A friend asks me why, despite having talent, integrity and goodness, people have to face difficult times. I tell him that talent and integrity do not necessarily offer a smooth passage through Life. So, drop all analyses, I advise him. Just anchor in patience and flow with Life choosing to be non-frustrated and happy, despite the circumstances. This Vlog captures the perspective I shared with him.
View time: 4:31 minutes
Find your center, so you can be unmoved by the turns, tumbles and upheavals of Life.
Someone who listened to my Podcast on Monday asked me how I avoid identifying myself with my problem situation – my bankruptcy. “Don’t you feel deprived and incomplete living the way you are for the past decade,” he asked.
That’s an interesting question. My response is that, yes, there was a time, early on in the bankruptcy (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal), when I felt there was a conspiracy to “pin me down” and “finish me off”. As long as I believed in this conspiracy theory I felt like a victim, I felt like I was hounded. I suffered. This was in the period 2003~2005.
But through daily reflection, in my mouna (silence) sessions, over the next three to four years, I realized that my suffering was self-inflicted. I understood that, undoubtedly, I had a huge problem to deal with. And I had to face it, I had to deal with it. There was no way it was going away merely because I wished it weren’t there. This quality of acceptance helped me to stop suffering. This is how I stopped feeling like a victim.
So, to be sure, our bankruptcy is where it is. There is a lot of pain, it is often intense, but we don’t suffer from it. We make our efforts to claw our way out of our situation but we remain non-frustrated when the results don’t simply add up. Important, we are non-judgmental about our efforts. Just as we are not bitter that things have not worked out for us.
Vaani and I have learnt that there is no conspiracy out there to fix any of us. Life is a cycle. What goes up comes down. And what’s down goes back up again. When we are down in the cycle, we may feel like Life is being unfair. But the way to avoid feeling like a victim is to find our center. As long as we are in the periphery of the cycle, we will be subjected to the up and down movements, to the turns, tumbles and upheavals. But if we are at the center, we will be unmoved.
Finding your center means understanding the true nature of Life. Which is essentially to celebrate its impermanence. Everything, absolutely everything, including Life itself is transient. Everything will change. Everyone will change. And everyone and everything will be taken away. Know that your suffering comes only because you cling on to people and things and expect them to be there forever. When you understand this irrefutable truth about Life, you will be free. You too will then stop identifying yourself with your problems – because you now know that they will, over time, go away. You will stop thinking that you are being victimized. This is how you too can learn to be happy despite your circumstances!
Perceptions can derail you only if you allow them to.
My friend called me from Canada the other day. He shared notes with me on “how perceptions of people around you can pin you down”. He said in the time when he lived in Kerala, and when he owed money to family and friends, he would always be ridiculed for being a mudhalaly, an estate owner, who “lived it up” while claiming to be insolvent. “Even if I wore a shirt that was well laundered and ironed, they would demand that if I had money to “buy a new shirt”, I must find ways to repay my loans. I found social sentiments crippling…they made me very fearful, I was even scared of my shadow. I am still haunted by all those remarks and how I felt back then,” he told me.
I can empathize with my friend’s experience. Given our situation, (read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal), Vaani and I are consistently prone to public perception, scrutiny and judgment. But we don’t fear perceptions. We respect them as sentiments of people that we are answerable to; we remain true to ourselves and these people. Even so, we have realized that if we live in fear of anything, or anyone, we will not live, we will merely exist. So we deal with perceptions as they come along – head on, in the face!
What we have learnt is that a perception is always the viewer’s, observer’s, seer’s view of reality. So, it is totally relative to the point of view that someone, who’s looking at a situation or person, is holding. In most cases, perception is not reality. When someone has a perception of you, if they are merely misinformed or misguided by their imagination, they will accept a clarification and change their point of view. Such people are intrinsically honest and worth clarifying to. Others are not just holding a perception of you, but are also judgmental. Such people are best left alone. If you must, clarify, but don’t expect any understanding from them. And then there is the third category – people who are totally unconnected to you, but who will pass judgment in social circles, social media and even write your epithet. Such people and their opinions are best ignored. So, you see, in any of these cases, there is no point in fearing perceptions. Clarify to the best of your ability, and if you fail to convince someone, don’t let that affect you. Just move on.
In any situation, particularly when you are answerable to people circumstantially or emotionally, remember that you cannot prove your integrity to anyone – unless they see it or realize it themselves. In fact, there is no point in trying to prove yourself. Those who trust you will not be led by perceptions of you. And those who don’t trust you – or don’t want to trust you – will not let go of their perceptions of you, no matter what evidence you bring up in your favor. This is the way Life is. No one is to be blamed here. And there’s no need to grieve and sweat over your inability to erase ill-informed perceptions of you. However, always ensure that none of what you do disregards the integrity of your relationship with the stakeholder you are answerable to or are responsible for.
Bottom-line: Perceptions can derail you only if you allow them to. The only person you need to be true to, in the whole world, is you. If you are that, then perceptions won’t matter; they won’t haunt you.
The simplest way to get from point A to point B is a straight line.
A reader asks me what he must do in a situation when he has let his wife down. His wife is a very loving, very compassionate lady – she does not even realize she has been let down! She keeps showering him with all her love. This makes the man feel even more guilty. He does not know how to face her. He asks me how can he tell her “all that she must know” without having a “fear of being rejected or punished for his actions.” “I don’t want to hurt her. I don’t want to hurt myself. I want it to be smooth. Is there a way,” he asks me.
The only quality worth striving for in any conversation is to keep it honest. Trying to make a conversation simple or easy, trying to cushion someone from the impact of the message or outcome, trying to control the outcome of the conversation – all these, quite frankly, are irrelevant. What is it that you want to tell someone? Can you sit down and say it with a straight face, honestly. If, as in the reader’s case, you want to appraise someone of what you have done, what you have learnt from doing so and seek their understanding, then just say it. Be honest. Say everything there is to it – don’t hold back, don’t sugarcoat – just say it! The same approach works when you are giving feedback to someone or are sharing perspective with them. The point of avoiding hurt and injury has often already been transgressed in such cases. For instance, if the reader wanted not to hurt his wife, he may well have never let her down. Or if you were not already hurt over someone’s behavior, you will not necessarily be in a conversation with them sharing perspective or providing feedback.
I have learnt that the simplest way to get from point A to point B is a straight line. If something has to be said, just say it. If you must tell someone you love them, say it. If you must say sorry, say it. If you must hold a mirror to someone, hold it. And when you can’t get yourself to say it face-to-face send them a WhatsApp message. Simple. Grief and guilt, in such situations, come only from postponing, or fighting shy of, what you really want to communicate.
You can choose to be in a state of equanimity – anytime, in any context!
In response to my blogpost of yesterday, a reader wrote to me saying, “An employee who is rejected by an employer can perhaps move on and seek employment elsewhere. But what does someone do when your family rejects you?”
From personal experience I can tell you that it is not as difficult as it sounds to move on in the context of family or very close personal relationships. The opportunity to be free, liberated and live happily is available to anyone in any situation, regardless of whether the context is personal or professional. You grieve, and therefore you suffer, only because you are clinging on to what has happened. Someone has rejected you, someone has an opinion of you which is not fully based on facts, they have delivered their judgment. If you examine the situation closely, they have moved on. You are the one who is clinging on, pining and suffering, wondering why things are the way they are. But the truth is things already are – they have come to a pass; the words have been spilled, you have been hurt, now what is the point in going on lamenting about it?
When my family called me a cheat and accused me and Vaani of faking a bankruptcy, for the longest time I grieved. I could not accept my new reality that I have been judged by my own mother and siblings. (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal.) I felt devastated that I could not prove to them why their perceptions were wrong. But then, I realized, if they had genuinely wanted to understand us, they would never have doubted our integrity, no matter what perceptional evidence was stacked up against me and Vaani. Soon I saw the futility in trying to convince them of my integrity. I concluded that they don’t trust me – that’s their choice. So, I simply moved on. While I remain accountable to them on the monies I owe them, just as I am with all our other creditors, I have no inclination to discuss or settle any other matters with them. I don’t see it as necessary. And I have no angst, no hurt, no grief in me. Not anymore.
I am not saying my way is the only way of doing things in close relationships when, unfortunately, mistrust, judgment, opinion and rejection come into play. All I can tell you is that I am anchored, I am at peace – because I don’t expect anything anymore from my family. If anything, in fact, on a material plane, I feel responsible towards them.
No situation is difficult to deal with or complex enough to handle as long as you have clarity on what you want. If inner peace is what you want, then some clear, tough calls have to be taken. If you want to wallow in self-pity and flaunt your suffering, then of course, you have a different choice to make. I, for one, believe this state of equanimity is possible for anyone, anytime, in any context – you just have to choose to be non-suffering. Anything – or anyone – that causes your suffering, just weed them out!