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!

Why Total Surrender to Life is the most intelligent thing to do!

On the path to Bliss, total surrender to Life is what works ultimately!

But the fickle human mind tries to obsess with methods and practices __ hoping to find a way out. Because the mind is reminding you__and me__that it is in control. The mind is the biggest charlatan. And it revels in controlling you. This is nothing but your ego at work. You have a relationship issue, the mind says it can solve it. You have a health issue, it says it can solve it too. You have a financial crisis, the mind says there’s a way out. And so the mind goes on, dragging you from hope to despair and back, holding you in its clutches.

Here’s a simple question: if the mind can solve all our problems, why is the world grappling with so many issues, and why are people suffering all around us?

The fundamental issue is that the mind denies the existence of a problem. It begins with denial. You have an alcohol problem or a tobacco addiction. But the mind will make you deny the problem. It will justify that so many people around the world drink. So many people smoke. Aren’t they living “normal” lives? So, nothing will happen to me. And so you will pick up another drink and light up one more time!

Denial breeds anger. Because despite your denials, the problem persists. So now you are angry. It is like a chewing gum that you has stuck on to your pants and you are fighting to get rid of it. Your helplessness, caused by the gum’s obstinate stickiness, makes you angry. And angrier as time passes.

But your denying something or kicking around does not make the problem go away. Whether it is an addiction or a broken relationship. That’s when, besieged by the problem’s refusal to go away, you ask yourself “Why Me?”. Again the same logic from the same mind. So many billion people on the planet, why am I being singled out for this treatment __ be it addiction, be it a relationship, a cancer, a lay off, a business collapse or a scandal that ruins your reputation?

Again, after screaming yourself hoarse, asking “Why Me?” for months and, sometimes, for years, you come to a grudging acceptance that the principal reason why the problem persists is because you are resisting it. Grudging acceptance is a good thing. And often leads to fleeting, momentary experiences of peace and bliss. Once you have tasted bliss, you want more of it! And some more of it! Again and again!

That’s when, tired and beleaguered of course, enchanted and enamored by the bliss you have experienced briefly, you move towards accepting your situation. From trying methods and attempting solutions, you slip into acceptance. And while the problem remains, confounded and complicated, you feel peaceful. This peace encourages you to review your own Life. And the way you have lived it so far. In whatever problem situation you are in currently, you, for the first time, recognize that you have contributed to it in some measure __ big or small. Acceptance leads you total surrender at this stage. And, in a nanosecond, in a dazzling Eureka moment, you see that for your current reality to change, to transform, YOU must first transform!

This, “I must be the change I want to see in my world”, moment is magnificent, magical. And physical personal change alone is not what happens at this stage. Of kicking an addiction or having the courage to walk out on a debilitating relationship. What happens is you change the way you look at yourself. You realize that you are not the body. You are not the mind. And in that state of surrender, deep in the throes of real-Life, real problem, you experience peace, joy and a oneness with creation. That, really, my dear friends, is Bliss. And it need not necessarily be found under a Bodhi Tree! It can be found while reading this post on facebook or in a moment of privacy and solitude on your potty! The literate will call that moment an ‘epiphany’. For the lay person, like you and me, just know that it is the time when you will feel unburdened, unshackled and liberated! And you will not what that moment to ever go away!

The question then is, if Acceptance leads us to Total Surrender which in turn leads us to Bliss, all this in such a short span of time, why do we need to, for years at times, deny, fret, fume, kick around, bemoan, grudge, blame in the first place? Why not arrive at the Total Surrender point directly? Isn’t that what basic commonsense would tell you is THE intelligent thing to do? Indeed. It will. And it is. Think about it!

Accept each moment with gratitude and humility!

Accept whatever you get with gratitude and humility. Be grateful for the moment. That’s all there is to Life!

Is that it?

Indeed. This is it.

This moment is all that you__and I__have. Embrace it, immerse yourself in it and you will not have any problem with it and in Life whatsoever!

Bombay Jayashri: Grateful for the moment
The first time, more than a decade ago, I attempted to read Eckhart Tolle’s ‘The Power of Now’, it went over my head. Now, when I look back, I think the book didn’t needed that many pages as it eventually had! Just the title was enough to convey the power of the message, the essence of the lesson it taught! This morning, something I read in The Hindu, amplified this learning one more time. My good friend K.T.Jagannathan, interviewing celebrated Carnatic vocalist Bombay Jayashri, in The Hindu’s op-ed page, asks her of her Oscar nomination for her song ‘Pi’s Lullaby’ from Ang Lee’s 2012 movie ‘Life of Pi’. I quote the relevant part of that interview verbatim.

KTJ: What does this Oscar nomination mean to you? Where do you take-off from here?

BJ: It means so much to me, Indian music and musicians. I feel I have been chosen to represent them all. I really don’t know where I go from here. But I am just grateful for the moment. That’s all I can think of at the moment.
So beautiful. That she should just choose to celebrate the moment and be grateful for it! One can go on and look at the larger impacts the nomination can have in the Life of an artist like Jayashri, for Indian classical music in general and for Carnatic music in particular. One can talk of how India has once again proven to the whole world what we are made of and blah and blah. But the beauty, the joy, resides in the moment. And in celebrating it Jayashri has chosen the more evolved path – of living with what is!

Well, it’s easy to celebrate an Oscar moment the realist may argue. Pointing out that it is so difficult to celebrate a tragedy. Pain. Suffering. Death. How do you celebrate such moments when all you want is for it to go away? A joyous occasion you will want it to linger on, stay longer. And a painful one, you just want it over and done with. How then do you stay in such a moment and what power does it have in our Life?

You stay in a painful moment the same way as you stay in a happy one __ with acceptance. Moments don’t come labeled happy or sad. These labels you give them. Your mind is the villain – it goes on labeling it. A moment becomes sad because you dislike it. And it becomes a happy one when you like it. What if you liked every moment? Then won’t every moment be a happy one? This is the simplest and the easiest way to understand bliss and to attain it. Imagine your Life’s a big status message box, just as the one that sits on top of your facebook Wall. Each moment’s definition is a new status message. All you have to do is imagine that in Life, just as it is presently on facebook, there are no Dislike buttons and all you can do is simply Like each status message, each moment! This technique may not prevent pain from coming your way. But it will eradicate suffering for sure.

For instance, you cannot prevent death in your family or in your circle of influence. The nature of Life is such that the moment birth happens, death is inevitable. So, the best way forward towards peace and bliss, in Life, is to accept death as an inevitable reality. Surely, when a person you know and love dies, there will be pain. Enormous pain. But there will be no suffering because you have ‘liked’, by accepting, the non-negotiable dimension of Life called death! If you have transcended death, if you are no longer running scared of it, what else can move you or trouble you in Life?

Wanting a painful moment to go away IS the cause of your suffering. Replace that want with acceptance. Do away with all disliking and indulge only in liking what is. Because there are no ifs, buts, or logic, in and to Life! It is what it is. Period. And each moment is teaching us the immeasurable value of celebration, patience, faith and acceptance. So, deal with Life’s moments the same way as you would deal with the teacher that taught you in primary school__greet each moment with heartfelt gratitude and immense humility. Bliss and abundance will follow!  

For the musically inclined, here’s the video clip of Bombay Jayashri’s Oscar nominated ‘Pi’s Lullaby’!

Step out of a problem if you must solve it!

To even attempt a solution to any problem you are faced with, you need to first step outside of the problem, detaching yourself from it.
Problems don’t have a mind of their own. A problem is a problem because you see it as one. Interestingly, a problem does not even know it exists and does not even know that its existence poses a problem to you!  It is your mind that sees a problem, defines it as big or small and responds with fear, worry and anxiety or, at times, with nonchalance and/or callousness.
Know that you cannot solve a problem by fearing it. Nor can you solve it by being in it! So, really, to solve a problem, and there will be many in Life, you have to step outside the problem. You have to be an observer to your own Life situation and ask yourself what is it that the person in the problem situation must do to solve it? And, interestingly again, if you can step outside and be an observer of your own Life, the most profound awakening__that you have to do nothing about anything__will sweep you in its wake! Yet, while this may be a very simpler way of looking at Life, despite being an observer, you may want to and be inclined to pursue some action on a practical plane. At least you will want to attempt something. Do that by all means, but do that dispassionately. Focusing only on what needs to get done. Go about attempting your solution in a clinical sort of way. Don’t engage with any emotion. Work with the spirit of – “some things have to be done, let’s just do them”. Period.
Let’s say you are struggling with a relationship issue. It’s been going on for years. Nothing has worked between the two of you. Yet every time you propose a solution, speak with a voice of reason, you have been ridiculed. You have been ostracized in the family. And each episode has only grown your grief. The relationship is a burden that you carry with you. You are tired, want to be free and in peace. So, why not step out of the situation? Ask yourself, what would you have done if you were looking at this from the outside and advising someone else? Well, possibly, you would have advised a complete breakaway between the two people who find each other difficult to deal with. Sure. But please also advocate the separation without any bitterness. You can even advise a legal separation when two spouses are involved. But what do you do in a mother-son or a brother-sibling relationship? At best you can advise, just walking away.
Understand that sometimes, some things, including close relationships will not work out in Life. Time changes. People change. So, it’s best to leave the other person to herself or himself. Just stay away. No resolution is needed. No treaty is to be signed. Face it: the relationship isn’t working out. So be it. Let it be. You don’t spoil your peace and don’t spoil the peace of the other party too. This may not make the relationship any better but it solves the problem that’s arisen from the relationship issue.
Now contrast this approach with the conventional one where you try remaining engaged in the relationship and therefore bring in emotions into play while also attempting a resolution. Some typical responses: Why should I walk away? I have done nothing wrong. Why can’t that person understand? Isn’t it basic common sense that we can’t continue to behave like juveniles? What about the future, what if we spar again? The issue will never get resolved this way. It will only get vitiated. Because either party will want to prove that she or he is right. The egos are hurt. So each one will fight back.
Wishing problems away or attempting to solve them when you are in its throes is not going to make any problem easier to solve! While, as I said, the best approach is to let problems be, even as you too just be, if you must at all attempt a solution, do it by detaching yourself from the situation. Intelligent living is continuously making a conscious choice on when to act on and when to accept Life. Dealing with problems, interestingly, requires a bit of both __ action and acceptance!

Celebrate the Equality in all Creation!

All Life is equal.

Celebrating creation is our principal religion and only duty! Over centuries, religion, by its opportunistic practitioners pointing to an external God, has made bad spaghetti out of a perfect recipe for equality. Religion singularly has made us forget the divinity in all creation.

When you recognize that all Life is equal, and that you are as much the source of the cosmic energy, that which powers the Universe, as creation itself, then, you will discover the Godhead in you! Then, and only then, will your search for an external God end. When you have found God, why would you need religion?

Let’s do a small exercise to grasp this truth in a nanosecond.

Take an empty (water) glass.

Is the glass really empty? Or does it contain something?

Well, arguably, it contains air.

Now, drop the glass on a hard floor (not carpeted). Yes, just drop it!

It breaks, right?

Now what happened to the air in the glass? Where has it gone? Did it also break or did it go somewhere?

Well, it just merged with the air in the room. In fact, it always was merged with the air in the room in the first place. The glass was merely a container holding some of the air.

So is this, your, body. It is merely a container holding, during a specific tenure, a portion of the air, or the cosmic energy that’s powering the Universe. Isn’t that case strong enough to establish that you and everyone else are equal? Because all of us are powered by the same cosmic energy.

All our problems in the world, between us human beings occur because we identify too much with the human body. Without the body, without the mind, there can be no desire. Without desire, there can be no one-upmanship. Without one-upmanship, how can there be inequality? And without inequality how can there be ignorance? Just this awareness that you are not the body, that you are the God you seek, that you are the Universal energy is so brilliant and so very liberating.

“Desire, ignorance, and inequality—this is the trinity of bondage,” taught Swami Vivekananda, whose 150th birth anniversary it is today!

Indeed. We are enslaved by our ignorance of our true Self. We are trapped in our desires. And we are victims of the conditioning that we are an unequal race. The question we must ask ourselves is if you inhale from the same source I exhale into, how can you and I be unequal? If people across the world understood this truth, there would be no problems, no wars, and we will have peace and love everywhere.

Swami Vivekananda further said, over 100 years ago, and it is so true, so relevant, even today: “We believe that every being is divine, is God. Every soul is a sun covered over with clouds of ignorance; the difference between soul and soul is owing to the difference in density of these layers of clouds.”

By simply worshiping, and celebrating, creation, we will find our God and peace __ both that which we desperately seek and need!

Be devoted to Life to experience Bliss!

Our primary, biggest and most important role, as a part of creation, is to be devoted to Life. Devotion here means to be in a state of acceptance of what Life has served for us. And to serve Life in return, whenever and wherever possible, by serving other forms of creation. 

This perspective definitely runs counter to our normal tendency to apply intellect to decipher what Life has served us or laid out to us! Hence it may immediately seem difficult to grasp. 

Here’s something to consider though! Try peeling off the layer of provider, bread-winner, care-taker, leader, mother, father, brother, sister, son, daughter, doer, undertaker, of whatever role you are essaying in Life. What is left then is the realization that you are just another aspect of creation. This is your true Self. The problem occurs when you don’t consider this role at all and instead think it is your bounden duty, it is your responsibility to solve all of your Life’s problems. Which, to be sure, you cannot in any case. Yet you foolishly attempt it. And you come back beaten, frustrated and devastated. On the other hand, when in a problem situation, when you have something to solve, if you accept the problem, may be attempt a solution, may be not, but choose to live with detachment__knowing that the fundamental reason you have been given a problem is so that you become stronger dealing with it than become cleverer solving it

A beautiful story came my way yesterday which celebrates this point __ about devotion to Life __ and is worth sharing here. 

A man was sleeping at night in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with bright light and the Lord of Life (depending on your faith, you may want to call this person God or Savior or whatever!) appeared. The Lord of Life told the man he had work for him to do, and showed him a large rock in front of his cabin. The Lord of Life explained that the man was to push against the rock with all his might. This, the man did, day after day.

For many years he toiled from sun up to sun down with his shoulders set squarely against the cold, massive surface of the unmoving rock, pushing with all his might. Each night the man returned to his cabin sore, and worn out, feeling that his whole day had been spent in vain.

Seeing that the man was showing signs of discouragement, a voice spoke up within the man’s weary mind: “You’ve been pushing against that rock for a long time, and it hasn’t budged. Why kill yourself over this? You’re never going to move it” —thus, giving the man the impression that the task was impossible and that he was a failure. These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man.

“Why kill myself over this?” he thought. “I’ll just put in my time, giving just the minimum effort and that’ll be good enough.” And that’s just what he planned to do— but on an impulse, he decided to make it a matter of prayer and take his troubled thoughts to the Lord of Life. “Lord” he said, “I’ve labored long and hard in your service, putting all my strength to do that which you’ve asked. Yet, after all this time, I haven’t even budged that rock by half a millimeter. What’s wrong? Why am I failing?”

The Lord of Life responded compassionately.

“My friend, when I asked you to serve me— you accepted. I told you that your task was to push against the rock with all your strength— which you’ve done. Never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. Your task was to push. And now you come to me— with your strength spent, thinking that you’ve failed. But is that really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscular. Your back sinew is mighty. Your hands are callused from the constant pressure; and your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you’ve grown much and your abilities now surpass that which you used to have. Yet you haven’t moved the rock. But your calling was to be obedient and to push and to exercise your faith and trust in my wisdom. This you’ve done. I, my friend, will now move the rock.”

This is the essence of Life. That problems come and go in our Life exactly the same way in which opportunities come and go. When we can’t do something about a problem, let’s not get frustrated. As Paulo Coelho says in ‘The Manual of the Warrior of Light’, in such situations, “make your work, even if you dislike it, your prayer”. What Life expects from us is acceptance. If we can accept what comes our way, without strife, without grief, with limited action __ only where and when we deem it necessary __ we will find peace and bliss. Our true calling is to devote ourselves to the task of living completely, despite our circumstances, with what has been served to us by Life!

Speak Freely …. after the three Gateways have been crossed!

In Life__in a marriage, in business, at work, in everyday living__never say anything that you cannot take back; especially so, if it doesn’t concern you!  

Words are easy to spill. And so very difficult to gather back again. And words come over us easily too. Most people who make baseless statements about others, in the end, are as much affected as the victims of their verbal assaults are.

In social circles and in business workplaces, such loose talk is called gossip, at its most banal level, or called politics in its vicious avatar! Either way, the damage it causes to the fabric of relationships is the same __ it is immense! Because when you gossip or indulge in politicking, it is virtually condemnation without trial of the subject(s). In a context involving two people too, it causes irreparable damage. For instance, in a fit of rage, however justified your reasons may be, if you scream at your companion, “I wonder why I even met you in my Life in the first place?”, then, consider that relationship as over. Words so spoken maime the soul. They cannot be taken back even if you spent a lifetime apologizing. You may be forgiven, eventually, but the memories of the words you spoke will never be forgotten.

There’s a way to check such, perhaps even unintentional, indiscriminate and irresponsible use of words. Spiritual thinker and my Guru Eknath Easwaran (1910-1999) advises us to remember the Sufi principle of the “three Gateways of speech”.

The Sufis advise us to speak only after we have managed to pass through three Gateways, or checkpoints, first:

1.  At the first Gateway we ask ourselves, “Are these words true?”. If yes, we let our words move to the next Gateway.

2.  At the second Gateway we ask ourselves, “Are these words necessary?” If they are, we let our words move to the final Gateway. If not send those words back without uttering them!

3.  At the third Gateway, we ask, finally, “Are they kind?”. If yes, speak them. If not, make those words kind and then speak them.

Every encounter or event in Life is an opportunity to invite ourselves or be tricked or provoked into saying something. At times it is an opinion we like to share. Or an advice that we insist on giving. Or a judgment that we wish to pronounce. Or we want to flatter someone to get something in return. Or we simply say something for the sake of making our presence felt.

There could be a zillion more scenarios tempting you to speak. To throw words out, mindlessly, meaninglessly, unsolicited at most times, solicited too at some times. It is pertinent to remember that you don’t have to speak every single time there’s an opportunity or a provocation though. And the few times you must really speak, say it after you have applied the Sufi Gateways Test.

Everybody on the planet is a sinner. Everyone’s made mistakes and is making newer ones all the time. There really are no saints. Gossiping is a tendency to compare one’s own follies with those of others and say that I am less defective, a lesser sinner. It’s a free ego massage at the expense of someone who is naïve or meek or, hopefully, too thick-skinned. A person, who is at the butt of all the loose talk, but who’s seen Life and understands its true nature will choose silence and will never hit back with the same weapon__which is gossip__because she or he understands the futility in such a rejoinder. If the person, on the other hand, is sensitive or aggressive or both, she or he will fight back. She or he will grieve, but will not go down without a fight. Either way, using words aimlessly, gossiping, opining, passing judgment, is sure to mark  the end of what could have been beautiful relationships.

The next time you are beginning to say something, that doesn’t concern you directly, remember what someone has so wisely said, “Words can make a deeper scar than silence can heal.