Friday, 31 March 2017

Atone the Past & Transform Your Future

“Repentance is the root of regeneration.” – L G Akita

The spirit of remorse and repentance has by far become alien to us. The soaring crime rate, the veneration of brutality, the increasing availability of drugs and unwarranted consumption of banned substances, the alarming growth of cults and violence has turned our hearts cold to the world around us. A sense of apathy and indifference looms within us, and over a period of time we have become accustomed to turning a blind eye to our own misdeeds. The human mind has a way of believing that it is always in the right and has no necessity to repent over its wrong acts. Instead of introspecting, we choose to blame others and even blame God for placing us in dire situations, thereby justifying our harsh words and actions.

There is a huge difference between regret and repentance for the past. Regret is not a proactive feeling. It is based in dissatisfaction, sadness, and even guilt. Regret aims to magically undo the past without actually taking the step towards creating a real difference. But repentance is an admission of wrongdoing, bad behaviour and thoughts. Repentance offers us a chance to renew our life. It empowers us to liberate ourselves from all our destructive harmful thoughts and behaviours with an aim to turn towards the positive. The transforming quality of repentance enables us to ponder over our past mistakes and motivate ourselves to never repeat those actions ever again.

Repentance is not so much asking for divine forgiveness, but a clear understanding of our cruel actions done intentionally or inadvertently through our thoughts, words and deeds. We are better able to gauge that the root cause of our misdeeds have arisen from our lack of compassion and insight, due to our own fears, desires, attachments, aversions and misconceptions. After recognising this, we are better able to make mindful resolutions to be as watchful as we can and never repeat these behaviours. In other words, repentance helps us turn over a new leaf, absolve ourselves of unhealthy shame while restoring our determination to avoid any further malevolence to our fellow beings.

Practise repentance at the end of each day. Recall the wrong deeds that you have done through that day. Indulging in this daily practice will help you reduce recurring mistakes as it increases your mindfulness in the coming days. Even if your pride tells you that you have committed no wrong, make it a point to repent as soon as you can later.

The greater our sincerity and desire to walk down this new path, the more powerful our transformation. While repentance does not erase our past karma, it can soften its future mal-effects. Repentance practised daily will help prevent the creation of fresh new damaging karma and future torment, even as in the current state it offers a peaceful state of mind, compassion, mercy and higher wisdom.

It is dreadful when we commit wrongs, but it’s even worse when we fail to feel sorrow and atone for our misdeed. As Thomas Carlyle sums up, “Of all acts of man repentance is the most divine. The greatest of all faults is to be conscious of none.” 

Monday, 27 March 2017

Winning Against Yourself

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” – Sun Tzu

Historically, the Indian festival of Gudi Padwa symbolizes Lord Rama's triumph and joy on returning to his homeland Ayodhya after slaying the mighty demon king Ravana. Since a symbol of victory is always flown high, so is the gudhi (flag). Hence year after year, the populace of India commemorates the victory of Lord Rama by raising this emblematic Gudi.

In the ancient days, victory always followed great battles, bloodshed, families torn asunder and the last man standing on a hollow battlefield. Flags were raised, great monuments, temples and statues were built and cultures changed dramatically as the winner subjugated his newfound empire. As times changed, our battlegrounds and conflicts changed. While battlefields became corporate boardrooms and home turfs, conflicts ranged from personal discords to professional battles to subtle yet agonizing demons plaguing our psyches.

But certain old school rules still endure. Victory has always called for great risk. And the risk today could be as simple as fearlessly voicing your opinion. In a time and age where we mistakenly deduce social media likes as approval and admiration, it takes a fearless soul to stand up and raise their voice against injustice. Just this act of voicing their honest opinion is more important than defeating an army. The courageous and the outspoken take a strong stand because it is the honourable thing to do, and not because they believe they will walk away with their social media likes, lives or jobs intact. Such altruistic fortitude is a victory in itself.

Any triumph achieved by violence is equivalent to defeat, for it is fleeting and void. If confronted by opposition, vanquish the hostility with understanding, empathy and love. The aim of the dispute should not be a hollow victory, but one of progress and mutual respect. Don’t battle aimlessly with the desire to prove a point or gain a one up over someone. If they have offended you in the past, rise above them and the situation by engaging the power of compassion and love. Don’t waste your hours plotting revenge for revenge is a double edged sword that ends up destroying both parties concerned. A fleeting victory is not worth the cost. The method and attitude employed to achieve the victory are as significant as the conquest itself. Remember that there is nothing that needs to be proven. Conquer your temperament and the desire for retribution, for then the victory will always be yours.

Ultimately, the greatest victory is not about winning against others, but conquering yourself. For when you conquer your mind, you can conquer a thousand opponents. As Sun Tzu aptly summarizes, “To win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Decode the Dots

“There are no accidents... there is only some purpose that we haven't yet understood.” – Deepak Chopra

There are no accidents! The Universe is so proficient, structured and prearranged that every single thing that you have gone through has been getting you ready for a far greater purpose. Every single incident, person and situation that you have encountered till date has been no accident. It has been steadily fashioning you into a flawless instrument to fulfill your unique destiny and help you make an exclusive impact in the world.

Your life’s greater purpose is encoded in your life story. Like the dots of a puzzle, it has all been pre-designed to get your ready for a greater purpose in the new era that we are shifting into. Even as you believe that there’s a lot of negativity, chaos and turbulence going on in the world around you and that your life is falling apart, the truth is that things are actually falling into sync together!

Creation follows destruction. After endings come great new beginnings. We live in one of the most exciting times on earth, a time you chose to show up for. You have within you a unique gift that only you can offer. You are not here not by mere accident, but with a higher purpose. Instead of being cynical, disparaging, reactive or a doubter, become a believer. Why waste your energies agonizing about the darkness in the tunnel, when you can trust the universe and walk confidently towards the light at the end of that tunnel.

Just as rocks are part of the dusty road, and a thread part of the fabric, we are a part of something much bigger. The dots of a puzzle never make sense as you meander through the maze, but if you persist determinedly, at some point that ‘aha’ moment is bound to strike and the entire design decodes itself seamlessly in front of your eyes. If you can just glimpse how seamlessly life has been setting you up for a much bigger role, it will astonish you. Give yourself time and space to germinate your potential. Kill your doubts and banish the doubters. Your innermost feelings and emotions are your greatest guide to tell you if your life is surging forward in a purposeful direction or not, so introspect and respect your inner voice.

There are infinite possibilities, but be aware that your life purpose may not lead you where you wished to go. To truly rise, liberate your preconditioned fears and be willing to let go of the life you may have envisaged. Be ready to accept the role that has been pre-scripted for you. You may not end up with your dream role, but you will surely end up where you truly need to be. Don’t be so concerned with other people’s opinions, judgement and disdain; instead be resolute about staying true to the real purpose of your life. 

Unleash your potential. The Universe needs you to let go of your fears and unlock your life code so that you can play out your unique part in this remarkable and milestone once-in-a-lifetime shift on the planet.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Slay the Slayer Within

“Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.” – Suzy Kassem

The greatest enemy to progress and success is self doubt. Due to the illusory dread of self-doubt, fear of failure and the associated ridicule, most of us tend to take on way less responsibility, duty and challenge than we can handle.

But why is it so hard to Believe and yet so easy to Doubt? In my opinion, if you hear a voice within telling you that the task cannot be accomplished, then by all means just go ahead and work on that task. That’s the only way your inner voice of fear and doubt can be silenced.

If your inner strength is wavering, your best option is to stay on path and look back at the progress you have already made in life. As you pause and reflect on the quantum of achievement and success garnered, you will instinctively realize what a waste it is to simply give up, and your self-confidence and allegiance to the arduous path ahead are bound to surge. 

Never let others tell you what you can or can’t do. Censure is just someone else’s opinion. Even the greatest experts go wrong in their field and the best of professionals commit blunders. But that’s life. It is up to you to choose whether to believe external criticism and foolish enough to be bound by your fear of failure, or absorb the valuable inputs and move ahead with a more refined plan of action. It’s what you think that counts. Don't allow the limitations of others to limit your vision. If you can remove your self-doubt and believe in yourself, you can move mountains and attain the impossible.

Believe in your boundless potential. Your only boundaries are those you set around yourself. Believe in your talent, creativity, abilities and your limitless capability. Never let self-doubt hold you imprisoned. Slay the slayer within. Because you are worthy to receive all that you dream of and aspire for. 

Seek strength, not to be greater than others, but to slay your greatest enemy – the fear, misgivings, scepticism and doubts within you.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

The Dilemma of Censure

"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted." - Emerson

A man interrupted one of the Buddha’s lectures with a flood of abuse. Buddha waited patiently until he finished and then asked him, “If a man offered a gift to another but the gift was declined, to whom would the gift belong?” Replied the man, “To the one who offered it.” Buddha smiled and said, “I decline to accept your abuse and request you to keep it for yourself.”

Criticism at times amounting to abuse. A familiar and oft repeated occurrence in our modern times of free social media, blogs and a certain privileged attitude of ‘knowing it all’. It starts with just a few words coming out of someone’s mouth. But as they pour out you start feeling stupid, rejected, hurt betrayed and shrunk. Being criticized can be a rough thing to handle, even though if put across constructively and with a genuine intent it can sometimes be very helpful towards your development.

The trouble with most of us is that we’d rather be plied with praise than resuscitated by criticism. While criticism may not be agreeable, it is at times necessary. It accomplishes the same function as fever in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of affairs. I have yet to meet a person, no matter how lofty their position or capability, who did not execute better work or accomplish greater endeavour under a spirit of censure than under a flood of praise.

There is a very thin line between constructive criticism and one that is aimed purposefully to destroy your self esteem. While I don’t endorse the latter in any manner whatsoever, I certainly believe that those who genuinely have a heart to help you will criticize you in the right spirit, with the solutions and directions also provided. The important thing is to reflect and gauge genuine feedback from destructive criticism.

We need a very strong spine to hear ourselves judged candidly, and because there are very few among us who can endure honest criticism without being hurt by it, those who step forth to condemn us perform a remarkable act of assistance... for to undertake to upset a person’s ego for their own growth is to have a healthy respect and genuine fondness for them.

For those who take on the lofty mantle of criticizing, Frank Clark’s words must resonate deeply within as they speak, “Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.”

And for he who listens respectfully to the criticism, don’t let pride go to your head and anguish to your heart. Don’t allow the praises to fill your false ego or the criticisms harden your heart. And do not let your milestones over-inflate your self-worth or your disappointments tear the fabric of your spirit. If you can remember these words every time someone offers you an opinion, you will travel far in your quest for excellence, fulfillment and glory. 

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

The Symbolism of the Transient Seasons

“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.” – Hal Borland

There's always that one moment that separates the Past from the Future, and that defining moment in India is the multi-hued festival of Holi. A riot of colour permeates the air, loud Bollywood music fills up the neighbourhood as friends, families and neighbours let down their inhibitions and dance joyfully together, traditional mithai and many glasses of intoxicating bhang get consumed rapidly, and a day of absolute unabashed fun and frolic is celebrated across every nook and corner of India.

In its many forms the festival of Holi marks the end of the long dry spell of winter, and welcomes the advent of spring. A reminder that there’s always a beginning to an end. On this one colourful, dazzling, beautiful day, you feel like you are standing at a doorway... your back facing the end of a cold dry world and your face resplendently looking forwards towards the beginning of another world filled with the promise of new beginnings. A threshold leap that offers rebirth, reawakening, renaissance and regeneration. And in India it comes both with the silent whisper of the first green bud and faint cry of the cuckoo bird, and the big bang proclamation of the vibrant festival of Holi.

The festival marks a symbolic new beginning. An aide memoire to help you set new intentions and goals, see things in a new light, and ensure brand new beginnings. You are being granted the gift of a second chance...a reminder that you can turn your life around and start afresh. That you are not bound by the cold chains of your past. The death of winter heralds the death of who you used to be. The wrong choices of yesterday can be buried under the cold snows of the winter past. And your future doesn’t have to travel the same path as the previous year. The beautiful fresh blossoms and bright green shoots on the trees are a sign encouraging you to start afresh all over again.

The death of winter also reminds you that you don’t have to apologize to people that refuse to listen. You don’t have to justify your feelings or behaviour that may have occurred at a difficult phase in your life. You certainly don’t have to put up with those who are insecure and hold back your progress. The birth of spring tells you that all you have to do is shut the door on the past and walk forward with a positive attitude, and trust that the Universe has a plan that is greater than the life you have chosen to leave behind.

So even after the colours of Holi settle down on the roads, nature slowly but surely resumes her splendid crowning glory, and life gets back to its normal pace, the doorway connecting winter and spring yesterday must serve as a brilliant reminder that this is the moment where our Choice lies -- in determining how we will meet the inevitable end of the past, and how we intend to welcome new beginnings.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Celebrating our She-roes!

“Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.” – Maya Angelou

In the Chaos Theory, the Butterfly Effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state can translate into larger differences in a larger state. A highly applicable theory to the Inequality of the Sexes. Oppression of the female human species over thousands of years created a rigid imbalanced society, severe in its social and sexual policies, and self destructive in its own progress by crushing the very creators and nurturers of the next generation. Years of oppression, imbalance, regressive attitudes and tyrannical laws only led to a Butterfly Effect of repression and distrust bred across all segments of society and a highly fragmented, confused and disparate world.

While men have had their share of chest thumping and a demonstration of strength, it was always the unsung women through the ages who endured with matchless quiet strength, dignity, love and at times, undisclosed suffering. They were the true stars of humanity. They are the heroes who birthed and nurtured us, held us together, and gave us hope even as dynasties and societies fell apart time and time again.

Fortunately the Feminist movement in the 1960’s across the Western Hemisphere initiated the first spark towards undoing centuries of discrimination and inequality. The movement saw a series of political campaigns for reforms on vital issues such as domestic violence, equal pay, reproductive rights and women’s suffrage to set the ball rolling and gradually started attaining a few feathers in its cap such as women’s rights to vote, obtaining higher education, and entering male-dominated professional spheres. Eventually, with organized women’s empowerment movements gaining strength around the world, the world finally realized that feminism and equality can no longer be ignored.

Strangely, the advancement of women in society is often misperceived with the potential deterioration of their male counterparts’ status. But that’s not really what equality is all about! Feminism was never about hating men. It was about challenging the absurd gender distinctions that boys and girls learn from childhood and carry into their adult lives. Modern feminism does not view politics, economics, or society as a zero-sum game. When women “win,” men do not automatically “lose.” All women want is to express themselves freely and be accepted for who they are. Fortunately, the oppressive domestic patterns of the past have started receding, giving way to an assortment of new family models, a greater flexibility and a better cooperation of both sexes to arrive at mutually win-win solutions.

The aim is not to make special demands for the female sex or glorify women as ‘superior-beings’, but to appreciate the strength, courage, responsibility and love they bring in the face of hardship, segregation, poverty and violence. Over the centuries they have shouldered this gruelling, unpleasant work because they were committed to nourishing life and ushering in a better future. And it’s high time we appreciate and salute their quiet sacrifices even as our generation attained a better life and a shot at gender equality thanks to their untiring efforts.

If we can raise our children as humans, rather than raising boys and girls, the future of humanity can hope to remove the dark stain of misogyny sooner than one can imagine and we can have a Butterfly Effect that offers hope to all of humanity going forward.

** Dedicating this article to my mother, Rose Augustine Chacko, my ultimate 'She-roe', and an epitome of strength, courage, sacrifice & love. My role model, friend and guide. I wouldn't be half the person I am today without my 'She-roe'.