Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Food for thought

In the Bhagavad-Gita, Lord Krishna has spoken about three difference types of characteristics viz. Sattvik, Rajasik and Tamasik. People with Sattvik character are pure in thoughts, charitable, kind, non-violent etc. Their minds are tuned towards good things and towards God. People with Rajasik character have high levels of competitiveness, energy, anger and ambition. Tamasik people are lazy, indolent, confused, lethargic and given to base tendencies. Most of us have a combination of various characteristics and the mix differs from person to person.

Lord Krishna also describes the kinds of food preferred by each type of person. The sattvik person prefers fresh fruits / vegetables / nuts, food cooked without much seasoning and food offered first to the Lord. The rajasik person likes hot, pungent and spicy food which tickles her taste buds and ignites the passion in her. The tamasik person like food which are stale, kept overnight, already tasted by others or intoxicating. So, food also can be categorised as Sattvik, Rajasik or Tamasik based on who prefers it.

Our character gets influenced over time based on what we eat. So, if we are the adventurous and sporty type, we can consume Rajasik food to lift our spirits and make us energetic and competitive. If we want to turn spiritual, we should cultivate a habit of eating only / mainly sattvik food. If we consume any food which seems tasty without understanding the nature of it, we may be unknowingly creating a barrier for ourselves. So, if a sportsperson is tending to eat food that is either stale or not fresh, she is likely to feel lethargic and not competitive.

As people focussed on living a life of values, it would be right to redefine what we eat. Focus on sattvik food. It will slowly but steadily improve your character. You will find yourself less excitable and more balanced. You will find good positive thoughts arising more often than before. Sattvik food will facilitate you in your journey towards values based living.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sleep well!!

Our body has an inbuilt clock. It reminds us to eat and to drink from time to time to nourish ourselves. It also tells us when to sleep and faithfully wakes us in the morning at a fixed time each day. Interestingly the sleep trigger seems to be linked to the amount of light that is present.

It is well known how important sleep is for the overall well-being of a person. Sleep too little and you feel groggy and confused. Sleep too much and you feel lethargic and lazy. Sleep is necessary for the body to rest, rejuvenate and re-energise itself. It is when we are in the deepest sleep that we get the most refreshed. Meditation, if practiced regularly and properly, can refresh our minds sufficiently and help us cut down on sleep.

In modern world, it is fashionable to play with sleep. Some of us sleep too late for we have so many things to to - like completing tasks or watching television (the best programs are late in the night) or attending parties or entertaining ourselves in different other ways. Some of us sleep too little because we want to get as much as possible from our daily 24 hours. This can often be counter productive.

Excessive sleep and lack of sleep are both dangerous. They have an impact on our attitudes and our behaviour. We may become indifferent, casual, lazy, rude or irritable if we do not sleep well. Each body is tuned to get a certain amount of sleep (typically 6-9 hours). We must make sure that this is not sacrificed or compromised for it can affect our health and capability to think coherently & lead a life of values.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Limit your teasing

As a child I used to be teased often for various things and it used to make me very angry. My elder brothers used to get encouraged by my irritation and used to tease me more. Looking back, I realise that most of them were silly stuff and I could very well have smiled and laughed along with my tormentors if only my ego had permitted me.

Teasing is something that is indulged in by everyone occasionally. For some people it is an addiction that gives them a high and a feeling of superiority. Most do it for fun but some do it maliciously to hurt others. As long as we are within limits and do it sensitively, it adds to the spice of life. When we use it continuously and relentlessly without caring about the victim's feelings, it is almost like a sin. If we do not limit our teasing, it can have disastrous effects on our relationships.

It is OK to make fun of ourselves. People love people who have the ability to laugh at themselves. Many a public speaker and leader have made a career of cracking jokes about themselves. I would say even this has to be limited. Beyond a point, people will start believing us to be the fools that we portray ourselves as or may consider this as a licence to ridicule us.

Teasing about physical or other defects should be strictly avoided. Even making fun of others in their absence is not correct. It shows a lack of courage. Ideally teasing should be between 'equals' in any relationship. Do not ever indulge in teasing if the other person is sad or upset. As a rule, look for ways and means of having 'inclusive' fun rather than 'exclusive' fun.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Watch your breath

Have you noticed how we tend to breath differently when we are in different moods? When we are relaxed we may be taking deep breaths and when excited or angry it may be quick breaths. When we are shocked we may even stop breathing for a short while. It is indeed true that our mind and our breathing pattern are closely interlinked.

The good news is that we can control our moods if we control our breath. If we find ourselves getting irritated or angry, we only need to regulate our breath for a period of time to make the anger reduce in intensity or even disappear altogether. Likewise, when we are feeling tired and lethargic, we can re-charge ourselves by taking shorter intense breaths.

Yoga practitioners say we can even energise ourselves by breathing in through our right nostril and relax ourselves by breathing in through the left nostril. In fact, there are several breathing techniques taught in yoga which can be used to bring about positive impact not only to our moods but as a cure to several ailments also. There are several meditation techniques which are based simply on watching and controlling our breaths.

Most people are never conscious of their breathing patterns. It is something that happens involuntarily and continuously. If we are aware of the tremendous bearing that our breathing has on our moods and our actions, we will work towards regulating it better. It would be interesting to note that in the animal world, life span is linked to the type of breathing - shorter breaths shorter life and vice versa.

When we watch and control our breathing - initially consciously and through practice - we dramatically improve our lives. We become healthier in body and spirit. Our attitudes, opinions and actions become more balanced. It becomes easier to live a life of values if we simply watch our breaths.

"For breath is life, and if you breathe well you will live long on earth." - Sanskrit Proverb

"A healthy mind has an easy breath." - Author Unknown

"Inhale and God approaches you. Hold the inhalation and God remains with you. Exhale and you approach God. Hold the exhalation and surrender to God." - Krishnamacharya

Monday, September 21, 2009

Half full or half empty?

One of my cousins' came visiting recently. He was born 52 years ago along with a twin sister who was born a few minutes before him. When the doctors were trying to deliver him, they used forceps wrongly resulting in damaging his hearing permanently. He has lived with his deficiency which impacted his education and his career. When he talks about it, he is not bitter - rather he has taken it as the will of God. He is now happily married and the proud father of a beautiful and talented daughter.

Most of us have some special talents which we are born with. We also have some deficiencies. Some apparent as in my cousins case and some not so apparent. Some are born in rich families with no need to worry about their finances or security. Some are born in very poor conditions. The big question is how do we deal with our situations?

Do we adjust ourselves and focus on our strengths or do we let it overwhelm us and worry about the weakness? Do we thank the Almighty for what He has given us or do we crib and complain about what we lack?

If it something that we can cure or correct, we should make every effort possible. However, if the situation is permanent and beyond repair, it will useful to accept it and move on. It will help us sail through life with much peace and joy. It will be absolutely meaningless to carry a feeling of hurt and grievance in our minds. Such thoughts will only serve to make our lives bitter.

So, is your cup of happiness half full or half empty?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Speak pleasing words

A couple of days ago, I got an SMS from a friend. It said "If you have sweet eyes you will like the world; if you have a sweet tongue, the world will like you". What a powerful and practical thought!! If I had received this message a few years ago and had practiced the simple technique, I would have made many more friends...

Our tongue is something that needs to be managed well. It would be very harmful and dangerous if we allow everything that comes to our mind to be expressed by the tongue. In fact, we should think several times before we say something that could hurt or upset people around us. Even if what we speak is true, it should be said in an acceptable manner.

One good rule to follow is to think of something pleasing or positive to say to everyone we meet or interact with. We should train our minds to think in this manner. We should start every conversation and relationship with a remark or observation that compliments the other person. Not only will we win friends for life but we would also make the other person receptive to our thoughts.

Start this simple practice today. Be on the lookout to praise something in everyone. If we look carefully, we will certainly not be disappointed. Every individual indeed has strengths. If we keenly observe, we will find several strengths which can be pointed out or highlighted. Care to be taken not to overdo this and sound like flattery. The other thing that people like to hear is their own names - use it liberally in your conversations. You will capture peoples attention, minds and hearts through this.

"Kind words do not cost much. They never blister the tongue or lips. They make other people good-natured. They also produce their own image on men's souls, and a beautiful image it is" - Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

"Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around" - Leo Buscaglia

"Speak pleasing words about people in their presence as well as absence" - Vishwanath Seshadri

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Time is fleeting...

This morning a friend called me and informed me about his younger brother who died in his sleep last night. Apparently, he passed away after suffering a heart attack. It was shocking because this young man (aged 40) had no apparent health problems and always seemed full of life.

When i mentioned this to my friend he said "There is no certainty about life. It is here today and gone the next moment. What matters most is how we live our life. It is important that we make the most of our time while still alive." My friend's words set me thinking.

This was another powerful reminder from God, I thought. We have several faculties and senses. We need to introspect on how we are using them. What are we seeing, hearing, eating, thinking, doing etc.? Are we making the right use of our faculties? Are we making the best use of our time? Are we doing good to others? Or are we wasting our time doing useless things? Gossiping? Planning on things which have no bearing to what we need to be doing. Activities which can in no way help us progress or evolve?

Make the best use of your time. Every time you catch yourself doing useless things, stop. Remind yourself that time is fleeting. Wake up before it is too late.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Live a life of values

Wherever we look in our universe, we are bound to see nature at its best. Everywhere we see orderliness and patterns that are followed in a sacrosanct manner. The birds go to roost at fixed times, nocturnal birds snooze in the day, every fruit has a particular flavour and pattern, the oceans remain within their boundaries etc. It is as if God has laid down rules and each creature is following it religiously.

It is only us human beings who have broken all rules and been creating our own rules. We sleep during day and work at nights. We systematically destroy nature to fulfil our selfish ambitions. We become violent without sufficient reason. We use deceit for personal gain. The list is endless. Our acts are not without its consequences. Whenever we transgress the rules, we end up making the world an unsafe place to live in. We end up creating a direct impact on our environment. In the mad pursuit of happiness, we end up becoming and making others unhappy.

We can see crisis after crisis hitting the world at regular intervals. Whether it is a crisis which impacts health like the AIDS crisis or one that impacts economies like the sub-prime crisis, we can directly link each crisis to the drop in moral standards. Even natural disasters like droughts, floods or earthquakes can be managed better if we have high moral values in our lives.

Clearly there is a need to reflect on this and identify the rules that we, as humans, need to follow. "Values" are the rules that will help us restore nature to its glory and help us to enjoy this precious life. Values are the guiding lights that lead us in this world made dark by all kinds of sins. By leading a life of values, we enrich our own lives and also the lives of people around us. We also facilitate creating a culture of valued based living.

The purpose of this blogspot is to list out all the values that are important and to serve as a reminder for us to follow it. In the preceding articles, we have spoken about many values like love, kindness, generosity, charity, selflessness, truth, honesty etc. All of these must become part and parcel of our daily lives. When we thus live a life of values, we will slowly but surely bring about a change. Value based living will erase the ills of the society and will help create a world where peace and joy abounds.

On the question of values, don’t ever compromise...

“Raising the standard of living must also mean raising ethical, moral and spiritual standards." - Sri Satya Sai Baba

“You are in charge of your feelings, beliefs, and actions. And you teach others how to behave toward you. While you cannot change other people, you can influence them through your own behaviors and actions. By being a living role model of what you want to receive from others, you create more of what you want in your life” - Eric Allenbaugh

“Live today as if it were your last.” - Robin Sharma

“You are not here to merely make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.” - Woodrow Wilson

Monday, September 14, 2009

Reserve your judgement

To err is human. All of us commit mistakes at some time or the other - some through negligence or oversight and some deliberately. None of us are perfect. We have all had vices or some unholy desires. We have all sinned - sometimes knowingly and sometimes unknowingly. Yet, we cannot lose hope. If we so desire, we can become saints from this moment onwards. All it takes is a strong resolve.

If the above is true, do we have a right to judge others? When we ourselves are still striving for perfection and correcting our faults, do we have any moral standing to look at others and form a judgement? Most of the times, we do not know the circumstances that lead a person to behave in any particular manner. We have no knowledge of the intentions behind their actions. Even hypothetically if we know that the intentions were wrong and the actions likewise, can we say that the person will always be like that?

I remember an incident in my childhood. A friend of mine told me to accompany him to the vegetable market and convinced me to pick up a lemon from the basket when the vendor was not looking. I must have been about 7-8 years old then. We went and I picked up a lemon and as we were about to leave, the vendor caught my hand which was still holding the lemon. Without saying a word, he shook my wrist to make the lemon fall back into the cart and then let me go. He taught me an invaluable lesson that day...

It takes a mature mind to recognise a mistake and forgive it. If you brand someone as bad or as a criminal, you tend to ignore the possibilities of correction that can happen in course of time. In our minds, we all want to be good and lovable. Only, some of us take time to get over our tendencies and habits. If we set high expectations, we will get high results. Treat everyone with love and respect for they deserve it. Give them space and time to become the best that they want to be.

Until then, reserve your judgement.

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them” – Mother Teresa

“The multitude judge a man more on his external sheen rather than his inner light” – Pitigrilli

“Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers” - Voltaire

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Generosity of spirit

A few weeks ago I experienced something extraordinary. I was coming out of a temple with a small box full of prasad (food distributed to devotees after offering to the Lord) when I saw a lame beggar. It was past lunch time and I felt he must be hungry. So I offered him a portion of the prasad. He accepted it gratefully and, instead of eating it immediately, I saw him walk over to a couple of small children who were also begging. He then divided the prasad and happily shared it with them.

I was taken aback by his generosity. He clearly was no ordinary person. Even in his poverty and his hunger, he displayed a high level of selfless behaviour. Stephen Covey, in his famous book "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People", has referred to this as having an abundance mentality.

People having this mindset feel that there is enough in this world for everyone. They do not want to rush to satisfy their own needs first. They happily offer things to others and wait for their turn patiently. They are happy to recognise contributions of other people and acknowledge them openly with worrying about themselves. They display a highly evolved and mature mind which puts others before self.

Such people are really rare in this world. Yet, if we want, we can choose to be like that. All it needs is a strong will, conviction and faith. And an eye that sees the same self in all beings...

"The hand of a generous man is like the clouds of heaven which drop upon the earth fruits, herbage and flowers, but the heart of the ungrateful is like a desert of sand, which swalloweth with greediness the showers that fall, and burieth them in its bosom and produceth nothing" – Anon

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Give a helping hand

All of us seek happiness. We experience happiness when our desires are fulfilled and our expectations are met. We experience delight when our expectations are exceeded. A natural tendency of man is to set higher standards or increase the expectations each time. Thus, every happy event also becomes a trigger for future unhappiness.

For many of us, the basic needs of food, basic clothing and basic shelter are taken for granted. With the grace of God, we have sufficient income and wealth, to be chasing higher desires. Yet, there are many around us who struggle for their daily survival. Their circumstances are such that they are not sure of when the next meal will come from or when they will get a change of clothing.

If only we convert our desires from gaining something for ourselves to giving something to others, the joy we will obtain will be tremendous. Normal selfish desires are insatiable. They are like the appetite of the fire which is never satisfied with the offerings to it. Selfless desires not only give us deep satisfaction but also give us joy of serving others.

Helping others need not be necessarily in the form of cash. It can be in kind or by way of service too. It is not a one time event but needs to be practiced as long as we are able. It is not restricted to human but can also be extended easily to other forms of life too. If taking care of others can become our purpose in life, every day will become joyful for us and the ones we impact. Our happiness doubles when we help others become happy.

“Not he who has much is rich, but he who gives much” - Erich Fromm

“True giving happens when we give from our heart” - Mohd. Ali

“You can have everything in life you want if you'll just help enough other people to get what they want!” - Zig Ziglar

Friday, September 11, 2009

Spare the rod !!

Parenting is tough. It is tough when there is only one child. It becomes exponentially tougher when the number of children increases. Each child is unique and has a different personality which needs to be managed differently. If we try to use the same approach with each child, it is a sure route to disaster and confusion. 'Different strokes for different folks' is a useful philosophy to follow in parenting.

Many of you may have heard a saying "Spare the rod and spoil the child". This essentially suggests that it is OK once in a while to spank your child for mischief done in order to create a sense of fear of punishment and prevent mischief in future. In India, of course, spanking / bashing a child is not uncommon. Parents do it routinely and nobody raises an eyebrow when it happens. It is felt that the children become much more disciplined if subjected to this from time to time.

I have often internally debated on this. Over a period of time, I have come to the conclusion that more than punishment, it is the fear of punishment which works. As long as the child has not experienced the punishment, the fear factor may be present. Once the devil is known to the child, it is no longer scary. The only way to continue on that path is by increasing the quantum and severity. This, however, can lead to huge mental and psychological problems for the child.

There is another way - tried successfully by a few parents. They use motivation and positive messages to get desired output from the child. They shower praises on seeing good behaviour and frown upon bad behaviour without using violence. They use a system of incentives and disincentives to encourage the child. They create strong emotional bonding and get desired results. By doing this, they mould and create a happy and confident child who is ready to face the world. This also results in a healthy and friendly parent child relationship over the years.

Between motivation and fear, I would favour motivation as a more effective and long lasting tool. I would therefore strongly urge parents to "Spare the Rod".

What is your take on this?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Work-Life balance

Life in cities is usually very hectic. All around us we see frenzied activities. People are ever busy. A person who visits a city from a rural area tends to get disoriented with the buzz and the activity. People are always on the move and no one has any time for anyone. In order to get the most out of life, we pack our days with activities. In our quest to increase our wealth, we work ceaselessly.

In the mornings, we are in a rush to get to work. We usually come home late – it is work, parties or other engagements that ties us down. By the time we come home, we are dead tired and crash into the bed. The next day it is virtually the same routine. Some of us also have travel schedules that keep us busy. If we have some spare time, we feel guilty or worried that someone else is utilising her time better. If we get to reach home early, we watch TV, catch up on reading etc. We even carry work home on the weekends.

In the midst of all this, we tend to forget our loved ones and our families. We hardly spend time with them or exchange pleasantries. It is as if they do not matter to us. While, in fact, they are the most important part of our lives. Their presence is invaluable to us. It is only our loved ones who really care for us and support us in times of need. By giving so little time to them, we risk growing apart and losing them. While we are busy and growing older, we are missing all the joy of bonding and being there.

Make a resolution today. No matter how important or urgent your work life is, you will not sacrifice family time. All official meetings will wait, if there is a family event at the same time. Official engagements will be re-scheduled if your child needs your time or attention. You will celebrate with family once every month - if there is no reason, invent one. After all, what is life for, if not spent in the company of loved ones?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Stairways to Heaven

Some people have doubts whether God exists. I prefer to presume that my readers do not doubt the existence of a Creator who has created the entire universe and everything in it. It has taken human beings thousands of years to understand limited parts of this creation. This universe - so complex and yet so well ordered - cannot have come into existence without a Creator.

How does He look like? Where does He live? What language does He speak? What religion does He prefer? Many questions come to the innocent mind. By definition, God is omnipotent, omnipresent etc. Therefore to confine Him in any manner would be preposterous. As all creation is His handiwork, all beings and all schools of thought also have its origin from Him. So, whether you consider Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism or any of the thousands of religions that abound in the world, these are all but paths that lead to Him. All religions are, in a way, the stairways to heaven.

So, if different religions are different routes to reach the same goal and we are all traversing in search of the same objective, why do we look down upon other religions? Why is it that some of us are so keen in convincing others into travel in our path? Why is it that we do not bow down to the same Lord who is present and is sought in different places of worship?

Being secular is the right way of life - when we worship the Lord in ways that makes sense to us and allow others to follow their own ways without having a sense of superiority over others. More than tolerance, we need to have acceptance of different approaches. Lord Krishna Himself declares in the Holy Gita that He accepts worship in any form. It is not the language, the words, the names or the methods that matter but the heart full of love and devotion that matters to Him.

“True religion is the life we lead, not the creed we profess.”- Louis Nizer

“The fundamental truth of the Manifestations is peace. This underlies all religion, all justice.” - Abdul-Baha

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Welcome the experience

We all are well aware that, in life, one should expect to see ups and downs. It is a very rare life indeed where there are endless sorrows or unlimited happiness. If we were not to experience sorrow, how will we know the real worth of happiness? Despite knowing this, when sorrow does come our way, we act as if surprised and shocked. It is as if we were expecting our cup of joy to overflow forever..

This somehow reminds me of my school going days. Each day had a set of eight periods where different subjects were taught. Each of us had a favourite subject and a few subjects which we didn't like. Whether we liked it or not, we had to attend each period and pass the tests too. In fact, if we were found to be weak in any subject, we would be subjected to more intense coaching in that subject.

In life, God is our teacher and this world of experiences is our school. In our evolution, it is necessary for us to go through these experiences for us to become better and stronger. The ultimate objective of each soul is to attain God and for us to be ready for that, we must become perfect.

We have to go through all kinds of experiences - positive and negative. It is not as if some will be given special treatment or will "manage" to scrape through without having sad / bad experiences. Yet, the timing of each persons experiences will be different. So, it appears to us that some of us are being unfairly treated by the Lord. People who are enjoying life now would either have already faced the experience in the past or might do so in the future.

Those of us who have learnt the lesson and modified our character accordingly will get other experiences. Those who are slow to learn will get higher and repeated doses of the same experience till the learning is complete. For most of us, it will take multiple lifetimes to fully imbibe what we are being taught.

Welcome each experience and learn new lessons...

Monday, September 7, 2009

What's in your mind?

This post was inspired by a discourse from Shri Satya Sai Baba beloved Guru of millions across the world

A few years ago, I had been on a trek to the Himalayas along with a group of colleagues. We trekked for about 8 days with a backpack which weighed about 14 Kilos and felt much more!! We covered over 100 kilometers on the mountains and slept in tents braving ice cold winds. On the last day, we had to climb a steep mountain without back packs. Oh, what a relief it was !! The climb seemed like cake walk and we could do it easily without much effort.

Our journey in life too can be a cakewalk if only we shed our burdens and unnecessary backpacks. Over the years, we tend to accumulate a lot of baggage in the form of negative emotions like anger, hatred, envy, grudge etc. and negative memories. While we may have perfectly logical reasons for having these, in reality these become a burden on ourselves. The people whom we envy or hate are not in the least affected by it. They drain us of our energy and end up weighing us down. If we try to live a few days without these accompaniments, we will realise how peaceful life can be.

On the other hand, positive thoughts and feelings are like the walking stick or other forms of support that helps us in the arduous trek of life. When we harbour positive feelings like love and kindness in our minds, we feel lighter and fit enough to take on the world. They give us strength and courage to face any situation. They also give us friends for life who support us through thick and thin and make our journey truly enjoyable.

So, what's in your mind?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Walk the talk

All of us have one common craving and desire – to be loved and respected. This essentially comes from our ego which craves recognition. One can see this even in small children, by the way they smile and laugh, when we pet and fondle them. There are many ways by which we can get the respect of others. One of them is by having consistency in our behaviour and our speech.

We tend to speak with much enthusiasm and gusto about various topics. Even take the topic of values – each one of us will profess to be having the right values in ourselves. We will also have a view on how one should behave in different situations and circumstances.

The true test comes when we are faced with such situations. At that time, do we practice what we preach? Or do we have different standards and yardsticks for ourselves? I have seen people preaching and advocating non-violence but when a tiny ant bites them for transgressing into its territory, they would immediately retaliate by crushing its life out. I have also seen parents teaching children to not fight but constantly arguing between themselves and showing contrary traits.

Whatever ideals we stand for; whatever characteristics we seek to see in others, should be first incorporated in ourselves. We must become the change we want to see in the world, said Mahatma Gandhi. What better way to preach and teach than by demonstrating values through our own actions? When we thus walk the talk, we gain respect, admiration, love and, above all, following.

“When a man says he approves of something in principle, it means he hasn't the slightest intention of carrying it out in practice” - Otto Von Bismark

“The mediocre teacher tells; The good teacher explains; The superior teacher demonstrates; The great teacher inspires” - Anonymous

“A picture is better than a thousand words, an action better than a thousand pictures” – Vishwanath Seshadri

Friday, September 4, 2009

Whom will you thank?

When we are born, we come to this world as helpless babies completely dependent on the love and care of our parents. In our early years, we are vulnerable to a host of risks including diseases, accidents etc. The fact that we survived is no credit to us but to those who took care of us.

We came without any special knowledge and did not even know how to converse. It was our parents and teachers who taught us and made us what we are. All through our lives we are learning various skills from others which help us face this world. Our knowledge is entirely gained due to the largesse of others.

Our position in society, our wealth, our health and everything that we claim as ours is gained by us through the contribution of others. If any of us think of ourselves as “self made”, we are only deluding ourselves. We have so much to be grateful for.

It is not enough if we thank people for what they have done for us. A mere “Thanks” cannot compensate for all that we have gained. And yet, how many of us even express our gratitude? In our minds, we should have the humility to accept that our standing and status in society is the charity we have received from others. And in our hearts, we should forever retain the spirit of gratitude.

“Greater than being great is being grateful" - Anonymous

“A single grateful thought raised to heaven, is the most perfect prayer” - Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

"Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but also the parent of all the others." - Cicero

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Make time for music

One of my favourite pass times as a young lad was to listen to music. Those were the days when television was yet to be introduced in the country. So, the radio occupied a special place in the drawing room of every home. I remember switching on the radio soon after waking and listening to all kinds of music programs through the day. I would know by heart the timing of each program and which stations to tune in to at what time. Hindi film songs was my first love and soon carnatic / classical music also caught my fancy. As I grew up pop music came into my life and as I matured, devotional music became my addiction.

It is said that the faculty of hearing is the first to develop and last to die in any body. Perhaps that is the Creator's way of telling us the importance of music. People who have not found the time or the inclination to include music in their lives are missing something big. In my view, music is akin to love. It is necessary to live life fully and its beauty can only be understood by experiencing it.

There are all kinds of music in the world today. Creative people are constantly experimenting and coming up with newer sounds and styles. Not everything that is called music is musical today. Sometimes, in the name of music people do play strange numbers and act even more strangely while singing it. However, even today there are huge number of pure musicians who give us pure joy every time they sing or play their instruments. We are transported into a different world by their music.

It is quite well known that music (of the right kind) gives tremendous positive benefits. It can heal very serious ailments and can calm agitated minds. Music has been used successfully in the past to create fire, produce rains etc. More recently it has been proven that music can improve growth among plants and productivity of cattle. Music essentially brings peace and harmony into our lives. There is a tremendous power in music which can be harnessed for the welfare of the whole world. Even God can't stay away when the prayers are musical.

"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music" - Sergei Rachmaninov

"Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul" - Plato

"If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it; that surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die." - William Shakespeare

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Take my advice

Tell someone you have a problem and before you have finished talking, you get a load of unwanted opinions & advice (O & A). There are plenty of people with plenty of time and good intentions all around us. They want to guide you, influence you and coax you to lead life as per their recommendations. We see it all the time. Many of us could also be accused of this.

It is as if we are walking encyclopedias who have a solution for every situation. One golden rule about giving O & A is do not offer it unless asked. The only exception could be when dealing with our children or immediate family members. Most of the time people only want to be heard. They want a sympathetic listener not an hyper active counsellor! In fact, an advice will be considered seriously and implemented only if it is earnestly and repeatedly solicited.

The other rule is, after giving the O & A, it should be the recipient's decision on whether to act on it or not. We should not hold a grudge if the advice is ignored or not implemented. After all, it is not our life. The recipient may get multiple O & A and will have to choose based on her resources and constraints.

I would love to hear your view on this.

"Accept good advice gracefully, as long as it does not interfere with what you intend to do" – Anonymous

"When we ask for advice, we are usually looking for an accomplice." - Marquis de la Grange

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Avoid blame game

Life is uncertain and volatile. In the midst of success, we suddenly see failures or vice versa. In the midst of much happiness, we encounter sad moments or vice versa. When we enjoy success we take full credit on our efforts. Some of us who are magnanimous, do express gratitude to the people who have made our success possible. Some go out of the way to deny all personal credit and acknowledge every possible contact (think of film award ceremonies).

What happens when we encounter problems or failures? Do we introspect on the reasons? Or do we invent excuses? Or blame others? Sometimes, it is easy and convenient to look outside for the reasons of our problems. It makes us feel better if we disclose that the problems were caused by external elements and we had nothing to do with it. How many of us have the sense of responsibility, honesty and courage to admit our shortcomings? Do we go to great lengths to defend ourselves and prove ourselves innocent?

If we tend to blame others incessantly and unnecessarily, we end up antagonising them. No one likes to be blamed. People start avoiding our company fearing the next blame will fall on them. We end up losing our friends and become lonely in life.

If you encounter setbacks or failures, as you sometimes will, curb the first instinct to look for a scapegoat. Think rationally and logically as to what is the cause. Is it a chance event that no one had any control over? Is it a consequence of something that we specifically remember? Is there learning for us? Is there any point crying over spilt milk? This approach will make you balanced and positive. You will end up using the opportunity to become better and find support from others too in your moment of crisis.

"A man can fail many times but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else" - John Burroughs

“Fix the problem, not the blame.” - Japanese proverb