The idea of living is not about obsessing over earning-a-living.

At the end of the day, if you can’t sleep well, you need to examine what’s it that’s disturbing you. And you must weed that factor out of your Life. 

This morning I met someone who says he isn’t able to get a good night’s sleep. “I used to love my work. I still believe I love it. But I don’t know why I am unable to enjoy what I am doing, and of late, I am even unable to sleep well. The stress keeps me awake,” he confessed. I told this gentleman that if he is unable to enjoy whatever he is doing, and if it has reached a point where he is unable to sleep well, he must seriously pause and reflect. I advised him to step out of his “work-work-work zone”, take a vacation and think through his Life!
This is the nub: nothing, nothing at all, is worth losing your sleep over. If you can’t take your mind off work it means one of three things: 1. You don’t have enough reliable support (staff, material, resources) to do what you are doing 2. The system (colleagues, bosses, clients, work culture) at your workplace is highly disorganized and stress-ridden. 3. You are a lousy leader and manager. There could be other reasons. But these three are principal among them. If you don’t enjoy what you are doing, then you must go do what you love doing. Simple. And if you enjoy your work but if any of those reasons is/are prevalent in your work Life, you must get down to fixing them. Simple again!
The idea of living is not about obsessing over earning-a-living. It is not about slogging for 40 years and then hoping to find happiness, inner peace and freedom to do what you want to do at the age of 60. You have been given this Life so that you can be yourself, so that you can go do what you love doing. Now, when something disturbs your equilibrium, you must zero in on what it is and weed it out. Rather than suffer and endure a Life that you don’t want, you must make choices that help you with your inner peace, and help you to find and follow your bliss.

I simply loved what Svetlana Alexievich, the Belarusian author who won the Nobel for Literature yesterday, said: “I do only one thing. I buy freedom for myself.” Indeed! What is the point of this Life if you cannot be who you want, do what you want to do, live the Life that you believe in and, at the end of the day, get a good night’s sleep?  

Demystifying work and prayer

All of us work hard. And almost all of us pray. Many of us wonder also if prayer works. Especially when our prayers are not ‘answered’. Consider this: if you make your work, your prayer, you will neither need to work nor pray!!!
Think about it. Life will be so simple and blissful. Let’s demystify two myths that the world has been conditioned to. 1. The first myth is that work is drudgery. That it is something you to do earn a living. Rubbish. Work is everything you do. Whatever you are immersed in, you are working on it now. You are working at your computer now. You are working on your facebook Page now. If you get up and go for a bath, you are working on cleaning yourself up. When you eat, you are working on your appetite and so on. Work therefore is everything we do living and not only what we do to earn a living. 2. The second myth is that prayer is asking something from God. That it is a method. That it is a practice. That it is a dialogue. Every religion has made prayer a ritual with their prescriptions and standard operating procedures. The reality is that prayer is about being immersed, being alive, and, in fact, just being. So, being in the present moment, engaged with Life, living, and totally immersing yourself, mindfully, in thought, body and soul with whateveryou are doing, is prayer.

Offer whatever you do to Life, in gratitude. If you are cooking, cleaning, sweeping, making a presentation, making love, preparing a report, tending your garden, drinking, eating, whatever, make it an offering to Life. That’s when work becomes prayer. And Living becomes praying. And then you don’t need to ask anything from Life. All the answers are there in front of you, within you. When you reach this state of awakening, you stop treating Mondays as manic workdays and weekends as leisure days. Every day is fun. Each moment comes alive. And Life becomes meaningful. Blissful. 

Do such work that you don’t ever have to leave your heart behind!

Is your enjoyment better than your effort or is your effort more than the joy you derive?

Ask this question at the end of each activity and you will discover what gives you joy and what you are having to struggle with. Just this simple realization is liberating. It does not immediately mean that you can do away with or that you must stop doing all things that you struggle with. But with some review, introspection and iteration you may be able get out of doing or delegate stuff that you struggle with.

This simple question on what gives you joy can change your Life forever. Aristotle (384 BC ~ 322 BC), way back, had simultaneously simplified the definition of a career and offered a perspective on excellence. He said, “All paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind. Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.” In the absence of joy, any activity__whether it is mowing your lawn or doing the dishes to drawing up strategy to dentistry to leading an organization__will be a drag, a burden, and will eventually peter down to becoming a chore. But when you derive joy even the most arduous task will be light, easy and you will be able to accomplish it with amazing quality.

Joy, therefore, is more than a sentiment. It is a catalyst that makes living easy, wholesome, enriching, fulfilling and, simply, worth it. So, make an important choice today. To choose work that has you immersed in it, soaked in joy, drenched in bliss! Choose work such that in going out for or about doing it, you don’t ever have to leave your heart behind!

Making your work brilliant

Approach your work with humility and innocence. That’s when it will become a work of art!
&Pictures, a TV channel, recently premiered “Chale Chalo – The Lunacy of Film-making”(Satyajit Bhatkal, 2004), a documentary on the making of the Aamir Khan-classic Lagaan (Ashutosh Gowariker, 2001). As part of the telecast, the channel had organized a live interaction with Lagaan’s cast and crew. Famous Bollywood film-maker Karan Johar, who hosted the show, asked the film’s lyricist Javed Akhtar to comment on his experience of writing the film’s songs – each of which went on to become memorable hits. Akhtar replied, modestly: “I feel as artists, we must set aside our past successes, our fame, our glory, our ego and approach each new assignment or opportunity with a child-like innocence and curiosity. Then the opportunity becomes simple to deal with. You should never work with the pressure of past success weighing on you. When you approach your work with humility, it always produces great results.” In cricketing parlance, one would say, “You take a fresh guard and start from zero in every new inning.”
There’s great wisdom in what Akhtar has said. Think about it. No one really wakes up to do a bad job. Yet works of art are rare – in whatever field you choose to consider. Besides, very few artists, professionals, sportspeople or other achievers, are able to sustain their success and stay on top of their game. The reason for this is that they are weighed down by their own success. They feel they have to prove something every time they work or play or create. It is only those who, as Akhtar explained, approach their work with humility, innocence and curiosity, who end up repeating their success or excelling in whatever they do – consistently. Another all-time great, Amitabh Bachchan often confesses to being nervous every time he faces the camera. Imagine, a legend like him feeling so! But that perhaps is the secret of his brilliance and of his ability to stay relevant in a highly competitive industry for over 40 years now!
 
I see my work as a prayer. I feel when I work – write, deliver Talks, coach people, consult, lead Workshops – the Universe’s energy is expressing itself through me. I offer my being as a prayer, whenever I work, and I allow this energy to speak through me. None of what I do, or what anyone does, is an individual effort. Life expresses itself through each of us. And since there are so many of us – the expressions are myriad too. So, whether you are a housekeeper or a music composer, if you bow humbly to Life and offer yourself as an instrument for Life to express itself, whatever you do will turn out brilliant!

Immerse yourself in whatever you do to find bliss!


When you do something from your inner core, for yourself, for your joy, you don’t have to work at all! Then work become a prayer, an offering of yourself to the Universe. Then what you do always delivers bliss unto you!

Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan: Abhimaan
Last night I was watching Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s 1973 classic ‘Abhimaan’ starring Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan. Both play singers and in the early stages of their romance Uma (Jaya) asks Subir (Amitabh) about his singing. He says he sings for a living. She is quite startled with that answer and says: “So, you don’t sing for your own joy? My dad who is also my guru always says true music is created only when it comes from your inner joy!”

(Here’s a brilliant song from the film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DAb-ru6rjXs! Enjoy!)

So it is. Only what you do for yourself, and that which arises from within you, from your inner core, leads you to bliss.

This is not the same as concentration. When you concentrate you are still employing a thought of getting something done. When you are simply doing, without employing any thought, but are becoming one with the doing, with the action, then work becomes worship and you experience bliss.

One of the Emperors of Japan had gone to see a great Zen Master, Nanin. He asked Nanin, ”What have you learned that makes you a great Master, known all over the country?”

Nanin said, ”Very simple: when I chop wood, I simply chop wood; and when I carry the water from the well, I simply carry the water from the well.”

The Emperor said, ”I had come to listen to something spiritual. What nonsense are you talking? Chopping wood, you simply chop wood? Everybody does it; what is special in it? Carrying water from the well, you carry the water from the well? I have come a long distance, and I am your country’s Emperor. You should at least give me some spiritual advice.”

Nan-in said, ”That was my spiritual advice, and I want to make it clear to you that everybody is not doing that. It took me years to chop wood without any thoughts: to just be there, chopping.” And it is tremendously beautiful: the sound in the valley, the chips of the wood flying all over, the wind blowing through the trees, their song, their music. And I am utterly silent, just chopping wood. Carrying water from the well is the same. ”My whole day is the same. I have given you, in short, my basic approach of Life. Be where you are. Don’t let mind go away.”

This is the key. Not letting the mind to get dragged away in different directions. The human mind, on an average, thinks 60,000 thoughts daily. None of those thoughts often, on most days, pertain to what you are doing. Many of them are focused on the past__on remorse, guilt, anger, grief__and many, many more are steeped in worry, anxiety and fear of a future that is yet to arrive. This happens all the time. When you are drinking your morning coffee, when you are driving to work, when you are in meetings or even when you are talking to someone on the phone. Which is why most days have become dull, drab, monotonous, listless and boring! Which is why bliss seems so unattainable. Why, even happiness plays truant and you imagine you have to pursue it to find it!

Make a simple shift this Sunday. Choose one activity. Maybe it is reading. Maybe it is spring cleaning your home. Or maybe it is gardening. Immerse yourself in it like Nanin says, being silent, and simply doing that one thing. Don’t focus on getting it done. Just do it! Do it for 15 minutes. If you like it, extend it for another 15 minutes. Examine how you feel after this immersion session. That inexplicable feeling of peace, calm and happiness, is called bliss.

Live a blissful Sunday today!

 

True Happiness lies in immersing yourself in what you Love doing!


To be truly happy, just immerse yourself in what you love doing! Then, and only then, will your work become your play and your prayer!

We are both responsible and accountable for our happiness in Life! We have too often lived our lives the way others wanted us to live them. Over the years, conditioned by societal norms and family expectations, we have just grown biologically. For the same reasons, to be fair, we have worked towards professional and financial security. And have raised families because it was the logical thing to do once we got out of academic pursuits and became employed!  Yet, how many of us are doing what we love doing?

Have the personal courage to ask yourself these all-important questions:

     Are you happy doing what you are doing for a living now?

     Are you living or are you earning a living?

     If you had someone pay all your bills, and if you didn’t have to earn a living,  
      what would you have liked to be living for?

These answers you give yourself, honestly, are the only ones that can change your Life! Because when you know, and you accept, what can make you truly happy__that’s half the battle won. Happiness cannot be pursued. It has to be found. And you will find it, here and now, if you remove all the conditions in your Life that are making you unhappy. When those conditions disappear, happiness appears. It is as simple as that!

But how do you leave a lucrative job, that comforts you with security, gives you a societal edge and take up something you love, no doubt, but is hardly likely to reward you financially, in the beginning at least? This is where intelligent living comes in. You start a journey of a thousand miles, by taking the first step.

And that first step is to invest just 5 minutes a day doing what you love doing. One of the principal reasons people don’t switch to doing what they love doing is because they are too caught up doing things all day that they loathe doing! But 5 minutes is not a bad deal. However busy you are running your rat race, you can take a 5-minute-break and that shouldn’t hurt anyone, least of all you. In those 5 minutes, do what you love doing __ reading, writing, painting, composing music, researching, cooking, whatever! You will discover a rare peace in you in those 5 precious minutes. You will want those 5 minutes to never end. So, extend the tenure of that daily activity by 5 more minutes. Keep feeling joyful and keep extending the tenure as you graduate through this experience and exercise! Soon, in about a quarter, you will have created a daily window of your own ‘Happy Hour’!

Imagine from being frustrated with your Life, bemoaning the lack of joy in what you were doing, you have a full ‘Happy Hour’ daily to do what you love doing! And that’s 30 ‘Happy Hours’ in a month. If you are an artist, you could complete a masterpiece in that time. And if you are a writer you could perhaps complete a chapter of your book in that time!

If you are smart, as all people usually are, you may look at how many ‘Happy Hours’, over how many years, will you need to make that career switch from being a high-paid unhappy professional to being a well-earning, happy individual. And once you know your math, you simply go after the opportunity!

Even as I was thinking about this important link between what we do and happiness, I chanced upon these simple, yet enlightening, perspectives.

1.     One is from the latest issue of Harvard Business Review. HBR asks David McCullough, two time Pulitzer Prize Winner and author of biographies on two US Presidents, Truman and John Adams, what he thinks about retiring. McCullough, now 79, replies: “I’ve just started writing a book on Paris and the birth of aviation, and I can’t wait to get out of bed every morning. When the founders (of the US of A) wrote about Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, they didn’t mean longer vacations and more comfortable hammocks. They meant the pursuit of learning. The pursuit of improvement and learning. In hard work is happiness.

2.     The other is from the latest issue of TIME. TIME asks Hollywood star and former California Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, now 66, his views on his retirement. And he replies: “You would never see me retire because I have a great time doing what I’m doing. Why would I all of a sudden stop? It doesn’t sound normal.

Think about it. If you are not having a great time doing what you are doing, take the 5 minute daily plunge and move toward creating your own ‘Happy Hours’. Because only you are responsible__and accountable__for your happiness! The truth also is that nobody else can ever be happy for you!