Do you find your Bliss or does your Bliss find you?
We discussed this all-important question in the 52nd Edition of #BlissCatchers last Saturday. #BlissCatchers is a live, reflective, non-commercial Conversation Series that Vaani and I curate and host, exploring the journeys of those who have gone on to what they love doing the most in Life. This Series is supported and sponsored by the Odyssey Bookstore in Adyar, Chennai.
The guests in Saturday’s Edition of the Series were Learning Experience Designer Harish Srinivasan and Photo Journalist and Cinematographer Wide Angle Ravi Shankaran.
Harish may well have ended up as an engineer-turned-corporate-warrior! But, while in Engineering school, in an ambitious bid to find a cure to “fix our unimaginative education system”, he asked a question that led him to follow his Bliss: “Are we willing to listen to the voices of children?” He explored this question and its possible answers with two of his classmates, Aravind and Jaikanth. Straight out of college, the trio set up Infinite Engineers in 2014. As this company’s uber-cool Learning Experience Designer, Harish’s current mission is to make science fun for children. “I am hoping to inspire a few generations to use their intellect to not just acquire knowledge, but to do, think, learn and innovate,” he says.
Ravi believes it is destiny that led him to his Bliss. 35 years ago, playing around with a doctor friend’s camera, Ravi fell in love with the medium. Then, the venerable news photographer Subha Sundaram, his mentor, instilled in him a value that he strives to live by daily – which is, “to bring his unique creative vision into every picture he shoots”. And then came the opportunity to learn from the Master, P C Sreeram, who taught him how “to create art with the magic of light”. “Each of these events were simply meant to be. They have shaped my Life,” says Ravi. True. Without them, there may be no Wide Angle Ravi Shankaran – an ace photographer who straddles the business, news and celebrity genres seamlessly; a brilliant cinematographer who has done documentaries, ad films and several full-length movies; a #BlissCatcher who has showcased his works in five exhibitions!
In both their journeys I found that their Bliss had found them. For instance, when the chairperson of Harish’s college reprimands him and his colleagues for not focusing on their engineering studies, the trio are angry – not defeated – and channelize their anger to go set up Infinite Engineers. And when Ravi is toying with a friend’s camera, he unwittingly embraces a medium that would eventually shape his entire Life. Listen to my entire Conversation with them here.
Not just with Harish and Ravi, but in exploring over a 100 #BlissCatcher journeys, over the last 5+ years, Vaani and I have repeatedly found this pattern: When you step out of the earning-a-living or economic circle of your Life, when you are willing to allow Life to lead you, your Bliss will come calling. It will come back, again and again, whenever you step out of the earning-a-living circle…until you embrace it, until you make your Bliss your Life! This is an irrefutable truth, this is how Life works! Rumi, my favorite poet was, after all, right: “What you seek is seeking you too…!”
But when your Bliss comes calling, you have a huge responsibility: you must trust the process of Life! You have to let go of whatever you are clinging on to and go with the flow of Life. It may be scary, even unnerving, at times, but this is what makes Life’s fun; so, celebrate that sense of uncertainty, that romance, that only an unscripted adventure can offer you. Harish dived deep into his Bliss when he chose, after Engineering school, not to take up a corporate job. And Ravi gave up a regular, well-paying, job to set up Wide Angle; then, when his freelance photography career with Wide Angle was soaring, he took another deep dive, into cinematography – offering start as an apprentice, at age 40, with the Master, P.C.Sreeram.
Now, at face value, it may appear that Bliss requires you to do something daring, something extra-ordinary. But when you pause and reflect, when you examine the lives of happy people around you, folks who are doing what they love doing, you will notice that all these people have allowed themselves to be led by Life. So, Bliss only asks for something simple, something fundamental, something intrinsic to Life, from you. It only asks for you to trust Life. It requires you to let go of the fake sense of economic or social security that you are clinging on to, and take that leap of faith. That’s when your Bliss will find you and draw you into its fold. And, as American mythologist and author Joseph Campbell says, when you do follow your Bliss, unfailingly, doors will open – every single time!
Note: AVIS and Vaani are the happynesswalas. They believe their Life’s Purpose is Inspiring ‘Happyness’! They are going through a fascinating Life-changing experience – a crippling bankruptcy!! Look them up here: www.avisviswanathan.in and www.avinitiatives.co.in.
After postponing – for cost and other reasons – attending to a nagging pain and sensitivity in my teeth for almost a month, I finally visited our dentist earlier this past week. She’s a fine young lady – warm, courteous and very detailed with both her examination of and education on a condition. After review, she concluded that I needed to have my teeth scaled.
We fixed a time on Saturday evening for this process.
Even as Vaani and I arrived at the appointed time at her clinic she was already set, waiting for me. When we thanked her for her professionalism, she said she had imbibed this value from her father-in-law, a veteran doctor who always championed being on time to receive patients.
The scaling process was a simple one. My dentist further made it interesting by keeping me engaged with what she was seeing, what she was doing. When we were done, I asked her for her fee. She stated a very reasonable amount; I was actually expecting the fee to be higher. Surprised, I asked her if she was sure and if she had included her consulting fee for my visit earlier in the week (for which she had not charged then). Her reply was beautiful: “Sir, I am very sure. The reason why I left an established hospital chain, set up a clinic and started practising on my own is because here I can treat my patients the way I like to treat them – charging them reasonably for the services I offer.”
There’s an endearing, old world charm in the young doctor’s outlook to Life and in her attitude towards money.
Think about it. How often do you encounter professionals these days that value your time and who don’t keep you waiting? How likely is it that you will be charged only a fair, reasonable, fee for a professional’s advice or service? Surely, my dentist’s twin principles of patient(customer)-focus and compassion, of striving to not keep a patient waiting and to charge only a reasonable fee, are not just rare, they are perhaps likely to completely fade away from our society soon.
Besides this, there’s an invaluable, spiritual, lesson we can glean from the doctor’s philosophy and work ethic. Getting to that lesson requires that you ask yourself a simple question: What do I want to do with my Life?
Let’s understand this better. You have been given this Life – it is a gift, surely, because you never asked to be born; and you have acquired knowledge in your chosen field. So, what do you want to do with this gift and this knowledge? This is the key question. The answer to this question will lead you to the why of your creation, your Purpose. This answer will open the door to your Happiness.
Now, in my dentist’s case, she is a doctor; but you may be a gardener, a cook, a dancer, a lawyer, an entrepreneur, an accountant, an engineer, a musician, a painter – whoever you are – ask yourself, what do you want to do with the gift of your lifetime and with the knowledge, the training, the expertise you have in your chosen field? When you employ this understanding (of what you want to do with your Life) for serving others – than just yourself – you will awaken to living a Life of meaning and Happiness. You will then discover that your Life matters – because you are living it purposefully.
When you look around, you will realize that many people are feeling incomplete and unhappy with their Life. Look closely and you will find that they have perhaps chosen to serve only their interest, where their focus is only on earning a living, on making money, on profiting materially. Surely, they may be wealthy, and very successful in a worldly sense, but chances are, they may be feeling incomplete and unhappy.
Clearly, money can’t make anyone happy. Of course, you know that! Then, isn’t it common sense that we step out of the earning-a-living trap?
The way to do that is to celebrate Life – fully, every single day, and not just on Diwali or on a birthday or on an anniversary! A true, continuous, celebration of Life is the ability to always be happy and content no matter what is happening in your Life, no matter what you have or don’t have. Simply, Happiness is a decision. You are happy the moment you are content with what you have, when you accept what is. You are happy when you serve another, when you are making our world a better place. I am not saying money is not important. All I am saying is that making money is not the Purpose of your creation. Money is a human invention. In the times when money was not an object, people may have well lived simpler lives – they must have celebrated being with each other, serving each other, creating value for each other. Can’t we still live that way, while making just enough money that we need to get through Life and employing the rest of all that comes our way for universal good?
Today’s a great day to reflect on that opportunity, to go beyond the material celebrations that surround you and ask yourself what do you want do to with your limited-period offer: your priceless Life? May your answer guide you to celebrating your Life, your way – continuously, happily!
Slow down when Life slows you down.
This morning as I sipped my coffee, I thought about the movie that we watched last night on TV. It was the 1972 classic Victoria No. 203 (Brij, Saira Banu, Navin Nischol). Seeing Saira and Navin ride the Victoria, Vaani and I reminisced about the time in the late nineties when we rode it too. We were hosting Jack Canfield (of Chicken Soup for the Soul) at the Taj Mahal hotel at the Gateway of India. And we were staying in a suite in the old wing of the hotel. After our event with Jack was over, in the middle of the night, we set out to ride on a Victoria. It was a slow, beautiful, memorable ride along the magical Marine Drive.
And then I thought about our Life now. From being high-fliers, in a worldly sense, we have apparently been grounded and consigned to a slow Life in the past decade.
Yet, there’s a huge learning from this phase. Which is that, in such times in Life when the journey becomes awfully slow, we must realize that Life is inviting us to enjoy the scenery. But most of us don’t have the attitude to see it that way. At least I didn’t look at Life from that point of view when our bankruptcy struck us in 2007. But I soon discovered that refusing to slow down and instead struggling with and complaining about the painfully slow pace, I was missing the magic and beauty in our Life. There was so much time I had now to spend time with Vaani, to think about the true meaning of Life, to celebrate Aanchal’s growing up years (Aash was already away at college in Chicago by then)…but no, I wasn’t enjoying what I had; I was pining for something else, something which wasn’t even there.
When I reflected upon my struggle, I discovered that the problem lay with the way I had led my Life up until then. Running from event to event, crisis to crisis, trying to make ends meet, earning-a-living, busy working harder than ever before, meeting targets, paying bills, raising children and doing everything else except living mindfully. And then as often happens with Life, the game changed. We were put in a spot where we could not move; we were check-mated.
In our case, it is this numbing bankruptcy. But anyone can find themselves in this “slow spot” right now! It could be a health issue, it could be a career stalemate, it could be a relationship tangle or it could be a legal quagmire. In such times, there may be a tendency to worry and to wish__pray, plead, hope__that why can’t Life fast-forward, why can’t we get back to ‘normalcy’? So, if you are bogged down in an ICU, you wish you could be back in the hustle-bustle of everyday Life. Or if you are caught in the midst of legalese, you just are hoping why don’t you win all your claims and are free to be away from all this disputing and arguing? Interestingly, Life’s not a handmaiden that will do what you please. At times, it just may not move.
Know also that there is no fast-forward button or option in Life. So, when you are pushed to a corner by the cosmic design, the best thing to do is to not worry about not moving. Be happy you can breathe. Because being able to sense your breathing is normal. Running so hard that you don’t even have the time to notice you are breathing, is not normal. Imagine you are climbing a steep mountain in a vehicle. As it negotiates the sharp hair-pin bends, the engine is finding the going tough. So, the vehicle is down to an agonizing crawl. Now, you can worry about that pace and concentrate on the dreary drone of the engine, or you can look out the window and see what the scenery looks like. This is what enjoying the scenery is all about.
“Smile, breathe and go slowly,” advises Thich Nhat Hanh (called ‘Thay’), the Vietnamese Buddhist monk – and among my favorite spiritual teachers. Just being mindful of your being alive__to experiencing whatever you are going through, be it pain, be it joy__is what can make the slowdowns in Life more meaningful. Do all the things that you can joyfully in whatever state you find yourself. And don’t worry about what you can’t. If you are immobilized by a health issue enjoy the ‘grounding’ with a family member who is nursing you; pining to be able to run around will only cause agony. If you are cashless enjoy being able to live without money; hoping you had money will only aggravate your suffering. If you are caught in a relationship problem where there is much misunderstanding, enjoy practicing patience and forgiveness; craving for understanding from the other person may only accentuate your pain. Thay champions mindful living as a cure to all our ailments coming from merely existing. “Life is available only in the present moment. Even drink your tea, slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world, the earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future,” he says.
So, that’s what I am doing this morning. I am, while still reminiscing about the beautiful Victoria ride from 20 years ago, savoring every drop of the brilliant coffee that Vaani’s brewed for us. Ah! Life’s slow…but Life’s beautiful too!
In this Vlog, I explain why it is crucial to be looking in the right direction for your Life’s Purpose to find you. Make a choice between merely earning-a-living and living fully!
View time: 3.46 minutes
What you seek will seek you.
“I often vex over trying to understand what is the Purpose of my Life,” said a young man who I met recently. He wanted to know if it was a “good thing” or a “bad thing” vexing over trying to understand your Life’s Purpose.
I smiled. The very fact that a young man, in his 20s, is thinking of Life’s Purpose, I feel, is commendable. I started wondering if my Life has a Purpose at all only when I was in my mid-thirties. And this is what I have learnt from my quest for, and discovery of, my Life’s Purpose.
We must first remember that all forms of creation have a Purpose. Particularly, the human form. To be created a human being, with no significant ‘manufacturing defects’, is a not just a miracle, it is a blessing. If you have been created human, surely, there must be a reason behind it; a Purpose. Else, possibly, you may been created in some other inanimate or non-human form. Think about it. Why are you created human? And the answer really is simple. You are human so that you can experience happiness, so that you can serve other forms of creation using your intellect and your compassion, and so that you live a full, complete Life. But what do we human beings do – we are conditioned by our upbringing and social expectations, so we are stuck with earning-a-living instead of living, we are forever saying we deserve more, instead of serving and because our wants outnumber our needs, we are perpetually unhappy. So, in essence, we are, as a race, a majority of us, missing the whole Purpose behind our creation.
Every human creation has an individual Purpose too. Just as Gandhi’s had, Mother Teresa’s had, Kailash Sathyarthi’s has and Malala Yusafzai’s has. It is a fallacy to imagine that only ‘great’ people’s lives have a Purpose. The truth is that they are regarded as great only because they lived a Life of Purpose. Now, you cannot find your Life’s Purpose by vexing over it. Agonizing over something will only cause suffering. So, just relax. The very fact that you know that your Life has a Purpose and you are seeking it is a blessing – there are so many, many, many millions out there who are merely ‘earning-a-living’ and are imagining that they have been created to slave, earn, save, suffer and procreate. So, you are in a more evolved state than many out there. Celebrate yourself, than agonizing, therefore.
What’s beautiful about Life is that your Life’s Purpose will find you. What you seek will seek you. There’s no way you can explain this. It happens to each one in their own way – over time. Sometimes a cathartic turn of events may awaken you. Sometimes, a flash of an idea may inspire you. Or you may just be in a place by sheer happenstance when you feel a river moving inside you telling you, ‘come, flow with me!’ Purpose is magical. It transforms your Life instantaneously. It makes you want to wake up each morning and go live each day fully, happily, energetically, no matter how debilitating the circumstances are.
There’s a simple way to stay tuned in the direction of your Life’s Purpose though. Make a list of all the activities you are passionate about. Then decide which one or ones are you capable of being world-class, excellent, at. Then focus only on doing those couple of things that you are passionate about and have the potential to be best at in the world. Soon you will come to that one activity where you lose yourself. Which is, when you immerse yourself in it, you lose track of time, sleep and even of your own identity. Ask yourself how can this one activity not just benefit you alone but how can you serve people around you? The answer to this question may well direct you to your Life’s Purpose. Getting to this stage of understanding, evolution and clarity, takes time. So, trust the process of Life and be patient.
And, of course, Purpose and money are unconnected, unrelated. Though living a Life of Purpose may surely lead you to earn money, making money cannot be your Life’s Purpose. Because money is a human invention, a social necessity. Your Life’s Purpose is the reason for your creation, it is why you are, well, human in the first place. It is the reason for your living, for your being. It is Life’s longing for you – to make your lifetime meaningful, to make it count. So, you don’t have to get vexed trying to find it. Just stay tuned to the big question – ‘what is the Purpose of my Life?’ – without agonizing over it, and your Purpose will, over time, find you.