In today’s Podcast, I appeal that we must not get confused by theories that lead to wasteful analysis of a past Life or of a future one. We must just live this one Life fully! Listen time: 5:00 minutes
In today’s Podcast, I appeal that we must not get confused by theories that lead to wasteful analysis of a past Life or of a future one. We must just live this one Life fully! Listen time: 5:00 minutes
A conversation with a visitor at home on how airlines “mercilessly” charge passengers for excess baggage got me thinking. I believe that all of us carry excess baggage, not just when we fly, but in Life as well. We do end up paying a huge price for our excess baggage, but we don’t quite learn from our experience.
There are three forms of excess baggage we saddle our lives with:
All three forms of excess baggage must be set down to journey through Life in peace. The second form, the physical baggage, may still be reconcilable. As in, if you have a large living space, you can afford to accumulate, save or hoard the stuff that you don’t always use. Even so, Vaani and I follow a simple principle: we don’t hold on to anything – anything – that we have not used for over 6 months, except our passports! But the baggage falling in categories 1 and 3 are just not worth carrying. In a way, Life is pretty much like an airline company. You sure do end up paying a huge price for traveling with heavy, excess baggage! In a Life context, that price is the inability to live in and experience the magic of the present moment, of the now!
All that you need to live is what you have in the now. Ask yourself what past memories are causing an inexplicable heaviness in you? Ask yourself what worries take your mind away from attending to the now? Burn your heaviness away by giving the present all your attention. Make a call, give a hug, simply forgive__do whatever that will bring you into the present. Stop worrying about what will or may happen in the future. Life is here and never in the future, just as it is not in the past! Most important, learn, and keep relearning, to offload all your excess baggage and travel light.
Vinod Khanna passed on yesterday, at 70, claimed by, I am told, bladder cancer. Like many, many out there, I loved him too. As I told Vaani just now over coffee, “The sense of loss is deeply personal. Jaise Koi Apna Chala Gaya Ho…” I never got to meet or speak to him though. The only time I came face-to-face with him was in 1993. That chance encounter changed my Life forever.
This is how it happened.
The year was 1994. I was living in Bangalore and working with Business Today magazine. I was assigned to do a cover story on “Service Quality”. And that took me to Mumbai where I had several meetings set up with CEOs to understand how their teams were responding to the challenges of measuring and delivering customer delight. I had been trying to get a meeting with R.C.Bhargava, then Chairman & MD of Maruti Udyog (now Maruti Suzuki), in Delhi (where I was to travel next) to get his views for my story. Ramesh Krishnan, Maruti’s then PR Head, told me to come to the Taj Mahal Hotel, Mumbai, one evening as Maruti was launching its popular 1000 cc variant, the Esteem. He said I could be part of the launch and meet Bhargava. It turned out that Ratan Tata was launching the Maruti model. And so, almost everyone who was someone in Mumbai was there. I got to meet Bhargava for a brief while. And he agreed to meet me again in his office in Delhi. As I was leaving, Ramesh offered to walk down the stairs, with me, to the street. As we exited the Regal Room at the Taj, and started climbing down the stairs, in an awkward moment, when I came in their way, Vinod Khanna, flanked by sons Rahul and Akshaye, looked right into my eyes. They were coming up and we were going down. For a few seconds we all stood unsure of which way to move and who should make way for whom. After the momentary hiccup, I quickly made way for the Khannas and they went in to join the event that I was leaving.
As we continued walking down, Ramesh whispered to me, almost as if it was the most precious piece of information he was parting with, “Did you know that Vinod Khanna is Osho’s disciple?”
“Osho? Who’s Osho? I thought Vinod Khanna was part of some sex ashram in Pune led by a man called Rajneesh,” I quipped.
Ramesh laughed and clarified to me that Osho and Rajneesh were the same person. I tucked away that information.
I hadn’t heard the name Osho at all. I had known of Rajneesh though – vaguely. But something happened that day – either it was the magnetism in Osho’s name or it was the fact that it was Vinod Khanna who was his disciple. Whatever it was, I was drawn towards Osho and I started reading up on him. The internet wasn’t around then. So information was not so easy to get. Besides, there was this unnecessary, misguided, feeling of shame that I harbored in me – that acknowledging openly that I was an Osho follower meant that I was declaring my interest in his “free sex movement”. It was a ridiculous reasoning I gave myself, but that’s the way it was. So, for the longest time, I was a closet Osho follower.
I have immersed myself in Osho’s Life and teachings since 2004. I find him simple, practical and unputdownable. By then, the internet had arrived and accessing Osho’s thoughts was so easy.
Every morning, during my mouna sessions (daily silence periods), I would devor Osho’s views on Life. My personal favorite is his book – Courage: The Joy of Living Dangerously. Going through a tumultuous, scary, phase – our bankruptcy (read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal) – I found his perspective invaluable. Courage, he said, is not the absence of fear; but it is the total presence of fear with the courage to face it. I derived great clarity reading Osho. His other point about how, when there is no relating between people, then there is no point in them being in a relationship, really helped me make peace with myself over my relationships in my dysfunctional family, particularly with regard to the one I have with my mother. And the way he taught me to let go of debilitating emotions – anger, grief, guilt, hatred, worry, anxiety, fear; not by advising that I run away from them, but learning to hold them, examine them, and understand their futility. He says, do whatever you want, but do it fully. Which is why he encouraged free sex – as a means of unbridled human expression, of love, of uniting with the Universe’s energy. He says that suppressing or resisting anything will only lead to suffering. To be sure, Osho has empowered me to live a full Life, free from suffering. If Shirdi Baba taught me Faith and Patience, if I learnt the value of living in the moment from Swami Sathya Sai Baba, it was Osho who taught me to celebrate its beauty and to train my mind so that it doesn’t run back to cling to the dead past or race forward to worry about an unborn future. I am inspired speaker and writer today only because of the first-hand experience I have of intelligent living. And that experience may have never happened hadn’t Osho really, figuratively, held my hand and my soul, and taught me that intelligent living is downright commonsensical and simple. Interestingly, the title of my Book, Fall Like A Rose Petal, is inspired by a story that Osho used to tell his followers!
And, I may have well never have heard of Osho for a long, long time, unless I hadn’t come in Vinod Khanna’s way that night at the Mumbai Taj. They say everything – and everyone – happens for a reason. So, to me, Vinod Khanna, is not just an actor who I watched and adored as I was growing up. To me, Vinod Khanna was that important signboard on my journey that appeared suddenly saying: “This way, please…!” And that was the way of Osho, of living free, of living dangerously, and of living happily despite the circumstances!
I met a senior banker the other day. He said, “A banker’s Life is a dog’s Life! I used to love my work. I still believe I love it. But I don’t know why I am unable to enjoy what I am doing, and of late, I am even unable to sleep well. The stress keeps me awake,” he confessed. I told this gentleman that if he is unable to enjoy whatever he is doing, and if it has reached a point where he is unable to sleep well, he must seriously pause and reflect. I advised him to step out of his “work-work-work zone”, take a vacation and think through his Life!
This is the nub: nothing, nothing at all, is worth losing your sleep over. If you can’t take your mind off work it means one of three things: 1. You don’t have enough reliable support (staff, material, resources) to do what you are doing 2. The system (colleagues, bosses, clients, work culture) at your workplace is highly disorganized and stress-ridden. 3. You are a lousy leader and manager. There could be other reasons. But these three are principal among them. If you don’t enjoy what you are doing, then you must go do what you love doing. Simple. And if you enjoy your work but if any of those reasons is/are prevalent in your work Life, you must get down to fixing them. Simple again!
The idea of living is not about obsessing over earning-a-living. It is not about slogging for 40 years and then hoping to find happiness, inner peace and freedom to do what you want to do at the age of 60. You have been given this Life so that you can be yourself, so that you can go do what you love doing. Now, when something disturbs your equilibrium, you must zero in on what it is and weed it out. Rather than suffer and endure a Life that you don’t want, you must make choices that help you with your inner peace, and help you to find and follow your bliss.
Learn to be free in Life. There will be problems. And you cannot escape those problems. Intelligent living does not mean being free of problems. It means being free, living free, despite those problems. It means choosing not to be a slave to whatever you do to earn a living and not to feel like a hostage of circumstances. What is the point of this Life if you cannot be who you want, do what you want to do, live the Life that you believe in and, at the end of the day, get a good night’s sleep?
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.
“Do you believe in superstitions?” an eminent artist asked me the other day. I replied, “I believe in myself and in whatever I am experiencing just now.”
Yes, I have held superstitious beliefs and have been scared about dying for the longest time. But the past decade has taught me that I can only be sure of two things: 1. I am alive, therefore I am 2. This is the only Life – in the present moment – I have!
So, when I look back at myself, I see that I was so weak, so unaware of my true Self. Which is why, I was leaning on superstitions and premonitions. I am now strong enough and courageous enough to know myself – my current reality and my true Self. And when I know myself well, why do I need to lean on a crutch __ a talisman, a fear, a ring or a number?
Let me share with you how I convinced myself to out of my superstition-led belief system.
Almost all of us have a good luck charm, a lucky number, and believe in something, often absurd, that we have been conditioned to. Nobody wants to have anything to do with the number 13 for instance. Or we prefer our favorite colors or numbers. There’s a view some people hold that if you bang into a piece of furniture when you are leaving to get something important accomplished, you must treat that as an early warning sign of something terrible that’s on its way. People that champion a scientific temperament will reason against this, intensely. And which is why those who want to believe in superstitions and premonitions will resist the scientific arguments, however reasonable they may be. But here’s a simpler take. If everything is an event in this lifetime, a mere data point, including your birth and your impending death, and since the soul is imperishable, eternal, then what consequence does a furniture that comes in the way or a cat crossing your path or a mere number have?
In anyone’s Life, two aspects are absolutely not dispensable: birth and death. Now birth is without choice and death is unavoidable. What else is important when these two dimensions of your Life are inscrutable? The people who believe in superstition and acknowledge premonition are those who want to live in fear and misery. And because they feel lonely, they want to drag you with them to provide them company! Try letting go of what clutches you in its stranglehold. Experience freedom from what possesses you. Enjoy being liberated. It’s a beautiful world out there. A stumble here, a fall there, a number here and a cat there, can make no difference to your design. What is yours will come to you, no matter what. And no matter what you do, what is not meant for you, will never come to you! Just choose to feel the air in your lungs and the wind on your face; being present in this, the only certain, happening, available, magnificent, miraculous moment of your Life!
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!
If you are the sort who likes to read a review and then go watch a movie, you may not enjoy Life much. The best part of Life is the uncertainty, the inscrutability! To have clarity of what’s going to happen next is so pedestrian, so boring. Imagine watching a movie whose storyline you already know and whose review you have read! Where’s the fun? Real enjoyment comes when the unexpected happens, when there’s a twist to the tale, when there is edge-of-the-seat action.
When you are dealing with uncertainty in Life, therefore, welcome it. “Anything can happen” is, after all, a good state to find yourself in!
But all of us love just the opposite. We like things to be planned, laid out, and we like all the information on what’s to happen to be available to us. We prefer the security predictability offers us to the insecurity that randomness presents. But when did Life tell you that it will be an easy customer to work with? No matter what you hope for, do or want, Life will keep reminding you that it is in control of you, and never the other way round, and that Life’s way is the only way!
Jalaluddin Rumi, the 13th Century Persian poet, says this so beautifully: ““Forget safety. Live where you fear to live.” So, the best way to live Life is to celebrate this fuzziness, to hang from the edge of the precipice and to have the presence of mind to enjoy the breeze caress your cheeks as you hang in there. In the face of Life’s uncertainties, walk the line you have never walked before, walk with complete abandon, walk fearlessly, walk free. Only then can you claim that you have fully lived this lifetime!