Lose yourself to creation and you will never be lost in Life!

In everyone’s Life, there will come a time, when you feel lost. You don’t know where your career is headed. Or what’s happening to your relationship. You feel you are doing too many things, are busy all the time, but don’t find time for yourself. There’s this emptiness in you. Sometimes you feel unhappy. Sometimes you feel nothing. You just feel you are missing something although you can’t say what it is. Everything you do is weighing you down. There’s a reluctance with which you are living.

Such living is not living in the truest sense. It is merely existing!

The truth is that there is a cosmic conspiracy to make you happy. But you miss it because you are so full of yourself. And you imagine instead that just the opposite is true __ that there is a cosmic conspiracy to make you unhappy, when, in reality, there is no such design! The reason why you imagine that the Universe contributes to your unhappiness, your emptiness, your reluctance to live fully, to your ‘merely existing’ state, is that you attach too much importance to yourself. All the time you are fearing how your Life will end up. And such constant thinking, that fear, that anxiety, clearly inhibits your ability to live freely, fully.

In Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Hindi classic Anand (1971 – Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna), there’s a patient (played by Asit Sen) who keeps visiting Dr.Prakash Kulkarni (Ramesh Deo) with some imagined ailment or the other. The man is really not sick. He is just imagining his conditions. Dr.Kulkarni keeps treating him and keeps getting paid a fee for each visit. Dr.Bhaskar Banerjee (Amitabh Bachchan), a good friend and colleague of Dr.Kulkarni, protests this ‘malpractice’. He chides his friend Dr.Kulkarni for feecing an innocent patient. Dr.Kulkarni defends his position admirably. He says (something to this effect), “I have not conspired to make the man ill or feed his imaginations. His problem is not that he imagines too much. His problem is that he loves being sick.”

So do we! We love being clueless, being lost in Life! We love feeling empty, unhappy, worried and fearful of everything in Life. Pining for a new Life seems to be more fashionable than doing something about creating that Life! If everything is going right per our expectations, we worry about how long this run will last; and if everything is not right, we worry about how long more it will take for the tide to turn. We doubt simple, unconnected events, harmless intentions of people around us and live in fear and anxiety of how it will all add up in the end.  

The antidote to such a phase, the only circuit breaker available to snap out of this vicious, self-destructive cycle, the only way to repair, revive and recharge yourself, is to lose yourself to creation. 

Try this: Lose yourself to a sunrise or walk in the rain. Feel the ground beneath your feet. Look at a flower. Hear the bird songs, look at your child sleeping peacefully, hold your companion’s hand, watch a tree laden with fruit…..do any of these or your own. But for a full minute. In that minute, as long as you have lost yourself to creation, I promise you, there will be no unhappiness, no worry, no turmoil in you. The Cosmic Design has a unique feature that only makes all of creation happy. But to experience that you have to learn to lose yourself. You have rid yourself of yourself, of your thought and immerse your Self in the beauty of this Universe.

When you fight with creation, the Universal whole, you are bound to lose. In your emptiness you are actually feeling the sense of futility of an unequal battle. You have everything material, but you don’t have the most priceless of the Universe’s offerings, available free, 24×7, perennially __ happiness. On the other hand, when you have surrendered to creation, immersed in it, lost yourself to it, you may find happiness even if you have nothing material. You may well have found your true Self! It is unbelievable. But this is the only way it works. This is no rocket science. It works simply because the human form is an expression of the Universal energy.  Logically therefore, Bliss, really, truly, is a by-product of losing yourself to creation!

Indecisiveness breeds Unhappiness

Be decisive. If you love something, just do it. Or if you can’t do it now, at least, stop grieving!

All of us are born with a sense of adventure. We have grown up burning our fingers while touching a flame. We have dropped jars and broken them, sometimes injuring ourselves, while trying to help ourselves to some delicious cookies. We have often strayed away from our parents, curious to explore what lay beyond the obvious in a shopping mall or a movie theater. We have tried to understand our sexuality in our own unique way and experimented with relationships. So, there’s been a time when each of us has been wild and risk-taking.

So, why are we different as we grow older? Why does our spirit of adventure, thirst to explore diminish with advancing years?

My own learning is that age has nothing much to do with this. Insecurity does. Because there are enough and more stories of people who started late in Life and conquered new horizons. Take Captain Krishnan Nair of Leela Hotels for instance. He started his entrepreneurial career, in an, to him, unknown industry__hospitality__at age 60! And in the last 30 years he has made the Leela brand a gold standard for service excellence in that space. So, for the someone who wants to try out something new, there is no such thing as an appropriate time. But a majority do not want to leave their comfort zones. Because change is always scary!

I caught up with a friend after about 10 years yesterday. He shared how he had tried his hand at business and lost money. He said that he would love to try doing business again, now that he was older and wiser, but he worried for his financial security. “Saala, this EMI (monthly financial commitments to a mortgage or an unsecured loan) scares the s**t out of you and pins you down!” he declared with visible anguish.

There are many people who are caught in this trap. Of believing that they are crippled by their financial commitments. I believe this is a very biased and skewed view of Life. You take on a financial commitment with a view to accomplish a goal. Maybe buy a house. Or a car. Or educate your child. Or to invest in a business. Nobody makes a long-term financial decision without either a goal or a definitive return on investment planned out. So, if you have made the choice to commit yourself financially__which is, to put it bluntly, enslave yourself to a monthly pay-out plan__then why grieve over something which you are unable to do and can do ONLY when you are not having money on your mind? Let’s say you want to make films. But you work for a software company and are earning well. And you have financial commitments to fulfill for another 10 years. Then, why are you grieving that you can’t join the film-making business and work as Assistant Director to any top filmmaker? You can’t do that because films, like any industry, does not pay well as you start. Or if you really want to be in films and can’t take your software job anymore, then have the courage and creativity to find a solution to your fulfilling your financial commitment, get out of your job and go join films. The key is to choose. To decide. And one of the first decisions you must make is to stop grieving!

Not all decisions will work in your favor though. Sometimes, you will come crashing, landing on your face. But such is Life. It is better to have chosen, decided, tried and failed, than to be mournful and be grieving that you wish you had taken the plunge!

Take the plunge or shut up. Just don’t grieve. Because, Life’s essence is to be happy. And, almost always, indecisiveness breeds unhappiness. So, to be happy, simply decide. One way or the other. Lo and behold! You will then be happy!

True Happiness lies in immersing yourself in what you Love doing!

To be truly happy, just immerse yourself in what you love doing! Then, and only then, will your work become your play and your prayer!

We are both responsible and accountable for our happiness in Life! We have too often lived our lives the way others wanted us to live them. Over the years, conditioned by societal norms and family expectations, we have just grown biologically. For the same reasons, to be fair, we have worked towards professional and financial security. And have raised families because it was the logical thing to do once we got out of academic pursuits and became employed!  Yet, how many of us are doing what we love doing?

Have the personal courage to ask yourself these all-important questions:

     Are you happy doing what you are doing for a living now?

     Are you living or are you earning a living?

     If you had someone pay all your bills, and if you didn’t have to earn a living,  
      what would you have liked to be living for?

These answers you give yourself, honestly, are the only ones that can change your Life! Because when you know, and you accept, what can make you truly happy__that’s half the battle won. Happiness cannot be pursued. It has to be found. And you will find it, here and now, if you remove all the conditions in your Life that are making you unhappy. When those conditions disappear, happiness appears. It is as simple as that!

But how do you leave a lucrative job, that comforts you with security, gives you a societal edge and take up something you love, no doubt, but is hardly likely to reward you financially, in the beginning at least? This is where intelligent living comes in. You start a journey of a thousand miles, by taking the first step.

And that first step is to invest just 5 minutes a day doing what you love doing. One of the principal reasons people don’t switch to doing what they love doing is because they are too caught up doing things all day that they loathe doing! But 5 minutes is not a bad deal. However busy you are running your rat race, you can take a 5-minute-break and that shouldn’t hurt anyone, least of all you. In those 5 minutes, do what you love doing __ reading, writing, painting, composing music, researching, cooking, whatever! You will discover a rare peace in you in those 5 precious minutes. You will want those 5 minutes to never end. So, extend the tenure of that daily activity by 5 more minutes. Keep feeling joyful and keep extending the tenure as you graduate through this experience and exercise! Soon, in about a quarter, you will have created a daily window of your own ‘Happy Hour’!

Imagine from being frustrated with your Life, bemoaning the lack of joy in what you were doing, you have a full ‘Happy Hour’ daily to do what you love doing! And that’s 30 ‘Happy Hours’ in a month. If you are an artist, you could complete a masterpiece in that time. And if you are a writer you could perhaps complete a chapter of your book in that time!

If you are smart, as all people usually are, you may look at how many ‘Happy Hours’, over how many years, will you need to make that career switch from being a high-paid unhappy professional to being a well-earning, happy individual. And once you know your math, you simply go after the opportunity!

Even as I was thinking about this important link between what we do and happiness, I chanced upon these simple, yet enlightening, perspectives.

1.     One is from the latest issue of Harvard Business Review. HBR asks David McCullough, two time Pulitzer Prize Winner and author of biographies on two US Presidents, Truman and John Adams, what he thinks about retiring. McCullough, now 79, replies: “I’ve just started writing a book on Paris and the birth of aviation, and I can’t wait to get out of bed every morning. When the founders (of the US of A) wrote about Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, they didn’t mean longer vacations and more comfortable hammocks. They meant the pursuit of learning. The pursuit of improvement and learning. In hard work is happiness.

2.     The other is from the latest issue of TIME. TIME asks Hollywood star and former California Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, now 66, his views on his retirement. And he replies: “You would never see me retire because I have a great time doing what I’m doing. Why would I all of a sudden stop? It doesn’t sound normal.

Think about it. If you are not having a great time doing what you are doing, take the 5 minute daily plunge and move toward creating your own ‘Happy Hours’. Because only you are responsible__and accountable__for your happiness! The truth also is that nobody else can ever be happy for you!

Lessons in Equanimity from a waiter!

It is from acceptance that equanimity comes. 

Often we see people who have been exceptionally courageous in Life – in just accepting Life for what it is stoically. Karambir Kang, the General Manager of the Taj Mahal Hotel, Mumbai, who lost his wife and two children to the 26/11 terror attacks at his hotel in 2008, is a case in point. We are quick to conclude that these are people who are extraordinary. Importantly, we overlook that they were and are ordinary folks who just chose to live Life as it came to them. The tag of extraordinariness is what we, the people who see them from the outside, have given them.

I have had a fairly rough morning today. Several things didn’t go to a plan. People were increasingly irritable and driving me up the wall. More than a few times, I lost my cool. 

Then, in a desperate bid to gather myself and find equanimity, I followed Thich Naht Hahn’s three-step process. I smiled. I watched my breathing. And I slowed down my mind that was racing in different, mostly irrelevant, directions.

I looked at my checklist for the day. And I shifted my attention to a piece of paper on my desk. It was the bill of a coffee shop that I frequent. On the rear of the bill were a couple of phone numbers that the waiter there had written last evening. I wanted to enter those numbers in a place I could find them when I needed them.

Calvin Lunmangte: “Will love what I get”
The waiter’s name is Calvin Lunmangte. He is a Manipuri from a village near Imphal. Last evening he came up to me, smiled his characteristic smile, and bid goodbye. He declared that he was leaving the coffee shop and the city forever. He said he was returning to Manipur to take care of his father’s business, a retail garment store.

“I am unhappy but I have accepted it,” said Calvin with a tinge of sadness in his voice..

‘Why are you unhappy?” I asked.

“Well I never wanted to be doing business. I like this job. I love meeting people. I like this city. My child goes to a good playschool here. My wife has a good job in a parlor here. Where I am going back to, in my village, there are no job opportunities. There’s a lot of militant activity there. But I have no choice. I have to take care of my aged parents. My father wants me to come and run his business,” he explained.

“Is there no way in which you can convince your dad?” I asked hopefully.

“He is too attached to Manipur. He won’t relocate. Then I realize that some things in Life will never happen your way. You only have to accept what comes to you. So, I am sad. But my sadness will go away once I go home and immerse myself in what I have to do with the business. If I can’t do what I love doing, I will love what I have to do,” he answered with amazing clarity of perspective. As he said this, I noticed that the sadness in his tone was now replaced with equanimity. He spoke slowly, peacefully.

This morning as I held the bill with his numbers on the rear, I reflected on what I had learned from Calvin. You may not always get what you want – from Life, from people. But you can always want what you get! And, as I have often discovered, this acceptance, wanting what you get, is what happiness is all about!

Over the years that I have known Calvin, I recollected this morning sitting at my desk, I had never found him irritated with Life or complaining. Being in a front-end service role, as a waiter, it was obviously difficult for him to meet all expectations. Many a day I have seen him chasing his tail. Taking orders, fetching stuff from the kitchen, seating guests, settling their checks and often also being at the receiving end of an irate guest or handling a bunch of temperamental teenagers, possibly half his age! He did all this and more without the slightest hesitation and with a smile always. Some days when I was busy, immersed in my writing or reading, he would quietly come up to me, excuse himself and remind me that I had not eaten or drunk anything in hours. When I would say I don’t feel like it just now, he would say, “You must eat, Sir. At least drink a soup. You can’t work when you are hungry.”

Karambir Kang’s grim tragedy or my trivial upheavals of the morning or Calvin’s Life-altering career decision may not be comparable given the varying magnitudes of their contexts. But the principle of equanimity applies to all of them uniformly. And Calvin’s extraordinary attitude is inspiring. Also because he is so very ordinary. He reminds us that there is hope for all of us ordinary folks. There is a certain compassion about him that is genuine. He’s probably half my age but has taught me an important lesson – to go with the flow of Life, to accept what is given gracefully. Truly, that is the secret of equanimity! Important also is the fact that equanimity does not mean you will not feel unhappy. It means you will transcend unhappiness and find peace beyond it. That’s when, as the Buddha said, “Equanimity will make you imperturbable.”