Often times, your problems will endure, so will you; such is Life!
A celebration is waiting for you at every step
How you can still celebrate Life when the chips are down
No logic to Life, it’s just magic, pure magic!
Of my ‘happyness’ maker, two coffee makers and serendipity
Trusting Life means you will always get what you need the way Life wills it!
I am often asked how Vaani and I can live in a complete ‘let-go’ given the fact that our bankruptcy endures, now well into its 10th year. (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal) And I always say, “We do our best in the given circumstance and leave the rest to Life. We are always given what we need by Life.” My Book, my Talks and the conversations we curate are peppered with anecdotes of how Life continues to provide for us, how it takes care of us and how always, somehow, it arranges what we need. We may have never got what we wanted, but we have never been denied what we need. And what we need arrives in its own time, the way Life has willed it – not the way we imagined it would come, but in its own unique, often mystical, way!
Yesterday was one such serendipitous day.
Our electric coffee maker at home, a 5-year-old instrument, had conked off some weeks ago. Replacing it may appear like routine stuff – it doesn’t cost much, less that Rs.2000/- I guess. But the last several months have been very hard on us. There hasn’t been any income to speak of. So, a new coffee maker joined the bottom of a list of to-buy/to-fix items on my Excel sheet tracking home (forever in deficit) cash-flows. Even as I added it there, I knew it was going to take a while before it moved from there to the kitchen table through a physical purchase. Vaani’s coffee continued to be unaffected though by the machine’s breakdown and its prolonged absence. Ask me, and I will tell you, she’s not just the world’s greatest coffee maker (she doesn’t need brewing machines, filters, percolators – she makes the best coffee, no matter what!), she’s a true ‘happyness’ maker too – she never complains!!! And so, we adjusted, accommodated and have been ploughing on, sipping great coffee nevertheless!
Yesterday, we were visiting a friend, a renowned actor; and we got talking about each other’s coffee preferences. He told us how he would never compromise on his coffee and explained how he carried his coffee maker with him when he went for shoots. And then, suddenly, he rushed out of the room to return with a small, new, single-brew Vietnamese coffee maker. He demonstrated to us how it worked. He then thrust it in Vaani’s hands and, handing her a special Vietnamese brand of coffee powder, said, “This is for you. Please accept it. Tell me how the coffee tastes. You will love it.” Vaani and I surely understood the cosmic significance of the gift, but we didn’t get an opportunity to discuss it between us immediately. Even as we got home, a surprise awaited us. On the kitchen table sat a brand new coffee maker – a regular-sized, electric, one – a gift from our daughter Aanchal to us. She had discovered that Vaani was managing without a coffee maker and so she decided to get one!
On the face of it, these are just events. Arguably, perhaps, unrelated too. A coffee maker breaks down. A friend gifts a coffee maker. A daughter gifts a coffee maker. But Vaani and I truly believe that Life is very compassionate. And what connects the three events is a simple message – trust the process of Life and you will get whatever you need, in its own time, when you need it!
Beyond celebrating this truism in each moment, Vaani and I try to make no meanings out of Life. Living in a ‘let-go’, to us, is just what it is. Let go! So we don’t question why so many pressing needs, according to us – including a health situation – are not getting taken care of. We don’t ask when that Excel sheet and its list of to-buy/to-fix items will either turn empty or when we will have enough not to have those items waiting in a painfully endless, prioritized, queue. We don’t feel frustrated, guilty or fearful that over a million dollars in debt still remains owed to people; we believe and we know it will all be repaid in due course with interest. We have simply let Life take over and we go with the flow – doing what we can surely, but never complaining when we don’t get what we want or even when we get what we don’t want.
This is what we know and have learnt from Life. Letting go is not scary, it is not difficult. You too can live in a let-go if you can learn to trust Life. This does not mean there will be no problems. It doesn’t even mean you will get all that you want. It means you will see serendipity in every occurrence and you will learn to be grateful for all that you have and get. And, interestingly, all that you have and get always ends up being all that you need!
Miracles are happening for you 24 x 7 x 365
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!!!
There are no full stops in Life, only commas!
It’s okay to be clueless about Life when every plan of yours is over-written by the Master Plan.
Earlier this week, someone asked me what do we do, on a daily basis, when we are “living through” a bankruptcy. He was keen to know how a typical day in our Life looked like. I liked the question. But I must confess I don’t have an answer that may necessarily appeal to everyone.
To be sure, we do have a plan. And we work to a plan. But a pattern that we see in our Life, over the past decade is that, every single time, our plans are over-written by Life’s Master Plan. So, our days are typically adventurous, where we start all over again with undiluted enthusiasm and curiosity – “Okay, let’s see what Life has in store for us today!”
On an operational level, we wake up every morning feeling very, very grateful for another day. We both thank Life for keeping us physically going – there aren’t any apparent manufacturing defects, yet, on that front!! And we get down to dealing with the day – there could be court appearances on some days, there can be legal reviews, there can be Talks that I deliver, there may be meetings with prospective clients, there are times when we are curating future editions of the public events we host that ‘Inspire Happiness’, there is my daily Blog I write, there are housekeeping chores to be done and errands to be run. We truly believe each day is a miracle. And Vaani and I face each day with enthusiasm. We don’t complain. We share our frustrations alright but once we get it out of our system, we keep moving on. Borrowing from the title of Mark Tully’s famous book, there are no full stops, really, in our Life, only commas!
The gentleman pressed on. “How does this help,” he asked?
I told him that by filling our days with a lot of meaningful action, in line with our Life’s Purpose of ‘Inspiring Happiness’, we ensure every moment is lived fully. We literally keep postponing worrying from moment to moment. We believe that only if you have an idle moment, when you are not immersed in the present, will you worry. So stay immersed in the now, be happy in the present, keep chipping away at whatever you have to do regardless of the outcomes, and through all of that, postpone worrying!
Our experiences have taught Vaani and me that when you don’t know what’s happening, or don’t know what to do, when you are clueless, you must just go with the flow. You must simply accept your experience as part of your learning curve. We often have had to deal with such situations – especially in the context of having to address claims from creditors wanting their money back. And each time, we have laid the cards on the table. Whether it is to my family, or to our various stakeholders who are connected with us personally or professionally or with our business. But sometimes people expect us to know all the answers. They demand that we come up with a solution. They push us to a corner and tell us that we have to find a way out. It can be very intimidating. It can be very draining. What do you do when everyone wants something that you don’t have – which is money? And what do you, when despite your best efforts, you don’t get what you badly want – work and money? You are then truly clueless. Each time, we have felt this way, we have let our awareness guide us. This has ensured that our spirit, our enthusiasm, is not crippled. We have learnt that to be clueless in a situation is to be human. Because sometimes, our problems are beyond the immediate realms of human imagination and resolution.
When you trust the process of Life and believe it will sort situations out for you, your problem may not vanish magically or be solved miraculously. But you will survive one day at a time, with all your needs being provided for by Life. Well, that’s a miracle by itself, isn’t it?
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Mother Teresa, a rose petal and a blessing
Vaani and I are incredibly blessed that Mother Teresa touched our lives in the most serendipitous and miraculous manner.
In today’s blogpost, I reproduce an extract from Chapter 10 (‘Follow Your Bliss’) of my Book Fall Like A Rose Petal (Westland). The extract (in purple text below) recounts an anecdote from our Life on how Mother Teresa’s blessing reached us – and how it continues to guide us with our Life’s Purpose.
On Saturday, April 11, 2009, I got a call from Philip Sir, a client and dear friend from Kochi, Kerala. Philip Sir had last visited Chennai in January 2008 to look me up when he had come to know of our situation. He had given me ₹1000 ($20) and said, given his own circumstances and priorities, he couldn’t afford to help us more. He requested me to accept the money as his humble Vishu Kani nettam. He is a big man, Philip Sir, about 15 years older than I am and in his kind eyes, I saw a graceful energy drench me with a blessing, as I accepted the money. That money helped us last a week as a family!
He had also given us a Life-saving engagement by paying for my airfare and inviting me to conduct a day-long workshop with his team at a small processed-foods company in Thrissur, Kerala, in February 2008. He said his company could afford only ₹10,000 ($200) as fee to us but agreed to pay it in cash at the end of the session. We were so cashless that I didn’t think. I just grabbed that opportunity. That money, when I brought it back from the trip, helped us buy groceries and last the rest of that month! He was also generous enough to offer me a chauffeur-driven car to visit Guruvayoor and our native family deity in Athipotta in Palakkad district, Kerala, while on that trip. Although I have evolved, thanks to this experience, and do not see great value anymore in pilgrimages and temple-hopping in times of distress or otherwise; at that time, those visits were important: to believe, to know that a Higher Energy would take care of all that it has created! Of course now, I do know that the Higher Energy resides within us.
Within you. Within me.
For those reasons and others, when Philip Sir called that Easter weekend, I was happy. He said he had been, minutes before calling me, in front of Mother Teresa’s tomb, at Mother House, the headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity, in Kolkata. He had been serving as a volunteer at homes run by the Missionaries of Charity, during Lent that year. That Saturday was his last day in Kolkata. He was returning to Kochi transiting via Chennai. He wondered if he could drop in at home for breakfast on Easter Sunday. I told him that he was most welcome!
I picked up Philip Sir from the airport. At home, we had a sumptuous breakfast of hot idlis, sambar, coconut chutney and molagapodi with yennai. His flight to Kochi was not until later that afternoon. So, we moved into our study. Philip Sir wanted to know how we hoped to fix the business and our lives. I told him that the 14 months since we had met had been a great learning experience. I said my daily practice of mouna gave me clarity and we now knew why we had been created on this planet. We now knew what our Core Purpose was.
Philip Sir smiled and asked what that Core Purpose was.
I got up and went to the white board and wrote the following words in blue marker ink: “To awaken people to the new way of thinking, living, working and winning.”
Even as I explained what the ‘new way’ was, which is spiritual empowerment, serving, right thinking and growing intelligently through Life, Philip Sir rose from his chair. He took a red marker pen from the holder and walked up to the white board. He placed a big huge ‘X’, on the word ‘new’ and wrote the word ‘right’ above it. The statement now read: “To awaken people to the right way of thinking, living, working and winning.”
As Mom and I looked on, obviously perplexed, Philip Sir went on to deliver an impromptu sermon: “When you say ‘new way’, AVIS, you are saying you invented it. Did you? Of course you did not. Spirituality is as old as mankind. Or older. You are merely sharing a way that you found and which has worked for you. AVIS, be humble. No matter what happens in your Life, stay grounded. You or I or Vaani create nothing. We cause nothing. Neither our successes nor our failures. We are merely executors of a cosmic will. You have been put through this experience to learn from it and you want to share this ‘right way’ with others. By all means, do so. You are an amazing speaker. I have heard you. You have the ability to transform how people think. I have experienced it myself. My only wish for you is, no matter how successful you become, never claim any of that success as your own. You are only an instrument.”
So saying, he reached into his shirt pocket and pulled up a very small re-sealable zipper storage pouch that had a rose petal in it. The petal had not dried completely and I could see its purple-pink hue as Philip Sir held it up.
He said, “Yesterday, when I said my last prayers at Mother Teresa’s tomb and bowed to take her blessings, I was reminded of you suddenly. I don’t know why. So when I took a petal for my wife and family, I decided to take one for you and Vaani as well. Here it is. I am not sure I understand what I am doing. I am not sure you understand either. Maybe the reason will manifest much later. For now, accept this petal as a blessing from an apostle of service. May you both overcome your problems and may you too serve humanity, touching lives and making a difference.”
Mom and I were in tears as we received the petal. We hugged Philip Sir as he bid us goodbye. I dropped him off at the airport and haven’t met him since that Easter Sunday of 2009. The petal still sits on my desk, safe in the tiny re-sealable zipper storage pouch. Both are inside an old plastic film roll can.
What I learnt from him, through him, is now a prayer that I say to myself each time I am leading a workshop: “I am but an instrument. Whatever the audience must learn today from my experiences, let that learning happen. The message is not mine, the stage is not mine. I am a mere microphone. And no microphone can take credit for the message!” That my bliss has the blessings of one of the noblest of all creations in the history of humankind – Mother Teresa; overwhelms and sobers me, each time I am in front of an audience.
Note: My Book is written in the form of letters to my two children Aashirwad and Aanchal; so in this extract, I am actually sharing this anecdote and learnings with them. Mom is Vaani; I call her Mom!
This morning as I read about Mother Teresa’s canonization coming up at the Vatican, my thoughts went back to this anecdote. I cannot but marvel at how the Universe always sends you a message, long, long before something has happened. We received a ‘rose petal’ years before we had even thought of sharing our Life lessons in a Book. And when it eventually came about, my Book, interestingly, is named Fall Like A Rose Petal – the title is inspired by a Sufi story that Osho used to say! Reflecting on all this, I feel humbled, I feel blessed and I feel grateful for the miracle of this lifetime that I have had so far…
Who wants luck when you are soaked in grace and abundance?
Aren’t you incredibly lucky already, that you are created human – the one who gets swine flu – and are not created as the swine that gives the flu? Why do you need any more luck?
At the end of my Fall Like Rose Petal Talk recently, someone in the audience, a business leader heading a large corporation, observed that Vaani and I were very lucky to be surviving this ‘treacherous’ time in our Life. He said, “I just can’t wrap my head around this. But hearing your story makes me believe that miracles do happen. I can clearly see that, every time you are both at the edge of a precipice, something, call it grace, someone, perhaps God, has come and bailed you both out financially. You both are incredibly lucky!” Interestingly, a reader of my Book Fall Like A Rose Petal (Westland) wrote to me yesterday sharing this link on how a Cornell professor has researched the connection between luck and money.
Now, I have nothing against or in favor of luck. Just as I have nothing against or in favor of money. But why aren’t we celebrating that we are human, that we are alive? Why do we need to examine luck at all, and why give it undue importance, especially from a material perspective? For instance, we consider someone ‘lucky’ if they win gold in a slogan-writing contest, but those others who competed – who could think creatively and express themselves – were ‘unlucky’ because they didn’t win!
The problem lies with the relationship we have with money. I believe we humans don’t see money as a resource that must be deployed for living Life fully. We don’t see it as a means, we instead see it as the end. Does it matter that you don’t have money or things when you have good health, you have a loving family and caring friends, when you have a home that you can come back to and when you can still sleep like a baby when you hit the pillow? This tendency to focus on what we don’t have – and if it is money in question, then no one can ever have enough of it – is causing us to remain unhappy, to suffer.
Life has to be lived celebrating what is. Not analyzing why what is the way it is. And definitely not lived by moaning about what is not. Yesterday, we were at one of the finest hotels in Chennai, talking to a couple of senior managers about our work and our Life. Neither of them were influenced by our impoverished financial status. They treated us with so much warmth, so much dignity. They heard us out and considered the value we can create for their teams, instead of evaluating our net worth. This is the kind of celebration that I am talking about – this blessing of being human, being compassionate!
And let me tell you, if you remove material reference points from your Life, if you don’t consider money to be an object, all of us are, uniformly, without doubt, incredibly, incredibly lucky to be born human. Think about it. You have been created without your asking to be born. Isn’t it possible, employing the same theory of probability that you use in other contexts, that you could have been created as something else – a swine, a reptile, a tree, a rock…whatever? The very fact that you are human, that you have a smartphone, that you can read this blogpost and internalize its point of view, in your own unique way, that, to me, is evidence of how lucky you are.
Personally, I have evolved beyond considering the luck factor in my Life. I remain overwhelmed and humbled by all the grace and abundance that’s raining in my Life – non-stop, 24×7. I believe being human, being alive, is a miracle. So, I simply experience Life for what it is, without questioning, without analyzing, anything. And in each moment, I offer a simple prayer to Life – “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”