If someone sees you as their problem, it is, seriously, their problem – not yours!
A friend called me to share how his sister has been making Life miserable for him in their large, century-old family business. Although a formal separation has been gone through between them, my friend’s sister is insinuating and charging her sibling with transgressions and non-compliance. Resultantly, their dispute has ended up in court. While everyone understands the futility of having to fight things over in courts in India, they want to cling on to their stance. This has led to a stalemate of sorts between the parties. My friend however is wrecked by the emotional toll that this whole affair is having on him. “I have no problem with her. And I have no problem with the share of the business that I have been left with to manage. With some mediation, we can resolve the legal issues. But I feel very, very disturbed that my own sister has a problem with me,” lamented my friend.
Now, this could be anybody’s story. People often have problems with other people. And if you happen to be, like my friend, with whom someone has a problem, you too may want to learn to simply ignore it. What can you do if someone has a problem with you? At best you can hear their point of view and if there’s something to learn, something to unlearn and something to change in you, you can go to work on it. But what if someone continues to have a problem with you despite your best efforts and intentions to appease them? More important, what if you are someone’s problem – not what you do or what you don’t do? Well, the most sensible response must be to shrug off that viewpoint saying ‘too bad’ and move on. It is when you lack that discerning ability, and instead grieve over why you are being perceived wrongly, that you suffer.
When you grieve and suffer over such, often inconsequential, opinions, you sometimes end up becoming a problem for yourself. And that’s such a sad thing to happen. So, develop a more evolved and mature view of Life. You can only control what you think and do. You cannot control what others think and do. So, if someone’s insists on having a problem with you, let them have the pleasure of keeping it that way! Why work overtime to displease or dissatisfy them?
You can’t attain a problem-free state in Life. So, don’t postpone your happiness!
A friend has fallen out with his boss. But he’s past 50 and doesn’t want to leave Chennai. So, his career prospects are limited. He wants to find himself a new job, but given his self-imposed limitations and the lack of choices in the market around him, the process is taking longer. He wanted to know if it is possible for him to be happy while working with a boss who dislikes him intensely, and who he dislikes too, and when he’s (our friend) not getting what he wants – a job!
Basically, what our friend is wanting to know is if we can be happy while living with our problems? And the answer is, well, a resounding yes!!!
When you are in a problem situation, facing a challenge or solving something complicated or making sense of what has hit you and what’s going on, unhappiness is the first emotion that you experience. Because the very nature of a problem is that it is a problem only because you don’t want it. Yet because you now have it in your Life, without your wanting it, you plunge into unhappiness. When you are unhappy, dealing with anything becomes laborious, a drudgery! Then you stop living and merely exist. Everything becomes burdensome, every step you have to take is painful and you simply lose interest first, and sooner than later, you lose hope too. But just think – has your being unhappy really solved the problem? Or helped it in any manner? Well, surely, it hasn’t! So, of what use is it to display, or carry within you, an emotion which is completely useless?
The simplest, the most fundamental truth about Life is that happiness has nothing to do with the state in which you are. You can be happy despite your circumstances. Your circumstances __ health, relationship, heart-break, break-up, loss__don’t make you unhappy. It’s your desire, that the circumstances that are don’t exist, that makes you unhappy. In our friend’s case, his boss or his prolonged job search don’t make him unhappy. It is his desiring, that his boss must deal with him with dignity, that he must get a job faster, that makes him unhappy.
Surely, you will feel sad when you don’t get what you want. But you must learn to let go of the sadness. If you don’t and go on clinging to the sadness, you will end up leading an unhappy existence. When you feel unhappy about something, examine not just what or who is causing your unhappiness, but also examine what attitude of yours are you bringing to the situation. When you do that you will realize the futility of being unhappy. That’s how you start learning the art of being happy despite what’s going on with you. Soon, you will also realize that it is your happiness that will always help you deal with the situation much better.
You too can learn the fine art of living happily__despite your circumstances, in spite of your problems. Begin by choosing not to postpone being happy waiting for your problems to recede or go away. Perhaps they may. But know that newer ones will crop up. Because such is Life. So, you can either be alive and happy, while you still have and deal with your problems, or you can be dead while suffering from them.
You don’t have to always have the solutions to all your problems in Life!
I visited a temple – Sai Baba’s – after a long time yesterday. I tagged along with Vaani because it was the first anniversary of my father-in-law Venks’ passing – he loved visiting Sai Baba temples, wherever they were. It was a usual Sunday at the temple. The priests were busy with the early morning aarthi service, the crowds were beginning to file in queues and the public address system played ‘om sai namo namah…’ setting the tone for devotees to enter into their personal communions with ‘their’ Baba. One lady did not join the queue. She did not even stand in front of Baba’s white marble idol. She stood in front of his portrait, in an ante-room, and wept inconsolably. It was a cathartic moment for her surely – and for us as we watched her briefly before we moved on.
I could relate to the way the lady was expressing herself. I have done that many times: I have cried at Baba temples, or at other places of worship, or when I have found myself in a private, intimate moment with nature. I have cried whenever I have felt lost, helpless and clueless about how to deal with some situations in Life. My belief that there is a Higher Energy, an inscrutable divinity that shapes our lives, led me to places of worship back then. And while there my form of prayer was to surrender to this Higher Energy. I would acknowledge my “smallness” and accept that I didn’t know what to do and offer myself to be led – by time and by my faith that if I have been created I will be looked after and cared for. The Hindu scriptures talk of this concept too and call it saranagati – total surrender. I have intuitively learnt to surrender myself. This has not always helped me find solutions to my problems but has always helped me find and retain my inner peace. I don’t visit places of worship necessarily to pray – or to surrender – anymore, because I have learnt to live – celebrate, pray, surrender – in the moment! The guiding principles of my Life are the two words that Sai Baba taught the world: Shraddha/Faith – keep the faith that you will be provided for and shown the way; and Saburi/Patience – trust the process of Life.
I have come to believe that when you don’t know what to do in Life you must do what you can do. And one thing you can always do is to allow yourself to be shown the way, to be guided and led, by Life. It is perfectly okay if you don’t have solutions to some of the problems you are faced with. Just trust that Life will, over time, solve your problems for you or point you in the direction of solutions. As you let go, surrender to Life’s compassion. Indeed given the tough situations and contexts that Life may place you in, you may think that Life is harsh and cruel. But no, Life’s really very compassionate. Because you have always got and you will always get what you need even if you get it from unexpected quarters or through unconventional, unpredictable means. To let go and surrender, choose your own way to express yourself. If you feel like praying, pray. If you feel like crying, cry. If you feel like stepping away from whatever is making you frustrated and unhappy, step away. Basically, when you feel overwhelmed by a Life situation, let Life take over and you simply go with the flow.
Don’t hide yourself when faced with a problem. Accept it and be open about it!
At a recent event where I addressed a gathering of 150 managers and entrepreneurs, a businessman came up to me and wondered if by “being so open about my Life, by writing a Book (Fall Like A Rose Petal; Westland Books – 2014), was I not being too vulnerable”?
I told him that I don’t see anything wrong in sharing what I am going through – and what I am learning from the experience. I see no vulnerability here. In fact, I have been blessed with meeting only compassionate and kind people all my Life.
All of us have this tendency to go into hibernation when we have a problem situation. Actually, there is no problem with (anything that’s going on in) your Life. The problem is with you. And the way you are responding to Life. You can either resist or you can accept your Life for what it is. If you resist and don’t accept what is, you will feel the pain and suffer. If you accept, on the other hand, while the pain may still be there it will not cause you any suffering!
Jalaluddin Rumi, the 13th Century Persian Mystic, says, “The wound is where the light enters you.” Look back at your own Life. You have evolved, and emerged stronger, only because of your wounds, your problems, your setbacks. You learn very little from success. It is failure that teaches you how to live amidst challenges, surmount them and achieve results. So, live being daring, being vulnerable, sharing and open …. You will then notice that you are soaked in abundance….This is not heart-warming philosophy. This is what Life is all about. If you have to avoid suffering and live with a sustained awareness, the only way is to accept what is, without resistance. So, be vulnerable. Let the world know that you have a problem.
When you don’t know what to do, allow Life to take over!
Often Life will push you to the edge of a precipice. You will not know what to do. Fear then is a natural response. But the way to overcome fear is not to avoid it. But to feel it and face it.
What is fear telling you? It reminds you how horrifying the situation is. And it tricks you to respond to such a situation intellectually. But the very fact that you are on the edge, at Life’s mercy, is a sign that your intellect has not worked. Because, had it worked, you wouldn’t be this way, in this place, at this moment! So please don’t intellectualize any grave situation. Please don’t respond with guilt either. ‘I caused this mess’, ‘I hate myself’ or ‘I am bad’ are wasted responses. Poor self-esteem cannot help you overcome a tough situation. And fear solves no problem; it, in fact, compounds a problem.
When you have tried everything, every solution and every approach, and when nothing seems to work, when Life’s become chaotic and turbulent, just sit back, relax and let Life take over. You must understand that you don’t necessarily have to know how to solve each problem that you are faced with. Know that Life is all powerful – more intelligent than you are. So, let Life handle situations that you don’t know how to handle.
No matter what your situation may be, remember, the simplest and easiest way to live through a crisis is to just be engaged with the present, with the NOW. Because a crisis anyway means all else is already lost or is being lost. So, prudence demands that we live with what is left, which is the present moment!