Empty yourself and Life will express itself through you

Awaken each day with total humility, stretch your arms wide open and be sure that Life will provide you all that you need.
I met a young lady who is an ace photographer. She prides herself with being able to connect with the who’s who of India and shoots them in the most unique contexts with the rarest of rare expressions. Her ability to create magic with her subjects is exceptional. While she’s talented, she’s clearly not very admired. Most people who know her believe she talks too much – often about herself. “I want to shoot people in a manner in which no one has done before. I want my stamp all over my pictures,” she declared to me, proudly.
Raghu Rai with his iconic picture of Mother Teresa
Picture Courtesy: The Guardian/Internet
I had an opportunity to listen to one of the greatest photographers in the world, Raghu Rai, recently too. And he said, “There is the divine in every moment. As a photographer I don’t try to show off my skill or talent through a picture. I am merely an instrument, as much as the camera that I use is, who captures that divinity for posterity. I am a nobody in the larger cosmic design.”
The two perspectives are so contrasting. One who humbly believes that he is only an instrument. And another who brags that she is the creator of all the magic in her work!  
I recall reading a beautiful interview that Times of Indiahad once done with A R Rahman. He told Priya Gupta: Every time I sit for a song, I feel I am finished. It’s like a beggar sitting waiting for God to fill your bowl with the right thought. In every song, I ask help from Him. Everybody around is so good, so to create music that will connect with so many people is not humanly possible without inspiration.
This is the humility I am referring to. To feel enriched, to live fully and to create value, we must empty ourselves daily. When we approach Life with a sense of nothingness, nobody-ness, in total surrender, we will be able to see and experience the Life that is ordained for us.
Our wanting anything is of no consequence really. There’s an old Arabic proverb that goes like this: “What is destined will reach you even if it be beneath two mountains. What is not destined will not reach you even if it be between your two lips.” Let’s remember that this Life has been given to each one of us. We didn’t ask for it. So, logically, if something has come free, without your asking for it, you don’t impose your wants on it. You accept what’s being given and use it intelligently, fully! That fullness can only come from respecting Life and being humble. When you start believing that your Life is happening because of you, you are being both ungrateful and irresponsible. You must cease to exist in a metaphorical sense for the God within you to find expression.

This is why people like Rahman or Rai, or any successful or creative person, is able to live in this same, cold, dog-eat-dog, world that we live in and are able to produce a matchless, beautiful, work of art each day. I am not talking of celebrity achievements here. You and I too can achieve those levels of creative expression, leading to phenomenal success, if we learn to empty ourselves and let Life express itself through us.
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Inspiration from someone who ripped off the ‘bastard’ label!!!

When you face up to the realities in Life, and accept your Life for what it is, you will always be happy.
Viv Richards, Neena Gupta and Masaba Gupta
Picture Courtesy: Internet
I read an inspiring interview in a recent edition of Times of India. Priya Gupta, the editor of Bombay Times, talks to famous actor Neena Gupta and her daughter Masaba Gupta on their relationship with West Indian cricket legend Sir Vivian Richards. Masaba is Neena and Vivian’s daughter though the two never married. When she was asked what it meant to be brought up by a single, unwed mother, Masaba told Priya Gupta: “I was in Class VII when someone said to me that you are a bastard. I didn’t understand what it meant, but someone said it means that you don’t have a father and I said, ‘Well, I have a father. It’s just that he is not around.’ I am attached to my father, but it won’t kill me if he is not a part of milestones in my Life.” That’s phenomenal clarity of thought for a 26-year-old. Masaba adds that because she has lived away from Vivian for all these years, she does not see him in that light – as a father. “Over the last 4~5 years, I visit him for a fortnight 3~4 times a year. We chat about Life a lot and he has great lessons to give basis his experiences.”
Masaba’s spirit of acceptance, even as a teenager when she ripped off the bastard label, is commendable. She teaches us to understand that each of us has unique lives. It is only a social norm that Life must conform to certain criteria – that parents must be married, that they must live together and that the children must be raised by both of them. In reality, Life conforms to no society and no norm. Things just happen to people. From unplanned pregnancies to debilitating cancers.
Sometimes, relationships that are toasted the world-over, in all societies, are dysfunctional for some people. My chemistry with my mother, for instance, never works. The question between us is no longer about why we don’t get along or whose attitude is causing more of that poor chemistry. The point is simply that we don’t relate to each other as mother and son. Only when I accepted this truth did I encounter inner peace. I am still ‘counseled’ and ‘ridiculed’ by my family for being ‘stubborn’ and ‘egotistic’ on this matter. But I just let it be. I know how I have been treated. And I feel most peaceful now when I have no expectations from that relationship and, in fact, I don’t even think it exists for me. But that doesn’t mean I have ill-feelings towards my mother. To be honest, I have no feelings towards her. I am sure, though she may present a different view in public, in private, she too has no feelings towards me – other than of a borrower who still owes her money. 
What I have learnt from Life is this: Things are just the way they are meant to be. And if they are not the way you want them to be, then they were not meant to be so. Simple!
Examine your relationships. Take stock of your Life. Consider de-prioritizing or even dropping all relationships, no matter how close they are biologically or socially, where you have stopped relating to the other person. Stop doing, or at least move away from, all those actions or situations when you feel miserable and suffer. When you do this, you will experience a new, rare inner peace. If you like the way you are feeling, do more of it. And do it consistently. Only when you accept your Life for what it is can you be happy and peaceful. There are no two ways about this!  

There are no full stops in Life…

When your Life changes, do not resist that change. Realign, rebuild and learn to relate to your new reality – that is the key to being happy.
In today’s Chennai Times, Priya Gupta interviews actor Hrithik Roshan. She asks Roshan, who is going through a painful separation from his wife Sussanne, how he’s coping with this difficult time even as he has worked in his ambitious, forthcoming film, Bang Bang. Roshan replies: “There will be a point in Life when the model of your world may change and you may not be able to see the way forward. Because you have been looking at it in a way that you have been trained to look at it. You have grown up with a philosophy of work hard, gain success, have a family and that is equal to happiness. But the model breaks and you have to realize that you have to be happy first and all the other things will follow.”  
I totally agree with Roshan here. What he has understood about Life is at the same time simple and yet not-so-easy to grasp. The model he talks about is our own individual, personal, view of Life. Which means that there are as many models, as many personal views, as there are people in this world. Each of us imagines and expects that Life will be a linear progression. Life, we imagine in vain, will work like this: you study hard, get good grades, go to college, get good grades, land a job, start a family, buy an apartment, raise kids, grow in your career, save for retirement, put your kids through college, see them marry and “settle down”, while you retire and,  eventually, die. But Life does not happen this way, in a straight line, to any of us. Someone may have a hole in the heart, someone may have a career crisis, someone may have a learning disability, someone may get embroiled in a scandal, someone may just lose a close family member – something keeps happening to someone all the time. And crises happen with no apparent reason. Tragedy – and fortune – strikes irrespective of social standing or talent. The only thing you can be certain about Life is that whatever is – a tough time or a great time – will change. Your Life will change, often irrevocably. And, to be happy, you must too change with your Life.
Picture Courtesy: Times of India/Bombay Times/Internet
Getting to this level of acceptance is not easy. Initially, when your Life changes, you hate that change. For instance, in his interview to Gupta, Roshan says, “There was a point in time that I just didn’t want to go ahead with anything in my Life. I think it’s at that precipice that you decide what kind of a man you want to be and that is when I discovered myself. There was a point where I just wanted to put a full stop to my Life and I discovered a whole new world.” I am glad he found that whole new world while discovering himself, his real self! For, the truth is that there are no full stops in Life. Life simply goes on even if you are faced with what you think is a no-go situation.

My Life experiences have taught me that happiness is available and possible in any situation, in any context, in Life. Being grumpy with Life and resisting whatever’s happening to you is the only reason you are unable to be happy. Just accept, as Roshan says, the “new model of your world”, when your Life changes, and you will be the happiness that you seek! 

Forgiveness is an evolutionary process

While forgiveness is the ‘right’ thing to do, everyone struggles with it. You can avoid the struggle by considering the value forgiving someone brings you – it frees you from all the suffering.
I read a recent interview that author Chetan Bhagat gave ‘Bombay Times’. He talks about the turbulent relationship he has had with his father to Priya Gupta: “I felt he was not fair to my mother. Maybe, it was a result of his own inner frustrations, but he would not give her freedom and I had to write ‘2 States’ a) to understand where my father was coming from and b) to forgive him. It was difficult for me to forgive him, but ‘2 States’ helped me forgive my father. He lives in Delhi and I rarely meet him. I last met him at a family function two years back. Even if (I have) not forgiven (him) completely, there is no anger in me today and at least I have reached a stage of indifference. I am still working on it.” I can relate to what Bhagat is experiencing. I have been through exactly the same feelings in a few of my close relationships – forgiving is indeed difficult. But when you do forgive someone, it sets you – and them –  free!
What we need to understand about forgiveness is that it is not necessarily something that can always happen in a nanosecond. In most cases, it happens over time and through “waves of awareness”. The need for forgiveness arises primarily when you have been wronged or you feel you have been wronged. Since the issue begins with who’s right and who’s wrong it really is about gamesmanship between two, often unrelenting, egos. Then there’s enormous hurt to deal with – you keep wondering why you have been treated this way by the other person. Your asking why only makes the situation worse. Whatever has happened has happened; someone’s hurt you. Asking why, and seeking remedy or an apology or even an explanation – none of which is normally forthcoming – causes all your suffering. To really forgive someone you must cross all these barriers. You can do that only when you are “aware” that Life is too short to carry the burden of anger, hurt and grief. You, of course, know this truth about Life, but when you are hurt, you are simply not conscious about it. This awareness takes time evolving. But you can make a beginning by understanding that forgiving someone does not mean condoning their actions, behaviors or mistakes. It really means that you recognize and accept that they are human too and are therefore prone to making mistakes. Next, when you forgive, forgive unconditionally. Don’t sit in judgment of whether someone deserves to be forgiven or not. What is important is that you need to forgive for youto stop suffering, for yourhurt to heal. Third, when, despite your forgiving, you find that someone is not sorry, don’t agonize. That’s their problem. Remember that when you have an expectation over someone else’s behavior, you will be the one to suffer when your expectation is not met. So, why invite agony? Finally, forgiveness does not mean you will be comfortable in the person’s presence or when you think about that person. This is particularly relevant to remember in close relationships where you cannot avoid interactions completely. What forgiveness does is it takes away the sting, it draws out your anger and, as Bhagat explains, it helps you to stay unmoved and indifferent.  
I have learnt from Life that every instance that involves someone hurting me has only led me to grow wiser and stronger. Until I learnt to forgive I would be bitter from such experiences. I now realize that while some episodes cannot be forgotten, forgiving is best in everyone’s interest. It have found that it makes me feel lighter and stay positive.
Today, as any other, is a good day to forgive anyone who’s hurt you or even yourself for what you may have done. Think of forgiveness as an evolutionary process. And go through it. Taste the freedom it brings you. It’s bliss.