In over 33 years of loving each other and 31 years of living together, Vaani and I have never cooked together. Which is, I have never attempted learning cooking. 😊
Now, with the COVID-19 lockdown situation, for the first time, I found myself hovering around the kitchen and asking Vaani if I could learn to cook from her. It sure was a bit unusual as I asked her that; I couldn’t believe that I was ready and willing, finally, to learn cooking!
But there has to be a first time for everything, right? Plus, apart from being my BFF, my soulmate, Vaani is also a great teacher! So, I told myself, “let’s go do this”!
I made half an adai last evening for dinner – spreading out the maavu on the tawa. And this morning I “understood” how a vegetable korma is made – I chopped the veggies, stirred up the gravy and basically soaked in the entire process. I even ran my understanding through our daughter Aanchal (who herself loves to cook) in Singapore and she signed off in approval!
I am very amused that I am doing this. I have always been the housekeeper at home. I find cleaning a deeply meditative practice where I engage wholesomely with the process of cleaning up, dusting and polishing surfaces, often doing the dishes too. Even so, somehow, I have always postponed the idea of learning cooking. I have learnt to make filter coffee some months ago. But being with Vaani in the kitchen and watching her cook, assisting her and learning from her – well, that happened for the first time today!
And I am lovin’ it!
On a spiritual plane, this “event” reiterates to me that everything happens in its own time and at its own pace.
There’s one more learning on offer here – from the overall COVID-19 situation. If you think about it deeply, it is forcing the whole world to sit down in one place and just be. You see, everyone has been so conditioned to running amok, imagining that if they don’t hurry, if they don’t rush and grab whatever they think they deserve, they are going to miss the bus or that something grave is going to befall them or that they will lose some thing. So, everyone has been on this spree, this crazy race to become. Become more visible, become richer, become more recognized, become more successful…which is everyone has been trying desperately to become someone else, to become better than the other…everyone, in some way or the other, has been on this becoming trip. In the past decade, social media has only fueled and grown this frenzy, this becoming angst. And then COVID-19 comes along and, in less than a quarter, shuts down the whole world and is forcing everyone to be.
Isn’t it amazing? Don’t you see what’s happening? The whole world has surrendered; it has been forced, in fact, to capitulate – to jump off the becoming treadmill, to being home, just being!
It is possible that many find the transition from “becoming to being” a very difficult one to make. But let me tell you this, from our own lived experience, just being is not complex. It is simply being present. It is all about bringing your full attention to whatever you are doing. It is only when you are present, in the moment, in whatever you are doing, that you are non-worrying, non-frustrated and non-suffering. It is only then that you are happy despite your circumstances. Now, just being is an art – you have to train your mind to be that way; this is what Vaani and I have learnt through living with our bankruptcy for 13 years now. This is the quality that has helped us to live fully with what is – not complaining about what we don’t have, but celebrating whatever we have!
And it is this choice to just be, in this COVID-19 lockdown scenario that is expected to last for a long while, that led me to embrace cooking – a space that I have consciously avoided getting into for over three decades now. This gives me one more beautiful reason to be with Vaani and to learn from her. I hope to learn quickly. And I also hope to soon raise a toast to Life and to COVID-19 for giving me a new, immersive experience to thrive on!
Note: AVIS and Vaani are the happynesswalas. They believe their Life’s Purpose is Inspiring ‘Happyness’! They are going through a fascinating, Life-changing experience – a crippling bankruptcy!! If you would like to invite them to inspire your team(s) or explore other opportunities, please look up: www.avisviswanathan.in and www.avinitiatives.co.in.
‘Just being’ does not mean abdicating ambition or the pursuit of excellence.
A young man came up to me after my Bliss Catchers edition yesterday and asked me if “flowing with Life meant that we must ‘just be’?” “In that case,” he pressed on, “should we stop becoming, drop all ambition and allow Life to take care of us?”
Good question that.
First, let us understand that Life has been taking care of us all along. It is only our economic and social conditioning, our logical thinking, that makes us believe that we control Life or that we take care of ourselves. Learning to go with the flow of Life teaches us to appreciate the value of trusting the process of Life. Just being is not inaction. In fact, when you just are, when you just be, you are engaged in celebrating the moment. That is a lot of action. When you are in the now, in the moment, you are letting go of all that worries you or scares you. That means you trust Life to take care of those issues. Now, that again is a lot of action.
Second, you don’t have to necessarily be aggressive, competitive, and hyperactive all the time. This does not mean you must stagnate or vegetate. Be ambitious, work on your ambition, but do all of that with equanimity. By just being, by being calm, you are not going to become any less efficient or less focused on getting what you want or reaching your goals.
The thinker-philosopher J.Krishnamurti (1895 ~ 1986), has said, “Real learning comes about when the competitive spirit has ceased.” And he has also said, “The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.” If you consider both of JK’s perspectives you will understand that in effect, in the so-called real world that we have created today, there is no more learning. We have lost all our learning ability trying to grow our earning potential. And, obviously, at the cost of not employing our intelligence, we have begun to love, and therefore cling to, things and use people, whereas, it should be the other way round!
Think of what the real world really is: a place where everyone is busy running a rat race, where the spirit of inquiry and learning is stifled very, very early on in Life and people are only keen on their GPAs and placements, where top draw salaries are a means to acquire all material comfort and where innovation and enterprise are sacrificed on the altar of quarterly earnings and wanting to be seen as the number 1 and not necessarily striving to be the best! Competition has become the very basis of Life. No doubt competition, like in sport, brings out the best in a person. But to obsess oneself with competition, with being street smart and constantly comparing with others can ruin the joy of living.
It is this obsession with comparing with others, with competing with a desire to vanquish others, that has made our world, this real world of ours, such a cold place to live in. Driven by the hunger to be successful you have stopped celebrating your uniqueness. Instead of just being, you are on this ‘becoming treadmill’ – wanting to become someone else or wanting to become like someone else. Running on a treadmill has an inherent pitfall – you keep running harder no doubt but, in the end, you are still at the same place! Comparison with others, being in continuous, endless, competition, breeds ambition. No problem with being ambitious. But when ambition makes you combative, restless and subconsciously violent – where you are fighting continuously with who you are because you are wanting to become someone else – then your inner peace and happiness are destroyed.
JK urged us to look at nature. He used to say that the flowers bloom for the joy of blooming; the trees don’t compete with each other, they simply enjoy each other’s presence and growth; the sun rises and sets because it simply has to – there’s no attitude to nature’s magnificence. Osho, the Master, went a step further to clarify: “All that is divine is non-competitive – and your being is divine. So just sort it out. The society has muddled your head; it has taught you the competitive way of Life…when you are non- competitive, only then can you be yourself. This is simple.”
So stop trying to become – something, someone. Just be. Then you will always be happy and at peace with yourself!
To conquer the mind, you must learn to just be.
A lady called me frantically the other day. She was upset that her husband, who has not spoken to her mother over the last eight years, expected her (his wife) to look after his mother! She conceded that she didn’t see any value in having an honest conversation with her spouse. Even so, she was keen to understand how she can learn the art of being happy while living without expectations.
The lady’s quest is in the right direction. She has nailed her focus. What is the point in trying to change others if you believe they won’t heed the voice of reason? Instead, why not transform yourself? And if anyone can truly learn to be happy, living without expectations, and despite the circumstances, they would certainly have learned the art of intelligent living. For this to happen, essentially, one needs to train and tame the mind. You must learn to simply still the mind, you must learn to just be.
Just being may sound and appear to be difficult. But it is not.
In Zen Buddhist practice, there’s this concept called zazen. It invites the seeker to simply sit, “opening the hand of thought” – which means to drop all judgment and let words, actions, events just unfold, just flow. This means assuming the role of a witness of one’s own Life. In that witness state, you always see the futility of clinging on to emotions, things, opinions and relationships. As a witness you just are – you are not observing, you are not engaging, you simply are. Just being brings phenomenal clarity to you and helps you anchor within.
My advice to the lady who called me would be to embrace and practice zazen. She must learn to just be, to be a witness of her own Life and not be involved emotionally in the actions of her spouse. Learning this art of just being takes time and practice. It is like riding a bicycle for the first time – initially it appears tough and you need help, but, soon, you are on your own. And then you feel liberated!
How can I be a witness of my Life when my world is pulled at from different directions, you may wonder. Good question. But in some situations is Life, what else can you do? By trying to control the uncontrollable__Life__you are subjecting yourself to misery. Your suffering comes from this desire to control. Instead let go, you step away, be detached. The essence of detachment lies in just being. Not in controlling. Not in demanding. Not in becoming. So, just be.
Osho says it profoundly, “There is nothing to become. You are already that, it is already the case. Stop running after shadows. Sit silently and be. Sitting silently, doing nothing, spring comes and the grass grows by itself.”
What a beautiful perspective. Step away from your Life. Let go and get some zazen into your day today!
When you simply are, you are happy!
Nona Walia asks a very important question in The Times of India yesterday: “Is the pressure to be happy making us sad?” She’s asking her question in the context of her article on how there is a fatigue around the Self Help industry. But I wish to examine the question for what it simply is.
To understand happiness, let us first understand sadness. You are sad when you don’t get what you want or when what you don’t want arrives in your Life. Sadness cannot be avoided. And you must not even try to run away from it. You can’t escape it. When sadness arrives, hold it, examine it, feel it. Ask yourself how you are feeling when you are sad. Ask yourself if your sadness is serving any purpose? When you answer these two questions, in your own way, you will discover that sadness is a debilitating, wasteful emotion. Then you will be compelled to let go of it, to drop it.
When you let go of sadness, you can only be happy.
Now, let us understand happiness. To do that, we must understand Life. What comes between you and your living your Life fully – for what it is – are your expectations. You expect that your Life must be this way or that way. But Life has a mind of its own. It happens no matter what you want or how you are feeling. So, when you understand the futility of expectations, you will drop them too. It is only your expectations that bring you agony, that cause your suffering.
Drop your expectations and you will be free, you will be happy.
Now, going back to Nona’s question, “Is the pressure to be happy making us sad?” – yes, absolutely! But, why allow a pressure to build up in the first place. Who do you have to prove anything to by being either happy or sad? If you like to be sad, if you like that dragging, melancholic, heavy, Guru Dutt-Meena Kumari-like feeling, keep holding on to it. If like to be happy, be happy. Where’s the pressure? I guess the pressure comes, when people know they can be happy but avoid being happy because they think that being happy is a selfish act – how can I be happy when everyone else around me is struggling, is sad or is suffering?
Which is why it is critical you understand happiness and define it appropriately.
To me, happiness is being non-worrying, non-frustrated and non-suffering. Non-worrying, because I understand the futility of worrying, so I don’t hold on to any worries, I watch them rise and ebb away. Non-frustrated, because I know I don’t and I can’t control the outcomes of my actions. So, I stay focused on only the actions, and accept, humbly without resisting, whatever results come my way. And non-suffering, because I don’t have any expectations from anyone or anything – I just take it as it comes. The key operative word in my definition of happiness is being – be happy being who you are, with what is! When you are just being, when you simply are, there is no pressure to become something. When there is no pressure – nothing to prove, nothing to claim, nothing to protect, nothing to escape, nothing to cling on to – you are happy!
You have to work on developing an attitude of letting things be – but it is worth all the effort!
How do you simply be? How do you let anything just be? These are questions that a reader asked me recently.
To answer these questions, we must first ask ourselves, what is the difficulty in letting things be? One is that if you don’t do something about some situation, you will have abdicated responsibility. Or if you don’t do something, something worse will happen. Or that you may grieve later that possibly you could have done something. So, for these reasons and perhaps a few more, you will find it difficult to let things be! And you want to get back into control.
Let’s also be clear about what situations call for action and which ones call for letting them be. Your house is on fire, obviously, you can call the fire service. Your teenage child is taking to drugs. Surely you can counsel him and take him to a de-addiction center and work on getting him back on track. So, you act when you can act and must act. No issues. But there may be situations in Life when you cannot do anything. Someone close to you is dead. What action can you take to bring the person back to Life? So, let it be. Or someone is seriously ill. The doctors are trying. But they too say only a miracle can save her. What can you do to work that miracle? The best you can do is to let it be. Or a relationship is suffering because someone is hell bent on interpreting, and not understanding, whatever you say. You have clarified, apologized, fallen at their feet, but the person keeps on bludgeoning you. What can you do? You want the situation to heal, but what can you do? Healing takes time. So, you just let it be. Sometimes, when you have tried everything and nothing works, while you may still want to try newer approaches to dealing with a Life situation, you just let it be.
When you let things be, the mind will make matters worse. It will remind you that you are doing nothing about a grave situation. It will amplify every small fear. But fear has to be dealt with head-on by facing it. Only then can you overcome it. Once you have crossed the threshold of fear, all other emotions become manageable. If you are not scared of what will happen, how can worry even exist? When the future doesn’t worry you why will the dead past haunt you anymore? Your entire being then slips into just being – alive, in the moment, pulsing with the joy of being in the present, in the now!
So, to practice letting things be, take stock of your Life:
1. Make two lists: areas that you can act on and areas you cannot act on
2. Act on all areas that you believe there are options available to act on
3. And on those areas where you can’t do anything anymore, where you don’t have any more options left, just let them be. Watch your emotions as they obsess with you. Meet them head-on. Only then can you transcend them.
4. When you transcend your emotions, beginning first with fear, you will slip into just being
5. This may take days, weeks, months, years, but only through continuous practice can you arrive at that state of just letting your Life be
6. And once you have let it be, you have given up the need to become, you are now free!
That’s how you experience true freedom. You feel alive – because fear, anger, worry, guilt, everything, every uninvited guest who was residing in you, holding you in their grasp, has taken leave. The house is empty. And what resides there is a free spirit and lot of light. It’s pure. It’s beautiful.