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.

*

Are you listening to YOU?

InspirationHeaderPier

Last week, someone asked my mentor GD: “If there was just one thing you could teach me in this session, what would it be?”
“I would connect you to your inner navigation system… your in-built GPS,” GD replied.
The person was perplexed: “Does it even exist?
“Yes. And once you are connected, you never have to struggle with where to go or what to do with your life.”
“Wow! Sounds cool. So do you always know the next step… the larger plan?
“No, I don’t,” GD replied.But I have learned to ‘listen’… to be open and available. At the perfect moment, the next step is effortlessly revealed.

I was intrigued by this conversation.

So often in life we are busy stuffing our minds with information, facts and figures and pre-judgments that we don’t leave any space for something new to land. Especially in my job as a movie studio creative executive, there is a tendency to compulsively fill hours with books, movies and meetings – with the hope that, after all the friction, the spark of knowing will come. What GD was talking about was the opposite: emptying yourself – and allowing the film that wants to be made to reveal itself. He was talking about ‘listening to the person’ before you listen to the words coming out of his mouth. And about being ‘tuned into Life’ to receive the highest possible option in each moment.

“True Listening,” GD explained, “is a simple state of openness and transparency. It creates a space in which you receive constant guidance and insight from the totality of YOU. LISTENING is not to a person– it is tuning in to this alive-emptiness all around us… to this awake -presence that we are. It is being tuned to the Source, to Existence itself. Just like ‘Google’ needs to be connected to the internet to search, you need to be ‘connected’ to Source to receive your answers.”

When I look back at my life, most of the work done in that speedy space of non-listening and desperate panic has proved later to have been useless. The most successful work I have worked done has happened effortlessly in a flow – moving with an energy far more graceful than my efforts at controlling and manipulating outcomes. And yet the old habit recurs. This conversation could not have come at a better time for me, after a self-imposed 28-hour workday.

“When you are ‘connected’, life is an effortless flow,” GD continued. “There is no sense of doership or struggle… or even of choice for that matter. Everything just happens. So our primary task is to be connected… to be one with this amazing Oneness. Once this faculty is tuned, it automatically resolves all the other issues one is struggling with.”

A few days after we spoke, I came across this anecdote from Mother Teresa’s life. Dan Rather, the CBS anchor, asked Mother Theresa: “When you pray, what do you say to God?”
Mother Teresa replied, “I don’t talk, I simply listen.”
“Ah,” Dan Rather countered, “then what is it that God says to you when you pray?”
Mother Teresa replied, “He doesn’t. He also simply listens.”

When GD heard this, he added:
This is such a beautiful way to describe meditation…
You simply listen to God…
God simply listens to you…
then you and God both disappear…
and only pure listening remains.
That is the perfect meditation…
being the alive-awake-listening in which everything happens
.”

A ‘Happy New You’ Letter

Flickr Lel4nd #3Most Dearest Friend,

Welcome to 2014. Or as the Mayans called it: “Extra Time” 🙂

We didn’t speak as often in 2013 as we would have liked. When we did, we often danced around what was immediate rather than what was important… and it was fun too! But today, I thought I’d write you a letter about that other stuff – the big, unspoken, sometimes scary stuff.

You know, we’ve been reading in the news about hundreds of natural disasters in 2013. But not one newspaper is reporting headlines about the inner cataclysms that are happening on the planet.

People all over the world are sensing earthquake-like shifts in their old values and being swept off secure life-paths. You may have sensed it as a growing disorientation about who you really are and what the hell you are supposed to do. It’s happening quietly, of course, so even you may not have joined the dots. You may have tried to shrug it off as bad luck, or a passing phase or just one of those days/months/years, and I thought it’s important for me to write to you that it’s not. And even more importantly – that you are not alone in this.

What’s really happening, I am told, is that the old structure we defined as ‘me’ –along with its drives, desires and dreams – is dismantling. The visible signs, according to many, many spiritual guides are quite distinct. See if some of them sound like what you have been trying to keep secret from your ‘normal’ friends.

Some lifelong relationships have been feeling fake and outdated. There is a sense of inexplicable inner sadness, sometimes punctuated by episodes of crying. Strange body aches and pains are experienced – and more tiredness than before. You feel lonely, even in the company of others. For some, a sudden change of job or career seems important, for others, there is a loss of passion to do anything. There is restlessness for something new to show up which will make sense of all this. Often, you feel safer staying aloof in a personal storm-shelter (aka bedroom) till clarity appears. (One of the reasons we didn’t meet so often in 2013…so I understand!)

Of course, in reality this shift is not a disaster but a blessing. From what I hear in the words of many spiritual guides, channels and teachers: the world is changing, you are changing, and the new paradigm of consciousness is evolving. Big words, I know, but to put it simply for a Mac-lover like you, you are moving to a new advanced iOS. Your system needs time to slow down, shut down and reboot. And while it may not seem like it right now, but after those little bug fixes, it’s all going to be way cooler and more intuitive. And I can say that with some certainty because I have seen up close the way people like GD function.

What’s worth remembering, he says, is that the disaster-like fallout is only as painful as the attachment to one’s old paradigm. Holding on is the only suffering. And there are simple things you can do to smoothen the path ahead.

For one, honor your changing mind-body system. Befriend your body. Become aware of your changing food preferences: food quantities, timings and even the kinds of food you like will undergo a change. As you become more sensitive to your energy, spend time in nature and ground your energy more often. Catharsis, forgiveness, or meditation – whatever you do to empty your past will only help.

Two, learn the art of honoring the impulse in this moment… and then the next and then the next. Like learning to skate, it just takes a bit of practice to get one’s balance. But once you do, you are guided speedily towards events, circumstances and people for your highest good. The old adage ‘Let Go & Let God’ is the single best piece of advice anyone can give you at this point.

One really strange thing that I must point out is that the old ‘me’ does not get replaced by a new ‘me’ – it just gets gradually melted in the Now. I suppose some day we will come to a point where we live so dissolved in the moment that there is no one to ask ‘am-I-there-yet’.

Until then, be cool, my friend. This is an unsettling period – don’t take it personally. You have not done anything wrong and you are not being punished. You are not weird – okay, you are weird but that’s exactly what’s super-cool about you. In the meantime, it’s a great idea to keep in touch with positive, like-minded, weird people (…like me!). So let’s connect more often in 2014.

Wish you a happy new you.

Love,

Me

PS: Enclosing an old cartoon to remind you of this conversation and make you smile whenever you’re feeling a bit down. Keep shining 🙂

The Winds of Change

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.

Paralysed by Greatness

frozen-man

A few days ago, my brother and mentor GD was talking on the phone about his recent workshop on ‘stuckness’ in life. He felt it was relevant for me to hear about a participant who had topped his class in school and college, and excelled at work. Everyone told him he was destined for greatness. And now, since he had quit his job a year ago, he could not bring himself to start anything new – because it didn’t feel like it was matching his vision of greatness.

I was startled because this was so close to my situation. My school motto was Natus Ad Maiora – Born for Greater Things –and perhaps it had set the tone for my life. I got my name in the top ranks through college and got double-promoted multiple times at my media job. For most of my corporate life, I tried to use every waking minute to live up to my full potential for greatness.

The question GD had asked the participant (and me) was: “Is it possible that your desperation for greatness is your biggest obstacle?”

I was initially taken aback. Without this promise of greatness, I feared wallowing in depression and mediocrity. This conviction gave me hope that all suffering and hard work would be ultimately worthwhile. It inspired me to be patient, to work hard, to stay focused.

But then I remembered that the pressure of this destiny had also become a weapon in the hands of my inner critic who put it to my head every time I tried to begin something new.

Sensing my train of thought, GD continued: “You reject too many things when you ask: is this the great thing I am meant to do? Is this great enough, amazing enough, perfect enough for me? More often than not – the answer seems to be ‘no’. Even if you do push yourself to begin, you work from stress, fear and proving. In life, you don’t always know what is going to turn out great.”

I could sense the deadly seriousness this ironclad demand for ‘greatness’ brings to exploring new ideas. But I still found myself resisting letting go of this belief, which had been my wishing star on many a lonely night.

“Yes, this desire for greatness generates a pleasurable fantasy,” GD said, “but is it really helping you get there? Or is it actually diminishing your real greatness?

“You are already an Awesome Divine Being. But when you try to prove your greatness, you have actually lost sight of it.

“When you operate from the desperation of greatness, you lose sight of whether you are truly enjoying what you are doing. You lose your natural light-heartedness and freedom. You lose contact with spontaneity, with life in the here-now. Often, just doing what feels sensible or fun in this moment can be the beginning of something great!

It reminded me of my father, the national-award winning author and painter Aabid Surti, who has found such unexpected greatness recently with his little idea of fixing taps in his community for free (Read the story here). He didn’t start off trying to become famous or even change the world. It just began with repairing one leaky tap, he says, because it seemed like a good idea. For months afterwards, he didn’t tell anyone he was spending his Sundays fixing leaks in the neighborhood. Five years later, he was invited to accept an award by the President of India. What were the chances that he would find significance in doing something tiny that made him happy rather than waiting and planning for that giant sunburst of glory to appear?

GD concluded: “Instead of being desperate for greatness, choose Presence and Playfulness. Being Present… being Conscious and Aware will guide you effortlessly to your next move. And being playful will ensure that the ego does not take over and corrupt everything.”

Gyandev GDAt 14, he had an experience of oneness and clarity that haunted him and eventually changed the course of his life. At 28, he quit his career as an advertising executive to live with his spiritual teacher. Today, he is a pyschic empath and intuitive healer living in Pune, India, with a happy backyard menagerie of squirrels, coucals, pigeons, mongooses and a cat-without-a-name. Read his story on my updated ‘About GD‘ page with a gorgeous new digital painting and details on how to contact him… 🙂

Shh! Don’t Tell Anyone I’m Happy…

Fear of Happiness

“We really have a good life,” my wife says to me on a Monday afternoon as she snuggles into bed in her favorite pajamas and snug old t-shirt. As a healer, she doesn’t have fixed work hours, and now, as a consultant, neither do I. So we spend some happy daytime hours with our three-year-old son. But I feel a familiar twinge inside me: Don’t say it, it might go away.

“I sometimes use you as an example of someone who has a good marriage, a great job and is a great father,” my brother and mentor GD says to me on the phone. Even before I can feel the compliment, something contracts in my chest: Don’t celebrate it or something bad will happen!

You see, I have an irrational superstition about acknowledging the goodness in my life. Like I need to hide my little happiness from some nasty Ogre of Destiny who walked past little ole me – and blowing the party whistle may just make him look down: Hmmm…. How did I miss YOU?

In the past, my paranoia went so far that I was terrified of taking an action to assert confidence of continuation or (gasp…!) permanence. As if the very act would tempt Fate. An example: when I was dating my current wife, at one point I was living in at her apartment. But I never kept my toothbrush in her bathroom stand, preferring to carry it in my bag every day: Don’t claim to know the future! It sounds funny now, but in my head, the placement of that toothbrush decided the fate of our future offspring.

So I have lived with an inner certainty that it can and will all come crumbling down anytime now. And that every smiling picture I take will someday be used with a caption: ‘In Happier Times’. I try to convince myself that things aren’t as wonderful as they seem – no matter how it looks to others – so I don’t get ‘carried away’. The mind advises that it’s the best way of protecting myself from the shock of tragedy, when it does happen. (“Because Life is meant to be a painful struggle, and every sane, sensible person knows that happiness is fleeting, temporary and delusional” – the Mind)

But unfortunately, this is also the best way to keep joy and ecstasy outside the door. Focusing only on what needs to be fixed makes life an endless To-Do List. Acknowledging your happiness may make you a target of jealousy, but it’s also likely to make you a source of inspiration. And that’s worth it. For just a little while, I can relax the resistance against fully feeling joy and let go of the radar that’s constantly scanning for trouble.

And I can re-examine this ancient fear that if I celebrate my life, the happiness will go away. Maybe if I celebrate my life, then the happiness will definitely stay for at least for one more moment – this moment! And the next moment will be born out of this moment. And moment by moment, a virtuous circle of celebration will be created. A rolling snowball of joy that resonates with others who also celebrate their lives. And someday, even if a shock of tragedy comes, it will be cushioned within this soft expansive love for Life; and staying numb is a dumb solution anyway.

Because all said and done – I can say it now – I do have an amazing life. What about you?