It is only when you impose conditions on what is that unhappiness sets in.
For some strange reason, I woke up this morning with this song swimming in my head: “Aane Wala Pal Jaane Wala Hai, Hosake To Isme Zindagi Guzaar Lo, Pal Yeh Jo Jaane Wala Hai…” (Golmaal, 1979, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Gulzar, Kishore Kumar)
It is one of my favorite songs. It is also a song that holds a special meaning in my Life.
On the 5th of January 2008, when we were struggling intensely to come to terms with our bankruptcy (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal), a friend insisted that we go with him and his wife to a live concert of R.D.Burman hits (performed by a fantastic national-level orchestra). The hall was full. And the audience was hysterical. About an hour into the concert, I suddenly realized I had not even known which songs had played until then. I was there physically. I was hearing everything. I was watching everyone clap, shout, whistle and sway to the legend’s unputdownable music. But I was not “in” the concert. I was not present there. What finally woke me up from my worry-filled reverie, was this song from Golmaal. The lyrics meant a lot to me that day: “The moment which is coming will go away, if you want to, live in this moment, for it will be gone soon too…” Not that I had not heard that song before. But that evening, that song stirred something within me.
As they often say, things happen in Life, when they must – never a moment earlier or later. The next time my thinking was provoked and I felt stirred from within was through an experience I had with Swami Sathya Sai Baba, which happened within a week of the R.D. concert. We were meeting a messenger, a medium, through whom Swami spoke. I confessed to Swami that I was very worried and anxious about the future. I told him I saw no way out of the problems that we were faced with as a family. I said, “I simply cannot go on like this.” Swami asked me what would it take for me to be happy. I replied that if someone could assure me that my problems would be taken care of, I would be happy. Swami then told me that I would never be happy if I thought this way. “To imagine, to desire, to wish that you will not or you should not have any problems is the biggest problem. As long as you have this problem, you will be unhappy. Being happy means simply being – no conditions can apply!” explained Swami.
That conversation with Swami changed my entire approach to Life. Over the next several weeks, I meditated on Swami’s perspective through my practice of mouna, my daily silence periods. It helped me discipline my mind. The human mind, I discovered, is like a dog. If you don’t train it, if you don’t discipline it, you will be led and controlled by your mind. But if you coach it and teach it to “stay still”, and to obey you, it will never stray. Swami’s inspiration and his awakening message to me, and my practice of mouna, has taught me to be happy despite the circumstances I am faced with in Life.
It is the nature of worries and anxieties to debilitate. If they are holding you hostage, it only means that you have allowed them to be that way. The human mind plays tricks on you all the time. It consistently strives to take you away from what is and gets you to attend to what once was or what may possibly be. Which is why, most of the time, you are not present in the now. And happiness is always in simply being present in the now! It is only when you impose conditions on what is that unhappiness sets in.
It is your mandatory daily recharge, revive and repair time.
My daughter and I spoke over a WhatsApp call this morning. She shared notes with me from her grad school orientation program. As part of the schedule, she had an hour’s introduction to meditation as a concept and as a practice. I feel it is a fascinating idea to introduce meditation to young people. If you learn the art of stilling your mind, if you can be unmoved when standing in the middle of the whirl of Life, then you are living intelligently.
I remember as a young teenager, when I was studying in 10th grade at Nutan Vidyalaya in Gulbarga, Karnataka, my entire class went through an orientation program on Transcendental Meditation – a form of meditation propagated by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1918~2008). I can’t remember now whether I liked my first experience of meditation or not, but what I do remember is that my mother admonished me for “embracing wayward practices” and, worse, she accused my school of “thrusting the occult” on students. I realize now how wrong and ill-informed my mother was (and surely still is).
Meditation is an absolute must to still the mind and anchor it. The mind thinks up 60,000 thoughts on an average daily. And the mind thrives only in the dead past or in the unborn, yet-to-arrive, future. Which is why we often are feeling angry, guilty or grieving about the past or we are feeling anxious, stressed out, worried or fearful about the future. Meditation is simply about mindfulness – about bringing your mind’s fullest attention to the now, to the present moment.
However, as I discovered through my own evolution, most forms of meditation insist that you first silence the environment around you. That didn’t work for me. Because I was then (for the past decade) and I am even now living in a state of total chaos. The daily pulls and pressures on me (and on Vaani) are intense. So, I could never find “that place” outside of me that was calm and quiet. Which is why I embraced mouna – or the practice of observing daily silence periods – the moment I found it. Mouna, I discovered, is like spirituality – it places no unreasonable demands on you. You just have to be silent for a full hour every day. Let whatever is happening around you happen – you be silent! And this practice has helped me immensely. I learnt not to respond to stimuli around me. I just remained silent – no matter what – for an hour daily. Over time, I trained my mind to be still and focused only on the present moment. This has taught me how to be fully aware only of what is. It has been a truly liberating, awakening experience.
Any form of meditation is sure to work when practiced with diligence and with full immersion. Please choose what works for you. But please don’t think it is about religion or about a God. It is about the godliness in you. It is your holy communion with the Higher Energy. Just like your mobile phone needs recharging to function, meditation is your way of recharging, reviving and repairing yourself, by connecting with the Universal source!
PS: You may like to look up other posts on this Blog where I talk about mouna and detail its practice and benefits.
My conversation with champion of Indian art, culture and Gandhianism V.R.Devika 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
“Happiness is a decision”
Mention Devika’s name and people will relate her to Gandhi, to the charkha and to Indian art and culture. Yet, to me, Devika is a champion of intelligent living – she lives by tenets that protect her inner peace and happiness. “When I was younger, I did wallow in self-pity and succumb to worry. But some years ago, when I had to go through a biopsy to rule out cancer, I told myself that I would face whatever came my way. My condition was not malignant – thankfully. But the experience taught me to overcome uncertainty and insecurity. I made a conscious choice then to be happy no matter what the doctors were to report. Therefore, happiness is a decision you take and it is not dependent on your circumstances,” says Devika.
She firmly believes that her entire Life has been serendipitous. She lives in an apartment that has been gifted – ‘with no strings attached’ – to her by a good friend. She has travelled to many countries to deliver talks and presentations – all of them on invitation. And every time she has needed work, someone has come along and given her a project that’s cut out just right for her. “How can you be unhappy when you have so much grace, so much abundance in your Life? I know I am one of the luckiest people in the world,” she confesses. She reveals that over the past several years she has created her own way to deal with debilitating emotions like worry, anger and anxiety, whenever they come calling: “I look into the mirror and tell myself that I am not going to let such feelings linger. I shift my attention to what I have instead of focusing on what I don’t have. I constantly remind myself to be grateful and content. That’s how I sustain my happiness.”
Devika reiterates that to be happy you have to be decisive. “When I was young, I was sexually abused by a powerful member of my family, my brother-in-law (who is no more). For years I pitied myself and lived in fear. But when I was in my 40s, I came out and told my family about it. Almost immediately, I stopped pitying myself. The secret to happiness lies in stepping out of whatever makes you unhappy,” she explains.
“Be decisive, be happy!” – that’s my key takeaway from the conversation. Surely, it’s yours too!