“Tomorrow the birds will sing. Get up and face Life!”

In any tough situation, never ever give up!  
Last evening, I was watching Charlie Chaplin’s iconic City Lights (1931). In one scene, an eccentric millionaire wants to end his Life. And the Tramps tells him: “Tomorrow the birds will sing. Get up and face Life!”.
That is the way it is. Life is something which has to be faced – no matter what. Our entire expectation that we must not face difficult times or tough situations is wrong. The most important education we must all carry with us is the awareness that Life is just a series of experiences. Some of them may be easy to handle. And some will be tough. Just because the going gets tough, it doesn’t mean we must sulk, brood, feel depressed and eventually give up. What we must remember is that no matter how difficult a situation is, what doesn’t kill us, only makes us stronger!
Many of us are victims of flawed thinking. When faced with a challenge or confronted with tragedy, we imagine that everything about our world is wrong. We feel alone in the wake of Life’s challenges. So we bemoan our situations and lament that we are cursed and doomed. This thinking pushes us into a depressive spiral. Now we have two problems – one is the challenging situation itself and the second is the depression we have invited into our Life. But, with a little awareness and some support from friends or family, if we pause to look around we will be surprised – everybody around us is challenged. Someone’s dealing with a health setback, someone’s coping with the death of a loved one, someone’s struggling in business, another’s trying to salvage a sinking career and someone is trying in vain to rebuild a dead relationship. Everyone’s dealing with pain – only the degrees and the contexts vary, that’s all.
For all the challenges that people face, this then must be a very, very depressive world that we live in! But it is not. And that’s because not everyone who has been felled by Life, lies there ruing their fate. People get up, dust themselves and move on. You must do so too. The best way to pull yourself out of a rut is to accept that your Life is what it is, the way it is. And what you have to do in any given situation – no matter how daunting it may be – is to simply face it. No amount of your wishing that things were different from the way they are, no amount of your crying, no amount of your kicking around in anger and frustration, can change your current reality. Irrespective of how you feel about Life, every long, dark night will soon become a bright day, and as the Tramp said so wisely, tomorrow the birds will sing – again. So, you might as well get along and enjoy the beauty and magic of the Life that you still have than fret over what has happened to you. Whatever is – is what you were ordained to experience. What is not – was never meant to be. If you get these two perspectives deeply embedded in your understanding of Life, you too will live happily ever after!

Face Life unconditionally and you can endure anything

Whatever happens just don’t give up on Life!
There will be times when Life will be very, very challenging. You will feel defeated and deflated. But don’t ever give up. Because the entire essence of Life is to face whatever comes your way. It is your conditioning that makes you want only what you want. You want comfort, care, compassion, love, good health, money and, perhaps, an easy Life. But there are no guarantees that Life’s going to grant all that you want. So, often times, you will have to encounter huge discomfort in your surroundings, neglect, hatred, misunderstanding, cashlessness, disease and a very, very tough Life. You will believe that it’s impossible to live such a Life. You would want a way to end all your suffering. And the way to do that is not to give up on Life, but to accept the way your Life is, face it and live in the moment.
Maya Angelou (1928~2014)
Maya Angelou (1928~2014), American author and poet, who passed way yesterday, said it the best: “‘You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated.’ In fact, the encountering may be the very experience which creates the vitality and the power to endure.” Her Life itself is a testimonial to human endurance – she having been raped at the age of seven and having had to face rejection and untold hardships to survive for many, many, many years.
I have always found great solace whenever I reflect on this quote of Maya’s. It says everything about Life. So simply.  
I am reminded of a lesson that my guruswami (the one who leads a group of pilgrims) shared with me on my first pilgrimage to Sabarimalai (the hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa in Kerala) years ago. He said that the climb was going to be very tough – it’s a distance of 5 kms up very steep (at one point up an almost 75-degree incline) hills, to be covered by foot. We would all suffer, he said, if we kept thinking of when the climb would end. “Instead keep your thoughts on the destination, with wanting to see the Lord. Feel the air in your lungs. Enjoy the scenery. Don’t think about the climb and you will be able to make it with great ease,” he advised. All your suffering comes when you think of what you are enduring and wish that you didn’t have to go through what you are going through. Instead feel the experience. Feel the pain, the sorrow, the uncertainty, the fear, the anxiety – feel everything without wishing it away. Through this continuous feeling, your ability to withstand anything, and endure, will be greatly enhanced. Your problems may not go away. But you will be able to deal with them better.
Life, I have understood, is just a string of experiences, from birth to death. As long as you do not impose conditions on what you are experiencing, at any given moment, no matter what, you can face it.

Mourning or Celebrating: Our world is the same!

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!

You can be happy despite your circumstances!

You can be happy living with your problems!

When we are in a problem situation, facing a challenge or solving something complicated or making sense of what has hit us and what’s going on, unhappiness is the first emotion that we experience. Because the very nature of a problem is that it is a problem ONLY because you don’t want it. Yet because you got it into your Life, without your wanting it, you plunge into unhappiness. When you are unhappy, dealing with anything becomes laborious, a drudgery! Then you stop living and merely exist. Everything becomes burdensome, every step you have to take is painful and you simply lose interest first, and sooner than later hope too. Has your being unhappy really solved the problem? Or helped it in any manner? Well, surely, it hasn’t! So, of what use is it to display__or carry within you__an emotion which is completely useless? 

The simplest, the most fundamental truth about Life is that happiness has NOTHING to do with the state in which you are. You can be happy in spite your circumstances. Your circumstances __ health, relationship, heart-break, break-up, loss__don’t make you unhappy. It’s your attitude that makes you unhappy. Let’s say a near one died suddenly. Now did the dead person make you unhappy or the act of the person dying make you unhappy or your attitude, your outlook, to (the) death make you unhappy? Obviously it’s your attitude. Anyone who has been born has to die. So, what’s so surprising about it? I am not being cold blooded here. I am not saying you should not feel for the departed soul and mourn or feel sad. Please do. By all means feel sad. But don’t cling on to the sadness so much that you stop living. And all you end up leading is a forever unhappy existence. Also when you realize that your expectation that this person should not die is the cause of your misery, your suffering and your unhappiness, you come alive, you begin to feel happy__and content__in the SAME situation. The person who died has not come alive. You have.  This logic applies to every situation that causes you pain, grief and unhappiness in your Life. When you feel unhappy about something, examine not just the object that you think is causing your unhappiness, but also examine what attitude of yours are you bringing to the situation. When you do that you will notice that Life becomes that much more simpler to live. First, you start learning the art of being happy in spite of what’s going on with you. Second, your happiness will always help you deal with the situation much better.

Jason Dehni and Lisa Ray
The latest issue of People magazine has a beautiful story on Canadian actor Lisa Ray, 40, and her husband Jason Dehni. They got married in October 2012 at the Napa Valley in California. Jason had met Lisa after she was diagnosed, in 2009, with multiple myeloma, a rare cancer of the white blood cells, which is incurable. Lisa fought her disease valiantly and has since become an ambassador for cancer research and cure. To People, she said: “I will always live with it, as multiple myeloma doesn’t go away. Crisis can be a blessing and a lesson in disguise. Jason is a rare man, with a combination of strength, integrity and sensitivity. He never once flinched from the prospect of falling in love with a cancer chick! Even knowing that multiple myeloma is incurable__that there will be good and bad days for me__he committed to me.” Jason says he looks forward to growing old with Lisa: “We will grow in awareness and support. And love.”

This is so beautiful. A lady with a fighting spirit meets a man with such an evolved view of Life. And both of them decide to live happily together despite her grave illness! The emperor of maladies may not have been felled physically but in spirit, Lisa, supported by Jason, have sent her cancer cells a strong message: “You cannot come in the way of our happiness!” It is possible to bring this attitude to every problem situation in our lives. Here’s another equally awakening anecdote. Swami Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (1836~1886) was affected by throat cancer in 1885. He lived the last several months of his Life in extreme pain. Yet he never lost his calm and his smile. One of his disciples once asked him how he managed to be this way. He said, with remarkable wit and awareness, “My sickness and I have learned to peacefully co-exist in this body.”

You too can learn the fine art of living happily__despite your circumstances, in spite of your problems. Begin by choosing not to postpone being happy waiting for your problems to recede or go away. Perhaps they may. But know that newer ones will crop up. Because problems thrive on Life. The dead don’t have problems. So, you can either be alive and happy__while you still have and deal with your problems__or you can be dead suffering from them. You decide.