Why Happiness is an intensely personal choice…
How not to complain about the dirty cup and enjoy the pure wine instead
Worrying serves no purpose; postponing worrying helps immensely though!
Yesterday, I found my equilibrium disturbed by a few irksome operational situations. This was in addition to the drama that Google’s actions had whipped up in my Life. And as if what we were dealing with was not enough, a new crisis arrived in our midst by mid-morning. The last thing we need right now is this new crisis, seriously! To add to the chaos, this crisis comes with a deadline – it has to be resolved within a short timeframe, else…well…it is looking like it will snowball into something bigger – grave and unwieldy!
By mid-afternoon, I decided to get myself some quiet time at my desk. I find it absolutely necessary to remain silent for some spells – at least one – daily. I use this time to pause, reflect – and importantly to postpone worry!
In my silence period, I make a list of all the stuff that worries me – and I have enough and more to worry about, just like you have – and bucket them into two lists. Stuff that I can act on and resolve over time. And stuff that I can’t resolve. Those that I can work on and solve, I convince myself that I need not worry about them. And those that I can’t solve myself, I convince myself again, that I must not worry about them either. This is how, methodically, practically, logically, I postpone worrying on a daily basis.
If you think about it, worrying serves no purpose; because no problem, however big or small it may be, has ever been solved by worrying about it! The biggest benefit of postponing worry is that you are available to the now – and are present in the moment. No past. No future. Which means no grief, anger or guilt over what has happened – the past. And no fear, anxiety or worry over what may happen – the future. No past. No future. You are just present in the moment.
In the present moment there is just beauty. There is complete magic.
Taking a break from all that I was doing and grappling with, I looked outside my window. Several jackfruit hung from the tree in our building’s backyard. They looked so beautiful. A few squirrels scampered up and down. And in the distance, a train blew its horn as it pulled out of the station. For a while I stayed immersed in what I was seeing and hearing.
When I returned to attend to my notes on my desk, I was a lot more anchored. I felt very good. Important, I wasn’t obsessing with my worries that were gnawing at my feet. The worries were there. And I was there too. But I wasn’t picking up any of those worries. My thoughts instead went to Jalauddin Rumi, the 13th Century Persian poet, my favorite, who has said this of Life: “Be aware of the pure wine being poured. Don’t complain that you have been handed a dirty cup!”
You too can train yourself to postpone worrying if you choose to bucket them into the categories of those that you can resolve and those that you can’t resolve. When you do this, you realize the futility of worrying. When you learn to be non-worrying, you can only be in the present. Then the dirty cup doesn’t matter – only the pure wine does!
Moving on involves practical, must-do actions
There is a lot of Life after a crisis. A lot of Life.
Someone who we met recently talked about struggling to pick up the threads of her Life after her husband suddenly passed away. He was only in his late 40s. “I know that everyone who proposes I move on means well. But I simply am unable to do it,” she confessed, her eyes welling up.
Many a time, Life deals with you in the most brutal ways. And before you know it you have been socked and have been left devastated with the turn of events. How do you pick yourself up when you have been felled by Life? Well, there are no easy ways in such a situation. You have to take Life as it comes, one day at a time, one step at a time.
When a tragedy or a crisis strikes you – death of a loved one, loss of business or money, a serious health challenge, a heart-wrenching break-up – you feel numbed by the event. All you are asking repeatedly is “why” and “why me”? But there are no answers to any questions in Life. So, you can spend time mourning and grieving – and feeling miserable – or you can move on. Now, there is no problem really with grief. It is after all a normal emotion that follows a loss or a setback. In fact, when you encounter grief, don’t try to suppress it. Allow it to rise within you. Feel the grief, hold it, let it hang around and watch it as it first rises and then recedes. When you suppress it, when you resist it, it will persist. But if you let it be, it will fade away. In the aftermath of a crisis, when the grief begins to subside, be aware and pick yourself up again. It will appear to be difficult initially. But when you choose, when you decide, to move on, it will happen more seamlessly than you can imagine.
For instance, just to cheer you up, when someone asks you out for a coffee or suggests a book or watching a movie, don’t say no. In the beginning it may appear that you are “indulging in being happy” while you need to be “clinging on to grief”. But allow yourself that indulgence. Don’t feel guilty. The truth is that your feeling sad is not going to undo your Life. In fact, nothing in Life can be undone. So, to move on, after you have been dealt a Life-changing blow, you must first be ready and willing, and then you must actually, physically, move. Moving on is not feel-good philosophy, it involves a lot of practical, doable, must-do, actions.
But it all begins with believing that there is a lot of Life after a crisis. What you think is the end of the road, almost always, is the beginning of a new journey. When you move on, when the scenery changes, as Life goes on, you will find that there is much more to Life than just clinging on to the dead past.
Holding on to guilt takes you hostage
All mistakes offer learnings. Beyond that, they serve no purpose.
Do I ever feel guilty? I was asked this question by someone recently.
Of course, I do. I feel guilty for having made such costly mistakes that led me and my family to this bankruptcy, I feel guilty for failing my parents and my children, and Vaani, and I do feel guilty for our inability to repay the 179 people to whom we owe money (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal ). I sure feel the guilt. For the longest time, until some years ago, I used to carry the guilt. But upon deep reflection, I have set down that burden. My awareness has helped me understand the futility of feeling guilty.
Sometimes we make mistakes in Life that we do realize later were avoidable. In fact, in retrospect, when realization dawns, every mistake seems avoidable. Realization, always, brings guilt in its wake. This is when we must be aware and drop the guilt. We often confuse feeling guilty with a sense of feeling responsible. The truth however is that feeling guilty for long periods of time can be depressing and can cripple us – preventing progress. On the other hand, feeling responsible about or for something brings with it a sense of accountability and helps us take the necessary action to remedy the situation.
But some situations may not be immediately remediable. A friend writes in saying he made a judgment error in quitting his last job. Now, even while he’s struggling without a job for over six months, he’s drowning in a sea of guilt. Without an income and a family to support, he has become depressive and is very scared of the future. He keeps repeating that he should not have quit his last job in a huff. This is what guilt can do to you. It will keep you chained to the past. Also your ego, which will fuel that feeling that you must atone for your sins, will blind you. This way you will miss the completely magnificent present. A situation like the one my friend is facing is unpredictable – it may sort itself out with him getting a job soon or his career can stagnate this way for a long, long time. Holding on to guilt till a situation gets better is wasting a crucial opportunity to live Life fully. Interestingly, feeling guilty about a situation cannot remedy it. Only concrete, constructive action can.
When you feel guilty about something you have done, look at the situation deeply. Ask yourself could you have avoided doing what you did or could you have done something different. Once you realize that you could have avoided doing what you did, first forgive yourself for having done that. Resolve that you will not repeat this mistake again. Then reach out and apologize to all people connected with or affected by your action. Whether they forgive you or not is immaterial – you apologize. If you can’t face them, send them a text message or an email or a note. Beyond this, don’t retain your guilt. Holding on to your guilt pins you down. Drop your guilt instead and move on. Know that everyone makes mistakes. And that mistakes are experiences from which you can learn. As long as you have learnt from it, the mistake you have made, no matter what it was, has served its purpose in your Life.
Life is too short and beautiful to be brooding over and feeling guilty. Instead drop your guilt, come alive, take charge and make every effort to change the situation. No matter how long it takes to turn things around, remember, you have no choice but to be at it. And, without doubt, you can be better at the task of repairing your Life, in any context, when you are free from guilt.
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Invest 1 hour in silence daily and reclaim the remaining 23!
Learn to be a witness of your Life and you will anchor in inner peace!
A friend sent me a WhatsApp message to share how much he was benefiting from the practice of ‘mouna’ which I talk about in my Book – ‘Fall Like A Rose Petal’. His message made me want to share my learnings from ‘mouna’ here, on this Blog, one more time.
If there’s one practice that you want to develop in Life – learn to be silent for at least an hour daily. This practice is called ‘mouna’. Most forms of meditation require that you silence the environment before you begin to still the mind. But ‘mouna’ does not require the environment to be silent, it requires you, your mind, to be silent. It instils in you the capability to be just a witness of your own Life. Being a witness means not to pass judgment, not to evaluate, not to condemn and not to appreciate. A witness just is.
The human mind is always trafficking thoughts. Of all kinds – relevant and irrelevant, both at all times. 24 x 7. Research reveals that the average mind thinks 60,000 thoughts a day – and all of them are soaked in worry, anxiety, fear, anger, grief, guilt and, rarely, some of them are happy and peaceful thoughts too. ‘mouna’ helps in organizing this traffic and ensures that through your inner awareness, you detach yourself from your situation and simply be a witness of your Life.
Let me share a story that I have read in one of the books that Osho, the Master, wrote.
One morning Gautam Buddha was talking to his disciples. The king, Prasenjita, had also come to listen to him. He was sitting right in front of the Buddha. Prasenjita was not accustomed to sitting on the floor – he was a king, you see – so he was feeling uncomfortable, fidgety, changing sides, somehow trying not to disturb and not to be noticed by the Buddha because he was concerned that he was unable to sit silently, peacefully. He was continuously moving the big toe of his foot, for no reason, just to be busy without business. Some people are like that – they cannot be without business; they will still be busy!
Gautam Buddha stopped talking and asked Prasenjita, “Can you tell me, why are you moving your big toe?”
In fact, Prasenjita himself was not aware of it. Sometimes, you – and I – are doing a thousand and one things that we are not aware of. Unless somebody points them out, you may not take any note of it.
The moment Buddha asked him, the toe stopped moving. Buddha sought to know, “Why have you stopped moving the toe?”
Prasenjita said, “You are putting me in an embarrassing situation. I don’t know why that toe was moving. This much I know: that as you asked the question it stopped. I have not done anything – neither was I moving it, nor have I stopped it.”
Buddha said to his disciples, “Do you see the point? The toe belongs to the man. It moves, but he is not aware of its movement. And the moment he becomes aware – because I asked the question – the very awareness immediately stops the toe. He does not stop it. The very awareness, that ‘It is stupid, why are you moving it?’ – just the awareness is enough to stop it.”
This is really what ‘mouna’, and your being a witness, can help you with. It can help you realize that you too can be ‘aware’ – and so you too can stop doing many things that you go on doing, just like that. Worrying incessantly is one of those things that we all do – many a time without knowing that we are worrying. When you learn to still the mind and organize your thoughts, you learn to weed out worry. When you step outside the orbit of your worldly Life and assume the role of a witness, you will see the futility in squandering your precious lifetime thinking debilitating thoughts. When the witness in you becomes active, the mind becomes slowly powerless. Through your continuous practice of ‘mouna’, you eventually learn to fully still your mind, making it totally inactive. It is in that 100 % witness state that you discover the secret to living happily and being at peace with what is!
Now, practicing ‘mouna’ takes up an investment of one hour daily. Won’t you rather invest one hour to reclaim the remaining 23, which you would otherwise fritter away? Doesn’t that sound like an impressive, irresistible, unputdownable ROI on your time?
PS: If you liked this blogpost, please share it to help spread the learning it carries!
Guilt – see it but don’t carry it around!
Whenever you feel guilty, examine your guilt, see it clearly, learn from it and set it down.
Recently someone we know wanted clarity on how to deal with guilt. He had blown up all his money trying to set up a business that had just not taken off. Over 11 years had passed by and there were still no signs of the business paying any dividends. He was neck-deep in debt. And he felt he had neglected the needs of his wife and children for far too long. His daughter had, in this time, graduated and taken up a job. And his son too was funding his higher education by doing part-time jobs. “I feel wretched. I have been so consumed by my own goals that I have been selfish. Worse, none of my family members is complaining. They continue to be supportive. That makes me miserable and feel more guilty,” lamented the man. “Is there a way to avoid feeling guilty,” he asked.
You can’t really avoid feeling guilty. But you can certainly avoid holding on to your guilt.
Guilt is an emotion, a natural response, that will arise in several contexts in Life. You make a mistake and wake up in realization. Or someone points out your mistake and you feel they are right. Or in hindsight, you feel you should not have done what you did. So, in all such situations, and others, you will feel guilty. You can’t escape that feeling. But you must also understand that guilt is a debilitating emotion – it will pin you down and hold you hostage. So, when you feel guilty, go to its root cause. If you agree that you have made a mistake, forgive yourself. Remember that in Life sometimes sh*t does happen and sometimes you end up making that sh*t happen! So, please, please forgive yourself! And seek forgiveness from the person who you have hurt or let down. Then set down your guilt.
Carrying your guilt around is like holding on to a glass of water with your arm outstretched. The longer you hold the glass this way, the more you will suffer. Instead set it down and learn to work around it. Don’t let your guilt weigh you down. Move on! But let your guilt be visible to you. Don’t ever try to tuck it away. As long as it is visible, you will not repeat the same mistake again. And as long as you don’t pick up your guilt, you will not suffer from it!
Don’t judge and don’t bother about being judged!