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Forever Happy Now! Posts

Mousebaby

A 6-month old baby I know was recently bitten by a mouse.

This occurred in the middle of the night, during a torrential downpour, and when the electricity went kaput.

Sudden high pitched crying from the baby alerted its parents, who then found their own shirts to be soaked in some blood, as they quickly picked up the baby.

They didn’t know at the time that it was a mouse that bit her.

The baby cried for 10 minutes, as the shock and the pain of the bite waned off.

A couple of hours and a visit to the emergency room later, the baby was fine, laughing and playing like nothing had happened. No fear of the mouse returning. No irritation of her beautiful little finger now having a mouse’s teeth marks. No frustration for having a tiny bandage in an already tiny finger. No anger towards her family members for not having prevented the mousebite in the first place. No permanent scarring and fear of mice. All the bad forgotten, just like that.

How I wish I could put all the loathsome experiences in my days behind me with such panache!

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To do…

To do lists are awesome. They really help me get my work done, and ensure that I don’t miss anything critical.

So to do lists are great, and we’ve established that.

But you know the problem with to do lists? They are never ending. My to do lists just keep getting longer and longer. And this builds up a lot of stress and anxiety.

Therefore, here’s another kind of useful list… The ‘to-don’t’ list!

Many times, what I’m unable to do or accomplish is a direct outcome of other things I should be giving up. Like?

Here’s some to-don’ts for me. Don’t check your emails for at least an hour (did you know we check our emails on average 80 times a day?!). Don’t procrastinate. Don’t worry about the future. Don’t focus on the result. Don’t think about missing one day of your 7-days-a-week workout. Don’t worry about one cheat meal. And so it goes.

Even a short but effective to-don’t list can make a to do list really effective!

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Deification

One of the misconceptions about Hinduism that even Hindus harbour is that they think there are 300 million Gods and Goddesses and hence so many different things to ask for from each one.

This might be true to some shallow extent. But from a spiritual point of view, all the asking and begging and pleading for materialistic perishables would be utterly meaningless.

Here instead are two better ways to think about deities.

  1. Instead of focusing on our own wants all the time, we move the spotlight to the deity. This reduces our ego – and by itself perhaps a pinnacle of achievement among spiritual milestones.
  2. Instead of focusing on our own weaknesses all the time, maybe there is a way to focus on strengths? The more we think of our limitations, the more self-reinforcing they become. But visualizing a deity and its superpowers? And 300 million deities? That’s easily several billion positive traits to focus our minds on. Imagine the self-reinforcing power of that in comparison!

Anyone can make use of the power of deities. It is not superstition, but a super decision!

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Prep work

The whole world seems to focus only on success. Economic success. Monetary success. Net worth. Success in exams. Success in career. Success, success, success.

We know the opposite of success is failure right? And failure = end of the world. We’ve addressed failure and success many times here in Forever Happy Now.

But here are two very important and interesting ways to rephrase success. And to tell us, that success isn’t an event, but a journey.

  1. “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” This is a super-quote, directly from Benjamin Franklin himself.
  2. “You don’t fail in exams, you only fail in preparation.” This super-quote, I recently found on Twitter.

That’s it. Success will come, as long as the ground work is being laid. Our only focus every minute of every day, must be to keep preparing, and working, to the best of our abilities. Success will come, because where else can it go?

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Immersive

As adults, we often struggle to learn new things. It could be a new skill – usually learning to draw, learning a new instrument – or wait for it – the most favourite of them all – learning a new language!

We often try for a few hours, maybe a few days even. And then the interest levels start to go down. In languages where you have genders for objects – like a train is feminine or a bat is masculine, for a native English speaker, this can be verbal hell.

They say ‘immersion learning’ is the best form of learning. Want to learn French? Go live in the French countryside for a few months. Nobody will speak to you in English, and if you want to survive, you have no choice but to converse in French.

And then the thought strikes – “Oh how I wish I had learned this as a kid. Look at the kids all around me, they are so quick to grasp everything.” And then we give up.

I was quite surprised therefore to read, that kids are actually not very good at learning. They are certainly not better than adults. And if anything, we should have a huge head start. Then why do we struggle? Because we only read and plan, but rarely take action. But kids? They don’t know to read or plan. They only act. Watch any toddler repeat the same broken words and sentences hundreds of thousands of times, until it becomes perfect. How many times to do we repeat what we are trying to learn?

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Upside warrior

There’s a very interesting book I’ve been reading called The Way of the Wall Street Warrior by Dave Liu (link). It’s got some amazing tips and tricks on rising up the corporate ladder – quite possibly the best book that exists on this specific topic. While the title has ‘Wall Street’ in it, the book can arguably be useful in ‘Whatever Street’, as the author himself suggests.

We’ve all heard of Michael Corleone’s “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer” super statement in the epic movie The Godfather.

Dave goes one step further, and integrates his own learnings, i.e. there’s no point having enemies. Instead, have only two buckets: friends, and very good friends!

Why? Because having enemies is hard work. You’ve to constantly watch over your back. And tackling one enemy might not seem daunting. But what if they all gang up on you? Scary story. Besides, as the author asserts, having enemies means substantial downside and zero upside. But having friends? There’s only upside, even if it may not be immediately obvious.

So then, how does one go about winning friends? We’ve seen the solutions many times here on ForeverHappyNow. The smartcut from Dave? Be nice; listen more; be genuinely interested in others; try to help others – easy isn’t it?

Do read the book. It is very cool and very funny (and this is not a paid endorsement) 🙂

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Chosen two

In a satsang session a few years ago, my Guru was asked to do a quick recap of the entire Gita.

What better way, than to do it in just 4 minutes? Wow a 4-minute Gita!

He recited 1 shloka per chapter, so 18 chapters, 18 shlokas, with their meanings and application, and all extempore. It was truly a sight to behold.

For only the 2nd chapter, he recited not one, but two shlokas. 2.71 and 2.72.

To say he thinks these are important shlokas would be a massive understatement.

2.71 is vihaaya kaamaanya sarvaan. Vihaaya is giving up, kaamaan is desires, sarvaan is all. And then he recited is backwards. Sarvaan kaamaan vihaaya – All desires give up.

2.72 is similar, stating that one who achieves such state of mind, achieves liberation even at the time of death.

Each chapter has only 1 shloka that he picked. But chapter 2 alone had two. Is it important? Yes, twice as important.

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Good politics / bad politics

We all know folks who get so disgruntled with office politics and say “I will never drop to that level. I hate all this backbiting.”

For sure, dealing with office politics can be tricky. For a superior, even acknowledging that it exists can be tricky.

But the word ‘politics’ is most likely a misnomer in office situations. Or at least not completely representative of the truth.

For instance, politics is a concern for those who struggle to build and maintain relationships. On the contrary, for those with the increased ability to get along with people, politics is rarely an issue. Is there something wrong with having the increased ability to deal with people? Most work is all about dealing with people only! When most people are running to master Photoshop, Excel, Python, Matlab, Web Development and myriad other skills, the one that probably matters the most is being left out.

From our point of view, we can always try to benefit the maximum number of people with our actions. This will ensure a positive rub off from any ‘politics’. And it goes without saying, that politics of the bad kind, where the focus is one-upmanship at the expense of others, is avoidable. However, there is nothing wrong with asking for a promotion or a raise, as the effort is one’s own, and by the book. Right?

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Problematic

Verse 2.55 in the Gita is an interesting one.

But before that, do we have any problems in life? If no, then you are a jivanmukta. If yes, which should be the case for most of us, then the next questions should be – where do our problems come from?

For everyone who is working, we might unanimously think “Oh all my life’s problems come from my boss”. For those of us who are studying, we might think “Oh these darned exams. I love to study and read, but I so hate giving exams and having to compete in the mindless rat race”. For others, problems come from maybe an irritating sibling, or a friend, or a colleague, or even from certain things not going our way.

So the sources of problems can be multifarious.

But Krishna has a different take. He is saying “Hang on, all your problems, my problems, the world’s problems have only one source. And that source, is an unstable mind”.

And hence verse 2.55 says, “When one thoroughly casts off all cravings of the mind, is satisfied in the Self, through the joy of the Self, he is called one of stable mind.”

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Superior inferior

In the workplace, a common complaint I’ve heard across industries and sectors is that it appears the seniors / superiors / bosses / managers don’t really do much. They also don’t know much. But by virtue of their legacy, having warmed their chairs for many years, they get to be where they are.

How to tackle this? Here are some ways to look at this:

  1. If we are junior to someone else, we cannot control the other person’s current position or future career trajectory.
  2. We can control what we do with our hours put in at work though.
  3. In many cases, a person’s authority in a particular position comes solely because of the title. If an incompetent person is made head of the team, it is still the head only who can take certain decisions, whether bad or good.
  4. If a superior doesn’t ‘deserve’ a role, s/he may hold the position for a very long time, but the impact they will create will be negligible.
  5. If we get a chance to go into that role in say 3 years or 5 years, what would our impact be then? What would we want it to be?
  6. If the impact has to be much better, then we need to start putting in substantial efforts – from today itself.
  7. We cannot control the outcome of tomorrow, but we can control what we learn today, what skills we develop today and what networks we build today. This is most important. And it has never been easier to learn new things and add to ones repertoire – whether via Udemy, or YouTube or Coursera or any other.

As Swami Vivekananda has said, “We find ourselves in the position for which we are fit, and if one has some capacity above another, the world will find that out too.”

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Drive thru

A study recently found that the most stressful city in the world for driving is… you guessed it or maybe not… Mumbai!

Given that I’ve been living and driving here for years, I can only agree, somewhat. Only ‘somewhat’, because Mumbai is very stressful to drive in, but all of India can be really stressful to drive in too.

There’s just so many people, everyone as if waiting to just jump in front of your vehicle when you least expect it. There is also massive congestion, unexpected bovinity in the middle of highways, zero wiggle room, no rules, no lane discipline, no lanes, no signals and in general a lot of peril.

However, there are two things in my humble observation that keeps all this driving insanity remarkably orderly.

  1. Go slow (no scope for autobahn here!)
  2. But keep moving.

Going slow means you get to stop when required and not worry about hitting someone who unexpectedly shows up. By keeping on moving, you ensure that you get to where you want, slowly but surely.

In this hyper-fast age of advancement and spectacular wins and stress and everyone rubbing their own successes in everyone else’s faces, following these two maxims for life in general, could be really really rewarding.

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Nimittas – part 3 of 3

Knowing now that being the nimitta of the Lord is the easy way to moksha, how exactly does one go about this?

Krishna himself gives a clue in verse 11.54, specifying a particular type of devotion or bhakti. Not any bhakti, but ananya bhakti.

Ananya, refers to no ‘anya’, i.e. no other. There is no other, apart from the Lord. This is not of some specific deity necessarily, but could also be of faith in the Creator. If there is such unconditional, indelible love towards the Lord, thinking of only Him 24×7, then that would be ananya bhakti.

Is this practical? Some research suggests we have nearly 40,000 thoughts a day. Where is the space for 24×7 ananya bhakti then!

My Guru says we can start small (remember ‘microsteps‘?). Offer gratitude to the Lord before sleeping, after waking up, before eating, after eating, before working, after working, before leaving the house, after coming back, after sneezing, after coughing, while yawning and so on.

Eventually, everything we do will automatically become associated with the Lord.

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Nimittas – part 2 of 3

In verse 11.33 of the Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna “nimitta maatram bhava savyasaachin“. Savyasachin refers to Arjuna, but in a roundabout fashion, as the word in Sanskrit means ambidextrous, or one who can wield the bow effortlessly with either hand. The important word as we saw yesterday as well, is nimitta or instrument.

Krishna tells Arjuna that he has already slain all the adharmic enemies facing him on the battlefield, and that all he had to do was to stand up and fight.

This verse is immediately misinterpreted by many, stating that everything is predetermined and how Krishna leaves no chance for free will. How fatalistic and defeatist, they say.

But saying this would be missing the point. Krishna still offers Arjuna a very important choice. He recommends him to get up and fight, but does not force him to. Arjuna had the option of going back home and chilling out if he wanted to. Isn’t that not free will?

All Krishna said, was to be a part of the Grand (aka Karmic) Plan, where dharma would be upheld no matter what. It would benefit Arjuna personally if he would choose to act as the nimitta in that position. But if not, another nimitta would come by, in order to maintain dharma. Wouldn’t we want a similar justice system, where no matter the person playing the role of judge, the wicked get punished?

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Nimittas – part 1 of 3

There’s a branch of astrology called Nimmita astrology. Nimmita really means ‘instrument’. Astrologers that work on this principle look for cues from the world around us.

For instance, if someone were to come to the astrologer with a question, “Do you think my child will be a boy or a girl?”, and at that very moment there appears a young girl at the door, or the sound of a girl playing or laughing outside, the astrologer considers this ‘an expression of the Lord’ and the ‘girl’ in the scene as a nimmitta, i.e. an instrument, and makes his prediction.

Regardless of whether this approach works or not, Lord Krishna in the Gita asks Arjuna to be a nimmita of the Lord, i.e. to be an instrument of His. Are there any benefits to this? Absolutely, and life changingly so:

  1. No more stress, no more anxiety. Why? Because I am not doing the work. The Lord is working through me, and I am only the instrument. Then why would I be anxious?
  2. My 100% focus shifts from the result, to the quality of effort. Why? Because I am not doing some ordinary work (no matter what the actual work is), but rather the Lord’s own work!

A simple change in mindset and perception can make such a big difference! Putting this into practise isn’t easy. But the more we believe that we are indeed nimmitas only, the more this will make sense and the more life will become easier.

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Predictive analytics

Put a picture of a snake and mention the words ‘kaala sarpa dosha’, and this is modus operandi 101 for many pseudo astrologers to make a quick buck. Much of this deep rooted fear is unwarranted, as many of the leading vedic astrologers concur that there is nary a reference to this dosha in tradition and ancient texts.

But oh that fear… what to do? What will happen to me? Many of us are living our lives in constant fear of something that may in all probability not even happen.

It is common in India to go to an astrologer and hope to identify how the future would pan out. This makes sense to an extent, if the native is a new born baby. The chart would indeed be highly indicative.

However for someone who is say 40 years old, does the birth chart have significance? Yes it does to some extent, but the birth chart can only predict life based on, you guessed it, the birth!

But since then, 40 years have passed. Prarabhdha karma is as of the birth time, not beyond. So much of free will, in all these 40 years, could potentially have completely transformed the life of the person… of any of us really! But if we choose to remain rooted to what the birth chart indicates, and surrender to our so-called fate and the subsequently induced fear, then how will our true potential come to the fore?

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L_t o_h_r p_r_o_ w_n

Can you try to figure out the blanks in the title above? Somewhat like guessing the letters in that 90’s show Wheel of Fortune. Sadly, no prizes here though, not a monetary one anyway.

This title above, is what my Guru wrote to me recently. Absolute pearls of wisdom, and clearly I need it 🙂

We think degrees and education beget success. Not so. There is only one thing that is needed. And that is win-win mastery.

Here are his words:

The principle in win-win mastery is these 4 words. 'Let other person win'.

When? Once in a year on their birthday? Or every month? Or week? Or day? Hour? Minute? Second?

Yes every nano-second!

No one can defeat him/her who agrees with you. This appears to be the art of flattery. But it is the quickest way to win life's invisible gold medals, and have practically zero adversaries, zero enemies, even competitors. All gold medals of life will be yours.

An intelligent wife / husband / child / parent / grandparent each can' win, if they brush aside one major obstacle called ... Ego. Yes, the root cause is ego. Watch only one person in life, who's name is MY EGO.
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Running for what?

A podcast I was listening to recently had Allyson Felix as the guest of honour. I had not heard of her before, but she came across as a really nice human being. And that is not to say she’s not famous – she’s the most decorated US track athlete in Olympic history, having won 11 medals – breaking Carl Lewis’ record of 10.

What really struck me was how she found her passion. Most Olympians and sportspersons we meet seem to be born into their sport. Of course there will be a few exceptions (like Allyson), but by and large, it would appear like these exceptionally talented people found their calling very early on, like in their early school days.

And this is something many of us struggle with on a daily basis. We see start-up founders make hundreds of millions, while we feel aimless and lost. We see people who’ve found their calling, while all we seem to end up with are calls from spammers. How to find this passion then? Should we give up?

Here’s what Allyson said that I really liked. She said that most of her peers who found their passions early on, became such hardcore specialists (in a specific sport or activity), that by the time they turned 30, they were already burned out. Whereas in her own experience as a 35 year old medallist, she only entered her sport well into college! Till then, she was just enjoying other sports like basketball that she really liked, but was nowhere near good as in running. I think this is a great lesson for me – no need to struggle to find a passion and get burned out or stay dejected. Instead just enjoy the work I am doing, and live in the now, today, forever happy.

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Control freaks

Control, control, control. Everyone wants to control.

Boss wants to control his employees. Big boss wants to control the mid level bosses. Junior fellows try to exert control over the new recruits, who in turn try to control the interns.

Employees in general hate the upper echelon control freaks. And so they want to start-up, be their own bosses. Only to realize, that there too, the control lies with the customer, because as we all know, customer is king.

Even the CEO lives a shackled life, his doings controlled by the Board of Directors. The Board themselves, are controlled by the shareholders. The shareholders are controlled by the whims and fancies of the market, and at other times by the opulence exhibited by other shareholders.

Mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law wonder who exerts more control, while the men of the family think they are in control. What they often control is only the twirl of their moustaches! And the kids? Surely the kids are controlled by the parents no? Spend enough time with a young brat and you will quickly see where the control centre lies. But they too are controlled by schools, exams, the rat race, and life in general.

All in all, the external cannot be controlled. Hence the need to look internal.

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Pet chasing

Imagine a dog or a cat or a mouse. Yes like in Tom & Jerry. You are trying your best to catch the animal, but it is just so quick, darting about – here now, next second hopped onto the wall, and the next onto the tree. Phew, all this running around and chasing is really tiring.

Is there a better way? Yes there is.

How about just sitting quietly, with some pet food. Yummy. No need to chase the animal anymore. The animals love pet food, and so will come right to your lap.

The animal here represents nothing but the whole world. We are constantly chasing after it, looking for one elusive success after another.

Through this entire journey, we forget the most important aspect, which is ourselves.

The pet food is our skills, talents and abilities. If we work on constantly improving ourselves, we don’t need to chase anyone for anything, and instead the whole world will come chasing after us.

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Advisory

So here’s an age old conundrum. Say someone you know well is doing something wrong. Maybe the best friend is making a mistake, with his wasting habits. Maybe it’s the son who isn’t being respectful of his old parents. Maybe it is a newly wed bride who isn’t doing her duties well enough. Maybe its a new mom who isn’t caring for her baby as much. Or maybe a husband is not treating his wife well enough. The permutations and combinations are many, but the question is the same.

“As someone who is seeing these wrongdoings happen, is it not my duty to go and correct them? Or at least tell them what to do?”

While we are caught up in that moment, it might certainly seem like we should do something. But little good comes from poking our noses in anything unsolicited.

Picture this. No one asked for your advice. Yet you went ahead and gave it. The other person didn’t like it, and asked you not to meddle. Or the other person liked it, but didn’t give you any credit. In any case, no one beyond a certain age (say 15) likes ‘to be told’ anything. So your advice, even if the best solution for their problem, results only in friction.

And as the giver of advice, we may think we are being detached by not worrying about whether the other person accepts it or not, acts on it or not. But if that is the case, then we should truly never think of or speak of whether the advice was implemented or not. Are we strong enough for that?

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