Wear your Life on your sleeve

Don’t fear being vulnerable. Be true. When you are true, primarily to yourself and then to whatever you believe in, then you need no defense. And nothing, no one, can touch you!

Often times in Life, we fear that people will exploit us. That they will want to “use” our vulnerability to their advantage. While conceptually, in a world where everyone is fighting to win at the cost of someone else, this may appear to be true, in reality this is hardly so. The world is not infested with blood and flesh thirsty sharks and vultures as we imagine. But is inhabited by perfectly normal, compassionate, beautiful, loving people__just like you and me. So, when you wear your Life on your sleeve, when you expose your stark vulnerability, you will discover how kind people really are.

I have often found that saying things as they are, the truth, always helps. It may lead to people drawing different meanings from what you say. But Life is not about inferences and interpretations. Because when you bring in either inference or interpretation, then you are bringing in logic. And there’s no logic to and in Life. Life is about experiences. And people are going through experiences similar to yours, or they have already been there, all the time.

When you are vulnerable, you are willing to face Life. And face the consequences. Even death perhaps. When you are in that state, you are never insecure. Insecurity comes when you fear that you will lose something __ your position, your status, your title, your wealth, your reputation or your Life. At times, you may fear losing someone. But if you are past that fear, then your vulnerability is an asset, never a liability. Of course, chances are that there may be a few exploiters who will step into the ring. But face them. When you look them in the eye, they will step back. Exploitation cannot stand the brilliant gaze of truth. Exploiters can never face the courageous. When someone whose weapon is fear, recognizes you are fearless, then he or she becomes fearful. This is how Life works!

Try this in any situation you are faced with currently. Whatever you have wanted to say or do, if you have held it back because you thought of yourself as becoming vulnerable, go do exactly that now. Watch what happens. How much ever you may think it to be potentially disadvantageous, you will always find that your being true leads the world around you to be true as well. Remember this: you cannot live in fear, you can merely exist. To live fully, you have to wear your Life on your sleeve.

Lessons from Hansie Cronje: Only the Truth can set you Free!


The truth, and only the truth, can set you free!

All of us make mistakes in Life. Sometimes we succumb to temptations. No one who has lived on this planet has led a mistake-free Life. The big and mighty are no exceptions. When an unknown or lesser-known person slips, his immediate circle of influence are the ones that try him or her, pass judgment, and/or forgive her or him. When a person with a larger-than-Life image makes a mistake, the world tries her or him.

When you are being tried by the opinion of others, when you make a mistake, some of that trial may be what you deserve. Obviously, you caused the conditions, with your adventurous streak, your lack of discretion, your plain foolishness or your guile, that led to your trial. But a good portion of your trial by people, either those in your circle of influence or general public, depending on who you are, may be based on their perceptions of the truth. In almost all such instances, when you have erred in judgment, and have wittingly or otherwise, ending up wronging someone, it is best to own up. Just confess to your transgression, whatever it may be, and tell the truth, the absolute truth, as you know it.

The truth may make the already bad situation worse. But it will set you free and give you the energy and the peace to face the situation.

In recent times in India, I have admired (with no comment on the nature of his deviant actions or their impact) how Satyam’s Ramalinga Raju has actually handled his fall from grace. People say he had no choice. Maybe they are right. But it requires great personal courage to own up a mistake, especially if you did it willfully, and be willing to face the consequences__whatever they may be.

Last night I watched a very unique and lesser-known movie called ‘Hansie’ which is based on the true story of celebrated and controversial South African cricket captain Hansie Cronje. The movie, made in 2008 by his brother Frans Cronje and directed by Regardt van den Bergh, tells the story of Hansie’s rise and fall powerfully. The synopsis on the DVD’s back cover and the movie’s Wiki Page have this to say:

“How do you start over once you have betrayed a nation’s trust?” The news of Hansie Cronjé’s involvement with Indian bookmakers and his resulting public confession rocked the international sporting community. An unprecedented rise to glory was followed by the most horrific fall. A tarnished hero fueled the nation’s fury. Hansie, once South African cricket’s golden boy, had been stripped of everything he had held dear: a glorious captaincy, the support of his former team mates and the respect of a nation. In its place the stinging rejection of cricket administrators and the humiliating dissection of his life on international television, made his retreat into depression inevitable. Hansie’s bravest moment in finally confessing his involvement with bookies had suddenly become a tightening noose around his neck.”

To be sure, Hansie Cronje, at the peak of his stardom as independent, post-apartheid, South Africa’s most successful cricket captain, received money from bookmakers, in return for information. And when Indian police in April 2000 revealed his links, and those of other South African cricketers, with Indian bookmakers, Hansie came clean in front of the King Commission, constituted by the South African government and its Cricket Board, and confessed to his mistakes, accepted having been dishonest, but reiterated that he had “never thrown a match in return for the bookmakers’ payments” to him.

Hansie Cronje at the King Commission hearings (left) and the movie DVD (right)
The movie shows poignantly how a man, who speaks the truth, has to deal with its unimaginable, irreversible, repercussions. Hansie, played admirably by Frank Rautenbach, is dubbed a ‘criminal’ by a large section of the South African United Cricket Board, banished by the international cricket community and has to also deal with his own demons. He is consumed by enormous guilt, has fearful nightmares each time he tries to sleep and can’t even face himself in the mirror. His wife Bertha, played beautifully by Sarah Thomson, and his family are his only support. But he grieves endlessly that he has let them down to. The shame, the remorse, the fall from personal grace is both palpable, as the story unfolds, and wrecks Hansie personally.

Then goaded by Bertha, Hanise goes to meet his mentor on the Cricket Board, Peter (I am unable to presently recollect his full name or find it online). Peter receives him with open arms.

A still devastated, even 18 months after his public confession, Hansie, who is a devout Christian, breaks down on seeing Peter and asks him: “Will God ever forgive me?”

Peter’s remarkably enlightening and mature response is something like this (my recollection): “I believe God forgave you on the day you confessed. You now need to forgive yourself. You have told the truth. But in your clinging on to your guilt, you are enslaving yourself. Feel free. Feel liberated. It is immaterial how people see your truth. The only person who knows you didn’t throw matches for money is you. And that’s all that matters. If this is the truth, stop feeling guilty. You have shown extraordinary courage by telling the truth. Now show it again by living with it, irrespective of what people think or say of you and your truth.”

Hansie gets it! And starts over again. His inner peace helps him find his own, true Self. Magically, he discovers, people around him and the public of South Africa at large, still revere him as their hero. Not just for the great cricketer and the captain that he once was but for the courageous human being he now is. At a football match at his alma mater, Drew College in Bloemfontein, where his teacher invites him to be the Chief Guest, Hansie is overwhelmed when he receives as standing ovation from all students, parents and teachers.

He realizes that the truth has indeed set him free.

Sadly though, his eventful and beautiful Life, was cut short on June 1, 2002, when the plane he was traveling in crashed in the Outeniqua mountains due to inclement weather. At his funeral, his mentor Peter offers a fitting eulogy (as I recall): “Hansie’s truth set him free and has delivered unto him a peace and joy, now (in his death), that is beyond the comprehension of us humans.” Interestingly, South Africans, in 2004, voted Hansie as the 11th greatest South African ever in their country’s history!

So, when you are in the eye of a storm, especially when caused by your own questionable actions, saying the truth, as you know it, may, undoubtedly, make the situation worse. You may invite unprecedented, often hostile, reactions from unknown quarters. But still choose to say the truth. And live with it. Because it will set you free. And where the soul tastes freedom, it finds bliss!

Follow your intuition to arrive at your bliss!


There is nothing wrong in being reasonable, being rational and approaching Life with logic. But there will be times in Life, when what’s happening to you will defy logic, appear to be irrational and reason will cease to apply.

When all reasoning fails, simply accept Life for what it is and operate from your intuition. Each of us has an innate intuitive ability which we normally hesitate to use. Intuition works from within. It is based on what is. But our scientific conditioning leads us to time and again, dump the intuition, abandon what is, and keep seeking what should be! 

So your definition of success too is based on rationality. How much have you made in terms of assets, what position do you have in society, do you have enough cash to live a cushy Life? It is such a logical thing. If you have been around so many years, earning, and if you are an intelligent, capable person, then you must be having so much built up in your savings and investments. Now what if you have years of experience behind you, are intelligent, sincere, hardworking, and have nothing with you? Then per the world definition of success, you are a zero. A failure. You can heed that reasonable argument and give up on Life or you can look within and, now, start living! That’s when your intuition will kick in and tell you that the best kept secret about living is to live in surrender. In acceptance of what is.

This awakening is what happened to King Alexander too. He arrived in India, with his army and was about to enter the country. There at the border he found a man, with flowing beard, in his loin cloth, in deep meditation. Alexander was amused that someone could be so blissful and so peaceful doing ‘nothing’. He spoke to the man.

Alexander asked, “Are you not wasting your time? You look capable to me. Why do you sit like this wasting your time and talent away?”

The man replied: “And what else can I do and why?”

Alexander said: “You can do so many things. You can lead a far more productive Life. Look at me. I have conquered the whole world and have all the riches and all the power that my money and position can buy. And now I have come to conquer your land too!”

The man smiled and said: “And pray what will you do when you have nothing more to conquer?”

Alexander quickly shot back: “I hope that happens soon. Then I will also sit under a tree and blissfully, peacefully meditate.”

The man looked serene, glowing, as he replied, asking a defining question: “So, do you now see why I am doing what I am doing?

Intuition, the ability to relate to the real, to the Truth, to what is, is embedded in our DNA. In the mindless material chase that we set out on, thanks to our conditioning, a lot of success is defined by what you amass, accumulate, display and have to ‘spend’. By the worldly view, Buddha was a beggar, who squandered his emperorship. He could have been so successful leading men and women, as a King. But instead he threw it all away and sat under a tree in contemplation. But he did what he did because Buddha’s intuitive side overtook his logical side. And his intuition took him to the truth. And the truth took him to inner joy and happiness, to bliss.   

I am not advocating that we should abhor the worldly view. Just remember that the worldly view of success built on rational, reasonable, logical thinking can only ensure success of one kind. It cannot ensure happiness. And sometimes when Life’s design works differently for you, no reason, no logic, no rational thinking can save you. Only your intuition can. And when you think of your Life intuitively, then and then alone, will you be in bliss. Will you be a Buddha yourself.

That’s no small achievement. That’s a far more lasting, profound form of success. Isn’t that what Alexander wanted for himself too after he had finished with all his material conquests? So, when you can’t do the regular stuff__be successful per world standards__do the intuitive. It will get you to where you truly belong__surer and faster!

 

Don’t intellectualize Life, just live it!


You can’t intellectualize Life. You can only live it.

And the best way to live is to see from your soul. From the real core of your being. When you open your soul, you will see the light.

You are really not what you think you are __ you are not your name or body or qualification or your job! You are the Universe’s energy that’s powering you, and is actually powering all of creation. This isn’t complex at all. Every thing that’s happening to you and has happened or will happen in the future, is transient. Which is why in Indian culture, we refer to Life as ‘maya’ or as an illusion. So, in the end, this entire lifetime will be over, this experience you have had will end, but you soul will go on.

All your problems, worries, anxieties, fear, suffering come when you intellectualize Life. I have no money, what will I do? I am starting a new job, what will happen if I don’t fit into the new place’s culture? I have cancer and I will die soon. All these are intellectual responses. You have been conditioned to believe that you need money to live. That you cannot survive cancer. That people are unkind and that you must be wary of them in general. The soul has no such issues. It is impregnable. Nothing can touch it. If you understand your true Self, and see from your soul, you will live Life. And not merely exist.

Swami Ramakrishna Paramhamsa explains this very well. He was asked: “What is the logical, rational support for your illumination?” The question really was to understand what as the evidence for Ramakrishna’s enlightenment. He replied: “I am the argument. If you can understand me, if you can feel me you will know my illumination. It is radiating but your eyes are closed. Now I am not responsible for your eyes. If you want to know me, open your eyes — and not only the outward eyes but the inward too, because my illumination is of the inner.”

So it is with each of us. Our souls are closed. We operate as if our excel sheets and smart phones and our decisions make our lives happen. The truth is that Life makes our lifetimes happen. We don’t! If we accept this reality, Life will be simpler and much, much, much more beautiful!

When you pause for a while and watch lazy raindrops fall rhythmically on water puddles, when you see a baby sleeping peacefully with no care about the world around it, when you hear the bleating of a goat, when you see the sun magically disappear over the horizon, when you reflect on your breathing…..in those times, your soul will be open. The key is to make this experience consistently repeatable. And that can happen ONLY when intellectualization stops and living begins!
                                                                                                                                                                                          

Don’t let anyone disturb your Inner Peace


Say it as it is. Be in-the-face. Be truthful. Fundamentally, don’t allow anyone or anything to disturb your inner peace.

Specifically this also means don’t cling on to relationships where you are unhappy. When you work towards pleasing someone in a relationship, at the cost of your own peace, you are actually suffering. And nothing ever__including a close relationship__is worth if it is born out of_or at the cost of__your suffering.

In every relationship draw your boundaries. It is perfectly alright to outline what works for you and what does not. Most of us fail to draw up these contours and therefore end up in grief when there are moral, emotional or physical transgressions. Ideally, of course, if there is pure, undiluted love and sharing there is no need for such boundary-setting. The problem occurs when there is a transgression. At the first such instance, it is always advisable to place on the table candidly what works for you and what does not. When we fail to do that, we allow for a repeat of the same, irksome or unacceptable behavior. When we do that, we cross a temporary chasm of raw emotion, but enter into a perpetual state of peace and harmony. This applies in all relationships__spouses, parent-child, boss-subordinate, neighbors, siblings.

To be truthful means to be authentic. You are peaceful only when you are authentic, are true to yourself. When you say something which you don’t mean, and yet say it to be nice, your grief, your inner turmoil, takes its toll on you. Your peace is disturbed. In those moments, hours, days, weeks, months and years, of being untrue__to yourself__you have been dying several hundred thousand times.

Examine your Life. This could have happened to you sometime surely or it could be happening to you just now. It is never too late. Be courageous. Embrace the truth. Be true to yourself. Candor’s biggest contribution to Life are invaluable: trust, peace and joy! Try it. You will find that it works__wonders!

To solve a problem, first accept it!

Refusing to look at a problem, or denying its existence, cannot make your Life any simpler.


All what you suffer from comes from what you deny. Facing Life and taking a problem head on is what can make you solve it and live in peace.


But we invariably don’t like to exorcise our demons. We somehow have become comfortable suffering, feeling tormented, preferring to stay debilitated than feeling liberated. Because continuing to be miserable seems far more easier than having to work hard to rid ourselves of what makes us miserable!


I met someone yesterday after a couple of years. He, in his own opinion, was financially ‘very well off’. Yet he found his Life ‘incomplete’. He spent entire days, daily, in a prominent five-star hotel’s bar, literally being there from the time it opened to when it closed! He lamented to me that his wife no longer loved him and all she wanted was ‘his credit card and a certain sum of cash monthly for her shopping sprees’. His 24-year-old son, though married, was not exactly doing anything significant and ‘lived off’ his dad. His daughter was the only one who understood him but their relationship too in recent years had come under stress. She wanted to go overseas for higher studies but he was insistent that she marry now because that was the norm in his ‘community’. He said to me, in a tone reflective of a defeated man, “I have lost it in Life. I have done no wrong. Yet everyone around me has let me down. I am suffering. I wish I could die.”


I laughed at him and looked him in the eye. And said: “My friend, you are the problem. For as far as I know you, you have been drinking entire days for years now. You have a drinking problem – spurred by a lack of purpose in your Life. There’s enough and more money. So, because you don’t know how to be useful and productive, you are indulging in something that has already ruined your family Life and is on the verge of consuming you.”


My friend suddenly turned hostile. He ended our meeting and drove away drunk in his car, despite my request and protests to engage a taxi leaving his car behind.


I wish he understood that unless he faced the brutal reality of his Life, he may really be unable to make it any better.


Just as my friend has a problem, each of us has. All of us like to deny whatever is our problem__ranging from a relationship to a lousy job to a ruinous habit__hoping that time will take care of it! This is one area where no one can help you than you, yourself!  

But facing the truth is scary. How does one see the reality?


Good question. And so, it is with all situations, with all of humanity, with all aspects of Life! Fundamentally, if you know what you want out of your Life, you can go find that Life and recreate, reinvent yourself. But if you don’t know what you want, how can anyone help you? This question is not as profound as many people make it out to be. It is a dumb question. Even a person with low IQ can answer it __ by approaching it the other way, by knowing, for starters, what you don’t want in your Life! Because the answer is that nobody, definitely not you, wants to suffer. Since you don’t want to suffer or be miserable why do anything, or accept any situation that accentuates your suffering?

The only way to solve a problem is to accept it exists. And to look it in the face and lead the change yourself. There are no two ways in which you can change your current realities or end your suffering!


So, if you are feeling miserable about anything__or anyone__in Life, sit down and introspect. Diligently make a list of actions that you must take to end your misery. Resolve to do it. And just get down to doing it. Don’t give yourself the license to make excuses. Resolving to do it from the New Year is an excuse straightaway! So, don’t kid yourself!

Remember what Andy Law, maverick creative thinker and head of The Law Firm, says, “Unless you are prepared to give up something valuable you will never be able to truly change at all, because you’ll be forever in the control of things you can’t give up.”