To simplify Life, be aware, be honest

Nothing about your Life is going to change unless it does. Life is what it is. Feeling negative about it is never worth your while.
Someone asked me the other day if it is possible to not feel negative about Life at times. Of course it is possible. Yet, don’t expect negative thoughts not to rise. They will. Such is the nature of thoughts. They will always keep swimming in your mind. But you can develop the ability to recognize and rid yourself of negative emotions as they rear their ugly head. This calls for being both aware and honest.

Be aware first of the futility of negative thinking. Can you solve any problem by brooding over the fact that you don’t have a solution in sight? And is there any point in brooding over a problem that you cannot solve? Even so, negative thinking will insist – and ensure – that you brood. This is where awareness comes into play. It is simple – if you are aware, if you observe your thinking, you will not heed the negative thoughts that will arise in you. And what you don’t heed, what you don’t give attention to, doesn’t grow. Period.
Take self-pity and jealousy for instance. When you compare yourself with others, naturally, you are bound to pine for what you don’t have and feel jealous, often subconsciously, of what someone else has. Neither of these emotions is constructive. Self-pity keeps your feet nailed to the ground and jealousy fills you with negativity. This when you must be brutally honest. Ask yourself: What are you pining for? And who are you jealous of? Continue this train of awareness-based questioning: Is what you are pining for really so critical for your Life? Can you not manage without it? And is feeling jealous of someone going to make you get what you are pining for? These questions can have an awakening effect. You will be amazed at your own ability to realize that these emotions are wasted, unproductive and are shackling you. Out of that ruthless honesty will emerge the simple clarity that you are who you are. Unique. And what you have is all that you have. You will awaken to the reality that pining and brooding is not going to make you, or your situation, any different.


Employ awareness and honesty to simplify your Life. Being positive about Life may not solve your problems. But it will at least make you smile. As a line I often quote, ostensibly from the Guru Granth Sahib, goes: “Taqdeer teri apne aap hi badlegi aye dost; muskurana seekh le, wajah ki talaash na kar!” It means: “Your Life will change when it must, my friend…Learn to smile (in the meantime), without looking for a reason!”
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Onward…with a song in your heart!

No matter what, keep smiling. Keep having fun! I know it is difficult. But there no better way to get the best out of the Life that’s been given to us! Life loves those who continue to do what they do when everything’s going fine, even when nothing’s going fine! Think about it. If suppose you have a friend who is depressed. How much time will you invest in motivating this person to move on? To accept Life for what it is, and simply get going? You will probably visit this person every day for several weeks. And then finally, you will start tapering off… Your visits will become biweekly, weekly and then fortnightly. Why? Because who wants to be sitting around with a perpetually, adamantly, depressed person? The same is true with Life too. If you sulk, Life sulks too. If you exult, Life exults too. So, the best way to deal with the ever-changing rhythm of Life is to keep journeying along with a song in your heart!
The song in your heart is a powerful method to stay anchored and positive while in the throes of a crisis or even, simply, on a demanding day. What happens when you listen to a new, catchy song? Or even an ad jingle. It just stays in your head. And keeps playing on and on. Now, follow the same principle when you are facing a hard time. Pull back a song you love from your memory and let it play on in you. Every waking moment march along with that song in your heart. Your problems may not diminish or vanish with this technique, but the journey at least will seem easier.
Sulking can’t help your situation in any way. Just as frowning and frustration can’t. To be sure, smiling can’t solve your problems either. But it can brighten the environment and bring some cheer. And why would you want to say no to some bright sunshine mid-way through a cold, stormy, squally day?

Don’t let any irritant interfere with your living, your Life, fully!


Smile and feel your anger slink away!

Most of us get irritated with the small stuff. And it is how we deal with the small stuff that defines how we deal with the big stuff in our lives. Small stuff are the everyday irritants __ a flat tyre, a delayed flight, your smart phone or your computer hanging, an endless, boring, listless meeting, someone jumping the queue in which you are standing! All of these, and several more, punctuate our daily lives with alarming frequency. And each time we lose our temper or even feel irritated, we are losing that many more seconds, minutes, hours and days of our Life to stuff that won’t matter at all in the long run!

Junior Balamuralikrishna
Yesterday, a young, talented musician taught me an important lesson in how to deal with such small stuff. We were at a Carnatic music concert by the gifted artiste, whom The Hindu calls, Junior M Balamuralikrishna (so that he is not confused with the maestro and Padma Vibhushan awardee who goes by the same name). He was outstanding. I don’t follow the nuances of Carnatic music the way connoisseurs do, but I do know that there is a thing called concert etiquette. This, I believe, is to be normally adhered to by both organizers and audiences. Yesterday’s concert was organized to celebrate the 30th wedding anniversary of a couple we know very well. So, even as the concert was on, several late comers, walked up to the couple seated in the front row to greet them. Flowers were given, hugs were exchanged and wishes showered. Clearly the occasion’s spirit dwarfed the concert brilliance. Impolitely so too. Yet the artiste, Junior Balamuralikrishna, went on singing. What intrigued me was that he smiled each time he found the activity in front of him distractive or disturbing. I found it strange the first few times that he did it. So I thought it to be a coincidence. But, as I started to observe him closely, I discovered that there was a pattern to his smiling. He sang, I assume, flawlessly, immersed in his own joy of being able to create such divine music. And he smiled only when he felt disturbed or, if I have read his mind correctly, when he was irritated. As the concert progressed, something even more bizarre happened. The audio system at the venue acted up and at regular intervals started to give a shrill, shocking feedback through its speakers. I am sure any other artiste would have lost it for the number times this happened. But Junior Balamuralikrishna simply smiled each time, still singing! Then someone insensitively, perhaps inadvertently too, dropped a stainless steel tumbler. The tumbler landed on the ground a few times,  before someone grabbed it, and in that time it was such a jarring interruption. Everyone in the audience turned in the direction of the sound. But not Junior Balamuralikrishna. His smile only got wider and I could see the wonder in his eyes! He went on singing. But if I could have read his smile this time, it was saying: “Wow! Now, that’s interesting!” It was a beautiful, humbling and educative experience to watch this young man systematically turn sources of intense irritation into sources of amusement, wonder and amazement.

After the concert, I caught up with him. And asked him how he managed to smile every time he could have chosen to react with anger, provoked by the irritants. He replied, smiling, “I have been singing for 18 years now. I can’t let these (irritants) come in the way of my singing.

The lesson for me was simple: don’t ever let any irritant interfere with your living, your Life, fully! And there’s a simple way to define an irritant, the small stuff, and differentiate it from a problem or a challenge. I think it was ‘Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff’ author Richard Carlson who said that an irritant very simply is stuff that you will not remember at all a year from now. When you employ this criteria, more than 80 % of stuff that irritate you, bug you, bother you, worry you and clutter your mindspace, will fall in that IGNORE and SMILE bucket. Learn to smile at them rather than be enslaved by them! Only then will you live a fuller, meaningful and trouble-free Life! Besides, when you learn to smile at these daily irritants, your ability to deal with the remaining 20 % __ Life’s really big challenges__goes up phenomenally. (There’s way to deal with the big stuff too in Life. But that’s matter for another post, another day!) Even so, it surely makes sense using your available energy in fixing the big stuff in Life than frittering it all away on non-meaningful, unproductive things!  Doesn’t it?