DON’T DEFINE LIFE, JUST LIVE IT

Me then:

Sitting in computer class, learning Microsoft office package, trying my hands at different fonts available, scribbled down few lines in a poetic style:

“Life is a book, read it;

Life is a game, play it;

Life is a dish, taste it;

Life is lesson, learn it”

Me now : While thinking of all that stuff, ” Oh please cut the crap, what were you trying to do, you ain’t Shakespeare and that’s anything but poetry and last thing to be beautiful 😁.  But as they say you grow only when little wisdom is added with every passing day, I have realised one thing – there’s no need to draw comparisons and parallels, life is meant to be only lived.

Are we living in true sense?  We eat, drink, sleep – are we living?  We are chasing our dreams, celebrating occasions, mourning losses, hating people, loving things, loving to hate but are we essentially living?  Perhaps NO.  We are just filling the gap between our date of birth and death which is nothing but a number.  And everything in between in our lives is about numbers – age, number of hours you sleep for, calories taken, weight gained, targets achieved, number of bedrooms in-house, digits in salary, number of likes and follows on social media, price of accessories….. Typically everything under the sun, but where is life in our lives which is beyond any such quantification?

Happiness is the essence of life:  All our actions in our lives aim at attaining happiness.  Grabbing an ice cream at the wee hours of day gives happiness, parking that newly launched beast in the backyard is happiness, catching that extra five minutes of nap when the alarm is hell-bent on throwing you out of the bed is happiness.  I can go on.  What’s happiness for me might be a matter of indifference for you.  It’s a subjective issue.  But everything mentioned (not mentioned for that matter) doesn’t even constitute an iota when it comes to the real essence of life – the Eternal Happiness, that lies and comes from within, that’s once attained never dries up, the one which our supremacy intend us to unleash from within.

It’s not that we are completely aloof or oblivious from what our destination is.  Accidentally listening to spiritual talks, our festivals, times of distress do draw our attention towards important questions like “What’s the meaning of my life” , “how to get closer to the one and only supreme power called God”.  But again for majority of us (that includes me, I am not ashamed to admit the obvious) that’s a passing cloud before we fall to the trap of materialistic bliss of this world.

How to march towards Eternal Happiness?

Well that’s a continuous evolution before He can say that you have finally evolved.  And to begin with it’s an uphill task for sure.  That reminds me of the fact that our skin is weak that gives in easily before our souls could reap the fruits of eternal happiness.  Prayer, chanting, meditation are the three tools to keep our efforts from falling apart midway.

And here comes two fulcrum to utilize the aforesaid tools.  Two simple rules to apply in life:

Act without expectation:  When was the last time that you dropped a message wishing your long-lost friend without expecting a reply?  Or when was the last time you just picked up a big boulder impeding the way just to make a safe path for others without expecting appreciation?  Such instances for us may be countable on fingers for we all are so self-absorbed and self-centered  that we want every action of ours to be noticed even if it is for near and dear ones.  When expectations are tied to our actions, non-fulfillment of such expectations brings in gloom.  So the first rule of our journey towards Eternal Happiness is to act without expecting.  Begin with petty things and closed circles, practice and practice, just do your part with all your heart and soul in it.  See the difference of being indifferent to the laurels, soon criticism won’t affect your inner peace.

Forget and Forgive:  How I wish the first part was easy.  I simply can’t forget the words exchanged in the heat of argument that occurred two years back then how to expect  (again expectation 😁) people to forget the misdeeds of others directed towards them?  But without forgetting the past forgiving stands next to impossible.  And if one can’t forgive, can’t let the baggage of past and grudges go, there’s no way that a person could march ahead in the path shown by the supreme power.  Forgiveness is a way of easing the burden from our souls that renders us from being able to identify God in every soul.  And with God all around us what’s there to stop the stream of inner happiness from flowing.  When nothing but change is constant why let the past be stagnant in our present to disturb the future?

The idea is to commence the process of detachment from emotions that could lead us to sin and finally deviate us from the way that could lead us to our Sole (soul) destination.  Indifference to the happiness, worldly acknowledgements, tranquility of mind in adverse, in-your-face situations are the signatures of successful lives in true sense that comes from practice of these two simple rules.

Let’s inculcate these habits, , let’s just live life to the core of it and not just enact it.

ARE YOU CHASING AFTER THE WIND?

One of my very closest friend told me few days ago, that she is searching for the meaning of love, life, inspiration etc… I immediately understood how that feeling is. It is a feeling which can literally make you quiet and disturbed within. I had gone through that experience many times before so I know how a person can feel when he or she fails to understand the meaning of life and all that is within it. I didn’t answer back but thought of writing this article where I can express well and make my friend understand what I mean.

I remember a statement made by an successful athlete who was asked what he wished someone would have told him before reaching to the top, he replied, “I wish that someone would have told me that when you reach the top, there’s nothing there.”

The statement of the athlete made me to quote the wise words of a wise king in the Bible, who says:

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
    says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
    Everything is meaningless.”

“What do people gain from all their labors
    at which they toil under the sun?”

“I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”

“I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless.”

“I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
    I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
    and this was the reward for all my toil.
Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
    and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
    nothing was gained under the sun.”

“So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. For a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.”

Now, a man like him who can hate life realizing that everything is meaningless then just think about me and you who are so mere that can easily be frustrated and get away from the real meaning of life.

In search of the meaning of life many go after things like business successes, wealth, good relationships, sex, healthy lifestyle and doing good to others. But after achieving everything in life many have testified like that athlete that there was still a deep void inside them…, there’s a feeling of emptiness that nothing really can resolve for them.

When God created us He created us for a purpose. He blessed the mankind and said:

“Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground. I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.”

All these He did for us so that we can have a fulfilling life on this earth and glorify His name for the gift of life. But that really didn’t happen. If it would have happened then we would not have felt so empty and void within ourselves… we would not have searched for the meaning of our life.

Sin was the reason which literally changed the meaning of life and left us frustrated and craving for the things which God gave us naturally in the beginning. Now we run after all those materialistic stuffs which were actually supposed to be ours. We try to earn our own thing. We have to toil for the fulfillment of life which were supposed to be by default ours when we take birth on this earth. That’s funny… That’s the irony… Isn’t it?

So many times I feel very broken. Even this morning I was sad and broken though I didn’t show up yet I feel my sorrows making me think about ‘why on earth I am still existing…’ But again I was reminded of that loving call of my God, my Saviour who says:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Yeah, it is only God who can make the difference when we are going through the turmoils of our heart. He gives us a choice to seek Him and His will for our lives; the result will be a life finding contentment and satisfaction which is way different and better than a life of discontentment and emptiness. 

To conclude, as we are about to finish this year 2017, I would like to invite you all to seek God instead of chasing after the wind and… 

Delight yourself in the LORD and HE will give you the desires of your heart. 

THE SELFIE MANIA

A couple of days back I read of a shocking incident that had happened in the October of 2014, in Italy. A female nurse was arrested for the murder of 38 victims. But what was more shocking was a disturbing photo seized by the police: a selfie the nurse took of herself (in her hospital scrubs) standing near the body of a recently deceased patient while smiling and making a thumbs-up gesture! The local prosecutor, aghast at the horrific nature of the evidence remarked, “In all my professional years of seeing shocking photos, there were few such as these.”

Sometime back, the Indian newspapers carried the story of a young lad who lost his life while taking a selfie on a railway track with a fast approaching train behind him! So sad. He didn’t live to share his daring act!

To make the mood of this article a bit lighter, how many of you have competed with family members and friends as to who can pout the best for a selfie?

Yes, the selfie trend has brought in with it pouty poses (horns, winks and V-signs were already there before). Be it alone or with a group of friends, to pout for a selfie is the in-thing. Sounds cool!

While clicking selfies for harmless fun captures good moments, an overdose of ‘taking selfies’ is really something to worry about.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has officially declared taking ‘selfies’ a mental disorder. The disorder is named ‘selfitis’ and is defined as the obsessive compulsive desire to take photos of one’s self and post them on social media as a way to make up for the lack of self-esteem and to fill a gap in intimacy.

According to APA, there are three levels of the disorder:

  • Borderline selfitis – taking photos of one’s self at least three times a day but not posting them on social media
  • Acute selfitis – taking photos of one’s self at least three times a day and posting each of the photos on social media
  • Chronic selfitis – Uncontrollable urge to take photos of one’s self round the clock and posting the photos on social media more than six times a day

Well well, if you are not in any of these three categories, you are sort of safe. But yes, the separating line is not impermeable!

When I started taking selfies, I really had to learn the right way to incline the camera at the right angle, place the finger at the right postion for the click, take a proper pose with the background in mind, smile and then c..c..click… After the initial clumsiness, when I sort of got used to it (haven’t mastered it yet), I had the urge to take a couple of selfies after I reached my workplace early in the morning and then later when I was about to wind up for the day – just to compare how fresh I looked as I started the day and how worn out I looked as the workday came to an end. I generally never took selfies at other times. Neither did I post them in any social media site. On a few occasions, I shared a couple of good ones with friends and family.

But each day as I took those selfies at my workplace and looked at myself, I wondered why I was doing it. Wasn’t it making me focus more on ‘how I look’ rather than on ‘who I am’? Yes, indeed appearance is an integral part of who we are. However, I felt that clicking selfies is making me focus more on ‘the me’ and ‘the I’ and there was a danger of slipping into an obsession regarding one’s looks. So, no more selfies in the workplace for me!

An occasional selfie with a group of loved ones or at a scenic place of visit is definitely something to cherish. But when we become fixated with our own image, it does speak something more than just a picture.

Our feel-good factor should not rest merely with how we look externally – in our own eyes or in the eyes of others. It is definitely much more than that.

The story is told in Greek mythology about a hunter called Narcissus who was known for his beauty. Once he saw his own reflection in a pool and fell in love with it, not realizing that it was merely an image. Unable to leave the beauty of his reflection, Narcissus lost his will to live. He stared at his reflection until he died. Thus we have the origin of the term narcissism, a fixation with oneself and one’s physical appearance or public perception. And, several decades back, the APA classified one of the personality disorders as Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Some of you may feel that I am simply making a harmless selfie sound so terrifying. But, its important to remember that our gestures towards ourselves do convey a world load of meaning about our psychological state.

As I have stated before, an occasional selfie for a memory does not indicate psychological ill-health. Its only when we become obsessive about taking selfies every now and then, that it is something to worry about.

The need for appreciation, approval, acceptance, affirmation, self-esteem; a feeling of loneliness and depression steer one to find satisfaction in one’s own self. And these are the chief factors that unconsciously propel us to love or hate our own images.

The next time you incline your camera to click a selfie, do pause for a moment and ask yourself why are you about to take this selfie.

HOW DO YOU PERCEIVE YOURSELF ? DOES THAT MATCH THE REAL YOU?

There was a regional movie that was released in 2014. The heroine character in that movie is very peculiar. She is a totally inexpressive person. Love, anger, fear, whatever her feeling and emotion may be she never portrays it outside. So, she doesn’t even smile and her facial expressions don’t change what so ever.

One of my very good friend and then my colleague as well, saw the movie and said, “You are just like the girl’s character in that movie“. I was totally taken aback by what he was saying, on top of that he dedicated a song from that movie to me and said, “carefully listen to that song, you are a different person than you think you are”. I argued with him for quite some time to prove that I am not, but he meant more than the facial expressions of that character. It really took some time for me to realize what is that he was trying to explain me. 

A lot of people who saw me transform in the last one year have felt that I am very different person than what I was earlier. I had a long hair, always traditionally dressed, no make-up, I never laugh in public, calm and a silent going girl. Now, I am more trendy, try different hair cuts, I hangout with new people without apprehension, I do laugh out loud if I feel like… I am a more happier person.  There is one person who really thought I needed this transformation only because he really understood me, three years ago… I am so glad to have a friend who can read me to near perfection, when I couldn’t …

All thanks to him, it’s only because of him I really started dwelling into myself on what I really want to be like. There is always one message or call I get from him that simply says, “I am so happy to see you like this”. Every new DP of mine that depicts the new me, he does ping me to say only this. I know he means more than his expression, in fact I can say that he is happy from the bottom of his heart to see the true me, the free me who is not controlled by myths.

Can you relate to this ? If so, why do you think this happens with us?

When somebody tells us that we look happier when we spend time with pets, eventually we tend to believe that it’s true and we may end up owning a pet too. When we are confused we infer from our behavior or from what someone else says .

This phenomena in social psychology is called self-perception. Everyone of us have a perception about ourselves. We study how we react to certain situations and build our emotions related to that. Since we may be very confused about our feelings it’s natural to do so. 

Until we come to an authentic, well thought of and unclouded idea of who we are, we are only a reflection of the opinions of other people; we are a reflection of what others believe about us, we are clouded by their opinions. People instruct us, hold opinions and pass judgment, and we buy in. Negative perception results in shame, lot of people misunderstand this as shyness of a person, but that’s not true. This can be harming you from within.This happened with me, all the frustration piled up and one fine day just burst out, screaming “Can you just try to be you ?”

To be frank, the fact is, we can never be 100% accurate about ourselves, but having said this, it is not impossible to learn if you are drifting away from the real you. Some times you may be happy even if you are drifting, but you would never feel the satisfaction. The more you feel dissatisfied, the more you know there is something that is not right. What really helps is self introspection and talking to people who care about you. Don’t give up on something you really like only because someone else thinks you cannot have it, or worth of it. What you are worth of should always be defined you with help of others. Only a happy and satisfied you can resonate the same to others …

“It is good to see ourselves as others see us. Try we may, we are never able to know ourselves fully as we are, especially the evil side of us. This we can do only if we are not angry with our critics but will take in good heart whatever they might have to say.”
Mahatma Gandhi

ARE WE CONTENTED WITH OUR LIVES?

From the perspective of a foodie I have often patronized the fact that I LOVE BIRYANI. Not just any Biryani but the famous Kolkata biryani that comes with the humble potato. The love that I have for this item cannot be compared with the fondness that I have for other eatables. I have such humongous affection for biryani that I can devour it for all the meals of the day (Trust me I’ve done that as well).

But, consuming something for ages that is lardy and heavy comes with a price. I have to watch my weight as I am going on its higher side. It gives rise to gastric ulcers resulting in chest pain and fatigue. Numerous breakouts like acne on the skin are noticeable. Having experienced the results of some sorts I pledged to reduce the intake of such items at the start of the year. Yes, I took a resolution (I doubt its sustenance though).

You must be wondering why I suddenly related to gastronomy and my resolution at the beginning of this article as the topic for the week is “Quest of Life”. However trivial may it sound, this does help me relate to a pertinent question that I have been pondering upon lately. To what extent must a people go on living their regular lives till they realize they need a change? Do we really find contentment in the things we do?

We all take decisions regarding various aspects in our life which are far more important than having biryani. Do we really find satisfaction in leading our lives the way we want to? How far should we go to satiate ourselves till we become self-sufficient? We run after our desires and do not rest until we achieve our targets. As soon as we accomplish we set new goals and prepare our quest for them. Our interests keep changing. We have forgotten to be consistent. We change with the shift in trends. A new trend sees a new you. Somewhere in this changing process we tend to lose ourselves to the temporary changes. Change for consistency and sustenance is what we don’t aim for. I am not saying that change is bad as in some cases it is necessary and changing for the good has its own rewards. Now let us address the question of self-sufficiency. Can we ever become self-sufficient? The answer is NO. The mortal human cannot achieve self-sufficiency. How much we try to acquire knowledge, skill etc. we will never be enough for ourselves.

If this is the case then why do we resist ourselves from showing love and being kind? Why do we prioritize ourselves and feed our selfish desires? We spend our time worrying and planning for an unseen future. Discontentment and dissatisfaction encompasses us giving rise to displeasure. We are annoyed with our human nature. But the truth is there is no need for such annoyance as we cannot change the fact that we are dust and to dust we will return. Where do we find the solution to end up this displeasure? The joy will be found when we know who our Provider is. The previous week we were illuminated with the various facets of God’s nature. Self-sufficiency is one of them. Your Creator knows you best. Trust me when I say He will give you what you NEED and not what you WANT. Running after something that you want will only add up to the dissatisfaction that is already present. Therefore, submission to someone like this is what we need to do.  This is the key to be contented and peaceful amidst all chaos and imperfection.

We do realize the times when we want to change for the better, isn’t it? Still, we feel like lingering on to irrelevant and unnecessary things. At times these unnecessary things can be toxic enough to destroy us. Though we want to let go we don’t take a step further in it. That is when we see ourselves engulfed in worries and discontentment. As we keep on prioritizing ourselves losing out becomes a red mark and we tend to have false hopes. Let me tell you, there is a unique joy in losing out to the righteous. But you will only feel it once you step out of that zone and embrace the right path. Innumerable times we ignore the call to joy and continue to break ourselves till we become soulless. Stop right there and answer to the call. Stop trying to do everything by yourself. You certainly cannot turn every stone. The reason for that I have mentioned in the previous paragraphs.

The birds never reap, sow or store as they are aware of their Provider, The Heavenly Father. Hence, they do not worry. We humans are more valuable than them yet we are in constant vexation. So if you too are struggling with the thought of changing for good, transforming into the ideal human, identify your needs before your wants and submit to the will of the Creator. If this makes you a weak person delight in it as you will realize that your strength relies in nothing but God who has promised never to forsake us come what may.

Even if we know this very well…yet why are we so discontent and dissatisfied?