In this Vlog, I share my experience of how I learnt to avoid suffering. Embracing and accepting your current reality is the key!
View time: 3:55 minutes
Nothing can prevent what is to happen.
The other day, at a bookstore, I chanced upon what was once my favorite book – Numerology by Harish Johari. Back then, I taught myself some basics about this science. I would keep the book handy, as a ready reckoner, and always refer to it before I took important decisions. So, the name of my erstwhile Firm (that went bankrupt: read more here, Fall Like A Rose Petal) and of all the Programs we offered were derived from a numerology guide I followed. I concluded, through trial, error, perception and fear, that numbers or names adding up to 4 or 8 were “unlucky” for me. So I did not take decisions or sign cheques on dates that added up to a 4 or 8. I avoided hiring or working with people whose names added up to a 4 or 8. I had convinced myself to believe that I must get the best “energies” to work for us. After all, I reasoned, success is all about attracting the right energies.
And then, despite my best intent, efforts, and in some cases, despite adequate “precautions”, we made a couple of strategic mistakes (which followed an ethical stance we took as entrepreneurs) that ended up running our Firm to the ground. Worse, we pushed ourselves into a big, deep, dark hole of debt and, 10 years on, we are still struggling to extricate ourselves out of it. To be sure, we went bankrupt and turned insolvent in end-2007, a situation that still menacingly holds us in its grip.
This phase led me to my most significant learning about Life. No amount of astrological perspective, numerology, Vaastu, Feng Shui, business planning, hedging risks, insuring or whatever, no amount of forecasting, preparing, planning or protecting, none of these can prevent what is to happen. Life will happen, no matter what, the way it wants to happen. Which is, what has to happen will happen – and you have to endure, go through, face, whatever comes your way. Your wishing cannot change the Life you have.
When I reflect upon this learning, I realize that Life has always been this way. There’s nothing about Life that has changed. Through stumbling, struggling, falling, believing, fearing, imagining, unlearning, relearning, re-believing, reimagining and eventually learning to face Life for what it is, I believe I have changed. I have evolved. I have awakened spiritually. My inner awareness now tells me that no matter what I want, or what I do, it is – and will be – what it is. So, the simplest, non-suffering, way to live Life is to accept what is and keep moving on.
When I set back Harish Johari’s book on the store-shelf the other day, I was brimming with joy from within. It was a typical bicycle-riding-beginner’s-look-ma-no-hands moment for me! I was delirious with delight that I didn’t need any crutch to lean on, that I don’t need any prophesies, I don’t need any reassurances; I was free! I realize now that you are happiest, despite the circumstances, when you accept yourself for the way you are and for your Life for the way it is.
Not all of Life’s situations can be solved. They have to be faced.
At my Fall Like A Rose Petal Talk that I delivered recently, a lady, in her late 30s, came up to me and said that she no longer saw any point in getting married or seeking companionship in Life. She had been married thrice. And each time she found her relationships getting messy. “While I am fine with being single, my mother is insisting on solving the problem. She doesn’t seem to get it. She believes that my marriage is a duty she has to perform before she dies. What should I do,” asked the lady.
Well, the lady has no choice but to convince her mother. Also, I wouldn’t even say her situation or stance is as unchangeable or irrevocable as those of some others – after all, she may just meet someone who may just be ‘right for her, per her’!
But her situation should remind us of any of our own as well. Some Life situations are just that – they are situations. They must be faced, and in some cases, endured over a period of time. Dealing with Life, while accepting it for what it is, is a much better approach than getting frustrated trying to solve the unsolvable. How do you solve the death of a dear one? How do you solve the inability to relate with someone? How do you solve a rare form of pancreatic cancer? How do you solve the agony of a family of three, whose 40-year-old son is going through a severe depression, the father is on a catheter and the mother is immobile because of a nervous disorder? The truth is: everyone really gets their share of situations in Life. And some of what may be served to you in Life, by Life, may be the unsolvable. And dealing with the situation, by the moment, by the day, is always better that grieving about it endlessly. Because the unsolvable will not be amenable to reason and resolution.
It is always what it is.
The 13th Century Persian poet Jalaluddin Rumi’s collection of spiritual discourses is called “Fihi Ma Fihi” (It is what it is!). In one of his discourses, he asks, “If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?” The import is that it is Life’s nature to throw us into the deep end, untethered, and it is in our spirit, and best interest, to deal with Life, with forbearance, with stoicism, with acceptance. Our job is to face up to and deal with a Life situation, going to work on it daily, doing our best, and leaving the outcome to Life! Yes, when you put in your best effort and don’t get the result you want or what you ought to be getting, it can be frustrating. But the simplest way to live a frustration-free Life is to be free from expectations. Don’t expect 2+2 to always add up to 4 in Life. Clearly, sometimes, things don’t add up in Life! In those times, it is not as if Life is standing there and mocking at you. It is not as if there is a grand conspiracy to hound you, to humiliate you, deny you what your deserve and to finish you off. In situations that you don’t get what you want or when you don’t know what to do, Life is teaching you patience; Life is reminding you that you are not in control. In such times, it is best to deal with Life with acceptance and not necessarily imagine you can solve the unsolvable. That’s living intelligently!
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Whatever it is, it is what it is!
Our world has changed considerably in the last 24 hours. For us Indians, Prime Minister Modi’s announcement of demonetizing Rs.500/- and Rs.1000/- currency notes, in a bit to snuff out the black money menace, means some days and weeks of being unsettled before we get used to a new way of buying, selling, earning and paying. And out there Donald Trump has gone on to win a bitterly fought election to emerge as the next President of the United States. Now, I am no Modi fan. Plus I anticipate huge issues with the execution of the roll-over to a new series of high-denomination currencies in the coming weeks in India. I am not even sure last evening’s move will strangulate black money, corruption, terror-financing and counterfeiting. So, I didn’t quite like what I heard when Modi unveiled his grand, ambitious plan to ‘wipe out’ the parallel economy. And I have been seriously hoping that Hillary Clinton would win. So having Trump as US President for me, like for several million others, is a shocker.
But with close to half a century of being around and at least a decade of understanding Life better, I have understood that it is always what it is. The sooner we accept any new reality and move on, the more peaceful we will be with ourselves and our world.
So, in this time of upheaval, I will lean on these epochal developments around me for spiritual perspective and growth. Intelligent living, as I have known and understood it, has only two tenets. 1. Just be. 2. While just being, be at it.
‘Just be’ really means being in the moment. And whatever is in the moment is what it is. Always. Arriving at this state of awareness does not take time or practice, it only takes a moment of awakening. Looking at just these two developments since last evening (IST), there’s a great opportunity to awaken to be accepting of what is. Consider this carefully. No matter what you think or do, Life has an independent mind and operates on its own. When you realize this and when you let Life take you on its own course, you just are. Then, you don’t resist, you don’t fight, you don’t agonize and so you are peaceful. But letting Life flow at its own terms does not mean stopping to do what you must do. This is the action that the Bhagavad Gita talks about, this is the duty.
So, in the current context in India, as I see it for myself, one way of doing this duty is to partner with the man Modi and his team and give the new process my time and support. And if I oppose him tooth and nail, then I must take on the process that an elected government has engineered and begun rolling out. Just sitting there and complaining will serve no one’s purpose – neither mine nor for the cause that I am complaining for. As for Trump, at least for people in India, there is no choice. He is the choice of a majority of the American people. Period. So, we must all simply go along.
Life’s constantly reminding us through all our experiences that the key to sanity, inner peace and happiness is acceptance. I don’t appreciate Modi’s communal agenda or his Hindutva ideology; I can’t forget what his leadership did to, and about Godhra, in 2002. But as I observed in a blogpost here on the day after he and his party won that mammoth mandate in May 2014, if this is our Life, so it is. If he is going to pull off a massive ‘cleansing’ of India’s black money stables, then, wow, he needs everyone’s support. Including mine. If he can’t then the world can crucify him. For now, I don’t see a role for myself as either commentator or complainer. I see myself as a contributor, who for the larger good of India, is willing to set aside personal preferences and play ball – sincerely, to give a well-intentioned effort a chance.
I glean an important learning from Life here. After all, Modi, Trump, whoever, whatever, your inner peace comes only from acceptance. And so, for your own inner peace, in any new situation, participate if you can, collaborate if you can, work on changing the reality if you can, but begin first with acceptance!
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Celebrate the imperfections in Life.
What you see as an imperfection is abstract art from a cosmic view point. Everything is exactly where it should be, the way it should be and your view of it too is exactly what it should be.
We all hate imperfections, don’t we? A rushed shave in the morning that shows up by noon as a darker, more evident stubble. Imperfection. A poor old, homeless woman on the street, out in the cold and seeking help. Imperfection. People in a corrupt administration using up government funds allotted for AIDS prevention to buy cars and furnish their apartments. Imperfection. A spouse who fails to understand you. Imperfection. A boss who hates empowering and recognizing any subordinate. Imperfection. Everywhere that you see, you will find these evident signs of imperfection. You may think that it is a cruel, sadistic world and you may wonder how the Universe thrives despite these imperfections. But if you had the capacity to understand the intelligence that powers the Universe, you will see that every little thing, everywhere, is thought through and so, everything is really in its place, the way it should really be!
This past week Chennai has been getting some very bizarre amounts of rainfall. For instance, on Tuesday night, it rained 5 cm of rain in under an hour. Everyone here, still dealing with the ghosts of the December 2015 floods, thinks something’s wrong because the North-East monsoon is still a few months away. And obviously something is wrong! Except that the actions that led to this radical climate change are not natural. They are, in fact, nature’s way of protesting that we are not being responsible. So, in effect, climate change is the price we pay for our callous attitude towards our planet. I see the whole Universe operating as a live example of ‘you reap what you sow’. Or what goes around, comes around!
And so the imperfections in your Life, in society, in the world__from a skin ailment to female infanticide to global warming__are really outcomes of our own doing. While the casual observer will not see the connecting pattern behind each imperfection, the one who is awakened, will see and seize the opportunity to learn and course-correct. This is why imperfections must be celebrated. Because they are teaching you, me and successive generations the way to intelligent living. So, nothing is out of place, nothing is out of step and all that you see wrong in your world is the Universe’s way to lead you to what’s right for you!