If you don’t feel good being with someone, don’t be with them. Whoever they may be.

Respect the way you feel before you respect how others feel about a situation or about you.
Yesterday a friend called to say that my father was unwell. He said my brother-in-law was trying to reach me. I spoke to my brother-in-law and inferred that my dad indeed had not been keeping good health. However, I excused myself from visiting him.
My family – parents and siblings – and I have been estranged for several years now. In the recent past the estrangement has been acute – a lot of it has to also do with the money my wife and I have borrowed from my parents in the past to resurrect our business. Naturally the money still remains due to them because our business has not picked up enough to enable us to repay anyone. (I have talked about this forgettable family saga in my Book – “Fall Like A Rose Petal – A father’s lessons on how to be happy and content while living without money”; Westland, August 2014.)
But my decision to distance myself from my parents and siblings has a deeper context. I feel there is complete mistrust between all of us. Besides, I don’t find any of them true to who they are making themselves out to be. So, like I have done in the past, I chose to stay away from the present situation concerning my dad. And I prefer to remain this way in the future too.
My stance, without doubt, is debatable. In the world’s view, what I am doing may be seen as dereliction of duty. Some may term it as total abdication. Others may view it as lack of compassion: “A 76-year-old is pining for his oldest son, but the son obstinately clings on to his ego!” Yet others may believe that because it is a short Life, we must let go, bury our differences, and move on. My siblings have, for their part, on more than one occasion, pointed out to me that since I have been unable to return the money I owe to the family, the least I can and must do is to be a “dutiful” son and look after my parents physically. Indeed, there are these and several other ways to look at the choice I have exercised.
But I have not been driven by any of these considerations. To be sure, I hold no grudge against my family for the way my wife and I have been treated by them. I also recognize that I have, in the past, contributed unwittingly to the fractious environment in the family. Even so, after much reflection and soul-searching, my realization is that I don’t relate to any of them anymore. I can’t trust any of them and I feel there’s so much “untruth” and “pretension” on the rare occasions we have met. I believe they feel this way about me and my wife too. So, therefore, I have decided to refuse to brush aside this intense discomfort within me and pretend everything is normal by “showing up and being seen”. I feel that by staying away from each other we are all anchored in our own peaceful states. For everyone, including my ailing father, this is the best place to be in. This is my view. And I am peaceful living my Life with this view.
Yes, my wife and I owe my family, just as we owe 178 other creditors, money. And we believe, when things turn around for us financially, we will repay every rupee to everyone, with full interest due.
I don’t expect anyone to agree with my view here. But I will still share the learning I have gleaned from the experience I have had of being a “member” of my dysfunctional family! Sometimes when relationships become very messy, when there is no more relating among the people in the relationship, it is just best to let go of the relationships. Or, if you can’t, then let them simply be. Trying to get people, who are hell bent on misinterpreting you, to understand you is a waste of your precious time and energy. Trying to fulfil your familial obligations or filial duties at acute discomfort to you, while letting your inner peace be disturbed, is absolute hara-kiri. The past does not matter anymore. The future no one has seen. In the present, if you can’t trust someone, if you don’t feel happy being in someone’s presence, simply don’t pretend being comfortable and suffer in the bargain. Nothing is worth more in Life than your inner peace. If you cannot feel good being someplace with someone, don’t go there, don’t be with them. Whoever they may be. It is important you respect how you feel before you even respect the way others will feel.

Be alive in each moment by being present in it

Every once in a while step aside from your Life and observe yourself. As a third party. You will then discover how much you have to change for your Life to change!
We met a young lady recently who is obese, has hypertension and complained of her inability to stay focused. She said she is simply not able to prioritize and manage her time and tasks effectively. Many people are in this young lady’s situation – grappling with their home and work schedules, unable to find time for themselves, coping with lifestyle-related challenges like diabetes and hypertension and, overall, just going through the paces of Life, never really being able to live it fully! There’s only one way such people can “re-engineer” and “reinvent” themselves. They have to learn to be mindful. It’s an art – and it can be mastered with understanding and practice.
Mindfulness is the ability to be, to stay in the present moment. Many a time, we keep doing stuff – cooking, cleaning, driving, smoking or eating. We don’t concentrate on what we are doing. Our mind is elsewhere. Our activities then are just chores. Which is why we are unable to “see” that what we could be doing is “ruinous”. We know, for instance, that smoking is ruinous, over-eating is ruinous, not exercising is ruinous. But we go on doing these things. Mindlessly. Which is why observing your own Life, and viewing it dispassionately as a third party, helps. When you observe yourself you will realize how mindlessly you go through your days. You simply are going through hurried motions. You are not present in any of your actions. You are merely activity-driven. You are never in the moment. For instance, you are working overtime to send your kids to school – but never pausing to celebrate and enjoy their innocence. You are rushing to finish your bath – but are never enjoying your body. You are eating in a rush – but are not tasting and relishing your food. You are texting away madly – but are never celebrating how much smaller the world has become thanks to facebook and WhatsApp. It is only by being mindful in each moment that you can really understand what about you needs to change.
Try a simple exercise in mindfulness. Make yourself a cup of green tea. And drink it patiently enjoying every sip. Feel the tea energize you as it enters your body. Don’t let your thoughts wander. Be focused on the experience of drinking that tea. Examine how you felt while drinking it. This experience of being one with the tea, this feeling, is what mindfulness is all about. Follow this method in everything that you do. When cooking, focus on the recipe and its preparation. When driving focus on the road and the joy of navigation. When on facebook, celebrate the opportunity to connect with the world, your world. Every time your mind wanders, to a past event and makes you feel guilty or to a future event and makes you anxious, bring it back to attend on whatever you are doing now. Remember the human mind is like the human body. It will resist any change first. But repeatedly bringing the mind back to focus on the present, you can train it to let go of the past and to not indulge in the future.
When you are fully present in each moment, you are alive in it. It is only then that you are living the moment fully. When you live each moment fully, you will realize its value. And through this realization, you will be able to transform yourself – your work, your schedules, your health and your Life!

Guilt detains – so drop it and move on!

Guilt, however justified it may be, must be avoided. Because it cripples and holds you hostage.
Sometimes we make mistakes in Life that we do realize were avoidable. In fact, in retrospect, when realization dawns, every mistake seems avoidable. Realization, always, brings guilt in its wake. This is when we must be aware and drop the guilt. We often confuse feeling guilty with a sense of feeling responsible. The truth however is that feeling guilty for long periods of time can be depressing and can cripple us – preventing progress. On the other hand, feeling responsible about or for something brings with it a sense of accountability and helps us take immediate, cognitive action to remedy the situation.
But some situations may not be immediately remediable. A friend writes in saying he made a judgment error in quitting his last job. Now, even while he’s struggling without a job for over six months, he’s drowning in a sea of guilt. Without an income and a family to support, he has become depressive and is very scared of the future. He keeps repeating that he should not have quit his last job in a huff. This is what guilt can do to you. It will keep you chained to the past. Also your ego, which will fuel that feeling that you must atone for your sins, will blind you. This way you will miss the completely magnificent present. A situation like the one my friend is facing is unpredictable – it may sort itself out with him getting a job soon or his career can stagnate this way for a long, long time. Holding on to guilt till the situation gets better is wasting a crucial opportunity to live Life fully. Interestingly, feeling guilty about a situation cannot remedy it. Only concrete, constructive action can.
When you feel guilty about something you have done, look at the situation deeply. Ask yourself could you have avoided doing what you did or could you have done something different. Once you realize that you could have avoided doing what you did, first forgive yourself for having done that. Resolve that you will not repeat this mistake again. Then reach out and apologize to all people connected with or affected by your action. Whether they forgive you or not is immaterial – you apologize. If you can’t face them, send them a text message or an email or a note. Beyond this, don’t retain your guilt. Retaining your guilt detains. Drop your guilt instead and move on. Know that everyone makes mistakes. And that mistakes are experiences from which you can learn. As long as you have learnt from it, the mistake you have made, no matter what it was, has served its purpose in your Life.
Life is too short and beautiful to be brooding over and feeling guilty. Instead drop your guilt, come alive, take charge and make every effort to change the situation. No matter how long it takes to turn things around, remember, you have no choice but to be at it. And, without doubt, you can be better at the task of repairing your Life, in any context, when you are free from guilt.