4 questions that lead you to a lifetime of happiness!

Only you can decide what makes you happy!

We bumped into a young friend at a coffee shop yesterday. She is a qualified architect but is taking a gap year in her academics.

She asked us: “Is it okay to not feel like doing anything in Life? I mean, is it seriously okay? I feel everyone around me is chasing their tail and here I am…completely clueless about my future and blundering along…I am still unsure if I want to study further or if I want to practice or be a writer or just travel the world. Everyone is forcing me to decide and go do ‘something’. But I don’t want to commit to doing something that my heart isn’t agreeing to.”

Vaani, in turn, asked her this question: “What makes you happy?”

And the young lady replied: “I am still figuring out what makes me happy. But I am sure none of the things my family or friends want me to do, like do a desk job to earn an income and gain experience, or a do a Masters Program so that the tag of a graduate can be acquired, will make me happy.”

The lady, in our opinion, has her priorities clearly in place.

Even as she is figuring out what will quench her soul, what will make her intrinsically happy, she’s sure about what she does not want to do. And there’s no confusion in her mind there. Now, that’s a wonderful state to be in.

You see, the whole world is running amuck – everyone is trying to become something, become someone else that they really are not. Worse, almost everyone else seems to have an opinion about what you must do and how you must live your Life. Sometimes, this cacophony can be deafening. If you capitulate and sign up for what the world wants you to do, at the cost of your own inner peace and joy, then don’t complain about your Life being listless and meaningless. Because that’s really what Life will be when you live it for someone else’s sake! But, if you want your Life to be exciting, if you want to wake up each morning loving the opportunity to go do what you love doing, then you have to pause and reflect.

Ask yourself important, fundamental, questions: 1. What makes me happy? 2. What makes me feel grateful for this gift called Life? 3. Doing what makes me lose myself completely so that I forget all my worries and even lose track of time? 4. What do I want to keep doing again and again and again – all my Life?

AVIS-Viswanathan-4-Questions

Well, you know what you answered for those four questions. Now, just go do it. Simple. And if figuring this out takes a year or two, or even more, well, so be it.

Life is a precious, one-time, limited-period offer. The most intelligent way to live it is to only do what makes you happy. And no one but you can make that choice – only you can decide what makes you happy. When you do live a Life, doing what you love, everything you need arrives in your Life – at its own time and pace. If there ever is a secret to living a Life of happiness and contentment – this, absolutely, is it!

In which Nithyanand, a Buddha, teaches me to live with ‘anand’ (inner joy) ‘nithya’ (daily)!!!

When you look for things that you don’t have, you remain incomplete. When you look at what you have, including who you have in your Life, you are complete!

Nithyanand – The Buddha
Yesterday, I spent a transformational hour with a young man called Nithyanand, in his 20s, who is visually special (I hate to call him visually impaired). He lives in Korrukkupet (a Chennai suburb). He commutes every day to Express Avenue Mall, where he works at an exhibition tour company called “Dialogue in the Dark” (Google them – go check them out). Nithya, as he prefers being called, says he doesn’t have any problem when I ask him how he “manages with Life on a day-to-day basis”: “Sir, we work on getting oriented to spaces and with basing all our responses to the velocity of sound around us. I take bus # 18 and get to work pretty much without a hitch. When I do have to cross the road, I just wait for a good, helpful soul. The Universe always has such people around. There are so many good people in this world. Someone always comes by to help me.” There’s a joie de vivre about the way Nithya is. He is happy, content and peaceful with the way he is. Actually he truly, simply is. There is no self-pity. There’s no lament. In fact, there’s so much dignity with which he conducts himself – even you don’t feel pity for the young man. You come away inspired. Now, how many times will you come away inspired after meeting a rank stranger for barely an hour?

Much of our grief and suffering comes from lamenting over what we don’t have. This pushes us into a, often subconscious, depressive spiral out of which we rarely climb out. But always, when the focus shifts to what is, the result is magical. The reason why we struggle with making this shift from what isn’t to what is, is that the negative is always seductive. Its reasoning power is far more logical. The good in us rarely speaks. It merely states. It does not profess, it doesn’t argue, it doesn’t convince. Nett Nett, we succumb to the wily designs of scarcity__what we don’t have, what isn’t__thinking. This results in incompleteness. Whereas, with all our quirks, defects, chinks, blemishes, scars and handicaps, we are complete. There’s so much abundance in our lives. Such is the way we have been created. To recognize this complete state of ours, we need to be in a state of total acceptance, we need to be peaceful.

My learning from Nithyanand: when there is peace within, when there is acceptance of the Life you have, the focus will shift to what is. And then the wholesomeness of your Life will become clear to you! This the way, we__you and me__too, just like Nithya, can become a Buddha – and experience ‘anand’ (inner joy) ‘nithya’ (daily)!

Be mindful: have a ‘serene encounter with reality’!

Whatever you do, do it with total immersion. Enjoy the process of doing what you are doing. That’s called mindfulness. And that’s the key to inner peace.
Doing the dishes, to me, is a meditative practice
Yesterday my daughter, a psychology graduate, caught me dusting a thin layer of dust on top of a cupboard in our kitchen. She quipped, “Dad, cleaning around the house makes you happy, doesn’t it?” I smiled at her. And confessed that indeed it does make me happy. In fact, to me, house-keeping, is a meditative practice. It is not a chore. Yes, it does become a challenge when you have to juggle with your other schedules and have to try and fit in quality time for house-keeping. But I have realized that I am very mindful when I am cleaning up around the house. I go about it calmly, methodically and, however physically strenuous it may get at times, I enjoy the process. I love doing the dishes or cleaning surfaces, I invest time to get the toilets to be squeaky clean and generally love the idea of having a dust-free home environment – something that’s so difficult in Indian conditions and so requires being at it continuously, consistently!
I have discovered that when you are mindful of whatever it is that you are doing there’s great inner peace and joy. And no work or task is menial or burdensome as long as you don’t treat it as a chore. In fact, immersion really means being completely involved in, engaged in, and mindful of whatever it is that you are doing. Of course, it is possible that you may not always like to do some things. But when you don’t have a choice – and you have to also do what you dislike doing – if you choose to be mindful, you will get through that task or activity even more efficiently than when you are resisting it.
The Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hahn, a.k.a Thay, says it so beautifully: “In mindfulness one is not only restful and happy, but alert and awake. Meditation is not evasion; it is a serene encounter with reality.” The essence of what he has to say is contained in the last phrase – ‘it is a serene encounter with reality’. Most of the time, almost all of us, resist our reality. We don’t like what we are going through. Or we dislike what we have to do. Or we are so engrossed in dealing with our ‘extended’ realities that we miss the magic and beauty of everyday living. Thay recommends that we must awaken to the reality in each moment. And not just to be stuck with our ‘extended’ reality. For instance, if you keep worrying about your fourth stage cancer and the fact that you will soon die, how will you enjoy a sunrise? So, in this context, your cancer is your ‘extended’ reality. But the more immediate one is the sunrise. Enjoy it, says Thay, because soon it – the moment bearing the sunrise – will be gone. Meditation is really what the art of living is all about – the ability to value each moment, cherish it, be joyful in it and move on to the next moment with undiluted enthusiasm. How can you enjoy a moment when it is painful, you may wonder? What if someone is dead? What if someone’s betrayed you? How will you cope with a moment when you are wishing it away? That’s why Thay prescribes a ‘serene encounter with reality’ – he says, don’t resist, don’t fight, instead accept, what is. Accepting what is, is the best way to gain inner peace. When you accept your reality, you begin to experience joy in the moment.
The human mind is like the human body. It can be trained. I have trained my mind by practicing both silence periods (mouna) and mindfulness – immersing myself in what I do. Over time, I have learnt to banish worry (despite the daunting circumstances my family and I are faced with owing to our grave financial state) and just be in the moment. Often time, cleaning around my house gives me that sense of equanimity. Through my own experience I know that if you immerse yourself in whatever you do, enjoying the process of doing it, being always mindful, you too can be happy, despite the circumstances!