Thursday, July 30, 2009

What causes Sorrow?

Each one of us, on various occasions, would have felt unhappy. It is not a pleasant feeling and we all wish to be happy instead. Yet, unhappiness makes its presence felt time and again. Someone once remarked that happiness is the interval between two sorrows. Is this really so? What causes unhappiness? If only we knew the real reason for sorrow, won't we make efforts to fix it?

Some people say that sorrow is caused by other people. When other people do or say things which hurt us, we feel sad. If only other people are more considerate, our sorrows would be lesser. Some say that distress is caused by some events. It could be death or accident or some other event which causes pain to us. Therefore. sorrow is accidental. Astrologers claim that distress is essentially caused by planetary influences in our lives. They say all things are pre-ordained and we are all bound to have alternating periods of joy and sorrow...

Wise seers of yore have gone deeper into this question and through contemplation and meditation have concluded and declared that sorrow is only a state of our minds. When the mind is disturbed by things not happening as per expectations, it gets hurt and upset. This becomes the root cause of all sorrow. The trick therefore is to look inward. There is no point searching for external reasons.

The cause of all joy and distress is our mind. If we can keep our mind & desires in control, it will become a mere observer of things. As an observer, the mind has no direct involvement and hence does not worry about the events. Then, we feel tranquil and have a smooth life. Just as a drop of water on a lotus leaf does not mingle with it, sorrow does not affect us.

You cannot prevent the birds of sadness flying over your head but you can prevent them from nesting in your hair – Swedish saying

"The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain" - Kahlil Gibran

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hear, See & Speak No Evil

Our mind is unique. It is very adaptable and impressionable. It has a tendency to make us think in lines with whatever it is exposed to. So, for example, if the mind is exposed to people with musical talents, the mind tempts us also to try our hands at music. If we live amongst sports persons, we tend to venture into sports ourselves. Our minds easily get influenced by what it observes.

How do we use this understanding to impact us positively? We need to make sure that our minds get exposed to only positive stories and thoughts. We should take care to prevent any single evil thought or notion from appearing before our minds. We should remember that "evil" is an integral part of the "devil"

In today's context of a world where values are continuously deteriorating; this is easier said than done. All around us we see and hear mainly negative stories. People also find it attractive and interesting. Simply put, evil sells. No wonder then, we find positive news tucked away in the inner pages (or not at all) of leading newspapers and magazines. All the front pages are splashed with violence and such stories.

Like the famous three wise monkeys, we can also make a choice of not seeing, hearing or speaking of evil things. We can consciously avoid them. Even in evil things, we can focus on the positive aspects (if any). Our tongues desist from accepting any tasteless article and our nose refuses to breath in the presence of bad odour. Similarly, with our intelligence we should train our other sense organs from avoiding all evils. By doing this, regularly and steadfastly, we can make our minds "think" good thoughts. When we are thus filled with good thoughts, it gets reflected in our character and in our environment.

Lets work within ourselves to create an evil-free world.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Rid fear through faith

Most of us have some fear or the other. Some fear loneliness, some fear darkness, some fear cockroaches, some fear failure etc. Fear is our constant companion from the time we are born. Some fears, like fear of our own conscience, are desirable while most other fears are not. It seems that most of us also are unwilling to let go of our fears. Even when we see a possible solution to get rid of our fears, we are unsure whether it will work. Everything we do only seems to make the fear stronger. There are some minor fears that could be rid through actual exposure to the fear factor. Most fears, however, are deeply imprinted in our subconscious mind. They cannot be dislodged easily.

The first step, of course, is to identify what we fear. Care should be taken not to mistake the symptom from the root problem. For example, fear of cockroaches is not just the fear of the insect. It is the fear of what the insect can do to us. Can it bite us? Does it spread disease? Ultimately, it is the body’s method of protecting against the unknown risks. Once the root cause is identified, steps should be taken to address it.

The biggest fear that we all have is the fear of death. This fear is illogical because we all intellectually know that death is inevitable. Yet, we have some false hope that it will not happen to us or that the manner in which life leaves us is the least painful and the most convenient.

In my view, the best way to rid ourselves of fear is by having faith in the Almighty. If we consider ourselves as God’s children then we should also have the faith that God loves us and will take care of us. If we leave the uncertainty, the risks, the future, our security and even our death to His judgement and to His decision, we rid ourselves of the fear simultaneously. Fear will persist only if we do this half heartedly or if our faith is weak. Have faith in His abilities. Have faith in His compassion. Have faith in His fairness. Then you never have to fear anything or anyone anytime again.

"Why fear when I am here?" - Sri Sathya Sai Baba

"I have not ceased being fearful, but I have ceased to let the fear control me. I have accepted fear as a part of life, specifically the fear of change, the fear of the unknown, and I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back, turn back, you'll die if you venture in too far" - Erica Jong

"Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light" – Helen Keller

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Watch your Perspective !!

A few years ago when we were holidaying in the Himalayas, we had hired a cab to take us around various hill shrines. The roads were treacherous and one false move could have resulted in us becoming newspaper headlines the next day. Fortunately, we had a driver who was slow and steady and ever willing to give way to other vehicles. We appreciated his driving skills and attitude.

As we were returning, we came down to the plains and were impatient to get back to our hotel. The weather was hot and the traffic maddening. Suddenly, the same driver and the same driving skills became irritating to us. Based on the change of our perspective, what once seemed ideal started looking painful. Thankfully, we also recognised and remembered our appreciations and did not make an issue in our return.

All of us are all the time forming views on things based on our respective perspectives. Our perspectives get formed based on our expectations as well as our experiences. We all are wearing our own lens through which we see the world. If we truly realise this then the world will begin to look perfect. All imperfections, we then realise, exist within us.

Whenever we feel upset about something, we should look inwards and ask ourselves this question - what if my perspective changed ? We also start putting ourselves in the shoes of others and see things from their perspective. When we start watching our perspective, we realise that our mind plays games with us. With this realisation, our mind comes within our control. When the mind is in control, you can conquer the whole world....

"Between the laughing and the weeping philosopher there is no opposition: the same facts that make one laugh makes one weep" - George Santayana

"Have you ever noticed? Anybody going slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac" - George Carlin

"Even the worst of sinners has a future, even as the greatest saint has had a past. No one is so good or so bad as he imagines" - Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

Monday, July 20, 2009

Perform Acts of Kindness

Every day and every moment of our lives presents an opportunity to us to help and serve others. It may be help to fellow human beings or it could be to other forms of life that surround us. How many of us are conscious and aware of these opportunities ? How many of us make use of these opportunities to support other beings ?

One does not need huge resources or wealth to be kind. Kindness can be expressed through a mere smile or an expression of concern for others. When we, through a mere look, touch or word, tell others that we care, they become overjoyed. It could be something as simple as giving proper directions to a person who is lost or helping a blind person cross the road or feeding a stray dog with some biscuits.. Whatever stress, pain or worry they are going through becomes lighter. Problems halve and joys double when they are shared..

When our own close family members are distressed, it is natural for us to be concerned and express it. When it is a stranger, why should we hesitate ? The key ingredient for being kind is to see the unity in diversity. It is when we become selfless that we really live.

As we keep performing acts of kindness, we start to get filled with joy ourselves. The joy we create in others comes and fills us and our lives with it. We find that, like a boomerang, the effect of our positive actions comes back to us. The happiness that we are all seeking all the time, is ours when we seek to give it to others.

So, go ahead. Make someones day today by being kind.

"Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolutions" - Khalil Gibran

Life is mostly froth and bubble.
Two things stand like stone;
Kindness in another’s trouble,
Courage in your own.
- Anonymous

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Stay fit

These days' people are becoming conscious of the need for physical fitness and are striving through exercise regimens like walking, gymming & swimming, diet control, yoga etc. to become physically fit. Much has been said and written already on this. For those, who are yet to move in this direction, the message is very clear - take care of your body, it is only one you have and ignoring it can be painful and fatal. Stop giving over attention to fiscal health.

We need to be conscious also of the need for mental fitness. By working on this area, we can be seen as mature and balanced people. Constant exposure through various media to good thoughts, adequate exercising of the mental muscles supported by good rest, meditation etc. are the techniques through which this can be attained. Without a certain level of mental fitness, we are likely to be dismissed or ignored by those around us.

Besides the above, it would be useful to introduce the concept of spiritual fitness. Being spiritual is more than being religious. Religious people sometimes get so attached to their respective religions and Gods that they begin to hate other religions or Gods. When one is spiritual, she sees herself in every one and her God in every God. Unity in Diversity is the vision seen. Love becomes the way of life.

If we focus on all the three forms of fitness, we will have happy lives. We will move towards achieving our real purpose in life. Success, in every sense of the word, will be ours.. We can then claim that we know the "Art of Living".

He who has health has hope; and he who has hope has everything - Arabian Proverb

“If you don’t make time for exercise, you’ll probably have to make time for illness” - Robin Sharma

"Step into a new you each day. Reach out to greater health, happiness, fitness, friendship, love and greater pride in yourself" - Mark Victor Hansen

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Believe in Yourself !!

Life is tough. It does not always give us what we seek. With the exception of some very lucky people who have a cushy and comfortable life, most of us have to go through a daily struggle. There are several challenges and obstacles to be overcome on our way to success. One needs to work hard, lead a disciplined life and prepare well. One also has to have a strong resolve to achieve ones goals. And have an ability to overcome failures.

Sometimes we find people behaving like the plant "touch me not" - very sensitive and easily dejected. One tough day or one failure and such people get demoralised. Their self esteem gets shattered and they believe themselves to be completely useless. They need to be cajoled and coerced into facing the world and meeting the next challenge. They need constant props to keep them from falling. Ever willing to give up. It seems that they convince themselves to fail and probably secretly enjoy the attention.

On the other hand, there are some brave hearts with a "never say die" spirit in them. They "know" that victory is theirs and it is only a question of working towards it. They persevere in chasing their goals until it is reached. They know that ups and downs are facts of life and look forward to the "ups" when things are "down". They have a calm demeanour and determination to succeed which helps them to face temporary defeats stoically. They display a certain strength of character which wins them the respect of others around them. Even when they are losing, they walk erect. Their body language says it all.

Believe in yourself. When you have this level of self confidence, nothing can upset you. You will have happiness and courage as your constant companions. Be the rock that stands undisturbed by the waves that keep crashing on you. Be the role model for others around you. Your courage and conviction will provide succour not only to yourself but to all those who seek support from you.

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams" - Eleanor Roosevelt

"You become what you believe" - Oprah Winfrey

"Believe and act as if it were impossible to fail" - Charles Kettering

"I don't measure a man's success by how high he climbs but how high he bounces when he hits bottom" - George Patton

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Plant a Tree Today !!

It is the month of July. Monsoon was weak in June and now we are seeing sporadic heavy rains this month. Several thoughts come to mind. Has the commencement of monsoon shifted from June to July ? Are we going to get normal rainfall this year or is the global warming going to affect us ? What can we do to ensure healthy rainfall year on year ? When it is raining, should we relax indoors in a cosy environment with a hot drink ? Or should we make use of this opportunity to do something useful ?

I feel, this is a good time to plant trees. Instead of letting nature takes its own course, we should help nature by proactively improving the green cover. We consume, in our lifetimes, a fair amount of trees in various forms - whether it is in the form of furniture or paper we use. Trees form a vital part of of everyday lives. Yet, how many of us can stand up and proudly proclaim that "I have planted and grown X number of trees" ? Most of us are net consumers of trees. We are slowly but steadily eroding mother nature of its glory.

I have read of a woman named Wangari in Kenya who has single-handedly planted and nurtured thousands of trees over many years. Her love for trees and her dedication to this task despite occassional stiff opposition is highly impressive. She started a movement called the Green Belt Movement which has caught the attention of many more people like her across that nation.

If not thousands like her, can we make a start by planting one single tree ? Trees have long lifespans. They seek nothing from us except care in the initial few months or so. After that, they are only selflessly and silently working for us. They give us shade in hot weather, they house so many birds and insects etc., they give us fruits and most importantly they help us reduce global warming.

The other day, I saw a group of volunteers (young school and college going kids) from "Art of Living" society planting several trees. They were not participating in any competition. They were not in it for any recognition. They simply cared for the environment and wanted to do their bit. I was hugely motivated by this and did my bit by applauding them and by planting a few trees myself.

Hope I have seeded a thought in your minds too....

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Mind your Language !!

There was an extremely popular television serial some years ago with this title. That serial poked fun at people from different countries on the manner by which they speak the English language. This blog has the same title but the intention is slightly different.

It is important to be good at language skills. However, one has to be also good at using the language properly at different occasions. One has to be particularly careful in avoiding use of abusive or dirty words. Sometimes when passion overcomes us, we tend to lose control of what we speak or do. Even when we are emotionally charged up, we need to mind our language.

I must mention a word about my brother here. Right from childhood I have observed him showing tremendous restraint and control over his tongue. Even when everyone around him freely used bad words and when it was considered fashionable to mouth such words, he would speak only decent and proper language. He always came across as dignified and respectable because of that.

Control of our tongue has many advantages. A harshly spoken word can never be withdrawn and can cause more damage than can be imagined. It will be easy to move from controlling our tongue to controlling our minds. An honourable and happy life awaits us when we thus control our minds.

One should avoid speaking anything which may provoke violence, flattery, condemnation or gossip. Or use words that may cause harm to others. One should not inflict pain by using words which are abusive – Jain thought

The game of life is the game of boomerangs. Our thoughts, deeds and words return to us sooner or later, with astounding accuracy. - Florence Shinn Bounce

Anger fogs understanding – Sri Sathya Sai Baba

Friday, July 10, 2009

Take it Easy Policy !!

There was a very popular Tamil and Hindi song a few years ago with the same lines “Take it easy policy…”. The song urges people to take it easy whatever be the situation. I thought it was a very strong advise and can easily become part of one's value system.

Sometimes we tend to get stressed over the smallest of things. If the bus / train is late or if it is raining or if it is not raining etc. anything could be a trigger for our anxiety. We tend to imagine the worst and presume that our worrying is going to help change things. Come to think about it, our worrying has only one effect – that of affecting our health and that of people around us.

Taking it easy does not mean having a laid back attitude. It does not mean becoming fatalistic and leaving things to destiny. One should not use this as an excuse to not making an effort. Also, one should not become over confident and stop preparing or planning.

Taking it easy essentially means that we recognize that we only control our efforts and not the results. It tells us that we have to focus on what we do and do it well. It tells us that the highest satisfaction should come out of a job well done. It also helps us to be prepared for any eventuality and not to fret and fume. It is about smiling and being happy irrespective of the circumstances that we face.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Cheats get Defeat !!

When playing a computer game the other day with my son, I saw him attempting to cheat. When I asked him about it, he tried to grin his way out of the situation. I could have ignored it thinking that it is quite harmless and it was a game after all. However, I took the opportunity of giving him a sermon which I summarise below.

One advice often heard and given by us is that one should not cheat, cheating is a sin, something that will get us punished etc. Yet, many of us have cheated. Sometimes it is for fun. Sometimes it is to get a benefit for ourselves or for our loved ones. Sometimes it is just for checking whether we are good at it. Usually, it is done very subtly and with a lot of finesse. One must be prepared to bluff ones way out if caught.

Cheating takes several forms. Either it may be a simple breaking of rules or it could be making false statements / claims. It could be in the form of duping someone or it could be simply breaking of trust. It might be even used to punish someone falsely. We cheat thinking of immediate gains and do not quite worry about the long term consequences of the act. Even a simple case of cheating while playing a game has long term implications.

When we cheat (even for fun), it becomes part of our personality. We feel it is a legitimate option available for us to be used at any convenient time. Soon, people recognise our behaviour pattern and brand us as cheats. Then people stop trusting us. Our every act then starts looking suspicious to others. Even things done without intention looks malafide. We have to prove our innocence time and again. Our ability to build relationships gets seriously affected. Our gains through cheating can never be sustained or even retained. It is a loss making proposition to cheat. Moreover, cheating is addictive like any other vice.

On the other hand, if we are scrupulously honest, people deal with us comfortably. They trust us implicitly and explicitly. We have strong relationships and this helps us profit in more ways than one. Victory, in the real sense, is ours if we do not cheat.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

High Energy & Enthusiasm (HEE)

One of the most important aspects in successful individuals is the presence of a high level of energy and enthusiasm. Such people are always buzzing with excitement and ensure that those around them are also suitably pepped up. Even in dull situations, these people come up with ideas that helps release the boredom.

When a person is showing high energy, we naturally get attracted to her. Subconsciously, perhaps, we feel that we might also become energetic due to the contact. Such people seem to be capable of doing many things and become natural choice for being included in any team or in being delegated tasks. Their "Never say Tire" attitude seems to give them more time and band width to accomplish things.

High energy when coupled with high enthusiasm forms a formidable combination. Enthusiastic people have this positive mindset which is infectious. They are happy to accept tasks and do not shirk responsibilities. They are first off the block in any race. They jump at opportunities and see obstacles as a sport. Change management becomes easy with such people around. It goes without saying that this combination can also be disastrous if not controlled or managed well.

Every team and organisation needs people with HEE. An intellectually strong person can become more successful if the HEE element is also present. Without HEE, things will move at a slow pace and may many times lose momentum. I strongly believe and suggest that we need to take stock, from time to time, on the level of HEE in any team and work towards keeping it sufficiently high.

"Knowledge is power, but enthusiasm pulls the switch" - Ivern Ball

"Confidence and enthusiasm are the greatest sales producers in any kind of economy."
- O. B. Smith

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Practice & Preach Values !!

One of the questions that bothers me is why should I write about values. Is it not known to everyone ? What is so new about what I write that people should sit up and take notice ? Is there any benefit at all in this exercise or is it a waste of time ?

On deeper thinking, I feel there is a great value in this. In today's world, all around us we see people knowing things "intellectually" but behaving in a different manner depending on what suits them. Theoretically, everyone is good and would score cent per cent if subjected to an examination on "Values". Practically, however, the story could be quite different (Yes, me included).

So, as we see around us a constant increase in evil and steady deterioration of values, what is the best solution ? Do we join the crowd and practice "When in Rome do as Romans do" ? Or do we choose to be different ?

I believe, as Mahatma Gandhiji once said, we should be the change that we seek to see in the world. We should live a disciplined life full of values. Our lives should be a shining example for others to follow. And when we do communicate, we should communicate and reiterate the core values that drive us. The only contribution we can do to make this world better is to live and teach a life of values.

A truly successful life is one which is value driven - Vishwanath Seshadri

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Honour thy Commitment !!

Sometimes we make promises to people with whom we interact. It could be something as trivial as to meet up at a particular time or to give / fetch something. At times, it could be a serious promise like giving up a vice or doing something critical. When we make such a promise or commitment, it is our duty to adhere to it without fail.

It is often better not to make promises rather than make one and break it. At the same time, completely avoiding giving promises shows us in poor light. When we make a promise and break it, we lose our image. People start discounting our words and us. They don't take us seriously and hesitate to give us tasks of importance. We thus live a life with fewer responsibilities and challenges which could give us growth and exploit our full potential.

Making commitments is serious business. Only the really strong willed people undertake to make serious commitments. For such people, it is a matter of personal honour to honour their commitments. Even at great cost and personal inconvenience, they would strive to meet their promise.

If you wish to be counted amongst the select band of dependable people, make sure that you religiously and diligently honour all your commitments, however small they may seem to be. Make big commitments and honour them. It will win you respect and admiration of people who know you and enhance your brand value.

There can be no happiness if your daily commitments are misaligned with your deepest convictions. - Robin Sharma

Real heroes are men who fall and fail and are flawed, but win out in the end because they've stayed true to their ideals and beliefs and commitments - Kevin Costner