Remain unmoved to stay unscathed

Just as it is important not to get bogged down by failure, it is equally, perhaps more, critical not to get carried away by success.
M S Dhoni: Unmoved
At the presentation ceremony of the ICC Champions Trophy at Edgbaston, Birmingham, two nights ago, former England captain and Star Cricket’s anchor Nasser Hussain asked India captain M.S.Dhoni: “The T20 World Cup, the ICC World Cup and now the Champions Trophy….you have seen and got them all. What would you want next?”
Embarrassed and smiling, Dhoni, in his characteristic down-to-earth, grounded, style, replied: “I am not here to prove to anyone how good I am. My focus is on the game. We are off to the West Indies from here and we will be keen to put in our best there and work as a team.”
Many observers and commentators have been amazed with Dhoni’s unflappable leadership and his ability to remain calm in a crisis. I feel the biggest reason why he continues to be successful is the because he doesn’t get all that he’s achieved go to his head. He doesn’t let defeat affect him either. And that’s a remarkable quality. An ability. Something each of us can consider, reflect upon and try internalizing.
Think about it. In this lifetime, which has been given to us without our asking for it, there are many things that will happen to us. There are many experiences that we will go through. Some of them will work to a plan. And we will start imagining we caused or created them. Some will happen to us without any effort from us. And sometimes things will simply happen – causing us pain, joy, grief, suffering and often leaving us numbed, shocked, defeated, delighted or humbled. Osho, the Master, invites us to consider the example of the wheel. He says a wheel moves. While its center remains unmoved. So, if your Life were a wheel, with its own fair share of ups and downs, you, the real you, your center, your soul, must remain unmoved. Only this state of staying unmoved, despite whatever is happening to you, can keep you perpetually blissful! The best way to respond to Life is to remain unmoved – by joy or by sorrow, by victory or by defeat. Then, and only then, can you hope to get through this lifetime, unscathed!

A part of your Life’s gone with the moment

No matter what, the moment that you miss will never come back. In all your years here on this planet, if you can recall only a few moments of your Life as memorable, then the truth is that you probably lived ONLY in those moments. All the other time, you may have merely been existing.
The reason why most days of our lives are not memorable is because we are caught up with our worries, fears, insecurities and anxieties. We fail to see the mystical beauty of Life in our weary, dreary, troubled moments. We have somehow got conditioned to this thinking, and therefore have an expectation, that Life must go the way we have planned for it.. Despite ample evidence and our own individual experiences pointing to the opposite, we still secretly hope and fervently believe that our lives will ride smoothly. And then, when it doesn’t happen that way, we brood and agonize over the way our Life is. Or we become zombies – mechanically running from home to work, and from work to home, without pausing to even think why we are doing what we are doing!
I recall a simple Zen story. A minister asked Takuan, a Zen teacher, to suggest how he might pass the time. He felt his days very long attending his office and sitting stiffly to receive the homage of others.
Takuan wrote eight Chinese characters and gave them to the man:
Not twice this day

Inch time foot gem.

This day will not come again.
Each minute is worth a priceless gem.

No moment will come back again. Irrespective of what’s happening. Sometimes, when you observe your grief (based on what people, events, circumstances have done to you) closely, intensely, you will discover a rare beauty in it. And that beauty is there because your grief is real. It is a pointer to how alive you are. Happiness, beauty and living in the moment are not concepts that follow your evolution and growth as a person. You grow and evolve only because you embrace these concepts, imbibe their lessons and live your Life based on them.
The nature of Life is to be ever-straddling the two worlds of joy and sorrow. And you can do that, finding joy even in your sorrow, if you learn to cherish each moment __and live it, love it intimately, because no moment is ever going to come back.

From nonsense to non-tense living


Living completely requires you to be non-tense. Which is you must not allow anxiety, worry, guilt, fear, anger __ in fact anything that makes you tense or stressed __ to affect you in any manner. To be non-tense, we must learn to drop all memories, all expectations, all desires and simply embrace the present, the NOW.

At the core of all human suffering are memories, expectations and desires. Most of the time we are saddled with painful memories of what once was. We either want to go back in time or we want to rid ourselves of the pain and suffering we have been through. But how can you get rid of anything that you cling on to? Then there are our expectations. We expect that all our integrity and hard work is always rewarded. That all our wants are always met. When that does not always happen, as it may possibly not, you agonize. Then there are our desires. For a future that is not yet visible. We want Life of a particular order. We don’t know if it will happen or not. So we worry about the possibilities, about the odds, all the time.

To avoid all this suffering, you need to do three things:

  • Stop living in your past __ and the memories will no longer come back to haunt you
  • Expect nothing – simply receive what you get, with joy, with humility, in acceptance
  • Desire nothing – In the absence of desires, think about it, there will be no future to worry about

Earlier this week a friend from the hospitality industry pinged me. He frantically wanted some advice. He lived and worked out of a South Asian country and served in one of the most premium beach resorts there as an Assistant Manager. His wife and one-year-old daughter live in India. He said he had been to India on vacation until 10 days ago. And confessed he was very homesick. He had stopped enjoying his work because he wanted to be living together with his family. His wife was not too keen on leaving India for another South Asian country and preferred moving to the Americas, if at all. To compound matters, his company had overlooked him for a promotion. He was disillusioned and wanted to quit his job and get back to India. He said he wanted to do something to make his situation better. We chatted a bit on Skype. Here are snatches from the conversation.

Me: How does quitting become the “something” you want to do to make your situation better?

Him: At least it will get me back to being with the family!

Me: Oh! So, you don’t need to be earning right now to support your family?

Him: No. No. I do need to be earning. I have not much savings, so, yes, I need to keep my job.

Me: Then how does quitting the one you have help?

Him: I am so frustrated. I just think quitting will help.

Me: Since you ask, let me tell you, you must not be quitting, but must create value in whatever work you do.

Him: Create value in a job for an employer who does not value me and has passed me over in the recent appraisals? I don’t get you!

Me: The employer has passed you over. That does not stop you from creating value. Yes, you probably need to find a lasting solution to your twin problems of a. living with your family and b. finding an employer that values you. But clearly quitting is not the way forward. Accept first that you are not living with your family now. So, let go of the immediate past, your vacation, that haunts you and makes you homesick. Accept also that your employer does not value you the way you would like to be. So, drop that expectation totally. And think of what best you can do every day. You can probably make your tenure as an Assistant Manager invaluable by creating value in your role every moment from now on! Just do that. Because that opportunity is in your control.

Him: So, what do I do about getting another job? Are you saying I don’t try at all?

Me: That doesn’t mean you should not try! Of course, just as you can create value in your role every day, you can apply to new positions every day. But do both these things without delving too much into the past or without worrying about the future. Work without pressure….work immersing yourself in the present, in the opportunity available to you, to create value!

That was my friend’s story. He signed off promising he would think over our conversation. Yesterday he pinged me again saying he had had a candid conversation with his current boss __ the one who had overlooked him for a promotion. And he said he kind of understood now the rationale behind his appraisal being the way it was. He declared that he was a lot more peaceful now. He said: “When you accept things for the way they are, you are no longer tense about how they will be or over how they once were.”

Honestly, I did not expect such a meditative point of view from my friend. But so deep has been his learning – he discovered the power of non-tense living! And I share it with you.

Your own Life situation may be different. But a non-tense way of looking at it may help you create value too than just acting in haste, and emotionally, in times when you don’t get what you want. A non-tense Life is always more fulfilling, more practical, more peaceful, because it is based on the only reality, the only truth available to each of us __ which is, the NOW! When you are not in the now, you are actually dealing with a lot of nonsense – emotions like worry, fear, anxiety, anger, that waste your now away. If you are focused on the now, on the other hand, there is no past, there is no future. There just is, what is. And so, in the present, there is no tension of what was or what will be. So, there will be no more wasteful emotions, literally, no nonsense!

Here’s hoping you live a truly non-tense day today!


Be a willing loser, be ‘fanaa’ about Life


In the Urdu language there’s a word called ‘fanaa’ which, I believe, means ‘annihilation’ or ‘to be annihilated’ in a Sufi context. In chaste Urdu it means to be ‘destroyed in love’, which is, to be ‘willing to be annihilated in (your) love for someone or something’. This morning I thought of this word. In the context of Life.

There will be times when Life will bring you to a point from where you will see no way forward. You will face an impregnable wall. Fear of, anger and hatred for, the situation will overtake any other sensible response you may still find brewing inside you. Yet, at such times, break free from anger, fear and hatred. Be willing instead to be destroyed by Life. Surrender yourself to the situation and let it take you to wherever you must logically__per Life’s design__end up. Just be ‘fanaa’ about the Life you have been given at that moment. And then watch the magic!

While we all understand detachment, having grown up hearing about, witnessing, learning from, Life, we seldom are able to bring it into play in our own Life situations. Because detachment cannot be practiced when you are still attached, when you are in possession. You may know what it means, but true understanding of what detachment really means or entails, you will get only when you lose something__whatever__that you are clinging on to in Life. So, when you are losing a Life battle __ losing someone you love to a misunderstanding, or death, or losing your money, your assets, your health __ be a willing loser. Be happy with the loss. Because while there may be a physical loss, often irreplaceable if it is a person, you are actually gaining an invaluable experience. You are learning a lesson in detachment through the loss. What is the worst that can happen when you are facing a grave situation in Life? You can die. Or you may lose some (a person or a thing) more?  Expunge your fear by recognizing that this Life was given to you without your asking for it. So, why cling on to your preferences or wants of how you want Life to treat you?

Actually, Life creates all of us to be free, to be in bliss. How many of us remember suffering when we were infants, before we turned 5, for example? Do you remember worrying, being anxious, angry, hurt, insulted or in grief? That freedom is our true state. That is the state we have been blessed with by creation. It is we, as we grow in Life, who create and invite problems into our lives. Soon, when the problems, become unsolvable, we blame Life. And as a result of such pointless, mindless blaming, we suffer!

There’s a story of Gautama, the Buddha, that I remember. One day the Buddha comes to his morning discourse carrying a handkerchief. It appears to be a costly one – perhaps some king has presented it to him. But everyone knows he does not accept such gifts, so everybody is looking, and thinking, what is the matter with the Buddha?

Gautama comes and sits, and keeping the handkerchief in his hand, says to his followers, ”Look very carefully.”

They all look. There is nothing to look at. It is just a beautiful silken handkerchief. And then the Buddha starts putting knots in the handkerchief – he puts five knots in it. There is a curious silence in the hall… everybody is simply watching what he is doing. Then the Buddha asks them, “Is this the same handkerchief, the same one that I had brought with me, or is it a different handkerchief?”

Sariputta, one of his chief disciples, stands up and says, “Why are you joking with us, O! Holy One? This is the same handkerchief” The Buddha says, “Sariputta, think again – because the handkerchief that I brought had no knots, and this one now has five knots. How can this be the same?”

Sariputta immediately sees the point. He says, “I am sorry. I do understand. Although it is the same handkerchief now it is in a very knotted condition – such as a man in anguish. He is the same man; a man in suffering is the same man that was born but now, one who is in knots.”

The Buddha replies, “Exactly. That’s what I want to show to you: that the man who is suffering is not different from Gautama, the Buddha. I am just a handkerchief without knots. You are a handkerchief with five knots.”

Of course the Buddha’s philosophy is of five basic problems that trouble man: violence, greed, untruthfulness, unawareness, and the ego. Each of us end up adding our own knots to these basic five – we may add fear, jealousy, anger, guilt, suffering, sorrow and several such. When our problems, the ones we have created, land us in a knotty mess, it is not a time to think of an end-game. You may be losing something material, but don’t think of losing the game of Life. Awaken instead to a higher level of consciousness through the experience. You may have been growing in Life so far, but by being a willing loser, you can actually grow up! When you hit a dead end, you can actually wake up from that impact. Think of the Buddha’s handkerchief in such times. And instead of hating that moment, be willing to be destroyed by Life. Be ‘fanaa’ about Life. And then watch the magic. You will actually become free. Because when you realize that you are responsible for your knots, for your problems, and are willing to live__and die__with the Life that’s coming at you, to you, you will really start living!

Indeed, you cannot be serious about Life!


A key factor that inhibits progress on the spiritual path is our tendency to take Life too seriously. Everything that we do, it appears, seems to key us up. Every small conquest seems to be a moment to claim superiority and every failure is seen as a numbing, lethal, final blow! So much so, when a hard-earned victory comes our way, we fritter away the moment in showmanship and bury ourselves under a heap of unsolicited critique and free opinion, when we fumble and fall.

So, it was with great interest that I read noted columnist Nirmal Shekar’s views on Indian cricket captain M.S.Dhoni in yesterday’s Hindu. Celebrating Dhoni’s legendary equanimity, Shekar made a case for sportspersons having the ‘right perspective’ to their game. That perspective, wrote Shekar, is to understand that a game is just a game. “…Sport is not really a matter of life and death. Sport is enjoyable only so long as we can get our perspective right and put it in its place, put it where it really belongs in the big picture. If we let it become too important, then what was sought as a pleasurable experience will turn out to be a pain.”

I completely agree with both of Shekar’s views: on Dhoni’s attitude to the game and on the nature of sport itself.

My two-penny worth learning from this lifetime’s experience so far is that Life is no different. In Life too the right perspective is very important. And we must place ourselves, and our perspective, where they belong in the big picture. Else what could well be a pleasurable experience may well turn out to be a pain!!!

The past week, I have been limping around, literally, owing to a nagging, painful condition in my right leg. Even a small step forward, at times, requires a big effort. I felt, at several times, crippled unable to carry out my routine normally __ like a bath, or driving, or going out for my daily walk. However, on my visit to the hospital the other day for a review with the doctor, I found a young lady seated on a wheel-chair. She seemed fine, for all practical purposes, laughing and joking with her family and nurses. So, I even wondered what she was doing seated cross-legged on a wheel-chair. Only when I looked closely did I realize that all her limbs were deformed. She didn’t have legs to speak of! Her lower limbs had shrunk abnormally owing to either a disease or birth deformity. Her hands were not normally formed either and her fingers seemed to be sticking out, without a palm, on both hands. I reflected on her spirit. And on my condition. I felt ashamed about the brouhaha I was creating over it! The right perspective and its place in the big picture fell in place immediately. I laughed to myself, much to the surprise of the nurse attending on me. When she insisted I tell her what the joke was, I said, “This leg, this painful condition, is the biggest joke! I find it absolutely funny!”

So it is with everything in Life! What seems like a grave problem momentarily, over a period of time, surely turns out to be laughing matter!  The key, I believe, is not to get keyed up about Life. The operative word and sentiment here is equanimity. Equanimity is simply the ability to deal with both success and failure, victory and defeat, joy and sorrow, hope and despair, dispassionately. Dhoni has it. You too can. The second chapter of the Bhagavad Gitaends with the highest state of consciousness a human being can attain. Krishna, replying to Arjuna, says: “…He lives in wisdom…Who sees himself in all and all in him…. He is not elated by good fortune…Nor depressed by bad…Such is the seer…!”

Whatever you are going through, take it easy! This Monday resist the temptation to get wound up any further. Invoke the right perspective and place it where it belongs in the big picture. To quote Swami Sathya Sai Baba, “Don’t we sometimes wake up from a dream, ponder over our conquests and defeat in our sleep-state, and shrug it all off thinking ‘it was but a dream’? We need to bring the same approach to Life as well. Because this lifetime is nothing but a dream.” Indeed. Maybe you will not understand, appreciate or accept this perspective just yet. But, may be you will at the end of your journey on this planet. Just maybe. That you really cannot or should not (have ever been) be serious about Life!

When’s your bougainvillea moment going to be?


In reality, Life is pretty simple. And there’s beauty in its every moment. 

 

 

However we make it complex by worrying, fearing, grieving and rushing through it __ so we miss the magic in each moment!

 

 

They blushed at me from across the street

Pause. Close your eyes. And feel your breathing. Feel your heart beat. Hear the clock tick. Get up, walk over to your balcony and look out on to the street. Wait for a while and identify the most beautiful thing you see. I just did that. And I saw a burst of bougainvillea blushing at me from across the street. It’s a huge affair. But I had never noticed it until this morning. I am grateful I did. Because it made me come alive.

 

 

We often take many things for granted. Yesterday, my daughter suffered a ligament tear in her left foot, landing badly after attempting a mid-air split during her dance rehearsals. She’s out of action for at least a week and off dancing, which is her Life, for over four weeks. As she limped around, writhing in pain, I realized how ungrateful we are to our feet. Our cars receive more attention than our feet who have been with us longer and continue to serve us without protest, carrying our entire weight!

 

 

The way we behave, and the way we distribute our attention, is so unfair. For every problem we face, we have perhaps a 100 other reasons to celebrate. But our problems receive our biggest attention. Somehow, the fickle human mind loves misery. So, we celebrate our sorrows. Always thinking about what isn’t and feeling woeful about Life. Lamenting is convenient. It requires no effort. The mind can and will go on and on and on telling you that you don’t have this or that. Grief, to us, comes naturally!

Being happy, on the other hand, is hard work. You have to labor to take your mind off fearing and worrying to be happy. It is not that being sad is bad. When things don’t go your way, you will feel sad. But to berate yourself and live in a perpetually sorrowful state is sacrilege. That’s really when gratitude can help. When you are thankful for what you have, what you don’t have loses its relevance. Christopher Reeve (1952-2004), the man who played Superman, before he became a quadriplegic in 1995, after which he was consigned to a wheelchair and had to have a breathing apparatus, had this to say: “Some people are walking around with full use of their bodies and they’re more paralyzed than I am.

Indeed. We are paralyzed by our insecurities, desires and anxieties. As American author Cynthia Ozick says, “We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.” If only we spent a little time each day, to connect with Life, like my bougainvillea moment of this morning, we will see how simple, and how beautiful, Life really is. So, when’s your bougainvillea moment going to be?

The true meaning of Life is being free — so let Life simply be!


The true meaning of Life is being free!

And to be free you must just let everything be. When you wish that things were different is when the shackles of pain, agony, suffering, sorrow, guilt, anger, jealousy, remorse and fear imprison you. 

How do you let it, or anything, be?

This question has be answered with understanding why it is being asked in the first place. What is the difficulty in letting things be? One clear idea can be that if you don’t do something about some situation, you will have abdicated responsibility. Or if you don’t do something, something worse will happen. Or that you may grieve later that possibly you could have done something. So, for these reasons and perhaps a few more, you will find it difficult to let things be! And you want to get back into control.

Let’s also be clear about what situations call for action and which ones call for letting them be. Your house is on fire, obviously, you can call the fire service. Your teenage child is taking to drugs. Surely you can counsel him and take him to a de-addiction center and work on getting him back. So, you act when you can act and must act. No issues. But there may be situations in Life when you cannot do anything. Someone close to you is dead. What action can you take to bring the person back to Life? So, let it be. Or someone is seriously ill. The doctors are trying. But they too say only a miracle can save her. What can you do to work that miracle. The best you can do is to let it be. Or a relationship is suffering because someone is hell bent on interpreting whatever you say. You have clarified, apologized, fallen at their feet, but the person keeps on bludgeoning you. What can you do? You want the situation to heal, but what can you do? Healing takes time. So, you just let it be. Or you try your best to resurrect a failed business and your Life, but every single attempt meets with zero success. It’s not that you lack talent or purpose or values or ethics. But still the business doesn’t happen. Money just refuses to come to you. You have tried getting an employment but nobody even wants to meet you, let alone hire you. What do you do? Other than letting it be, do you have a choice? So, when you have tried everything and nothing works, while you may still want to try newer approaches to dealing with a Life situation, you just let it be. 

When you let things be, the mind will make matters worse. It will remind you that you are doing nothing about a grave situation. It will amplify every small fear into something draconian, gruesome. But fear has to be dealt with head-on by facing it. Only then can you overcome it. Once you have crossed the threshold of fear, all other emotions become manageable. If you are not scared of what will happen, how can worry even exist? When the future doesn’t worry you why will the past haunt you anymore? Your entire being slips into just being.

So, to practice letting things be, take stock of your Life:

1.   Make a two lists: areas that you can act on and areas you cannot

2.   Act on all areas that you believe there are options available to act on

3.  And on those areas where you can’t do anything anymore, where you don’t have any more options left, just let them be. Watch your emotions as they obsess with you. Meet them head-on. Only that way will you transcend them.

4.   When you transcend your emotions, beginning first with fear, you will slip into just being

5.  This may take days, weeks, months, years, but only through continuous practice can you arrive at that state of just letting your Life be

6.   And once you have let it be, you have given up the need to become, you are NOW free!

That’s how you experience true freedom. Freedom means a certain inexplicable blitheness of the spirit. You feel alive – because fear, anger, worry, guilt, everything, every guest who was residing in you, holding you in their grasp, has taken leave. The house is empty. And what resides there is a lot of air and light. It’s pure. It’s beautiful. And that is what the true meaning of Life is __ being free, unshackled, unencumbered, detached, being alive.

To rid yourself of your negativity, go to the source within!


Learning to deal with emotions you don’t want in you, requires a deeper understanding of yourself. You are the source of all your joy, your miseries, your habits and your overall attitude to Life.

Fundamentally, no one wants to be angry or sad, worrisome or anxious, fearful or complaining. Ask anyone and you will be told that all they want is to be happy. Yet why do the other emotions come into play?

The simplest way to understand this is to know yourself. Let’s say someone did something nasty to you. Broke your trust, or cheated you or conspired against you. Then your entire system erupts in response and emotions like anger and hatred come to the fore. “How dare you?” and “Let me teach you a lesson!” are the manifestations of these emotions. And you project your anger or hatred on that person or on that object. That is really of no use. Because while that person will perish, at times, unable to bear your shower of negativity, the source also gets scarred. And the source is you. So, if you want to check your emotions, go to the source. This happens also when you are sad. Someone dies. And you feel sad. You feel infinitely sad for days, weeks, months. The person who died is no longer there, the object of your grief is absent. But you keep on projecting your emotion on your memories. These emotional projections are like cinematic projections. They are magnified and become larger that you! They rule you, possess you only because you allow them to. For them to become inconsequential, you must go to the source. And that source is within you, not in the object that you project your emotions on. So, if you want to get rid of your anger or sorrow or fears or anxiety, stop focusing on what triggered it and focus inside you, on what’s continuing to cause it! You will need to turn off the projector if you want to stop the projection!

We are doing this projection business all the time. With a variety of emotions. In India people go to the beach for various reasons early in the morning. A jogger sees the rising sun in the Bay of Bengal and feels refreshed and energized. A child sees it and is excited about wanting to make sand castles. A man sprinkling the ashes of his dear father who he has just died the previous evening, wonders sadly, fearfully, anxiously, how the first day of his Life without his father will be. A lady looks at the sun and later at the sea, which appears surreptitiously calm, fearfully and angrily wondering how it will react the next moment – because that has been her experience with the tsunami of 2004 when she lost her entire family! The fact is that the sun and the sea are the same. It is the same sun and sea that people are seeing. But each one’s projection is different.

So the hatred, the sorrow, the fear, the worrying about that comes out on to objects that are causing you to behave that way are actually a reflection of how you are at the source. Some part of you dies each time you express yourself with any of these negative, debilitating emotions.

That’s why in Buddhism, everyone is encouraged to be a Buddha. And a Buddha is about compassion. In being unmoved by what’s coming at him or her, the Buddha projects compassion, because she or he is compassionate at the core. To reach that state, we only have one way, to understand who we are. We are all centers of love. If we bail out all the negativity in us, what will be left is love. Become that center of love, and you will be unmoved. In fact, you will attract everyone in the Universe, just as a magnet does.

Osho, the Master, often shared this marvelous Zen story: “One of the greatest of Zen Masters, Lin Chi, used to say, “While I was young I was very fascinated by boating. I had one small boat, and I would go on the lake alone. For hours together I would remain there.” Once it happened that with closed eyes I was in my boat meditating on the beautiful night. One empty boat came floating downstream and struck my boat. My eyes were closed, so I thought, ‘Someone is here with his boat, and he has struck my boat.’ Anger arose. I opened my eyes and I was just going to say something to that man in anger, then I realized that the boat was empty. Then there was no way to move. To whom could I express the anger? The boat was empty. It was just floating downstream, and it had come and struck my boat. So there was nothing to do. There was no possibility to project the anger on an empty boat.” So Lin Chi said, “I closed my eyes. The anger was there, but finding no way out, I closed my eyes and just floated backward with the anger. And that empty boat became my realization. I came to a point within myself in that silent night. That empty boat was my Master. And now if someone comes and insults me, I laugh and I say, ‘This boat is also empty.’ I close my eyes and I go within.””

Maybe you may want to use this technique of the empty boat. It works miraculously!

Life’s nature is to go up and down!


Life’s nature is full of duality. What’s up will go down soon. And what’s down will go up too.

When we don’t understand this duality and refuse to go with the flow of Life, we will grieve, suffer and agonize over every twist in our Life’s tale!

The Master Forlorn
This is not a comment on the man or his decision. This is just a presentation of a case in point. Just look at the venerable Sachin Tendulkar, the master of the game. Look at how pale shadow he has become of his own original great self! Writing in The Hindu this morning, Vijay Lokapally, observes painfully: “The master’s dismissal, against England here on Friday, was a poignant moment for those who have watched him conquer batting peaks that none dreamt of. His state is that of a singer who has lost his voice, an artist his brush or a soldier his gun. Or, precisely, of a Tendulkar who has lost his bat. Bowled off an inside edge. Not for the first time. Fifty-two times the ball has hit his stumps; 58 times the pad has come in the way. He has failed many times, but never has he appeared so helpless, so despondent…But his aggregate stands at a monumental 15,643 runs in Tests and 18,426 in one-day internationals. Had his technique and attitude been faulty, Tendulkar would not have travelled thus far. If failure has embraced him more than success this year, the reasons can be many, and different. “What if he is getting bowled? It is another mode of dismissal,” former great Bishan Singh Bedi would insist. True. It is just another mode of dismissal, this one triggered from a spot that jagged the ball in by a bowler brought back into the attack with a specific plan. Tendulkar, 39, nearly collapsed as the ball crashed into the stumps. He recovered and trudged back to the dressing room, leaving a trail of sadness. The introspection of his dismissal was best left to him, the greatest batsman the game has seen.”

So, this is not an analysis of Tendulkar as much as a perspective on Life itself. Get used to this truth: what may once appear invincible will be humbled. And the meek shall conquer. This is the way Life works. With a peculiar, inscrutable madness. This will happen to every single person that walked the planet. And you__and I__are no exceptions.

So how does one deal with Life? By just living it!

Living simply means that Life will give you problems, challenges and pain. Whether you like it or not! Now you can do nothing about what comes at you. But you can do everything within your means to ensure you don’t grieve, agonize or suffer over what comes. You can live without suffering anything: a bad relationship, an ailment or injury, emotional stress, poor or even zero income, poor form or injustice. You, in fact, are responsible for all your suffering. Suffering comes from wishing, pining and insisting that things were different. Acceptance is an antidote for suffering. Give up insisting and start accepting what has come your way. You won’t suffer. 
Know at the same time that what causes you pain now will fade away with time. It will eventually be replaced with extraordinary and boundless joy. Only, in some more time, for the whole cycle of Life to be repeated again. 

As former US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice said, “Life is full of surprises and and serendipity. Being open to unexpected turns in the road is an important part of success. If you try to plan every step, you may miss those wonderful twists and turns. Just find your next adventure_do it well, enjoy it_and then, not now, think about what comes next.”


Life Really Is A Mind Game


Life really is a mind game. And you need to be on top of the game to live your Life fully!
The human mind is an amazing, to use a Gen Y term, App! It can do more things than even your iPhone or the fastest supercomputer on the planet ever can! The key is to use it effectively, efficiently and point it to whatever you want out of your Life.  
Examine each of your feelings. Worry, guilt, anger, jealousy, sorrow, pain, suffering __ all of them are born out of your mind. Have you ever asked yourself why do these feelings arise? Let’s take a case. You lose your job. And are out of money. You need to pay your bills. You are fearful as a new month dawns. Is the month fearful? Is the bill fearful? Is non-payment of bills fearful? Or is it that your mind tells you that a scary future awaits you? Indeed it your mind that induces feelings in you. What if someone told you__and proved to you__that non-payment of bills is moksha or nirvana or salvation or bliss?   
According to the Buddha, the mind is full of drunken monkeys who are always jumping around, aimlessly, boisterously, mischievously, cantankerously. They are noisy and there is an incessant chatter that they cause. The drunken monkeys are Buddha’s metaphor for the 60,000 thoughts that arise in your mind daily. Research has proven that the average human mind throws up 60,000 thoughts daily. And these thoughts are random. They sometimes have no relation to what you are doing. For instance, while driving to work, you may see a lady in a red dress. And that lady could remind you of a girl from your college that you once had a crush on. And soon the thoughts could move to how difficult you found Economics back then. That thought could lead you to how you cheated in exams. And then you start wondering how hypocritical it is to be counseling your adolescent child on integrity. Then you think about the lack of transparency in public Life. You think of the state of your country. And then your mind complains about how bad the roads are and how messy the traffic has become. One red dress took you, in a few seconds, on a trip that spanned several decades and various issues! 
That’s really how powerful your mind is. The Buddha also taught that it is imminently possible to tame the mind monkeys. He said don’t resist them, don’t control them, because what you resist, persists. Instead tame them. And that means give them something meaningful to play with. On a spiritual plane, giving the monkeys awareness of your true Self is a beautiful way to tame them. When your mind knows who you really are__that you are simply the energy that powers the Universe__the mind will quit playing stupid, senseless games. You will begin to see everything__EVERYTHING__as petty, transient, fleeting and inconsequential. Success, failure, sorrow and joy, will mean the same to you. On a more practical plane, taming the monkeys means giving them a higher cause, a Purpose and a Vision, to play with. Which is, when the monkeys know why they do what they do, they will do it with involvement, with passion and with diligence. Then there will be no jumping around. There will be a certain aesthetic quality to your thinking, bringing a beauty, a sense of Purpose to everything that you do! 
On Sunday, Aadya Kaktikar wrote, in The Times of India’s Crest Edition, a piece on Odissi exponent Guru Mayadhar Raut. In the article, reviewing Raut’s biography ‘Odissi Yatra’, Kaktikar asks the Guru how he has such a phenomenal memory at his ripe age of 83. And Raut replies: ‘Ye man ki ekagrata se hota hai. Ye man ek rai ki pudiya jaise hai. Yadi bikhar gaya to use phir saath lana assambhav hai’. Meaning, “This is possible due to the focus of the mind. The mind is like a bag of mustard seeds. Once the seeds scatter it is impossible to gather them again.”
Mindfulness: This is so simple and yet so profound!

That’s at the same time so simple and yet so profound. For all of us who have not tamed our mind monkeys, our thoughts are like those mustard seeds__they are all over the place. Which is why we worry, fear, are anxious, sometimes jealous, often angry and are quickly filled with suffering at the slightest hint of pain! Which is also why we don’t see the beauty, magic and miracle of Life, in everyday occurrences. 

Change your Manic Monday today to Mindful Monday! Point your mind in the direction of your true Self and on your Vision for yourself. Let nothing distract you.  
Remember as long as your thoughts, your mustard seeds are gathered and your mind monkeys stay tamed, you will be alive to the magic of each moment. It is the sum of all these awakened moments that will make up the rest of your Life! To make them memorable or keep them manic, of course, is your personal choice!