So, why cling on to stuff, why fight over them?
I was amused to note that the Times of India Group has served a legal notice on Arnab Goswami asking him to desist from using his now famous phrase – “the Nation wants to know” – on his TV shows in the future. While the TOI notice made quite a sensation on social media, it left me with several questions. Why do people cling on to stuff? Why do they want to fight over them? Why try to control the actions of other people in contexts that are best left alone?
Please don’t get me wrong. I am not against protecting intellectual property or material wealth or physical property. But a large media group, a behemoth, wanting to restrain a former editor from using a ubiquitous phrase, that had come to be identified with him over the past decade, to me, personally, smacked of a certain lack of spiritual depth.
The truth about our lives is that we came empty-handed and we will leave empty-handed. In this time that we are here, everything that is with us, is given here, is taken from here. And everything that is with us, will be taken away from us. Either when you are alive. Or when you die, it will pass on to someone else. So, spiritual awareness demands that we stop clinging on to stuff. If you are spiritually aware, if you are awakened, you will understand the futility of fighting, of wanting to control, of desiring to possess.
I must confess I was never this way. Life’s experiences have changed me.
To be sure, I was pretty much in the Times of India thinking mold. Everything – and everyone – I reasoned, had to be controlled. And just when I thought I had arrived, by clawing my way through Life, by fighting and winning so many battles, everything I had created or acquired to cobble together my little empire, everything was taken away from me!
The bankruptcy hit us in end-2007. (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal) But it was an episode in 2012 April that made me understand and awaken to the transient nature of Life.
We had long closed down all our offices, including the one in Chennai. We had taken up a small two-bedroom apartment, which primarily served as a holding area for all our files and documentation – that were statutorily required to be maintained. The premises also held our personal collection of over 1500 books, all of them dealing with management, self-help and spirituality, collected over 20 years. But soon, we were unable to meet the rental commitment for this space too. So, in April 2012, we worked on vacating the place. All month we sat, Vaani and I, on the ground, each day, sorting and shredding stuff that we couldn’t shift to our home. Among stuff that wasn’t going to make it with us were those books from the private library. We gave away 1300 of them to a friend who runs a training company in Bangalore. He drove down to pick up them up. I also personally shredded the wall-mountable props of the Vision and Mission statements of our erstwhile Firm. It was catharsis. It was as if I was completing the last rites for our dream child, our Firm that we had found 16 years ago with the Vision of being a global consulting Firm.
That night, over a drink, I cried. Literally and figuratively, I was presiding over the ruins of an empire that once was. And now there was nothing. As I soaked in the futility of my grief, I made peace with myself. I understood that Life is not only about dreaming, striving, achieving, owning and controlling. Life is also about losing – what you have owned, what you have created – and about not getting what you want. It was a magical moment of awakening.
Ever since, I have found myself getting better dealing with denials, rejections and loss. So, while I still believe you must take adequate measures, living in a real world as we all do, to protect what is rightfully yours, you must avoid this urge to want to control, to fight and to possess stuff – things, people, opinions – and claim them as your own. Such a struggle will only take you away from living in the moment, from being happy. And, besides, without a shred of doubt it can be said that nothing, absolutely nothing, is going with you!
“Let It” always aids and abets “Let Go”!!
Why is it that people find letting go such a tough thing to do? The answer is simple: when people don’t want the Life that is happening to them, they cling on to their pasts and to their imagined realties, they then find letting go difficult.
Whether we like it or not Life is only doing what it pleases. It has a mind of its own. So, the best way to let go is to let Life do as it will. Which means you don’t become a party to Life’s trials and tribulations, even if they concern you and your circle of influence, but you choose to remain just a witness.
This practice of just letting Life do what it pleases is called “Let It”. It aids and abets “Let Go”!
Being in a perpetual “Let It” mode can possibly mean this – Let problems come. Let problems go. Let happiness come. Let happiness go. Let debt come. Let debt go. Let grief come. Let grief go. Let death come. Let death go. It means switching from “Just Do It!” to “Just Let It!”
I struggled with the concept initially. But I soon discovered that only when you are party to something are you in grief. When you are a witness, there is a momentary dissonance, but you are quickly reminded by your awareness that you are not involved! When something goes wrong with your child, you are stressed out. You are anxious. You want a resolution. When something goes wrong with a neighbor’s child, you profess concern, you lend a shoulder, you support but you do not get involved or attached. So can you look at your own Life like the way you would look at your neighbor’s? Can you be a mere witness? When you are in that state you will realize that any situation can be faced and lived through.
This is not at all difficult. It is outright simple. When you are involved, is when attachment will come. And where there is attachment there will be agony. But if you are a mere witness, a doer of what you can and what you must, and let Life lead, you will be in a “Let Go” because you have “Let It” take over!
Always speak your mind. If you don’t, well, then, don’t complain!
A gentleman I met recently said he was finally divorcing his wife of 35 years. He told me that he had never been happy in the relationship. He said he was feeling liberated that he was moving on. But then he asked me this question: “When we have been wronged, let down, trampled upon and dumped in a relationship, why do we often not seek closure and move on, why do we cling on to the hurt and insist on prolonging the trauma?”
Without necessarily focusing on the gentleman’s relationship with his wife, this still is a very important question. There are a few reasons why this happens. For one, most people cling on to dead relationships hoping to revive them. Or they want to fight to reclaim their lost dignity while staying in the relationship. Next, we generally don’t like to directly confront a person who makes us uncomfortable or sometimes even miserable. In a very strange way we enjoy feeling sad, pitying ourselves and presenting ourselves to the world as someone who’s been wronged. The other reason pertains to the discomfort we feel in making the other person feel uncomfortable. When you take up an issue head-on with someone, that person is going to most likely squirm. And you, being the good soul that you are, don’t want that person to feel like a worm. But unless you tell someone, who seems to take you for granted and so piles atrocity upon atrocity on you, that you don’t like being treated in a certain way, how do you expect that person to respect you and treat you any differently?
What you must understand is very simple. Don’t let anyone take you for granted. The moment you allow anyone to do that, you have lost your right to complain about your Life! And you don’t have to do much to push someone back. Just speak your mind, draw your boundaries and set a clear protocol that you don’t appreciate any trespassing or over-stepping.
Ultimately, if someone pisses on you, or tramples all over you, you, more than that person, are responsible for the way you are feeling. So, if you don’t want to feel miserable, stop clinging on to relationships that make you feel miserable. You don’t have to be rude. You just need to be firm – no matter who that person is. Have a brutally honest conversation. If you can’t do that, write that person an e-mail. Basically, communicate – efficiently, effectively and without mincing words. Seek a closure, with such communication, to whatever bothers you about the issue or the person. When you do this, you will feel truly liberated and totally at peace with yourself!
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Are you in possession of something or is something possessing you?
Anything that you cling on to is bound to bring you grief. Because you will first be consumed by your fear that you may lose it. Second, you will eventually end up grieving over its unavoidable loss – whenever that happens. Because, everything that you cling on to today will be lost surely someday! This doesn’t mean you give up everything. It doesn’t mean you renounce. It only means stop ‘clinging on’ to whatever is making you fearful or sad or both __ memories, things, people, habits, opinions, whatever.
A friend of ours owns a 2000 square-foot apartment in the heart of Chennai. The value of the real estate is a few crore rupees. He has been wanting to rent it out but strangely there have been no takers. So, earlier this year, he decided to sell it. But for almost four months now he has not been able to find a buyer. Every deal falls through at virtually the last minute. Our friend confesses that he has been losing sleep over this property jinx for several months now. His grief: for all his financial prudence, he is unable to plug the losses he is incurring over this dead – and locked up – investment in the past year!
This is a classic example of the possessor (my friend) being possessed by his possession (the property). His grief is palpable. With due respect to his financial acumen, I hope he realizes, sooner than later, that it is simply not worth it for anyone to be ‘losing sleep’ over ‘losing money’. The solution obviously is not to let go of the investment. But to let go of the expectation that just because there is an investment, it must yield returns. My friend can end his suffering, and get over his grief, if he awakens to the fact that his investment is not wrong, but his expectation of a yield from the investment, in a time-frame he expects, is what is holding him to ransom.
Clearly, Life doesn’t work the way we want it to just because we have drawn up blueprints and excel sheets. The humbling truth is that the more we cling on to plans or expectations based on our plans, the more we will suffer and grieve.
I have learned that clinging on to something actually ends up making you feel vulnerable and the opposite of being in control when you understand the vicious game your mind plays on you! While you are physically in possession of something, and you think you are in control, the truth is that the ‘something’ is controlling you. The mind loves dependence. It needs a crutch. And in your clinging on to many things at various times the mind exults at the innumerable possibilities for dependence. So, in effect, over time, your mind controls you, leads you and directs you. It is like being in a car where the driver has been rendered powerless and the car drives itself to wherever it feels like!? Do you even think this is normal? This is what has happened to each of us because of our ruinous tendency to ‘cling on’!
What are you clinging on to? To understand this, ask yourself what’s possessing you – a thought, an opinion, a suspicion, an object, money, property, a relationship or perhaps a habit? Simply un-cling. And watch how you feel. With your feet no longer chained to the ground, un-clinging sets you free! As Mevlana Jalauddin Rumi, the 13th Century Persian poet has said: ‘You were born with wings; why prefer to crawl through Life?”