Be true to yourself: others perceptions of you are irrelevant

In any situation, be truthful than being tactful. When you are true to yourself, nothing – and no one – can embarrass you.  

Some weeks ago, we were at a wedding of a close friend’s daughter. It was among the top-billed weddings in Chennai that season. Our friend is a very successful professional and is very well networked in social and business circles. There were 3000 guests at the wedding and the traffic cops had a huge job on their hands regulating vehicle movement outside the wedding venue. As we were exiting from the venue, one of the families we know was also coming out. There was our friend, his wife and their two young sons. They don’t live in India. They had flown down from the Middle East for the wedding. Our friend’s wife was unable to reach their driver and so she wondered if we could drop them to their hotel before we went home.

“Hey can we squeeze in and hitch a ride to our hotel in your car,” asked the lady.

“Sure,” replied my wife, “except that we don’t have a car. And you will have to come with us in an auto-rickshaw. However, we will need to engage two auto-rickshaws if all of us need to make it.”

“What? You don’t have a car?” the lady exclaimed.

“No. We don’t. Not sure if you know this, but, we are going through a financial crisis. We sold our car some time ago. We now use public transport,” explained my wife.

The lady was aghast. She stared at me and my wife in utter disbelief. Here we were, all of us guests at a big, fat, rich, Indian wedding. It is that sort of an event where the clothes you wear, the perfume you use, the jewelry you flaunt and the vehicle you arrive in really determine how you are perceived by everyone else. And here was someone who says they used public transport to get here?

The lady did not hide her sense of shock. “Oh! I didn’t know this. Don’t worry, we will manage,” she said, trying to sound both apologetic and reassuring. The family soon found their car, while we found an auto-rickshaw. We all bade our goodbyes and went our ways.

Saying the truth as it is, in any situation, has always worked out for us. We prefer wearing our Life on our sleeves than pretending to be different from who we actually are. And, honestly, this is the best way to live. Be open. Be transparent. Be truthful.

One of the most important aspects of intelligent living to remember is that we are not what we wear, what we drive or where we live. All these are impermanent and perishable aspects of our Life. What is permanent, and will live on, even beyond our physical form is the real Self – our soul. And even if the soul theory doesn’t make immediate sense, a practical perspective to consider is that how we are perceived by others is really irrelevant in the context of our lives. If someone does not want to respect you as a human being because you no longer have the means to afford an upwardly mobile lifestyle, such a friendship – if you can call it one – is really flaky and meaningless. On the other hand, if people will flock to you only because you flaunt an “impressive and socially inspiring” lifestyle, then again they are not friends – they are opportunists.

I don’t mean to say that it is okay to dress inappropriately or disregard social customs or tradition. Nor am I saying that we should be apologetic – and brooding – for circumstances beyond our control. What I am saying though is that, in any context, just feel good and feel proud of who you are – the way you are! The simple thumb rule to follow is this – never project an image of yourself that you really are not.  When you are this way, you are at peace with your circumstances, with your reality. This is the key to happiness. If people around you are uncomfortable with you and your reality, well, it really is their problem. Not yours! Isn’t that plain and simple?

Fear and Insecurity aid and abet Life’s adventure

Insecure? Fearful? Just let it be.
There will be times in Life, when you feel insecure. When you will not have any idea what is going to happen. When fear will grip you. At all such times, sleep over the fear. Allow the insecurity to prevail. When you do this, you will discover Life to be magical. To be beautiful. Over time, you will conquer the fear and your sense of insecurity and turmoil will be replaced by a sacred inner peace.
Fear and insecurity are an integral part of Life. They take over whenever you seek predictability in Life. What is the predictability that you seek? That you should have money, that you should be able to provide for your family, that nothing should happen to any of your loved ones, that all your wants must be taken care of? But do you even realize that the predictability you desperately seek is impossible to achieve – money is impermanent, Life is impermanent and your wants are the cause of all your suffering? In fact, nothing is permanent. Everything is perishable. Even you or I have an expiry date – except that we don’t know what that date is! So, to feel fearful and insecure about an impermanent Life, or its various facets, is a totally unintelligent response.
The reason why you feel insecure in the first place is because of what you have been told. You have all along, from the time you could make sense of this world through your school years and through those in college, through your early adulthood and employment, been reminded to focus on everything impermanent – and to cling on to it. So much so that now, insecurity is a habit. It comes “naturally” to you. Which is why when you don’t have what you want you feel insecure. When you don’t have money it worries you. When you don’t have a companion in Life you feel lonely and fearful of the future. When you don’t have a job you feel scared and lost.
I met someone the other day who is exactly in the same situation in Life – not much money, no job and who had just been through a messy divorce. “I feel so insecure. I don’t know what will happen,” he lamented.
Surely, you have felt this way too at some point in Life. Just as the way I too have. The question here, as you will realize when you have a deeper understanding of Life, is not not knowing what will happen. The question is why do you need to know what will happen? The final answer to what will happen is that some day you will die – your Life will come to an end. How does it matter what happens in the interim if the ultimate end is well known and inescapable? Not knowing what will happen in the interim is not at all a problem. But because you conveniently ignore the impermanence of Life, you believe you must have predictability in it. The truth is that the interim period between birth and death is as inescapable a reality as the end itself is. So, the way to deal with your fear and insecurity is to face them as a fact of Life. Remember that they are the weaves that make up the tapestry of Life.
Try living with this awakening. Understand, accept and celebrate the impermanence of Life. Live each moment as if it is your last one. Then fear and insecurity will not cripple you. They will then, in fact, aid and abet your Life’s adventure. Life’s a bungee jump – minus the harness – really. Not knowing if you will survive the next moment or not is part of the excitement. It’s what keeps the game charged. It’s what keeps you alive. Those who embrace the uncertainty actually live, while those who prefer predictability merely exist

Living free – from Fear

The best way to deal with fear is to understand it. Go to its root. When you get to the bottom of what’s causing you fear, you will be free from it! Important – fear cannot be mastered or conquered. Only understanding it deeply can set you free.
We are all scared of different things – of joblessness, of losing someone we love, of losing money or health, of losing the assets that we have built up, and, of course, of death! Each of those fears connects back to a desire – to be employed, to possess someone, to keep having money, to prevent the biological ageing process, to cling on to what we believe is ours and to not die.
Now examine each of those desires and understand how irrelevant they are in the end. Consider this perspective: Why is it important to be employed? Why is it important to earn money? Do they really matter in the larger scheme of Life when ultimately you have to die leaving behind all your experience, all that you have created or acquired in this lifetime, and all your money?
The truth is also that as long as you fear something you cannot enjoy it. Your job is seeming monotonous because you are insecure in it. You are unable to enjoy the money you have because all the time you fear that you will lose it. You are not enjoying Life because you are consumed by fears of death. The Buddha taught that fear is a manifestation of a subconscious resistance to the impermanent nature of our human existence. When we accept that our entire Life, as we know it, is transient, we will be free from fear.
Here is a Zen story that illustrates this point. A fierce and terrifying band of Samurai was riding through the countryside, creating fear and causing harm wherever they went. As they were approaching one particular town, all the monks in the town’s monastery fled, except for the Abbot. When the band of warriors entered the monastery, they found the Abbot sitting calmly, in a perfect, meditative posture. The leader of the Samurai band took out his sword and said, “Don’t you know who I am? Don’t you know that I’m the sort of person who could run through you with my sword without batting an eye?” The Abbot, a Zen Master himself, responded, “And I, Sir, am the sort of man who could be run through by a sword without batting an eye.”
You may like to say that the Abbot displayed a rare courage – fearlessness. But, in reality, he may well have been fearful within. Yet his fear did not surface because he did not mind the outcome of the Samurai’s rage if it came to it! Courage and fearlessness are not the absence of__or denial of the presence of__fear. They come when you develop an intimacy with fear, when you look fear in the eye and face up to it! When you do this, you are actually telling yourself – “What are you afraid of? After all, everything has to be over with one day. So let me let go!”
When you let go, this way, you also let fear go. And you start living – free from fear!

A red LAMY and THE Truth

In the end, you will have nothing.  You will depart alone, empty-handed. This is the truth of Life. As long as you don’t recognize this truth and understand it, you will continue fighting with Life. You will continue to desire and want. And you will continue to lament and grieve over anything that you lose. Or over everything that you don’t get!
I love LAMY (German-crafted) pens. I simply love the way they are designed and the way they write. Over years, I have collected most variants of a particular model in several colors. And I carry a Lamy most of the time while on business. One day, on a domestic flight, I lost my favorite red LAMY. When I discovered this loss, I was well out of the airport, driving towards downtown. I simply did not see a point in going back in search of my pen! But I could not get over the loss. For days on end I searched for the pen in every major Indian city. Those were times when LAMY products were not available in India and online shopping had not been invented! Whatever I did to get over the loss, my mind went back to grieving over the red LAMY. Several years after this incident, one day, I sat at a coffee shop with my wife to take stock of our lives. We had lost everything material in Life. And were hanging on to a thin ray of hope. We did not know what to do. Or whom to turn to for work, for help, for a solution, or for advice. We decided to make a list of options so that we could select from among them. I volunteered to take notes of our choices/options. I pulled out my pen – it turned out to be a red LAMY, which I had subsequently purchased from Kuala Lumpur International Airport while on a trip, subsequent to losing the one I originally had.
I saw that red LAMY in my hand and burst out laughing! Here I was, having lost everything material, and was contemplating calmly how to reinvent ourselves, how to keep our focus and how to find a solution to the unimaginable crisis that we found ourselves in. There was no grief. No sorrow. Just an indescribable resoluteness to deal with the challenge. Over and above that, I was laughing at the irony in my learning! I wondered what had changed in me between my losing a pen to losing everything material in Life. I am not sure I know even now what has changed in me – but I sure know how that change has come about. Over time, Life has taught me lessons through my experience of losing everything that I once dearly held on to – money, assets, the Firm we built, our unique business model and our reputation. I have learned through all this loss that everything is transient. That nothing is permanent. That we will all go the same way as we came – with nothing! Perhaps, this awareness has led to a great acceptance of Life as it is. And to an incomparable, matchless, inner peace.
Your story may be different. But you too may have lost in Life. Or are struggling with a loss just now. Whether you have lost something, or someone, reflect on this, the ONLY, truth. That is the only way not to lose your peace of mind and to remain anchored and blissful.

You are here to just play well and enjoy yourself

Don’t let either success or failure touch you. Accept that everything is impermanent, transient. When you live, work and play with this perspective deeply embedded in you, in your subconscious, you will perform best __ in whatever is your chosen field!

Last night, at the post-match presentation ceremony of the IPL (Indian Premier League, a top-draw T20 cricket tournament) in Chennai, Chennai Super Kings’ strike bowler, Dwayne Bravo, was invited by the anchor of the presentation party, Sanjay Manjrekar, to receive the Purple Cap. The Purple Cap is given to the highest wicket taker in the tournament. In IPL 6, the Purple Cap is being closely contested for by Sunil Narine, Vinay Kumar, Mitchell Johnson and Bravo. After last night’s match, the Purple Cap returned to Bravo, whose tally of wickets then stood at 24 this season.

Dwayne Bravo: No attachment to the Purple Cap
While presenting it to him, Manjrekar asked Bravo: “Did you imagine that this season you would be sporting the Purple Cap?”

Bravo replied with his trademark, genial, West Indian, swagger and beaming smile: “Not really. I just wanted to play good cricket. I did. And the Almighty Lord took care of the rest. I know this is with me today, as it has been a few times this tournament. And I know it will go away from me if someone takes more wickets than me. I am perfectly fine with that. It’s mine today. It may be with someone else tomorrow. I am here to just play well and enjoy myself.”

Bravo’s simple, down-to-earth philosophy inspired me. And so here I am sharing it.

Let’s understand and appreciate that we are all here on this planet to simply play our lives’ parts well and enjoy ourselves. And we can do that by choosing not to cling on to anything. Success and failure are both events. They occur as a culmination of effort. Either our own or of others. When an event occurs, it also ends. For instance, with daybreak, an event, daybreak is over. With a sunset, an event, the sunset is over. With a victory, an event, the victory is over. With a loss, an event, the loss is over. It is when we take an event and make it a label and wear it on ourselves, is when we suffer. Because both success and failure are impermanent and transient. In a moment, they both have become the past. Clinging on to the past is never wisdom. Being aware of this truth, accepting, as the Gita Saram (the essence of the Bhagavad Gita) says, that what is yours today will be someone else’s tomorrow and another’s the day after, is what intelligent living is all about.

When you live this way__playing your part well and enjoying yourself__you live freely. Without any shackles. That’s when your inner spirit is drenched in joy and you, therefore, perform best __ as if, like Bravo, you were on a song!