When Life’s problems seem insurmountable, take each day as it comes, but keep at your problems without thinking of the outcomes.
There will be times when nothing will seem to go your way. Situations at work will be unproductive – stressful, political and complex. Your relationship could be heading nowhere – often leaving you lonely and lost. The money may just not be enough. And any efforts you make to fix things, to find solutions, to make the situation better, may only end up confounding matters. The normal response to such a situation is anger, frustration and depression. When these emotions arise, observe them. Hold them and give them your attention. Ask yourself if feeling angry, frustrated or depressed is of any use in a situation when you don’t like what you are getting in Life. When you realize the futility of anger, frustration and depression, you will immediately want to let them go.
Running away from Life or feeling sad continuously for what has happened or feeling guilty for what you may have contributed to what has happened – none of these serve any purpose. In fact, Life never cares how you feel. Life just goes on happening. And if you bring debilitating thoughts to the table, if you keep clinging on to the negativity that arises as a result within you, you will feel bogged down and held hostage.
What is a problem situation at the end of the day? Any situation that you dislike is a problem situation. Plain and simple. If what you dislike must go away – one of two things must happen. Either you must work on driving it away. Or you must walk away from it. You can’t forever be lamenting that you dislike a situation. That’s escapism. Of course, in any situation, you can act, you can take remedial steps. So, act. Don’t worry about the results. Simply act. An action may lead you to a result. And you may like or dislike that result. Then act again if you must change that result. That’s how it works. Inaction on account of depression, anger, guilt, grief or worry is sacrilege. For anything about a current reality to change, you have to change something within you first. Which is, you must be ready and willing to go to work on your problem regardless of circumstance, outcome, reward or recognition. Just keep chipping away. When the going gets tough again, when you face rejection, failure and hit another no-go place, you may well face another bout of depression and frustration. Hold your depression again and examine its futility. Then let it all go. And you go back to work, to chipping away at your problem. One day, one day surely, what you are chipping away at will give way. And that day, when you connect the dots backward, you will be grateful for the choice you made – to have gone to work on your problem than sit and bemoan it!
There will be times in Life when everything will seem so unstuck, so unsure, so unpredictable. Whenever you feel this way, don’t let it all cook within you – just turn around and go to sleep!
Last night when I lay down to sleep, I felt the same way myself.
I had been watching Rang De Basanti(Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, 2006) for the umpteenth time on TV – somehow the move never tires you out; it instead grows on you. In the wake of the Chennai Floods, every issue that DJ and his friends raise in the movie, made me feel very disturbed. Since there is a strong apprehension among most people in Chennai that the floods were a result of poor decision-making by the authorities concerned, issues like lack of accountability, leadership and collective public action to challenge and change status quo – magnified by the RDBviewing – made me restless. And then there is our enduring bankruptcy and the uncertain future looming large: of dealing with every day – practical, survival-related – challenges as 2016 arrives. We are yet to begin repaying our debt and the discomfort of living with – and in – such a seemingly-endless situation is immense. Our daughter’s graduate studies are coming up in 2016 and our son has a niggling medical condition that needs attention. My end of the family still chooses to remain estranged, while we don’t have the means yet to financially reciprocate all the day-to-day support that Vaani’s end of the family provides us.
Phew! Sometimes, I just wish that all this incompleteness – and the restlessness it causes – simply dissolves. Yes, I am human too.
That’s when I recalled a learning that my college mate from Kerala, Rajmohan Pillai, of the Beta Group, had shared with me some years ago. He had told me, while buying me and Vaani a multigrain sub at a Subway in Nungambakkam, Chennai: “Vaani and AVIS, don’t try to solve all your problems all at once. You simply can’t. Just be at them, just be; and over time, they will all get resolved.” I never understood the import of what Rajmohan was teaching us when he first said this. But over the years, I have greatly valued his advice.
So, I just turned off the TV and went to sleep. I slept well.
My practice of mouna (daily silence periods) and my spiritual evolution has helped me realize the futility of worrying. So, last night, I wasn’t worrying. Yes those worrisome thoughts were arising. But I was choosing to remain unaffected by them. Yet, there is an incompleteness I felt. And, from experience, let me tell you feeling incomplete at such times is very natural. The human mind craves for so much control on Life situations. But Life is more powerful. She can never quite be tamed. We often don’t understand this truth about Life and respond to such incompleteness in one of two – or both – ways: we worry and/or we connect the dots of all that is wrong with our Life and magnify a pimple to look like a tumor! Both responses are futile – worrying cannot solve problems and linking all your problems up only confounds an already complex situation!
The best way, I have learnt, is to switch off the mind when it goes into an overdrive on either – or both – fronts. To switch off the mind, you must just live in the present. The mind can only thrive when it is generating thoughts from the dead past or predicting the unknown future. In the present the mind is powerless. Last night, since even my attempt to be in the present – watching RDB – turned out to be disturbing me, I simply went to sleep. And I believe there’s nothing wrong with that choice. Let’s understand that each problem in Life is unique. Each one has a tenure. No problem in your Life – or mine – is going away unless it has served its time – and purpose! So, when you can’t solve a problem with your (human) intellect, agonizing over it is of no use. You simply have to try again – and again and again and again – with a fresh perspective, with renewed energy and vigor.
As I go down to work on my Life and its myriad, incomplete, situations, I wish you too luck. If we can’t immediately solve our problems, let’s at least avoid connecting the dots and making everything seem menacing and scary! This is the only way to inner peace and strength when you are in the throes of a storm!
No solution is ever going to be the perfect one for any problem. So, don’t despair.
Just attempt a solution and stay anchored in faith, humility and patience. Think about it. There is genius embedded in each of us. We know the solution to every problem we are faced with. But we end up applying way too much logic (too much academic education is a handicap here!) to our approach to finding solutions. We debate within ourselves on whether it will work, what if something unseen crops up, how that will affect other constituencies and such. This how we end up diluting our initial enthusiasm to solve the problem with debilitating arguments. Result: we don’t pursue attempting the solution.
This is why we are unable to deal with most of our Life situations efficiently – from losing weight to giving up a habit to pursuing a career that we dream of or to ending a relationship that is not working out. The way to end this conundrum is to follow your heart. Apply logic, but don’t be swept away by logic along. Allow what you feel about the situation to contribute to your solution. Remember that the imperfection in any solution that you foresee can be overcome with your sense of integrity to make a difference to the situation in front of you. Stay with the action always. Leave the result and outcome to the higher energy that surrounds us all.
No problem goes away until you have learnt from it and know how to deal with it.
This is the simple truth we all fail to get. And so, we keep denying problems or keep hoping the problems will go away. Only when we stop denying or wishing our problems away, only when we embrace and welcome our problems with open arms do we find them mellowing down, or easing their stranglehold on our lives. Even so, what happens then is that the problem still remains as it is, where it is, only, our ability to deal with it gets better. When we are able to deal with a situation better, we play the game__in this case, of Life__better. When we play anything well, we experience joy. When there is joy, nothing remains a problem.
The Bible says,”And God said, let there be light; and there was light.” The light that God is referring to is the joy in us. Just as darkness cannot exist in the presence of Light, problems cease to exist in their draconian forms when we experience inner joy and peace. This essentially means that when we are anchored, our problems don’t frighten us, they don’t make us insecure. We then learn to co-exist with our problems.
Let us stop making pimples seem like cancers. Let us un-darken our lives by opening our souls to the Light within. Let us embrace our problems and discover the joy of having them in our lives__and be grateful for the opportunity they give us to learn from them and become better, stronger people.
Your problems are breeding grounds for either your suffering or your joy.
You, and only you, can decide what you want out of your problems. The immediate response to a problem situation is denial. But despite your denying, the problem doesn’t go away. So you start getting angry, frustrated, depressed and, when the problem refuses to let go, you eventually begin to suffer. Does your problem go away, recede, with your suffering? Of course not! On the other hand, your suffering only breeds new problems_physical ailments, depression, poor decision-making and a perpetual state of ‘grumpiness’! As my good friend from high school, Jaidev, profoundly says often, “The maladies of the body are but reflections of the travails of the soul”!
So, let’s get this right. Problems will be there. Whether you like it or not. If you are born and are living__as we all are__your Life WILL have problems. The tenure and intensity of problems may vary, but there cannot be a time in your lifetime that you don’t have any problems! If this be true what is so intelligent about grieving over your problems? Isn’t it a far more mature and intelligent response to think of your problems as an opportunity to challenge yourself__to find joy where others find suffering?
Take time to understand your situation, your predicament, from all dimensions. Understand further that you cannot solve anything in a nano-second and that sometimes you have to live with your problem(s). This acceptance will not take your problem away, but will help you deal with it better. When you operate from the core of your inner joy, you feel the pain, but you don’t suffer. If you have a physical condition you may be writhing in pain, but your sense of joy will not allow the pain to cripple your soul. If you are in an emotional trauma – someone dies, someone betrays you – your joy will not allow the loss, the grief to affect your mindfulness. Not to say that your thoughts won’t go back to the one who is no more or pine for an understanding where a misunderstanding prevails, but you will be able to rein in your thoughts and look at what is than what should or would have been!
Of all the moments that make up your lifetime, it is this choice to find joy, and inner peace, in times of suffering, that makes the difference between “living” those moments and “enduring” a lifetime!
Make Life simple. Do not question what’s happening to you. Don’t fret or gloat over anything. Just live with complete awareness and in total acceptance.
Imagine something grave has happened to you. Maybe someone you know died. Now, it is normal for you to be in pain, agony and also in mourning. But how long are you going to live being dead every breathing moment? On the other hand if you accepted that death will follow birth, as it has done ever since creation happened, you may miss the person, but your grief will cease. Replace death with any other context and do the same thing. Someone’s nasty to you, accept it. You lost your job, accept it. You don’t get business because the markets are in the grip of a recession, accept it again! Acceptance does not mean inaction. It doesn’t mean you should not strive to make things better again. You should. You must. Acceptance means choosing not to resist whatever is happening to you at any given time.
Acceptance replaces grief with bliss while still not solving the problem you may be confronted with immediately. Problems will go away exactly the same way they have come. They are a product of your time. But bliss is not dependent on what you are going through. It is a state that you are already in; you don’t feel it because you have complicated your Life by resisting Life! Simplify Life by accepting it for what it is
Some years back, my good friend Rajmohan Pillai, seeing me in the throes of my Firm’s collapse and insolvency, gave me a profound piece of advice. He said: “Life will be full of problems. Don’t try to solve all your problems at the same time. Take each day as it comes and attempt solutions to the best of your ability. For the rest, just go with the flow.” When I first heard this advice, I was stumped by its simplicity. Is it that simple to deal with Life, I wondered. But, over these years, I have learned from experience that Rajmohan was on the ball. There indeed is no other way to live Life and to deal with the myriad situations that present themselves on a daily basis.
As long as the information you receive is reliable, use any tool to further your decision-making process. But apply your intelligence, gut feel and your FAITH too to make your choices. You may make some right decisions and you may make some decisions that go awry in Life. But whatever happens, you will have learned!
A friend told me yesterday that astrology doesn’t work. And wondered if I believed in it!
I am often asked this question. And my simple answer is the problem is really not with astrology as much as it is with astrologers. Astrology is a science. And it works pretty much like the way computer science or space technology or aviation works, Practitioners of science can do both __ for instance, they make life saving drugs and they make chemical weapons. Similarly, astrologers can be two kinds too. The ones who are like good scientists – precise, reliable, modest and ethical. And the others who are good with their craft but yet are greedy, want to control you so they can fleece you and therefore employ questionable practices and rituals in the name of ‘God’ and ‘religion’.
Obviously, people are free to choose. I am one who likes the truth up front, on the table and completely abhor religion and rituals. So, the astrologers I consult are those who are Masters __ they are as good as Sachin Tendulkar or A R Rahman are in their crafts.
Even so, I have also learned that astrology cannot change your Life. In fact nothing can change your Life’s design. And astrology can’t solve your problems. At best astrology serves as a dashboard __ just as you need to know various parameters to be able to drive your car efficiently, astrology can enable you to lead your Life better. It can help you deal with your problems better. But the aspect of leading your Life __ living it, being present, making choices, taking decisions, all of this is, and will forever remain, ONLY YOUR responsibility.
And this is where Faith comes into play. Faith, again what I have learned, is not about religion. It is about understanding and celebrating Life. It is about being. Being present, than about worrying or fearing, when Life is happening to you! I have learned to simply trust Life, which has given me this lifetime, and trust people who are Masters in their craft, their science, and lead it to the best of my ability. I employ astrology like I do a weather forecast. If I know it is going to be squally, I may prefer being indoors. Or if there are going to be showers, I will be better off carrying an umbrella. Just because the weather forecast says a storm lies ahead, I don’t plunge into a depression. And I sincerely hope no one does too. To be sure, praying to a God is not going to stop a Sandy hurricane from hitting you. A weather forecast and a natural calamity doesn’t mean you stop living. It only means you work on being better prepared. And you learn to accept whatever’s happening with the weather. So it is with you, your Life and astrology. Trust if you will, choose not to if you won’t!
Now you may wonder, and it is quiet logical, as to why and how do you trust someone who knows a science that you don’t. That’s precisely why you need that person. If you knew about something why would you need someone else to guide you? And don’t you trust a doctor, who knows how your heart or kidneys or lungs or liver work better than you do, with your Life when you sign up for a surgery? And don’t you also trust a pilot, whom you have not even met nor demanded to see his pilot’s license to check his credentials, with your Life when you board an aircraft to fly? So, why not trust an astrologer__who, by the way, is no small subject matter expert!
Good astrologers, like good doctors, are not charlatans or soothsayers. They are seers __ they have seen Life and see its inscrutable nature several-fold better than you or I do!
There was a time when, under advise from some quarters, I wore rings with special gems in them, on my fingers to ‘help protect me during my difficult times’. I was not convinced with this. But I still wore them because I thought I was not losing anything by wearing them. On one visit to my astrologer, a 75-year-old veteran, I showed him my rings and asked for his opinion.
He laughed heartily first! Then he asked: “Kallaala vidhi-ya matra mudiyuma, Saar?” ‘Can a stone change your destiny?’
I stared at him curiously. The absurdity of my choice and expectation that a pre-ordained design can be altered by wearing a ring became evident to me in a nano-second! I felt woefully stupid.
Then, he answered his own question: “Bhakti ala matrum mudiyum.” “Only devotion can change it.”
I also understood that the devotion he was talking about was not religious fervor. He invited me to stay devoted to the experience I was going through. He said experience is the ONLY teacher. And the more I resisted the experience of the challenging time I was being subjected to, the more I would suffer. Instead if I embraced it, loved it and devoted myself to the learning process, I may not suffer. Not that I can immediately change my current reality, he said, but I would be able to deal with it infinitely better.
I just loved his perspective and could relate to it completely. So, I put my faith in his advice. Astrology to me is a tool. It helps me take informed decisions. I use it as well as I use my cell phone. And both work on science!
As you can see, my Life goes on __ ridden with squally weather, hailstorms and cyclones, volcanoes, forest fires and earthquakes, but there’s phenomenal inner peace. Occasionally, I go back to astrology to refresh the forecast and my Life’s dashboard, so that I can lead myself and my family onward, on the path, that much better!