Go easy with Life – Oh! Yes! Abhi!

Don’t take yourself or Life too seriously. At the end of the day, Life’s but a dream!
A couple of years ago, a young lady came to meet me and my wife, feeling totally despondent about Life. She was separating from her husband, she had two young children and her business was just not working out. She had accumulated a lot of debt – most of it from family. She was wondering if there was any meaning to Life. She asked me: “What’s the point of Life if there’s so much pain in going through it?” I am sure this is a question each of us has asked ourselves at least once in our lifetime so far.
I shared with her a story from the Life of the great Chinese mystic, Chuang Tzu (a.k.a Zhuang Zhou or Zhuangzi, 369 BCE ~ 286 BCE).
One morning, sitting in his bed, Chuang Tzu looked very sad. His disciples had never seen him so sad. And never after waking up had he remained in his bed, sitting. What had happened? Was he sick?
They gathered around and asked him, “Master, what is the matter?” He said, “The matter is really difficult, I cannot solve it; perhaps you may be of some help. I will tell you what is the matter. In the night I dreamed that I had become a butterfly, and I was moving from one flower to another flower.”
One of the disciples said, “This is nothing to be sad about. In dreams we all do strange things; and this is not a bad thing, to be a butterfly – colorful, beautiful, moving from one juicy flower to another juicy flower. Why are you so worried?”
He said, “You have not heard the whole thing. The problem is, now I am awake and I am wondering whether Chuang Tzu dreamed that he is a butterfly, or now the butterfly has gone to sleep and is dreaming she is Chuang Tzu.”

This may well be ‘koan’a paradoxical anecdote or riddle without a solution, used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and provoke enlightenment. So, are you who you are? Or is this Life that you lead a dream? In Sanskrit and Pali literature, in the ‘Vedas’ and ‘Puranas’, there’s this concept called ‘maya’ which really points to Life (and everything) as an ‘illusion’, and if you don’t get it and don’t understand Life’s true nature, well, ‘maya’ can also mean ‘delusion’ in such a context!

As Chuang Tzu shared his dilemma, his disciples remained silent. They understood the import of Chuang Tzu’s poser. This is what all the scriptures have been saying – that everything is maya’. Everything is a dream. So, why the strife? Why worry, why the anxiety, grief, guilt, anger and sorrow? Chuang Tzu taught his disciples this: Continue easy with Life and you are on the right path. He didn’t say this way or that way was right. He said, whatever you are going through, go through it with ease, don’t resist, don’t fight, don’t aggress. Just go easy. Because whatever is happening to you is just a dream. It will soon be over. So, don’t gloat over your riches or your successes. It’s a dream that’s soon to die. Don’t bemoan your sorrows. But it too is a dream and will be over soon.
I met that young lady recently. We had been mentoring her, holding her hand and helping her understand Life better, over these two years. But in the past quarter we had not met her. So, when she came over, I noticed how much she had evolved. I saw a twinkle in her eyes, a radiance on her face and an enthusiasm in her step. I asked her how things were. And she replied: “Nothing’s changed – the marriage is still going through the final rites, the kids are a handful and the business is deep in the dumps. But I am taking it all easy. And so, I am at peace and I am very happy.”
Sometimes, Life can weigh you down. Things just won’t go the way you want them to. That’s the time to learn to take Life easy. As the famous song from the Tamil movie ‘Kadhalan’(1994, Shankar, A.R.Rahman; Hindi – ‘Hum Se Hai Muqabla’) goes, (have a), “….Take it easy, policy!And have it now – Oh! Yes! Abhi!

Manic Monday? Follow the ‘Take It Easy’ Policy….

At the breakneck pace at which our daily lives travel, Monday mornings are simply a magnified version of the turmoil in us. Being patient on a Monday morning, therefore, may seem like a feat. In reality though, whether it is a Monday or any other day, patience is the only way to connect with Life’s beauty and magic!

A business associate who leads HR in a large client company called me unusually some time back. It was around lunchtime here in India. I was perplexed. Normally this gentleman would text me or write me a mail. I did not pick up his call as I was at lunch. After lunch I found a message from him that said he was just calling to say hello! I called him back!

Answering his phone he said: “Sir, this Monday morning when I came to work, our server crashed. I had tons of work planned for completion today. We also had to work on hundreds of appraisals and issue increment letters. The IT folks told me it will take all day today to restore operations to normal. I was first very angry. Because I wanted to finish all that we had planned. Besides, I have to travel on work from tonight. Then I said to myself ‘What’s the point in getting angry? Let me just take it easy!’ So, I said, let me call and connect with people who I had not spoken to in six months. I decided to call just so that I reach out. If they are available great. If not, they would know I tried connecting! After just a few calls, a feeling of calm overtook me. My anger disappeared. And I felt great joy in re-connecting with people.”

My friend here has just stumbled upon Life’s greatest secret: that taking Life as it comes is better than expecting it to go to clockwork precision. There really is no point in fighting Life. Because it is a zero-sum game: you can’t win against Life and Life was never playing to win! Life’s beauty lies in things as they are, in people as they are, in events as they happen. When things don’t go your way, accept them for the way they are going! This attitude will ensure that you practice patience in each situation__however stupid or serious it may be. We all go through mad, manic Mondays or simply, some bad-hair days! The traffic snarls. The heat, especially at this time of the year, in India can be cruel. Everything, everyone can be driving you crazy. Patience then is the secret to experience peace. It is in fact the only way to live intelligently.

A cool song composed by A.R.Rahman from the 1994 movie ‘Kadhalan’ (‘Hum Sai Hai Muqabala’ in Hindi) comes to mind. The catchy lyrics had this inspirational line – ‘To win in Life you need a Take It Easy policy’! And whatever is driving you nuts or not going your way this Monday, get inspired by this song, and my friend’s experience, and simply ‘Take It Easy!’….