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!    

“With acceptance there is only happiness”

‘The Happiness Road’ is a weekly Series on this Blog that appears on Sundays where I share my conversations with people while exploring their idea of happiness!
This Sunday I feature the dancer couple Shanta and V.P.Dhananjayan.
There’s a glint in the eyes of the Dhananjayan couple that you can’t miss. Over the last three decades, I have noticed the glint every time that I have seen them perform or on the few rare occasions that I have spoken to them. Recently, I met them for about an hour at their Shastri Nagar home. And all through the conversation, I couldn’t but help admire that glint. Perhaps, I wondered, the glint reflects their state of inner joy and peace – what you will find in people who love what they are doing and do only what they love!
Almost as if he is reading my mind, Dhananjayan says, “Happiness is just being.” “It is about being satisfied with what you are doing, with how you are living,” adds his wife Shanta.
Picture by Vaani Anand
Dhananjayan qualifies his earlier remark saying he feels blessed in many respects to have had the “right influences that impact happiness” at different times in his Life. First, he considers himself fortunate to have been born in a family where his father, a school teacher, instilled in him the value of ‘giving’ and taught him to never cling on to anything material. “He gave away everything he had to his sisters, leaving nothing for his eight children. Yet, all of us grew up happy, even if there was no food to eat at home on some days.” Second, living and learning in a gurukulam, at Kalakshetra, helped him understand that “group energy spreads harmony” – a work model that he has preserved over the years. Third, his companionship with soul-mate and partner Shanta, says Dhananjayan, has contributed immensely to the way he has grown through and evolved in Life. “We share each other’s ideology. Our art brings our hearts together. There’s a great understanding between us…we complete each other.”
Picture by Vaani Anand
Dhananjayan believes that when you know what you want from Life, and what makes you happy, you can face any situation, any challenge stoically. Shanta says that when they left Kalakshetra in 1968 they were only in their twenties, but they were already clear that they wanted to dedicate their lives to “putting Bharatanatyam on the world map”. “With the 25 continuous years we have spent conducting our summer gurukulam at Yogaville, Virginia, with the global collaborations we have had with artists from various genres and with the contribution we have been able to make to propagate Bharatiya sanskruti and kala worldwide, I guess we both have had a very fulfilling Life journey.”
But hasn’t there ever been a blemish on the bliss canvas? A challenge that threatened to disturb their inner equilibrium?
“Oh! There have been many,” exclaims Dhananjayan, adding, “But art teaches you humility and gratitude. When you have that attitude you always overcome.” He recounts his 15-year saga to establish Bhaskara, an academy to preserve and nurture the performing arts, in Payyanur in Kerala’s Kannur district. Everyone, from environmentalists to common-folk to a cold bureaucracy to disinterested politicians, came between him and his dream. For years, he soldiered on, investing every available hour and their hard-earned money in the project. Initially Bhaskara was only Dhananjayan’s baby. But when Shanta saw his intent and his passion being challenged by those who were opposing the project, she jumped in too, backing him fully. But “the people who operated the system” queered the pitch every single time. Finally the couple gave up, selling their investment to an educational institution that runs a B-school there now. “I was drained. When people don’t want to understand you, it can be very difficult. Kerala may be God’s own country, but it is also the Devil’s workshop! One day, seeing me frustrated, Shanta pointed out that there was no point in doing anything, even if it is your dream, if your inner peace is going to be disturbed. I saw light in her perspective,” confesses Dhananjayan.
Would he consider the Bhaskara project an epic loss – something that he failed at? “Fortunately, the Bhagavad Gita has taught me to keep my mind steady. Yes, there may be instances when the mind will waver. That’s when my art has helped steady it again. I have realized that there’s no success or failure. I have learnt to deal with both joy and sorrow with acceptance. With acceptance there is only happiness,” explains Dhananjayan.
So, here’s the secret, as I have discovered it, of that glint in Shanta’s and Dhananjayan’s eyes: Do what you believe in and love doing, always be grateful and content, simply accept whatever comes your way and never let anything disturb your inner peace!

In Life’s fairy tale, there are no sad endings

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 ever want in our Life. 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 events has thrown up. A loss always points to a gain in the future. It has also taught you through your grief what is more valuable 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. If someone insults you, you must celebrate because you have now the opportunity to live with an insult. A capability that you never thought existed in you. Again, it calls for joy! 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!

What is certain about your Life and mine is that it will end one day. But interestingly when your Life ends you will not even know it. Only those who you leave behind will feel sad. And again you will not know that they are sad! So, in reality, in Life’s fairy tale, there are no sad endings. So, why be sad about the interludes over which we have no control? 

Choose happiness over worry or sorrow in each moment

Don’t try to make meaning out of Life. Make your Life meaningful.

Don’t dismiss Life as a game of Snakes and Ladders where you will always be getting the Snakes. Nor is it a game of Chess where you are a mere pawn. Life is such an inscrutable experience that it has a mind of its own, an agenda of its own and has a pace of its own. So, you will find it dealing you a hard blow when you least expect it or it will give you a bounty when you have completely lost all hope. When we label Life as “terrible, a pain, agonizing” in the first instance, or, when we call it, “benevolent, fortunate, gracious” in the second one, we are trying to make meaning out of it. Either meaning will disappoint.

Life is like water in your palm. It is not going to be there forever, and definitely not in the same way that it once was. So, the only way to make Life meaningful is to do something that makes you happy each day. Choose happiness over worry or sorrow in each moment. In the toughest of situations, you will find a reason to smile. Choose that moment to cling on and claw your way back. Once you have learnt this method, you can then start making Life meaningful in more ways__by touching other lives. Be there for people. Offer your time, your shoulder and your helping hand. Know that only you can make your Life meaningful. Because it’s your Life. If you don’t find any meaning in your Life, to your Life, it’s only because you have not exercised the option to be happy or you have not reached out to touch another Life. Think about it. It will make a lot of sense!

You and your mind – BFFs!!!

Your mind can be your best friend. So, don’t try to conquer it. Instead befriend it. Have conversations with it. Reason with it. Laugh with it! This is the only way you can get along with your mind, without it controlling you!

There’s an interesting story I remember reading. A sage was offering his prayers, when a very pretty lady walked past. He got distracted and kept thinking about her all day. The next morning he resolved that he would not get distracted by the beautiful woman. So, he closed his eyes tight. But when the lady walked past him, he was able to smell the jasmine flowers she wore in her hair and so he got distracted again. He was now angry with himself and vowed to close his eyes and nose the next morning. Yet, when the lady went past him, he was able to ‘feel’ her presence because he heard the sound of her anklets pass him by. Angry and completely lost, the sage vowed now to close his ears as well. But despite his intention being right and his making a valiant effort, he could still ‘feel’ her presence the next day, even when his eyes, nose and ears were closed. That’s when the sage concluded that it was ‘all in the mind’.

Indeed. It always was, is and will be so! But however hard you try, you can never control the mind. The mind is like a tennis-ball spewing machine that players use to perfect their strokes. The mind spews thoughts endlessly, like the machine spews tennis balls. On an average, a human mind spews 60,000 thoughts daily. These thoughts range from the bizarre to the fearful to the practical to the anxious to fantasy stuff, all at the same time. Which is, in most unevolved and untrained human beings, the mind is never in the present. It is clinging on to a past memory or dwelling in a future worry! The Buddha describes the human mind as being filled with drunken monkeys __ who never sit still and keep jumping from tree to tree, from banana to mango to orange, screeching and screaming all the time! And, says the Buddha, the only way to calm your drunken monkeys down is to have conversations with them. Which is, to talk to your own mind.

When you speak to your own mind, you can be very sure that you will not be interpreted but will be understood. That you can be candid, you can choose to disagree and still be on ‘talking terms’! Wouldn’t you say the same thing of speaking your heart (or mind!) to and sharing with a friend?

Los Angeles-based sociologist and author, BJ Gallagher, shares her secret for making your mind your best friend on her blog:

I’ve found that engaging the monkeys in gentle conversation can sometimes calm them down. I’ll give you an example: Fear seems to be an especially noisy monkey for people like me who own their own business. As the years go by, Fear Monkey shows up less often, but when he does, he’s always very intense. So I take a little time out to talk to him.

“What’s the worst that can happen?” I ask him.

“You’ll go broke,” Fear Monkey replies.

“OK, what will happen if I go broke?” I ask.

“You’ll lose your home,” the monkey answers.

“OK, will anybody die if I lose my home?”

“Hmmm, no, I guess not.”

“Oh, well, it’s just a house. I suppose there are other places to live, right?”

“Uh, yes, I guess so.”

“OK then, can we live with it if we lose the house?”


“Yes, we can live with it,” he concludes.

“And that usually does it. By the end of the conversation, Fear Monkey is still there, but he’s calmed down. And I can get back to work, running my business and living my Life,” says Gallagher.


So, stop obsessing over your mind. There are NO mind-control methods. You can at best make your mind your best friend. Talk to your mind, to your drunken monkeys – to the Fear Monkey, the Anxiety Monkey, the Sorrow Monkey, the Jealous Monkey and any other, as the situation may demand. And calm them down. Once you have achieved that, you and your mind, the two of you, can be Best Friends Forever!