In this Vlog, I explain why it is crucial to be looking in the right direction for your Life’s Purpose to find you. Make a choice between merely earning-a-living and living fully!
View time: 3.46 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!
What you seek will seek you.
“I often vex over trying to understand what is the Purpose of my Life,” said a young man who I met recently. He wanted to know if it was a “good thing” or a “bad thing” vexing over trying to understand your Life’s Purpose.
I smiled. The very fact that a young man, in his 20s, is thinking of Life’s Purpose, I feel, is commendable. I started wondering if my Life has a Purpose at all only when I was in my mid-thirties. And this is what I have learnt from my quest for, and discovery of, my Life’s Purpose.
We must first remember that all forms of creation have a Purpose. Particularly, the human form. To be created a human being, with no significant ‘manufacturing defects’, is a not just a miracle, it is a blessing. If you have been created human, surely, there must be a reason behind it; a Purpose. Else, possibly, you may been created in some other inanimate or non-human form. Think about it. Why are you created human? And the answer really is simple. You are human so that you can experience happiness, so that you can serve other forms of creation using your intellect and your compassion, and so that you live a full, complete Life. But what do we human beings do – we are conditioned by our upbringing and social expectations, so we are stuck with earning-a-living instead of living, we are forever saying we deserve more, instead of serving and because our wants outnumber our needs, we are perpetually unhappy. So, in essence, we are, as a race, a majority of us, missing the whole Purpose behind our creation.
Every human creation has an individual Purpose too. Just as Gandhi’s had, Mother Teresa’s had, Kailash Sathyarthi’s has and Malala Yusafzai’s has. It is a fallacy to imagine that only ‘great’ people’s lives have a Purpose. The truth is that they are regarded as great only because they lived a Life of Purpose. Now, you cannot find your Life’s Purpose by vexing over it. Agonizing over something will only cause suffering. So, just relax. The very fact that you know that your Life has a Purpose and you are seeking it is a blessing – there are so many, many, many millions out there who are merely ‘earning-a-living’ and are imagining that they have been created to slave, earn, save, suffer and procreate. So, you are in a more evolved state than many out there. Celebrate yourself, than agonizing, therefore.
What’s beautiful about Life is that your Life’s Purpose will find you. What you seek will seek you. There’s no way you can explain this. It happens to each one in their own way – over time. Sometimes a cathartic turn of events may awaken you. Sometimes, a flash of an idea may inspire you. Or you may just be in a place by sheer happenstance when you feel a river moving inside you telling you, ‘come, flow with me!’ Purpose is magical. It transforms your Life instantaneously. It makes you want to wake up each morning and go live each day fully, happily, energetically, no matter how debilitating the circumstances are.
There’s a simple way to stay tuned in the direction of your Life’s Purpose though. Make a list of all the activities you are passionate about. Then decide which one or ones are you capable of being world-class, excellent, at. Then focus only on doing those couple of things that you are passionate about and have the potential to be best at in the world. Soon you will come to that one activity where you lose yourself. Which is, when you immerse yourself in it, you lose track of time, sleep and even of your own identity. Ask yourself how can this one activity not just benefit you alone but how can you serve people around you? The answer to this question may well direct you to your Life’s Purpose. Getting to this stage of understanding, evolution and clarity, takes time. So, trust the process of Life and be patient.
And, of course, Purpose and money are unconnected, unrelated. Though living a Life of Purpose may surely lead you to earn money, making money cannot be your Life’s Purpose. Because money is a human invention, a social necessity. Your Life’s Purpose is the reason for your creation, it is why you are, well, human in the first place. It is the reason for your living, for your being. It is Life’s longing for you – to make your lifetime meaningful, to make it count. So, you don’t have to get vexed trying to find it. Just stay tuned to the big question – ‘what is the Purpose of my Life?’ – without agonizing over it, and your Purpose will, over time, find you.
You must examine your choices if you are not happy with the quality of your Life!
We bumped into a friend who has been wanting to meet us for several months now. Every time he receives an invite for any of our public events, he will promptly message me saying he’s going to try and make it. Then on the day of the event, he will cry out citing a business schedule. Most of our events are on weekends and almost all weekends he is traveling. When we met him yesterday, he was apologetic. “My Life’s not in my hands. I am just a slave of the work I do. I am always rushing, from meeting to meeting, from city to city, from crisis to crisis,” he confessed.
I have been in that place. I have run for over 20 years of my Life like a maniac. I have been so rushed for years on end that I did not even know how my children were growing up. Until Life brought everything, all my busy-ness, to a grinding halt and helped me value slowing down. So, what I am sharing here comes from personal experience. Do take some time off to calmly evaluate your Life.
And you may like to begin by employing a weekend, perhaps this one, to reflect on how your week has gone by! Meetings. Deadlines. Delays. Stress. Anxiety. And before you knew it, the week’s over. Where did it disappear? And how much quality time did you get for yourself – to focus on what matters most and why?
If you found those questions uncomfortable, you must ask yourself another one – why are you rushing through Life, chasing your tail most of the time, and not savoring any moment?
You have a choice though to slow down. And to go through Life slowly, soaking in each moment, is a skill that can be learned just as any other.
But begin with a re-examination of yourself and almost everyone around you. From the time we wake up, to the time we sleep, we are rushed. The way we read our morning papers, the way we bathe, the way we eat, the way we drive, the way we walk, all of it is gripped by a sense of busy-ness that ultimately will lead us to the same point that everyone will arrive at: death! Why will you want to hurry towards an appointment with death? Well, that’s what we are doing precisely – by being rushed all the time!!!
Ask anyone who’s rushing why he or she is in a hurry and you will hear them say: “Well, I am saving time!” Saving time? The irony is, at the end of the day, everyone who’s rushing always complains that there isn’t enough time! Your rushing may help you cover the distance faster but will not enable you to enjoy the scenery. At the end of all the rush, when it is time to depart, you will regret never having lived, never having arrived where you intended to, never having smelled the flowers in Life’s garden!
Here are 10 simple changes you can make to your routine so that you can live and savor this experience of living – and not just rush to earn-a-living!
Reduce the number of meetings that you have to have in a day: one big or two small ones is all you can take
Arrive at the airport with 2 hours to spare before a flight
Eat you meals slower than you normally do relishing each morsel
Spend 15 additional minutes with your family each day; when you kiss your spouse and children goodbye, look at them just a wee bit longer.
Take an additional few minutes in the bath thinking not of the day’s schedules but of how rejuvenating bathing is
Read one inspiring passage over 30 minutes daily
Read it at least once more before you retire for the day
When you see Nature in full bloom__a sunrise, sunset or trees swaying in the breeze or birds chirping__pause, admire, soak in, before you proceed
Spend 15 minutes daily on Facebook connecting or chatting with childhood friends
Be silent for 20 minutes daily.
Spiritual thinker Eknath Easwaran says, “Where hurry prevails, there can be no satisfaction for the doer.” So, stop rushing, stop the hurrying…simply flow with Life. And, well, if you are not happy with the quality of your Life, you now know who is responsible and where to start!
Examine what’s it that’s disturbing you and weed out that factor from your Life.
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?
Just tune in to the Universe’s energy to experience them.
How do miracles happen only to you? This is what a friend, who called yesterday, asked me. We were speaking to each other after a few years. He wanted to know if things had improved for us. (To understand the context for this question, read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal) When I filled him in, he asked about how Aash and Aanch were doing. The miracle question popped up when I told him that Aanch had found a sponsor who would support her Master’s Program overseas.
I remember my brother too once asked me the same question. I believe this question comes from an unevolved point of view.
All Life is a miracle. You are a miracle. I am a miracle. This moment is a miracle. Being human is a miracle. So, when every aspect of creation is pulsing with a miraculous energy, defining only tangible, visible ‘things’ or actions as miracles, to me, represents a lack of understanding of Life, a state of unevolvedness.
We think because we have an education, we earn an income and we can buy ‘things’, only such a ‘thing’ that we cannot do or get done on our own qualifies as a miracle. But if you pause and reflect, to have an education is a miracle, to have the ability to earn an income is a miracle and, therefore, to be able to buy what you want too is a miracle. So, in a very real sense, miracles are happening to all of us, all the time. We must be tuned to the Universe’s energies to be able to spot and celebrate these miracles.
I stay tuned by understanding, accepting and surrendering to the realization that Life is happening through me, for me, and not because of me. To me, even this ability to dexterously move my fingers across a keyboard, as I process a feeling that translates into a thought and forms a word on this blogpost is a miracle. I live in this constant awareness, in a perpetual state of gratitude for my miracle Life, and I savor and celebrate each moment that comes my way!
You too have a miracle Life; simply, miracles are happening for you 24 x 7 x 365. To experience them, you must tune out of the ‘earning-a-living’ mode and into the ‘living’ mode!!!
As long as you seek security from material things you will never be truly happy.
Back in 2002, someone introduced me to a ‘mover and shaker’ in Bengaluru. He was attached to the Shringeri Mutt. He is a Sanskrit scholar, a vaastu expert and an intuitive fortune-teller. He can accurately tell your past by merely looking at you. And he primarily worked with corporates in helping them ‘realign their energies’ for higher business performance. People usually paid him several thousand rupees as consultation fee. But the gentleman agreed to advise me and Vaani free.
In a few months, we became good friends. He advised us over phone, came and met us whenever he visited Chennai and promised to ‘engineer’ our business for ‘high returns’ in a few years’ time.
One day, I asked him why was he not taking any fee from us. He replied: “I have been told that you once worked at India Today (the magazine). I want a strong recommendation from you for being featured on their Most Powerful People in India list. Please help me.” It indeed true that I had worked in India Today group, in four stints, back in the 90s. It is also true that the magazine annually listed India’s Most Powerful People. But, given the magazine’s editorial protocols, I could not figure out how I was going to be able to recommend anyone to that list. But I pressed on with the gentleman and asked him why was it critical for him to be on that list. He replied, “I want to be seen as the most powerful man in India. It will make me happy.” “So”, I asked him, “Are you not happy with what you have now?” “No saar, I am not. I have money, I have position, I have a following, but I need power. And I must be seen as powerful. Only that will make me truly happy,” he replied.
Back then, I wasn’t as evolved as I am now. But I still withdrew from the gentleman and have since lost touch with him. I did not want to be obliged to him anymore because I was not going to be able to fulfil, in return, his expectation from me.
I am thinking about him this morning because I see a facebook post by a delusional friend in New York who claims he is happy because he is now the most influential Indian on the American poll scene! *$%*!!!!! And I am wondering what is it that forces us humans to go after all that is impermanent in search of happiness?
The truth is that nothing that is perishable, that includes this human body, can make you feel secure or happy. But the mind will convince you that just the opposite is true. So, you go on accumulating or trying to accumulate material stuff – a bank balance, jewelry, real estate and such – and the more you get, the more you have, the more you want, the more you are fearful and insecure. And, therefore, you are unhappy.
I met a farm-hand in Pune years ago who shared with me the secret of happiness. He was a very successful farmer owning several acres of land in the Bhandgaon area. He lost his only son in a road accident. So he gave away everything he had. And just took to living a frugal Life, working as an ordinary farm-hand. One day, I sat with him, on a charpoy, under a clear, starry sky, lit up by a full moon and asked him how he makes end meet, how he passes his time. Does he not, when he is old now, crave for some personal comfort, at least a health insurance? This was his reply.
“I enjoy living. I am happy.”
“Let me offer you some unsolicited opinion my friend. You can never be happy as long as you are restless. You can never be secure as long as you are attached to money, to fame, to social rankings and maintaining your stature in public. You think I have nothing. Indeed I have nothing that can be taken away from me. So, I don’t seek any form of security. At the most, I will die. Which all of us will have to, in any case. I am happy and I am living fully. I wake up each morning feeling great. I walk the fields that I work in. I pluck herbs and berries. I enjoy a fresh water bath in the stream. I sing to myself. I cook a hearty meal. I eat well. I sleep peacefully. I am living my friend, while all of you are earning a living!”
Our way of Life need not be as dramatic as the farmer-turned-farm-hand’s. We will do well to simply understand his message. Our material attachments, and our desires, are merely expressions of our continuous search for security in Life. The tragedy is that nothing that is impermanent can ever make us feel secure. Yet, because we are conditioned to believe otherwise, we keep on barking up the wrong tree. Only when we realize that we will feel truly secure when we have nothing, will we seize the opportunity and simply live!
Being present when Life is happening to us is an opportunity we seem to consistently squander.
As I set out on my evening walk with Vaani on Sunday, a couple of physical conditions, a blister on my right foot and a fresh episode of my rheumatoid arthritis of my back, were nagging me. There were stabs of pain for several minutes. But in a while, I lost myself to my walk. The chatter of the birds as they got together at dusk, the warm evening breeze, the half-moon up in the sky and the prayer bells tolling at the large bungalow that lay on our walking route – all these elements fascinatingly conspired to push my pain away. How I was feeling was now entirely connected to the joy I was deriving from my walk. Important, I was not drawing from my physical condition; it was only about how I was feeling, how I was being!
When I reflect on Sunday’s walk and think of how my pain dissolved I can only relate to what I have learnt reading and listening to Vietnamese Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh. He’s always championed mindfulness. Initially I used to think that mindfulness is difficult. I have now come to believe that mindfulness is living. If you are not mindful, you are not living, you are merely existing.
Mindfulness is the ability to soak in every aspect of Life that you are experiencing. And, surely, our experiences are beyond what we think is important. Our experiences include whatever is happening to us, around us. Take my Sunday experience. Yes, I was in physical pain. But I had also made a choice to step out on a walk. And the walk offered me a therapeutic opportunity to heal – through soaking in the magic and beauty of the evening. Because I immersed myself in whatever else the evening was offering, and did not just cling on to my pain, the pain dissolved. It was there. But it receded into the background. Each moment of my walk held me in a rapturous state. This is what mindfulness does to you. It makes you live each moment fully.
Consider your own context now. What aspects of your Life are you focused on? If you are obsessing over some form of physical or emotional pain, step back a little bit. Zoom out. Feel what else is available in you, around you, to celebrate Life. Don’t say there’s nothing to celebrate! Each breath you take is a cause for celebration because it confirms that you are alive! So you can focus on your breathing. Or on a flower. Or you can look at your child’s face, perhaps at the picture in your wallet, and smile. This is called living. This is what mindfulness brings to you – the opportunity to live in each moment, ecstatically, without wasting it.
Most of us however are squandering – with alarming consistency – this opportunity to live fully! Because we are like ostriches – our heads are buried deep in our problems. That’s why most of the time, we are merely existing. That’s also why, almost always, we are searching for happiness, instead of being happy!