Have you ever felt miserable being happy?

You are the happiness you seek. Here’s how!

Happiness cannot be pursued. Because you may not always get what you want. But understanding, appreciating and accepting, what you get can make you happy.

3Consider this: despite all your hard work, you may not graduate. You may not get the car of your choice. Or an apartment in the neighborhood that your preferred. Or someone else may get the lucrative job that you wanted! Or a quirk of circumstance may deny you the family fortune. The ability to be happy despite not getting whatever you want and despite your circumstance is true happiness. And that ability is resident in each of us: in you, in me, in everyone!

So, the research done some years ago by a study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on happiness, of which a French-Nepalese Buddhist monk, Matthieu Ricard, is a volunteer subject, intrigues me. Ricard has been dubbed the world’s happiest person, scoring significantly higher than most other volunteers tested. Without questioning the study findings, which undoubtedly may well be scientific, I would like to humbly submit that each of us has equal opportunity to be the world’s happiest person. Simply, the truth is that the world is full of happy people. But we allow our circumstances to suppress any expression of how happy we really are! That’s how we invite unhappiness into our lives.

Let’s say you are walking on the pavement on a rainy day, whistling ‘Raindrops are falling on my head….’, and an irreverent motorist splashes a dirty puddle of water on your work clothes. You stop whistling. And now you are angry. Does being angry mean that you have ceased to have the ability to be happy? Not at all. Your attention has shifted from whistling the memorable tune to hurling abuses at and showing a finger to that motorist. The moment you bring your attention to what you are feeling you will find your anger disappearing. And you will be happy again! Because being angry or being filled with negativity is not human nature. It makes us feel miserable.

Think about it. Don’t you feel miserable when you have been sad or jealous or angry or guilty? But have you ever, ever, felt miserable about feeling happy? I rest my case.

So, you don’t have to work hard at being happy. You are the happiness you seek. You must stop being anything else and just go back to being happy!

No point trying to squander your precious lifetime by taking it too seriously

Let’s not take Life too seriously. Just live it. And forget about it!
A story in the papers this morning set me thinking. The family of a dead man in Trichy has charged the local gasifier crematorium of the Trichy Corporation of not handing over his ashes to them. The family claims that the ashes they have received are not of their man’s and believe that there has been a “mix-up”, “some foul play” and demand a “DNA Test” by the Corporation to confirm and assure them that those ashes indeed belong to their dead relative.
I couldn’t help chuckling to myself as I read that story.
Does it really matter what we do about our dead after they are gone, after they are cremated or buried with dignity? Think about it, they are just mere ashes. We came from dust and unto dust we all will return – this is the simplest way to understand Life. That is all there is to it. It was a choice-less birth (none of us has asked to be born), and it is often an exit which we don’t quite plan. We come with nothing. We go with nothing. Then why this drama – of success, failure, wealth, ego, relationships, religion and what not – during this lifetime? What’s worse, as is apparent in the Trichy crematorium story, is that the drama continues even after someone’s dead and gone!

I can’t think of a better way to live than to simply let go. Don’t take Life too seriously. Nothing will survive. No one will survive. So, just be easy on yourself. And on people around you. If you can solve your problems, do so. If you can’t, let them be. If you can get along with people, great. If you can’t let them be and you just move on. If you have money, you can buy a few things you want. If you have no money, be sure that no matter who you are, your needs will be taken care of. Not the way you want your needs to be met, but the way Life has designed to meet them. This is what Life is all about. So, don’t waste your precious lifetime trying to make your ever-perishing Life perfect. Just let go and be happy!

Hiss when you must…!

Sometimes, you may have to be firm and tell some people off. In doing so, you are not being unkind or rude. You are simply responding to a situation that has been created by someone and which you intensely dislike.
This happens to all of us. Especially in close relationships. That people start taking you for granted. They intrude on your privacy. They want to have an opinion about everything you do. And they, if you are not wary, end up treating you like a doormat. You suffer them because you don’t want to be either petty – like them – or it’s not in your “intrinsic nature” to be “unkind” to people. Now, let’s get this right. There’s nothing “unkind” in asserting yourself so as to protect your inner peace and dignity. Whoever it may be – parent, sibling, child, neighbour, colleague or friend – no one, no one has the right to treat you in a manner in which you don’t like or don’t want to be treated. Period.
There’s an ancient story of the Buddha and a snake. A snake wanted to play with the children of the village. But every time he went near them, the children would pelt him with stones and hit him with sticks. They were scared he may bite them. The snake reached out to the Buddha when he was visiting the village: “O Merciful! Can you draw out my poison so that even accidentally I won’t harm the children. That way, over time, they will understand me and include me in their games.” The Buddha obliged. But the children, still in fear of the snake, continued to abuse and attack him. On the Buddha’s next visit to the village, the snake once again prostrated in front of him and asked him what to do. “Look at my body; I have so many bruises and it is very painful.” The Buddha replied, while patting the snake on his back: “My dear, I removed your poison so that you don’t, even accidentally, bite those children. But I never advised you not to hiss!”
So, hiss when you must. Just to put people in their place and to protect your inner peace.
Some of the situations Life places you in will also require you to fight for justice. Often with people who are supposedly close to you. Don’t get clouded by sentiments about close blood relations in such cases. I am not encouraging you to fight because it is the right thing to do. But what do you do when the situation created by people around you demands a firm – sometimes even legal – response? Don’t let your ego – in the garb of compassionate sentiments – come in between you and what you must do. Just do whatever you believe must be done in the interest of all parties concerned, without hatred, without anger, without any rancour.  
A friend of mine called to say how his older brother, with whom he shares the ownership of the family business, was making it almost impossible for both of them to co-exist and survive. “Neither is he accepting a separation of the business and the assets, nor is he allowing me to lead it and run it well, nor is he running it efficiently. We are bleeding losses month-on-month. He’s challenging me to fight him. If I fight him I can at least save half the family’s fortunes – for my immediate family and for my mother and sister. But how can I fight my own brother? I am not interested in any fight,” lamented my friend. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says to Arjuna: “Don’t escape from the war… because I can see this escape is just an ego trip. The way you are talking simply shows that you are calculating, you are thinking that by escaping from the war you will become a great saint. Rather than surrendering to the whole, you are taking yourself too seriously– as if there will be no war if you are not there.” Krishna says to Arjuna, “Just be in a state of let-go. Say to existence, ‘Use me in whatever way you want to use me. I am available, unconditionally available.’ Then whatsoever happens through you will have a great authenticity about it. It will have intensity, it will have depth. It will have the impact of the eternal on it.”
Such is Life. When you have to do something to ensure that your inner peace is not disturbed, you have to do it. And only you can do it. Do it also knowing, as Krishna says, that you are a mere instrument, a conduit for something that Life wants done through you! So, don’t fall short, don’t fight shy. If you don’t do what you must do in such situations, you will come in Life’s way and you will cause your own suffering. When you allow Life to flow through you, and you choose not to suffer, is when you are happy and in bliss.

Postpone Worry, Not Happiness!

I have read somewhere something so simple, yet so profound – “Every minute that we spend worrying, we miss out on living!”
On Christmas eve, a man named John boarded a plane and settled down in his seat in the front row of economy class. He looked morose and beaten. He was going home for Christmas, just as almost every other passenger on the plane was. After the doors were closed, the captain emerged from the cockpit wearing a Santa cap. He picked up the public address microphone in the front of the aircraft and said that since the airline was celebrating its 25th anniversary, everyone on board will receive a coupon that will entitle them to two free return tickets to Las Vegas and back – from wherever they lived in the US, as long as their city was serviced by the airline. Every passenger on board cheered in delight. People clapped. A couple of them in the front jumped up and hugged the captain. But John was listless. He was not excited. He was looking the same – distraught, disturbed and forlorn. A slightly older man, Greg, sat next to him. Greg didn’t know John from before but was amused that his co-passenger was not happy with the airline’s surprise offer!
Greg asked John: “Did you hear that – two free return tickets to Vegas? Are you not excited?”  
John replied: “I did hear that. But I have so much on my mind. I am unable to celebrate this offer.”

Greg prodded on: “Is something worrying you? Do you want to talk about it?”
John replied: “Something? Everything’s worrying me – My wife’s been sick with cancer for over 2 years. She’s not getting any better. My job is lousy but I have to keep it because I need the money to pay for her treatment and to support my son’s tuition as he goes to college in a few months. Our home needs renovation but I haven’t enough savings to be able to do that. Isn’t all this enough to put a good man down?”
Greg put his hand on John’s hand, which was on the armrest, squeezed it and said: “Let me tell you a story….A man and a married woman are making love when her husband comes home unexpectedly. The poor man has no choice – the husband can come in any moment – so, naked as he is, he jumps out of the bedroom window. Outside it is cold and raining, and a group of joggers are running by. Having nothing better to do, he joins in. After a while a man running next to him asks, “Hey, do you always run naked?” “Yes,” says the man as he keeps jogging along. “And do you always wear a condom when you run?” asked the other man. “No,” he answers, “only when it is raining.””
John burst out laughing. He laughed so loudly and for several minutes, non-stop, that the flight’s crew, who were readying the plane for take-off, were alarmed. They rushed to John to check if everything was okay with him. They couldn’t believe that the most sullen passenger on board, who didn’t even get excited when the Captain announced that freebie, was laughing so hard. Was he mad, they wondered? John couldn’t even answer their queries. He was in splits. He held his stomach and laughed as Greg smiled mischievously beside him. After almost 20 minutes, John calmed down and thanked Greg for making him laugh.
John said: “You know Sir! I haven’t had a laugh in months now. Thank you!”
Greg asked John a question in reply: “When you were hearing my story and then laughing, in that time, did your worries trouble you? I mean did you care to worry?”  
John replied emphatically: “Of course not! How could I worry? Your story was so hilarious. I couldn’t think of anything else but of the man running naked with a condom on and justifying his action with a straight face!”
Greg said: “My dear friend. This is how you postpone worrying. Your worries cannot solve any of your problems. Your worrying about your wife’s cancer cannot cure it. Your worrying about your son’s tuition cannot help you pay it. Your worrying about renovating your home cannot make it look better than it is now. When you are steeped in worry, you are missing Life!”
There’s a great lesson in the conversation between Greg and John. Which is – worrying serves no purpose. If worrying about our problems can help us solve them, none of us will be having any problems. Because most of us are worrying all the time – aren’t we?! Worrying takes us away from living, from happiness. The biggest price we pay by worrying about the Life we want or don’t have, is that we lose the opportunity to be happy with the Life we have. Instead, if we focused on whatever is with us, on whatever is happening, and stopped worrying, we will live better, happier and healthier lives!

Why not postpone worrying for a change?

Let’s face it. There’s so much to worry about. Bills to be paid, children to be raised and graduated, parents to be cared for, deadlines to be met, loans to be repaid – the list can go on and on. However much you may try, you cannot but worry. Because there’s so much uncertainty around you and in your Life. But every scripture, every wise soul, every spiritual practice advises you to “Be Happy!” and to “Not Worry!”. How then do you stay free of worry?
The truth is you possibly can’t. Not at the beginning of your spiritual, inward, journey. At best you can postpone worrying.
An old story from the Buddhist scriptures shows the way to do this!

There was once an old lady who cried all the time. Her elder daughter was married to an umbrella merchant while the younger daughter was the wife of a noodle vendor. On sunny days, she worried, “Oh no! The weather is so nice and sunny. No one is going to buy any umbrellas. What will happen if the shop has to be closed?” These worries made her sad. She just could not help but cry. When it rained, she would cry for the younger daughter. She thought, “Oh no! My younger daughter is married to a noodle vendor. You cannot dry noodles without the sun. Now there will be no noodles to sell. What should we do?” As a result, the old lady lived in sorrow every day. Whether sun or rain, she grieved for one of her daughters. Her neighbors had given up trying to console her and jokingly called her “the crying lady.”

One day, she met a monk. He was very curious to know why she was always crying. She explained the problem to him. The monk smiled kindly and said, “Madam! You need not worry. I will show you a way to happiness, and you will need to grieve no more.”

The crying lady was very excited. She immediately asked the monk to show her what to do. The monk replied, “It is very simple. You just need to change your perspective. On sunny days, do not think of your elder daughter not being able to sell umbrellas but think of the younger daughter being able to dry her noodles. With such good strong sunlight, she must be able to make plenty of noodles and her business must be very good. When it rains, think about the umbrella store of the elder daughter. With the rain, everyone must be buying umbrellas. She will sell a lot of umbrellas and her store will prosper.”

The old lady saw the light. She followed the monk’s advice. Over time, she stopped grieving; instead, she was smiling every day. Soon she came to be known in her neighborhood as “the ever-smiling lady.”

That’s surely the way to live intelligently. Without doubt, even when you are on your deathbed, there will be unfinished tasks and aspirations on your plate. There will be things to do. And there will be stuff to be worried about. Worrying can become an integral part of living if you don’t change your perspective to Life! And worrying about a problem has never solved one! If it did, well, we would have no problems in the world – because isn’t everyone worrying about something or the other all the time?
I have often wondered why bars and lounges have the concept of “Happy Hours”. They offer discounts during certain times of the day or evening almost alluding that the rest of the time you are likely to have been unhappy. Flipping the paradigm, given the enormity of the crises that faces me sometimes, I have created for myself time slots in the week that I call the “Worry Hour”. With so much to worry about, and no immediate solutions often available, I find it a lot more productive to invest time and effort problem-fixing in specific spells so that the rest of the time, I am anchored and at peace with myself! Over time I have discovered that what I can fix, I always end up fixing, and what I can’t fix, stuff that I may have worried myself to death about in the past, often ends up sorting itself out anyway! And outside of my “Worry Hours” I always do only what gives me joy – engage in intellectual conversations with people I relate to, watch movies, go on long walks, read to learn something new or write my blog! Perhaps, you want to try this method too. It works very well when, like most other practices, it is done diligently! So, instead of worrying all the time and postponing happiness, why not choose to be happy and postpone worrying for a change?

"Fulljoy" Life – Then your troubles won’t double!

If worry could solve even one percent of the problems that we face daily, worrying may be perfectly justified as a global pastime. Yet while it is evident that a large mass of humanity worries most of its lifetime away, there is no evidence to suggest that worrying has been productive at all.

Worrying causes frustration and plunges you into a depressive spiral. Everything and everyone seems to be getting after you. One thing leads to another. And by the end of a destructive spell of worrying you are dealing with more crises than you originally had started off dealing with. Worrying comes free so everyone does that. But remember the problems it seeds are very, very expensive!

A business acquaintance, by sheer accident, introduced me to this learning. Several years ago, I was in Bengaluru on work. And I was running late for a meeting. The one I had just finished had ended badly. The client owed my Firm a substantial sum of money. We had been following up on our claim for over a year. We had been promised a resolution and payment at that meeting. But the client reneged, disputed the claim and refused to make any payment that day. The meeting ended sourly and in a stalemate. I was both angry and worried as I rode in the car for the next meeting. I was angry because what the client had done was unfair and unethical. I was worried because I had issued cheques to parties, who were long overdue for payment by us, in anticipation of this inflow. I did not know what I should do. In such time, I reached the venue of the next meeting. It was a large company. And they were prospecting my Firm for a potential service contract. I was late. So, I tried to rush the security guard at the registration desk. He didn’t seem to bother. I yelled at him. When I finally reached the reception area, I found the receptionist speaking on the phone. It appeared to me in a few minutes that she was on a personal call. I gestured to her that I was late for a meeting. She impatiently gestured back asking me to be seated. I scowled at her.

And the chatter in my mind went: Damn! Why is everyone after me today? How am I supposed to pay off those vendors and meet the wage bill of my team with this inflow not coming through? I am now late for this meeting. And I am not likely to be making an impression with my presentation with this new prospect because I am both late and in a lousy frame of mind! Damn!

Finally, I was ushered into an empty conference room. I hooked up my laptop and tested my slide deck on the screen. An executive in formal attire walked in. I did not look up at him. I wanted to avoid any polite conversation. I just wanted to present my Firm’s case and go back, perhaps, to worrying. The fire in my cash-flow was far more demanding of my attention than a potential business deal. I assumed the man was one of the members of the leadership team to whom I was to present that day. After setting up my deck, I looked away from the man. It didn’t occur to me that I was behaving like an oaf. I was consumed by my desire to drown in the seductive, ruinous comfort of my worry! I paced up and down the side of the conference room that I had occupied. The executive must have felt it bizarre that his guest was not even acknowledging his presence in his own office!

After what must have been several moments of silent gazing by him and a pretentious meditative pacing by me, he spoke up.

He asked me, in a cold, matter-of-fact, tone: “AVIS, do you always look so beaten, morose and wear this frown all the time?”

It appeared that a million-volt thunderbolt had hit me. I froze in my tracks. I turned around. Looked at the executive and sheepishly said: “Errr….Well…..I am sorry….I was preoccupied….Errrr….!”

He was in his mid-40s then and I was in my mid-30s. He appeared to be a nice bloke. He smiled and spoke calmly: “I can see that you are worried about something. And angry too with something. If you make this presentation carrying those two emotions, let me tell you, you will piss off everyone. I am already wondering why I am here when you are not here!”

I apologized. I thanked him. I walked across to his side. We exchanged business cards. I discovered he was the Head of Strategy and awarding my Firm the mandate, should we make the cut, was in his hands, apart from the CEO’s. I knew the CEO well. And that’s why I was there. I pulled myself from the brink that day, thanks to this gentleman’s unsolicited yet fortuitous intervention. The presentation went very, very well. And we bagged the contract!

But more than that, the value of the wisdom this man has imparted in me is priceless. He taught me, in a nano-second, how worrying can ruin a perfect moment pregnant with opportunity! He taught me the power of now! It took me several years of struggle, tears, pain and suffering, to internalize this learning. But if he had not sowed that seed that day, I would not have been able to tame the worry beast in my Life!

Bob Marley 1945-1981
I was reminded of this episode this morning as I read a story in the latest issue of OPEN magazine on Rohan Marley, the legendary Jamaican reggae singer, and Rastafarian, Bob Marley (1945-1981). Rohan, now 40, told OPEN that his father had taught all his many siblings to not just enjoy Life but to “fulljoy” it!

Think about it. How much of your precious living moments are you sacrificing on the altar of worry daily? How much of your time do you look beaten, morose and are wearing a frown__like I did that day in the conference room in Bengaluru? Don’t you want to “fulljoy” Life?  If you do, then know that to “fulljoy” Life means to not worry and be happy! Because, when you worry, as Bob Marley famously and beautifully sang (“fulljoy” this song, clinging on to its every lyric…. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIM3GHvBQjY), you only double your troubles!