Trusting Life means you will always get what you need the way Life wills it!
I am often asked how Vaani and I can live in a complete ‘let-go’ given the fact that our bankruptcy endures, now well into its 10th year. (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal) And I always say, “We do our best in the given circumstance and leave the rest to Life. We are always given what we need by Life.” My Book, my Talks and the conversations we curate are peppered with anecdotes of how Life continues to provide for us, how it takes care of us and how always, somehow, it arranges what we need. We may have never got what we wanted, but we have never been denied what we need. And what we need arrives in its own time, the way Life has willed it – not the way we imagined it would come, but in its own unique, often mystical, way!
Yesterday was one such serendipitous day.
Our electric coffee maker at home, a 5-year-old instrument, had conked off some weeks ago. Replacing it may appear like routine stuff – it doesn’t cost much, less that Rs.2000/- I guess. But the last several months have been very hard on us. There hasn’t been any income to speak of. So, a new coffee maker joined the bottom of a list of to-buy/to-fix items on my Excel sheet tracking home (forever in deficit) cash-flows. Even as I added it there, I knew it was going to take a while before it moved from there to the kitchen table through a physical purchase. Vaani’s coffee continued to be unaffected though by the machine’s breakdown and its prolonged absence. Ask me, and I will tell you, she’s not just the world’s greatest coffee maker (she doesn’t need brewing machines, filters, percolators – she makes the best coffee, no matter what!), she’s a true ‘happyness’ maker too – she never complains!!! And so, we adjusted, accommodated and have been ploughing on, sipping great coffee nevertheless!
Yesterday, we were visiting a friend, a renowned actor; and we got talking about each other’s coffee preferences. He told us how he would never compromise on his coffee and explained how he carried his coffee maker with him when he went for shoots. And then, suddenly, he rushed out of the room to return with a small, new, single-brew Vietnamese coffee maker. He demonstrated to us how it worked. He then thrust it in Vaani’s hands and, handing her a special Vietnamese brand of coffee powder, said, “This is for you. Please accept it. Tell me how the coffee tastes. You will love it.” Vaani and I surely understood the cosmic significance of the gift, but we didn’t get an opportunity to discuss it between us immediately. Even as we got home, a surprise awaited us. On the kitchen table sat a brand new coffee maker – a regular-sized, electric, one – a gift from our daughter Aanchal to us. She had discovered that Vaani was managing without a coffee maker and so she decided to get one!
On the face of it, these are just events. Arguably, perhaps, unrelated too. A coffee maker breaks down. A friend gifts a coffee maker. A daughter gifts a coffee maker. But Vaani and I truly believe that Life is very compassionate. And what connects the three events is a simple message – trust the process of Life and you will get whatever you need, in its own time, when you need it!
Beyond celebrating this truism in each moment, Vaani and I try to make no meanings out of Life. Living in a ‘let-go’, to us, is just what it is. Let go! So we don’t question why so many pressing needs, according to us – including a health situation – are not getting taken care of. We don’t ask when that Excel sheet and its list of to-buy/to-fix items will either turn empty or when we will have enough not to have those items waiting in a painfully endless, prioritized, queue. We don’t feel frustrated, guilty or fearful that over a million dollars in debt still remains owed to people; we believe and we know it will all be repaid in due course with interest. We have simply let Life take over and we go with the flow – doing what we can surely, but never complaining when we don’t get what we want or even when we get what we don’t want.
This is what we know and have learnt from Life. Letting go is not scary, it is not difficult. You too can live in a let-go if you can learn to trust Life. This does not mean there will be no problems. It doesn’t even mean you will get all that you want. It means you will see serendipity in every occurrence and you will learn to be grateful for all that you have and get. And, interestingly, all that you have and get always ends up being all that you need!
Everything, absolutely everything, happens for a reason.
Newspapers this morning report that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has attached the properties and assets of a, now infamous, multi-level marketing (MLM) firm. A friend had messaged me last evening asking me if we were engaged with this firm in the past. He had noticed news breaking on the networks of the ED’s action and was connecting the development with our own story. Indeed we were engaged by this firm as consultants – as reputation managers – back in 2002~2003. That engagement changed our Life forever. I talk about, without naming the firm, this experience extensively in my Book, Fall Like A Rose Petal. In a way, the primary trigger for our bankruptcy can be traced back to this engagement and our ethical decision to separate from the firm. But, as I shared with my friend over WhatsApp yesterday, “No bitter feelings! Such is Life!!”
A few years after we disengaged with this firm and when we were in the throes of our fully-blown bankruptcy, a senior official from their side reached out to me. He wanted to know if we would be willing to consult with and advise his company again. The India operations of the company had by then come under investigation by the ED and local law enforcing authorities. So, the invitation was to consult for them outside India, out of Malaysia. I politely refused the offer. The official knew how grave our financial situation was. So, he dangled many a carrot.
And when I didn’t take the baits, he sent me this SMS message (I still have it saved in a Word document; I reproduce it verbatim from there): “AVIS – Wake up and smell the coffee. The interest rates will cripple. The banks will be after you. You will drown. Something will give way. Maybe Vaani will. She may give up on you. Maybe the kids will never forgive you. I am your well wisher. I have seen Life. Sharing my learning from business and financial disasters with you. I mean well my friend. Whether or not you take our offer up, take charge of your Life. Before it is too late.”
Of course, I thanked him for his courtesy and replied: “Vaani and I are soulmates. We are in this together. I don’t need to ask her this. I know this. And you will see us rise from the ashes. Like a Phoenix.”
My friend’s message of last evening and this morning’s newspaper reports brought back memories of this experience. My biggest blessings are Vaani and our precious children Aashirwad and Aanchal. I am eternally grateful to Life, that despite what we are going through, we thrive as a foursome. Of course, we are a long, long way off from rising from the ashes. But seriously, there is no rancor, no aftertaste of what happened and where we find ourselves today. Indeed the choice I made, based on our core value of integrity that Vaani and I hold so dear, to separate from this firm, altered our Life irrevocably. But I only see all that has happened as part of a grand cosmic design.
Because we separated from this client, to whom we had a 60 % revenue exposure, we had to bring in debt to fund working capital requirements and expansion plans. Because our business income did not match our plans and projections, the debt ballooned and culminated in our bankruptcy. Because we have been bankrupt for over a decade now, our debt of Rs.5 crore remains unpaid to our 179 creditors, and our Life has been so, so, so painful and materially dysfunctional. Yet, because of all this, we learnt the value of reflection, resilience and resourcefulness. Because of all this, we learnt that it is possible to be fearless, face Life no matter how daunting it is and be happy despite the excruciating circumstances. Because of all this we have awakened to our Higher Purpose of “Inspiring Happiness” among all those who care to pause and reflect.
The singular, big learning in Life I have had is this: everything, absolutely everything, happens for a reason. Every event that occurs, every individual you meet or connect with, has a role in your Life’s screenplay. There is a not-so-apparent, but unputdownable, conspiracy for things to happen to you, and people to come into and depart from your Life, in such a manner that you are where you are in Life just now. So, roll with the punches. Don’t be bitter with anyone or anything. Nothing could have happened differently to you. Everything’s happened exactly the way it should have. Everything’s perfect, just the way it should be. And you are exactly where you ought to be in Life!
Just tune in to the Universe’s energy to experience them.
How do miracles happen only to you? This is what a friend, who called yesterday, asked me. We were speaking to each other after a few years. He wanted to know if things had improved for us. (To understand the context for this question, read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal) When I filled him in, he asked about how Aash and Aanch were doing. The miracle question popped up when I told him that Aanch had found a sponsor who would support her Master’s Program overseas.
I remember my brother too once asked me the same question. I believe this question comes from an unevolved point of view.
All Life is a miracle. You are a miracle. I am a miracle. This moment is a miracle. Being human is a miracle. So, when every aspect of creation is pulsing with a miraculous energy, defining only tangible, visible ‘things’ or actions as miracles, to me, represents a lack of understanding of Life, a state of unevolvedness.
We think because we have an education, we earn an income and we can buy ‘things’, only such a ‘thing’ that we cannot do or get done on our own qualifies as a miracle. But if you pause and reflect, to have an education is a miracle, to have the ability to earn an income is a miracle and, therefore, to be able to buy what you want too is a miracle. So, in a very real sense, miracles are happening to all of us, all the time. We must be tuned to the Universe’s energies to be able to spot and celebrate these miracles.
I stay tuned by understanding, accepting and surrendering to the realization that Life is happening through me, for me, and not because of me. To me, even this ability to dexterously move my fingers across a keyboard, as I process a feeling that translates into a thought and forms a word on this blogpost is a miracle. I live in this constant awareness, in a perpetual state of gratitude for my miracle Life, and I savor and celebrate each moment that comes my way!
You too have a miracle Life; simply, miracles are happening for you 24 x 7 x 365. To experience them, you must tune out of the ‘earning-a-living’ mode and into the ‘living’ mode!!!
Life couldn’t care if you thought of it as unfair – or as benevolent!
At a dinner that I was invited to recently, I got talking with an acquaintance. We spoke about Life. He said a common pattern he had seen was that the “honest and hardworking folks always struggled more” and that, above all else, “Life is a game of luck”! I politely disagreed with him and said that there are no such patterns to Life. Luck was a matter of human perception and imagination, it never was an intrinsic flavor of Life, I added. The gentleman invited me to substantiate my point of view.
I believe that everyone has their fair share of struggles. Everyone. If we pause to listen to every story around us we will find that people are fighting their own battles. Those who are materially challenged look at the haves and imagine they have no problems. But the truth is that those people may have a different set of issues. They may have money, but they could be dealing with emotional challenges, with health problems or with identity crises. To be sure, there’s no one on the planet who is not dealing with at least one challenge at any given point in time.
Next, on the luck debate, I have to say that it is an avoidable one. I shared with the man a couple of instances from my Life’s story. I talked about how our son Aashirwad graduated from the University of Chicago even as Vaani and I battled our bankruptcy here. (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal) I told him how our daughter graduated from a college here in India and is taking up a Master’s Program overseas, even as we continue to endure our bankruptcy. In both instances, our children’s education has been provided for by the “benevolent Universe” despite our workless, often broke, situation. Our children’s education may have come to the edge of the precipice many a time but Life always bailed them out. Now, which part of our story is true? Is it that we are hardworking, honest people going through a trying, unlucky time? Or is it that despite our hardships, we are lucky enough that our children’s education has not been affected? The point I am making is simple – there is nothing really called luck. Life is just a series of happenings. When these happenings exceed your expectations, you exult and say you are lucky. And when they don’t, you complain that you are unlucky. Such labeling, and such definitions, serve no purpose. Life couldn’t really care if you think of it as benevolent or as unfair. So, by conjuring up and, worse, believing, in a factor called luck, you are quite unnecessarily complicating a simple process – the process of Life; where you only have one option, which is to flow with Life!
In almost 50 years of knowing Life, all I can say is that Life never promised any fair-play to anyone. It is only your expectations that bring you agony. Drop all expectations, suspend all judgments and don’t ever play up the luck theme. Then, you can only be at peace with yourself – no matter what your circumstances are!
Don’t come in the way of your young adult child’s need to experience Life.
My friend and his young adult daughter had a spat. She wanted to go for a late night party. And he did not want her to go. She called him names and abused him using expletives. Their fight became public knowledge with him sharing the entire episode on Facebook. While of my friend’s friends advised him to take a chill pill, take it easy and let his daughter have her share of fun, a few commented otherwise. They felt children had no right to “ill treat” their parents. Someone even said that children must not cross the line that parents draw for them.
I find this whole episode avoidable. It is an unevolved perspective that everyone connected with this incident seems to be bringing to the table. Why should any parent impose restrictions on an adult child? That the child used expletives, as claimed by the parent, is a clear sign that they both need to have a conversation not just on how to express themselves but also on values. Why should the parent rush to post this episode on Facebook? And finally how can it be insisted that adult children must toe the line of their parents? Are adult children individuals in their own right?
I am not discounting that any parent has a concern for their child’s safety – whether the child is old enough or not! Even so, adult children demand dignity, empowerment, trust and freedom. And in my personal opinion, from experience, I can say that when entrusted with responsibility, they always take pretty good care of themselves. On her return home from her first late night out, when she was in her first year in college, Vaani and I spoke to our daughter Aanchal on why hanging out late can be both fun and risky. So, we shared some tips to make the experience easier for her and for us. After that night, she has always handled her late nights, her safety and her timings remarkably well.
Fundamentally, it doesn’t matter whether someone is an adult or a minor, a parent or an adult child, trust is integral to make people behave responsibly. When you tell someone you trust them you are inviting them to act with both empowerment and prudence. This is the only way forward to make relationships thrive.
Of course, when someone you trust lets you down or if they are circumstantially challenged to be unable to live up to your trust, then you must have honest conversations. You must invite them, while being compassionate, to introspect and course correct. And if they have a genuine reason for whatever happened to them, demonstrate more trust in them by being patient with their situation. At the end of the day, people are shaped by the experiences they go through and not only by the advice they receive.
So, coming back to this instance of parenting adult children, don’t come in the way of their need to experience Life on their terms. Just be available for them, to hug them and take them home, if ever they stumble or fall.
In any relationship, only the two people in it have a right to a view on it.
A reader recently asked me how I could talk so openly about the lack of chemistry I have with my mother. He was referring to a chapter, “You Can Never Get A Perfect 10!”, in my Book, Fall Like A Rose Petal. He said that the most sacred relationship in Life is the one between a mother and child. “How can you demean that relationship by talking about it in public? In Indian culture a mother is equivalent to God. How can you rubbish your God,” he asked.
I never deny anyone the right to ask me questions. In fact, it is only through questions and answers, and more questions and more answers, that clarity is got. So, I thanked the reader for his question. And then I explained my point of view.
It was precisely for the reason that the reader deems as sacrosanct that I decided to talk about the broken relationship I have with my mother. I was telling my children (my Book is a set of letters written to my children Aashirwad and Aanchal), and through them I was telling the readers, that Life is never the same for everyone and everything is never perfect in everyone’s Life. Some department or the other is always broken. Some have a health issue. Some have a career issue. Some have relationships issues with spouses, siblings, colleagues, or as in my case, with a parent or parents. Struggling to make your Life perfect, which is striving for a 10/10, is what leads to your suffering. Denying that a problem exists or hiding from it also causes suffering.
For the longest time, I suffered. I thought something was wrong with me. How can my mother and I have a broken relationship, I asked myself. After all, she bore me in her womb and brought me into this Universe. But the more I tried to adjust, accommodate or atone (for my excesses in trying to fight her ways), the more I found her manipulative. So, I decided to be honest to myself. I said that, perhaps, I don’t have smooth, compassionate, mother-child equation in my Life’s design. I let go. And I let be. Almost magically, a 25-year strife-ridden environment fell peaceful. Here I must appreciate my mother as well. She too appears to have let go and let be. I believe this brutal honesty has helped our entire family. We all remain estranged, with Vaani and me on one side, and my parents and siblings on the other. But I guess everyone is peaceful where they are.
In trying to make sense of strained relationships, you can never get anywhere as long as you try to understand who’s right or who’s wrong. Because each party will keep maintaining that they are right. Instead, be honest with yourself first. Are you able to relate to the person you have a relationship with? If you are not able to relate, then no reason is a good one to cling on to the relationship. No amount of arguing, justifying or showcasing evidence is going to help. You both don’t relate to each other because your value systems don’t match; you are on different wavelengths, you live in different orbits! The nature of the relationship is irrelevant when there is no relating. All this talk about society, culture, dharma, tradition, sacredness and God – all this is a whole lot of fluff! No one but the two people in a relationship have a right to talk about their issues or how they feel in each other’s presence or how they experience each other. And even if one has a problem, even if it is because of their own doing, they have a right to recognize that relationship as dead.
Life is inscrutable and unpredictable. It defies logic and definition. And therefore boxing relationships in frameworks and talking of culture, tradition or roping in God to preserve a suffering-infested status quo is meaningless. Just as a husband and a wife can have a problem and separate, so can any two people, in any relationship, have a problem and choose to separate. Bottom-line: when you cease to relate, no matter what is the relationship, or who it is with, let go. And let be.