Skip to content

Category: happiness

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!”

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

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…

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

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!”

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

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 🤷

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

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.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

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 🙂

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

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’.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

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.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

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…

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

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.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

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.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

6 months to… part 3 of 3

Continuing from yesterday, here are some awesome snippets from the book 6 Months to Live by Dr. Sangeeta Raman Girdhar.

  1. If you are taking life for granted, all you need to do to come around, would be to go to any big multi-speciality hospital and go to the cancer ward, and ask someone with cancer, what he or she would give for just one more day of life.
  2. Have no resentments towards anyone. Everyone behaves in a particular way because of what they are going through. It has nothing to do with you. Everyone is carrying their own baggage of problems.
  3. Why we are afraid of the death of a loved one? Have you ever given it a thought? What do we fear? Why are we so scared of our close ones leaving us? In our minds, it’s not that I love her too much, she cannot die…but it is, what will happen to me if she dies? How will I manage? How will I cope? I won’t be able to live without her…I won’t be able to manage. I won’t be able to handle life without her presence… See? Where are we thinking of the person concerned in this? All we are worried is about ourselves.
  4. Our loss was immeasurable… but then, so was the love she left behind for us… and the memories…

    Do consider reading this impactful quick-read book (available here). There were a lot of eye openers for me.
Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

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.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

4 the long term

A podcast I was listening to this weekend had something very interesting on investing.

The investment expert was asked how he manages to beat the market, to stay ahead of the curve, and deliver superior performance for his portfolio. The approach he articulated was so clear and simple, yet so profound. He said he makes investments into companies, only when he is convinced that his (data-backed) expectations of one of 4 things is better than the rest of the market’s expectations.

  1. The magnitude of cash flows that will be earned by the company
  2. The duration of cash flows that will be earned by the company
  3. The quality of cash flows that will be earned by the company
  4. The use of cash flows that will be earned by the company

It got me thinking that this can be applied to many choices in life. Not ‘cash flows’ per se, but whatever we expect the perceived return to be.

Like if we are unsure of a career choice or a degree choice. Don’t choose computer science (just an example) because everyone else is choosing it. Figure out whether the magnitude (impact) of that education for you will be relevant? For how long, i.e. what duration is it just a passing fad, and you internally despise the subject? What is the quality of this degree in what you want in your life? How can I use it to get what I want?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

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!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

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!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

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.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

This is the biggest sin – part 2 of 2

We saw yesterday how aham was the biggest sin. This is more from a spiritual angle though. What of the material living-breathing world we live in? Is there an equivalent such mega-sin?

As I thought about this for a few days, only one recurring thought kept coming back. What leads us to live below our potential? What prevents us from achieving what we can, ought to, are able to, but still don’t?

That’s when it dawned that perhaps the biggest sin could be nothing more than the weakness of our own minds. I don’t want to say anything more on this except to just reproduce Swami Vivekananda’s outstanding words on this menace.

Misery dares not approach us – till the mind is weakened. The weak have no place here, in this life or in any other life. Weakness leads to slavery. Weakness leads to all kinds of misery, physical and mental. Weakness is death. There are hundreds of thousands of microbes surrounding us, but they cannot harm us unless we become weak, until the body is ready and predisposed to receive them. There may be a million microbes of misery, floating about us. Never mind! They dare not approach us, they have no power to get a hold on us, until the mind is weakened. This is the great fact: strength is life, weakness is death. Strength is felicity, life eternal, immortal; weakness is constant strain and misery: weakness is death.

Could there be a bigger sin?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Negative stop

A video that was circulating on social media recently caught my attention. A bunch of young girls – probably in their early 20s – had gathered around the Dalai Lama. The question one of them asked him was, “Why do I keep getting negative thoughts?”

The Dalai Lama didn’t have to think much. He said there are two things that lead to this.
1. The first is self-centeredness.
2. The second is that the reality is not truly as we see it (he quotes the Shunyata theory – i.e. nothing exists as it appears).

The girls just giggled and the video cut off. But their expressions suggested they didn’t fully catch the purport of his words. I too had to think for a while, and I’m still not sure I’ve understood fully.

Self-centeredness is the easy one. We look at the world with eyes of relativity. Nothing is taken as is. If someone gets a good bonus, we immediately compare that bonus to our bonus, and the self-centeredness brings in feelings of jealousy, anger and incompetence, all of which can only lead to negative thoughts.

The second point though. Was he talking about maya? Or maybe that we only see the things we want to, rather than as they are? What do you think?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Fleeting

Here’s a Chinese proverb I came across:

1. If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.
2. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing.
3. If you want happiness for a month, get married.
4. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune.
5. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody else. 

All of these are true. Point 3 is funny even. And these must be taken in the right spirit. It is not about the activities, but rather about the fleeting nature of happiness. This has even been studied by scientists, including the various chemicals released by the brain (endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin etc.).

The winner is always the last one. Point 5. Do more for others. In fact, do everything for others only. Because there is no difference deep down, from a spiritual point of view. Our scriptures say that if we do for ourselves only, we are only adding fuel to the fire which is our ego.

The challenge is, that even doing point 5 well is hard, because we look for some signs of acknowledgement from the people who have just benefitted from our help. When they don’t even say a thank you, that can get us really riled up. The real test of spiritual progress is how little such feelings impact us.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment