Don’t churn the past or the future – just let it all be

The human mind is powerless in the present moment. That’s why it insists on dragging you back to the past or into the future.

An important and fundamental clarity we must all have is over the functioning of the human mind. It thrives in the dead past – spewing thoughts of anger, grief, guilt over what has happened. And it thrives in the still unborn, unknown future – throwing anxiety, worry and fear over what may (or may not) happen. So, as long as the mind is controlling you, you are oscillating between the past and the future. The mind never allows you to settle. Such is its nature. 60,000 thoughts arise daily and all of them invariably dwell in the past or concern the future. This is why we often feel chewed up and are desperate for clarity. And this is where mindfulness comes in. When you are mindful of the present moment, immersing yourself in your current reality, your mind is powerless. When your mind is not controlling you, and when you are directing it instead to be in the present, there can neither be grief or guilt nor can there be worry or fear.
Once you understand this basic concept about intelligent living, you can begin the practise of mindfulness. It requires that you train your mind. And the principle to remember is that just like the human body can be trained, the human mind can be trained too. Mindfulness begins when you stop churning the past or the future in your mind. Just let it all be. You focus only on what is, on what is available, in the present moment. It may be difficult – as is the case with any new practice – but if you keep at it, you will make progress. Surely, over 21 days of daily practise, you can learn to be mindful.
I love what the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh has to say about mindfulness. He says it so simply, so beautifully: “To be mindful is to bring body and mind back to the present moment so that you do not miss your appointment with life.”

Drink Life, “Bottoms Up”!!!

There’s no point being half-hearted about Life. You can’t afford to be tentative. Because Life’s passing you by – every moment. You miss it and it is gone! So, take the plunge, live Life fully, intensely, totally! 
There’s an ancient Zen story. It must be true. For Lao Tzu (601~531 BC), Buddha (563~483 BC) and Confucius (551~479 BC) lived around the same time. It is said that the three of them met in paradise, in a café. The waiter came by with three glasses of a drink called “Life”.
Buddha refuses the drink saying: “Life is misery!”
Confucius has a more moderate view to Life. He insists that he cannot decide how “Life” is until he takes a sip of it. Confucius had a scientific bent of mind, he theorized logically. His point was that you must experience everything and then decide for yourself. So, he takes a sip of the drink from the glass and concludes: “Buddha is right. Life is misery!”
It is Lao Tzu’s turn now. He looks at all three glasses. He takes each of them, one after the other, empties all the three glasses and starts dancing.
Buddha and Confucius look at Lao Tzu. “Are you not going to say anything about Life?”, they ask him.
Lao Tzu replies: “What is there to say? My dancing is enough to tell you what Life is all about. And even if there is anything to say about Life, words may not be adequate to describe it. Which is why I am dancing!”
The message of the story is unputdownable. Lao Tzu drank from all three glasses. And started dancing ecstatically. His point was: “Unless you drink totally, you can’t say. And even if you drink totally and can say, words cannot express what Life is all about!”
If you can internalize that message, Life is so simple. Life is just a wondrous series of experiences. One after the other. All we have to do is go through each of them in total acceptance. Because we don’t have a choice. Really! There’s no way you or I can alter what Life has planned for us. So, if Life’s really that simple, what’s holding us back? Why are we not, like Lao Tzu, able to drink “Life” totally? Why are we tentative? One evident reason can be that we are conditioned to think of Life as complex. We confuse Life’s inscrutability with complexity. We imagine that because we don’t know what will happen next, the next event could be something awful, painful, sorrowful. The other reason could be that we don’t want pain. Naturally, if pain can be avoided, who will want it? But pain cannot be avoided. If it comes, and it will, so be it. When sadness follows pain, know that happiness will follow sadness. That’s the way of Life! So, whatever happens, whatever comes, accept it, take it in your stride and keep drinking from the cup of Life!
Drink Life, bottom’s up! Live each moment fully – because this is the only Life you have!! As someone wise has said: “Every man dies. But not every man really lives!”

Learnings on the Power of Nothingness

Today’s a Sunday! And you may be “busy” doing something or the other. Like watching TV. Or catching up on your reading. Or running errands with your kids or for them. You may want to do several things today which you can’t do during the week. Which is why I cautiously say you may well be busy!

But have you considered doing nothing? And just being in a state of nothingness?

Let me share some learnings that will also help clarify some myths we hold about doing nothing and being in a state of nothingness!

Doing nothing does not mean not thinking. Because the mind can never be thoughtless. Doing nothing is about getting your mind to be alive than active. About getting it to differentiate between ‘action’ and ‘activity’.

The human mind, research has revealed, on an average, processes 60,000 thoughts daily. A good portion of those thoughts are about different forms of activities. About getting things done. Or they are about debilitating emotions like worry, anger, guilt, anxiety and such. The mind goes on churning these thoughts leading to a series of activities at a pace that defies logic. Which is why half the people in the world are struck by stress even before they are 40! Doing nothing slows down the mind. It will still process 60,000 thoughts, but at a manageable pace where they will lead to mindful action and not mindless activities. A mind that has experienced that state of nothingness is more aware. When you are hungry and you eat, it is action. When you just keep on tucking into the next cookie or samosa at the conference table at work, that is just activity. When you are listening to your child talk about her day at school, and watch her every emotion, then it is action. When you merely hear her speak, but choose to check your mobile phone for mails, it is activity. Our daily lives are filled with thousands of such activities and very little or no inspired, informed and intelligent action. Which is why we are unhappy. Which is why we feel a sense of loss __ of working so hard and yet not enjoying it!

Nothingness cannot be experienced by doing something about or for it. It is about being. Sundays are a great time experience nothingness. You literally don’t have to do anything. Or necessarily go anywhere. No posture is required. No preparation is needed. Just spend a good part of the day being silent. You be silent, that’s enough. There is no need to silence the environment. Look at an inspiring sight, from your window or balcony or terrace, of Life itself. You can possibly see a tree or a garden or a street. And simply watch Life happen. Now this is important – as your mind strays towards a worry or a schedule for tomorrow or a painful memory, just bring it back to attend to Life as you are experiencing it. Remember the mind is like the human body. It will resist any new regimen that you insist it embraces. Besides, the mind, through years of your “worldly-wise” conditioning, has confused itself into a perpetual, stupid, silly “hyper activity” mode. In fact, unless you tell your family that you are embarking on this “unique experiential journey”, chances are that you be chided for being lazy, for “doing nothing” and will be demanded to help with the dishes at least!!! Remember also that through your entire nothingness experience you must be silent. Our focus eventually is to stop the endless chatter in your mind, to calm it down and for it to think and act intelligently than just react hyperactively. Your physical silence then is a simple, but important, contributor in that direction.

The founder of Taoism, Lao Tzu (600 BC ~ 531 BC), wrote this famously, prophetically too, in his book “Tao Te Ching’ (The Book of THE Way): “Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing.”It is such a profound and yet so stark, awakening, revelation of our lives in. In our perpetual hyper-active mode, doing things and getting things done, we have lost the ability to simply be. We are extremely busy. But when we look back we have done nothing memorable in terms of living __ intelligently! The years have gone by. But we have still not lived our lives completely. We have been taught again, sadly erroneously, that an “empty mind is a devil’s workshop”. So we have allowed our mind to be filled with gibberish __ worry, fear, anger, sorrow. We have allowed our mind to always be in a frenzy __ processing one activity after another, as if it were a sausage machine. This frenzy may have helped us created more wealth, more assets, but has robbed us of our health, our inner peace and has left us searching for happiness! If we haven’t been happy with our Life, what’s the point in having lived it? Haven’t we then been simply busy doing nothing?!

Only when we empty our minds of all wasteful emotions and rid it of all activity, will it experience nothingness. In that state of nothingness is where you will find your consciousness, your Universal Energy recharge point, your bliss.