When you are lost in Life, focus on lasting it by living it meaningfully!
Every once in a while, Life will hang you from the edge of a precipice. You will not know what’s hit you. You will be clueless about what to do. And you will simply lack the motivation to go on. You will be numbed by your crisis.
How do you deal with such a phase when you are depressed, lost and don’t know what to do?
I have been there and I have felt exactly that way. So, I talk from experience – of what I have learned from my own dark phase in Life!
If you look at it dispassionately, Life is pretty meaningless. You came with nothing. And you will go with nothing. So, all this drama over what is yours, what you want to achieve, what you have lost, what you want to control…all this drama is futile. Nothing really will stay on forever. Not even you. When your time here is up, and your number is called, you too will perish. It is only because we don’t realize and awaken to this truth about Life that we suffer. This is why, in some situations, we get so attached with our circumstances that we feel lost. For instance, you haven’t got a job and you are being rejected time and again. You don’t know what to do. Or despite your best efforts you are not able to communicate with or relate to your spouse – and you see the relationship withering away. Or your business is just not picking up no matter how hard you work or how creatively you present your wares. When things don’t go the way you plan for them to be, you will naturally feel lost – and often depressed. In such times, however depressed you are, however much you think it is a no-go, it is important that you last the tenure of the tough phase.
For this, you must shift the focus from feeling lost to working to last the phase – often just lasting one day at a time! This is not as difficult as you imagine it to be. Whatever be the circumstance, Life is not over until it really is over. So, why fret about a Life challenge incessantly? Yes, when the challenge first strikes, you will feel clueless, you will not know what to do, you will feel lost. But then remind yourself that, like everything else in Life, even this phase is impermanent – it will surely pass. So, focus on having to last! Start living Life meaningfully. You may not have everything the way you want it, you may not have everything in your control, but celebrate what you have and train yourself live in the moment. For instance, even if you hate your job, serve your customers selflessly – it is because of them that you even have a job and are paid a salary! Or even if you and your spouse cannot relate to each other, be compassionate to your spouse – after all, you did have some great times together! Or even if your business is not picking up, offer something of value that none of your stakeholders cannot refuse – because unless they see value, no one’s going to prefer your business over another product or service. Or, simply, make it a point to watch a sunrise or sunset daily – learn to enjoy the magic and beauty of Life.
Know this: no matter what has happened to you or is happening to you, every moment has to be lived through in Life. Instead of merely surviving and lasting the course, imagining Life to be dreary, depressive and hopeless, why not celebrate and live it meaningfully, happily?
Learn to celebrate the only Life you have by living in the moment!
“I don’t know where my Life is going. I am totally clueless. There seems to be no point in anything that I do. I have a cushy job, a stable ‘more-than-average’ income, a loving family but it is as if I am on a treadmill – I am running faster and faster, yet, getting nowhere!” This was a lament from a senior executive at a leading software company, when I bumped into him at a coffee shop the other day. He added, asking “Have you ever felt like this, AVIS?”
Of course, I have felt like that. Everyone feels like that at some time in their Life.
And I have realized that this feeling gnaws at you only when you want your Life to be predictable, when you want answers to all your questions. But, beyond a point, there are no answers in Life. When despite having everything material, like this gentleman who I met, if you still feel empty, listless, you must awaken to the reality that education, social status, a job, affluence, all these things cannot satiate you. I have come to understand that such emptiness must be celebrated. It must not be resisted. What this emptiness is teaching you is that while you have every ‘thing’, you are not happy. So, clearly, happiness doesn’t come from having things. Happiness is who you are when you simply are living in the moment; when you are enjoying your Life for what it is.
The human mind is the culprit here. It is always grazing in the past or in the future. Which is why this man is feeling lost. He has everything that most people will crave for, but he’s not enjoying any of those. His mind is searching, yearning, pining for something else. He must realize that there’s nothing to gain or attain or achieve in Life. The only Life we all have is the Life that is happening to us in the moment. In his case, he doesn’t even know what he is searching for. In someone else’s case, they want more of what he has. In another’s case, they are grieving over what is lost. So, simply, as long as your mind is away from the moment, you can never be happy.
I have a hairdresser friend called Ramalingam in Bangalore. He works at the salon at Vivanta by the Taj at Trinity Circle there. In the days when I had a lot of hair, I would visit him every month. On one visit, when he found me very fidgety, constantly typing out messages on my Nokia Communicator, he asked me if he could share an unsolicited perspective. I grudgingly nodded in approval. He told me this: “The greatest human quality is to simply be. If you can drop this constant urge to become, to be some place else, to be in control, and just be, then you have mastered the art of intelligent living.” I barked at him for chiding me. I told him it is fine as a hairdresser to hold such a ‘non-corporate’ point of view. In business, I championed, you have to be on the move, you have to constantly be driving – harder, stronger. You have to be on the ball all the time, else someone, somewhere will drop a catch. And catches cost matches. Ramalingam looked back at me and said, “By not learning to be, you have already dropped a big catch – you! The constant doer is not the Master. Only one who can simply be is the true Master!”
What he said to me that day made no sense to me back then. But over the years of practicing mouna (daily silence periods), whenever I think back at that conversation, I recognize that Ramalingam was, after all, right. He was actually pointing to the fact that when you are in a frenzy of activity, you are being controlled by your mind. In the name of business, you are constantly feigning ‘busyness’; to the extent that you are trapped by it. Your emptiness comes from this sense of ‘busyness’ – this feeling of running, running, running, like on a treadmill, but getting nowhere! For this emptiness to make way for fulfilment, for happiness to be flowing from within you, you must learn to control your mind. You must drop your desire to become something and simply be. Just be in the moment, living, thriving, celebrating the only Life you have! Merry Christmas!
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Each of us is prone to self-destruct ourselves at least once. Only our awareness can help us avoid that phase in Life.
A friend chatted with me on Facebook and wanted to know what had happened to another friend who had not been in touch for over 20 years now. I said I had no clue. Apparently this friend, who had gone out of circulation, had had an affair with his colleague at work, so his wife had thrown him out of their home, his girlfriend took all his money and ditched him and the guy went into depression. He ended up getting booked on charges of planting a bomb at the Howrah railway station! That was the last that anyone had heard of him. So, the friend, who was chatting with me, said, sounding very holier-than-thou: “He destructed himself.”
Those three words startled me. There was a sharp, stinging truth in them. In a way, from where much of my immediate world would see me, even I had destructed myself. Making some horrible business decisions that landed us in a bankruptcy as a Firm and in abject penury as a family for a large part of the past decade. Even so, through this catharsis, I believe I have learnt a very, very important, albeit expensive, lesson: Life is all about losing yourself and finding yourself.
To be sure, there’s a self-destruct button in each of us. And without fail, without exception, each of us will press it at least once in our lifetimes. We may do it gradually or we may do it all of a sudden, but press it, we sure will. The only way to shift from a mode prone to self-destruction to one of intelligent living is to practice awareness.
In Life, all matters of morality, discretion, right, wrong, social hierarchy, power, position, grace, disgrace are subjective. Period. Who is to decide what’s right and what’s wrong? Who’s to define what’s discretion and what’s indiscretion? Is being physically intimate, as in the instance above, with someone wrong? Isn’t it a biological need? Is sharing with someone wrong? Isn’t it an emotional need? Who decides acceptable and unacceptable behavior in an individual? Society may define it to an individual perhaps, but nobody other than the individual__himself or herself__can decide that for that individual!
So, I don’t believe it is prudent to judge those who make choices that lead them on a ruinous path. Each of us, in some way or the other, is on a self-destruction mode. Our means of self-destruction may vary. Someone may be self-destructing with anger and someone else will be self-destructing with grief. Some may be prone to lust or to jealousy and others to insecurity. Some may be destructing with addictions like smoking or alcohol, while some others may be held hostage to gambling or a hi-flying lifestyle. Or someone may be simply struck by hubris. So, ‘self-destruction and falling from grace’ does not apply to a few alone. If you see the point being made here, then appreciate that no one, that includes you, is free from the possibility of self-destruction!
It is therefore important to review yourself from time to time. Ask yourself if whatever you are doing makes you comfortable – or does it leave you feeling guilty and disturbed? This self-examination is critical. When you do this, you are no longer, even subconsciously, hiding from yourself. A brilliant awareness then takes over. Every time a temptation arises in you, to get angry or grieve or lust or drink or smoke, your awareness will step in and awaken you from your stupor. Awareness is the only way to freedom. Then nothing will tempt you. Neither a cigarette, nor alcohol, nor anger or sorrow, nor sex or gambling. You may well continue to experience everything for sure. But you will cling on to nothing. Nothing can and will pin you down. Your awareness will ensure that you are free__and are not enslaved by someone or something.
Think about this. Employ awareness to exit the self-destruct mode. Only then can you find yourself whenever you feel totally lost in Life!
Celebrate being clueless and not knowing where your Life is going!
There may be times in Life when you will begin to question why you made the choices that you made. There may be anger and grief in you for what has happened. And there may even be guilt over what you have done that led to what has happened. As you wallow in self-pity and self-doubt, everything about your Life will appear listless, uninteresting and meaningless. You just begin to hate the Life you have and don’t know where to begin. Or how to snap out of such a state.
Relax. You are perfectly normal if you feel that way about your Life just now. It is only from feeling lost in Life can you find yourself, find focus and learn to appreciate the value of being happy despite your circumstances. I too have been there and felt exactly that way. So whatever I tell you now, I share from personal experience.
We must first understand that Life by itself has no meaning. You came with nothing. And you will go, when your time is up, with nothing. So all this drama of achieving, possessing, losing, reclaiming, all this is just a waste of an entire lifetime, really. But this doesn’t mean that there’s no point in living. Obviously a Higher, Intelligent (that’s certainly more intelligent that everyone around here) Energy has created you and given you the gift of this lifetime. Now if you are spending this lifetime brooding, grieving and feeling miserable, then you are clearly squandering this opportunity, this gift. Recognize that the opportunity to utilize the gift of this lifetime is with you. Nobody but you can live your Life for you. No matter who you are with, you have to act, you have to take charge, you have to get moving to create the Life that you will enjoy living. Simply, you must get down to work to bring meaning to your Life by doing all – and only – that which makes you happy.
Now, it’s quite possible that you are feeling lost in Life because you are where you are because of the choices you have made so far. It is always your past that creates your present. And it is your present that seeds the future. Since no one can undo the past, the only way you can move into the future is by living in the now. When you are clinging to the dead past, you are missing the now. Your brooding over what was is not going to change it for you. As you go along in Life you will discover that no experience is ever a waste – clearly, as Steve Jobs said, you can only connect the dots backward. So, let go of the past but learn from your past choices. Understand which of those choices made you happy. And which are the choices that you would never want to make again? Then ask yourself what is it that will make you happy? And begin to work in that direction. You must remember here that from where you are you may not be able to immediately transition to where you want to be. But unless you start making choices relating to your happiness, you will not move in the direction of where you want to be. Also know that sometimes the future you want to create for yourself may seem hopelessly distant. Or that you may struggle with getting started on the journey. This is when you must be patient and start learning to live in the now. Trust the process of Life. Things happen in their own time and at their own pace. Your job is to keep working on being happy celebrating and savoring each moment.
Knowing your ikigai helps here. Ikigai in Japanese means reason for being. But, colloquially, it also means what do you wake up for each morning? What gets you excited to get out of bed and going? Find your ikigai. And this takes some time and effort. So, you begin with a long list of things you like doing. And keep doing most of them. Soon you will realize that you love doing somethings more than the others. The list now gets shortened. And soon again you will discover that when doing a thing, or a couple of things, you just feel blissful. That then is your ikigai. Start focusing on it. Do it again, and again, and again. Become a master at your ikigai. When you become world-class and attain mastery at it, you not only are happy doing it, you are also profiting from your happiness because the world likes to pay a premium to engage with masters!
So, stop ruing the fact that you are lost. Instead celebrate being clueless. And get down to working on your Life. An exciting journey awaits you that will help you understand who you really are and what makes you really come alive and be happy.