Friday, May 29, 2009

Smile, Make Friends, Be Happy

I have recently read a few nice & interesting blogs on smiling. The subject being so interesting, I decided to write a blog on the same subject.

I have seen some people who are generally cheerful and happy. When I look carefully, one common trait that I see in them is a happy go lucky attitude and a constant smile on their face. In fact, even at times when they are troubled, their smile does not leave them. If not a cheerful smile, we sometimes see a rueful smile. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a clear example of this.

I have also seen some people (typically senior and serious people) who rarely smile. It is almost as if it is an effort to smile. They seem to think that their image will get diluted if they smile and people will start taking them lightly. Such people never let their guard down and (I feel) make efforts to prevent the occasional smile from lighting their faces. Some politicians’ names come to mind with this thought.

A smile on the face makes us look very attractive and beautiful. Without it, our face looks as if an important feature is missing. When we smile, it makes people sit up and take notice. They want to know the secret of our happiness. Like bees are attracted to flowers, human beings are attracted to others who smile often. We want to partake in the joy that seems to ooze out of the person who smiles.

When we smile within ourselves, it makes us look lovely. And when we give a genuine smile to others, they instantly smile back in a spontaneous reaction. When two people smile at each other, the ice is broken and a friendship is ready to be formed. When we thus create friendship with such a small gesture, we are reducing stress and tensions and building warmth and happiness.

Even when we are troubled and are going through pain, we can attempt to lessen it by smiling. When we smile, we are saying that "Hey, I am strong and will not be affected so easily". With that smile, our burdens become lighter and our mood picks up. The only time to avoid smiling is when someone else is in trouble.

So, keep smiling and spread joy around you.

Start Living, Right living

Imagine that you are dead. I know it is difficult to imagine that but we all know that death is inevitable. It can happen at any time. And when it happens, all that we have accumulated in form of savings, property, relationships etc. will have to leave behind along with the well preserved and cared for body. Only our memories will remain and that too will vanish over a period of time.

Now imagine that you have been given a fresh lease of life - for a short indeterminate period of time. What will you do now? How will you behave? What things will be important and what will capture your attention? What kind of thoughts will run through your mind when you know that you have just a few more days / moments left to live?

Would you not start seeing things in a fresh perspective? Will you not start abandoning the mad pursuit of activities aimed at gratifying yourself? Will you not be bursting with love for life and everything you see knowing that you will enjoy all these but for a short period of time? Will you have any time for negative thoughts like anger, hatred, envy or even mere dislike? Will you not appreciate everything as a magnificent creation of God? Will you not see the awesome presence of God in everything?

In reality, it is a fact that we have a very unpredictable life span. And yet we live as if we are going to live forever. We forget to enjoy today and plan for a tomorrow that is so uncertain. We waste our precious moments doing meaningless things. Wake up to the reality. Start living. Loving. Serving. Creating happy memories. Becoming selfless. Spreading joy as if there is no tomorrow. And indeed, if there is a tomorrow, do more of these things.

"A great life is nothing more than a series of well lived days strung together like a necklace of pearls." Robin Sharma

"I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be "happy". I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be honourable, to be compassionate. It is, above all, to matter: to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference, that you lived at all." Leo C. Rosten

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Speak Less, Listen more

I know some people who love their own voice and have the need to keep expressing themselves. The minute they get an opportunity they start shooting off their mouths. Others do get bored and look for opportunities to escape when they speak so incessantly. There are many who have this urge to vent their feelings, their thoughts, their ideas and their knowledge. They easily move from topic to topic - sometimes unrelated and unconnected topics!! They misconstrue communication with speaking.

What happens in such situations? People know a whole lot about the speaker and his thinking. The speaker’s feelings and mind become well known. The speaker is usually never able to find out what the other person wants or has to say. He does not wait to find out if the other person agrees or disagrees with his views or has something to add. Others get frustrated with the lack of a meaningful conversation or discussion due to such a monopolisation of the vocal chords. A person who does not listen stops learning / growing.

A better way to have a conversation would be to speak less, ask more questions and listen more. While the other person is speaking, our attention should be focused towards him and we should be listening to both the spoken as well as the unspoken words. Our responses should match the expectations of the speaker and should never interrupt his flow of thoughts. People who are able to listen in such a manner are much sought after and have a large friend circle as they demonstrate a genuine interest in others.

This does not mean that the ideal situation is a one where we are only listening. Any extreme position is avoidable. If we are only listening and not speaking, people may tend to distrust us as they could suspect us of holding on to secrets. Self disclosure is important and should be used appropriately. When we are expected to speak, we cannot become mum or reticent. However, in general, the guiding principle should be we speak less and listen more to come across as good communicators.

The greatest motivational act one person can do for another is to listen. - Roy E Moody

Know how to listen, and you will profit even from those who talk badly.- Plutarch

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Have Fun Everyday (HFE) !!

Many of us wonder on what is the purpose of life. Different people have different theories and each seems logical when we hear it. Some say the purpose of life is to become divine, attain God. Some say that it is to serve others. Some say it is to seek and achieve happiness. Yet some others say that life has no purpose and we have to live life because we have it!!

Whatever be the your purpose in life and whatever be the theory that appeals to you, there is no denying that it is best spent in joy. If we take life too seriously, we end up wasting our time and not enjoying ourselves. I have seen many people (including me, at times) becoming serious while doing some work or activity and shutting out all notions of fun. Such people get angry or upset when they see others making light of things. They confuse sincerity with seriousness and end up tense all the time.

Contrast this with people who go about their jobs with a song on their lips and a twinkle in their eyes. They are so full of positive energy that they do the job well and creatively too. On top of it, they enjoy doing what they are doing. They motivate others also to join them because whatever they are doing seems so much fun. They do not sacrifice sincerity - they only add the flavour of fun and get the job well done. They do not have fun at other's cost; rather they have inclusive fun.

Even when we do the meanest of work, we can still retain our fun mindset. For e.g.., even if we are swiping the floor, we can create a game around it. We used to do this as children - sliding along the floor which is wet and smooth!! When we are thus having fun, we create happy moments for us and everyone around us. We create happy memories. As we move purposefully towards our chosen goals, let's keep having fun and enjoy the journey.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Be Humble

We are all not born equal. Some are born in wealthy families, some with sound health, some with an abundance of talent etc. And some are born in poverty or deformed or bereft of any talent. This inequity continues through one’s life and we find at any point of time, some people who are blessed and some who are deprived. As Shakespeare had said "Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them".

It is usually found that when a person has an abundance of something, say wealth or talent or looks, the person starts getting a superiority complex. The feeling that I deserve this and I am better than you manifests itself. Ego becomes inflated and soon, arrogance in thought, speech and action sets in. Arrogance, as we all know very well, is a detestable characteristic which makes people shun the person displaying it. People may ignore it if it is occasional. If repeated more than once, one gets branded as such and loses friends fast.

A mature person, however, is humble and displays humility at all times. He recognises that all that he possesses are not "rightfully" his and that he is a temporary custodian only. He realises that nothing in life is permanent and to treat the current situation as something that will last forever would be foolish. He also prepares himself mentally for a situation where he will not possess the asset. He does not look down upon people who are deprived knowing fully well that the tables may get reversed tomorrow. He speaks softly and is not assertive. Anger, greed and such negative emotions do not come near him.

Humility does not mean timidity. A humble person is not someone who will bow down and accept wrongs. He will be strong and firm and yet gentle in approach. He will be pleasant and kind with fellow beings. He will always respect others and harbour a positive mindset.

I believe that the first test of a truly great man is humility - John Ruskin

One must be as humble as the dust before he can discover truth - Mahatma Gandhi

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Be moderate

There is a saying in Tamil which goes “In excess, even nectar becomes poison”. For most of us, moderation comes naturally. Whether it is in eating, sleeping or anything else, the body has a limit beyond which it compels us to stop. A kind of fatigue sets in and we stop doing it. Yes, even when if we sleep in excess, our body starts aching and longing to be up & about.

However, sometimes the body does not know when to stop or the body fails to recognize excess – e.g. while consuming alcohol or watching TV. This is when we need to have a mental resolve to control and prevent excess (I am not advocating consumption of alcohol but only using it as an example).

Gautama Buddha has often spoken about the need for moderation in our day to day lives. He says that anything done in extreme is not correct and is best avoided. He has spoken of a middle path where people find the right balance. He has advocated using this approach to reach the ultimate goal in life.

In my view, there are other reasons also for applying moderation in our lives. In this approach, we tend to consume and waste less and leave something for others too. We tend to have healthier and happier lives due to a moderate lifestyle. We are seen as balanced people and not seen as extremists. People find it easier to relate to us.

I would not recommend moderation is in our love for God or in our devotion to Him. In the time we spend praying to or adoring God, we should have no limits. In our work towards serving others by seeing God in them, we should have no limits. Everywhere else, moderation is the way to be.

"To insure good health: eat lightly, breath deeply, live moderately, cultivate cheerfulness, and maintain an interest in life" - William Londen

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Learn from Everything !!

In the Bhagvat Puran, there is a story of a King who meets a vagabond who was enlightened and was ever happy and blissful. The King wished to know who taught him the secret of living life so peacefully. “Who is your Guru?” the King asked. The vagabond replied that he has many teachers and he learns from everything. For example, he learns from mother earth to be patient, from fire to consume everything without being affected, from the oceans to be calm and be within boundaries etc. etc.

Thus, if one is prepared and willing to learn, one can learn from everyone and everything around us. We do not need formal teachers for learning is all around us. Just as the cell phone starts receiving signals as soon as it is switched on, we should "switch on" our learning sensors and we can enjoy learning virtually every moment of our lives.

There are people who, by their example, teach us good practices like discipline, patience, calmness, positive mindset, soft and pleasant speech, hard work, vigour, courage, perseverance etc. There are also people from whom we live how not to live. They do things which we detest like being complaining, by being cruel, by being dishonest, by lying, by cheating, by being violent, by wasting precious resources or by polluting etc. We can even learn from other things in nature like trees, mountains, oceans, wind, space, sky etc. as mentioned above.

Instead of being judgemental, we should look at every opportunity as a learning opportunity. Instead of correcting others, we should aim at correcting ourselves. We are in this world to evolve and improve ourselves to such an extent that we merge with the divine and become divine ourselves. What better way to do this than by learning all the time?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Count your Blessings !!

Each one of us is blessed with so many things. While some may be happy in love, for some it may be a sound body and mind, for some it may be excellent family or extra-ordinary parents, for some it may be success in career or business, for some others it could be some terrific talent or popularity. Extremely rare are people who have everything good or bad in life. Most people have some "blessings" and some "missings".

If we think about what we have and look around at people who do not have it (be it any of the blessings listed above or other blessings), we might suddenly find ourselves in an enviable position. We might consider ourselves superior. We might feel so good that we may want to celebrate or smile non-stop. We might want to proudly tell the world what we have.

On the other hand, if we look at what others have and check whether we also have it, we could be disappointed, depressed or upset. We might feel like complaining that life is unfair to me or we might start burning with envy or start losing self worth.

One is a situation where we are deliriously happy and another where we are dejected and forlorn. Which is a better situation? Is it not in our hands to decide which situation we want to be in? Can we not be happy by counting our blessings and ignoring what we do not have? This does not mean that we become fatalist and give up ambition altogether. It is only a message to look at the brighter side of things and not ignore what is already in one’s kitty!!

And if there are things that we once had but not any longer, let us be happy in the memories of the good times. Let us look back at the past and thank the heavens for the opportunities and the blessings enjoyed by us then....

Friday, May 8, 2009

Be considerate to others

One of the kindest things we can do is being considerate to others. By keeping this thought uppermost in our minds, we can watch our every act and try to enforce this. I have seen people who show little acts of courtesy all the time like talking softly in public places or switching their phones in silent mode, like wearing a deodorant, like keeping doors open for the next person coming in, like offering a seat to another needy person etc. etc. Such people are really very cultured and thoughtful.

Being considerate to others is being selfless. I once read a message in a public toilet which said "After use, please leave the toilet exactly as you would have liked it to be when you came in". Very powerful. When we are through with using things, do we care for the next user? Do we leave the leave the toilet or the wash basin clean & dry after use? Many of these acts are really very small and perhaps may skip our attention at times. However, these are big statements about our mindset and our approach to others.

When we start being considerate to others, we trigger a chain reaction and we become triggers for a movement in these lines. People who watch us closely cannot but notice our behaviour and become influenced by it. This is especially true for children whose minds are being moulded and are not yet "hard coded". Our teaching by "demonstration" is more powerful than any form of lecturing or intellectualising.

In India, there is a place called Lucknow which is famous for such cultured behaviour. People will always offer the first right of use to the next person by saying "Pehle Aap" which means "First You". Each one would sacrifice their right and be more upright than the other. What if this becomes the culture of the world - where the self gets relegated to a secondary position? Would the world not be a lovely place to live if everyone displays such considerate behaviour?

Thursday, May 7, 2009


“We only control what we do and have no control over what happens” , is a quote I read recently. I was stunned by the simplicity and the profundity of this quote.

If this is true, which I believe it to be, what are the implications? Should one be a fatalist and wait for things that are destined to happen? Or should one seize the opportunity knowing fully well that we control what we do and make the best of it? And when we are working with determination and purpose and things do not go our way, what should we do? How should we react?

Lord Krishna in Bhagvad Gita shows us the way. He says we should be composed and equipoised in our lives. Neither defeat nor victory should affect us significantly. Our balance and composure should not be disturbed by outcomes which are outside our control. If we lead our lives thus we will be ever happy.

Being composed thus is not easy. It is unnatural. We can be so composed only when we are spiritually evolved and look at both victory as well as defeat as being essentially temporary. In this world, everything is temporary - be it moments like these, be it relationships, be it possessions etc. The very nature of this world is that it is changing continuously. Nothing lasts. If we look back at anything in history we will find that no condition and no situation were permanent.

With this realisation, one should resolve to be composed. Because neither will our gains remain with us nor will our losses deprive us. Neither should praise impact us nor should blame or criticism shame us. By being composed, one is confirming ones faith in the Almighty and surrendering ones circumstances to the All Powerful God.

Be gracious in victory and graceful in defeat - Vishwanath Seshadri

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


One of the many values that I hold dear is sincerity. Sincerity conveys honesty. Whenever any task is done with sincerity, it gets accomplished well. As Paul Coelho says, "the entire Universe conspires to make you successful" if you are sincere, eager and keen. There are many forces that work in this universe and we are not aware of them. These forces are ever watching our effort and our mind.

Sincere people are open and transparent. They believe in plain & straight talk. They are not devious. They love fair play. They are clean at heart and hold no malice towards others. They put in honest efforts in getting things done. They help others achieve their goals and aspirations. The are glad on seeing success - either theirs or others.

Some people think that they can bluff their way or do things without putting much effort. They believe in passing off their work or taking short cuts and reaching their goals quickly. Indeed, it may be possible that we observe some people who are successful in the short term by adopting such methods. We may also observe sincere people struggling.

However, success is not to be measured in this manner. A successful life is one where one has lived an ideal life with honesty of thought and effort. Lord Krishna says in Bhagvad Geeta "Don't worry about results but focus on efforts". Right kind of effort leads to the right kind of results eventually. There are enough examples of people and institutions which have seen short term success using dubious processes only to have massive failures later.

Sincerity is a virtue that one should cultivate irrespective of the immediate results. There may be many temptations or pressures to be otherwise. It may, perhaps, be tougher to be sincere and unpleasant too. However, like the needle of the compass that always points to the North, our lives too need to be organised in such a manner that it always follows the right path.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Nature Cures !!

The human body is a wonderful creation of the Creator. It has all the ingredients to be self propelling, self driven and self reliant. It only needs nourishment to provide for energy. Everything else is produced by the body itself. It has the capacity to absorb from the air and sunshine around and its internal organs can produce all kinds of chemicals, acids and vitamins needed by the body.

All it needs is nourishing food (as contrasted to tasty food which tickles the tongue), active lifestyle (as contrasted with a sedentary one) and adequate rest and sleep. When it falls ill or has injuries, it needs to be supported by some modifications in lifestyle and eating habits and some rest. The ills and the injuries usually get self corrected.

Modern science has progressed considerably and it knows all these facts about the human body. However, the custodians of science (namely the doctors and the pharma companies) would want us to believe that without medication for every complaint, we could have serious problems. Of course, there are some illness which are best cured and prevented by taking medication. However, most of the common ailments do not need medication. By taking medication, we only end up dulling the body's inherent capacity but also making it dependent on external support.

I strongly believe in allowing the body to self medicate by providing minimal external support. Regulating ones diet and providing adequate rest is also important. One should follow practices like Yoga which stimulates internal organs as well as stretches the body and makes it supple, flexible and healthy. Meditation (a good alternative to medication) is another practice which calms the mind and prevents / cures most of our ailments which are anyway a creation of the mind.

A healthy life and a calm and cheerful mind is in your hands !!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Eschew Violence

As per Hindu scriptures, violence / slaughter houses is one of the five places where evil exists - others are in gold / wealth, illicit sex / prostitution, gambling and alcohol consumption.

All around us we see acts of violence being committed all the time. People want to settle all differences by use of force. There are many who indulge in violence without a second thought. And there are also people who enjoy this 'sport'. Imagine the crowds watching sports such as bull fighting or cock fighting. Somehow there is a section of people who love to watch bloodletting and pain creation happen.

When someone is indulging in violence or encouraging / supporting violence, he is incurring sin. By avoiding violence, we are ensuring that evil does not come near us. By staying away from evil, in this manner, we are walking the path of the virtuous and the pious ones which will lead us to the highest state that man strives for.

Violence here refers not merely about the physical violence. It also includes other aspects like violence of speech, violence of thought etc. One should be striving to control the mind in such a manner by which violence is never an option. Humans who achieve this would be reaching the highest state of evolution. The more the mind resorts to violence, the less human we are. Who are we but animals, if we resort to violence?

When we are moving on a path which shuns violence, we are surrounded by peace. All our differences can be addressed or resolved by dialogue and discussion. For mature individuals, it must be logic that drives decisions, isn't it? In peaceful surroundings, our health improves, our mind thinks clearly and we see more solutions. We begin to accept other's point of view and even appreciate diversity.

This topic cannot be completed without a mention of the father of our nation - Mahatma Gandhi who was the apostle of non-violence. He was the true contemporary saint who re-taught the world its responsibilities and the way to live. It was he who said "An eye for an eye will only lead to the whole world becoming blind". By propagating non-violence, Mahatma Gandhi achieved our country's freedom and at the same time, reaffirmed our country's prominence in civilized behaviour and spiritual leadership.