Your Life flows in the direction created by the choices you make

There are no right or wrong ways to live your Life. Live it your way. After all, it’s your Life!
What caught my attention over veteran Hindi actor Sadhana’s passing on Christmas day was that she died alone in a hospital in Mahim, Mumbai – losing her battle with an undisclosed ailment. Her close friend and actor Tabassum told The Indian Express’ Sonup Sahadevan that Sadhana, 74, was “very ill and very sad”. Sadhana’s husband R.K.Nayyar had died in 1995 – the couple had no children. Sadhana apparently had no relatives and was also embroiled in a bitter legal case over the house she was living in as a tenant in Khar. Her eyesight in recent years had been affected by hyperthyroidism.
Picture Courtesy: Internet
Now, here was a woman who was the heartthrob of millions in India all through the 1960s and much of the 1970s – her famous films included Mera Saaya (1966), Woh Kaun Thi (1964), Gaban (1966), Mere Mehboob (1963), Ek Musafir Ek Hasina (1962), Hum Dono (1961), Rajkumar (1964), Waqt(1965), and Ek Phool Do Mali (1969). She was considered a style diva and her hairstyle, that was aped by many, was popularly called the ‘Sadhana Cut’.
Did such a memorable icon deserve such a forgettable end? This is one question that some of the people writing, commenting, opinionating on Sadhana’s Life and times, have asked over the last couple of days.
Interesting question. In trying to answer it, we must consider that Life is all about the choices we make. And we must remember that Life’s basic principle is impermanency. Nothing is permanent. What goes up, comes down. What goes down, comes right back up. So, fame, fortune, friends and family – everyone and everything, will, at some point, fade away. The choice to live your Life alone is entirely yours. The choice to perhaps fight a court battle – or whatever – is entirely yours. The choice to be sad is entirely yours. Just as the choice to be among people you know, to not fight a court battle and to be happy is entirely yours!
I am not here pontificating whether Sadhana made the right choices in her Life. I am only saying that her choice to do what she did was purely her own. Just as it is with each of us in the context of our Life’s stories. Osho, the Master, has explained a simple, practical, way of making decisions and choices in Life. He says, when decisions come from your head – from the way you are thinking; emotionally, rationally, whatever – you will often not enjoy the outcome of your decisions. He says you may even suffer from your choices. But when your decisions come from your being, he says, when they come from who you really are, then no matter what the decision is or what outcomes follow, you will be at peace. So, who are we to judge how Sadhana made her decisions, her Life choices? Maybe she was at peace living alone and fighting her court battles, even as she battled failing health. Maybe, if Tabassum’s perspective is brought into focus, she was not. In fact, with Sadhana gone, it does not even matter now.
Even so, there’s a learning here for all of us. Our lives are flowing in the direction created by the choices we have made. And, as I see it, there are no right or wrong choices. A decision is a decision. A choice is a choice. And each choice leads you through an experience that you again learn from. This is how Life flows…and flows….until it ends…possibly when it merges again with the source?

No matter how messed up your Life is, suicide is not the answer!!!

When did you ever ask to be born? Your lifetime is a gift. How can you then decide to end a Life that you has been ‘given’ to you?
I saw a note from a young reader this morning saying she read my post of two days ago – “Are you ‘sad sad’ or are you ‘happy sad’?”She confessed that she was just out of ICU after attempting suicide for a second time. She felt no one “really shared her sadness or was willing to understand why she was depressed”. Her note indicated that she was learning to cope with her reality: that she was perhaps having to deal with her Life, herself!
Indeed. Each of us is messed up in one way or the other. And we all have to deal with our quota of problems – some call it “s*%t” – by ourselves. Often times, Life may well be lonely. But sorry, I am not one who will ever support suicide as an idea – whatever may be the circumstances that drive anyone to that point.
Here’s what we need to understand. This lifetime of ours is a gift. None of us asked to be born. Life has been given, gifted, to us. For heaven’s sake, consider the miracle here. Isn’t it a miracle that you have been created as the human who gets the H1N1 (swine) flu and not as the swine that gives the flu? Even the swine did not ask to be born. Life has been given, gifted, to the swine as well. For all that the creator – if there is indeed one – cares, you may well have been created as a swine! So, know that, if you have been created as a human being, there must be a reason for it. And that reason is certainly not to feel depressed and to take your own Life!
A principal reason for depression is that your Life is not going the way you want it to. Simple. This reason may manifest itself in myriad ways but the basic concept is of not getting what you want. But hey, hold on a sec, will you? When did Life promise you anything? When was any guarantee given that your Life is going to play out this way or that way? Life does not promise anything. There are no guarantees in Life. Every product you buy comes with a user’s manual and a warranty. You – and I – are the only products, us humans, who come without any user manual to guide us or any guarantee that can assure us of a Life that we want. What this essentially means is that the best way to live Life is take it as it comes, to live with what is and to have no expectations from Life. The moment you expect Life to be this way or that way, and when it doesn’t go your way, you feel depressed. So, who is causing your depression, you – or Life? Besides, how intelligent is it to feel depressed over something that was never in your control?
Also, let’s not expect people to understand us either. It’s better to assume that no one will. And then when you find someone who understands you, well, won’t that relationship be worth celebrating? Your sadness is your own. Your happiness is your own. Don’t agonize over friends who don’t want to share either with you – the brutal reality is that such people were never your friends! You have made the mistake of calling mere acquaintances your friends, and you brood over their behavior? How intelligent is that? One of the best features that Facebook offers is when you add a friend, it asks you to categorize that relationship – is this a ‘close friend’, ‘an acquaintance’ or should this person be added to ‘another list’? I do this diligently for all my friends – even offline, off Facebook. And I would recommend you do it to. Let me tell you, it works!
Life has to be faced no matter what the circumstances. My wife and I have been enduring a bankruptcy for years now. For many spells over the last 8 years we have gone penniless. I have been called a cheat by my own mother and have been ‘disowned’ by my own family. As I write this, Vaani and I are not sure where our material Life is going – honestly there is so much debt to be repaid and no effort to reboot the business has kicked in place, the way we want it to. Yet, we are sure, that this Life must be lived, till it naturally ends, it is own inscrutable way, just as it all began! This is our story. But look around you – in your family, in your circle of influence, among your neighbors and colleagues – everyone’s got a personal story of pain, grief, guilt, sorrow and of facing Life stoically. If they can look their Life in the eye and live it, all of us too can!

I not going to tell this young reader – or anyone – that everything shall pass, that things will get better, that there will be dawn at the end of every dark night. I believe anyone attempting to take one’s Life is smart enough to know that all this is both true and fluff at the same time. Fluff because Life takes time to change. And it is people’s intrinsic impatience with Life, and a lack of understanding of what Life is, that drives them to suicide. But from experience I can tell this for sure: it is in enduring Life patiently that you evolve, you grow and you come to a point where you believe, like we do, that if you have been created you will be cared for, provided for, looked after – and loved! That you may not always get what you want, but you will always, always, be given what you need!    

Are you “sad sad” or are you “happy sad”?

When you feel sad, celebrate your sadness. When you feel happy, celebrate your happiness. This is Zen!
Picture Courtesy: Internet
In R.Balki’s extra-sweet ‘Cheeni Kum’ (2007), the little girl Sexy (Swini Khara) asks Amitabh Bachchan, when he comes back disturbed and confused from work, if he is “sad, sad” or “happy sad”? Although it seems like an innocuous, well-written, line for the movie, understanding and answering the question can simplify Life phenomenally!
Are you “sad sad” or are you “happy sad”?
Nobody wants to be sad. Yet sadness is unavoidable. It is a natural human state, an emotion, that you will feel when you don’t like what is happening to you or when what you don’t like happens to you. Life is not in your control. So there will be times when you will feel sad. When you feel that way, hold that feeling close to you. Examine it. Dissect it – Who or what is causing your sadness? Is there anything you can do about it? If you can, fine, go ahead, do it. If you can’t, ask yourself, is there a point in continuing to feel sad? The moment you come to this level of clarity over whatever’s making you sad and what you can do about it, your sadness will disappear. This is what celebrating your sadness really means – when you are willing to accept it for what it is and move on!
Celebrating happiness is easy. We all know how to do it. We share. We beam. We spread cheer and goodwill. Sometimes, we party. Interestingly, the same approach will work for sadness as well. Surely, a party to share your sadness will work as well as a party to share your joy! We don’t know it works because we have not tried it. Why? Because society has conditioned us to restrict celebrations to happiness and has associated sadness with a state of mourning. Osho, the Master, has a beautiful perspective to offer here: “Celebration is unconditional; I celebrate Life. It brings unhappiness – good, I celebrate it. It brings happiness – good, I celebrate it. Celebration is my attitude, unconditional to what Life brings.”
Life’s really about experiencing what comes your way. And over this you – and I – have no control. The real question is, how do you want to live your Life? Do you want to live it lamenting that nothing’s in your control? Or do you want to celebrate the fact that because you are not in control, because you don’t have to control, you are free?

I choose to celebrate this freedom every day. I ask myself when I am confronted with a situation, and an emotion connected with that situation: Is there anything I can do about this? If I can, I go do whatever I can to fix the situation. If I can’t, I let it – the way I feel about the situation – go. And I remind myself, in either context, not to sweat over the situation or the emotion it brings along with it – and, instead I smile! This is my learning from Life: celebrate it for what it is, the way it is, as it comes! So, no “sad sad” for me anymore, just “happy sad”!

Staying depressed is a complete waste of precious time

Dealing with depression requires a deeper understanding of what’s making you angry and unhappy. The moment you understand what is disturbing you, you can either let it go or fix it.  
A recent issue of India Today ran a cover story on depression. The statistics are alarming. One in every four women, and one in every 10 men, in India is depressed. That’s about 120 million people – enough to fill a state the size of Maharashtra! From death to divorce to health to stagnating careers, these people are battling unmet expectations and struggling to cope with the psychological impact of their challenged state of mind.
I know what it means and feels like to be depressed. About 10 years ago, I was depressed too – except that I didn’t even know I was depressed! I had gone to meet a renowned psychiatrist Dr.Vijay Nagaswami; I was reporting irrational bouts of anger. Dr.Nagaswami heard me out for an hour and told me that I was depressed. He said I had two ways in front of me to deal with my depression – medication or meditation. And he staunchly advocated the latter. Thanks to Dr.Nagaswami, for me, meditation worked.
I learnt to practice silence periods daily – a method called shubha mouna yoga. It required me to be silent for an hour each morning. That investment of an hour up front in the day helped me gain control over the remaining 23 hours! As my practice of mouna deepened, over time, I began to go to the root of my anger and my depression. Through that process, I understood myself and Life better.
Let me share my learnings here. You become depressed because something you expect has not happened. You wanted someone to love you, but she is not interested. You become depressed. You wanted a raise but it’s not happening. Again, you are depressed. The only person who understood you in the whole world is dead. You are depressed. You are accused of something you did not do. Depressed! You have a health situation that has crippled your functioning. You are depressed, to the point of losing interest in Life! So, in effect, whenever an expectation goes unmet, you are depressed.
Now, depression can manifest itself in two ways. As anger. As it happened to me. But that anger is not always there. A certain listlessness, a self-pity governs your daily Life. When someone or something interferes with it, you explode with anger. The other way depression happens is with sadness. Sadness is nothing but dormant, passive anger. You conclude you are helpless and lonely and that no one understands you. You brood all the time and keep pitying yourself.  Now, in either context – anger or sadness – the mind is not allowing you the opportunity to understand the futility of your being depressed. Which is why meditation – which helps you still your mind – is very useful in understanding what’s going on and choosing an intelligent response, and not a depressive one, to the situation.
Let us say you are angry, hurt, upset – and are therefore depressed – with the way someone has treated you. You can sulk for as long as you want, but that person is never going to realize that she or he has done something wrong, until you walk up and speak your mind. When you do this, that person can either accept your point of view or reject it. Now, you can never control another person’s attitudes or actions. You can only do what you can. When you realize that you have done the best you can, you learn to let go and move on. Now, you are not depressed anymore – because you are not suppressing your anger against that person nor are you sad that you have been treated shabbily.

Surely, this approach works in all contexts. The simplest way to snap out of a depressive spiral is to know that, in Life, it is always what it is. People and events are just the way they are. Your wanting them to be different is of no use. Unless people and things change, of their own accord, it is what it is. Period. So, don’t punish yourself trying to bemoan your fate. Get up and move on. Every moment that you are angry, sad and depressed, is a moment you have not lived your Life fully! Think about it. Staying depressed is a complete waste of precious time. And you don’t have much time either!!! As the famous Persian philosopher and poet, Omar Khayyam (1048 ~ 1131) says in his classic, Rubaiyat, “The wine of Life keeps oozing drop by drop; the leaves of Life keep falling one by one.”

Let your sadness make way for joy!

Don’t approach anything that happens in your Life from sadness.
A loss. Pain. A heart-break. An insult. All of them are not what we expect. And so we respond with shock, anger and sorrow. But after we get over the initial response, we must develop the attitude to shift the attention to joy. Exult in the opportunity that each of those surprising, often times even shocking, events has thrown up. A loss always points to a gain in the future. A loss also teaches you, through your grief, what is more valuable to you in your Life. You grieve a loss because you attach a value to it. This awakening to the realization of what’s important to you must call for celebration. And joy, not grief and sorrow!
If someone insults you, you must celebrate because you have now the opportunity to learn to live with an insult. A capability that you never thought existed in you. Your spouse tells you that she or he can’t carry on in the relationship with you anymore. Beneath the obvious layer of shock and tears, it actually opens so many more opportunities to start afresh in Life. To explore newer horizons rather than be stuck in a bad relationship in grief, in sorrow, in pain. Joy here means the suffering for both of you has come to an end. Yes the pain of going through the process of separation will have to be dealt with. But eventually it too will lead to joy!

So, in effect, there are no sad endings in Life. Why then be sad about the interludes over which we have no control? A beautiful song from the John Abraham movie ‘Jhoota Hi Sahi’ (2010, Abbas Tyrewala, A R Rahman, Javed Ali, Chinmayi) comes to mind. It is among the most spiritual songs to emerge from Bollywood recently. The message is simple: Why Cry! Life’s too short to be spent in sadness and worrying! 

Acceptance is always complete only when you accept ‘whatever is’

When sadness arises in you don’t repress it. Just feel the sadness – deeply, intensely, genuinely. This way it will dissolve into inner peace.  
Feeling sad is a natural expression. It happens to everyone. No one can escape feeling sad in certain situations – when things have not gone your way or when you have not got what you wanted or when you have lost someone or something that you loved with all your heart. But sadness is also a debilitating emotion. No one likes being sad. It wears you down. So you start hating being sad. And you become sadder. Soon you are more sad that you are sad than being sad for the initial cause of your sadness. Remember, when you resist anything – including sadness – it persists. It lingers on. So, the way to deal with sadness is to feel it. Give it all the attention that it seeks. You will then see it make way for a rare sense of peace within you.
Someone we know is dealing with a painful separation with her spouse. Their’s was a dream relationship. They came from different backgrounds and different communities. But both of them were so beautiful together – everyone felt they were ‘made for each other’. They made the right adjustments and got married. They soon had a child. Now, they find themselves drifting apart. And this is obviously coming as a shock to everyone who know them. The lady is sad with the turn of events – naturally! And she’s been hating the feeling.
She asked me if acceptance means even accepting something that “you hate”. I explained to her: “Acceptance is always complete only when you accept whatever is. So, if you are feeling sad, accept the sadness.”
“But sadness is so boring, dreary and makes me feel heavy,” she protested.
“Good. That’s the time when you must employ this awakening, this realization, that is born in you and release the sadness. Just let it go,” I advised.
When you let the sadness go, when you don’t battle it, it makes way for inner peace. Osho, the Master, goes beyond merely suggesting that we accept a feeling like sadness, and advises that we must “befriend” whatever we are feeling so that we anchor in inner peace.
This applies to all feelings and all contexts in Life. Whenever some feeling arises in you, don’t try to escape. Go the full nine yards – feel it, experience it, feel the pain, the sadness, even the initial suffering, accept it, befriend it as Osho says, and then let it go. Without hating it or condemning it. The happiness that arises within you after you let that feeling go is what will cleanse you and give you closure. Then, and only then, will you be peaceful – and be able to move on and live happily!

Grief and guilt are worthless, not you!

Grief and guilt cripple you. When they arise, face them. And they will melt away.
Last evening I was talking to a young friend who quit her job a few months ago and has been struggling to find another one. She quit her job because her boss used to bully her a lot. And she can’t fathom why she’s unable to land another one, especially when she’s exceptionally talented. There are times, she confessed, when she’s overcome by guilt – over having chucked her job and grief – over her inability to find another one!
I told her that grief and guilt are very normal emotions. We mustn’t resist either of them. Instead watch them arise, feel them, cry if you must, but also consider their futile nature. How can grieving help? How can being guilty help? When you examine these questions closely you will realize that what’s over is over. The more you live in the past, clinging on a wretched memory, the more you will suffer. Any suffering is depressive. You will start feeling worthless. So, when grief and guilt arise, face them with absolute clarity. These emotions are worthless. Not you. And through this awareness begin to look at what actions can you take to make the situation that you are grieving over, or feeling guilty about, better.
You end up making a lot of decisions in Life. Not all decisions may work out the way you want them to. You will, at times, even feel stupid that you took such a regrettable, lousy call. Don’t let that feeling of remorse pin you down. Learn from that decision, from the experience. In my young friend’s case, perhaps the learning is that she could have been more prudent about how she wanted to deal with a bullying boss. She must have now learnt that quitting her job was not the only option she had. She could have, well, reported him – especially since her employer was a MNC with some great workplace practices. Anything that happens in Life, if it hasn’t killed you yet, makes you stronger and wiser. As you grow and evolve in Life, you will see how wasteful grief and guilt are. Through your awareness you will learn to let them go. And you will then just be!