Thirty spokes are joined together in a wheel,
but it is the center hole
that allows the wheel to function.
We mold clay into a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside
that makes the vessel useful.
We fashion wood for a house,
but it is the emptiness inside
that makes it livable.
We work with the substantial,
but the emptiness is what we use.
Laozi Tao Te Ching 11
If we pay attention, we will realize that every moment around us there is a world that we do not create—that’s been there for 13.8 billion years—and there are trillions of cells in your body that are doing what they’re supposed to do, all of nature, everything. And, you wake up and you realize, ‘I’m not doing any of this. I didn’t make my body, I didn’t make my mind think, I don’t make my heart beat, I don’t make my breath breathe—yet I have this notion that I have to make things happen. Yet, all throughout the universe things are happening everywhere, and I’m not doing them. So, why exactly am I the one that’s in charge of what’s unfolding in front of me?’ And, what you realize at some point, is that you’re not.
That the moment in front of you that’s unfolding is no different than all the zillions of other moments that aren’t in front of you that are unfolding in accordance to the laws of nature, the laws of creation. So, you start to practice saying, ‘I don’t want to check inside of me first to see what I want and what I don’t want. I want to pay attention to what the universe is creating in front of me—just like it’s creating everywhere I’m not—and let me see how I can participate in that, be part of that, instead of interfering with it with my desires and my fears.’ That’s living from a place of surrender.Source
“I’ve concluded that the metric by which God will assess my life isn’t dollars but the individual people whose lives I’ve touched. I think that’s the way it will work for us all. Don’t worry about the level of individual prominence you have achieved; worry about the individuals you have helped become better people.”
“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”
― William Martin
In the pic: My kids watching the expanse of Sukhna lake with Shivalik mountains at a distance.
The people who radiate a permanent joy have given themselves over to lives of deep and loving commitment. Giving has become their nature, and little by little they have made their souls incandescent. There’s always something flowing out of the interiority of our spirit. For some people it’s mostly fear or insecurity. For the people we call joyful, it’s mostly gratitude, delight, and kindness.
-David Brooks, The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life
(Hat Tip: Anderson Layman)
Sometimes, witnessing death teaches you about life that life itself cannot.
This week, I encountered two deaths – one of a relative and one of a neighbor but it was the stark contrast of how they passed away that taught me something important.
Our relative passed away on the stage at the age of 70 years pursuing his passion for singing and music. He was performing at a religious gathering when he collapsed of a sudden cardiac arrest resulting from a rather long history of cardio-vascular disease. He was a parent of a special child and life wasn’t really easy for him. But he would always wear a smile as gentle as his nature and radiate joy whenever he met others. Music was his passion and to pursue it full time, he opted for a premature retirement from his banking profession.Music was also his defense against the trials of life – whenever he found himself tangled in vagaries of life, he would lose himself in songs that he wrote, composed and sung. He often mentioned that he would like to pass away gently while singing in devotion of the higher power. Universe granted his wish.
On the other hand, I heard the news of one of our neighbors who committed suicide at the age of 40 leaving behind wife and two boys aged 5 and 8! Though no one knows the reason why he chose to run away from life, everyone thought what he did was horrible. Escaping life to avoid being confronted with problems leaves those left behind with much bigger problems for rest of their lives!
Events like these makes you think hard about life and how to live it well. We often get too caught up with our problems whether it is financial, relational, physical or emotional. Problems are there for a reason. We evolve as we go through those experiences, face the challenges and solve our problems. We cannot let the dark clouds of despair take us over.
We all face problems and challenges in our unique contexts. A few things really help in dealing with them.
Having a strong support system in form of family and friends with whom you can share and communicate your feelings, emotions and concerns is important buffer we have. More important is to actually choose to communicate with our loved ones regularly. Having exposure to right kind of reading and thinking can help in dealing with problems wisely. Having at least one passion that you can lose yourself into completely can be a savior. Doing something to serve others can help in taking away focus from the self even if for short time. Having a spiritual hook in any form can help too. Living in the current moment and doing whatever you are doing with full focus can keep you away from anxiety of the future.
The life we have been bestowed with is precious. We got to use life energy as a tool to overcome challenges, to create meaning for ourselves, to serve others, to tread gently on this earth, lose ourselves in something bigger than ourselves and be open to learn along the way.
Voltaire said it right:
God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living it well.
Words can wound, but they seldom heal; it’s silence that more often heals or restores us.
Nothing fails like success. We gain success by doing what works for us. We do more of what works for us, until it doesn’t.
And then, the very thing that contributed to our success becomes the reason of our failure.
This happens because to often, we become prisoners of our own experiences. Because we find it difficult to step out of our limited viewpoints formed through finite experiences.
To avoid this, we need an ability to think critically, map our lessons to the context in which we currently exist and learn in an iterative way.
We need to belong to a community of people who can challenge our thinking. We need to contribute to this community. We need a mindset of an explorer who is ready to uncover and deal with the uncertain next.
Then we can build on our success rather than being imprisoned by it.
– – – –
And here is another perspective to consider.
We stand a chance to fail only when we have succeeded. So, if you are successful by external metrics (title, position, authority, material success etc) then do know that you may fail at some point. What goes up invariably will see a downfall.
How do we deal with a downfall after we have succeeded in the eyes of other people?
First and foremost, it is best not to be driven by or attached with external measures of success. Money, titles, authority are merely by-products of being who you truly are. When your doing stems from your being and feeds your joy, you will associate success with inner well-being rather than external measures.
Second is to work in your inner calm. We get too excited when we taste success and too dejected when we experience set backs. But most wise people I know have worked at building their inner state where they handle life situations with equanimity.
If we do this, we won’t really fail when we fail, but instead use it as an opportunity to step up further.
Nothing fails like success.
Happiness in this world, when it comes, comes incidentally. Make it the object of pursuit, and it leads us a wild-goose chase, and is never attained. Follow some other object, and very possibly we may find that we have caught happiness, without dreaming of it; but likely enough it is gone the moment we say to ourselves, “Here it is!” like the chest of gold that treasure-seekers find.
– Nathaniel Hawthorne