Whatever you lose or is taken away from you, simply, let it go!
In yesterday’s IPL X Final between MI and RPS, when MI’s Krunal Pandya dropped Ajinkya Rahane’s catch off the bowling of Lasith Malinga, it looked like the dropped catch would cost MI the match. While frustration was writ large on the faces of players and supporters alike, with MI’s captain Rohit Sharma apparently howling in disbelief, Malinga smiled. And that’s the way he is. Whenever he is hit for a boundary or when someone drops a catch off his bowling, Malinga smiles. There’s an evolved, detached quality to his response to a competitive, aggressive, often frustrating, sporting moment.
And I simply love that quality.
It always reminds me of the simplest way to understand, appreciate and celebrate the transient nature of Life. The point Malinga’s smile is making is, don’t take anything seriously. Definitely not what you fail at or what you lose. And don’t cling on to your success, your glory, your rewards, your recognition either. After all, you can’t take anything with you when you depart from here. So, why exult, why mourn?
People often tell me that bringing this attitude to Life is difficult. And I don’t think so. Whenever you are in the grip of a frustrating situation, your own dropped catch moment, just ask yourself if that loss, that frustration will matter some years from now. Ask if it will matter when you die. It most certainly will not. So, let that feeling of frustration go. Don’t attend to it, don’t cling on to it. Just smile. Bring the same logic to moments of personal achievement too. Life happens through you, for you, but not because of you. If you remember this truth about Life you can always be unmoved, non-frustrated, and like Malinga, smiling!
Fears and frustrations will arise, but you can choose to be fearless and non-frustrated.
This morning, as I woke up, I noticed emails from Google. Both my Gmail account and my YouTube channel were suspended because Google saw “suspicious” activity on them that violated their standard guidelines and policies.
Phew! That was the last thing I wanted. I had a packed day ahead of me and I reckoned now that I would be set back by a couple of hours having to restore both my Gmail account and my YouTube channel. The Gmail account was easily done with a normal verification process. But the YouTube channel, linked to my Gmail account, remained suspended. Even as I prepared to appeal against the suspension, I thought of the consequences. What if my appeal was not considered and the channel was shut down? Content on the channel and its subscriber base had been built up over a considerable period of time. To re-curate and reload all the content was going to take some effort. A sense of frustration came over me. I was particularly miffed because the mail from YouTube stated that I had indulged in activity that was in violation of their guidelines. Surely I had not done any such thing. So, perhaps, it appeared to me, someone had tried to hack into my account. And its suspension was more a preventive step.
I took a deep breath and decided to appeal against the suspension. Once that was done, I made a note in my calendar to spend a full day next week to create a new YouTube channel. Vaani volunteered to help me with that process. I felt reassured and we stepped out on our morning walk.
While we had moved on to consider a worst-case scenario – of the channel’s suspension not being revoked – the “stupidity” and “unfairness” of it all continued to rankle me. But the decision to move on, our willingness to create a new channel, helped in pulling the mind back into the present. It helped us to stay engaged with our morning walk – to a cuckoo’s call, to a walker who called out to her dog “Inji Marabba”, to a lady who struggled to learn to balance her two-wheeler, to newspaper boys who went about their day’s early routine.
Then, suddenly, a mail popped into my phone from YouTube saying they had re-reviewed the suspension and had revoked it. My channel, they now said, held a good standing and I was good to go. I, naturally, heaved a sigh of relief! Now, on the face of it, this morning’s developments for me, are not serious. But they did bring along with them pain – and may have left us more frustrated than anything else.
But that’s how Life is. The Google actions are but metaphors of how Life can surprise us – and, sometimes, even shock and sock us. I have learnt that however painful some episodes are, it is always practical to consider the “worst thing” that can happen in the given situation. Once you have considered that eventuality, just prepare yourself to face it. Even as you are prepared for the worst in the given situation, deal with the ongoing crisis – as it unfolds. That way, you can be focused while being non-frustrated, and fearless. Yes, pain will be there in come contexts and phases in Life, fear and frustrations will arise; but you can always choose to be fearless and non-frustrated. Of course, as it often turns out, in most cases, the worst case scenario doesn’t happen at all. But being prepared for any eventuality surely helps us to deal with any situation better – a lot, lot better!
Acceptance of your current reality is different from resigning to your fate.
Yesterday was full of upheavals. A couple of key business opportunities we were hoping would come our way fell through owing to challenges that prospective clients were facing. We are not new to such last-minute setbacks in business. For over a decade now, this has been the pattern we have seen in our business plan and with our cashflow; where we try to fix the economic engine of our business only to find that it will sputter and stop one more time. It can be very draining, having to pick up the threads of your Life and trying to wind them up – only to discover that they have been plucked away from you and discarded mercilessly in a hopeless tangle.
Obviously frustration and worry will follow in such a situation. But acceptance of what is and trusting the process of Life helps immensely.
So, when I began to sense the stress building up within me, I suggested to Vaani that we go out for a walk. During the walk, I did what I have learnt to do very well over the years – I played witness to my own Life. Systematically, we reviewed the impact these upheavals will have on our Life and concluded dispassionately that, yet again, we are now on the brink. With this clarity, interestingly, the frustration, the worry, dissolved as soon as it had arisen. There was a great inner peace as we sat down for dinner. And I slept very well.
People imagine that those on the spiritual path are immune to challenges of everyday Life. This isn’t true. As long as you live, you will be flooded with thoughts – all the time. And debilitating emotions arise in everyone – anger, grief, guilt, worry, anxiety, frustration, depression, insecurity, fear, the works! But the spiritually inclined know that these emotions are like waves. They will rise and ebb away. So, they don’t cling on to these emotions, to these thoughts. That’s really what I did with Vaani last evening – I refused to walk down the depressive spiral with frustration and worry.
Today is Swami Sathya Sai Baba’s birthday. I haven’t met him personally. But Vaani and I have experienced him through a medium, a messenger, a young man in Nungambakkam (in Chennai). It is through intensive and personal coaching from Baba, through his medium, that I learnt the art of mindfulness, of trusting the process of Life. Once, some years ago, we were on the edge of a similar precipice – as we find ourselves now, struggling for cash and work! We went to Baba’s messenger and told him: “We don’t even have money for groceries and telephone bills. Ask Swami what we must we do when even basics get affected?” Pat came Swami’s reply, through the messenger, “Isn’t faith basic?” That day we learnt this unputdownable lesson that trusting the process of Life is integral to intelligent living. Through all our years of experiencing Swami, we have not been asked to chant any mantra or do any bhajan or perform any pooja. We have not even been asked to pray. We have only been, repeatedly, reminded to live in the moment, accepting what is, even when we are working on changing our current reality.
The way I learnt to trust the process of Life, through experiencing Swami Sathya Sai Baba, may sound incredible. But this is how it happened to me. They say when the student is ready, the teacher appears. In my case, the teacher came through this young man, a medium for Swami.
Now, when dealing with debilitating thoughts, you have to be aware, mindful, all the time. If you drop your awareness, they will creep up quickly and take you hostage! Anger, frustration, self-doubt, self-pity and depression – all these are by-products of an expectation that if you are hard-working, sincere and ethical, nothing should go wrong with your plans or that every effort of yours should yield the result or outcome that you truly deserve and expect. There’s nothing wrong with this logical expectation. In reality though, Life doesn’t conform to any logic. Fortune or tragedy, success or failure, opportunity or rejection – none of these choose those that they strike! They simply happen. And because Life itself happens over time, each of us, whether we like it or not, whether we accept it or not, whether we believe it or not, is a product of the time we are going through. So, you can be the most talented, most respected person in your chosen field and you can be out of work. You can appear to be the fittest person around but you could be having a grave health challenge. You can be the most understanding, caring and compassionate spouse, and yet your partner could be in another relationship. Simply, there’s no point getting angry with the Life you have. Because your anger or depression can’t change your reality.
This doesn’t mean that you should resign to your fate. Acceptance is different from resignation. In resignation, there’s a certain frustration and depression that is simmering within. In acceptance, there’s peace and equanimity. In acceptance, there’s an opportunity for further action. In resignation, your frustration will numb you and hold you hostage. It will keep pushing you down a negative spiral. When you accept your current reality, you will realize that the best thing to do when things are not working out as planned, is to simply make your daily efforts and choose not to get frustrated and depressed when the results don’t come as expected.
This is a simple, real world, practical point of view. It comes from experience and from knowing that when you don’t get what you want, it doesn’t mean something’s wrong with you. It simply means it is not time yet for you to get what you want!
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Life has a mind of its own. It operates only on its terms and at its own pace.
The other day I watched the 1980 classic Shaan (Ramesh Sippy) one more time. In the film, in an outstandingly scripted (by Salim-Javed) comedy situation, Amitabh Bachchan’s character Vijay tells Parveen Babi’s character Sunita (after they are chased for driving away in someone else’s car with a stolen necklace): “Jab jab jo jo hota hai, tab tab woh woh hota hai!” It simply means that everything happens in its own time!
Despite the line being placed in a humorous context, it appealed to me at a deep, spiritual level. Osho, the Master, often narrated these three lines to help people understand Life better. He would say:
- Everything comes in its own time
- Everything comes when you are ripe
- Everything comes when you deserve it
If you review your own Life in the context of these three statements, you will find that anything you have got so far from Life, stuff you have welcomed and have wanted, has come only per these three dimensions of Life. You may have wanted something and may have been frustrated. And it has never come. You know your story better than anyone else. So, think back, and ask if you got anything you wanted any earlier or any later than when you finally got it? Were you not in total receiver mode to have got it? And you only got something when you truly deserved it.
This is how Life works. And this is also why we have to learn to be patient with Life. Patience is about simply understanding these three dimensions and reminding yourself of them every time your mind grieves or when frustration sets in.
But, unfortunately, we never quite consider Osho’s perspective. We are constantly impatient with people, events, circumstances, service, technology, and with Life, because fundamentally we want things to happen our way. But that’s just not going to happen. Over the years, having faced Life and learned from it, I have painfully discovered that being patient with Life is the only way. Impatience with Life is what leads to depression and suffering. It makes you miss the magic and beauty of Life.
Patience is all about trusting the process of Life. Trust that if you have been created, you will be looked after too. Trust that each challenge that comes your way is Life’s way of reminding you that you are not in control. When you trust Life, and learn to be patient, your problems won’t disappear. Yet, they will no longer worry you or bother you or torment you! You then begin to live fully, happily, despite your circumstances.
The more we believe that Life happens because of us, the more we will find inner peace elusive!
Over the weekend my sister-in-law and her family had arranged for Vaani and me to travel with them to visit the famous Brihadeeswarar ‘Big’ Temple in Thanjavur. Built 1006 years ago, the Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. My brother-in-law had engaged a tour guide Raja, a small man in his late 50s. Raja not only regaled us with the history of the Temple, he also peppered his commentary with wacky humor. But what’s remarkable is that he found a spiritual context to every aspect of the Temple’s story. In summary, he told us that the most important, the biggest, temple was really the human body that housed the soul – the jeevatma! “For this jeevatma to be united with the paramatma, the Creator, the Source, the Higher Energy that powers our lives, we humans must dissolve our ego, our anger and stop being attached with the material aspects of this illusory experience called this lifetime, or maya,” he said, adding, “That’s all there is to realize the God within. You don’t need to visit any temple, you don’t need to seek God outside of you. You just find your God in you.”
Hearing Raja say this was a humbling experience. Here was a man with buck teeth, short, dark, wearing worn out sandals, and speaking a smattering of languages including Tamizh, English, French, Marathi, Hindi, Kannada and Telugu. He wore a single rudraksha bead around his neck and had smeared his forehead with sacred ash, vibhooti. He is the quintessential tour guide you will find hanging around tourist spots in India. He’s also the sort who you would not normally want to engage because you fear being taken for a ride. So, Raja was the last person who I expected to be spiritual. But don’t you, so very often, find beauty in the most unexpected places in Life? Not being the religious sort, my interest in visiting the Big Temple was purely to soak in the marvelous architecture and the history associated with it. Even so, with Raja sharing nuggets of spiritual wisdom, I found our tour of the Temple very enlightening and awakening.
Personally, I can relate to the idea of dissolving one’s ego and anger and practicing detachment. Through our own experience of our ongoing bankruptcy I do know how much I have evolved along the way. There was a time, up until 15 years ago, when I thought intelligent living was all about applying your intelligence – your logic, your education, your reasoning – to your Life. Now I know, that it is about being intelligent enough not to want to control Life. You can’t control Life. Period. Life happens through you, for you, but never because of you and often inspite of you! When you take Life as it comes, living in the moment, you realize that anger and frustration are impediments to your inner peace. Through continuously training your mind, you can learn to rein in your anger. This way, when you are at peace with yourself, you discover Life’s true, transient, nature. You realize that everything arrives in time and everything departs when its time is up. This awareness that nothing is permanent only helps you dissolve your ego even more.
The bigness of the Brihadeeswarar Temple – its scale, its grandeur, its engineering, its celebration of the indomitable human spirit of creativity, from thought to finish – reminded me, yet again, of how small all of us really are in this big, vast Universe. Yet we like to brag about our most insignificant achievements and consider ourselves as being very important in the scheme of our things. I guess you require a Big Temple, and the wisdom of a simpleton, to help you realize that there is a lot more to Life than just you!
Feeling frustrated is a part of everyday living; but it is such a waste of personal energy!
I am just coming out a short spell of being frustrated with my internet connectivity and resultant poor bandwidth-led transactional issues! It was an extremely short spell of frustration lasting barely a few minutes. Just some years ago, I would have been grumpy and pissed off for a whole day. Had it been more human-induced frustration – like the behavior of people around me – I may have even been angry and vengeful, back then, for days on end. Thankfully, mercifully, I have evolved.
Interestingly, just yesterday I watched the latest Dulquer Salmaan-starrer Kali. It is a beautiful Malayalam film. Kali, as I understand, means rage. And Salmaan plays Siddhu, an angry young man who blows his fuse over anyone – and anything – that frustrates him. His uncontrolled rage often lands him in messy situations. Watching Salman on screen, it was both uncomfortable and, strangely, gratifying. It was uncomfortable because as I went back 15 years in time, I thought to myself: “Gosh, is this how I used to look and behave?” It was also gratifying because I felt I have made phenomenal progress, I have evolved over these years, learning to channelize my anger constructively.
I have done bizarre things when angry. I have broken a TV, flung my spectacles out of the window, hurt myself banging my head against the wall, yelled at people and even smashed a new phone to smithereens. Apart from the initial burst of temper, I would carry my anger in me – against people and circumstances – for days on end. Of course I tried reasoning with myself why I was angry and, over time, I concluded that I lost my temper when people behaved unethically with me or when they questioned my intelligence. I also succumbed – yes that’s the word! – to frustration whenever events and circumstances held me hostage. By nature I was a man in a hurry and so anyone or anything that came in my way made me angry!
And then started a phase in 2002~2003, when nothing really went according to a plan that I wove or crafted myself. That phase, almost 14 years later, still continues. In this time, I have understood that you cannot control Life and you can’t control other people. So, I have come to believe that anger is an energy that runs amock when it is allowed to run free. When channelized – and I used the practice of mouna, daily silence periods, to achieve this – anger can bring about great progress. India, for instance, would not have got Independence had one man not got angry over being pushed out of a train in South Africa! When I realized the futility of unharnessed anger, I learnt the value of living intelligent. From being angry, I went on to simply being – in the moment, calm and peaceful!
This doesn’t mean I don’t get frustrated. I do. Like the way I was hopping mad a while ago over my internet connectivity! But my awareness helps me immensely here. I soon move from subject-mode to witness-mode. As a subject you are involved. As a witness you are detached. And therein lies the key to avoid the temptation to be provoked by every small aberration or taunter in your Life.
This is what I have learnt from my anger and from Life: don’t waste precious personal energy being angry or frustrated at everything that comes at you! Start by stopping to giving your anger (or frustration) attention. If you can avoid it, let it go. If you can’t avoid it, you go away from the source that makes you angry or frustrates you! Over time, when you learn to give your anger (or frustration) no attention, it will simply dissolve! Then, you can pick and choose which fights to fight in Life!