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Category: acceptance

6 months to… part 2 of 3

As mentioned yesterday, today’s and tomorrow’s posts will contain some gems from the amazing book 6 Months to Live (available here).

  1. When some people are faced with a life-threatening illness, they lose all hope and wither away. True strength of character is seen when death is faced eye to eye without blinking, without questioning, without self-pity.
  2. “Not everything that is faced, can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
  3. We talk about angels in disguise…. What disguise? Here was an angel incarnate, whom God had sent to look after us in those trying times.
  4. The above vacations and participation in various family events just proves that cancer is not THE END of everything. You can almost go about your routine life with positivity and enthusiasm.
  5. Moving on is the best tribute you can give your most loved one who is no longer with you in person.

Concluded tomorrow, with some more gems!

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6 months to… part 1 of 3

There’s an outstanding short-book that I just finished reading.

It’s called 6 Months To Live, and written by Dr. Sangeeta Raman Girdhar.

The book is only about 70-odd pages long, and can easily be finished in one sitting, and within the hour.

But the convenient length of the book not the reason everyone should read it.

What the book captures so beautifully, is a combination of 4 things:

  1. What all a loved one goes through when faced with a terminal disease
  2. What the immediate family of this person goes through
  3. What life lessons and spiritual lessons we can each take away, especially if (God-forbid) put in such circumstances
  4. How to deal with cancer, and even make micro lifestyle changes to prevent it

I’m going to share a few powerful takeaways from the book over the next couple of days, but the book has much more than just these, so do consider reading it. The author is my cousin sister, who is an amazing human being. The least I can do is feature her work on FHN! The book is available here.

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Arrivals

Surely you’ve heard of that neighbor’s son who’s so successful right?

We all live in different apartments, towns, cities, countries and even continents. Yet we all have those “neighbour’s sons / daughters” that we are invariably compared with.

This is not about comparing with others, as much as it is about our own definitions of success. But can we really define our success?

Were we successful when we cleared first grade? Or weren’t we?

How about when we cleared grade 12? How about when we graduated? When we got a job? Or when we got another job, and then another and another? How about when we were promoted to head of a department? Or when we started our own company? Or when we donated a decent sum to the charity of our choice? Or when we were able to use our ‘influence’ to recommend a friend to a good job? Or when we got to the Board of Directors? Or CEO or Chairman of a small company? Of a large company? Of a Fortune 500?

Who decides if we are successful or not? Is it really us? Or is it an arbitrary line in the sand, drawn by someone else, that declares that you have arrived?

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Sunken

“But I am like this only.”

“But this is how I’ve always been doing it.”

“This is how it has been since… forever!”

Heard such statements before? You surely have. Do such statements leave a good impression on you? Probably not. Why? Because we all know, that if we want to get ahead, to improve, we need to adapt and change. But sentences like the ones above, indicate exactly the opposite. Something has been done a particular way, and there is no way I’ll change that.

This actually has a name. It’s called the sunk-cost fallacy. It is also called the Concorde fallacy. That second name was a bit of a giveaway wasn’t it?

This refers to the stubbornness of the governments that made the Concorde. They kept drowning it in cash even after it was clear that it was a commercial disaster. They had already put in so much money and effort, i.e. ‘sunk costs’, that they were just unwilling to change.

We all know the ultimate fate of the Concorde. Would we want to end up like that?

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Memento mori

How did the Ancient Romans manage triumph? Did they let it get to their head? Such a weird question isn’t it?

No, because they actually had a process around it. The process was such, that a victorious general or commander could only enter his home city during a special parade. All the loot and plunder and slaves would be displayed amid great pomp and show.

Bringing up the end of the parade, would be the victorious commander, riding in a chariot.

However, he would not be alone. He would be accompanied in the chariot by an auriga, a slave.

This auriga’s only role during this lavish cavalcade? To continuously whisper the title phrase into the commander’s ears.

“Memento mori, memento mori, memento mori, memento mori…”

“Remember you are mortal, remember you are mortal, remember you are mortal, remember you are mortal…”

What a lesson to be reminded of, at the peak of one’s glory!

And then there are some who gloat, even without achieving any glory… <facepalm>

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Distractions galore

Our lives seem to be full of distractions. The mobile phone, the internet, YouTube… Oh there are so many culpable offenders in my fight against distraction. So many things to do, but just no ability to focus on the various tasks at hand.

But maybe distractions are par for the course simply because the work that is done is chosen poorly. The work is chosen only because the result seems favorable. Some money, some benefits, some perks, some power, some something or the other.

Spirituality keeps on asking us to live in the moment. That only means we’ve to love the work, i.e. the process of working, and not the outcome of the work alone. If instead, we are focused on monthly payday alone, of course distractions will plague us. Even the feeblest of winds can get us to alter course then.

If we look at it this way, then maybe distractions are good, even great. If I’m going to work in an organization for the rest of my life/career but still get distracted easily, maybe that work is not something I truly like? What’s the point in doing something if it’s truly not meaningful enough? Note that meaning is only for the doer – what’s meaningful to me might be nonsensical to another.

The alternative of brainstorming, networking and hustling to get to do what you feel is truly meaningful, is not an easy path. And so for most, it is easy to continue to do what they have been, while cribbing about distractions, while letting the void-for-meaning deep within them, grow stronger and stronger.

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I swear

Here’s a cute scene on TV I saw recently.

A table had a small glass jar with a few coins in it. A label ‘Swear Jar’ is pasted across it. A mother is seen berating her 5 year old daughter’s use of swear words. Every time she says a bad word, the kid needs to put a dollar from her pocket money into the ‘swear jar’.

Like all kids, this one too tries to find loopholes, asking her teacher to “go to shell” and “what the muck” among other such cleverly hidden expletives.

The mother is initially irritated by this behaviour. But it dawns on her that the “swear jar” is not the right approach. If one were to create a rule such that the target person (the 5 yo) can’t even understand (because she is too young to), then of course said target would try to break the rule!

The mother then changes tactics and says something beautiful. “Baby, no more swear-jar okay? That is pointless. But I want you to understand why bad words are not okay. And that’s because bad words make other people feel bad. Now you are such a good girl – surely you don’t want other people feeling bad because of what you say do you?”

“No mommy.”

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Double role

Chapter 2 in the Gita, towards the end, talks of dwandvas, which refers to duality, like two sides of the same coin. This duality is such, that no matter what the situation, the other side will occur as well – whether we like it or not. Life is full of such dwandvas. Night is always followed by day, and day by night. This can never be changed. Pain is followed by pleasure, and pleasure by pain. There is no escaping it. Success is followed by failure, and that failure in turn can lead to great success. Where great joy exists, great pain will follow too.

There are literally countless examples – pretty much everything we see and feel around us. Get too close to somebody? Then the pain of separation will eventually become too much. Love your child too much? One day s/he will have to go away for higher education or marry someone elsewhere. Love your job or role or credentials? One day you will have to retire and all these will become meaningless. Desperately waiting to go on a vacation? Soon the vacation will come to an end and you will be back at work. And thus the cycle continues, on and on and on.

What’s the point of thinking this way? Only to understand and appreciate that this duality is the nature of the world around us. We keep praying to God for many things. Each of those things also comes with the same duality only. We pray for good things to happen to us. But we forget that these good things will by design come with some not-so-good stuff attached. That is the law of life and creation. So if a prayer isn’t answered, maybe we shouldn’t be depressed about it after all?

In any case, there is only one thing that is non-dual. And that singular omnipotent omnipresent omniscient being can be found deep within each one of us.

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How to attain spiritual perfection

Here are three most important requirements which were discussed in a recent satsang.

  1. Humility
  2. Compassion
  3. Ananya bhakti (i.e. constant devotion to the Lord / God / Oneness / Consciousness / Paramatman / Supreme Being etc.)

If we attempt to analyse these a bit more:

Humility comes from accepting that neither do we know everything, nor are we the best at anything.

Compassion comes from accepting that there others more needy than us (usually we are the only centre of our attention).

Ananya Bhakti is harder to grasp and practise. It requires more alertness than the other two. It requires the spiritual seeker to bring God into every aspect of one’s life, into every waking moment, into every voluntary thought and action. A good way to begin, is with gratitude for everything that has already taken place and is currently taking place.

Seen differently, 1 and 2 chop away constantly at the seemingly infallible tree that is the ego. And point 3 replaces it with the only Truth that exists.

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The Great Debate

People of science argue that there is no God. Because science is based on logic. And logic can be proven. And repeatedly so.

People of faith argue that there is a God. Logic is irrelevant to them. Why? Because their own personal experiences have taught them that miracles can and do happen – and if its a repeatable non-coincidence at their times of greatest need – then who cares about logic.

The science folks argue that if God exists, then why do you need technology to improve lives. Why have cutting edge medicine to save lives. Why use computers and mobiles and other amazing inventions? God didn’t invent those did he? Man did. The faith folks argue that the substratum for any ‘inventions’ were not invented by any man or human, but are divine gifts, of which we are mere renters.

This is a never ending debate. But it needn’t be so.

All the ancient scriptures describe God in the same way. As the spark of Consciousness that resides deep within each one of us. Not just us humans, but in all living beings. Not just living, but also inanimate things. Basically everything there is, is just an expression of this Consciousness, but in a multitude of forms. It is this Consciousness spark in humans that is known as intuition, that sometimes results in amazing solutions to problems, that results in great advancements in technology and so on. Seen this way, there is no debate.

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Terminal

Social media platforms are often used in funny ways. Facebook and Instagram are no more places to talk about one’s own life – rather it has become a place to sell one’s wares (and very effectively too sometimes). Linkedin is more about sharing one’s personal life than professional life. Twitter was supposed to be for short messages, but I’ve seen ‘threads’ with 100s of posts too.

The first post on my Linkedin feed today morning was another personal one. It was a tragic post. After seeing countless profiles on Linkedin of people who had succumbed to Covid after being tagged posthumously by their friends, this one was different.

This man posted that he only had a few more months to live – having been diagnosed with terminal cancer. He said with utmost gratitude that he’s enjoyed his life of 60+ years and that he’d had no regrets and that this would be his last post.

The comments that followed had people sympathising with him – that their future would be different without him, and that he should live his best life going forward etc. Given how unpredictable life is, these commenters assume that they will be around longer than him. Not a bad assumption to make – but it’s an assumption nevertheless. What if it weren’t true. Would we live our lives any differently? It’s fashionable to say ‘yes’. But if ‘yes’, then why aren’t we living that different life already?

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Blinded by

There is a medical condition called Anton’s Blindness. It is a real thing. But those affected by it, do not believe it. They think they can see perfectly well. But they cannot, and so when they walk or move around, they bump into objects they cannot see and often hurt themselves.

This sounds exactly like what my Guru would think of me. “Blind fellow, bumping around in the world from one problem to another, and constantly hurting himself. If only he would accept that he doesn’t see the Truth. The Real Truth. That Consciousness that powers everything. And then this acceptance may bring him some solutions. But alas. He is blinded by ignorance, anger, jealousy, greed – you name it. And he seems to enjoy this state of blindness too. What a pity.”

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Lockdown

“Isolation” and “Quarantine” and “Lockdown”. Three words that have suddenly become commonplace, all thanks to the Covid situation. Most people everywhere seem to be cribbing big time. “I’m so sick of staying at home. Just can’t wait for things to open up. I hate this lockdown business. Can’t even go anywhere. I really miss my vacations and international trips.”

But a change in mindset is necessary. An entitled person may think sitting at home unable to travel for pleasure is bad. But how about those people who are isolated in hospital wards, separated from their loved ones, stuck on a hospital bed amongst hundreds of others, breathing into tubes attached to cylinders, with no indication of when their ordeal would end. Isn’t that infinitely worse? And then there are those that desperately need hospitals / ICUs / beds but these are all full. What of them?

As an Indian army jawan noted on his Linkedin post – “Don’t be scared of isolation. My longest spell was on Siachen glacier, lasting 138 days, with 98 days of intense firing. All 19 of us survived 100s of kilos of TNT. I lost 19 kilos of weight, and took bath after 138 days. The minimum temperature was -50-degrees Celcius.”

What are the rest of us cribbing about? We must be deeply cognizant that anyone stepping out for any reason could be the cause for someone else falling sick or losing a loved one. It is our duty to stay indoors and safe, until all this bad news passes.

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Sightful

Here’s an awesome story narrated by Morgan Housel who writes for the Collaborative Fund blog.

Dr. Dan Goodman once performed surgery on a middle-aged woman whose cataract had left her blind since childhood. The cataract was removed, leaving the woman with near-perfect vision. A miraculous success.

The patient returned for a checkup a few weeks later. The book Crashing Through writes:

Her reaction startled Goodman. She had been happy and content as a blind person. Now sighted, she became anxious and depressed. She told him that she had spent her adult life on welfare and had never worked, married, or ventured far from home – a small existence to which she had become comfortably accustomed. Now, however, government officials told her that she no longer qualified for disability, and they expected her to get a job. Society wanted her to function normally. It was, she told Goodman, too much to handle.

Wow, you did not expect that ending to the story did you? It is no surprise that humans are the worst predictors of their own future. Our superpower, nay super-weakness is the ability to isolate exactly one outcome of the future (like more money, fame, here eyesight etc.) that we want, to the exclusion of everything else – often risks – that would automatically accompany that outcome.

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Foggy

Alan Alda, the American actor and 6-time Emmy and Golden Globe winner once said, “Your assumptions are your windows to the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”

This might seem obvious, but its effective implementation is worth its weight in gold.

The real problem is that these windows are not dirtied by others. They are dirtied by we ourselves, after imagining what others are thinking about us.

So much so, that sometimes being blind is better, as shown in the very popular Marvel TV show called Daredevil. The protagonist has superhero abilities, but cannot see. This lack of vision though, gives him much clarity in other walks of life. Contrast that to his best friend and partner – ironically named ‘Foggy’ – who lives by making large (and silly) assumptions and getting himself into trouble.

Scrubbing our windows needs courage and the ability to recognize that we may have been wrong – often publicly. And it’s infinitely better to be wrong and corrected on Step 1 than on Step 100, by which time, it might be too late.

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Disastittude

  1. She had worked really hard on her presentation. All of last week. Little sleep and plenty of sweat, and tears.
  2. Now it was ready. All external dependencies, and myriad coordinations, checked and resolved, approvals sought.
  3. Mail drafted, and ready to send. This would put her in the upper leagues. People would take notice.
  4. And then came the phone call. Some of her data points in chapter 3 were incorrect. Taken innocuously from a defunct source.
  5. The correction would take time. Maybe a couple of weeks if not more.
  6. Oh what a bummer. She felt like the world came crashing down.
  7. Irritated. Frustrated. She hated delays. She also hated going back to the drawing board.
  8. Then she realized. This was not a disaster, rather, she was saved from one.
  9. Imagine if her email with the wrong presentation and data had gone out. What a mess that would have been!
  10. It was just a week from annual appraisal day too. Her bonus could have been slashed, and promotion rescinded.
  11. Her frustration abated momentarily, and her gratitude for Divinity’s mysterious ways gushed to the fore.
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Fear to become

Have we not feared, every step of our way to today? Those terrible kindergarten days, where we hated being separated from our parents. Moving to a new place, not knowing if we would be accepted in the school there. Joining a sports class, only to be bullied by some of the seniors. Entering the workplace – our very first day at work – the butterflies, the discomfort – is always there. When we are on the cusp of progress, we always have a tendency to look back. Seeing all the obstacles we overcame, we must ideally feel a great deal of strength, knowing that if we go through all this all these years, we can get through anything.

All of this reminds me of Khalil Gibran’s outstanding poem titled Fear. The premise is beautiful. It speaks of a river that has meandered its way through mountains, winding roads, plains, forests, villages and what not. Now the river is in front of the ocean, about to enter it. That’s when it looks back at its journey, and trembles. Seeing such a vast ocean, the river is worried about disappearing into it forever. The rest is too good to paraphrase, so here is the original:

But there is no other way.
The river can not go back.

Nobody can go back.
To go back is impossible in existence.

The river needs to take the risk
of entering the ocean
because only then will fear disappear,
because that’s where the river will know
it’s not about disappearing into the ocean,
but of becoming the ocean.

I get goose bumps each time I read this.

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Carma

At the valet parking area of a renowned 5 star hotel, the owner of an old and tiny Hyundai i10 was waiting for his car to be brought to him.

He watched, as the valets buzzed about, servicing their guests and deftly moving from car to car. One valet drove up in great style in a brand new Mercedes Benz AMG GLE Coupe. The Coupe owner took the keys and handed the valet a crisp couple of notes. The smile on the valet’s face was telling of his satisfaction.

The compact car owner thought to himself, “Wow these valets have it so good. I can’t even dream of driving these sporty beauties. That Mercedes GLE is a special edition model – just 10 of them in the whole world!”

Little did he know the thoughts running in the valet’s mind. “Oh these rich folks – such show-offs. And having to drive their cars? Back and forth, back and forth, from the reception area to the parking lot, a 100 times a day. Can there be anything more repetitive and boring? With the money I make, I barely make ends meet. My school going son would love it so much if I could own even just a simple car. Even an old dilapidated Hyundai i10 would be perfect.”

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2021

A simple but important blog post to ring in the new year. Here are five things for me to work on, so as to get the best from 2021.

  1. Every day, all day, be happy and grateful for everything we already have. Success, money, fame will come automatically.
  2. Zero compromise on health (i.e. proper nutrition and exercise) – for if there’s one thing an invisible virus from 2020 has taught us, it is that without a fit body and mind, everything else is pointless.
  3. Give / donate / help generously and selflessly. This is the only way to purify the mind and intellect. (Why? Because it removes the notion of ego / i-i-i)
  4. Join a satsang and / or actively participate in one. Repeatedly dunking the mind in scriptural knowledge as guided by the Guru and applying it in our lives will fast track our spiritual transformation.
  5. Enjoy every single moment, and look at every stumbling block as an opportunity to improve. As they say, there are no failures, only lessons.

Are these easy to follow? Do you have other things you would like to focus on? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. All the best for 2021!

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