"If someone comes to give you a gift and you do not receive it, to whom does the gift belong?"

There’s no need to respond to every insult, every jibe at all.
In fact, there is no need to say something to counter whatever someone has said at all. However, if you think you are not evolved enough, and therefore are unable to be forgiving, the least you can do is to avoid responding, retaliating and getting even with everything that someone has to say. These conflicts happen endlessly, each day. Someone shows you his middle finger on the road. An impudent teen scowls at you because you questioned why she jumped the queue you were waiting in. A neighbor accuses you of violating their privacy last night because you had guests over and the music volume was higher than usual. An irate boss says you are not performing as well as you should be. Some of these events may have happened even though you did not contribute to or cause them. Which makes it often all the more difficult to handle. Your initial sense of shock fades into anger and you want to ‘get even’. And then one thing leads to another. Pretty soon, you are either sulking or fuming.
In the overall scheme of Life, such conflicts are simply not worth entering into and are not worth your time or attention! Here’s a Zen story that teaches us how to deal with such ignominious situations. There once lived a great warrior. Though quite old, he still was able to defeat any challenger. His reputation extended far and wide throughout the land and many students gathered to study under him. One day a young warrior arrived at the village. He was determined to be the first man to defeat the great Master. Apart from his strength, he had an uncanny ability to spot and exploit any weakness in an opponent. He would wait for his opponent to make the first move, thus revealing a weakness, and then would strike with merciless force and lightning speed. No one had ever lasted with him in a match beyond the first move. Much against the advice of his concerned students, the old Master gladly accepted the young warrior’s challenge. As the two squared off for battle, the young warrior began to hurl insults at the old master. He threw dirt and spit in his face. For hours he verbally assaulted him with every curse and insult known to mankind. But the old warrior merely stood there motionless and calm. Finally, the young warrior exhausted himself. Knowing he was defeated, he left feeling shamed. Somewhat disappointed that he did not fight the insolent youth, the students gathered around the old Master and questioned him. “How could you endure such an indignity? How did you drive him away?” “If someone comes to give you a gift and you do not receive it,” the Master replied, “to whom does the gift belong?”

So, the simple takeaway is, don’t accept gifts__of insults and rebuke__that you don’t want! Just walk away….mindfully, peacefully….

Don’t let any irritant interfere with your living, your Life, fully!

Smile and feel your anger slink away!

Most of us get irritated with the small stuff. And it is how we deal with the small stuff that defines how we deal with the big stuff in our lives. Small stuff are the everyday irritants __ a flat tyre, a delayed flight, your smart phone or your computer hanging, an endless, boring, listless meeting, someone jumping the queue in which you are standing! All of these, and several more, punctuate our daily lives with alarming frequency. And each time we lose our temper or even feel irritated, we are losing that many more seconds, minutes, hours and days of our Life to stuff that won’t matter at all in the long run!

Junior Balamuralikrishna
Yesterday, a young, talented musician taught me an important lesson in how to deal with such small stuff. We were at a Carnatic music concert by the gifted artiste, whom The Hindu calls, Junior M Balamuralikrishna (so that he is not confused with the maestro and Padma Vibhushan awardee who goes by the same name). He was outstanding. I don’t follow the nuances of Carnatic music the way connoisseurs do, but I do know that there is a thing called concert etiquette. This, I believe, is to be normally adhered to by both organizers and audiences. Yesterday’s concert was organized to celebrate the 30th wedding anniversary of a couple we know very well. So, even as the concert was on, several late comers, walked up to the couple seated in the front row to greet them. Flowers were given, hugs were exchanged and wishes showered. Clearly the occasion’s spirit dwarfed the concert brilliance. Impolitely so too. Yet the artiste, Junior Balamuralikrishna, went on singing. What intrigued me was that he smiled each time he found the activity in front of him distractive or disturbing. I found it strange the first few times that he did it. So I thought it to be a coincidence. But, as I started to observe him closely, I discovered that there was a pattern to his smiling. He sang, I assume, flawlessly, immersed in his own joy of being able to create such divine music. And he smiled only when he felt disturbed or, if I have read his mind correctly, when he was irritated. As the concert progressed, something even more bizarre happened. The audio system at the venue acted up and at regular intervals started to give a shrill, shocking feedback through its speakers. I am sure any other artiste would have lost it for the number times this happened. But Junior Balamuralikrishna simply smiled each time, still singing! Then someone insensitively, perhaps inadvertently too, dropped a stainless steel tumbler. The tumbler landed on the ground a few times,  before someone grabbed it, and in that time it was such a jarring interruption. Everyone in the audience turned in the direction of the sound. But not Junior Balamuralikrishna. His smile only got wider and I could see the wonder in his eyes! He went on singing. But if I could have read his smile this time, it was saying: “Wow! Now, that’s interesting!” It was a beautiful, humbling and educative experience to watch this young man systematically turn sources of intense irritation into sources of amusement, wonder and amazement.

After the concert, I caught up with him. And asked him how he managed to smile every time he could have chosen to react with anger, provoked by the irritants. He replied, smiling, “I have been singing for 18 years now. I can’t let these (irritants) come in the way of my singing.

The lesson for me was simple: don’t ever let any irritant interfere with your living, your Life, fully! And there’s a simple way to define an irritant, the small stuff, and differentiate it from a problem or a challenge. I think it was ‘Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff’ author Richard Carlson who said that an irritant very simply is stuff that you will not remember at all a year from now. When you employ this criteria, more than 80 % of stuff that irritate you, bug you, bother you, worry you and clutter your mindspace, will fall in that IGNORE and SMILE bucket. Learn to smile at them rather than be enslaved by them! Only then will you live a fuller, meaningful and trouble-free Life! Besides, when you learn to smile at these daily irritants, your ability to deal with the remaining 20 % __ Life’s really big challenges__goes up phenomenally. (There’s way to deal with the big stuff too in Life. But that’s matter for another post, another day!) Even so, it surely makes sense using your available energy in fixing the big stuff in Life than frittering it all away on non-meaningful, unproductive things!  Doesn’t it?

Don’t criticize and don’t worry about being criticized either!

Everyone has an opinion about everything. And everyone loves to offer it whether it is asked for, needed, or not. Some of that opinion is often critical. Again, everybody loves to criticize others. And they do it all the time! It’s so interesting. And often downright funny. If you just watch the social media space, for instance, everyone has an opinion on how the country must be done. Every action of public figures __ politicians, bureaucrats, movie stars, sportspeople __ is criticized and rubbished.



You and I are as guilty of indulging in, and are not spared from it either, criticism.



Just review the past 24 hours. Think of all that you said. And in some way you may have criticized or offered an opinion on something or the other in your circle of influence. Maybe you may have posted something on your facebook page criticizing a movie or a politician. Or you may have sworn at an unruly driver on the street and criticized the lack of traffic sense among people.  The one curious thing about criticism is that it always sounds right and justified when you use it on someone else. But when you are criticized you often grieve. This happens everywhere __ in our homes, at workplaces, among friends, in social circles, on a plane, even at a funeral! Criticism can surely debilitate you__leaving you wondering why people are being so mean and are unwilling to understand you.




Yet when you receive criticism, it is a great opportunity to cleanse yourself. When you are, or anything you have done is, ridiculed, questioned and rubbished, through your pain you can awaken to an awareness that can transform you. Your grief, the way you feel at the time that you are being criticized, gives you the opportunity to understand the value of being compassionate and appreciative of others’ efforts and opinions.

In order to appreciate this better, first understand why you__or I__ criticize in the first place. Criticism is, fundamentally, an ego game. It is your mind urging you to consider yourself superior to another person. It is also a reaction borne out of fear. Because the act of criticizing is older than you are! So, you have been criticized even before you came to terms with the ways of the world. Your criticism, of others, is often, therefore, in self-defence. You criticize because you find it, obviously, more rewarding than being criticized!



The best way to deal with criticism is the way you would deal with hot candle wax. First allow it to dry up. It is a lot easier to discard it and get it out of your system when it has become cold and stale. Understand also that criticism is just a review about an event or action that is over, past, dead and done away with. In the now, in the present, there is no issue. So, learn to let go and move on than dwelling in the past! Second, appreciate where the person who is critical of your actions is coming from. Even if the person is unjustified, rude, violent or cruel, understand that that person has a right to her or his view. It belongs to that person and does not belong to you __ even if it is about you. Train your mind to respond with an exclamation__from awe, from wonder, from amazement__ that says “Is that so?” instead of responding with anger and violence while asking “How dare you?” Know that when you, even if it is only in your mind, question the other person’s right to opinionate, criticize, it is really your ego which is leading you. Refuse to follow. Turn your attention away. Learn to treat the whole experience like a game. Tell yourself: “Hey! Watch out! This situation, this comment, this person is provoking me. And my mind is urging me to fall prey, to succumb. Let me escape!” And each time you win, punch your fist up like a champion will. When you do succumb, do get dragged into the situation and when you emerge from it bruised and grieving, remind yourself to not fall prey again. Like with all other games you have learned in Life, you get better and better at dealing with criticism with practice. Then, over a period of time, you will have mastered the art of being unmoved. All criticism, then, will just fall off you. Like water falls off a duck’s back!

Celebrate your critics too. They are the ones who will tell you things which no one else will. Not all criticism is unfair or unjustified. There’s value in everything. Focus on the message and not on the messenger. On what is being said and not on who is saying it or why the person should not be saying it! Again, you don’t need to always agree with what’s being said. But you can at least reflect on it. And if you see value, incorporate the learning or input, to make you, or whatever you are doing, better.



Whatever you do, whether you welcome criticism or reject it, learn to be both miserly with your own views of others and to be unaffected by their views of you! It’s a beautiful way to cut your giant ego to size. And an even more wonderful way to celebrate the mystical diversity of thought that thrives in the oneness of all creation!