A Life lesson from a Japanese manufacturing method

Just-In-Time. When you review your Life so far, you will discover that you may have never always got what you wanted, but whatever you needed has always been there. And if it was not there in the beginning, it has always arrived Just-In-Time!
There is no moment in anyone’s Life that they have spent without having what they needed at that moment. Even so, a large mass of humanity grieves over scarcity, or the lack of what it feels is needed, without realizing that the Creator is not only benevolent but also an astute Mastermind, an amazing Logistics Manager, who knows what to provide for whom, when, where and how! On a lighter plane, with some hope of being logical, it may be right to presume that the Creator must be having Japanese roots! The Japanese, led by Toyota Corporation, have perfected a golden method in manufacturing called JIT – Just-In-Time. JIT reduces in-process inventory, and therefore allied costs, ensuring quality, efficiency and enhancing return-on-investment. The JIT process relies on visual signals, or Kanban in Japanese, between different points in the manufacturing process that tells production when to make the next part. Nothing happens earlier. Nothing happens later. So it is in Life. Unknown to us, the Universe’s sensors detect, perhaps, invisible Kanban, and we always receive whatever we need at any given moment. Our trying to control the process is of no use, because, in reality, we were and are neverin control.

All our suffering is on account of us trying to control this process called Life! Instead, if we acknowledge the Universe’s, the Creator’s, design and appreciate that the ultimate, overall objective is to enhance the quality of our Life __ through our experience and learnings__ we will journey along in peace. Trusting that, without fail, whatever we need will always be available to us Just-In-Time, will lead us to inner peace. When in peace we always experience bliss!

To meditate is to learn to live meaningfully all the time

Learning to live in the moment is when you can bring your mind to attend to that moment and not to your worries or your fears.
Whenever I share this perspective with people they immediately equate it to their experiences with meditation which they must have tried at some point or the other. And they quickly conclude that because they do not do meditation anymore, they continue to struggle with their lives. Or there are others who say they struggle despite meditating for an hour daily! 
Conceptually, there is a problem here. You don’t schedule a mediation. It is not a session. You just meditate. Meditation is just mindfulness. Awareness. Alertness. Just being. When you have reached the point of staying in the now, doing whatever you are doing, consciously, then you have begun meditation. It is the ability to be present. Because the present moment is all that you have. Meditation need not be done at a particular time of the day or at a particular venue. It is the continuous, conscious feeling of being in the present. If you are peeling onions, do it with full awareness. Then you are meditating. If you are drawing up an excel sheet and crunching numbers for tomorrow’s meeting, you are meditating. Now, that’s the quality you have to bring into every living moment – which is, immersing yourself in whatever activity you are doing without letting your mind wander. This also applies to tasks you have to do, even though you don’t like doing them much. For example, I don’t like book-keeping and accounts. But I have to do it. There’s no one I have who can help me with that. I postpone it all month. Then, one day, I just do it. Fully. Without hating it. I love it the day I do it. And then I feel liberated. That’s the power of living in meditation.
I learnt this technique through the practice of ‘mouna’ or silence periods. I began by first practicing it at a particular time each day. But over years of practice, now I can slip into ‘mouna’, anywhere, anytime __ even at a busy traffic intersection or in a crowded airport or in a boring meeting. I trigger my awareness by slipping into my ‘mouna’ spells. I choose to be silent at these times and it floods me with a sublime energy instantaneously that helps me see each situation or circumstance in which I am placed with amazing clarity. Often when my mind works up to worrying, my auto-pilot, the ‘mouna’ switch embedded in my mind, gets self-activated and awareness steps in to remind me to let go of my ruinous emotions and focus on the miracle of the moment. To meditate is to learn to live meaningfully all the time.
Here’s a Zen story illustrating the same point. A Japanese warrior was captured by his enemies and thrown into prison. That night he was unable to sleep because he feared that the next day he would be interrogated, tortured, and executed. Then the words of his Zen Master came to him, “Tomorrow is not real. It is an illusion. The only reality is now.” Heeding these words, the warrior became peaceful and fell asleep. Now, many of us will have a problem with this story and its lesson. Some will say, that it is defeatist. Others will say that it is impractical. How can you sleep soundly with an impending catastrophe tomorrow? That really is the problem. When you think of a past that is over, and of a future that is yet to arrive, then, you are really not present in the moment. All your Life’s challenges, fears and insecurities come to torment you only because you are absent from the now. Just learn to do one thing at a time. As an old Japanese saying goes, if you try to catch two rabbits at the same time, you will get none. If you want to worry, worry incessantly. Then don’t aspire for peace. If you want to fear the future, then fear totally. Don’t hope for that fear not to come true. But if you want to be happy, drop the worry, stop fearing and just be. That really is what meditation is all about.

Develop an Is-That-So Attitude to steel yourself!

The easiest thing for anyone to do is to opinionate on what others do and how other people should live their lives. We are all guilty of making such opinions, passing such judgments, all the time. There’s a certain, call it sadistic if you like, joy that people derive in hurting others with their words. And there’s so much grief, therefore, that people carry within them, of memories of such wounding words, in their lifetimes.

In order to avoid getting into either end of this hurt trap, it is very important to stay aware.

The moment your mind rushes to judge someone, remind your mind that your opinion is perhaps both unsolicited and avoidable. Enquire whether what you are about to say is true or kind. And only then, only if completely unavoidable, and totally true, say what you must, but say it kindly. If you can’t say it kindly, just don’t say it! Period. The other thumb-rule to follow is while you can have an opinion on someone, it is best when it is with you. For it is completely worthless when it is invested in someone who does not value it.

Now, while you can indeed check yourself, and your pronouncements, with your awareness and with lots of practice, you really can’t control what people have to say about you and the way you live your Life. The fickle human mind, that craves for instant gratification in all matters, will want you to rush to defend yourself when you are criticized, ridiculed, opinionated on and your Life is scrutinized beyond reasonable limits. Overcome that temptation to defend, to clarify, to retaliate by simply remembering this – what I learned very early on in Life but did not realize its value until recently – “Opinions are like farts. Everyone has one. And they all stink!”

So, in essence, all you need to do when people say or do something that hurts you is to ask, in complete, genuine bewilderment__because your sense of shock is really that__ “Is that so?”. I learned this through a Zen story I heard some years back.

The Zen Master Hakuin Ekaku (1686-1768), one of the most influential figures of Japanese Zen Buddhism was revered by his neighbors as one living a pure life.

A beautiful Japanese girl whose parents owned a food store lived near him. One fine day, the girl’s parents discovered that she was pregnant. This made her parents very angry. She initially would not confess who the man__who had got her pregnant__was. But after much forcing, she, at last, named Hakuin. Horrified, the shocked parents went to the Master, blamed him, berated and threatened him with dire consequences if he did not “own” their daughter’s child.

Is that so?,” was all that Hakuin said, smiling.

After the child was born, it was brought to Hakuin. By this time he had lost his reputation, as people shunned him for his “immoral” conduct. The barbs from, and being ostracized by, the people did not trouble him at all though. Instead, he took very good care of the child. He obtained milk from some of his more forgiving and tolerant neighbors and provided for everything else the little one needed.

A year later, the young girl could stand her own lie no longer. She told her parents the truth – that the real father of the child was a young man who worked in the local fish market.

The mother and father of the girl were even more horrified this time. They at once went to Hakuin to ask his forgiveness, to apologize at length, and to get their grandchild back again.

Hakuin was both forgiving and willing. In yielding the child, all he said again, smiling, was: “Is that so?

The moral for all us is to learn from Hakuin. Let us learn to be just witnesses of whatever happens to us in Life. Including being witnesses to judgments and opinions being pronounced in favor or against us. In fact, that’s what we really are __ mere observers. In joy or in sorrow let us not get attached to the events, people, circumstances, opinions and judgments of, and in, our lives. Let’s develop an Is-That-So attitude to steel ourselves in Life. This, and this approach alone, can guarantee us the inner peace that we all crave for, work hard for, but never really manage to find.