Approach Life with a ‘WHAT IS’ than with a ‘WHAT IF’!

Embrace uncertainty and you will thrive. Fear it and you will suffer.

Certainty is a man-made illusion. Before you were born, where was the certainty that you would be? When you were an infant, where was the certainty that you would be provided for, fed on time, cared and loved? As you grew older you were tricked into this illusion of certainty __ you are sure to have a home, you usually have both parents with you, siblings, education is guaranteed, and you are bound to get a job, earn wages and raise a family! How much more simpler Life would be if only it were to progress in this certain, assured, linear fashion__one thing leading to another with such predictability and precision?

Just to demolish this illusion, and wake up to reality, if you live in any part of urban India, go to a busy traffic intersection closest to you. And after getting over the shock of seeing so many homeless, destitute children begging there, strike up a conversation with any or some of them. You will soon discover how uncertain their lives have been. And continue to be. Maybe some were abandoned by their parents. Maybe some were kidnapped by organized racketeers in the begging syndicate. They live on and off the streets. Abused by people like us who despise their presence and by heartless cops who extort their meager earnings from them. When you understand their Life’s design, you will awaken to the inscrutable, uncertain ways of Life. And when you think about it, you will just be grateful that you were born to your parents and not to theirs __ and there was no way ever you could have been certain of this realization until this moment!

It is also when you are faced with uncertainty for the first time, that you will stop taking Life for granted. A first layoff, a first health crisis, a first relationship break-down, a first financial crisis – that’s really when you begin to realize that perhaps you had read Life differently. That maybe, just maybe, you cannot really be certain about some things in Life. 

The truth however is that you can be certain about nothing in Life. The way to deal with uncertainty is to welcome it. Don’t try to wish it away. Because it ain’t going anywhere. It is always here with you. For instance, if you have a good job, enough savings and investments to take care of your retirement, where’s the certainty that your health will be all fine or that your companion still loves you? Of if you have a health complication and have the best doctors treating you, where’s the certainty that you will still survive? Where is the certainty that your family members will live long enough to be with you till your very end? So, don’t try to crave for a Life without uncertainty. If you accept Life as being uncertain, you will find joy in each moment.


So, approach Life with a ‘WHAT IS’ than with a ‘WHAT IF’. ‘What is’ is a celebration of the moment you are in now and there’s nothing uncertain about that moment. It is happening. So, there can be no fear of it. ‘What if’ is loathsome, fearsome and amplifies what is not yet. It is imaginary and breeds suffering. In the end, it is so very simple: when you embrace uncertainty you will find immense joy and beauty in this totally unpredictable, inscrutable experience called Life!   
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Lesson in Acceptance and Bliss from Afzal Guru



Just as it is in the English language that A precedes B, so it is in Life that Acceptance precedes Bliss!

Bliss has been marketed, over the centuries that human civilization has been around, as something that has to be pursued, sought for and found. In reality though Bliss is always available, 24×7, provided you are tuned in. Tuning in simply requires Acceptance of what is and not wishing what could be or should be or fearing what would be. Unfortunately, a large mass of humanity is wedded to what could be, should be and would be, and never really relates to what is. Therefore, Bliss is projected as something that is difficult to attain and something that has to be worked hard for! Resultantly, Bliss has a bit of a lousy reputation. To most people I guess it is like the Indian Chartered Accountancy exams, critical to appear for and useful in one’s career, but difficult to prepare for and almost impossible to clear in the first few attempts!

Since most of us are logically driven, let’s take a simple example. 2+2 = 4. This is what we have been taught. And this is what we have understood it to be. Also, what we eventually learned and found to be true too. Now, we accept that 2+2 CAN ONLY be 4. So, this Acceptance delivers us Bliss in that context. It is that simple. Just imagine how vexed you will be if you had worried about what 2+2 could be or should be or would be. Isn’t even that thought preposterous and unnerving? Think of someone trying to prove to the world that 2+2 could be 5 or should be 5 or would be 5! Now, think similarly of a situation in any other context of your Life. You get it? Focus on what is. Accept it. You will experience Bliss__then and there__in a nano-second.

Afzal Guru
Over the last couple of days I have learned a very important lesson from Afzal Guru, who was convicted in 2002 by a special Prevention of Terrorism Act court in the attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001 and was hanged in Tihar Jail on Saturday, February 9th. Even before I share what I learned let me clarify that I am not opinionating on his actions, or the judgments of the various Indian courts including the Honorable Supreme Court, or on the President of India’s rejection of his mercy petition on February 3rdthis year, or the secrecy with which his execution was carried out. I am also not opinionating here in favor of or against capital punishment. I am here to share with you what I believe I have learned from Afzal Guru’s last day in Life. My learnings are based on what I have pieced together from media reports. The Hindu’s Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar, in his detailed account, quotes a jail official as saying that Guru was the most ‘calm and composed’ of all the 10 prisoners, he (the official) has seen in his career, who have been walked to the gallows at Tihar. Guru apparently talked of the similarities between Islam and Hinduism__having been well versed with both the Holy Quran and the four Vedas. In his last hour, an official described (to The Hindu) Guru as being ‘joyful’, greeting each of the jail staff by their first names and saying ‘al vida’ (good bye in Urdu) to the executioner, looking him in his eyes, before the black cloth was drawn over him! Importantly, reports The Hindu, “Another difference between Afzal and others who were executed for terrorist crimes terrorists, the official said, was that while almost all others had made religious or political cries before being hanged, Afzal just walked the last 100 steps from his cell to the gallows as he normally would and went away wishing those around him.” Today’s Times of India quotes a jail source, sharing broadly the content of the personal letter that Guru wrote to his wife Tabassum, who lives in Sopore in Kashmir: “It was an extremely personal letter where he told his wife to take care of their son and not agonize over his death. In very gently worded language, he said that she should remain strong for their son and not give in to despair. As ever, Guru was calm and dignified in his parting words.”

My learnings:

  1. Right or wrong, whether you are committing it or whether you are being subjected to it, has NO relevance in the realm of what is. It is only what it is, AS it is!
  2. Only Acceptance of what is, irrespective of who caused it, can heave you up from the abyss of suffering and deliver to the altar of bliss!

There can be several arguments in favor of Guru and against him. Contesting his execution and celebrating it. Mourning the lack of human decency in the manner in which his execution was carried out with no intimation to his family; to saying his family too deserved to experience the pain that his purported actions caused to people affected by them. But I am inviting you to rise above all that. A simple question needs consideration. How many of us will have the ability to be detached from our worldly moorings when death comes calling, especially when we KNOW that the end is upon us? Guru’s ability to have accepted his reality__again, I repeat, irrespective of any judgment of his deserving of it or otherwise__led him to his bliss which the jail authorities saw as his being ‘joyful, calm and composed’!

So live with and love what is. Don’t try to avoid it or resist it. Open your eyes and see your reality. Accept it with humility, compassion and love __ irrespective of who is responsible for this reality. The moment you Accept your reality, you will be, and in, Bliss!



Uncertain Times? Celebrate ‘What IS’ than Worry about ‘What IF’!


Embrace uncertainty and you will thrive. Fear it and you will suffer.

Certainty is a man-made illusion. Before you were born, where was the certainty that you would be? When you were an infant, where was the certainty that you would be provided for, fed on time, cared and loved? As you grew older you were tricked into this illusion of certainty __ you are sure to have a home, you usually have both parents with you, siblings, education is guaranteed, and you are bound to get a job, earn wages and raise a family! How much more simpler Life would be if only it were to progress in this certain, assured, linear fashion__one thing leading to another with such predictability and precision?

Just to demolish this illusion, and wake up to reality, if you live in any part of urban India, go to a busy traffic intersection closest to you. And after getting over the shock of seeing so many homeless, destitute children begging there, strike up a conversation with any or some of them. You will soon discover how uncertain their lives have been. And continue to be. Maybe some were abandoned by their parents. Maybe some were kidnapped by organized racketeers in the begging syndicate. They live on and off the streets. Abused by people like us who despise their presence and by heartless cops who extort their meager earnings from them. When you understand their Life’s design, you will awaken to the inscrutable, uncertain ways of Life. And when you think about it, you will just be grateful that you were born to your parents and not to theirs __ and there was no way ever you could have been certain of this realization until this moment!

It is also when you are faced with uncertainty for the first time, that you will stop taking Life for granted. A first layoff, a first health crisis, a first relationship break-down, a first financial crisis – that’s really when you begin to realize that perhaps you had read Life differently. That maybe, just maybe, you cannot really be certain about some things in Life.  

The truth however is that you can be certain about nothing in Life. Because time is uncertain. Each moment is different from the previous one. It is one aspect of Life which is changing continuously. So, when time is changing, when there is no certainty with time, the measure with which you estimate your lifetime, where is the question of anything else being certain? Events keep happening to you over the course of an ever-changing time and each event changes you. People, therefore, too change with time. Much of how you responded to Life is obsolete, the same way as some of the technology you used in the past. As you grow older ideally your ability to deal with uncertainties gets better and better, provided, of course, if you have learned from earlier such episodes.

The way to deal with uncertainty is to welcome it. Don’t try to wish it away. Because it ain’t going anywhere. It is always here with you. For instance, if you have a good job, enough savings and investments to take care of your retirement, where’s the certainty that your health will be all fine or that your companion still loves you? Of if you have a health complication and have the best doctors treating you, where’s the certainty that you will still survive? Where is the certainty that your family members will live long enough to be with you till your very end? So, don’t try to imagine Life without uncertainty. If you accept Life as being uncertain, you will find joy in each moment.

The second principle for dealing with uncertainty is to know that your worrying about anything, especially about a future that no one has seen, is not going to change the course of your Life. It is a common tendency, with you as well as with other people, to get into a hyperactive mode, working out various what if scenarios in your head, preparing for the best and planning for the worst. In the end, none of your worrying or planning is going to alter what is to come. As Eckhart Tolle says, “Worry pretends to be necessary but serves no useful purpose.”  So, when you finally recognize uncertainty__though it has always been there__stress not your mind, instead calm it. 
Your mind is the villain in such situations. It will fight hard to demand security, to insist on a structure to your Life’s situation. If you succumb to your mind you will become fearful. And your fears will create, will aid and abet, your suffering.

 
So, approach any uncertainty with a ‘WHAT IS’ than with a ‘WHAT IF’. ‘What is’ is a celebration of the moment you are in now and there’s nothing uncertain about that moment. It is happening. So, there can be no fear of it. ‘What if’ is loathsome, fearsome and amplifies what is not yet. It is imaginary and breeds suffering.

In the end, it is so very simple: when you embrace uncertainty you will find immense joy and beauty in this totally unpredictable, inscrutable experience called Life!