Just for today, just for now, let us forget every problem we have. And simply focus on living in the present. This very moment. Nothing else. End of blog post, and start of bliss!
Focus is a great thing. But it can also be a greatly destructive thing. How? When we are focused only on the short run.
Feel like you want to sleep right now so as to get a full 8 hour shuteye before that important morning meeting? Sleep will probably evade you for the next hour, if not more.
Want to perform really well in your music audition today? All the nerves will probably get to you.
Desperate to find a life partner? The chances of making a mistake in the process just goes up materially.
Instant gratification is not good. Our scriptures talk of enjoying the journey. If everything is instant, then where is the journey? Before you can even wear your slippers, the ride is over! No wonder all this focus is choking us.
There’s a lot of random nonsensical crap on TV these days. All sorts of Reality TV that is totally unreal, and as scripted and fake as they come.
But there’s also some gems. We found two lovely shows recently.
1. Devlok by Devdutt Pattnaik, where Mr. Devdutt, an acclaimed author (and ex-doctor!) goes into amazing depth on Indian mythology and how to relate those to our daily lives.
2. Ramayana with Amish, where the author travels 5000 kilometers from Ayodhya in India to the tip of Sri Lanka and covers all the key locations visited by Lord Rama during his 14 year exile.
Surely there must be many more such lovely documentaries too. Do share good ones you’ve come across in the comments please!
We all know that MS Dhoni is Captain Cool. Boring, old news. Next item please.
Yes, but before that, I came across an article today that said that even the head coach of the Indian team, Ravi Shastri, cannot reach Dhoni directly on his mobile phone. Why?
Because Dhoni never shared his phone number with him! ?
Funny, but also true. But beyond that too, was what really caught my eye. Dhoni apparently never carries his mobile phone with him.
In a world where everyone is constantly in a state of anxiety, wondering “what to multi-task on next”, here is a champion who switches off and lives in the present. Wish I could too do the sa…. (clicks on another notification to see a video sent by a friend on whatsapp)
Today’s post is very simple.
Let’s all have a fun and chilled out weekend.
What better way than to start it with laughter.
Nope I’m not going to tell a joke, because if I did that, then I’m so unfunny you wouldn’t laugh for sure ?
The northern part of Europe, specifically the Nordic countries aka Scandinavia, are supposed to be one of the happiest parts of the world, if not the happiest.
We must have all come across this information at some point. Know why this is the case? No, it’s not because they are the wealthiest. Or the climate – nope, they have some of the harshest weather to be found anywhere on the planet.
What else could it be then? Apparently it is income equality. A friend of mine (white collar worker) living there used to say that his weekend outings would often be with friends comprising both white and blue collar workers. Surprising? Indeed, but that’s because everyone in these countries has dignity of labour (and decent paycheck), no matter what the work.
Why is this important? Because no income inequality, means no comparison to thy neighbour, and hence better happiness. Interesting isn’t it? Now we can’t all move to the Nordics, but can we do something here itself, wherever we may be? Yes we can, and that involves preferring to spend our money in areas that are uncommon (like choosing experiences over objects) which reduce the chances for comparison. Let’s try!
Drishti Foundation was the uploader of a YouTube video that came up on my feed recently.
The video had a bunch of guys and gals all wearing sunglasses, standing on stage, and either singing or playing various instruments.
While the music was no doubt outstanding, the smiles on their faces were other-worldly.
Every single performer was really enjoying – nay relishing – their joint creation of brilliant harmonies.
And then it hit me. They weren’t wearing sunglasses for style. Each of the performers was blind.
How could they be performing like that, with so much cheerfulness, despite their crippling disabilities? How can I be even half as happy as them?
It’s a common sight at the Big Fat Indian Weddings.
There’s a lot of food, like truckloads of it. And often spread across 4 or 5 days.
After a recent wedding, many people fell ill, suffering from food poisoning and sore throat and what not.
The immediate thought is to pray to God for these people, and hope that they will not suffer too much.
The next thought though is, why to bring God and trouble him with these petty things? Aren’t we mature enough to know what to eat, when to stop eating, what constitutes ‘moderation’?
Saw the craziest thing today.
Was stuck in a traffic jam for what seemed like ages.
Everyone there was frustrated, irritated, angry, and likely hungry too.
The tension in the air was translating into louder and louder horns.
Much like a glass filled with stones still has space for sand, the road too with large trucks and buses was choc a block full with bikes, cycles and pedestrians.
There was literally nowhere to go. It was completely maddening, with nary a second of silence.
But to my amazement, in the corner on the pavement, was a hairy homeless man. He was fast asleep, totally unbothered by the din around him. A peaceful smile covered his face, and if he didn’t awaken with all that hullabaloo, he might as well have been deaf.
There is chaos in our lives all the time. But to drown it out is what could differentiate the happy from the rest.
Just traipsed into a cafe for breakfast. Wasn’t in the mood to eat anything.
But I was hungry nevertheless. With a bunch of thoughts about my ever growing to-do list, I sat at the corner after ordering a sandwich.
“The grill isn’t warmed up yet sir, it will take 15 to 20 minutes, hope you aren’t in a hurry”, said the man at the counter, wearing a friendly smile.
“No hurry at all”, and I went back to my thoughts. My eyes fell on a bunch of lovely looking cakes. Cream filled, multi layered, cheesecakey-dripping – just too yummy each one seemed.
And then, something else caught my eye. At the far corner of the room, an elderly man, probably in his seventies, white long beard and all, sat tending to some cakes. Nay, he was making them!
Never have I seen someone enjoy their craft so much. He was totally at ease. And totally unimpacted by all the noise around him. So many people moving past him, placing their orders, waiters at the tables, children screaming or crying. But no, completely at peace. And in harmony, with nothing more in focus than his cake. The love for his cake creation, was immediately manifesting in the beauty of the final product, and the demand for the pastries.
Truly karma yoga in action.
In chapter 11 verse 33 of the Bhagavad Gita, the Lord uses the word “enjoy”.
Oh that’s great news isn’t it?
Because everyone thinks spirituality is boring and means the aspirant has to become boring as well. No smiling or laughing. Only sitting in a serious padmasana pose and meditating all day long. Know anyone who can really do this? Hardly.
That’s why the Lord is very clear. Do your duty well, and then enjoy the result. This is what he tells Arjuna in this outstanding shloka, “Therefore do arise and win glory. Conquering foes, enjoy the affluent kingdom. These warriors already stand slain by me. Be you only an instrument.”
Isn’t this just amazing advice? Don’t make your life boring and morose. Instead, do your duty, do not worry about the result, and have a grand gala time, enjoying the journey as well as the eventual result!
Many of us want success and we want it quick. We also want it with smart work and the least effort.
One journalist covering basketball champion Kobe Bryant wanted to catch up with him while practicing.
Kobe asked him to come join him at 4.30. Not in the afternoon, but 4.30 in the morning!
To show discipline, the journalist went to meet Kobe 30 minutes earlier, at 4 am, hoping to score some brownie points.
But even at 4 am, he was amazed to see Kobe already having started his practice about a half hour prior, his jersey fully drenched in sweat.
Kobe was in fact practising repeatedly some very basic drills. To which the journo asked, “You are the best player in the world. Why are you doing such basic drills?”
To which Kobe replied smilingly, “Why do you think I’m the best player in the world? Because I never get bored with the basics…”
In a book called Wanting by Luke Burgis, the author explores the concept of mimetic desires. The word mimetic was new to me, and means ‘to imitate’. What does this mean, to imitate a desire? It is effectively nothing but community desire. And what does this mean?
Think of your immediate circle, say your colleagues at work. Most of them might have the same type of education, same type of job, and same type of career aspirations. If many of your friends are raising venture capital for their startups, suddenly you feel like starting up too. If you live in a posh apartment complex, most discussions will centre around what car you drive, what title you hold at work and which (upmarket) school your kids go to. If you live in a posh city, the comparison points are likely to be what plays you watched over the weekend, which top end restaurants you got reservations to, which concerts you attended. Spend time with scientists, and you’ll want a Nobel prize. Spend time with musicians and you’ll want a Grammy. Spend time with writers and you’ll want a Pulitzer. And on and on it goes. Each and every group of people is it’s own little island of mimetic desires.
The challenge with mimetic desires, is that they do not make us happy. They make us want things because others have them, but the happiness buck stops there. Is there an ‘un’-mimetic desire? It may not have a specific name, but these are those desires that come from within. Maybe you love to play the piano, or to go for a drive on the weekend, or for a lazy walk on the beach. These are desires that you’d enjoy irrespective of external approval, and even if no one knew or cared about it.
So it’s really up to us to figure out what we truly desire, to follow that path, and to weed out the mimetics.
A video I saw on whatsapp recently was just awesome.
It was about a supermarket in Denmark.
At first glance, it seemed like any other supermarket.
Except, that the main entrance glass doors are shut, and don’t have any handles.
How do they open then?
Only if the person looking to enter at the door smiles.
A camera with AI is connected to the door, and as soon as the person smiles, it is Open Sesame!
Most people are anxious, stressed, moody, angry or worse, as they come to the door, and often in a hurry to just make their purchase and leave.
But the moment they smile and the door opens, their faces light up, and they clearly are having their best moment at least in that day.
Imagine if all doors everywhere would only open this way ?
Since time immemorial, man has wanted to live an enjoyable afterlife. Avoid hell at any cost, and make sure to get into heaven.
Why heaven? Because everything there is awesome – a cornucopia of food, women, money, opulence and grandeur. Who wouldn’t want to go to such a place no?
The question to ask is, even if we had all this, would we still be happy? Is happiness guaranteed? Surely some celestial beings in heaven would be having more comforts than others. And the comparison game would begin playing on their minds. Or if everything was always available equally and status quo for everyone, then surely life would become very boring, and that would lead to its own problems.
So a promised heaven in the afterlife really is not an answer at all.
Then what about in this life? I really like how Sadhguru puts it. “If you are doing something unwillingly, that is your Hell. If you are doing something willingly, that is your Heaven.”
When we discuss Dale Carnegie’s (DC) amazing book How to Win Friends & Influence People in satsang, participants often ask certain types of questions. Maybe we can call these questions as extremities. Here are some examples:
- DC says we need to listen to the other person. But what if the other person keeps on talking and I don’t get to talk at all?
- DC says think from the other person’s point of view. But what if the other person doesn’t think from mine?
- DC says we need to smile as often as possible. But others aren’t smiling.
- DC says develop a genuine interest in the other person. But when do I then get to talk about my interests?
These are all valid concerns. However, our objective must be clearly understood. As the title on the book’s cover page states, this book is useful if you want to win the other person over, befriend them and / or influence them.
If this is the clear focus and objective, then we need to think: Does it matter whether I get to talk or not, or that the other person doesn’t smile or not, or that they don’t see the world from my point of view? Ideally, no!
This is DC’s decades and countless experiences’ worth of rare wisdom neatly encapsulated into a 200 page book. The real question we must be asking ourselves is – how better can I apply the learnings of this magical book to my life?
There’s a very fun magic show called Penn & Teller: Fool Us that you can watch on YouTube. Unlike usual magic shows, this one is a talent show, but for magicians!
So magicians from all over the world come and perform in front of two of the greatest magicians in the world (i.e. Penn & Teller), and the duo then try to decipher the trick. If they cannot, then they admit they are fooled, and the magician wins a trophy.
Needless to say, the magic acts are entertaining, mind-blowing and superbly crafted. While the entire audience is having fun, the two judges are doing their very best to tear every single movement, every sleight of hand and every misdirection apart. While everyone else is enjoying the trick, these two are doing their ‘office jobs’ in a way. Somewhat takes the fun away, but despite that, they do get fooled – and boy are those fun to watch!
One magician participant said something very awesome. He said he had practiced the very trick he presented for over ten years. Not just that, but he also videotaped himself performing the same trick, nearly a hundred times, and from a hundred different camera angles. And each time, he would make improvements, sometimes minor, sometimes major, but each one contributed to his final act – which Penn & Taylor commented as “absolutely flawless”. Hard work + technology = Smart work = Success!
Today morning, the electricity went off. Poof, kaput, gone. Some maintenance work yada yada will be back in 12 hours yada yada said one whatsapp message.
I quickly switched from wifi to mobile hotspot and continued to work. A couple of video calls, and a few other normal calls, plenty of emails, several powerpoint slides, some excel sheets and a few more emails later, my laptop battery started to give way.
A few hours later, and my phone was dying too. Dusk had set in. Darkness all around, except my phone screen. And then that was gone as well. No this is not a horror story.
No screens, no calls from work, no deadlines, no TV, no music, no noises, only darkness. But it was beautiful. We sat together and talked – with zero distractions. It was free flowing, and chilled out. Not a care in that moment. Such simple pleasures of life. Going with the flow.
And the lights momentarily came on as the fan whirred back to life. Deadlines, phone calls, work, screens, distractions – everything was back. Back to normal. But our normal is quite abnormal, isn’t it?
There’s an amazing episode surrounding the moon landing of 1969. His Royal Highness Prince Phillip the Duke of Edinburg was lost in his life – directionless as it were. The outside world it seemed was doing great things, making great strides – while all he did, was go from place to place – making speech after speech, which no one could care less about.
Just as the moon landing caught the world’s imagination at the time, so too it did of Prince Phillip. He not only watched and read countless times the footage and reports of the astronauts and their mission, but he also sought out a 15 minute audience with Neil Armstrong and his two co-pilots. His quest – to understand how they truly felt, as they carried out what was probably the most ambitious and significant journey in human history.
On meeting the 3 young men, he is filled with awe, and eagerly asks them about what their thoughts were as they descended on the surface of the moon, and how they felt when they looked at their blue home 380,000 km away. Their response?
They were just process driven. Men on a mission. Hundreds of checklists to ensure everything was working to perfection. No time to smell the proverbial roses, or maybe moon dust. No time to think even. They don’t even begin to understand the essence of the Prince’s questions. They in fact counter-question him thus, “Sir you are so lucky, how does it feel to live in a palace of a 1000 rooms, live with the queen, have so many royal dinners and meetings, and live such a meaningful life?”
We think we know what’s best for us and what’s worst for us.
A few years ago, some colleagues along with a very senior leader moved to another firm. It was the most awesome move. Probably excellent pay hikes. Certainly improved designations and functional titles. Wonderful, inspiring stuff. To say people were jealous, would be an understatement. People were even wondering why the senior leader took only certain people with him, and why other “better” candidates were left behind.
Cut to today, that firm has shut down. The team, completely disbanded. What seemed like awesomeness at the time, in a few years has completely unravelled. Certain practices at the firm were questionable, which might even leave a blot on the resumes of those who worked there.
Seems like the tables have turned, and this could be the end of the world? It depends. Karma is an endless cycle of ups and downs. Today’s slap on the face is tomorrow’s opportunity. There is rarely a greater teacher than failure.
We think we know what’s best and worst for us. But we be would best off just going through the motions, enjoying the time in it. Everything else is just a perspective – and often not even our own.