Life is like an airline company – you pay a price for excess baggage!
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:
- Emotional Baggage: Memories pertaining to past hurts, insults, events, experiences. Some of these are heart-wrenching and debilitate us, causing deep anguish, pain and untold suffering.
- Physical Baggage: More than 50 % of the stuff that fills our homes__furniture to clothes to documents to kitchenware to shoes to display-ware__are the ones we have not used in months and, most often, in years. So, our homes are overloaded with ‘waste and clutter’ which can be useful for others when given away.
- Imaginary Baggage that never was and that never may well be: This is the baggage of worry and anxiety. Of things and events that you fear will happen to you and because of which you are unable to live free and in the moment!
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.
The power of now is huge – it creates unputdownable value!
Last evening was pretty interesting.
A friend had invited us to a meeting of his Rotary Club where Arundhati Subramaniam, the eminent poet and writer, was delivering a Talk. As we settled down to listen to her, my neighbor, a Rotarian who knows us fairly well, leaned closer and asked me: “How are things with you and Vaani, AVIS? I hope they have improved?” (To understand the relevance of this question, read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal) I smiled at him and replied: “Things are exactly the way they have been. We live in the present, from moment to moment. As of now, I have clarity that we will be able to manage for this evening and tomorrow. What happens for the day after, I will know only tomorrow evening.” The gentleman held my hand and said, “Your equanimity is amazing. Thanks for inspiring all of us.”
I am humbled by such sentiment. I don’t think Vaani and I have achieved something phenomenal and extra-ordinary. I am quite sure anyone is capable of developing equanimity. All this requires is for you understand Life’s true nature. Everything about Life is impermanent. Whatever is yours today, including your own Life, will be taken away from you sometime surely. So, there’s absolutely no point grieving over or worrying about anything in Life. Let go of what’s over and don’t be insecure about what is to happen. Just be present in the moment – living with what is. This is what equanimity is all about. Through practice, you can make living with equanimity, from moment to moment, a fine art. Simple.
Most people don’t believe this is possible only because they don’t want to invest – their efforts and time – in learning how this is done. Living in the moment is not at all difficult – you just have to train your mind not to delve into the past or race into the future. The mind will initially resist you. It will fight you every step of the way. Because the human mind thrives only in the past or in the future. In the present moment, in the now, the mind is powerless. But with consistent training, the mind will submit to your direction. It will obey you. And when it does, and when you start living in the moment, you will see what a beautiful celebration Life really is. Where there is no grief, anger, guilt over what is past and when there is no worry, anxiety or fear of what is to come, you can only be happy. Which is why being constantly in the now is a continuous celebration.
Interestingly, as we stepped out of the Rotary Club meeting, a friend called. He is visiting Chennai from London. He was at an event to launch Tekplay, a digital business transformation company. He invited us to join the launch event at Hotel Crowne Plaza. When we arrived there, we discovered that Mahendra Singh Dhoni was the chief guest at the Tekplay launch. And as part of the event, he was in conversation with the company’s executive director, Prabhuram Ramanathan. Prabhu asked Dhoni what he thought of “Dhoni at 45”. And Dhoni replied: “I always live in the present. How can I even tell you what it will be like 9 years from now…?”
Vaani looked at me at this point. We smiled at each other. Ask us, and we’ll tell you how much value the power of now can create; it helps us live intelligently, powerfully, meaningfully. Besides, it has surely helped us postpone worrying and be happy despite our excruciating circumstances.
If we can’t understand the concept and value of just being, we will never be happy.
A manager wrote to me asking he is often steeped in negativity. “Worry, frustration, anger, disappointment, guilt, envy, regret – these are my constant companions. I am always complaining about something or someone. What must I do,” he asked. “Just be,” I replied. To be sure, millions out there are unhappier than most others and, unfortunately, they remain unhappy almost perpetually. And the reason these people are this way is because they have not understood the value of just being.
Fundamentally, happiness is a personal choice. No one – or no thing – can make you happy unless you learn to simply be – be with yourself, be with your true Self, be with what is, be yourself, be in the moment. And to be, you must understand Life. You must realize that Life does not happen because of you. It happens in spite of you, in spite of what you do or don’t do. You cannot control the Life that’s happening to you. All you can and must do is to accept the Life you have, do the best in any circumstance and again be accepting of whatever outcome or result your efforts may generate.
Per ancient Roman philosophy, the Goddess Fortuna, rotates the wheel of fortune, rota fortunae, of our lives. The wheel has the picture of a king on top and a picture of the same man as pauper at the bottom. So when the wheel of Life turns, as it surely will, you are pushed down if you are on top and you are pushed up if you are down. But we as people, as a race, we have all been conditioned to cling to the periphery of Life, holding on to the material aspects of our lives – power, wealth and assets. This basically means that as long as you are on the periphery of Life you will have to deal with the ups and downs, with the highs and lows, with gain and loss, with success and with defeat. But if you move inward, to the center of the wheel, you could be unmoved by all that happens to you in Life. In a way, at the center of the wheel is where the opportunity to move beyond mortal and material abundance transcending health, wealth, power, pleasure and fame is available. This is where you are in a state where you just accept what Life is offering you at the moment. Which is, the kahbi khushi, kabhi gham state; the K3G state – sometimes joy and sometimes sorrow state! The nub is this: when you are accepting of the Life you have, of what is, you may feel the pain, but you will not suffer. You will learn to be in this material world and yet be above all the attachments that lure you and want to hold you hostage!
There are only two ways to live Life. You can enjoy it. Or you can endure it. Enjoyment comes easily. When what you want comes your way, you enjoy it. But how can you enjoy death, separation, illness, misunderstanding, hatred, conspiracy, break-ups, loss, penury? These you simply have to endure. If you learn to just be, you can indeed be happy, even while you are enduring the Life that you never wanted, never wished or never expected.
To be happy, you simply have to be. When you are, accepting of the Life you have, no matter what the context or circumstance, you will find that all the negativity in you has evaporated. Or better still dissolved. When you are, you are in the moment, in the present. All your negativity stems from living in the past – anger, grief, guilt over what happened in a period of time that is dead, is gone – or from living in the future – worry, fear, anxiety over what may happen in a moment that no one has really known or seen. In the present moment there is no negativity. In the present, there is only one way, and that way is to simply be. When you simply are, you are happy!
Everything, and everyone, has a place in your Life’s script!
A friend messaged me saying he felt he could have lived his Life differently. He said, looking back, he had lost over 20 years of his active Life to “unintelligent, stress-laded, worry-ridden” living. How do you forgive yourself for having squandered a large part of your Life, he asked me.
I in turn asked him: “How would you say sorry to another person if you wanted them to forgive you for what you have done to them?”
He replied: “I would say to them that I am really, really, sorry.”
So, I told him: “Look at yourself in the mirror and say that you are really, really, sorry! Simple.”
Indeed. There is no other way. You can’t go back and edit your Life. Nobody can. So, anger, grief or guilt over what you did or what has happened to you are of no use. But know that nothing happens in your Life without a reason. My friend may think he squandered his Life. You may think so of your Life too. But the truth is that everything has been perfectly arranged in your Life’s design for you to arrive at the point at which you are at this moment. You miss the magic of this beautiful design because you don’t see the value of what Life has taught you, of how each person who has touched your Life has made you better, stronger, wiser, of how your Life has happened not because of you, but often inspite you!
Here’s a little exercise you may want to do. Take out an hour today. Sit back and think about your Life. Can’t you connect the dots, the events, the people, the milestones, backwards in your Life today? Could you have connected them when an event was happening in your Life? Can the Scene 32 of your Life’s script ever have been possible without your Scene 12? Didn’t person X, who you disliked so much, teach you the art of living, even as person C, who you met so very briefly teach you how to give selflessly? Doesn’t, when you look back, everything in your Life seem so well ordained, so well fitted in its own place – like a beautiful jigsaw puzzle? This is why I truly believe that the Masterplan has no flaws!
So, reflect on the past, only to learn from it. The past always teaches you – something about you and about Life! The past can also hold you hostage, if you get trapped in asking why, why me and feeling angry or guilty over what happened. It is entirely up to you whether you want your past be your teacher or your captor!
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