Live your story. Live a Life that matters.
Over the weekend, I was invited to share a transformational moment of my Life at a story-telling session. Now, I am often invited to speak at forums and events. And I almost always share my story. Even through the workshops that Vaani and I lead and anchor, we share stories – both from our own personal experiences and of what we see and learn from Life around us. We also encourage participants at our workshops to share their personal journeys so that they can bond and function better as teams. But this story-telling session that we attended on Sunday was different. It was structured, time-bound story-telling. It was a beautiful experience, hearing so many, intensely personal, stories from rank strangers.
So, there was the retired principal of a corporation school – he talked of how he learnt to live intelligently and serve selflessly from his own students, most of them coming from broken homes; they came only for the lure of the noon-meals the school offered, as it was the only meal the children got daily! There was a man who shared his story of remorse and guilt – over shamelessly demanding a dowry from his millionaire father-in-law, turning an alcoholic thereafter – and how he found love and meaning in his Life, thanks to his wife forgiving him and showing him so much compassion and understanding. Then there was this young, TamBram lady who rebelled against the institution of marriage and who was given an apartment to live separately by her conservative father – she talked of the various people she ended up living with in her apartment and what she learnt from each of them.
This experience only corroborated what I have always believed in: understanding personal stories matters a lot in relationships. I read somewhere, long, long ago, that behind every beating heart is a personal story. And, I have learnt from Life that, if you understand that story, relating to – or choosing not to relate to – the other person in a relationship becomes that much simpler.
Most relationships, across all contexts and not necessarily limited to a romantic liaison between two people, become messy because, after the initial phase of getting to know a person, there is no effort by either party to understand the other. Knowing their stories helps. Our part-time helper at home, for instance, came late to work today. Now, it is normal for us to imagine that she, like most other housemaids like her, is playing silly and truant. But when Vaani paused to hear her story, it turns out that she’s being repeatedly physically abused by her drunkard husband. I am not saying that we can solve someone’s problems by knowing their story. But knowing someone’s story surely helps us deal with them with empathy and compassion. We may or may not choose to engage with a person after hearing their story. And that’s fine. But at least we can avoid imagining and perceiving the person to be something that he or she is not.
For a person who shares a story, the experience of sharing is a therapeutic one. I can vouch for this. Over the last few years, Vaani and I have healed greatly through being open and sharing our story – through my Book, my Talks, events that we curate and through this Blog that I write daily. So contrary to popular perception that sharing our stories makes us vulnerable, I would say, sharing our stories helps us experience the warmth, compassion, love and kindness that makes up the Universe!
But, most important, your story shapes you – it refines you, makes you stronger and helps you evolve. It leads you to live a Life that matters. But for that to happen, you must embrace the experiences that come your way, without resisting them, and be prepared to go through your own adventure. So, when your story unfolds, when you path begins to appear, just offer yourself to be led by Life. You can be sure that, over time, you will arrive where you must – and where you belong!
It is to live dangerously that we have been created!
Ever since senior journalist and TV anchor Rajdeep Sardesai asked Tennis ace Sania Mirza that question about ‘settling down and motherhood’ a couple of days ago, the question itself is being seen as an affront to gender equality. I believe going forward this question will be categorized as one among those that we must never ask a woman. I don’t disagree.
Further, while I believe that the entire argument in favor of ‘settling down’, if at all, must be gender neutral, I prefer to campaign for avoiding the very argument.
Anxious parents and a ‘holier-than-thou’ society define ‘settling down’ as ‘having an income, saving money, creating material assets, raising a family and begetting children’. It’s a simple thumb rule that the world expects you to conform to – “if you have attained adulthood, necessarily, you shall earn money, marry, buy a house and procreate”. If you notice, in the popular notion or context of ‘settling down’, no one talks about ‘being happy’. Which is why I find this ‘settling down’ discourse sinful.
I believe we are missing the moot point here. The reason we have been created – to be sure, each of us has been born without our asking to be born; that’s incontrovertible evidence that we have been created – is not to merely ‘earn a living’. We have been created human so that we can experience the beauty and magic of this ‘uncertain, inscrutable’ Life and be happy. Osho, the Master, says we have ruined this experience by building a social framework, partly financial, partly material, and wholesomely driven by our wants and expectations, around something that can never be boxed or contained. Life is free-flowing, it has a mind of its own. It is unpredictable. And every moment of living is like a bungee jump, a deep dive into the unknown. Into this deep dive, by introducing a pay check, we think we have stemmed the uncertainty and made the whole experience predictable. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Financial security is an illusion – it is human-made and so doesn’t conform to Life’s free spirit. Which is why, despite all the money you may have, you still can’t fix some quirky health situations, you can’t unentangle complex relationship issues, you can’t buy happiness, you can’t find inner peace or you just can’t get a good night’s sleep!
Osho encouraged us to dump the false comfort that financial security gave us. He invited us to embrace uncertainty and live dangerously. He called his point of view ‘the joy of living dangerously’. He championed for a Life beyond ‘earning a living’, beyond the ‘slaving-earning-saving-procreating’ paradigm. He invited people to be happy, doing whatever gave them happiness. Alan Watts, the British philosopher, invited us to choose the Life we want to live by first imagining what we would be doing in a world where money was not an object. Joseph Campbell, the American mythologist and author, beseeched us to follow our bliss. All their clarion calls asked of us to choose to be happy even if it meant being unsettled. Happiness above all else, was their mantra. I completely agree with all of them.
For reasons that I can never understand or explain beyond what I share daily, here on this Blog, or what I have shared in my Book ‘Fall Like A Rose Petal’ (Westland), Vaani and I have been ‘living dangerously’ for years now. We have no money and we have ceased to seek financial security. Yet we are not insecure, we are not unhappy and we are not spending all our time – or sleepless nights – worrying. In a purely worldly sense we have still not “settled down” – we have no income, no savings, no assets, no health or Life insurance and a mountain of debt to repay – yet Life goes on for us. Just as it goes on for so, so many “unsettled” people around us, all over the world. The common thread that links all of us “unsettled folks” is that perhaps through discovering the “joy of living dangerously” we have learnt the art of “living in the now, in the present moment”. Let me hasten to add that living “unsettled” is very, very challenging no doubt, but it is the adventure that is the reward here! Which is why, having tasted that adventure, and enjoyed the reward, we find that “settling down” is perhaps sinful – if ever anything is sinful!