Journal, Life-Saving Tips

It’s Not Too Late If You Are Reading This…

One of my dearest friends lost his brother to Dengue this morning. It happened suddenly – he was diagnosed last Sunday and didn’t live to see the next one.

I urge you to take care.

Not just from the disease, but from the regret of not having loved and listened to those people in your lives while they were around. Take care of them while they are alive and well.

I know it feels like there will always be time tomorrow right now. And I know they sometimes ramble and tell you things you’ve heard before. And maybe they phone more often than you would like to talk. And of course, you intend to return their calls, even when you don’t.

They are annoying sometimes in interrupting your plans and life. They may not be in the right place at the right time but put them at ease anyway. Don’t continue to hold against them what they once said because it makes you a winner in some game of moral righteousness. The only way that game ends is with you losing.

You will miss them some day. Not just the sound of their voice which you will hear in your head only then. Not only the secret memories – those polaroid moments of eternity. Not just the smell of them that cannot be replicated – or the touch of their skin pulsing with Life. You will miss their annoyances someday. You will regret those times when a flickering screen was more important than a human being you loved.

Look around right now. You have something beautiful and perfect and irreplaceable – this moment. You may not be as wealthy as you would like but you have something the richest person on the planet can’t purchase a minute more of. Use this moment to say and do what is really important, not merely what seems urgent. Take care to use this moment as if it were priceless.

Use this moment to say your ‘sorrys’ and ‘thank yous’…

Because not all of us get to say our good-byes.

*

Life-Saving Tips

A Religion Called Kindness

Kindness

When I was young, I wanted the world to see me as intelligent. When I got older, I wanted to be recognized as successful. As the years pass, I increasingly find that the quality that matters to me is kindness.

All of my spiritual learning, if I were asked to sum up in a word, would be contained within this simple word: kindness. Not ‘love’ – it has been far too glorified and corrupted by songs and movies and clever advertising. Not even ‘compassion’ which stinks of a certain holiness for me. Compassion implies another, less fortunate, being. Kindness needs no other. Perhaps closest to it is the Buddhist term ‘metta’ – translated as ‘loving-kindness’ and described as ‘a boundless, warm-hearted feeling’.

Kindness is a subject that has been gently nudging within, asking to be written for a while now. A few months ago, on my fortieth birthday, I considered writing a blog about forty things I have learned in forty years. Pondering deeper, only this one word resonated as worth sharing. From all the meditations, mastery processes and transcendental travels – the fragrance that flowers, is this simple, sane, human kindness.

Even though my brother and mentor GD rarely speaks about it directly, I see it in action when I stay over with him. From the way he lights an incense before you arrive, to the way he makes you tea. From the way he gives you space to be confused if you choose, to the way he holds himself available as a space for healing whatever distortion is clouding your being. It’s in the way he keeps water for birds in his garden in summer and in the way he feeds a menagerie of cats, squirrels, mongooses, crows, sparrow, pigeons and coucals every day. From him, I see that liberation from the concept of self adds the highest octave of sensitivity and effortlessness to kindness.

Kindness is not sugar-coating. Sometimes kindness lies in being silent when the words would leave longtime scars. For me, sometimes kindness is even in lying when a truth is not asked for. Maybe there are others who would disagree with this – and not without reason. Kindness is also in firmly holding a ‘no’ when my son wants to play a little longer on the iPad. No human is given the power to know all the consequences of his actions, but kindness is in the source, not the outcome. Kindness is not in what you do, but in who you are being; not in what you say, but in what you silently wish within.

Kindness in business is so overlooked. It is the place where it needs to be learned and applied the most. Kindness in dealing with colleagues who struggle to be proficient in areas their body-mind mechanism is not suited for. Kindness in dealing with those who pride themselves on their shrewdness – even as they are constantly proving how they are getting the better of you. And kindness in dealing with fearful opinions masquerading as common sense and ‘reality’. How often do I come to see that the sufferings and faults I blame life for only happened after I had lost my own compass of kindness!

This oft-ignored word may stand quietly in new-age consciousness behind spiritual heavyweights like ‘meditation’, ‘empowerment’ and ‘manifestation’. But without it, no amount of learning, achievement or clarity brings joy. Being kind doesn’t even imply action – it is a state of being that wishes well. It could be a silent prayer for someone having a hard day. A smile to a doorman. A quiet glance to someone used to living invisible. Or just that boundless, warm-hearted feeling that is held like a flame within.

This weekend I finally sat down to write about kindness because I was at the receiving end of such a gracious act of kindness from a friend I met after many years that it moved me to tears. It felt in that moment as if a lifetime of mental learning is tiny compared to a kind heart. (Maybe the function of all wisdom is to hold the heart open when the whole world would advise against it.) Then that person reminded me of a small help I had given her 11 years ago. And I marveled at the power of kindness to resonate across time, even when everything else about that life has been long forgotten.

Do take some time to be kind, please.

Not because it’s going to heal the world. But because, someday, you will see that nothing else was more important for yourself.

*

GD Speaks

The Trance of Success

success race

Many of us are currently at a point where we are questioning ‘who we really are’ and ‘what we are supposed to do’ in life. And while we glimpse shimmering new potentials, often they are tangled up in hard-to-break old energy beliefs.

The most difficult old energy belief to let go for me has been the concept of ‘success’. It is so pervasive that even in letting go of the corporate success dream, the mind begins imagining the unconventional visionary success dream which brings fame and fortune. So pervasive that even spiritual teachers who teach us to not chase it, are valued only after they have thousands of followers and a NY Times bestseller!

My brother and mentor GD almost dared me one evening over coffee to think otherwise.

“Your definition of success,” GD said, “becomes the base for your choices and actions. So if the base is wrong, your actions will not bring joy no matter what path you take in life.

“Up to now society – media, education, advertising – has defined success for us. Icons of success are glorified and awarded. The truth is that everybody is unique and everybody has his own unique place to go to. The success of the rose is not the success of the lotus – but right now almost everybody is trying to be a rose. So there is going to be stress and suffering. It takes guts to let go of the preconceived notion of success and discover what success means to you.”

I was quite resistant to hearing this. I noticed myself shifting uncomfortably in my chair.

“See, the old definition to put it simply is ‘photo in paper, money in bank, and people chasing you thinking you are God’. The new definition is this: every time you honor the inner impulse in this moment you are successful. Success is joy, it is where you are flying and you feel deeply fulfilled and happy. It has nothing to do with an end-point in the future where the world acknowledges it. It is an end in itself – an ongoing success. And you never know where it takes you…”

“It feels scary,” I said to him, “That I might wake up at 50 and regret it…”

“You can’t – if you’re honoring the impulse then every day you are happy. A happy journey cannot have an unhappy end. In fact, the opposite is more likely to be true! But for many people, more than wanting success, it is the fear of not having it that drives it. For some, it is the fear of being outraced by others. Either way, you’re still not honoring you. Within the trance of success there is no true peace, no rest. You are like a desperate beggar, a manipulative user who is trying to fulfill some image in your head. The truth shall set you free to be who you are. And then your own fragrance will start emerging, unfettered.

Success is a word like morality, which has been created to make you run in a particular direction. But the moment you run in that direction, every step of the way, you cripple yourself. Being yourself is the only beauty, the only joy.”

“I am afraid of the depression that will come if I’m not special,” I said. It was almost twilight now – the trees noisy with excitable birds chirruping end of the day stories.

“The depression which you are fearing is your own judgment if you don’t make the grade. Because you judge other people who are not successful. Are these bird successful? Are these trees successful? This here is a perfectly beautiful ordinary tree, but you say it has value only if it is the highest tree, the tallest tree, with the most flowers and fruits…then you will cripple the poor tree. There is no concept of success anywhere in Life except in human beings.”

We sat quietly for a few moments watching the joyfully chattering birds speaking all-at-once in the foliage — so unlike humans who returned from work grim and exhausted every night. None of the birds seemed depressed that birds around the world didn’t know they existed.

GD continued: “The amazing truth is that the moment you take away success, you take away failure too! You think that by giving up success, you are falling into the pit of failure but it can’t exist without a measuring mark of success. They are both stories, both polarities. Both will go.

“As a way out of this, some teachers of positive thinking teach us to feel successful every moment – but that is not what I am recommending. Does a fifteen-month-old child feel successful every moment? He’s just being himself, honoring the impulse, moving around. And how happy he is! When you are in the simple Flow, there is no success, no failure and life is happening. Simple.”

*

Journal

Voting For Joy

vote

India, the world’s largest democracy, is in the throes of a thrilling and tumultuous election. But this is NOT another post about voting wisely on election day – this post is about living wisely.

We need to be conscious that we are casting our vote not just once in five years, but every day. Every choice we make is a ballot for the world we want to live in.

Every product we buy is a vote. Companies run on profits. So if there are fewer buyers, the assembly line stops. Every television channel we watch is a vote for more such programming. Advertisers pay media networks for audiences and if we stop watching, it eventually stops being produced.

Some votes are less obvious. If we put money into a company’s shares purely for the promise of returns, regardless of its human and environmental policies, we are casting a vote. If we buy a product because it’s a little cheaper regardless of how it was produced, we cast a vote. We vote every day with our wallet.

Most importantly, what we give attention to in our own lives every moment is a vote. If we indulge in our anger, we empower that within us. If we are casual about our integrity, we contribute to a world that is corrupt and lazy. Every time we are conscious and kind, we contribute to a world that is the same.

So let’s vote consciously every day. Let’s vote for peace instead of meaningless entertainment distractions. Let’s vote for health over the call of junk-food consumerism. Let’s vote for love and blessing over isolation and anxious self-concern. Choose what you want to vote for and live it!

As we get more awake to our daily votes, we won’t need to blame government for their broken promises. We will be shaping the planet in the most powerful way possible – through our time, attention and money.

Our life is a vote for the world we want to live in.

So vote wisely.

Journal

Healing Dad

Aabid Surti

Last year, my father visited my therapist brother GD for a healing session for the first time, almost 15 years after GD began healing. The healing session had been powerful and by the end, dad had fallen into deep meditation. He looked at ease with himself, his eyes steady and chronic cough silent.

As we drove back at night to Mumbai together, expressway lights swishing past the corner of our eyes, we talked more than we had talked all year. And we talked about real things – not things to fill the silence. He remembered the incident when GD, as a toddler, had fallen from a mid-ocean pontoon — how he had miraculously survived certain death. And how, as a teenager, GD had meditated so long he damaged a nerve in his leg for years. He spoke of how he had been incensed with GD as a twenty-something who ate, slept and meditated all day while he worked. And about how my mother cried for months after GD left for Pune to live with his spiritual teacher and stopped phoning home. But most of all, he spoke about how proud he was of both of us today.

Two decades ago, in a family of modest means, a grown-up son’s decision to devote his life to spirituality had real financial implications. And while dad did not ever say a word to stop GD, some part inside had remained raw and sensitive. And until this session he had not allowed himself to fully take support from GD.

I quietly told dad that GD and I often speak of him as a rare father, who gave us freedom and yet supported us. Who did things for us he did not agree with, but maintained his integrity. Who did not shame us because we were not following what he thought was the right path.

Talking to him, I realized how little we know even about those closest to us, because we never talk beyond immediate, daily problems and information. How hurts can lie unexpressed within for years, until distances grow into long empty highways. But most of all, I realized how few words it takes to express appreciation that can be missed for decades.

As I helped dad unload his luggage at the end of our journey under a pool of halogen streetlight, I knew it was not just his healing that had happened today — a circle had been completed and a deep healing had happened for all three of us.

I share this with the hope that you take some time out to rediscover your own parents. To hear their stories, and their versions of your stories. And to thank them for the way their lives arced to make space for yours. Watch them paint images of your life that you didn’t see before. And you show them their own beauty in a new light. So often, under the inertia of mundanity, it is the important ‘I-love-you’, the ‘please-forgive-me’, the ‘sorry’ and the ‘thank you’ that remains unexpressed until it’s too late.

GD Speaks

The Fixer Of Polarities

Over the last few weeks, GD and I have been revisiting some of the early posts of this blog and marvelling at their crispness and insight. There were only a handful of readers then, today there are over 700 followers. So from time to time, I will repost some of these timeless posts for you to enjoy. Here’s one of my favorites…

fixing_myself

A few weeks ago, I had an amazing phone call with my brother where he gave me his radical take on the ego. After the call, I wrote it down so that I could remember it. Every time I read it, a sense of silence blooms within.

FIXER OF POLARITIES

All our lives, we are trying to fix our bodies, thinking or circumstances. Some people spend their time trying to fix others. Not a day, an hour, a minute goes by when we are not involved in this activity in some form.

We get a jolt when we see that the fixer within us is itself the suffering – the desire to fix is itself the suffering.

The attempt is to fix ourselves at one polarity, and eliminate the other forever. Given the nature of polarities, this can never happen! The most powerful will be powerless in some situation, and the most intelligent person will be stupid in some situation; and the depth of the valley will be exactly proportionate to the height of the mountain.

Polarities always coexist in time and space. One may be very successful in work, and be unsuccessful at home. One may be successful now, and feel unsuccessful in the next moment. In fact, all successful people continue to feel at times like failures, just at the higher level of the success game.

Happiness/Sadness, Love/Hate, Insecurity/Security, Knowledge/Stupidity, Peace/Chaos, Anger/Compassion, Success/Failure, Balanced/Lopsided Life always maintain equilibrium. When we try to strengthen one pole, the other side is simultaneously gaining power – and waiting to emerge.

We give all our power to one polarity, and think we can destroy the other if this side becomes strong enough. So when the opposite polarity emerges, it is extremely uncomfortable and painful.

The nature of the mind is to believe that salvation is always in the other polarity. The superstar at his peak dreams of times when life is simple and ordinary, but when he feels he is losing his stardom, he fights to get it back.

When all attempts to fix fail, the fixer experiences a shift in the final polarity: “I can fix my life/it’s useless” and goes into a depression because nothing works. But in time, this polarity too changes and one goes back into fixing. That is how the game continues.

The fixer is the ego.

While reality here-now is always simple, kind and perfect, the ego perpetuates itself through crisis.

Ego not only creates the crisis, it is itself the crisis! In the absence of ego, there is no crisis.

Ego is the creator, the problem solver and the satisfied one at the end of the crisis. It plays all the roles.

Ego has a brilliant mechanism: “I and the cause of suffering are separate; and I will solve suffering permanently one day.” This keeps us from seeing the ego’s real nature as the crisis-creator.

Crisis gives a false sense of importance to a useless piece of equipment: the ego.

The ego is not a bad, evil thing. It is like a beautiful, faithful dog who has gone neurotic and is now barking at butterflies, the postman, and lamp-post. It is itself exhausted and is happy to dissolve.

The whole point of Surrender is to let go of trying to fix the polarities. The whole journey of Meditation is to transcend the polarities. The whole path of Wisdom is seeing the falseness of the one experiencing polarities.

Without awakening, one is always buffeted between desire and fear. We think we make choices in life, but actually our desires and fears choose.

Exploring this sense of “I” – the one who is experiencing the polarity – is a good place to begin. Where is this I? Is there a real miniature ‘you’ inside who gets angry or scared? Or is it just a picture and a sensation? Stay with it and it will reveal its secrets to you.

Life-Saving Tips

What Is A Happy Marriage?

The Myth of The Perfect FamilyA schoolboy was once asked by his teacher to define love. The boy replied, “Love is the same as ‘like’, only a lot more complicated.” The concepts of love and marriage are so confused, abused, moralized, euphemized and commercially-packaged today that it is hard to find the truth underneath. Here’s a rare honest perspective on relationships which I think is truly worth sharing.

Someone asked spiritual teacher Byron Katie about whether she would be willing to leave her husband Stephen and about meeting the ‘right person’. Katie’s fresh and deeply insightful responses just blew my mind.

Dearest Katie,

My question is about relationships. I really just wondered if you are open to leaving Stephen.

Yes.

If a man comes along that you are more physically turned on by and equally or perhaps more mentally connected / compatible with?

Yes and the key word is, “open”.

I’m really struggling to get my head around being in a long-term relationship with someone at the moment. This idea of being in a relationship with someone and getting married just seems like a purely mental commitment that is quite “closed” minded and restrictive.

I understand. I can’t know the future either. I love Stephen now.

What were your reasons for getting married?

I didn’t know why not to marry him. No negative reason arising to this mind was valid.

And how open are you to leaving the marriage?

Completely. I love Stephen now.

Maybe I just haven’t found the right person yet and that’s why I’m having to ask this question?? I don’t know. What do you think?

Who is the “right person”? Define that. What role does the “right person” have in your opinion? I married the right person, since I married a kind mind, not a “Stephen.” I married a caring, wise, and gentle mind, not a “man”; the “man” came with the mind, and that is an amazing and wonderful miracle and addition, yet not the “Stephen” I adore.

Bodies don’t love bodies, “right” minds love or don’t appear to love, depending on what mind is thinking and believing as it equates its identity as physical sees an apparent own or other body (husband, wife) and what it can gain for itself in its idea of physical security, comfort, and pleasure. Mind creates the body and so I am married to Stephen and all apparent beings, things, and situations, deeply in love with them, and I married Stephen because he asked, and I’m not fooled, since suffering is the alternative to this recognition.

However, I didn’t say “yes” to his proposal either. I said “yes” each time he asked me, and it was always true when I said so and still is now 100%. I knew to wait until the judge in the Los Angeles courtroom asked me “Do you take…?” and in that moment I told him the truth, which was “yes” to the promises in the moment and how I felt about Stephen, the love of my same being. Forever, for me, is “now.” Life and death are, for me, now, and that is my security entirely. I could go on and on, dearest, and I hope these words help you in some way stay connected to what matters.

Stephen and I have been married for eleven years in time, and I would certainly say “yes” if he asked me now, and so far, sooooo good.

I don’t know anybody else that would be open enough for me to ask such a question.

Dearest, all of us “anybody elses” have opinions and experiences, as we are all your own mind coming back to you, and all together we are your own mind’s chaos. So find the answers that match your own heart, and question anything that would oppose your kindest, dearest self, the one that rings truest to you. The important thing is, what makes sense to you? Love yourself, as you are the one you live with all the moments of your life, with or without a partner who is meant to secure your apparent future, and that is why I offer The Work to you and to the world. Until I (mind) loved and married “myself” (itself)—this mind, which I had Worked through (“it” had Worked through)—for better or for worse, I had no chance of finding true love. Love itself is the only true love and everything else is projected out of that love or apparent chaos. Do you understand? Yes? No?

I’d be so grateful to hear your views on this.

My views? I love Stephen, I love you, I love the world, I love all my thoughts, and those thoughts produce Stephen, you, the world, and everything beyond the world, without exception. Hmmm. Giving something or someone the reasons or “credit” for love is wonderfully foolish and untrue. The truth is, “I love.”No reason for this true nature, since it is as it is, and I am as you are, always married to that, for better or for worse, because everything else is the cause of suffering.

Love and best wishes,

Kelvin

I receive your love and best wishes and am so grateful that you are what I am, all ways.

Mmmmmmwa!!!!!!! kt

February 2011

GD Speaks, Journal

The Silent Accuser

The Silent Accusation

The human mind is powerful and subtle. It is also twisted and self-deceptive. Many journeys towards peace, joy and healing are sabotaged by hidden undertows of fear, guilt and blame.

One hears, for example, of people who suffer from chronic ill-health or depression, who appear to be sincerely trying everything to get out of it, but nothing seems to work. A place we would never think of looking for a solution is whether there is any hidden benefit for the person in holding on to this suffering.

Twisted as it sounds, often there is. Through sickness one can get sympathy, attention, pity-love, control, no responsibilities and moral superiority. And the heaviest anchor holding a sickness against the winds of healing may be a subconscious desire to punish someone and hold them guilty. The way this game works, my mentor GD explained to me, is that with your sick body, you tell these others: ‘Look what YOU did to me! While there is tremendous suffering, there is seemingly greater value in that righteous moral superiority. While there is danger, it is overridden by a belief in a more grievous threat to one’s self-image and ‘reality’ without this defense. GD reminded me of a quote from A Course In Miracles: ‘Damaged bodies are accusers’.

This game can play out across decades and its outward expression need not be only through sickness – its expression can be through loneliness, depression, poverty or chronic failure. It can play out between son and father, between husband and wife, between employee and boss, even between a disciple and teacher. In each case, the baleful glance of the sufferer says, ‘What is happening to me is your fault. And my suffering is proof that you are evil, and I am noble.’ In each case, the suffering is a cold finger pointing accusingly at the imagined perpetrator.

A few years ago, when I had quit my full time job, I had gotten into a panic over finances. With a seemingly mountainous home loan and monthly expenses of the family which were princely, I felt crushed by an unfair and overwhelming burden. To right the situation, I began living a Spartan life. My extreme self-denial became a silent way to make my family feel guilty about their spending. I stayed unhappy, contracted and secretly resentful without realizing what was happening. While the reality was that finances were taken care of – and unexpected monies beyond my expectations were coming in – the mind refused to let go of being the poor victim for a long time. In fact, until last night.

Last night, my therapist-wife Aditi reminded me how ironic it was that today I had more money than ever before and yet I was feeling poorer than I had as a teenager. One of the questions she asked to help me understand the reason behind it was: ‘Imagine yourself happy, abundant and expansive – now, what’s wrong with this picture?’ I saw that I would lose control over the family – if I went for a holiday to France, I wouldn’t be able to tell them not to. I would have to ‘forgive’ them for their past misdeeds of burdening me with earning money. Holding on to my chronic internal lack and self-denial (which I had given a spiritual lacquer to) actually felt safer than letting it go. Because this device’s power lies in the dark conviction that the problem is external and not-my-choice, simply bringing it into the sunlight is enough. Seeing this device clearly, without self-judgment, was incredibly freeing. Laughter, expansiveness and love resurfaced.

So if you have a chronic issue that resists healing — and if you would like to end the suffering — ask yourself what is the hidden benefit in holding onto it and whom do you hold responsible for it? Ask yourself if it was completely solved, what would go ‘wrong’? And most of all, ask yourself: If blaming anyone was not an option, how would you deal with this situation?

You may just find that true healing has begun in that instant.

GD Speaks, Journal

The Many Languages Of Love

languages of love

Late last night, as little Nirvaan slept in his cot at the foot of our bed, my wife and I held hands and whisper-spoke for more than an hour. At one point, she said, ‘For me, this is love. Spending time alone with you and talking. Love is being able to share myself and know I am not being judged.’ We reminisced how, when we first met, we often spoke till dawn. Over the years, and especially after the birth of Nirvaan, this had tapered off.

I had not paid much attention to this lessening, but hearing her say that reminded me of a conversation I had with my brother and mentor GD last week. He told me he sometimes asked his clients during sessions about what love meant to them and the variety in the answers surprised him. One unnamed client, he said, told him she did not feel loved until the other person shared his deepest, darkest secret.

“Just imagine,” GD said to me, “a man could be showering her with affection and giving her diamonds and it wouldn’t really matter to her. Because her subconscious definition was that until he had shared his deepest, darkest secrets, it wasn’t really love. I realized during my sessions that most people don’t consciously know what love means for themselves or their partners. So they keep doing things for their partners according to their own definition of love, and then feel disappointed that their partner still doesn’t feel loved.”

As I read up further on this, I came across Dr. Gary Chapman’s bestseller ‘The Five Love Languages’. It says that most of us grow up learning the language of love of our parents, which becomes our native tongue. So if you speak Spanish and your partner speaks English, communication is impossible, comprendez? Chapman counts five broad languages of love:

Words of Affirmation
Unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important—hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.
Quality Time
Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there—with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby—makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful.
Gifts
This language is not about the value of the object but the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. The perfect gift or gesture shows that you are understood, cared for and prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous—so would the absence of everyday gestures.
Acts of Service
Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter.
Physical Touch
A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love.

*
While these categories are useful, my guess is that the definition for each person doesn’t always neatly fall into them. For another client of his, GD said, love meant the other should be always present nearby. Because he had lost loved ones through death, travel or separation, the marker of love had become whether the person was physically present. Some people, GD suggested, had strict parents and as grown ups, a partner’s aggression could be a subconscious reminder of tough love.

I shared this with my wife as we lay silhouetted in bed. It turned out for me love is about receiving thoughtful gifts and acts of service. As we spoke, we realized that I often give my wife surprise gifts, but receive few in return because she never realizes how much they mean to me – it isn’t part of her definition of love. On the other hand, she makes time for mid-week lunch dates and quality time with me, which doesn’t have quite the same impact for me.

It’s so interesting that our definitions of love could be so varied and so important to us, yet remain unknown to ourselves and our partners all our lives. This simple missing bridge can create a huge chasm between the most sincere, loving couple.

As a support to everyone else reading this blog to find their own and their partners’ definition of love, I would really love to know what are your definitions of love in the Comments Section below. A quick and simple way to find out is to ask: How do I express love to others? What do I complain about the most? What do I request most often? Or simply when do I feel truly loved by my partner? I would love to find out what you discover about you.

Thank you and happy loving! 🙂

******

P.S. For those who would like to go deeper into discovering their own love language, on Gary Chapman’s website, there is a short Love Language Profile test.

Journal, Life-Saving Tips

Bill Watterson’s Advice On Creating the Soul-Fulfilling Life

Bill Watterson, I find, is a rare human being. He created the modern classic ‘Calvin & Hobbes‘ but fought bitterly against licensing and merchandising his characters, sacrificing millions of dollars. He changed the way syndicated cartoons are published in newspapers but stayed away from the media spotlight himself. When ‘Calvin & Hobbes’ was at its peak, he quit the comic strip and settled into a reclusive life in his home town. As an artist who has lived our modern dichotomy between creativity and commercial cleverness, his sane advice is invaluable for young artists and creators. In this rare public appearance, a commencement speech at his alma mater Kenyon College in 1990, he spoke about finding your voice, selling your soul and living a fulfilled life. Excerpts:

Calvin & Hobbes Dust Speck

SOME THOUGHTS ON THE REAL WORLD BY ONE WHO GLIMPSED IT AND FLED
Bill Watterson, Kenyon College, May 1990

[…] So, what’s it like in the real world? Well, the food is better, but beyond that, I don’t recommend it.

[…] Like many people, I found that what I was chasing wasn’t what I caught. I’ve wanted to be a cartoonist since I was old enough to read cartoons, and I never really thought about cartoons as being a business. It never occurred to me that a comic strip I created would be at the mercy of a bloodsucking corporate parasite called a syndicate, and that I’d be faced with countless ethical decisions masquerading as simple business decisions.

To make a business decision, you don’t need much philosophy; all you need is greed, and maybe a little knowledge of how the game works.

As my comic strip became popular, the pressure to capitalize on that popularity increased to the point where I was spending almost as much time screaming at executives as drawing. Cartoon merchandising is a $12 billion dollar a year industry and the syndicate understandably wanted a piece of that pie. But the more I thought about what they wanted to do with my creation, the more inconsistent it seemed with the reasons I draw cartoons.

Selling out is usually more a matter of buying in. Sell out, and you’re really buying into someone else’s system of values, rules and rewards.

The so-called “opportunity” I faced would have meant giving up my individual voice for that of a money-grubbing corporation. It would have meant my purpose in writing was to sell things, not say things. My pride in craft would be sacrificed to the efficiency of mass production and the work of assistants. Authorship would become committee decision. Creativity would become work for pay. Art would turn into commerce. In short, money was supposed to supply all the meaning I’d need.

What the syndicate wanted to do, in other words, was turn my comic strip into everything calculated, empty and robotic that I hated about my old job. They would turn my characters into television hucksters and T-shirt sloganeers and deprive me of characters that actually expressed my own thoughts.

On those terms, I found the offer easy to refuse. Unfortunately, the syndicate also found my refusal easy to refuse, and we’ve been fighting for over three years now. Such is American business, I guess, where the desire for obscene profit mutes any discussion of conscience.

You will find your own ethical dilemmas in all parts of your lives, both personal and professional. We all have different desires and needs, but if we don’t discover what we want from ourselves and what we stand for, we will live passively and unfulfilled. Sooner or later, we are all asked to compromise ourselves and the things we care about. We define ourselves by our actions. With each decision, we tell ourselves and the world who we are. Think about what you want out of this life, and recognize that there are many kinds of success.

Many of you will be going on to law school, business school, medical school, or other graduate work, and you can expect the kind of starting salary that, with luck, will allow you to pay off your own tuition debts within your own lifetime.

But having an enviable career is one thing, and being a happy person is another.

Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it’s to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential — as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth.

You’ll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you’ll hear about them.

To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.

Further Reading:

  • The Two Types of Creativity on my own struggle with creative integrity and my mentor GD’s spiritual perspective on the same.
  • At Zen Pencils, young cartoonist Gavin has crated a brilliant comic tribute to this speech.