Life’s beauty is not in the big events alone. Life unfolds beautifully in the normal, mundane, humdrum of everyday living.
Indeed a wedding, the birth of your child, the success at a job, a windfall – all of these call for celebrations. But even an everyday chore like putting washed clothes away or doing the dishes is beautiful. For the last several days, we have had to cope without the support of a maid. My wife and I have divided the chores between us, with our daughter chipping in here and there. Though initially it seemed strange doing stuff that we normally get done, I soon realized that here was a beautiful opportunity to practice mindfulness. The key about practising mindfulness is to be aware of what you are doing. When you fold clothes to put them away, watch your fingers do such precise work. See the beauty of technology that has allowed you to have your clothes washed reasonably painlessly. Or count your blessings, if you have a maid, who has washed them for you and even folded them__and that all you need to do is to put them away. Every time I have had to step in and help with household chores, I have felt compassionate for the people who collaborate, with reasonable precision, to make our everyday lives painless and seamless – the newspaper delivery person, the milkman, the flower seller lady who drops off the flowers for my wife for the daily pooja, the mineral water supplier, the launderer, the maid, the neighborhood grocer and the person who delivers our cooking gas each month…the list could still go on. I often think how crazy our Life would be without the contributions of these nameless, often faceless, foot soldiers. Whenever I think of them, I pause to send them my positive energy.
There’s beauty in every moment if we are aware. Thich Nhat Hanh (a.k.a Thay), the Vietnamese Buddhist Monk says, there is beauty even in the way we open or close a door. To whatever action, says Thay, if we apply the desire to be aware and mindful, it becomes a way of making peace. In the 2010 Hollywood movie ‘Barney’s Version’ (Richard J Lewis, Paul Giannati, Rosamund Pike, Dustin Hoffman), the main protagonist Mariam, tells the lead character Barney, “Life’s real. It’s made of little things. Minutes, hours, naps, errands, routine__and it has to be enough!”
So, wherever you are, whatever you are doing, do it mindfully. Then, and only then, will you see the beauty in everything__whether you are doing some spring cleaning at home or dropping your kids off at their play dates. If you can make each day mindful and meaningful, you will be soaked in peace and you Life will be ever so beautiful!
The very uncertainty that we fear can make Life magical and beautiful.
When I reconnected with a friend recently, after several months, I asked him how his work was. He replied that he was feeling very insecure in his current job. “A new CEO has taken over and he’s driving a lot of change in our organization. He’s demanding that every member of the team must contribute to either the top-line or the bottom-line. I am in a Sales support function. The new CEO feels all Support functions must go. So, I believe I will be laid off. There’s so much uncertainty. I live and work in fear daily – not knowing when I will be given a pink slip and asked to leave,” said my friend. At close to 50 years of age, my friend feels his chances of getting another well-paying job are low. Around this time of their lives, employees, like my friend, have a lot of limitations in pursuing career options. Their children are often in final years of school or college, or their parents are old and need support – so not many are ready, even if they are willing, to immediately move to a new city to enhance their employment prospects!
While I can relate to my friend’s anxiety – having gone through similar experiences myself – I am not quite sure that fearing uncertainty is necessarily the appropriate response.
Why are we running scared of uncertainty when the very nature of Life is impermanent, fragile, uncertain? In fact, there’s a certainty about death – if you are alive, you will die for sure some day. But just because you are born – and alive – does not mean you will go on living. There’s no certainty about Life! From the time you came out of your mother’s womb your entire Life has been a journey through the uncertain. It’s your upbringing, your education and your reference to economic parameters that makes you believe that you are secure and can be certain about the way your Life will pan out. Because you have been raised in a protected environment by your parents and family, because you have been progressing through your academic career in a linear fashion – moving from class to class in a predictable manner – because you got employed soon after you graduated from college, for all these reasons and more, you have come to believe that Life’s happening the way you envisioned it for yourself. You have almost concluded that Life is a straight line! That’s when Life socks you with a pink slip or with a heart attack or a break-up or a death! That’s when you wake up, shocked and dazed, and begin to “fear an uncertain future”.
When you live out of fear, resisting the uncertainty that surrounds you, you will not grow. You may grow older. But you will not grow up. Because fear debilitates. It limits. Every aspect of Life is uncertain, unsafe, dangerous – there are so many diseases you can contract and die or your house can be burgled and you can be murdered or you may meet with an accident on the road or your plane may crash mid-air or someone could hack your bank account and siphon off all your hard-earned money…Anything can happen if you actually consider what all can go wrong with your Life. But if you start letting the fear of uncertainty rule you, you can be sure to have ruined your Life.
There’s hope though! You can let go of all your fear and embrace uncertainty. Since uncertainty is the essence of Life, when you embrace it, you are actually uniting with the Universal Energy. That Energy empowers you and gives you the true sense of security – which no insurance scheme, no amount of money and no amount of physical protection ever can. Then a pink slip will not torment you. Then not-knowing-what-will-happen will be part of the game, of the adventure called Life. Uncertainty can be scary. But if you drop the fear, the same uncertainty becomes beautiful. This is the magical quality of Life. To experience this magic you must learn to live in the moment, soaking in whatever the moment has to offer, in a “not-knowing-what-will-happen” mode!
There is a great beauty in being incapable. This may seem absurd. In a world where performance is measured in nano-seconds, all the time, how can being ‘incapable’ be something to celebrate, to crow about? The world only wants capable people. How can someone incapable even dream of surviving in an intensely competitive arena?
The fact that you are capable and have caused your success is the biggest myth you__and I__are wedded to. In fact, we have long been kidding ourselves with this view.
Every once in a while, through its inscrutable ways, Life will render you completely incapable. You will be left dangling at the edge of a precipice. You can’t possibly do anything. If you do something of your own, you risk falling off that edge, into a ravine, with no possibility of a return. So, you then have only one way out. To surrender to Life. And let Life take you to where you belong, to where you must logically go.
Surrendering is not at all complex. At one level it is a no-brainer. If you can do something about a situation, why would you worry? Why would you fear? Why would you suffer? Similarly, if you can’t do something about a situation why would you worry, fear or suffer? Simply accept that you can’t do anything about it.
Surrender requires nothing but a total acceptance of what is. The truth about Life is that all your grief comes from what you are attached to. You feel you have worked hard__which you indeed have__and so if something is being snatched away from you, it is grossly unfair and unjust. But Life is such that what you perceive as unfair will keep happening again and again and again. It is when you resist what is happening to you that you will suffer. It is when you keep clinging on to your false sense of capability that you will be miserable. Instead let go of all notions. Let go of your definitions of success and failure. Just accept that there will be some situations in Life that you cannot do anything about. That all you can do is to live through them.
Through your awakening to your incapability, through surrender, you will arise into freedom. And discover how beautiful, magical and bountiful Life really is!
In the midst of all of our problems lies a very beautiful world. Simply, we don’t notice it!
Yesterday I was on a flight. The hostess did a particularly bad job of the announcements. The food was cold. My ear was blocked thanks to an infection I have been carrying. And my thoughts wandered, at 30,000 feet, to the slew of problems we are faced with. I tried attempting solutions to some of them by making a diligent list of them on my little Post-it pad. My problem solving skills were particularly challenged because the nature of the problems were so nscrutable. After about 30 minutes of concentrating intensely on those problems, I was no more wiser or relieved than before! Suddenly I was forced to look up. Some activity across the aisle from my seat had drawn my attention.
What I saw blew my mind away. There was a very, very old lady, perhaps well over 90. She had very little hair left. But whatever she had was in a brilliant silver and was neatly combed and made her glow. Her skin was all shriveled. And hanging. She had no teeth. Even so, she appeared to be completely at peace with herself and her world. She was looking radiant and very beautiful. Her toothless smile made me come alive and connect with a higher energy. She was struggling though to stand up to walk to the washroom. The hostess, with the pathetic announcement skills, was helping her. When she realized, the lady couldn’t make it with just she offering her hand for support, the hostess reached out and embraced the old lady and walked her slowly to the washroom. They were back after several minutes. In that time I put my pen down and replayed the whole spectacle again in my mind’s eye. What I had witnessed was a beautiful spirit in the old lady and genuine human compassion (and not just the discharging of a professional responsibility) from the hostess. When the old lady was seated again, she held the hostess’ hand, smiled benignly at her and said, in a beautiful voice, in English: “My child, I love traveling. And I prefer to travel alone without having to depend upon anyone from my family. Because I know the world is full of such angels like you. Thanks for being so kind to me.”
The irony struck me hard. Both the old lady and I were traveling together. We were literally seated next to each other, with only the plane’s aisle running in between us. Yet the world the lady inhabited seemed so much more beautiful and abundant than my own. For, if I had not looked up from my futile problem-solving attempt, I may have missed the beauty in the moment that I actually was so blessed to witness. An awakening and a learning dawned on me: The world we live in is the same. It is the same for the one who mourns and for the one who celebrates. It’s beauty doesn’t diminish ever. We actually see the world as beautiful, for the way it is, but in the throes of our problems, we hardly notice its beauty! So,we believe “our world” has lost its sheen. Because we see it with problem-tinted eyes and a depressed spirit! Alfred North Whitehead (1861~1947),English-American mathematician and philosopher, has summed it up perfectly: “Everything of importance has already been seen by somebody who didn’t notice it.”
The import here is not to say that we should not face our problems or attempt solutions. There’s only a humble submission that in doing that, don’t get so consumed, that you stop to pause and celebrate the magic and beauty of and in the Universe! When you allow yourself to notice the world you see, without judging whether you are in a frame of mind to celebrate it, you will open yourself up to such a whole new world of opportunity and a beautiful new way of living __ intelligently!
|They blushed at me from across the street|
Some people are walking around with full use of their bodies and they’re more paralyzed than I am.”