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Tag: happiness

Securing the crown – part 2

We all speak about happiness. Because we all want it. And we’re perennially looking for it – high and low.

And it’s relative too. What does that mean? Queen Elizabeth played by a brilliant Claire Foy in The Crown shares her take on… unhappiness, not happiness.

And what a lovely line it is.

That's the thing about unhappiness. All it takes is for something worse to come along and you realize what you were experiencing was actually happiness after all.

Much like man’s search for heaven up there in the skies. When he dies here on earth and goes up, God asks him, “So, how did you like your stay on heaven?”

We already have everything, if we choose to look within. If we stubbornly look outside only, constantly comparing and recognizing apparent gaps and holes, then we will be left with nothing. Years later, maybe we will realize that that state too was actually happiness – but it may be too late to realize it.

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Metabolic reversal

There are only two things we need to do to be happy.

  1. Have a fit body.
  2. Have a fit mind.

Indeed this sounds very simple. It is, but it is not easy to achieve.

A fit body requires being active throughout the day. “Oh how I wish my metabolism would be better!” Contrary to popular perception, we do not move less because of low metabolism. We move less to begin with, and that leads to low metabolism!

A fit mind on the other hand, requires lesser movement and more stability. Meditation, or the ability to focus and concentrate is key. And this comes only with practice.

How contradictory! The body needs movement, while the mind needs stability.

For many of us, given all the developments in technology and instant deliveries, our bodies are mostly resting, while our minds are mostly exercising. Just reversing that, will make our lives infinitely better.

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Reply

Is there a way to make someone happy and praise them while also keeping the bar high? Here’s how my Guru did it once.

Many years ago, one of the satsangis went to him for advice. The satsangi was a bit nervous, as he told Guruji that this was his first time speaking in public on the Gita, and that he was a little scared. Guruji asked him which chapter was assigned to him. He said, “Chapter 7, Guruji.”

Guruji replied thus:
1. Wow, chapter 7, such a beautiful chapter, I’m so happy you got it! [infusing happiness]
2. You know what? My first talk too was on chapter 7. It is easy, and I know your capability, you can do it. [genuine praise]
3. I also prepared hard for it – I had read the chapter over 500 times, so that my session is worth my audience’s time. [setting the bar high]

Isn’t this such an inspiring reply, and something for us to learn?

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Right arrows

The relationship we are all used to:

Hard work   ---->   Success   ---->   Happiness

The relationship suggested in our scriptures:

Gratitude   ---->   Happiness   ---->  Hard work   ---->   Success

Which of these do you feel is more sustainable? Which is easier to practise?

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Running for your life

Life is like a treadmill. We just keep running all the time. But we never get anywhere, in the ‘real’ and ‘long-term’ sense. And what if we stop? Try stopping on a treadmill that is rolling fast!

There is a concept called hedonistic adaptation. It too looks at life like a treadmill, and is in fact also called the hedonic treadmill. But not just life, but rather more the mind. That the mind is non-stop running after something or the other. Hedonistic refers to sense pleasures. ‘Adaptation‘ captures the fact that our happiness spikes when something we have been craving for is achieved or presented to us. This happy-spike though, is not permanent. It quickly begins to reduce, and soon disappears, i.e. the mind has already adapted to this new achievement/pleasure and that has suddenly become the new normal.

A key reason why this happens is because our desires are not absolute, but relative. I know a recent billionaire-club entrant, who has now started worrying about how her peers are in the multi-billions.

The ancients tell us that if we want to be happy, we just need to seek refuge in the consciousness seated deep within each of us. But that’s not what appeals to us. We don’t know to be happy, as we only seek to be happier than yesterday. That’s why despite having all the luxuries of life that even kings of yore couldn’t dream of, we are still left wanting.

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Green and brown

Since time immemorial, man has searched high and low, for the promised land, also known as heaven, paradise, swarga or elysium.

This search is no different from that suggested by the proverb “the grass seems greener elsewhere”. We are all looking for a heaven to go to, where our problems will be magically transformed into soft fragrant rose petals. But what if the grass were not green, but actually brown and dying weeds.

What if we were born in a country with no freedom, no rights and no voice? Or born in a concentration camp or a prison? What if we were age 1 and the only survivor in a plane crash that decimates an extended family of 12, all returning from an overseas vacation? What if we were age 4 and told that a rare medial condition would give us just 1 year to live? There are millions of kids with such conditions! What if we had no limbs, or had no eyesight? What if we were not born a human, but as an animal? No, not the pampered pets on Instagram – but those that have to be culled after suspected exposure to a virus?

We could have easily been any of the above, but by some quirk of fate, we are not. Is that not something to rejoice over and over? Even living beings put through the hardest and harshest of conditions, find a way to be happy. So why are we sad? Why are we constantly looking for a mythical land of magic and perfection?

We are already in heaven. We have the power to make our own heaven. Right here right now. We must open our minds and embrace it.

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Living optimally

Ask any scientist about the universe(s). S/he will tell you it is all based on the space time continuum. This term has also been made famous by sci-fi Hollywood movies.

The space-time continuum simply describes how space and time are relative and how objects that move at higher speeds experience time more slowly. That level of detail doesn’t matter much to most of us, as we are rarely going to be travelling at anything remotely close to the speed of light.

What is nice though, is that our ancients had this all figured out. They realised that our lives are impacted by these two critical aspects, i.e. time and space. They figured, that if we could optimise both time and space, then we could live our lives to our fullest potential.

How did they do this?

To optimise time, they used Jyotish (i.e. Vedic Astrology) to answer what the good and bad periods in one’s life were, which specific areas of life would be most impacted, and how one could make crucial decision using all this information.

To optimise space, they used Vaastu, i.e. the science of space, light, flow, architecture etc. to design ideal living spaces / homes.

The level of detail (available to anyone who is interested, please google!) in these sciences is unfathomable. Most people today unfortunately use these for fear mongering, as superstition or to make money unlawfully. These traditional sciences need to be revived and their benefits shared with everyone.

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Grace anatomy

‘Divine grace’ is often considered some kind of magical interference that will make problems go away. It is also viewed as something only a select group of people are bestowed with. But the reality is, that grace is there for everyone to tap into.

If we want to let the breeze in, we need to open the windows first.

Around 150,000 people died yesterday, and the day before, and each day before that, but not us. We are alive and well today. That is grace. Each step – one could be crushed by a falling object, swept away by a current, electrocuted by a live wire and what not. There are so many mishaps, so much uncertainty, and no idea if we will reach our destinations when we set off on our journeys. A few years ago, the local met department chief’s own daughter got stuck in the city’s rains-induced floods – so we can’t even predict the weather properly!

We only have an illusion of control of our lives – but in reality have no control at all.

Even so, we have managed to sidestep all of these disasters, for all these years. That is divine grace.

How do we open the windows? True grace, is not some materialistic miracle, but the dispelling of our ignorance. Ignorance that we are the body and the mind – which is the cause of all sorrow and suffering. The divine truth we seek is embedded deep inside each one of us. To seek it actively, to become aware of it, to be grateful to it, is a reflection of divine grace.

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In reverse

Enjoy your work, then you will love your job
Enjoy your workout, then you will love your body
Enjoy your food habits, then you will love your food
Enjoy your own company, then you will love your partner
Enjoy your moments, then you will love your day
Enjoy your connection, then you will love your family and friends
Enjoy your lifestyle, then you will love your life
Enjoy your happiness, then you will love your success

But we usually have all these backwards. We do! Check again. For instance, we let our jobs decide if we will enjoy our work. Or we look at our unshapely bodies and end up despising workouts. And so on.

Thus there is no happiness.

In reality, we already have everything we need. We just need to bring the enjoyment to the here and now. It is only a mindset shift.

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Inner peace, or pieces?

A news item caught my eye. It was about one of my favourite Hollywood actors. He is known for some amazing gangster movies that achieved cult status. He has apparently sought to reduce alimony payments to his ex-wife from US$ 100k to US$ 50k. Per month! This is more than most earn in a year or three.

It seems the coronavirus pandemic has damaged some of his investments in the hospitality sector. His net worth is still estimated at around US$ 500m! Needless to say, there are counter-cases and allegations from the other party.

By all conventional metrics, he is super successful. But is he happy? Who knows! But would a 75 year old rather chill in peace? Or be fighting cases in court?

Spirituality teaches us that peace is happiness. There is no mention of bank balance. Only mental and emotional balance.

Seek peace. Or make it. Happiness will come running.

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The prayer was answered

Someone prayed for a beautiful wife. The prayer was answered. The wife was so beautiful that all eyes were on her. Soon the affairs started.

Someone prayed for a million dollars. The prayer was answered. The friends got jealous. Many relationships were lost.

Someone prayed for having kids. The prayer was answered. A baby boy was born. But the mother died in labour.

Someone prayed for their dream job. The prayer was answered. It was unearthed that the company had committed massive fraud. A career was lost.

Someone prayed for that vacation to Hawaii. The prayer was answered. A shark attack and a surfing accident later, a limb was amputated.

We have no clue whatsoever about what the future holds. Therefore let us not pray for things that we believe will make us happy. Let us pray instead, that we always remain happy – no matter the circumstance.

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Do you / did you

  • live on the pavement, with no roof over your head?
  • walk 50 kilometres daily in search of water?
  • skip 1 or more meals a day because you don’t have the money for it?
  • have no formal education because your folks couldn’t afford it?
  • grow up as an orphan in an orphanage a substantial part of your early life?
  • test positive for a terminal illness?
  • enter this world with a devastating physical disability?
  • immigrate to another country in an overcrowded boat with no possessions whatsoever?
  • live in the centre of a war zone with no visibility of survival?

No?

Then why are we sad today?

Even many of those who experience such adversities manage to be happy.

Be forever happy now!

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You’ve nailed it!

Two prosperous neighbouring kingdoms were ruled by two friendly but competitive kings. One day, one of them decided to renounce the world and lead life as a saint. Hearing this, the other king also decided to follow suit.

They each went their own way, with no possessions more than the ochre robes they were wearing. 20 years of hermit-life later, they simultaneously chanced upon a serene river. Both of them decided to take bath there at the same time.

There was only 1 tree in sight with only 1 nail on it, where they could hang their clothes. Both the king-saints started bickering over the ownership of that nail.

An old woman came by and said “Look and learn from the two great kings of these nearby kingdoms – they had renounced everything. And here you two fools are fighting over a silly nail!”

It doesn’t matter if one has physical possessions or not.

True renunciation happens only in the mind.

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The Shift

A peculiar phenomenon happens in India.

Even those one would consider to be from a very weak economic stratum – like drivers, maids, laborers and others – can often be seen donating to charity, in whatever capacity they can. Even if they may be able to save next to nothing for themselves.

It begs the question, what ‘rich’ really means. Is it measured by the size of one’s bank balance? Or by the size of one’s heart?

Our lack of happiness stems only from one thing. Our thinking that who we are, what we are, what we do and what we have, is all but inadequate.

Perhaps it is time to shift the frame of reference.

Instead of comparing what we do not have with others, we could compare everything that we have that others don’t. Such as family, work life balance, kids, friends, a spiritual support group, healthcare, a job, good food and countless other blessings, that others may be willing to give an arm and a leg for.

This shift is not for economic satisfaction. This is just for mental peace. Which should be infinitely more valuable.

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It’s Time To Party!

My Guru gave me a special invitation to his lavish Millennium Party.

He said, “Every person who attends the party, would be gifted a mansion worth US$ 10 million, two Rolls Royce cars, and US$ 25 million wired to their accounts.”

The catch? Each invitee must come in-person, to collect their gifts. The Millennium Party will happen (you guessed it) in the year 2120.

Everyone reading this today would be a 100 years older. Our kids would be great-great-grandparents, their kids would be great-grandparents, their kids would be grandparents, their kids would be parents and some from the youngest generation would have just started working!

Not even one person from today’s 8 billion population will be alive to make it to the party.

Our end is clear, yet we live a life full of one-upmanship.

As Mahatma Gandhi aptly put it, “There is enough in this world for everyone’s need, but not enough for even one man’s greed”.

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The Prayer

“Dear Lord, please give me a Ferrari, lots of money, a beautiful family, great power in society, top grades in my exams, and while you’re at it, some more money.”

We often synonymize prayer and demands.

How about, “Dear Lord, Good morning! How are you doing today? Hope you rested well. My heartfelt gratitude to you for everything you have given me!”, said with a smile?

If you were God, which would you like to listen to?

Prayer can just be a means to connect to a higher power, aka, the divinity within us.

The more we ask for in life, the greater the chances of us being disappointed.

“I want happiness” said a disciple to the Buddha. The Buddha replied, drop the ‘I’ (ego), drop the ‘want’ (desire), and you have what you seek!

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The Balancing Act

Rich industrialist, or poor farmer. We didn’t choose the family we were born into.

It must be pure chance – an arbitrary allocation.

But if so, would we be happy with such a code of justice, when applied to all aspects of our lives? Surely we do not want the results of our hard work to be arbitrarily assigned to someone else.

The ancients teach us, that life works on the principle of karma.

Karma is any (and every) action. Karmic law is action = reaction, i.e. a balance.

The pleasures we enjoy today – good health, a job, business, money, house, family, food, education – did we really do enough in this life itself to deserve any of them?

We are constantly taking. But it is giving that will (begin to) restore the balance.

The best things we can give? Our time, our wisdom (if any!) and our love. And none of them even cost anything 🙂

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The Happiness Toggle

No better way for me to start, than by being grateful to everyone and everything that has brought me to this point. If you are reading this, you too need to be grateful. Why? Because we are lucky to even be alive! So many babies didn’t make it past the fourth month in the womb. But here we are. Our organs are working, and limbs are fine, and we can see and hear and talk and laugh.

Sure, this is common across most other human beings you say – so what? So this, that the more we crave for something we don’t have, the more the anxiety and unhappiness.

Flip that around. Where does the happiness lie. In the object? Or inside us? If chocolate (the object) makes us happy, then why does that happiness not linger?

We do not need anything else. We are already complete. Let us strive to help others, instead of focusing on ourselves all the time. This happiness toggle is in our minds.

As the Buddha said, we don’t need money, to give. We can give compassion with our eyes, sweet words with our mouths, warmth from our touch, a listening companion with our ears and serve with our bodies.

Forget what society wants us to be. Let us be ourselves. If we want to be great, let us start by being grateful – let us be forever happy now!

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