When you embrace your problems, they make you stronger

No problem goes away until you have learnt from it and know how to deal with it.
This is the simple truth we all fail to get. And so, we keep denying problems or keep hoping the problems will go away. Only when we stop denying or wishing our problems away, only when we embrace and welcome our problems with open arms do we find them mellowing down, or easing their stranglehold on our lives. Even so, what happens then is that the problem still remains as it is, where it is, only, our ability to deal with it gets better. When we are able to deal with a situation better, we play the game__in this case, of Life__better. When we play anything well, we experience joy. When there is joy, nothing remains a problem.
The Bible says,”And God said, let there be light; and there was light.” The light that God is referring to is the joy in us. Just as darkness cannot exist in the presence of Light, problems cease to exist in their draconian forms when we experience inner joy and peace. This essentially means that when we are anchored, our problems don’t frighten us, they don’t make us insecure. We then learn to co-exist with our problems.

Let us stop making pimples seem like cancers. Let us un-darken our lives by opening our souls to the Light within. Let us embrace our problems and discover the joy of having them in our lives__and be grateful for the opportunity they give us to learn from them and become better, stronger people.

To find inner peace in a time of suffering is a choice – exercise it!

Your problems are breeding grounds for either your suffering or your joy. 
You, and only you, can decide what you want out of your problems. The immediate response to a problem situation is denial. But despite your denying, the problem doesn’t go away. So you start getting angry, frustrated, depressed and, when the problem refuses to let go, you eventually begin to suffer. Does your problem go away, recede, with your suffering? Of course not! On the other hand, your suffering only breeds new problems_physical ailments, depression, poor decision-making and a perpetual state of ‘grumpiness’! As my good friend from high school, Jaidev, profoundly says often, “The maladies of the body are but reflections of the travails of the soul”!
So, let’s get this right. Problems will be there. Whether you like it or not. If you are born and are living__as we all are__your Life WILL have problems. The tenure and intensity of problems may vary, but there cannot be a time in your lifetime that you don’t have any problems! If this be true what is so intelligent about grieving over your problems? Isn’t it a far more mature and intelligent response to think of your problems as an opportunity to challenge yourself__to find joy where others find suffering?
Take time to understand your situation, your predicament, from all dimensions. Understand further that you cannot solve anything in a nano-second and that sometimes you have to live with your problem(s). This acceptance will not take your problem away, but will help you deal with it better. When you operate from the core of your inner joy, you feel the pain, but you don’t suffer. If you have a physical condition you may be writhing in pain, but your sense of joy will not allow the pain to cripple your soul. If you are in an emotional trauma – someone dies, someone betrays you – your joy will not allow the loss, the grief to affect your mindfulness. Not to say that your thoughts won’t go back to the one who is no more or pine for an understanding where a misunderstanding prevails, but you will be able to rein in your thoughts and look at what is than what should or would have been!

Of all the moments that make up your lifetime, it is this choice to find joy, and inner peace, in times of suffering, that makes the difference between “living” those moments and “enduring” a lifetime!

Acceptance means not resisting Life

Make Life simple. Do not question what’s happening to you. Don’t fret or gloat over anything. Just live with complete awareness and in total acceptance.
Imagine something grave has happened to you. Maybe someone you know died. Now, it is normal for you to be in pain, agony and also in mourning. But how long are you going to live being dead every breathing moment? On the other hand if you accepted that death will follow birth, as it has done ever since creation happened, you may miss the person, but your grief will cease. Replace death with any other context and do the same thing. Someone’s nasty to you, accept it. You lost your job, accept it. You don’t get business because the markets are in the grip of a recession, accept it again! Acceptance does not mean inaction. It doesn’t mean you should not strive to make things better again. You should. You must. Acceptance means choosing not to resist whatever is happening to you at any given time.
Acceptance replaces grief with bliss while still not solving the problem you may be confronted with immediately. Problems will go away exactly the same way they have come. They are a product of your time. But bliss is not dependent on what you are going through. It is a state that you are already in; you don’t feel it because you have complicated your Life by resisting Life! Simplify Life by accepting it for what it is

Allow yourself to be shaped by Life….!

Some years back, my good friend Rajmohan Pillai, seeing me in the throes of my Firm’s collapse and insolvency, gave me a profound piece of advice. He said: “Life will be full of problems. Don’t try to solve all your problems at the same time. Take each day as it comes and attempt solutions to the best of your ability. For the rest, just go with the flow.” When I first heard this advice, I was stumped by its simplicity. Is it that simple to deal with Life, I wondered. But, over these years, I have learned from experience that Rajmohan was on the ball. There indeed is no other way to live Life and to deal with the myriad situations that present themselves on a daily basis.
No one loves a problem. We all want to be problem-free. But that’s not how Life works. Life’s nature is to present you with a problem and get you to attempt solutions. In a way, Life’s playing with you and with each of us! As you progressively solve problems, newer ones will appear. And you will notice that the level of difficulty increases with each new problem __ pretty similar to the way our academic examinations are designed with an ascending level of difficulty through school and college. Now, there are some problems that you can solve. And there are those you can’t.. These ones, they sort themselves out over time. What’s interesting about the School of Life is that whether or not you solve problems, you will always learn. In a way, therefore, with each learning, you will continue to grow and evolve!
There’s a Taoist Zen story I remember reading: An old man accidentally fell into a river that had raging rapids leading to a high and dangerous waterfall. Onlookers feared for his Life. Miraculously, he came out alive and unharmed downstream – at the bottom of the falls. People asked him how he managed to survive. “I adjusted myself to the water and did not expect the water to accommodate and molly-cuddle me. Without thinking, I allowed myself to be shaped by it. Plunging into the swirl, I came out with the swirl. This is how I survived!”
Don’t always expect what you want to happen in Life. Know also that your Life will never be free of problems. But you can be free from them if you allow yourself to be shaped by Life. Be prepared to and learn to adjust to what’s happening to you. This is the only way to a lifetime of peace, learning and bliss!

You create more problems by wanting people and things to be different!


Intrinsically, there’s nothing wrong with Life. Or with people. Life is the way it is. And people are the way they are. It is your wanting them to be different, your wanting them to be the way you want them to be, that causes YOU__and often others__pain, suffering, misery and angst!

Any home with a teenager will understand this perspective the best. As a parent you would want your teenager’s room to be maintained well. But your child just doesn’t want you to even enter her room. Now think about this deeply. Is there something wrong with the room? Or is there something wrong with the way your child thinks she is maintaining it? Or is there something wrong with the way in which YOU WANT it maintained? In reality, nothing really is wrong. Simply, your WANT, your expectation, is what is causing you all the grief!

So it is with people everywhere. The teenager at home perspective is simple __ so you can relate to it. Also, you may be willing to forgive a teenager__because the kid is still not ‘mature or worldly-wise’ in your view! But you are not always so understanding of others! Here’s why….

If you review your Life, particularly your relationships, almost all the time, all your problems have come from wanting people to be different. Take any relationship where you have a problem and replace your want with acceptance and see how you perceive the relationship now. Let’s say, you have a colleague or a friend who is unethical and scheming. You cannot trust this person at all. Now, if you accept this person as someone who is not worthy of your trust, there will be no problem at all. The problem arises ONLY when you continue to trust this person, expect this person to live up to your trust, and this person keeps betraying your trust every single time! Who is to blame. Your friend? Your friend’s unethical behavior? Or you __ for continuing to trust someone who is NOT worthy of your trust? The answer is so simple. It is you who are responsible, and your expectation that your friend lives up to your trust, for the stress and strife in the relationship. You have to either trust this person and be content with betrayal or you have to stop trusting this person. The in between path__that I will trust and expect him to live up to it__is a foolish one and is paved with grief at every step!

This is so true of any situation, any relationship in Life. Yesterday, I watched a British film ‘Life Goes On’ (2009) directed by Sangeeta Datta. This is a simple story of an Indian doctor, Sanjay (played brilliantly by Girish Karnad) who comes home one evening to find his wife Manju (Sharmila Tagore) dead. She had suffered a major cardiac arrest. Sanjay’s grief is soon overshadowed by some facts, bigger, more shocking and more painful, he stumbles upon about his three daughters and his wife. His oldest one, he finds, is breaking up with her British husband. His second one is in a lesbian relationship. And his third one is pregnant with the child of her Muslim boyfriend. He further discovers that his best friend Alok (Om Puri) is the father of his first daughter because Manju had sought out Alok’s companionship in the early years of Sanjay’s marriage to her, because Sanjay could not take time off from his medical studies and practice to nurture their relationship! Everything that Sanjay had created in Life__a family, built on what he thought were Indian values, a culture of discipline and a tradition of being conservative Indians and staunch Hindus__seems now blown to smithereens. He is plunged into deep grief. And even roams the streets of London one night looking for answers. Then Alok confronts him with the truth: “Your wanting is not going to make anything different or better. It is the way it is.”

Life’s beautiful ONLY when we stop wanting people and things to be different. The moment a want creeps in, rearing its ugly head, a perfectly peaceful Life can become traumatic.  You can’t do much to prepare yourself for the rest of your Life. You can only deal with what you are dealt with! So, the best thing you can do, for now, is to simply, stop wanting people to be different. If it is someone you deeply love, try having a honest conversation. If it works for you, fine. If not, just let people be. You be who you are. And, believe me, your Life will be peaceful ever after!

Astrology is like a weather forecast: prepares you better if you use it well!


As long as the information you receive is reliable, use any tool to further your decision-making process. But apply your intelligence, gut feel and your FAITH too to make your choices. You may make some right decisions and you may make some decisions that go awry in Life. But whatever happens, you will have learned!

A friend told me yesterday that astrology doesn’t work. And wondered if I believed in it!

I am often asked this question. And my simple answer is the problem is really not with astrology as much as it is with astrologers. Astrology is a science. And it works pretty much like the way computer science or space technology or aviation works, Practitioners of science can do both __ for instance, they make life saving drugs and they make chemical weapons. Similarly, astrologers can be two kinds too. The ones who are like good scientists – precise, reliable, modest and ethical. And the others who are good with their craft but yet are greedy, want to control you so they can fleece you and therefore employ questionable practices and rituals in the name of ‘God’ and ‘religion’.

Obviously, people are free to choose. I am one who likes the truth up front, on the table and completely abhor religion and rituals. So, the astrologers I consult are those who are Masters __ they are as good as Sachin Tendulkar or A R Rahman are in their crafts.

Even so, I have also learned that astrology cannot change your Life. In fact nothing can change your Life’s design. And astrology can’t solve your problems. At best astrology serves as a dashboard __ just as you need to know various parameters to be able to drive your car efficiently, astrology can enable you to lead your Life better. It can help you deal with your problems better. But the aspect of leading your Life __ living it, being present, making choices, taking decisions, all of this is, and will forever remain, ONLY YOUR responsibility.

And this is where Faith comes into play. Faith, again what I have learned, is not about religion. It is about understanding and celebrating Life. It is about being. Being present, than about worrying or fearing, when Life is happening to you! I have learned to simply trust Life, which has given me this lifetime, and trust people who are Masters in their craft, their science, and lead it to the best of my ability. I employ astrology like I do a weather forecast. If I know it is going to be squally, I may prefer being indoors. Or if there are going to be showers, I will be better off carrying an umbrella. Just because the weather forecast says a storm lies ahead, I don’t plunge into a depression. And I sincerely hope no one does too. To be sure, praying to a God is not going to stop a Sandy hurricane from hitting you. A weather forecast and a natural calamity doesn’t mean you stop living. It only means you work on being better prepared. And you learn to accept whatever’s happening with the weather. So it is with you, your Life and astrology. Trust if you will, choose not to if you won’t!

Now you may wonder, and it is quiet logical, as to why and how do you trust someone who knows a science that you don’t. That’s precisely why you need that person. If you knew about something why would you need someone else to guide you? And don’t you trust a doctor, who knows how your heart or kidneys or lungs or liver work better than you do, with your Life when you sign up for a surgery? And don’t you also trust a pilot, whom you have not even met nor demanded to see his pilot’s license to check his credentials, with your Life when you board an aircraft to fly? So, why not trust an astrologer__who, by the way, is no small subject matter expert!

Good astrologers, like good doctors, are not charlatans or soothsayers. They are seers __ they have seen Life and see its inscrutable nature several-fold better than you or I do!

There was a time when, under advise from some quarters, I wore rings with special gems in them, on my fingers to ‘help protect me during my difficult times’. I was not convinced with this. But I still wore them because I thought I was not losing anything by wearing them. On one visit to my astrologer, a 75-year-old veteran, I showed him my rings and asked for his opinion.

He laughed heartily first! Then he asked: “Kallaala vidhi-ya matra mudiyuma, Saar?” ‘Can a stone change your destiny?’

I stared at him curiously. The absurdity of my choice and expectation that a pre-ordained design can be altered by wearing a ring became evident to me in a nano-second! I felt woefully stupid.

Then, he answered his own question: “Bhakti ala matrum mudiyum.” “Only devotion can change it.”

I also understood that the devotion he was talking about was not religious fervor. He invited me to stay devoted to the experience I was going through. He said experience is the ONLY teacher. And the more I resisted the experience of the challenging time I was being subjected to, the more I would suffer. Instead if I embraced it, loved it and devoted myself to the learning process, I may not suffer. Not that I can immediately change my current reality, he said, but I would be able to deal with it infinitely better.

I just loved his perspective and could relate to it completely. So, I put my faith in his advice. Astrology to me is a tool. It helps me take informed decisions. I use it as well as I use my cell phone. And both work on science!

As you can see, my Life goes on __ ridden with squally weather, hailstorms and cyclones, volcanoes, forest fires and earthquakes, but there’s phenomenal inner peace. Occasionally, I go back to astrology to refresh the forecast and my Life’s dashboard, so that I can lead myself and my family onward, on the path, that much better!

                                                                                                                                                                                          


Life didn’t promise fair-play or a zero-problem lifetime!


How good you are has nothing to do with what you have go through in your lifetime.
This is one paradox that flummoxes all of us: If being good, doing good is the essence of humanity, then why do I have to go through pain and suffering despite being good and doing good myself?
Look around you and you may get enough evidence of this perspective to be true. Good people are going through troubled times __ joblessness, cashlessness, poor health, broken relationships. And the corrupt, the unethical, the violent folks seem to be having a good Life. Is there any fair-play at all in Life, you may wonder?
Let’s address your concerns. First, know that Life did not promise any fair-play. It did not guarantee you anything when you were born. It didn’t say if you are good, ethical, sincere and hardworking, it assures you a problem-free lifetime. So, the expectation that you should have no problems is irrational, impractical, unfounded and unrealistic. Second, the nature of Life is that it is pre-ordained. You believe it or not. But everything that you have gone through, are going through and will eventually gone through, is cast. All you can do is to play the game of Life, every single living moment of yours, even as the joystick is in Life’s hand and so is the rule book. Life’s essence is to deal with WHATEVER comes at you! Therefore, third, don’t wallow in shallow unjustified perceptions that the unethical and corrupt,  who in your eyes do all wrong, are living it up! By imagining so, you cause yourself more grief. Fourth, if you have been created, as you have been, and you are alive, as you are, then be sure, your Life will have its share of problems. Life’s meaning is not zero-pain. Life is really about developing the ability to deal with pain, while learning to avoid the suffering that comes with it. Intelligent living, therefore, is all about being happy despite your circumstances.
Today is the celebrated Tamizh poet Subramaniya Bharathi’s 130th birth anniversary. History and the present generation will both concur that India may well not see another poet ever of Bharathi’s stature, brilliance and patriotic fervor. Yet, apart from dying young at 38, Bharathi also died with so much pain. It was so irrational. First, he was imprisoned several times by the then British rulers of India. Then he was felled by an elephant at the Parthasarathi Temple, Chennai, which, ironically, he used to feed regularly. He never really recovered from these setbacks. His prolonged bouts of ailments finally took his Life on September 11, 1921. It is both a recorded and ignominious fact that ONLY 14 people attended his funeral. Imagine, India’s most revered son and celebrated poet today, did not have more than 14 people to see him off on his last journey! How unfair and cruel is that?
So, stop expecting Life to be fair and mourning the fact that it never is. To be sure, it never promised it would be fair. So, accept it for what it is. The key is to understand this truism. And continue being good and doing good, not expecting anything in return, and to know that your goodness is good for your inner peace, and to know also that what’s embedded in your Life’s design, you HAVE to face and overcome. If you learn from that experience and, importantly, learn to be happy despite what you have to experience, well, then you will have lived your Life meaningfully!