Awareness holds the key to intelligent living.
A reader wanted to know how to deal with suppressed desires and emotions. He cited his experience of being brought up in a conservative fashion and him not having touched alcohol all his Life. He agreed that he was old enough to be making his choices, but he felt his family would not approve of them. “So how does one deal with an urge to experience something without feeling guilty or fearing about being judged,” he asked.
I am of the view that everything in Life has to be experienced. But you must never let yourself be controlled by anything. You must be aware of what you are doing. So, drinking socially is okay. But being controlled by your drinking or drinking and driving is not okay surely. You must train yourself to make this intelligent distinction, every single time, with everything that you choose to do.
And please don’t suppress any emotions. The more you suppress something, the more it will want to break free and express itself. So, if you have an urge to try out something new – whatever – go do it. But do it being fully aware of the consequences of it controlling you. I practice a simple process of holding on to each debilitating emotion I experience, examining it, and setting it down. Anger, fear, sorrow, guilt, jealousy – whatever comes my way, I look at it closely and then I let it go. This way, nothing controls me. And since there is no resistance, there is no suffering.
Finally, please don’t make decisions wanting to please others. If there is something you want to do, you want to experience, you have to go do it. Or if you choose not to do it, for whatever reasons, don’t think about your choice again. Don’t try to keep flaunting your martyrdom – “Oh! But for my family, I would have been this way or that way!” It is simply not worth it. That way, you will feel depressed and will end up wallowing in self-pity.
That brings me back to the point about awareness. The key to intelligent living is awareness. If you train your mind to be aware, nothing can entice you, nothing will torment you or control you. Awareness makes Life simpler. It liberates you. Nothing is wrong and nothing is right, in a moral sense, in Life. So, do whatever you feel like doing. But do it with complete awareness of what you are doing, why you are doing it and what consequences are likely to follow. As Osho, the Master, says, “There is only one sin and that is unawareness, and only one virtue and that is awareness.”
Just let the song in you play – it doesn’t really matter what others play or have to say!
The past few days we have been doing a round of the free kutcheris on the Madras Music Season circuit. I don’t understand Carnatic music the way it should be – I don’t know how to identify ‘raagams’, I don’t know the nuances of the art form, I don’t know the compositions, in fact I know precious little about the genre. Yet I lose myself whenever I find any music moving me from within. Immersion, I guess, works for me with music, more than academic understanding, more than being a connoisseur. The concerts this season that I have so far been to featured the veteran Hyderabad Brothers and the young, happening, Sandeep Narayan and Rithvik Raja.
Sandeep and Rithvik have both been guests on my popular Bliss Catchers Event Series. Sandeep is a disciple of Sanjay Subrahmanyan; Rithvik has been learning from T.M.Krishna. According to me, both the young artistes are very versatile, hugely talented singers. But I often find people comparing them to their gurus and to each other. I find such comparisons really misplaced and quite unnecessary. Someone who was in the audience in Sandeep’s concert remarked that he’s “better” than Rithvik – and “that’s because Sanjay’s better than TMK”. A FB post remarked that Rithvik’s “soft-natured rendering” was “nothing” in comparison to Sandeep’s “aggressive” stage presence. Then there are those who lament about how TMK does more things than just sing. And how they hope “at least” Rithvik will stay the course on music. Of course, there are those who swear by TMK, and “therefore”, by Rithvik. They are quick to add that Rithvik will emerge as the numero uno soon!
To those soaked in the fever of the Music Season these comments may appear to be part of the usual sabha canteen banter. But to me they are symptomatic of a social trend, a malaise – which is to treat Life as a race, as a competition, where someone necessarily has to trounce someone to win; which also means that one has to always be better than the rest! I know Sandeep and Rithvik personally. And I see no such streak in them to compete at the cost of the other. I know their gurus too and I have never sensed that they may have inculcated such a crass urge in their disciples. Simply, to me, comparing people and passing judgment is truly the bane of our times.
Why can’t people just be allowed to be who they are? Each one is unique. And has an individual way of expressing themselves. Why don’t we celebrate that expression than invest time in analyzing and drawing meaningless inferences? This tendency to compare people does not restrict itself to the Carnatic music scene alone. In every walk of Life people are expected to be like others. Junior Bachchan, Abhishek, is always measured through the prism of his father’s greatness; just as Parineeti Chopra is often judged against Priyanka Chopra’s popularity and performances. Or consider this one: isn’t Asha Bhonsle a better singer than the more feted Lata Mangeshkar, because Asha continues to be relevant at 80+? Virat Kohli is always reviewed basis two benchmarks: Dhoni’s captaincy and Tendulkar’s batting genius. Already the hyper-opinionated janata darbar, a.k.a Twitteratti, is debating whether Ravichandran Ashwin can ever be better than Erapalli Prasanna or Bishen Bedi! NaMo’s chest-thumping is always seen as “superior” compared to Manmohan Singh’s dignified silence. To be sure, comparisons are not a new-age, social media phenomenon. Social media is only a new platform that makes comparisons, trial by public, judgments, both visible and rabid. As a child I was always asked by my parents why I couldn’t be like my cousins – who studied well, who got good marks and who never gave their parents any “tension”. Even now, in fact, I guess this issue rankles my parents, that I am unlike my “well-settled” cousins; that I am in debt and that I am yet to carve out a retirement plan or create assets (Read more on why my parents may feel so here: Fall Like A Rose Petal).
But why? Why does one have to be like someone else or be better than another? Why can’t one just be who she or he is?
A tragic fall-out of this tendency to compare people is that pretty soon, subconsciously, the urge to review yourself basis others creeps in; you start taking those social pronouncements seriously. If someone has more likes or followers than you have, you feel disillusioned. If you have more than others, you think you are the child of a bigger God! But please remember, either pole is a risky one to climb and hold on to: if you consider yourself better than someone, beware of hubris; and if you think someone’s better than you, beware of jealousy or depression getting the better of you! Bottomline: comparison is a zero-sum game; it ruins inner peace!
Going back to where I started, using the music analogy, let me just remind that there’s a song in each of us. And yours is unique to you, as mine is to me. So, why not just let it play? Won’t more original music, from more people, make our world nicer, merrier, happier?
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Jealousy is as wasteful as worrying is. It can’t touch you and it can’t get you anywhere either!
A friend is launching a new business. He consulted me and Vaani on the idea and his launch strategy. At the end of the conversation, he thanked us profusely for our time and requested us to keep it under wraps. Of course, any new idea must be protected and preserved until it is launched. But his reasoning was different: “I am very wary of professional and personal jealousy. I don’t want anyone to cast an evil eye on my idea.”
Somehow, I can’t wrap my head around this ‘evil eye’ concept. Just thinking that it exists and that it can affect you is so regressive. No, I am not being dismissive about jealousy. I am only suggesting that we develop a mature response to it.
Let us understand jealousy first. Someone is said to be jealous of you when they wish or want what you have or they want to be who you are. So, essentially, it is in the eye of the beholder. Now, this is something very normal, very human.
You see someone having a nice phone or a beautiful car and you wish or want that phone or car. You think of it and say to yourself that it will be great if you owned them too. This happens to all of us, all the time. So just accept jealousy as a normal response to Life as it happens around you. In some cases, jealousy is accompanied by anger, resentment and insecurity. So, some people feel jealous more intensely than others. Some talk openly about it. Others cook within themselves feeling wretched that they don’t have what someone else has. Again it is only in the eye of the beholder. It is only what, and how, the person who is jealous is feeling. Now, if this person examines this feeling of jealousy closely, they will see the futility of it. Surely, wishing and wanting never got anyone anything – or anywhere! So, when they see the futility of being jealous, they will stop being jealous. Simple. And as long as they don’t understand its futility, they will keep cooking in it. Just as they will cook in fear or anxiety or worry. So, ultimately, the choice to cook or to let go, to be free, is the individual’s.
Now, if you are the subject of someone’s envy, you can see and you know for sure that you are only the subject. It is all happening to the other person, in the other person. Until such time that you don’t invite yourself to the party, you are free. But the moment you start imagining that the other person’s feelings will impact you, you are entrapped. That’s when you too will start cooking within – ‘Are things going wrong because so-and-so has cast an evil eye?’, ‘Will I lose what I have because someone’s envious of me?’, ‘How can I protect myself from jealousy?’…. – and lose your inner peace. Pause and reflect. How is such thinking productive? Is it serving any purpose? When you hold someone’s jealous attitude towards you and examine it, you too will realize its futility. Until you started giving it any attention, you were free. But now you are fearful, insecure, worried and anxious. Do you need to be this way? Isn’t all this avoidable?
Clearly, you can’t possibly do anything about what other people are thinking. But can’t you at least change your thinking and be free from wasteful emotions?
I don’t deny jealousy exists or wish that it doesn’t arise. It is a natural human response to, and in, Life. Like any other emotion it will rise. But if you understand that it can’t touch you or that it can’t get you anywhere, you will recognize its futility. So, when you don’t give jealousy any attention, it will slink away. Quietly. I let jealousy simply be. Whether it is arising in me or for me. I don’t give it any attention. So it doesn’t touch me or affect me. And I can tell you that Life is really beautiful, awesome in fact, without that wasteful emotion!
Each of us is a unique aspect of creation. Love being who you are, the way you are!
Someone who had watched the documentary ‘Rise In Love’ (made by a young film-maker Shalu to explore how love thrives in the face of adversity) on Vaani and me got in touch a few days ago. He said the reason for my ability to withstand the pressures of an enduring crisis (‘Fall Like A Rose Petal’, Westland) was that Vaani has stood by me like a rock. “My wife simply refuses to partner with me the way Vaani does with you. I feel lonely and lost at most times. What should I do,” he asked. I smiled and asked him if his mother and the rest of his family understood him. He said they did. I told him that in my case they didn’t. I pointed out to him that each of us has a different, unique Life design. So, comparing ourselves with others is of no use. It is the surest way for us to invite suffering into our lives.
Comparisons, especially in today’s wired, visible, demonstrative world, may seem inevitable. Yet they must be avoided. The way Life operates is that each aspect of its creation has a path and destiny of its own. The only common thread is the divinity, Life itself, that thrives in each of us. Otherwise, everyone’s story is unique. That’s what makes Life so mystical, so magical, so beautiful and so inscrutable. When you compare yourself with another person you are surely breeding jealousy in you. And you are choosing to be miserable instead of being happy. If feeling jealous or miserable about someone’s Life can get you their Life, then it is perhaps worth the effort. But the truth is nothing, absolutely nothing, can change your Life’s design. It is what it is for you. It is what it is for all those who you compare yourself with.
Instead of comparing yourself with others, get on with your Life. Live it your way. Surely, set yourself up against inspiring benchmarks. But don’t get bogged down if you can’t achieve your own exacting standards. Just keep trying. But do all this without postponing living or being happy. Because every moment that you have squandered in comparing yourself with another person, and have felt sorry for or angry with yourself, is a moment you have not lived!
In the ‘80s Hindustan Lever ran a popular TV ad for its best-selling detergent bar Rin: “Bhala Uski Kameez Meri Kameez Se Safed Kaise” (“How is his shirt whiter than mine?”). Their print ad showed two women, one envying the whiteness of the other’s (Juhi Chawla!) sari: “Mud-Mudke Dekhe Sansaar, Super Rin Ki Chamatkaar” (Super Rin’s whiteness will make the world turn around and look at you!”). Such communication did create memorable advertising but clearly this is not the recipe for intelligent living. So, drop all comparisons, let others be who they are, and you go be yourself, love what you do and love who you are. To quote Shailendra’s lyrics from the immortal song from Raj Kapoor’s 1955-classic Shree 420 (Shankar-Jaikishen, Asha Bhosle, Manna Dey): “Mud-Mudke Na Dekh, Mud-Mudke…” (Don’t turn back and look…)!!!