Be eternally grateful for what you have.
Someone I met yesterday asked me this question: “What is the simplest way to be in peace?”
And the simplest answer is this: be eternally grateful for what you have.
But an elaborate answer requires that we examine why we are not able to practice gratitude daily, consistently. The fundamental problem is that our minds are not nurtured by us. We almost continuously keep hurting ourselves by thinking negative thoughts, by pining for what isn’t there, by worrying. We are all badly bruised, battered in fact, within us. When you are injured within, you must first heal yourself for you to see the value in being grateful.
See, it is like this. When we injure ourselves physically, say with a nick while shaving or a cut while chopping vegetables, the body heals itself. If there is a deeper injury, with some care, we are back on the road. The truth is when the body is affected, it receives attention. The truth also is we injure our minds all the time but we don’t give it the care it needs to heal. Every angry thought, every remorseful thought, in fact every thought that is not centered around love, peace and gratitude, is injurious. Now, ask yourself, how many such thoughts on love, peace and gratitude, do you think out of the 60,000 thoughts that occur to you each day? Unlikely that we even think loving, peaceful, grateful thoughts for weeks on end!! Consider therefore how battered the mind must be and how much healing needs to happen for it to be ‘normal’ again. Unless we heal from within we cannot feel grateful.
‘Mouna’, the practice of silence periods daily, is the best way to heal our minds, to help it anchor in faith and patience. The 13th Century Persian poet Rumi couldn’t have said it better: “In silence there is eloquence. Stop weaving and see how the pattern improves.”
Stop weaving here means to stop worrying, to stop wanting to control your Life, to stop the continuous chatter in your head; it means to pause and reflect. When you are this way, you can only be grateful, you can only be peaceful. So, to be peaceful, stop battering your mind; heal it by anchoring in silence, love and gratitude!
When you are soaked in gratitude and love the Life you have, its beauty and fragrance are magical.
I turn 50 today.
In the normal course I would have been still been drunk – hung over – on alcohol from the previous night’s binge! But today I am drunk on the love that is pouring in from all around. I feel awed, humbled and grateful – all at the same time.
Way back in 2004, when we had met a Siddha yogi, on the advice of one of our friends, the yogi had told me, “AVIS, your Life will completely change after you turn 40!” I was 37 then. On my 40th birthday, in 2007, when Vaani’s sister and her husband from Phoenix, Arizona, had called to wish me, I remember telling them both this: “Oh! This is one birthday that I have so eagerly looked forward to.” I was thinking then, keeping the yogi’s remark – which I considered to be a prophecy – in mind, that post-40 we would get all the money that we so badly needed through some quirk of destiny and we would be able to bounce back from our “tight” (back then) financial situation. But nothing of what I thought of and wished for has really happened. In fact, within a couple of months of me turning 40, on December 31, 2007, we realized that we were bankrupt. We were left with no money, no work, and we owed Rs.5 crore, US $ 1 million then, to 179 people. (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal)
A decade on, we continue to be bankrupt. We still owe the 179 people the money we owed them then – Rs.5 crore! So, just reviewing the Siddha yogi’s remark may lead to the conclusion that my Life and Vaani’s has changed for the worse in the last 10 years, ever since I turned 40. But on a spiritual plane, at an evolutionary level, nothing’s the same about my Life. The Siddha yogi was indeed right. My Life has changed dramatically in the past decade.
I have learnt, in this time, the art of being non-worrying, non-frustrated and non-suffering. This essentially means that I have learnt to be happy despite our excruciating circumstances. I have recognized the value in being calm and stoic, and to trust the process of Life. This means, I cherish and practice faith and patience. I have learnt to live my Life meaningfully – choosing always to also be useful than just trying to only be successful. This means living Life with a Higher Purpose – Inspiring Happiness among all those who care to pause and reflect. I have learnt that there is no destination that you must strive to arrive at in Life – and that the journey is the reward. I have learnt to rise in love. This means Vaani and my companionship has thrived through this tumultuous decade only because we continue to be loving, in the present, continuous, sense. This has meant also that our children have seen our friendship evolve, grow and glow. So, they too now value companionship over a mere relationship. I have also learnt that everything happens for a reason and everyone’s a teacher. So, I don’t complain about anyone or anything anymore. I may have an opinion, a point of view on what people say or do, or on whatever happens to me, but I don’t resist anything, I don’t ask why or why me – and therefore I don’t suffer. And yes, I have learnt to say ‘thank you, thank you, thank you’ to Life for all that I have – I recognize that being eternally grateful is an incredible way to be soaked in peace!
These learnings make me feel so special, so blessed. I feel my Life, despite its attendant practical and physical challenges, is very liberating. It is filled with abundance and happiness. I am sure others my age – and older – feel this way too. But this is the first time I am turning 50! So please bear with my sharing these thoughts today. For this is what I am experiencing at this stage in Life, at my Point 50!!!
Life’s beautiful – as it is! And I am lovin’ each moment!
Wear your Life on your sleeve.
Yesterday we met a reader of my Book Fall Like A Rose Petal. He had traveled all the way from Bangalore to meet us. He said that his Life was in a shambles, he was deep in debt and his wife had “almost disowned” him. “I am lonely. I have nobody in the world,” he said, fighting back his tears.
Vaani told him reassuringly that he’s not as alone as he imagines. “We are here. The very fact that we are meeting you shows that we care,” she explained.
That’s so true. None of us is as lonely as we imagine we are. If only we step out and share our stories to the people around us – even to random strangers – we will find compassion and kindness in places where we least expect to find them.
I remember a night, from some years ago, when I was sitting alone and drinking in a hotel’s bar in Chicago. A lady joined me on the bar stool next to me. And soon she got talking to me. She said she was lonely and had contemplated going to the “edge” of Lake Michigan which was just across the highway from our hotel. I asked her to why she felt lonely. And she told me her story. Her 10-year-old marriage had ended badly, her new boyfriend was cheating on her and she was out of job – facing a string of rejections in every new place that she applied to. “I see no point in this Life,” she said, breaking into a sob. I asked her stop drinking and go back to her room in the hotel. I told her to get up the next morning and instead of going to the “edge” of Lake Michigan, I suggested that she walk along Lakeshore Drive. I told her: “Ask yourself this – if you had no problems in Life, what would you like doing? Focus on that one thing. And go do it.” Though I didn’t expect her to follow my advice, she actually gulped her drink down, bade me good night and went away.
Two days later, I saw her again in the coffee shop of the hotel. She rushed towards me, shook my hands joyfully and said, “I took your suggestion seriously. I walked along Lakeshore Drive and asked myself what did I want to do with my Life? It wasn’t a difficult question. Because all my Life I wanted to be a musician. So, I have decided to go join a music school and be a musician.” As she spoke, her eyes lit up, she beamed a radiant smile and oozed positivity.
I asked her: “So, between two nights ago and today, what has changed? What made you transform yourself from being lost, forlorn and lonely to being so full of Life?”
“Well, I guess, I shared. And when I shared, you helped me with perspective. I don’t think I was lonely really. I was just imagining so. And I was keeping so much bottled up within me – not just my emotions but also my deepest aspiration,” she explained.
And that’s so true of so, so many of us. We only imagine that we are lonely. In reality, the world is a warm, compassionate place with a lot of warm, friendly, loving, caring people. To connect with them, you just have to open up, you just have to wear your Life on your sleeve and you will always find people willing to hold your hand and help you along your way!
My conversation with international para-swimming champion and DGM, CTS Research Centre, Justin Vijay Jesudas, for my ‘The Happiness Road’ Series that appears in DT Next every Sunday. Read the conversation on the DT Next page here. ‘The Happiness Road’ is also my next Book. Photo Credit: Vinodh Velayudhan
“My happiness is eternal”
Two qualities in Justin Vijay Jesudas strike you when you meet him. Self-confidence and equanimity. Those are the reasons why Justin’s been able to pick up the threads of his Life after a car accident left him paralyzed neck-below in 2009. He’s a wheel-chair user alright, but he lives a full Life – he drives a customized car, he wins medals at international Paralympic swimming championships and at national rifle-shooting events, he surfs and he’s always beaming his electrifying smile! I seek to know the secret of his persevering spirit and positivity. “After the accident, when the prognosis reported that I wouldn’t be able to walk, I never asked ‘why me’. I simply got down to training myself to walk. But 18 months later, I decided that let me not try and control what I can’t. Instead I focused on what I could control. My shoulders were strong, my elbows and wrists worked partially, so I adapted myself to driving, swimming and shooting. I chose to be happy with what I could do instead of complaining about what I could not,” says Justin.
Despite keeping a day job how does he manage to find time to do all the other things he does? “The accident reminded me that all we have is one Life. So I decided that it is only in this lifetime that we have to do all that we want to do. It’s not the medals and accolades that excite me. It is the joy of being able to compete at an international level, it is the journey, of going out and giving Life your best, that makes me happy! I believe I may not have been so ‘alive’ had it not been for the accident and my disability,” explains Justin.
Doesn’t he ever grieve over what has happened to him? He confesses that he does feel grief, but only fleetingly – it doesn’t linger for too long. “My happiness is eternal. I see emotions such as grief or reasoning with the fate theory as a complete waste of time. I have faith in myself and I believe in enjoying each moment. And I know, as long as I am moving, feeling content with what is, the possibilities are immense,” says Justin.
Life may have dealt him a debilitating spinal cord injury, but Justin’s ensured that it hasn’t crushed his spirit or taken away his happiness! Bravo!!
Today’s Podcast reminds us that we are unhappy when we focus on what we don’t have. Instead make a conscious choice to focus on what you have – and be happy!
Listen time: 2:50 minutes
In today’s Podcast, I talk about celebrating what we have instead of mourning over what we don’t have! Abundance thinking, as opposed to scarcity thinking, is rewarding!
Listen time: 5:04 minutes
Those are perfectly rational, logical, unavoidable questions. But do we even need to be asking them in the first place?
A reader asked me those questions the other day. And I responded saying that the question we really need to ask ourselves is this: Of what use is your faith if it can’t help you live your Life without fear, anxiety, insecurity and worry? Look around you, and perhaps even at yourself, I told the reader. Are all the religious rituals that we conduct monotonously and mindlessly, in the name of faith and prayer, of any use when we are not mindful of Life’s gifts__the grace, abundance, blessings in our lives__ and instead we continue to still worry, fear and agonize over what the (unknown) future holds for us?
Let me share here a conversation that I had with our family priest a few years ago. A self-proclaimed champion of piety, who called himself a ‘strict Brahmin’, he came to me asking for career advice for his son who was looking to join an IT services company after completing his undergraduate studies in software engineering. He explained that his son had been selected by a leading software company through campus interviews. Yet he claimed he was worried. Our conversation went somewhat like this:
Me: Why are you worried Sir?
Him: I don’t know if IT companies can offer job security the way the government can!
Me: Why would you, a faithful servant of the Lord, for years now, be insecure __ and want to seek security in a government job?
Him: Sir, how can God guarantee job security?
Me: What is God there for then if HE/SHE can’t guarantee you security?
Him: Sir, velayadathengo! Don’t pull my leg, Sir! God can’t come and tell me that my son’s future is assured!
Me: If God can’t tell you that, the one who has direct access to HIM/HER, who else can reach God? Why do you pray then?
Him: Sir, praying to God is my profession. I still need ‘something else’ to tell me that my Life is on track and that my family and I will be secure!
With due apologies, and respect, to my family priest, I must confess that this is the problem with praying mindlessly. The truth is faith and fear cannot co-exist. If you claim you have faith and you are still fearful of your Life, then, clearly, no matter how hard or long you pray, you don’t have faith. Period. Besides, that ‘something else’ which my priest was looking for__and I hope he found it in his own way subsequently__is ‘mindfulness’. When you are mindful of the present moment, and are grateful for it, that would be prayer enough to make you realize your God!
You will then find your God in everyone and everything around you. Just consider all your blessings starting with the fact that you have a computer or a smartphone, you have access to the internet and are able to read this post. There are many, many, many people out there who don’t have this privilege. Pause and reflect on your Life, and celebrate the abundance in it! Don’t you recognize your God’s presence when you feel the air in your lungs? Don’t you see your God in the sunrises and sunsets that happen outside your window every single day without fail? Don’t you see your God in a child’s smile, in leaves rustling in the night breeze, in a cow mooing and in a dew drop? When you view your Life from this angle, you will find your God in every form of creation that you connect with. You will find your God in each moment. And then you will understand and value what faith and prayer are really all about. You will realize that true prayer is living, with gratitude, in the moment and faith is believing that, no matter what the circumstances are, you will be taken care of, provided for and looked after!