Slow down when Life slows you down

There are times in Life when the journey may become awfully slow. That’s really the time that Life is offering us to enjoy the scenery. But we don’t have the attitude to see it that way. Instead we are obsessed with the painful pace and miss the magic and beauty in our lives.
The problem lies with the way we have led our lives so far. Running from event to event, crisis to crisis, trying to make ends meet, earning a living, busy working harder than ever before, meeting targets, paying bills, raising children and doing everything else except living__mindfully. And then as often happens with Life, the game changes. We are put in a spot where we cannot move; we are check-mated, if you like. It could be a health issue, it could be a career stalemate, it could be a bankruptcy, it could be a relationship tangle or it could be a legal quagmire. In such times, there may be a tendency to worry and to wish__pray, plead, hope__that why can’t Life fast-forward, why can’t we get back to ‘normalcy’? So, if you are bogged down in an ICU, you wish you could be back in the hustle-bustle of everyday Life. Or if you are caught in the midst of legalese, you just are hoping why don’t you win all your claims and are free to be away from all this disputing and arguing. Interestingly, Life’s not a handmaiden that will do what you please. It just may not move.
Know also that there is no fast-forward button on Life’s remote. So, when you are pushed to a corner by the cosmic design, the best thing to do is to not worry about not moving or crib about being between a rock and a hard place. Be happy you can breathe. Because being able to sense your breathing is normal. Running so hard that you don’t even have the time to notice you are breathing, is notnormal. Imagine you are climbing a steep mountain in a vehicle. As it negotiates the sharp hair-pin bends, the engine is finding the going tough. So, the vehicle is down to an agonizing crawl. Now, you can worry about that pace and concentrate on the dreary drone of the engine, or you can look out the window and see what the scenery looks like. This is what enjoying the scenery is all about.
“Smile, breathe and go slowly,” advises Thich Nhat Hanh (called ‘Thay’), a Vietnamese Buddhist monk. “Sometimes your joy can be the cause for your smile, and sometimes, your smile can be the cause for your joy,” he adds. Just being mindful of your being alive__to experiencing whatever you are going through, be it pain, be it joy__is what can make the slowdowns in Life more meaningful. Do all the things that you can joyfully in whatever state you find yourself. And don’t worry about what you can’t. If you are immobilized by a health issue enjoy the ‘grounding’ with a family member who is nursing you; pining to be able to run around will only cause agony. If you are cashless enjoy being able to live without money; hoping you had money will only aggravate your suffering. If you are caught in a relationship problem where there is much misunderstanding, enjoy practicing patience and forgiveness; craving for understanding from the other person may only accentuate your pain. Thay champions mindful living as a cure to all our ailments coming from merely existing. “Life is available only in the present moment. Even drink your tea, slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world, the earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future,” he says.
Slow down when Life slows you down. It is perhaps with ample reason that this message arrives on a Monday morning. To make a Manic Monday a Mindful Monday is your personal choice. It is only when you go with Life’s pace and flow, do you truly experience the magic in and live each moment!

Advertisements

Let go and discover the divinity in you!

There’s divinity in every aspect of creation – including in you. You don’t see it because of the way in which you have been conditioned to think of divinity.

The way we think of garbage, sewage, filth is with a sense of distaste. Yet, there’s divinity there too. When you see fresh vegetables, you see it as beautiful, sublime, pristine. The same vegetables when they turn stale or are part of wasted food and end up in a garbage dump, you find them detestable. Similarly, when you see a sewer, you hate the sight. But there’s a sewage system in your body: your intestines and kidneys are doing just the same job__precisely. A hallmark of an evolved person is the ability to see everything and everyone as equally divine.

A hunter once got lost in an African jungle. He thought he was going to die because he could not find his way out. But he was adamant that he would not pray to God. But he did something which was half-praying and half-joking. He said to himself: “God, if you exist, come and save me!” A few minutes later, an African appeared and saved the hunter. The hunter was delighted. But that night, he wrote in his diary, “I prayed to God, but a Negro came.”!!! Neither did he know nor did he believe that the Negro was indeed his God. Thay, the Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, teaches us to appreciate divinity in all of creation:  “A pebble, a flower, a butterfly, a detractor, a critic, a thunderclap, a garbage heap__all are manifestations of divinity that are there to help us, to awaken us, giving us a message that there’s more to this Life and the Cosmic Design than what we can even fathom! When you see, recognize and celebrate the divinity within and around you, you will find the God you are so relentlessly in pursuit of!”

  
Each moment in your Life has been waiting for you since you were born. The trajectory of your Life has been pre-cast and the problems you encounter too are the hurdles that are set up there to make you aware of your true power. To discover that power, your divinity within you, you must just let go. When you let go, you actually invite boundless grace into your Life. It may bring pain, the thought and the act of letting go, but eventually, it leads you to your divinity, to freedom, joy and bliss!

If you are mindful, you can see beauty in everything you do

Life’s beauty is not in the big events alone. Life unfolds beautifully in the normal, mundane, humdrum of everyday living.
Indeed a wedding, the birth of your child, the success at a job, a windfall – all of these call for celebrations. But even an everyday chore like putting washed clothes away or doing the dishes is beautiful. For the last several days, we have had to cope without the support of a maid. My wife and I have divided the chores between us, with our daughter chipping in here and there. Though initially it seemed strange doing stuff that we normally get done, I soon realized that here was a beautiful opportunity to practice mindfulness. The key about practising mindfulness is to be aware of what you are doing. When you fold clothes to put them away, watch your fingers do such precise work. See the beauty of technology that has allowed you to have your clothes washed reasonably painlessly. Or count your blessings, if you have a maid, who has washed them for you and even folded them__and that all you need to do is to put them away. Every time I have had to step in and help with household chores, I have felt compassionate for the people who collaborate, with reasonable precision, to make our everyday lives painless and seamless – the newspaper delivery person, the milkman, the flower seller lady who drops off the flowers for my wife for the daily pooja, the mineral water supplier, the launderer, the maid, the neighborhood grocer and the person who delivers our cooking gas each month…the list could still go on. I often think how crazy our Life would be without the contributions of these nameless, often faceless, foot soldiers. Whenever I think of them, I pause to send them my positive energy.
There’s beauty in every moment if we are aware. Thich Nhat Hanh (a.k.a Thay), the Vietnamese Buddhist Monk says, there is beauty even in the way we open or close a door. To whatever action, says Thay, if we apply the desire to be aware and mindful, it becomes a way of making peace. In the 2010 Hollywood movie ‘Barney’s Version’ (Richard J Lewis, Paul Giannati, Rosamund Pike, Dustin Hoffman), the main protagonist Mariam, tells the lead character Barney, “Life’s real. It’s made of little things. Minutes, hours, naps, errands, routine__and it has to be enough!”
So, wherever you are, whatever you are doing, do it mindfully. Then, and only then, will you see the beauty in everything__whether you are doing some spring cleaning at home or dropping your kids off at their play dates. If you can make each day mindful and meaningful, you will be soaked in peace and you Life will be ever so beautiful!

Celebrate the divinity in and around you

There’s divinity in every aspect of creation. There’s divinity in you and in me too! We don’t see it in us because of the way we have been conditioned to think of divinity.

We have been conditioned to think of divinity in the context of an external God. As someone who’s controlling and operating the Universe. As someone who cannot be seen and who’s more powerful than us. And as someone who must be feared.

Let’s try to understand divinity by re-examining our conditioning. For instance, the way we think of garbage, sewage, filth is with a sense of distaste. Yet, there’s divinity there too. When you see fresh vegetables, you see it as beautiful, sublime, pristine. The same vegetables when they turn stale or are part of wasted food and end up in a garbage dump, you find them detestable. Similarly, when you see a sewer, you hate its sight. But there’s a sewage system in your body: your intestines and kidneys are doing just the same job__precisely. The hallmark of an evolved person is the ability to see everything and everyone as equally divine.

A hunter once got lost in an African jungle. He thought he was going to die because he could not find his way out. But he was adamant that he would not pray to God. But he did something which was half-praying and half-joking. He said to himself: “God, if you exist, come and save me!” A few minutes later, an African appeared and saved the hunter. The hunter was delighted. But that night, he wrote in his diary, “I prayed to God, but a Negro came.”!!! Neither did he know nor did he believe that the Negro was perhaps the divine intervention he had half-heartedly sought. It can be argued as a coincidence too – but coincidences too have a cosmic dimension to them!

Thay, the Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, teaches us to appreciate divinity in all of creation. A pebble, a flower, a butterfly, a detractor, a critic, a thunderclap, a garbage heap__all are manifestations of divinity that are there to help us, to awaken us, giving us a message that there’s more to this Life and the cosmic design than what we can even fathom! When you see, recognize and celebrate the divinity within and around you, you will find the God you are so relentlessly in pursuit of!

Slow down when Life slows you down

When you are pushed to a corner in Life by the cosmic design, the best thing to do is to not worry about it. Don’t even complain about being between a rock and a hard place. Just be happy you can breathe.
There are times in Life when the journey may become awfully slow. That’s really the time that Life is offering us to enjoy the scenery. But we don’t have the attitude to see it that way. Instead we are obsessed with the painful pace and miss the magic and beauty in our lives. The problem lies with the way we have led our lives so far. Running from event to event, crisis to crisis, trying to make ends meet, earning a living, busy working harder than ever before, meeting targets, paying bills, raising children and doing everything else except living__mindfully.

And then as often happens with Life, the game changes. We are put in a spot where we cannot move, check-mated, if you like. Could be a health issue, could be a career stalemate, could be a relationship tangle or could be a legal quagmire. In such times, there may be a tendency to worry and to wish__pray, plead, hope__that why can’t Life fast-forward, why can’t we get back to ‘normalcy’? So, if you are bogged down in an ICU, you wish you could be back in the hustle-bustle of everyday Life. Or if you are caught in the midst of legalese, you just are hoping, why don’t you win all your claims and are free to be away from all this disputing and arguing? Interestingly, Life’s not a handmaiden that will do what you please. It just may not move and you can do nothing about it. There is no fast-forward button in Life. In such a time, be happy you can breathe. Because being able to sense your breathing is normal. Running so hard that you don’t even have the time to notice you are breathing, is NOT normal. Imagine you are climbing a steep mountain in a vehicle. As it negotiates the sharp hair-pin bends, the engine is finding the going tough. So, the vehicle is down to an agonizing crawl. Now, you can worry about that pace and concentrate on the dreary drone of the engine, or you can look out the window and see what the scenery looks like. This is what enjoying the scenery is all about. “Smile, breathe and go slowly,”advises Thich Nhat Hanh (also called ‘Thay’), a Vietnamese Buddhist monk. “Sometimes your joy can be the cause for your smile, and sometimes, your smile can be the cause for your joy,”he adds. Just being mindful of your being alive__to experiencing whatever you are going through, be it pain, be it joy__is what can make the slowdowns in Life more meaningful. Do all the things that you can joyfully in whatever state you find yourself. And don’t worry about what you can’t. If you are immobilized by a health issue enjoy the ‘grounding’ with a family member who is nursing you; pining to be able to run around will only cause agony. If you are cashless enjoy being able to live without money; hoping you had money will only aggravate your suffering. If you are caught in a relationship problem where there is much misunderstanding, enjoy practicing patience and forgiveness; craving for understanding from the other person may only accentuate your pain. Thay champions mindful living as a cure to all our ailments coming from merely existing. “Life is available only in the present moment. Even drink your tea, slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world, the earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future,”he says.

Slow down when Life slows you down. It is only when you go with Life’s pace and flow, that you truly experience the magic in, and live, each moment!

What time’s your appointment with Life?


The unforgettable ‘appointment with death’ scene from Agneepath

In the iconic, original, Hindi movie ‘Agneepath’ (Path of Fire, 1990, Mukul Anand), Vijay Dinanath Chauhan, played admirably, memorably by Amitabh Bachchan, tells the Police Commissioner, M.S.Gaitonde (Vikram Gokhale) that he (Vijay) has ‘an appointment with death’ at 6.30 PM that evening. The unforgettable dialogue is, ‘Apun ka maut ke saath appentment hai, kya?’.

I was reminded of that movie and that dialogue when I came across the concept of our appointment with Life. With some time to kill, I ended up browsing through the famous Nalanda bookstore at the Taj Mahal Hotel, by the Gateway of India, yesterday. There, Vitenamese Buddhist teacher, Thich Nhat Hahn’s (Thay) book “Our Appointment With Life” stared back at me.

It is such a simple and beautiful concept. In our everyday Life, all through each week, our calendars are full of appointments. Technology has made the calendar universally compatible across multiple platforms – MS Outlook, Apple, Google, smart phones and so on. Reminders and alerts are possible too. Overlapping events are pointed out. And at a glance a whole month or quarter or year can be looked up. Many people I know have often displayed enormous pride in declaring that their calendars are full for many, many weeks and months.

But what about our appointment with Life?

Thay writes in his usual, inimitable, simple, soul invoking style: “Our appointment with Life is in the present moment. The place of our appointment is right here, in this place.” So beautiful.

Thay quotes The Buddha from the Dhammapada as saying, “Let go of what is the past. Let go of what is not yet. Observe deeply what is happening in the present moment, but do not be attached to it.” This, says Thay, is the way to keep our appointment with Life! To live perpetually in the present moment.

 Agneepath’s’ Vijay Dinanath Chauhan famously demonstrated fearlessness by agreeing to keep his appointment with death, by venturing out to meet his detractors who were waiting to assassinate him. What about you and me? Of course, we all have an appointment with death – except we don’t know when it actually is! But we can choose to keep our appointment with Life by learning to live, with detachment, in the present moment – unburdened by the past and unmindful of the future. Simply, by being – engaged with present!