Celebrating 100 ‘Fall Like A Rose Petal’ Talks!!!
My conversation with champion of Indian art, culture and Gandhianism V.R.Devika for my ‘The Happiness Road’ Series that appears in DT Next every Sunday. Read the conversation on the DT Next page here. ‘The Happiness Road’ is also my next Book. Photo Credit: Vinodh Velayudhan
“Happiness is a decision”
Mention Devika’s name and people will relate her to Gandhi, to the charkha and to Indian art and culture. Yet, to me, Devika is a champion of intelligent living – she lives by tenets that protect her inner peace and happiness. “When I was younger, I did wallow in self-pity and succumb to worry. But some years ago, when I had to go through a biopsy to rule out cancer, I told myself that I would face whatever came my way. My condition was not malignant – thankfully. But the experience taught me to overcome uncertainty and insecurity. I made a conscious choice then to be happy no matter what the doctors were to report. Therefore, happiness is a decision you take and it is not dependent on your circumstances,” says Devika.
She firmly believes that her entire Life has been serendipitous. She lives in an apartment that has been gifted – ‘with no strings attached’ – to her by a good friend. She has travelled to many countries to deliver talks and presentations – all of them on invitation. And every time she has needed work, someone has come along and given her a project that’s cut out just right for her. “How can you be unhappy when you have so much grace, so much abundance in your Life? I know I am one of the luckiest people in the world,” she confesses. She reveals that over the past several years she has created her own way to deal with debilitating emotions like worry, anger and anxiety, whenever they come calling: “I look into the mirror and tell myself that I am not going to let such feelings linger. I shift my attention to what I have instead of focusing on what I don’t have. I constantly remind myself to be grateful and content. That’s how I sustain my happiness.”
Devika reiterates that to be happy you have to be decisive. “When I was young, I was sexually abused by a powerful member of my family, my brother-in-law (who is no more). For years I pitied myself and lived in fear. But when I was in my 40s, I came out and told my family about it. Almost immediately, I stopped pitying myself. The secret to happiness lies in stepping out of whatever makes you unhappy,” she explains.
“Be decisive, be happy!” – that’s my key takeaway from the conversation. Surely, it’s yours too!
You are confident when you simply are who you love being.
A young man came to meet me some days ago. He confessed that he has low self-esteem. And that, he said, was forcing him to be tentative in almost all situations. Often this tentativeness was translating into insecurity and fear. He wanted to know how he could be more confident of himself.
The only way to be confident of yourself is to not bother about what people have to say. Simple. If there’s something you have to do, go do it. When you do something, when you present yourself to the world, naturally, there will be several opinions that will be thrown up about you and what you have to say or do. If you fear those opinions, you will be tentative, therefore, you will lack confidence. Over time, this tentativeness will cripple you. You will become phobic – not wanting to express yourself freely and fearing judgment all the time.
The way to deal with such a situation is to first understand Life. The fact is that you are created special – you are gifted and talented in your own unique way. And this lifetime is really an opportunity to express that talent. When you don’t express yourself freely, you are not living fully. You are living an incomplete Life. This incompleteness, this lack of fulfilment is what manifests itself as a lack of self-esteem and self-confidence. Some people, like the young man I met, are acutely aware of this state; most people blunder along not knowing they are even living incomplete lives.
The way to regain self-confidence is to go do what gives you joy! Only doing what you love doing, only expressing yourself fully, freely, without inhibitions, can give you joy. And when you are truly happy, from within, then you are really not concerned about what people have to say about you. So, in essence, self-confidence lies in just being who you are. When you are the way you love being, without a care about what people think or people say, you can only be happy, you can only be confident.
Have you heard the birds sing? They sing without a care about whether anyone hears them sing or what they think. They sing because they want to sing. They sing to express themselves. The birds don’t have a self-esteem or self-confidence problem. Surely, we humans can learn from those humble birds?
Or, without appearing to trivialize the discourse, if you want to learn from another human, learn from Trump. When he tweeted ‘covfefe’, he surely didn’t bother about public opinion. He simply expressed himself. He still doesn’t care what people think of him and the word he invented! Perhaps, ‘inventing your covfefe’ can be a metaphor for being yourself and being confident!?
You can choose to be in a state of equanimity – anytime, in any context!
In response to my blogpost of yesterday, a reader wrote to me saying, “An employee who is rejected by an employer can perhaps move on and seek employment elsewhere. But what does someone do when your family rejects you?”
From personal experience I can tell you that it is not as difficult as it sounds to move on in the context of family or very close personal relationships. The opportunity to be free, liberated and live happily is available to anyone in any situation, regardless of whether the context is personal or professional. You grieve, and therefore you suffer, only because you are clinging on to what has happened. Someone has rejected you, someone has an opinion of you which is not fully based on facts, they have delivered their judgment. If you examine the situation closely, they have moved on. You are the one who is clinging on, pining and suffering, wondering why things are the way they are. But the truth is things already are – they have come to a pass; the words have been spilled, you have been hurt, now what is the point in going on lamenting about it?
When my family called me a cheat and accused me and Vaani of faking a bankruptcy, for the longest time I grieved. I could not accept my new reality that I have been judged by my own mother and siblings. (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal.) I felt devastated that I could not prove to them why their perceptions were wrong. But then, I realized, if they had genuinely wanted to understand us, they would never have doubted our integrity, no matter what perceptional evidence was stacked up against me and Vaani. Soon I saw the futility in trying to convince them of my integrity. I concluded that they don’t trust me – that’s their choice. So, I simply moved on. While I remain accountable to them on the monies I owe them, just as I am with all our other creditors, I have no inclination to discuss or settle any other matters with them. I don’t see it as necessary. And I have no angst, no hurt, no grief in me. Not anymore.
I am not saying my way is the only way of doing things in close relationships when, unfortunately, mistrust, judgment, opinion and rejection come into play. All I can tell you is that I am anchored, I am at peace – because I don’t expect anything anymore from my family. If anything, in fact, on a material plane, I feel responsible towards them.
No situation is difficult to deal with or complex enough to handle as long as you have clarity on what you want. If inner peace is what you want, then some clear, tough calls have to be taken. If you want to wallow in self-pity and flaunt your suffering, then of course, you have a different choice to make. I, for one, believe this state of equanimity is possible for anyone, anytime, in any context – you just have to choose to be non-suffering. Anything – or anyone – that causes your suffering, just weed them out!