Don’t ever feel embarrassed to admit that you are sad. If you are feeling low and lost, accept it, express it!
There are times in Life when you feel lost, tired, worn out and vulnerable. It happens to all of us. And when it does feel that way, the best thing to do is to share what you are feeling like. You will then find that the whole world around you comes together to make you feel warm and wanted. Truly, there’s more compassion in the world than you can even fathom – though, most often, it just doesn’t appear that way at all!
Most of the time we fight shy of sharing what we are going through with others because we wonder what they will think of us. Or we don’t want to “burden” others with our “sob stories”. Or perhaps, we don’t want to take any help from anyone should any be forthcoming after we share openly. There could be several other reasons. But all such justification does no good – neither to our morale nor to the situation. And, of course, many of us like to blame God for our trials, tribulations and fate!
A man was once sitting forlorn on the steps of a temple that he used to visit every day. His wife had deserted him. As had his young adult children. Because he was always grumpy, he had even become a social outcast. No one wanted to even call him to find out if he was alive or dead. That day, the man was very lonely and was feeling miserable. At the temple, where he meditated daily for an hour, the man had prayed for someone to whom he could tell his woes and cry his heart out. He asked God, in his prayer, if God could appear before him. After meditating, as he sat on the temple steps, a middle-aged woman approached him. She wore tattered clothes. But she looked very beautiful. There was twinkle in her eye. She approached the man for alms. When he looked away, the lady asked him if he needed help. She said, “You look lost and sad. If you want to share your grief, I can offer you a patient hearing.” The man simply continued to look away. She waited around for about an hour. And then she walked away. The next day, the man sat down for meditation again, at the temple. He asked God why God had not heard his prayer. Suddenly God spoke in his ear: “I heard you loud and clear. I even came up to you and asked you if you needed to share. I was willing to listen. But you looked away.” The man realized his folly and vowed never to take a prayer lightly again!
That’s pretty much the way many of us are. We don’t want to accept that we are feel low, weak and lost. We don’t want to share our grief when someone reaches out. We don’t want to express what we feel about ourselves, about Life. Indeed, to wear your Life on your sleeve or not, is a personal choice. But if you choose not to, don’t pine anymore about your situation. Don’t wallow in self-pity and grief. It doesn’t get you anywhere. People are so busy with their own lives, they have no time to “surmise” that you may be having a problem and that you need help. But if you bring it up, and share it openly, people will pause to listen and help. Or connect you with someone that can help. Or perhaps they will give you a hug – which will make you feel warm and wanted. Or, surely, they will pray for you!
At the end of the day, it’s your acceptance of your feeling low and lost and your humbly seeking help that leads people to shower compassion on you!
If you want to come to a home at the end of each day, in your family, never mince words.
The idea of a family as a warm, fuzzy place, a.k.a home, often times clouds our thinking when it comes to having honest conversations. In our endeavour to be nice to our kin, we end up being fake. Resultantly, the basic premise on which the institution of the family is founded suffers.
A family is a group of people. So are those whom you find on the street. So what distinguishes a family from a street crowd? A family is where you must ideally have people who are willing to be available to support each other. A family is where people will not, again ideally, judge each other. A family is where, ideally, you can speak your mind. But most families have stopped being supportive or are as fractious as any other ordinary group of people. Why? Simply because people in such families have stopped being honest. A ‘loving’ family is somehow (mis)understood by people as a place where people are ‘nice’ to each other. True love is not about being nice alone – it is about being caring, compassionate and candid.
The compostion of a family is really as plain vanilla as any group of inviduals. The word individual means ‘single’ or ‘separate’. Now, how can we expect these ‘separate’ people to come together and bond? Surely a blood relationship cannot help just because it is a common denominator that binds or connects all those who are separate. Bonding really happens when people understand each other. And understanding thrives only in an honest environment.
Building and sustaining that honest environment is everyone’s responsibility. A great family is one where everyone can speak their mind and be sure that they will be understood and not interpreted. Nurturing this spirit of being there for each other and belonging is a continuous process. There can be no room for pretention here. People must have the freedom to choose what they want to do, and do it the way they want to do it, yet, at the same time, they must be responsible enough to revisit their choices, making adjustments and alterations, should the family’s needs require them to do so.
If you want to build a great family, make sure the first brick you lay is that of ‘honesty’. Encourage open sharing, empower people to make mistakes, champion being there for each other and expunge the phrase ‘I-told-you-so’. We all set out to build careers and bank balances. Most often we get both right! If we spent a fraction of that time on building our families right, we will find greater peace within us and in our personal space. At the end of the day, that’s what matters – are you going back to your house or are you coming home!?
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!