You are wasting each moment that you don’t celebrate!
“I am not able to enjoy my happiness. I have everything that I have wanted in Life. But I am forever fearful of losing all of it. How do I get rid of that sinking feeling in me,” asked a close friend. We were having tea. And I took another sip of the wonderful Darjeeling brew I was having before responding to the question.
First, it is important that we understand Life. Everything that we have with us, our material wealth, our relationships, our Life itself, will be taken away some day. Everything will be gone. Even you will be gone. So the fear of losing something or someone is a wasteful emotion. It serves no purpose thinking that way. Don’t expect that fear not to arise though. The human mind is such that it will spew out such thoughts from time to time. Just don’t given them attention. If you don’t feed that fear, it will go away.
Second, realize that every moment that you don’t celebrate what you have, what is, you are wasting. Living either in the past or imagining a future which has not yet arrived are of no use. Please recognize that the only Life you have is in the present moment.
So, if he has every reason to be happy because he has “everything” he wants in his Life, my friend must celebrate every moment. He must not squander his happiness thinking about the inevitable. Life is like good music. It must be enjoyed fully. When you are listening to music, if you start intellectualizing the moment and say that you are listening to music, then you lose the magic and beauty of the music. So, don’t intellectualize Life. Don’t ask what if. Don’t analyze. Just live the Life you have. Simply be. That is what happiness is.
In today’s Podcast, I champion why we must celebrate being clueless, unsettled and living dangerously! Listen here: 5:43 minutes
If you don’t know how to deal with sadness, you can never be happy.
Someone I met yesterday wanted to know if there is a way to avoid sadness. I asked her why she wanted to avoid sadness. “Because I intensely dislike being sad,” she replied. “Then”, I replied, “What you can do is to examine the futility of sadness and drop it, let it go. You can’t avoid sadness. But you can let it go.”
Nobody wants to be sad. Yet sadness is unavoidable. It is a natural human state, that’s how you will feel when you don’t like what is happening to you. Life is not in your control. So there will be times when you will feel sad. When you feel that way, hold that feeling close to you. Examine it. Dissect it – who or what is causing your sadness? Is there anything you can do about it? If you can, fine, go ahead, do it. If you can’t, ask yourself, is there any point in continuing to feel sad? The moment you come to this level of clarity over whatever’s making you sad and what you can do about it, your sadness will disappear. This is how you deal with sadness – simply be willing to accept it for what it is and move on! This is what is called ‘celebrating sadness’!
Celebrating happiness is easy. We all know how to do it. We share. We radiate positivity. We spread cheer and goodwill. Sometimes, we party. Interestingly, the same approach will work for sadness as well. Surely, a party to share your sadness will work as well as a party to share your joy! We don’t know it works because we have not tried it. Why? Because society has conditioned us to restrict celebrations to happiness and has associated sadness with a state of mourning. The truth about Life is that unless you have learnt to accept and experience sadness fully, you can’t experience happiness! Osho, the Master, has a beautiful perspective to offer here: “Celebration is unconditional; I celebrate Life. It brings unhappiness – good, I celebrate it. It brings happiness – good, I celebrate it. Celebration is my attitude, unconditional to what Life brings.”
Life’s really about experiencing what comes your way. And over what comes your way, you – and I – have no control. The real question is, how do you want to live your Life? Do you want to live it lamenting that nothing’s in your control? Or do you want to celebrate the fact that because you are not in control, because you don’t have to control, because you have nothing to control, you are free?
I choose to celebrate this freedom every day. I ask myself when I am confronted with a situation, and an emotion connected with that situation: is there anything I can do about this? If I can, I go do whatever I can to fix the situation. If I can’t, I let it – the way I feel about the situation – go. And I remind myself, in either context, not to sweat over the situation or the emotion it brings along with it! This is my learning from Life: celebrate it for what it is, the way it is, as it comes!
See the big picture, count your blessings, in any context.
A friend’s timeline on Facebook reads: “Telling a depressed person to have gratitude is like telling a person with cancer that ‘see, you have a car, no’?” The import of the post was that you can’t talk about abundance and gratitude to someone who is depressed. Even if my friend meant this only in jest, I believe this post was avoidable.
The comparisons are irrelevant and flippant. A person who has a cancer does not need – or care about having – a car. She or he needs chemotherapy or a similar medical process to help deal with or cure the disease. And someone who is depressed does need to be awakened and inspired to be grateful and see the abundance in their Life. Here, gratitude and abundance are not just philosophies, they are coping devices that help you deal with, and over time, climb out of depression.
Interestingly, even as I was mulling over my friend’s post, on our morning walk, I noticed a lady push her bicycle with two pots of drinking water on the street. She must have been fetching the water from some distance and must have been on her way home. Because she could not balance herself riding the bicycle, with the water pots filled to the brim, she must have been pushing it. An hour later, as I filled water in my bath, I decided to restrict myself to just one bucketful. I sent out a silent prayer in gratitude to the Universe for having flowing water in my bath when the whole city and state is beginning to reel under the impact of a grave water shortage. To me, this ability to see the big picture, to count your blessings, in any context, is gratitude! Gratitude is always about displaying an abundance mentality.
But those who are depressed don’t see Life this way. They see it as a dark, black hole, and see themselves gripped by hopelessness, cluelessness. The last thing on their mind is gratitude and the need to celebrate the abundance, the blessings, in their Life! Our task then is to work with them, by holding their hand, walking alongside, being there for them, having conversations with them to make them see their Life differently. This process often takes time. Sometimes, even years. This doesn’t mean we write off gratitude-speak as a coping device or therapy for the depressed. In fact, if there is one process that can help someone who is depressed it is making them realize the value of being grateful and celebrating abundance! That’s why I found my friend’s post particularly jarring.
In Life’s journey, each of us have to go through what we have to go through. No amount of intellectualization of Life can help you deal with it. Acceptance of what is, gratitude for what you have and celebrating the abundance around you, that’s really how you get through Life. Interestingly, today is Vishu – a festival that reminds us of this beautiful opportunity that each of us has – to be grateful and celebrate abundance!
Loving, in the present continuous, is essential for a relationship to thrive despite all differences.
We watched Mani Ratnam’s new movie Katru Veliyidai last evening. Viewers have panned the film for many reasons. Principal among them is the view, held by many, that Dr.Leela (Aditi Rao Hydari) continues to accommodate, accept and love VC (Karthi) despite being “humiliated and trampled upon” by him. The question people are asking is: Why should a film portray a woman in such light; why can’t Dr.Leela have been a much stronger woman who slaps VC back, who tramples him back, who rightfully asserts herself and claims an equal place in their relationship?
I have three points to make about the movie. 1. I liked it a lot – for most parts. 2. Perhaps because the story-telling was not so linear, and perhaps people these days often rush to pronounce judgment on social media on people and events, viewers missed what Mani Ratnam so aesthetically communicated through the film. 3. And that is the fact that Dr.Leela is indeed a strong woman – who asserts herself from the first instance in the blizzard. But her assertion is never vitriolic. Her loving of VC (not just her love for him) is as powerful as her seeking her space, her dignity. Despite the way he treats her, she is still relating to him, so she continues loving him. Yet, when he refuses to have their baby, she decides to walk away from him – not quite walking out on him – while continuing to be loving. There is a present continuous state to her loving, just as there is a present continuous state to her asking to be treated with respect. And that’s why I say Mani Ratnam’s tried to convey his point very aesthetically – he’s not spelt it out, he’s not laid it all there in a linear sequence; you pick what you want, the way you want to.
There’s not just an aesthetic quality to the film visually, its very essence is so. This is what I gleaned from the movie – that when two people are loving, they may have their differences, they may have their own independent personas, but they will still be able to relate to each other in a special way! Now, this is not a filmy situation alone – this is so true about Life, and about so many of our stories out there. The problem with society is that we expect people to conform to stereotypes. But surely, there are as many different characterizations in personalities out there as there are people. And each one evolves and changes with time, through their experiences. This is what happens to VC through his reflection, through his incarceration in a Pakistani jail. I truly believe that loving is more important and more relevant than the singular act of falling in love. When there is loving, then there is a flow, there’s a freedom to be who you are. Then it is present continuous. Then there is a relating. And only when two people are relating to each other, despite their differences, can their relationship thrive. That’s really what happens in Mani Ratnam’s Katru Velyidai, to his Dr.Leela and VC.
To me the takeaway is deeply spiritual. It offers an aesthetic value that’s not commonly understood or appreciated. As social animals, and as social media content creators and consumers, we expect everything in a “black and white”, in a “my way or the highway” format. But Life doesn’t to conform to any formats, formulae or structures. Life’s creations – all of us included – are all at the same time unique, and flawed, just as VC and Dr.Leela are, who live and love on their own terms. The key is to celebrate everyone for who they are, while celebrating yourself, and to keep on loving, as undefineably, as expansively as the breeze (Katru Veliyidai), without expectations, without conditions, without limitations…And some day, the one who continues to relate to your loving, will find their way to you, no matter what – or who – comes in the way!
A constant awareness of your mortality is a great way to live enthusiastically!
Interestingly, several signs and reminders on death have come my way in the last 24 hours.
It was my father-in-law Venks’ birthday yesterday – he passed on a couple of years ago, so we reminisced about our times with him on the family WhatsApp group. Besides, it was also MGR’s 100th birth anniversary yesterday. I thought back to the day he had died in December 1987 – when I had walked 18 kms (as public transport had shut down after riots broke out in Madras) to meet Vaani; it was the first time I was visiting her home. I am glad I walked that distance – she’s sure been a great companion who’s walked beside me every step of the way, these past 30 years! A close friend wrote in yesterday saying she hasn’t been able to come to terms with her husband’s passing. A reader pinged me on WhatsApp to say she was catching up with my blogposts after a while because she had lost her mother last week. And then, of course, while watching a movie at a Cineplex last evening, the Tamil Nadu state government’s newsreel melodramatically showcased the funeral of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa!
For just a brief while, as I lay in bed trying to fall asleep, I wondered if there was any symbolism in so many death-related references and inferences in one day. Given the fractious family I come from, it has been a few years since I have met my father although we live in the same city! Momentarily, my thoughts went to him, his advancing age and fragile health. I may well have begun to walk along the line of emotion and worry, about my inability to repay my family the money I owe them and, at least, repair my credit rating with them, even if I really can’t redeem my relationships there; but my awareness held me in good stead. I recalled Osho’s masterful perspective that Life and death are just two sides of the same coin; that death is accompanying us every step of the way, like a shadow, from the moment we are born. Or simply, as I have come to see it, we are all speeding towards our death, albeit at different speeds. So, no symbolism, there, I told myself as I fell asleep.
This morning, over coffee, glancing at the obituary section in The Hindu, I thought those thoughts again. If death is the absolute, non-negotiable, reality for all of us; if it is indeed that one reason which must compel us to live fuller, meaningful, happier, lives, why then don’t we live that way? Why do we fritter away our lifetimes fretting over petty material pursuits or even pettier squabbles among those that we live with?
I guess the Dalai Lama nailed it when he said, “The problem with humankind is that we think we have a lot of time!” A beautiful song from the classic Choti Si Baat (1975, Basu Chatterji, Yogesh, Salil Chaudhury, Lata Mangeshkar, Mukesh, Amol Palekar, Vidya Sinha) comes to mind. The opening lyrics are: “Na jaane kyon, hota hai yeh zindagi ke saath, Achanak ye mann, Kisi ke jaane ke baad, kare phir uski yaad, Chhoti chhoti si baat…”. They mean: “Why does the mind think up even the smallest memories of those who have gone away, after they have left us…?” The song’s essence (not in the movie’s context though) is a potent reminder of our mortality. It tells us, ever so subtly, that the inevitable is lingering around, just there, somewhere within our immediate circle of impact. It implores us to use the opportunity of this lifetime intelligently – to do what we love doing and to live happily, joyfully, with all those among us, in the time we still have left with us here.
I believe that fearing death or feeling sorry for the dead or for yourself is of no use. The awareness of your impending death, and of everyone you know, must be used very constructively to live your Life fully. To live without squandering even one precious moment. And the only way you can ensure living without wasting any of your finite lifetime is to only do what makes you happy and celebrate the presence of everyone in your Life – even your detractors, for they teach you what not to do! You will no doubt face your share of challenges along the way, not just with the path you have chosen but also with the people you meet on your journey, but your inner joy, your enthusiasm, will make the ride fulfilling, meaningful.
This reflection over the past 24 hours has only reiterated a truth about Life. Death is not the physical passing on of the human form alone, it is also what happens to you in every moment that you don’t live fully when you are alive! Think about it! Clearly, you don’t have too much time. If what I’ve shared here makes sense, then please go live that kick-ass Life you have always wanted to live but have been postponing for a better day and time. Remember: there is never a better time to live than now!
Be ready and willing to go through any situation, experience everything, in Life!
“How do you console yourself when you don’t get what you want; when your Life doesn’t go the way you planned it?” This question came to me yesterday from a lady I met at the Help Yourself to Happiness Talk I delivered at a Rotary Club.
The answer I gave the lady is that you must not try to console yourself. Consolation has an air of mourning, of grief, inherent to it – that you tried for something, you did not get it, so it is ‘okay’! There is no ‘okay’ status that works in Life. The best state to be in is to be unmoved. There is no need to either exult in Life nor is there a need to brood or mourn. You must taste, you must experience, everything in Life – success and failure, victory and defeat, joy and sorrow – and eventually you will realize that they are all imposters. You will discover that neither the state when you are exulting nor the one when you are brooding is permanent. So, don’t credit yourself for creating contexts where you exult at your achievements and don’t discredit yourself just because the context is one where grief is gnawing at you, over what you lost or what you didn’t get. Just learn to be unmoved. If you can be unmoved, then everything, every event, calls for a celebration! Then every moment is a celebration!
The lady urged me to explain my point with an example. I shared this story from my Life that I had also recounted to Vaani on New Year’s eve.
I took my first flight in my Life at the age of 10, in 1977, from New Delhi to Madras. I loved the experience. And resolved that I would only fly when I grew up; also I because I find train journeys very boring, very uninspiring. To date, I prefer a flight over a train! My second flight was the one I took at the age of 23, in 1990, from Madras to Bangalore. I was flying on work for India Today magazine and was on an assignment to report on Veerappan, the dreaded sandalwood smuggler. It was a big moment for a young, ambitious lad – flying on company expense. I saved the Indian Airlines (now called Air India) boarding passes of both my onward and return journeys from that trip. I reckoned that when I became ‘very famous, very rich, very successful’ I would display these boarding passing proudly in my office or home, as a trophy of where my ‘high Life’ had truly begun. Soon, I was traveling more and most of my trips were by flight too. And I started collecting my boarding passes. I extended my idea of the saved boarding passes to reflect the number of air miles I had logged in all my active Life. For the longest time, I had this vision of me sitting in my private study and bar, smoking a cigar, and having an entire wall done up with boarding passes from all my flights in my Life. Soon the collection grew. I now have a whole mound of boarding passes saved up – I don’t really think I have lost a boarding pass or missed saving one in my Life. At one time I was taking even three or four flights a week, and traveling 21 days each month. So the boarding pass collection really swelled in good time. Within India I was loyal to Jet Airways and was their Platinum Card holder for several years – in all those years, our family of four, always took vacations on free tickets purchased with my miles! My boarding passes collection reflected the Life I led – busy and flying around! For someone who came from a middle-class background, this was exciting stuff, a sign that you had arrived, in style!
And then, as I recounted to Vaani on New Year’s eve, 2016 has turned out to be the year of no flights for me. No flights taken in an entire year. Even in the past decade, owing to our bankruptcy (read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal) my flying has shrunk considerably. But I never bargained for a flightless year, that too in what should have been the 28th year of an active, professional Life!
So, that’s my example, a story from my Life, I told the lady, who asked me to explain my point about being unmoved. Surely, I am not citing that I have traveled more than anyone else in the world. In fact, my story showcases how such a personal collection of boarding passes appears so vain now in the wake of Life’s larger design and Purpose. I am not even suggesting that I will not fly again or that I will not have that wall in my private study and bar. All I am saying is that I am no longer impacted by whether I am flying or not. It has ceased to mean anything beyond a data point to me. In the last quarter of a century, I flew a lot, then I flew less and last year, I did not fly at all! Simple!
The essence of intelligent living is that you must experience everything in Life. You must be ready and willing to go through any situation. Don’t ever expect Life to only be a particular way. Recognize that what goes up comes down. And what goes around comes around. Life is always flowing and you must learn to go with Life’s flow. This is the way to be unmoved, to celebrate Life’s every moment, no matter what you are faced with or are going through! This is how I celebrated my flightless year – 2016!
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Just live each day fully, make it memorable!
A manager asked me, after a Help Yourself To Happiness Talk I delivered on Friday, why New Year resolutions are often never followed through. I feel resolutions stop making sense because we attach too much importance to the time of the year than to what we resolve to do. So, when the sheen of the New Year wears away, the resolutions too dissolve, they disappear.
Now, I don’t believe in resolutions around the turn of the calendar year. I feel that New Year as a concept is over-rated, over-marketed and is, in several ways, exaggerated. Yes, I partied hard last night. But I didn’t party because it was New Year’s – I party every day. Some days, I drink and dance. On others, I simply am. I celebrate Life in all its manifestations. So, every day is a party. And each moment is a celebration.
I believe totally in management thinker Noel Tichy’s definition of leadership. He says, “Leadership is the ability to see reality and mobilize the appropriate response!” Now, consider the most evident reality of our Life – it is impermanent, it is a limited-period offer, we are all speeding towards our death and our Life will be over soon. So, what is the most appropriate response that we must bring to the table? We must live fully, not just exist, we must be happy and we must make each day count! This is what personal leadership is all about. Making each day count means doing what we love doing each day, so that the day becomes unputdownable and remains memorable.
Try this simple exercise. Take your age and multiply it with 365. That’s the number of days you have been on this planet. How many of those days do you remember? How many have been memorable? How many have been unputdownable? If you have started counting, you have lost the game of Life! Because the idea of this lifetime being handed to you as a gift is for you to enjoy living, to celebrate yourself, to be happy. It is not to merely earn a living and suffer just because you have problems in your Life.
Clearly, you can’t undo the past. But from today on, from this very moment, you can resolve to make each day count. Go on, just do that! And watch how the rest of your Life is filled with ‘Happyness’ every single day!
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