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Category: happiness

Angry turd

No one likes angry people. Except the angry ones themselves, who feel great, in the heat of the moment. And these angry people aren’t other people, but rather each one of us, and specifically me. Guilty as charged folks!

It’s not necessary that angry people only show their anger outwardly. Sometimes the rage can be simmering on the inside for a very long time. One day that volcano might erupt.

What’s the opposite of being angry? One would say it is being peaceful. Maybe, but while being angry is seen as being active and assertive, being peaceful is seen as being passive and suppressed.

That can’t be further than the truth. Being peaceful is a positive and active state of consciousness. True strength is when our inner peace is completely unruffled, no matter what the external stimulus is.

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Remembrance when?

Sant Kabir has this amazing couplet:

Dukh me sumiran sab kare, Sukh me kare na koi
Jo sukh sumiran kare, Dukh kahe ko hoye kabi

When do people look to the heavens? Only when things are going wrong of course.

Sant Kabir says, that if we remember God when we are happy instead, then there will be no sorrow in the first place!

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The root cause of all problems

One of the most iconic and revered money managers of all time is Charlie Munger. He is better known as the Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, which is the conglomerate run by another billionaire investor Warren Buffet.

Warren is 92 years old, while Charlie is 98, and so both these men have seen pretty much everything there is to see, from a life point of view.

In a recent speech, Charlie noted something very profound. He said that humanity’s problems do not stem from greed. Rather, they stem from envy.

We just need to think a little about this to understand it’s significance. In absolute terms, all of the world’s human beings are better off today than say a 100 years ago. Many essentials of today like gadgets and appliances and healthcare and peace so on were luxuries even just a century ago. But why are we still not happy, despite being better off?

The answer is because everyone else is also better off. We are not better off than others. The mind always wants to compare and see if we have won, if we are ahead, if we own more. Envy is the name of the game. Envy is also the thief of happiness.

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CWG – part 2

Adversity is a good thing not a bad thing. Problems aren’t bad, they’re good, because they help us grow and evolve into better human beings. We don’t need to actively seek problems out, but if they come our way, we needn’t lose our minds.

In the recent Commonwealth Games, the weightlifting gold winner in one of the categories had faced unbelievable adversity. His father died when he was 10, and the man had been a rickshaw puller – so it’s not like he left his family rich. The boy worked as a farm labourer and a part time embroidery worker, eventually getting to weightlifting gold. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard that journey would have been.

Other medalists had parents who were paan sellers, tea sellers, lorry drivers, landless farmers and the like. Such a hard upbringing.

Having too much can be a bad thing. Check out this tweet.

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The essence of Krishna

Krishna tells us to do and follow a lot of things via the Gita. But here’s how Krishna himself followed these (suggested) rules in such a cool manner:

  1. He is always cheerful. His life has been one chock a block full of problems – demons, enemies, asuras, his own people, his birth itself into a poor family etc. But he is ever smiling, even on the Kurukshetra battlefield!
  2. He has zero expectations. Why did the Pandavas fight the war? To get back their kingdom. Why did the Kauravas fight the war? To retain the kingdom they had usurped. Why did Krishna fight the war? Only for dharma, as he would have got no material possession either by winning or losing the war.
  3. He exemplified non-attachment. He was born in Mathura, raised in Vrindavan, lived later in Dwarka. He never kept cribbing that he misses his home town and that he wants to go back. So many people come and go from his life but he was always unattached.
  4. He personifies love. Never once would he not come to the rescue of his devotees.

Krishna led by example. We must only try to follow whatever little we can.

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Directionless or wrong direction?

Many of us feel like we do a lot. Yet all this doing doesn’t seem to give us the mental peace and happiness we expect to find. Why is this?

Maybe it’s because we don’t have our priorities straight?

Despite knowing what is important and what isn’t (like family time needs to be balanced with work time), I’ve often found myself slipping one way or the other.

Much of the slipping probably happens because of the need for external validation. I’m unsure of what my action or decision will lead to, especially if it’s an uncommon one. And so I’d rather look at what others are saying, going to say, thinking, going to think – about me! Really? Is anyone thinking about you/me/us? How much are we thinking of others?

A lovely quote I came across is on Mahatma Gandhi’s suggestion for getting to that happy state.

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.

This alignment, irrespective of what the external world thinks, could be the answer to internal peace.

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Water from where?

Imagine you had a bucket of the world’s purest water. Life-giving, disease-healing, magically-energizing water. And then you put just one teenie-weenie drop of toilet water into it. Would you drink this water?

Absolutely not, right?

This is the outstanding example my Guru keeps giving at every opportunity.

He says that all the bad news and bad events in our lives – like someone died, someone fell ill, you lost your job, you didn’t get the promotion or bonus you were looking for, someone spoke something harsh against you and so on and so forth – that all these would take up just maybe a few days of bad feelings at most.

What do we do though? We spend weeks, months, years and sometimes our entire lives in mental anguish, stress, regret, sorrow and worse. In an otherwise perfect life, we have introduced a few drops of toilet water.

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Mental case

Troubled by stress, anxiety and tension? You are not alone.

How to keep these at bay? By not worrying about what will happen. We know this.

The only thing that differentiates each one of us, and especially those who take a lot of tension versus those who don’t, is their state of mind once a problem has been revealed to them.

Maybe you found out that you need to make a presentation in front of a 1000-people audience, and you just detest the idea. But you need to do it, because that is your job.

The chilled out guy is not worried, because he knows he anyway has to present to that large group, so why worry? Besides, he has faced several tough situations before, and he’s still alive, and so he has faith in himself and/or at least in a higher power to help guide him.

Often it’s not the fear of actually presenting that is the cause of worry, but the fear of underperformance. That people will laugh. That I’d make a fool of myself, and be relegated to YouTube’s Greatest Fools’ Hall of Fame top list. The reality is that no one cares, because everyone is too busy worrying about themselves.

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Public Work

Met an old bloke today. Probably in his fifties.

He was happy – smiling and whistling to himself. Not that I met him in happy circumstances.

He was in his small claustrophobic office doing his work. We know his office well. It is also called the public restroom. No he wasn’t spending time there because of a bad stomach. It was just his daily job. 8 hours of business to be done once others were done with theirs.

He said he traveled 2 hours one way from house, in an overcrowded train, every single day. 4 hours spent in traveling, in sweat and crowd, all to get a pittance, after being locked 7 days a week 8 hours a day in a tiny smelly room!

How could he possibly be happy and smiling and whistling? The only possible answer to this question is that happiness is in the mind.

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Desert rose

“Oh desert rose eh ley hi ey ley…” crooned the legendary singer Sting many years ago.

I have never figured out the words after ‘rose’, but that’s digressing from the point.

No one likes deserts no? Not desserts, which are universally loved (except by the 22 year old trying desperately to get his abs to show!), but the dry arid landscapes that parch your throat just by thinking about them.

A dry barren dune-filled land is always considered infertile and useless. “What will anyone do with such a place?” is the first thing that comes to mind.

But even weaknesses can be turned into strengths. That’s my learning. We know this, but still get dejected in the face of adversity. Here’s a nice line I saw about the Indian state of Rajasthan, as part of a tourism advertisement.

“A pioneer in the green revolution (to generate solar energy) in India with 300-330 sunny days a year, which is comparable to the deserts of California and Nevada!”

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Beyond home and work – part 1 of 8

Recently, I was given the opportunity to address a youth satsang session on the topic “Satsang beyond home and work”. Here is the gist of the contents, split over a few parts, just to make it easy to consume.

“You remember those childhood days where we used to play some sport with a bat and a ball? And there’d be 3 kids, one would own the bat, the second would own the ball, and this third kid would own neither and so he only gets to be the fielder!?

Well I’m the fielder today, because after two very powerful talks on satsang @ home and satsang @ the office, I’ve got this task to field every other life situation that falls neither under the office or under the home.

For many of us, the question will be, “Really? Is there even anything outside of work and home?”

Continued tomorrow…

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Rich people

On a recent business trip, the cabbie was a chatty fellow.

Looking at where our hotel was (apparently in a posh locality, although the hotel itself wasn’t!), he said “Are you guys from the top of the food chain in your country?”

We tried to deflect, “No, no, no such thing, our travel agent just happened to find this hotel convenient for our meetings and such.”

To which he quickly replied, “Hey I have no problems with rich people, none of that inequality angle or the attitude or jealousy or anything. In fact I like rich people, because they’re the ones that keep my business running!”

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With much aplumb

The drain in the washroom where we were temporarily residing recently had got clogged. Pretty common occurrence, especially if some hair or other small item goes and gets stuck. It could also be because of dirt (aka muck) getting accumulated over time.

The easy part is to just call the plumber.

What a tough job. The guy came in a few minutes. And where’s we’d otherwise squeam or cringe before even going near the drain, this chap was cool as a cucumber.

He wasn’t even wearing any gloves. He just unscrewed the perforated drain cover and stuck his hand inside, to check what the problem was. Of course his hand got dirty, and it wasn’t even dirt that he caused! But a quick check, and he smiled, “I found the cause of the problem, it’s some blockage outside.”

And bounced off to the other side of the building, ladder in tow, in order to ‘reach’ the area of the problem. 10 minutes later, all was fine and dandy. Never seen a guy stick his hand into a drain and still maintain a smile. I couldn’t do it, surely. My work is infinitely better, yet I find ways to be unhappy 🤷

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Advaitic duality

The concept of Advaita or non-duality is always confusing.

So a man once asked Adi Shankaracharya himself, the foremost proponent of the field. “You say we are all the same deep within, the same Brahman. Then why are we not all equal? We all have the same blood flowing through our bodies do we not?”

To which Adi Shankara replied that advaita needed to be practiced at the level of one’s attitude and thoughts.

The man wasn’t convinced, and proceeded to argue further.

Adi Shankara replied, “Your mother, sister, mother-in-law, daughter – they are all women aren’t they? Yet, can you treat your mother as your wife, and your wife as your daughter, your daughter as your mother?”

The man understood.

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Candyman

We go for a brisk walk on most mornings. Usually along the perimeter of a small oval-shaped garden.

Some walk fast, others slow.

Everyone’s busy of course, minding their own business, lost in thought or a podcast or song.

One day, an old sickly uncle was walking really slow.

But he had a lovely smile on his face.

Even more, everyone passing by him got a smile on their faces too.

As we passed him, he motioned to us, put his hand in his pocket, took out two lychee candies, smiled, and gave those to us.

No idea who he was, or why he did that. But our faces had big smiles too 🙂

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Equations

Remember the happiness equation (blog post) from Swami Chinmayananda?

Happiness = Desires Fulfilled / Desires Entertained

Here is another very similar one I came across in a podcast yesterday, attributed by the speaker to some Buddhist monks.

Satisfaction = Haves / Wants

This is somewhat an even shorter and easier representation of the same thing.

Reduce the denominator, increase satisfaction.

Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have any ‘wants’ though. They key is to cut the umbilical cord between ‘getting the wants’ and ‘being happy’.

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Rural elite

So I met a nice guy recently, who owned a sizable plot of land.

It was an ancestral handover to him, so yes, free.

He had 3 cows, 6 dogs, 2 pigs, 4 hens, and a few other animals.

“I’m an animal lover!”, he exclaimed to me.

There was a lot of greenery on his farm, and he was growing a few vegetables at least. And he said he would sit a couple of hours daily, just taking in all the fresh cool unpolluted air.

All this seemed surreal, until he said that he was unhappy. That he wanted to move to the city, “for more opportunities”.

Here’s a fellow living my dream life, and I want to be where he’s at. But he wants to be where I’m at. Oh the irony.

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Emoshunned – part 1 of 4

A lovely episode of The Happiness Lab podcast I was recently listening to discussed the sad-bad-glad triad.

This was a comment by the guest on the show, Brené Brown. Per Wikipedia, Brené is an American research professor, lecturer, author, and podcast host. Brown is known in particular for her research on shame, vulnerability, and leadership.

She’s written a book called Atlas of the Heart, which deconstructs and maps out human emotions.

At first, I thought, what the heck, is it really a big deal? But as I heard more, I realized this is stuff people do not talk about much, and perhaps ought to.

She first quotes Ludwig Wittgenstein, a philosopher from the early 90s as saying “​“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.”

What does this mean? Imagine you put your heart and soul into a project, but did not get the desired result. If your vocabulary is constrained, you would say you were sad. If you also got a free scratch-and-win lottery ticket and saw what I always see – “Better luck next time”, you would again be nothing but sad. And if your favorite team lost the match? You’d be sad again. Sad sad sad. That’s because vocabulary aka language as the ‘constraining factor’ is offering a limited window to the world.

Why does this matter? Continued tomorrow…

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Holy Cow – part 1 of 5

Remember the cow race from last year?

We all know the cows on our Indian roads – sometimes in the middle of a highway, and other times in the middle of smaller roads – but always unbelievably oblivious to the traffic around them. Irrespective of the commotion, they just do not let the outside world bother them, peacefully chewing away on their grassy meal.

And because of their gentle disposition as well as their generous nature (sharing their milk for one and all), they are considered not just bovine, but divine as well.

How to participate in this cow race?

By first realizing that it is not a race at all. Rather, it is a road to grace.

Our normal day to day world and work may be hard to change.

But we can use the bovine, to spark our inner-divine, and that itself can be life-changing.

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Thinking about thinking – part 2 of 2

Now that we understand no one really is thinking about us, how can we use this to improve our lives? Easy. By ‘letting go’. By being sincere, but not serious. By taking things with a smile, but not lightly. Read this:

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.
When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need.

—Lao Tzu

Isn’t this just phenomenal advice? For instance, we might feel tensed and anxious before an important meeting. We are already well prepared and know the outcome. But still, there are those butterflies – “what if it doesn’t go well?” And once the meeting is over? Almost instantly we feel better, no matter the outcome.

That’s why letting go is so important. Letting go of our need to be perfect in everything – looks, speech, writing, presentation, cooking, and everything else.

But letting go doesn’t mean we don’t care. Letting go only means “okay if it happens, and okay if it doesn’t”. Once we ‘let go’, we stop focusing on the future, and how others may or may not perceive us (and we know most people don’t have the time to care!). Instead, we begin to enjoy and live in the present.

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