Look up from your ‘busyness’ to see the beauty in each moment

Stand, stare, pause, reflect…slow down and soak in Life. Don’t keep running, with no time to stop and smell the roses, as if Life were a race.
Hari and his friend
Yesterday, on our morning walk we saw a milkman feeding a stray cat. We paused and asked him why he was doing that. He beamed a big smile, said hello, introduced himself as Hari, and explained, “I just found her hanging around this neighborhood everyday as I made my deliveries. One day I offered her some milk. And since then we have become good friends. She comes by whenever I am here. I enjoy seeing her and feeding her. Poor thing, all she needs is some care and milk!”
Hari’s random act of kindness is so inspiring. It made me think. How often do we do something like that – which is to pause and care for someone who does not have anything to offer us in return?
Further down our walking route, my wife Vaani, an ardent lover of nature, birds, flowers and, in fact, of Life itself, pointed to a tall tree and its fall colors. I looked up, Indeed the patterns that the morning light was weaving through the leaves uplifted their colors. Vaani, who schooled at Rishi Valley, where her parents were teachers, said J.Krishnamurti (the philosopher who lived between 1895 and 1986; he founded the Rishi Valley School and The Krishnamurti Foundation) taught her, and her sister, “the value of mindfulness and observation”.
It’s been 28 years since I have known Vaani. Initially, I could never understand why she always got so excited when she saw a tree or a bird or a flower. But over the last decade or so, ever since I was forcibly evicted from the rat race – thankfully, mercifully – I have also learned to pause, observe and reflect. I have learnt to appreciate Life better by slowing down. There’s great beauty in each moment, I realize now, provided you look up from your ‘busyness’!  
Besides, beneath all the chaos and grime that hold a big city in a stranglehold, there are still ordinary folks like Hari who teach us how to be compassionate and there are people like Vaani who remind us that it is possible to find beauty in the most unexpected of places.

The greatest wealth in Life is be able to enjoy the gift of this lifetime. In trying harder to run faster to get to a destination you think is your ultimate one, you are missing out on the scenery and the opportunity that each moment is offering you. I am reminded of W.H.Davies’ (1871 ~ 1940) poem Leisure. What he wrote back then is still so, so, relevant: “A poor Life this if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.”
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Your ‘Daily Good Turn’ awaits you!

Ever paused to think what a random act of kindness can do to you?
It can brighten up your day, keep you energized and create a positive aura in your immediate circle of influence. In fact, it can do the job better than any body freshener or deodorant that you currently use!!! In everyday Life, you have the option of being rushed, stressed and moving forward with blinkers on, obsessed with yourself and your priorities. Or you can notice the innumerable opportunities that surround you where you can make a difference. The problem with us is that we have psyched ourselves into believing that a. an individual alone cannot make a difference; b. we don’t have time to invest just now and c. we reason within ourselves that since Life has been unkind to me in the past, why should I be kind to anyone? A random act of kindness is doing good or saying something good while expecting nothing in return, not even an acknowledgment, let alone gratitude. James West (1876~1948), the ‘Godather’ of the Boy Scouts movement, in 1928, called a random act of kindness, ‘…the Daily Good Turn that is instrumental in instilling a habit of service and an attitude of mind that offsets a tendency to selfishness…’ How simple. And how relevant this philosophy is even today!

In a facebook and twitter era, when service organizations like the Scouts are forgotten, it is our responsibility to not only make our days meaningful but to also inculcate in our children a sense of selfless service. We don’t need to have money to be kind. We must only develop the aptitude and attitude to be kind. Even picking up litter from the street, knowing fully well that we are not responsible for the litter or the street, is an act of kindness. In fact, in Islam, Prophet Muhammad, prescribed this__picking up litter from the street__as an act of faith. So, whether you want to do it because it concerns the faith you practice or you want to do it to keep you energized all day long, your Daily Good Turn awaits you. Do one each day of the week and feel the difference in – and for – yourself!

A gentle reminder to make the world a better place

If you make an effort, you can practise simple acts of kindness, to touch a Life daily – and make a difference!
Over last weekend, I lunched with Rajan, my dear friend, who, at 70, continues to be young with his thinking and in spirit. A consummate adman, an expert in Rural Marketing, a man with a big heart and a great sense of humor, Rajan is all this and more. And that’s why he’s simply unputdownable! Post his retirement, some years ago, he took to writing seriously and has written three books already – including his autobiography. Despite a few upheavals with his health in the past few months, Rajan plows on – his energy levels undiminished,  with an insatiable zest for Life! His wife passed away about a year ago and he’s coped well. He prefers cooking most of his meals himself, although his son’s family lives in the same building, and was, in fact, asking my wife if she could share some interesting Gujarati recipes! But what excited me most was Rajan’s new mission. “I make it a point to see how I can help people with my time, ideas, resources and experience. I want to touch someone’s Life daily. It gives me great joy to serve someone, to make a difference, however small. I wish I had dedicated my whole lifetime to doing this. But I am happy that I am able to do this at least now! It is never late,” he declared. That morning, he had made it simpler for four other friends to join the lunch we were at, by driving them up and offering to drop them back.
Rajan’s missionary zeal to touch lives daily, through small, even if mundane, acts appeals to me. Most important, it helps us shift the attention and focus from ourselves to others around us. Given the quality of Life we all lead, with too much to be done in too little time, we end up thinking and working for the welfare of only our families. We don’t lack the intent to be useful or to serve, but we simply don’t have the time. Which is when a perspective such as Rajan’s is most helpful. My takeaway is that if we can, during the course of our everyday schedules, do something to help another person live their Life better, we would have made a small difference. Our acts can be random and small – helping an elderly person with getting her shopping bags to her car, making way for a lady to sit on the bus, calling a friend who’s going through a crisis or feeding someone on the street by buying him or her a hot meal. We don’t even need to make a special effort. Just look around, in our own circles of immediate influence, we will find people who need help but are not asking for it. They don’t fall into any specific income or social brackets – they are just there, fellow voyagers, like you and me, who are struggling with their own daily challenges through Life.
Mother Teresa (1910~1997) has said this so beautifully: “If you can’t feed a hundred people, feed one.” Rajan left me inspired and I am grateful to him for this, if I can call it, gentle reminder. And I am sharing this here in the hope that if any of you feels equally inspired, you too can join in the mission. When more of us come together, over time, with consistent effort, we can make our world a better place!