It is only when you impose conditions on what is that unhappiness sets in.
For some strange reason, I woke up this morning with this song swimming in my head: “Aane Wala Pal Jaane Wala Hai, Hosake To Isme Zindagi Guzaar Lo, Pal Yeh Jo Jaane Wala Hai…” (Golmaal, 1979, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Gulzar, Kishore Kumar)
It is one of my favorite songs. It is also a song that holds a special meaning in my Life.
On the 5th of January 2008, when we were struggling intensely to come to terms with our bankruptcy (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal), a friend insisted that we go with him and his wife to a live concert of R.D.Burman hits (performed by a fantastic national-level orchestra). The hall was full. And the audience was hysterical. About an hour into the concert, I suddenly realized I had not even known which songs had played until then. I was there physically. I was hearing everything. I was watching everyone clap, shout, whistle and sway to the legend’s unputdownable music. But I was not “in” the concert. I was not present there. What finally woke me up from my worry-filled reverie, was this song from Golmaal. The lyrics meant a lot to me that day: “The moment which is coming will go away, if you want to, live in this moment, for it will be gone soon too…” Not that I had not heard that song before. But that evening, that song stirred something within me.
As they often say, things happen in Life, when they must – never a moment earlier or later. The next time my thinking was provoked and I felt stirred from within was through an experience I had with Swami Sathya Sai Baba, which happened within a week of the R.D. concert. We were meeting a messenger, a medium, through whom Swami spoke. I confessed to Swami that I was very worried and anxious about the future. I told him I saw no way out of the problems that we were faced with as a family. I said, “I simply cannot go on like this.” Swami asked me what would it take for me to be happy. I replied that if someone could assure me that my problems would be taken care of, I would be happy. Swami then told me that I would never be happy if I thought this way. “To imagine, to desire, to wish that you will not or you should not have any problems is the biggest problem. As long as you have this problem, you will be unhappy. Being happy means simply being – no conditions can apply!” explained Swami.
That conversation with Swami changed my entire approach to Life. Over the next several weeks, I meditated on Swami’s perspective through my practice of mouna, my daily silence periods. It helped me discipline my mind. The human mind, I discovered, is like a dog. If you don’t train it, if you don’t discipline it, you will be led and controlled by your mind. But if you coach it and teach it to “stay still”, and to obey you, it will never stray. Swami’s inspiration and his awakening message to me, and my practice of mouna, has taught me to be happy despite the circumstances I am faced with in Life.
It is the nature of worries and anxieties to debilitate. If they are holding you hostage, it only means that you have allowed them to be that way. The human mind plays tricks on you all the time. It consistently strives to take you away from what is and gets you to attend to what once was or what may possibly be. Which is why, most of the time, you are not present in the now. And happiness is always in simply being present in the now! It is only when you impose conditions on what is that unhappiness sets in.
In this Podcast I make a case for how you are the happiness you seek.
Listen time: 3:46 minutes
On today’s Podcast, I suggest that we must learn to be mindful. Only through being in the moment can we be anchored and be aware. This helps us immensely in knowing what we are doing instead of just doing stuff mindlessly!
Listen time: 6:05 minutes
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!
My conversation with Jayendra Panchapakesan, 59, filmmaker and co-Founder, Real Image Media Technologies for my ‘The Happiness Road’ Series that appears in DT Next every Sunday. Read the conversation on the DT Next page here. ‘The Happiness Road’ is also my next Book. Photo Credit: Vinodh Velayudhan
“Happiness is staying in the present”
To Jayendra, clarity about Life, its Purpose and happiness came very early. In 1978, as a 20-year-old chemistry graduate, he pounded the pavement in Mumbai seeking a career in advertising. He ended up changing 14 jobs in the next 8 years. The reason? “None of my employers could match my idea of happiness,” he says. “I value work more than I value money. To me, work must be purposeful, it must create value, it must do good, it must benefit people. Doing such work consistently gives me happiness,” he explains.
Over the last 31 years that he has been an entrepreneur and employer himself, his key message to his team members has always been this: “Quit, if you hate coming to work. The work you do is the reward in itself. There is no other reward to be got, no destination to be reached. So, if you are not enjoying your work, quit.” He adds that if all people saw their work as an opportunity to benefit others and not just as a tool to make money or earn a living, the whole world will be enriched and will be a much happier place!
As I am speaking to him, I sense an equanimity about Jayendra. Yet, over the last 30 months, he and his wife Sudha have been weathering a huge crisis. In November 2014, Sudha was struck by aphasia – the inability to comprehend language or speak due to brain damage from a stroke. Jayendra totally immersed himself in Sudha’s care. He says he draws great inspiration from her attitude – from her “unimaginable urge to be positive, to get better and to never feel less of a person”. And, he says, he discovered an “unlimited ocean of patience” within himself to trust the process of Life. How did he manage to stay anchored through all this time? “It was interesting that I never asked ‘why’ or ‘why us’. I simply kept doing what had to get done. I realized the value of being in the moment. I believe that’s what happiness is – staying in the present and not hoping for it at the end of the road,” he avers.
So, perhaps, this is the little secret behind why Jayendra is called Mr.Unflappable by most people who know him – do only what gives you joy and stay in the present doing what you have to do!