just avoiding a conflict by capitulating. Now, you don’t need to revolt. You don’t need to fight. You simply must choose to be who you are. As Irish philosopher Edmund Burke (1729~1797) said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” You don’t necessarily need to bring in righteousness here if you don’t want to. You just do what you think is right for you.

If being good, doing good is your way of Life, choose it. The key is to be happy. Because Life is about being happy despite the circumstances that you are placed in. Of course, if you are the sort that can be happy with a compromise, well, that’s fine too. Or if you are happy joining those who are outright unscrupulous, then so be it. Simply, be happy!

The latest Mani Ratnam film, ‘Kadal’ (The Ocean), deals with this subject of Good vs Evil beautifully. Set in the backdrop of a village of Christian fisherfolk, it explores the challenges that good people have to encounter in the face of the easy, unscrupulous ways available to them. The dilemma, the trials and the tribulations of Father Sam Fernando (played admirably by Arvind Swami), the village’s pastor and conscience keeper, reflect those we face in our own daily lives. Each moment is a choice. To do what’s right and to adjust, accommodate and do what appears to be right. Father Sam always chooses to do what’s right. And pays a price, sometimes a heavy one, every single time. Yet, he chooses not to get bitter. And keeps persevering, spreading the doctrine of good living__being good, doing good__often times, thanklessly.

This is the lesson we need to learn. If you are peaceful doing good and being ethical, then know that you will be tested, taunted, chided, trampled upon, kicked around, but the key is to continue to be who you are. Despite the provocations. In spite of your situation.Knowing fully well that in the end only goodness works, as ‘Kadal’s’ ending demonstrates one more time, in this mad, seemingly bad, world. Besides, if being good is who you intrinsically are, just be it. Because only by being yourself can you be at peace!


Be aware of your feelings to stay on the path!


Be aware of how you are feeling. It surely helps you in more ways than you can even imagine.

 

Many people who embrace spirituality and make progress towards anchoring in their inner core of joy often encounter real-world, real-Life situations when they are provoked by and succumb to external stimuli. They slip and fall on the path and feel even more guilty and angry that they allowed themselves to be provoked. The question is how can you stay on the path without slipping?

 

The way to do it is to stay in touch with your feelings all the time. When you understand Life and start living, one of the first and finest changes you will notice is that you will feel peaceful within you. With acceptance comes peace. And with peace comes unadulterated, pure joy!  

 

Yet, even as you are experiencing this new freedom, of being detached from the travails of everyday living, things will continue to be ‘normal’ in the external world. Which is, people and situations will irritate you, anger you, insult you, provoke you and you may break away from your anchored position, of being safe on ‘your’ shore, and may enjoin, once again, the strife, the chaos, the turmoil.

 

 

When this happens, know that your response is nothing to grieve over. It is perfectly human and normal to react. It’s what you do after you react that you need to watch over.

 

 

Let’s say, you have been having a torrid time in Life. Someone you know has been very, very sick. And besides providing full-time logistical and emotional support for this person, you also have a family to look after and an employment to keep. Life at work has become hell after a new boss has come in. Your days and weeks are always harried. That you are stressed-out, is an understatement. To find relief, you start a yoga or a meditation practice or a simple hour’s walk, all by yourself, daily. Over weeks you begin to love the peace and joy you experience. You find that this new practice has helped you prepare for the remaining 23 hours in the day. You fall in love with Life all over again. Then suddenly, the patient you are tending to goes into a critical stage requiring more intensive care. And around the same time your tyrannical boss gets after you with a vengeance. You explode one day at work and quit in a huff! As you soak in your new reality of being left without a job, it is not so much the act of quitting but the manner in which you quit, choosing to react, to explode, that disturbs you.

 

Now, this is the crucial point of introspection. How are you feeling should be your question? And not why did I explode? Because, remember, however long you have been anchored, however long you have been on the spiritual path of internal awareness, you will be provoked by external stimuli. It is only with continuous awareness and incessant practice that you can learn not to respond to such stimuli. Now, if you don’t become quickly aware of how you are feeling__actually you could be feeling pretty miserable after that explosion__you may slip further, either into depression or into being consumed by your own rage. “Oh God, what have I done?” and “Enough is enough. I can’t tolerate that boor anymore. How dare he?” are both responses that can ruin you. Instead, immediately wanting to know how you are your feeling can help you immensely. “Hey, looks like I am angry” or “Well, I needed to vent out somewhere, someplace. So, I did. Now let me get back to protecting my inner peace” are more ‘aware’ responses to your situation.

May be not the same context, but the same reactions in our own individual Life situations, keep happening to us, to those around us, all the time. The context is different, the characters are different, but the emotions are the same. Resultantly, feelings will be the same. Knowing those feelings and being aware is the only way to stay on the path. Intelligent living is therefore about a series of endless conversations with yourself. It is through this benign chatter that you stay aware and connected. All practices that champion intelligent living are useless until you understand, as the Bible says, how to “be in this world but not of it” and, as the Gita says, how to “live in this world and yet be above it”. That understanding of a seemingly complex principle, which in reality is so simple, so practical and so easy to follow, can only be got through continuously examining your feelings. To use a cricketing analogy, if you want to carry your bat through and play a memorable innings, no matter how menacing and unplayable the bowling may be, you must have focus, patience and stay anchored!

3 Words to Bliss: Yes. No. Peace.


The three most practical, magical, profound words, in any language, are also the simplest. They are Yes, No and Peace.

As long as we say Yes when we must say so and say No when we must say no, and as long as we work for Peace and never fight ego battles, we will always be blissful.

 

The trouble is when we end up swapping yes for a no, or vice versa, because we are caught up in playing good and looking good than feeling good. Right from saying no to a visitor who arrives unannounced at your workplace or home, when you are busy with other priorities, to saying yes to goofing off with the family because you want to catch up on email on Sunday night, ahead of a busy week, we have a skewed sense of how to think, live and work. Resultantly, we end up getting stressed out over situations which otherwise could have been very peaceful. Just consider this: had you politely told off your surprise visitor, wouldn’t you have been more peaceful? Or had you chosen fun over mail at home, opting to wake up early Monday morning and work while the family was still asleep, wouldn’t you have been more at peace?

These are simple, seemingly innocuous moments in an otherwise more complicated Life. But it is important to recognize that how you live the small moments of your Life determine how you live Life on the whole.

Another dimension of our lives where peace is a casualty is the battles we choose to fight. In fact, as someone said so wisely, the best way to win a battle is to not fight at all. And even if you must fight, work for peace than fight an ego battle. Many a time, we get caught up in situations where the ego comes in the way of a resolution. The ego feeds on fights. So, whenever you differ with someone on any issue, and your disagreement, for whatever reason, turns acrimonious, then work for peace. Don’t let your ego feed on the fight. Know that just as you are entitled to your opinion, others are too. And if constructive confrontation__the ability to resolve conflict in a civilized, dignified manner__fails, then there’s no point being in the battle at all. When you don’t fight, when you don’t contest, when you don’t mind being ‘defeated’, how can you not be at peace?

 

So, if it is bliss that you are looking for, keep it simple: Say Yes when you must yes and say No when you must say no. And don’t ever let your ego lead you into a fight where, among many other things, you may well lose your inner peace!


Life may shake you often, but you can choose not to be stirred!


Choose to be a witness, especially when a ruinous emotion like anger rises in you, and you will attain bliss.

Watch your thoughts as you would watch traffic on the street. When riding to work, especially when you are not driving, aren’t you just a witness? You just see a million things happening in the hustle bustle of a daily Life in a metro. Ensconced in your car, in the comfort of your air-conditioning and listening to some music, you are just a witness. May be you are watching two irate drivers honking madly. Or you are observing a senior citizen crossing the road with extreme caution. Or you are seeing someone opportunistic brazenly edge past a more tentative driver. You are merely an observer__who sees everything but chooses not to participate in further confounding the chaos!  

Is that really possible__being a witness to your own thoughts?

In fact, the Buddha, prescribes this, only this, to attain a Life of peace and fulfillment. He says: “Just be awake. Be a witness to your thoughts.”

The essence of the Buddha’s message is that we must not suppress ourselves. Take anger for instance. When someone does something stupid or hurts you or betrays you, you will feel angry. It is natural. And it is logical. What is the point in suppressing it? Suppressing ANYTHING that you believe is negative__like anger, sex, greed__is detrimental to your well-being. All these emotions are basically energy being expressed in different ways. So, suppressing them, means wanting to get rid of them, to kill them. How can you kill energy? Isn’t it a futile exercise? You will only end up creating more stress for yourself and within you. This also does not mean that you must succumb to these emotions and let their fiery energy consume you. Be aware. Be awake. Be alert. If you are witnessing your thoughts, you will realize that anger is rising in you. Then you won’t explode mindlessly, destructively. You will, through your awareness, be able to channelize your anger into, of all things, believe me, compassion!

Osho, the Master, says that anger can turn into compassion, a sexual desire into deep love and mindless greed into complete sharing! He says that these emotions are but energies. And the way to deal with them is to allow them to be expressed in a different form rather suppressing them.

I know, from experience, that this possible through relentless practice.

Once upon a time, I used to be a very angry man. I remember, in my teens, I once flung my shaving razor on the TV screen in our living room, because I was furious with my mother for saying something she should not have (at least in my opinion!). Over the years, right up to my mid-30s, which means a good two decades of my Life, I would let my anger control me. I wouldn’t even think before I exploded. It had become a normal, instantaneous reflex action to any situation that did not meet my expectations. Once when I was buying a car I had to travel urgently on the day the car was due to be delivered. So I had asked my admin assistant on my team to take delivery of the car while ensuring that the color I wanted was the one we got. My assistant called me AFTER taking delivery of the car that the company regretted not getting my color and said that I had to ONLY accept the color they had if I wanted immediate delivery. I lambasted my assistant for an hour on the phone, standing on the kerbside at a busy intersection in Bangalore. I went on abusing my assistant, who was both speechless and shocked at my tirade, and I went on, endlessly, until an old lady passing by, tapped me on the shoulder and whispered in my ear: “Just be aware of where you are when you scream!”. I felt ashamed. I hung up. It was too late. My assistant texted me his resignation within the next 5 minutes. I lost a good resource. But that moment of personal shame and guilt did not transform me. I raged on. At work my colleagues had nicknamed me ‘chiefscreamer’. (My business title, also on my business card, is chiefdreamer!)

It wasn’t until Life landed me at the edge of a precipice, where I continue to hang from, and I realized that my kicking around is not going to help my situation in any manner, that I awoke to the futility, and vanity, of being mindlessly, violently angry. Anger by itself is not a bad thing. Without being angry, with any injustice or current reality, no change, transformation or revolution has ever been possible in the world! Yet mindless anger has to be channelized. And, in my experience, has to be converted into compassion.

Over the years of practicing mouna (daily silence periods) and growing awareness, I have come to realize that people that hurt you do so because they are suffering themselves. Their inner turmoil is reflected in their unreasonable and unfair behavior. So, when someone does something nasty to me, I try to understand them better. Anger is no longer a response. It has become an intelligent choice. When anger rises in me, and it well will, I watch it. Then I say to myself, why is this person doing what she or he is doing to me? And if it a foolish mistake the person has committed forgiveness is easy. But when there has been a willful assault on my privacy or dignity or sentiments, I simply feed someone on the street thanking the Universe and my detractor for the opportunity to serve. I don’t even tell my detractor I am doing this because I don’t need to. As I feed someone randomly, I concentrate all my energy on my detractor and wish deeply that she or he heals. And I dedicate the act of serving, and the meal, to my detractor. This practice gives me immense peace and joy. I find it meaningful that:

a. I have not lost my head and exploded.

b. I have been compassionate towards my detractor and another human being.

c. I feel grateful that I have been useful.

The bigger cause for celebration though is that when you are merely a witness, an observer, you don’t participate to perpetrate any mindless crisis that may emerge in the course of daily living. You don’t get distracted from your focus on being peaceful. You don’t feel disturbed. You feel love rather than raw desire for people around you. You choose saner responses and constructive energy options when you have to express yourself. You discover great joy in realizing that Life may often shake you but, by being a mere witness, you can ensure your inner core is not stirred!


Celebrate the Equality in all Creation!


All Life is equal.

Celebrating creation is our principal religion and only duty! Over centuries, religion, by its opportunistic practitioners pointing to an external God, has made bad spaghetti out of a perfect recipe for equality. Religion singularly has made us forget the divinity in all creation.

When you recognize that all Life is equal, and that you are as much the source of the cosmic energy, that which powers the Universe, as creation itself, then, you will discover the Godhead in you! Then, and only then, will your search for an external God end. When you have found God, why would you need religion?

Let’s do a small exercise to grasp this truth in a nanosecond.

Take an empty (water) glass.

Is the glass really empty? Or does it contain something?

Well, arguably, it contains air.

Now, drop the glass on a hard floor (not carpeted). Yes, just drop it!

It breaks, right?

Now what happened to the air in the glass? Where has it gone? Did it also break or did it go somewhere?

Well, it just merged with the air in the room. In fact, it always was merged with the air in the room in the first place. The glass was merely a container holding some of the air.

So is this, your, body. It is merely a container holding, during a specific tenure, a portion of the air, or the cosmic energy that’s powering the Universe. Isn’t that case strong enough to establish that you and everyone else are equal? Because all of us are powered by the same cosmic energy.

All our problems in the world, between us human beings occur because we identify too much with the human body. Without the body, without the mind, there can be no desire. Without desire, there can be no one-upmanship. Without one-upmanship, how can there be inequality? And without inequality how can there be ignorance? Just this awareness that you are not the body, that you are the God you seek, that you are the Universal energy is so brilliant and so very liberating.

“Desire, ignorance, and inequality—this is the trinity of bondage,” taught Swami Vivekananda, whose 150th birth anniversary it is today!

Indeed. We are enslaved by our ignorance of our true Self. We are trapped in our desires. And we are victims of the conditioning that we are an unequal race. The question we must ask ourselves is if you inhale from the same source I exhale into, how can you and I be unequal? If people across the world understood this truth, there would be no problems, no wars, and we will have peace and love everywhere.

Swami Vivekananda further said, over 100 years ago, and it is so true, so relevant, even today: “We believe that every being is divine, is God. Every soul is a sun covered over with clouds of ignorance; the difference between soul and soul is owing to the difference in density of these layers of clouds.”

By simply worshiping, and celebrating, creation, we will find our God and peace __ both that which we desperately seek and need!