Feeling incomplete and restless? Don’t try connecting the dots!

There will be times in Life when everything will seem so unstuck, so unsure, so unpredictable. Whenever you feel this way, don’t let it all cook within you – just turn around and go to sleep!
Last night when I lay down to sleep, I felt the same way myself.
I had been watching Rang De Basanti(Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, 2006) for the umpteenth time on TV – somehow the move never tires you out; it instead grows on you. In the wake of the Chennai Floods, every issue that DJ and his friends raise in the movie, made me feel very disturbed. Since there is a strong apprehension among most people in Chennai that the floods were a result of poor decision-making by the authorities concerned, issues like lack of accountability, leadership and collective public action to challenge and change status quo – magnified by the RDBviewing – made me restless. And then there is our enduring bankruptcy and the uncertain future looming large: of dealing with every day – practical, survival-related – challenges as 2016 arrives. We are yet to begin repaying our debt and the discomfort of living with – and in – such a seemingly-endless situation is immense. Our daughter’s graduate studies are coming up in 2016 and our son has a niggling medical condition that needs attention. My end of the family still chooses to remain estranged, while we don’t have the means yet to financially reciprocate all the day-to-day support that Vaani’s end of the family provides us.
Phew! Sometimes, I just wish that all this incompleteness – and the restlessness it causes – simply dissolves. Yes, I am human too.
That’s when I recalled a learning that my college mate from Kerala, Rajmohan Pillai, of the Beta Group, had shared with me some years ago. He had told me, while buying me and Vaani a multigrain sub at a Subway in Nungambakkam, Chennai: “Vaani and AVIS, don’t try to solve all your problems all at once. You simply can’t. Just be at them, just be; and over time, they will all get resolved.” I never understood the import of what Rajmohan was teaching us when he first said this. But over the years, I have greatly valued his advice.
So, I just turned off the TV and went to sleep. I slept well.
My practice of mouna (daily silence periods) and my spiritual evolution has helped me realize the futility of worrying. So, last night, I wasn’t worrying. Yes those worrisome thoughts were arising. But I was choosing to remain unaffected by them. Yet, there is an incompleteness I felt. And, from experience, let me tell you feeling incomplete at such times is very natural. The human mind craves for so much control on Life situations. But Life is more powerful. She can never quite be tamed. We often don’t understand this truth about Life and respond to such incompleteness in one of two – or both – ways: we worry and/or we connect the dots of all that is wrong with our Life and magnify a pimple to look like a tumor! Both responses are futile – worrying cannot solve problems and linking all your problems up only confounds an already complex situation!
The best way, I have learnt, is to switch off the mind when it goes into an overdrive on either – or both – fronts. To switch off the mind, you must just live in the present. The mind can only thrive when it is generating thoughts from the dead past or predicting the unknown future. In the present the mind is powerless. Last night, since even my attempt to be in the present – watching RDB – turned out to be disturbing me, I simply went to sleep. And I believe there’s nothing wrong with that choice. Let’s understand that each problem in Life is unique. Each one has a tenure. No problem in your Life – or mine – is going away unless it has served its time – and purpose! So, when you can’t solve a problem with your (human) intellect, agonizing over it is of no use. You simply have to try again – and again and again and again – with a fresh perspective, with renewed energy and vigor.
As I go down to work on my Life and its myriad, incomplete, situations, I wish you too luck. If we can’t immediately solve our problems, let’s at least avoid connecting the dots and making everything seem menacing and scary! This is the only way to inner peace and strength when you are in the throes of a storm!

Don’t seek a perfect solution – there isn’t one!

No solution is ever going to be the perfect one for any problem. So, don’t despair.
Just attempt a solution and stay anchored in faith, humility and patience. Think about it. There is genius embedded in each of us. We know the solution to every problem we are faced with. But we end up applying way too much logic (too much academic education is a handicap here!) to our approach to finding solutions. We debate within ourselves on whether it will work, what if something unseen crops up, how that will affect other constituencies and such. This how we end up diluting our initial enthusiasm to solve the problem with debilitating arguments. Result: we don’t pursue attempting the solution.

This is why we are unable to deal with most of our Life situations efficiently – from losing weight to giving up a habit to pursuing a career that we dream of or to ending a relationship that is not working out. The way to end this conundrum is to follow your heart. Apply logic, but don’t be swept away by logic along. Allow what you feel about the situation to contribute to your solution. Remember that the imperfection in any solution that you foresee can be overcome with your sense of integrity to make a difference to the situation in front of you. Stay with the action always. Leave the result and outcome to the higher energy that surrounds us all.

Apply the Twitter logic: define your problems within 140 characters

Kiss your problems away.

A simple approach worth trying is to apply the Twitter formula to your__any__problem situation: If you can describe it in 140 characters or less, you have got a way out! Most of the time we tend to blow problems out of proportion by adding too much data, too much analysis, too much reason, too much emotion and too much fear to it! Think of some situations. You have had a bad morning__kids acting cranky, morning rush hour traffic, a flat tyre and an incomplete presentation before the crucial meeting starts. Your boss balks at you. You feel like a worm. You start imagining this is a worthless, thankless Life. You carry your grumpy feeling home. You snap at your kids. You ignore your spouse. You wish you could die. The next day, same scenario, with some added thrills, twists and turns, plays out. You are giving up! So your well-meaning colleague asks you to share. You say that you should never have got married in the first place. Or had the kids early. Or that that you shouldn’t be working because you can’t manage this stress. But you need the money. And then there are the loans. The EMIs. And then there’s the older one’s college tuition fee responsibility coming up. Oh! God, there’s no way out! You lament, perhaps, break down, hold your colleague’s hand, say your thank you, and rush because it is time to pick up the kids from school. So, what’s your problem? Marriage? Kids? Job? Simple: “You are unable to manage your time.”  And all you need to do is to get help to manage your multiple tasks or get out of some activities (like give up the job if you can afford not to have one) or just stop cribbing.

To imagine that your entire Life’s a pain is completely futile! Or take another situation. You are self-employed. Run a small business. Clients are not paying up. But you need to keep the business going. You borrow. Interest rates, over the years, are hurting you. You take to smoking and drinking to handle your stress. Things go into a spiral. Losses. Client and employee attrition. Plus your destructive habits. You fear you will die. And the family will be on the street. So, to drown that fear, you drink more! You think everyone is ganging up against you. You feel Life is conspiring to fix you. What’s your problem? “You need help running your business.” That’s it. Not that you are a bad businessman or a bad employer or that you are inefficient. It is just a phase in Life. And unless you bring in help __ to either restructure your Firm financially (infuse working capital) or remodel your business __ you will be in this situation. And yes, you must help yourself by giving up your destructive habits! 

Apply this Twitter-focus to any situation to Life __ relationships, health, family, social, community, career __ anywhere. It will work. Theodore Rubin, an American psychiatrist and author, says, “The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem.” All of us dramatize situations in our Life. Resultantly, we are unable to state or define our problems simply and objectively. This, therefore, delays__or, often times, even denies__problem resolution. Keeping definitions of the problems we face simple__within 140 characters__makes them less painful to endure and far easier to solve. Keep It Simple to Solve—KISS your problems away

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!

Focus on the issue, never on the person

Focus on the issue on hand. Never on the people connected with it or on the sentiments that they express.

Life’s full of challenges. Some of them involve the interactions we have with people. There are some whom we can never escape immediately. Like a short-tempered boss. Or a temperamental adolescent. Or a depressive spouse. Or an irritating neighbor. When we start wondering why is someone behaving in such a manner, we lose the plot__and therefore the opportunity to seek a resolution or find a win-win platform for both parties. Know that people are different. And it is in people’s nature to be the way they are. Each of us is created differently. And so is the person you are having a challenge interacting with. So, if you look at the person and grieve saying she or he does not meet your expectation, it is an exercise in futility. For example, if you expect your boss to be polite and dignified with you__when he is incapable of such niceties__you will suffer. Instead understand that the issue you have is with the way you are being treated. And if you don’t like it, you must find yourself a new boss! Meaning, a new job. Simple! Don’t grieve over the current one. Similarly, a teenager behaving irresponsibly at home is reflective of her adolescence and not a sign of any disrespect to you nor is this pointing to your failing in your duty to bring her up well.

There’s a saying in cricket: “Play the ball, not the bowler.” And we will all do well to remember this in all situations in Life. When we respect the issue, the situation, and give it all the attention it deserves, irrespective of who is causing it, we will always find solutions __ and peace!

Joy has to be experienced in and with what is!

If you are confused about Life, you are normal. And you are not alone.
Everyone is confused about Life at some time or the other. Some even spend an entire lifetime being confused. If you are confused about the reason for your creation not being known to you, relax. If you are confused about your career or why a certain relationship is not working out, chill. If you are confused why your child does not behave the way you want her to, just let go. So, don’t try to demystify Life. Don’t try to apply complex formulae to solve this puzzle. Someone aptly said: “Confusion is like fertilizer. It feels like crap in the beginning, but nothing can grow without it.” 

On the other hand, try to go beyond the confusion and simplify Life. By finding joy in what you have instead of pining for and chasing what you don’t have. Know that joy cannot be pursued. It has to be experienced in and with what is! By making simple, yet important choices: If you don’t know why you are here on this planet, stop vexing over it. Know that your creation has a purpose and it will find you soon. If you don’t like what you are doing, don’t do it. Simple. But stop agonizing over the possible fallout of your decision or stop cribbing about your job. Any problem in Life has to be dealt with straight and simply. With problems there are only two ways; you can either solve a problem or you can’t solve it! If you can solve a problem, why worry about it? And when you can’t solve a problem, why worry about it again? Just learn to accept it as there is no point in complaining about it. See, now, isn’t Life clear and simple? 

Learn to get better at dealing with problems

Your problems do have expiry dates – except you don’t know what they are! So the best you can do is to endure your problems patiently and, over time, get better at dealing with them.
When a problem lingers on, it is but natural to feel frustrated and depressed with the situation. After all, who wants a cancer that cannot be cured or who wants to be out of job for months on end or who wants a messy relationship that shows no signs of resolving? But feeling depressed because you have an enduring problem is of no use. It’s definitely not going to make your problem go away!
What you must realize is that, surely, each of your problems will end one day. The new problem however is that you can never have an idea when each one will end. So, the best way to deal with problems is to be patient, accept them for what they are, and keep relentlessly chipping away at them, trying to find solutions. Over time, even if your problem remains unresolved, you would have at least got better learning to deal with them. The other reality is that when one problem goes away another will appear – sooner than later. Such is the nature of Life. You can’t ever expect a phase in your Life when you will have no problems.

Living intelligently is really the art of being happy despite your problems, despite your circumstances. That art, like any other, can be developed with consistent practice. A deeper awareness of the impermanence of everything, including Life itself, definitely helps. So, stop wanting to either solve all your problems or wanting to know when you can be rid of them. Just do what you can do best in every (problem) situation; over time, watch yourself getting better at dealing with your Life and your problems, and simply be happy! 

Don’t complain about the unsolvable; just deal with it in acceptance!

Not all of Life’s problems can be solved. Because they are not meant to be solved. They are meant to be dealt with.

Dealing with Life, while accepting it for what it is, is a much better approach than trying to solve the unsolvable. How do you solve the death of a dear one? How do you solve the inability to relate with someone? How do you solve a rare form of pancreatic cancer? How do you solve the agony of a family of three, whose 40-year-old son is going through a severe depression, the father is on a catheter and the mother is immobile because of a nervous disorder? The truth is: everyone really gets what’s their share in Life. And some of what may be given in Life, by Life, may be the unsolvable. And dealing with the situation, by the moment, by the day, is always better that grieving about it endlessly. Because the unsolvable will not be amenable to reason, solution and resolution. It is ALWAYS what it is.

Jalaluddin Rumi, the 13th Century Persian poet’s collection of spiritual discourses is called “Fihi Ma Fihi” (It is what it is!). In one of his discourses, he asks,”If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?” The import is that it is Life’s nature to throw us into the deep end, untethered, and it is in our spirit, and best interests, to deal with Life, with forbearance, with stoicism, with acceptance. And when we emerge from each ordeal, we come radiant, shining from the inner recesses of our soul! Deal, therefore, with Life in acceptance and don’t try to solve the unsolvable. That’s living intelligently!