The Chronicler of Hoogly


We booked the sunset cruise on the Hoogly recently. With winter on its way, the sun was setting early leaving behind a long balmy evening. Good time to observe the river and the city as it transitioned from day into the night.

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Boarding the boat from the Millennium Park jetty, we soon chugged out in the company of other sight-seekers like us. The itinerary was to cruise up the Hoogly to Belur Math, the much revered global headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission founded by Swami Vivekananda. We were scheduled to reach in time for the evening Aarati before we returned. Travelling with us was a Study tour group from Germany.

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As I sat on the deck, I was engulfed by a kaleidoscope of sights………….

 Of the looming floating bridge of Howrah, still considered a cantilever feat of engineering seventy-five years after it was built. Of decrepit ghats and jetties. Of derelict and abandoned warehouses, shanties and slums. Of colonial architectures separated by grimy and slushy by lanes. Of how Man’s creativity and resolve has sunk under the grime of his daily struggle and existence………….

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Of temples and riverside religious rituals coexisting with stinking garbage and defecation grounds. Of the riverside walled up   along long stretches as if to hide its shame from the very people who have sullied it thus. Of how Spirituality jostles with poverty…….

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My thoughts and emotions get stopped by a flurry of activity on the deck. Probably sensing the approaching sunset, the service staff had got busy offering beverages and ‘muri and aloor chop’ snacks while the German tourists were busy with their telephoto lenses and cameras. I look at the setting sun, the morphing shades of the flowing waters and could not but marvel at how nature yet manages to shine its beauty on an environment gone increasingly awry…………

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With the falling dusk, I notice a lone figure sitting at the rear side of the deck. Somewhat taken aback for not having noticed this person earlier, I walk across and introduce myself. “You may call me the Chronicler”, he tells me. Intrigued I plonk into a deck chair beside him. “Would you like to hear a tale about all that we are witness to today?”, comes the soft voice. Even before I can respond, the voice continues.

“Great metropolises, they say, grow out of a river. London…. Paris….. Rome…… Moscow…….. Cairo….. Istanbul. In each of these cases, the mighty rivers that flowed, the Thames, the Siene, the Tiber, the Moskva, the Nile and the Bosphorus, provided sustenance and remain the heart and soul of the cities….”

“And so was the symbiotic relationship between Hoogly and what we know as Kolkata. While today we are wont to see the river as some kind of an appendage to the city, what if I told you that it is really the other way around? That Kolkata is really an offshoot of all that the Hoogly has been witness to over the centuries.”

“When we started our cruise, we saw Fairlie Place and its jetty to the right with the Strand running beside it. So what would you say are its important landmarks?”, the Chronicler asks.

“Well I suppose it is the Customs House and the Eastern Railway headquarters. Apart from a few more important office blocks”, I respond.

“But what if I told you that about three hundred years back most of that place including what we know as Dalhousie Square was a large water body called Lal Dighi ? This was the time when the British East India Company was busy consolidating its position and Fort William stood on the banks of Hoogly. That is when the attack happened”

“Attack!”, I exclaim, “By whom and why?”

“The then Nawab of Bengal Siraj-Ud-Daulah attacked, captured Fort William and incarcerated British prisoners in a dungeon which came to be known as the Black Hole of Calcutta. An incident which directly led to the battle of Plassey and the subsequent two hundred years British Rule of the subcontinent.”

“Hang on!”, I interject. “Is not Fort William more in the hinterland, near the Maidan?”

“Indeed”, the Chronicler continues, “but what is less known is that there were two Fort Williams. The present one near Maidan was built by Robert Clive after the attack on the first one.”

“The battle of Plassey, which was to change the history and the shape of things to come for ever for the subcontinent, was also fought on the banks of Hoogly but to the north of where we are. But that is another story.”

“The Fairlie Ghat holds another interesting tale”, the Chronicler continues.” In the mid nineteenth century, Prince Dwarkanath Tagore, while travelling on a train in England, got the brain wave of setting up a rail link to carry coal from his Raniganj colliery to the Calcutta port at Fairlie. On return he invested into setting up the ‘The Great Western Bengal Railway Company’. Unfortunately, his proposal got turned down by the British East India Company bosses on the grounds that ‘it would not be possible to allow a company using such strategic technology under native management….’ His efforts and thoughts however did push the British to set up rail services though the East India Railway Company with its Headquarters at Fairlie Place.”

“Hmm! That name Dwarkanath Tagore sounds familiar. Was he in some way related to Rabindranath Tagore?” I muse.

“Indeed he was!”, the Chronicler quips back, “He was in fact the grandfather of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, that venerable Bard of Bengal and the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature more than a century back”.

“The Hoogly ghats then were a far cry from the crumbling cesspools that we are seeing today. With magnificent facades and European classical architectures, the ghats were witness to impressive steam ships and tall masted  boats sailing out to faraway places in England, Australia and New Zealand as also upstream to ports on the Ganga.”, the Chronicler continues.

“Did you know that there were thriving French, Dutch and Armenian settlements on the Hoogly in the early years of colonisation?” I am asked.

Well I had read about the French settlement and I say so.

“Fascinating is it not that events and rivalries five thousand miles away in Europe would show up in the waxing and waning of the Hoogly ghats! And so it was that as the British colonialism went into ascendancy after winning the Napoleonic Wars in early nineteenth century, the settlements of other nationalities on the Hoogly faded into oblivion.”

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“Which brings us to the Shova bazaar Ghat and its fascinating history. The Ghat and the Shova Bazaar Rajbari ( Palace), was built with great pomp and grandeur by Raja ( King) Nabakrishna Deb.The latter famed for organizing the Shovabazaar Rajbari Durga Pujo about two hundred and  fifty years ago ( which continues till today!). What is seldom spoken of is that all of the Raja’s wealth came from the huge bribe money of Rupees eighty million paid to him, Mir Jaffar and a couple of others by the British administration for betraying Nawab Siraj–ud-Daulah on the battlefield of Plassey. A betrayal which led to a small British force of 3000 soldiers winning a decisive victory over a twenty times larger opponent. A betrayal which led to the British becoming the dominant colonial power in the subcontinent for over two centuries. Is it not ironic that one of the greatest betrayals in Indian history is so inexorably linked to one of the biggest religious festivals in the country?”

So engrossed had I become in listening to the Chronicler’s tales that I had scarcely noticed the darkness enveloping the Hoogly and the boat engine slowing down.

My companion on the deck points to a brightly lit temple and ghat complex to the right. “That is the Dhakshineswar Kali temple built in the mid nineteenth century by Rani (Queen) Rashmoni based on a dream in which Goddess Kali exhorted her, ‘There is no need to go to Banaras. Install my statue in a beautiful temple on the banks of the Ganges river and arrange for my worship there. Then I shall manifest myself in the image and accept worship at that place.’ The temple attained fame because of Ramakrishna Paramhansa, the famous mystic and the spiritual guru of Swami Vivekanand.”

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The boat docks on the Belur Math Ghat. I notice the Chronicler making no attempt to get up even as other guests disembark and start walking up the Ghat steps. The tour supervisor advises us on the way to reach the temple premises for the evening Aarati. As we hurry, some of the German tourists stop to look at souvenirs in the roadside shops.The Belur Math design incorporates the different Medieval, Gothic, Renaissance as well as Hindu and Islamic styles that Swami Vivekanand had observed during his travels in India and abroad.

I return back to our moored boat with the intoxicating chants of the Aarati still resonating in my ears. As the boat starts on its return journey downstream, I look around for the Chronicler but he is nowhere to be seen. Dinner is announced and we go down to the dining room in the lower deck. The fascinating vision of the Hoogly  created by the Chronicler’s tales in sharp contrast to the hugely run-down and depressing sights I had been witness to, continues to wrestle in my mind.

What is it that has made the Hoogly hold onto its rusting warehouses, its hideous shanties and walls which no longer serve any purpose? What is it that has made Kolkata turn its back on the river that brought it into existence? What is that which leads us to abuse and neglect that very water that we consider holy and religious? What is that in our societal psyche that fuels such dichotomy?

As we reach back and walk off our cruise, these questions continue to haunt…..

 

……… In Learning.

Shakti Ghosal

 

 

 

 

 

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Connectedness – My takeaway from Avatar


“….and unless we touch others, we’re out of touch with life.”
– Oliver Wendall Holmes, American physician & poet. 19th Century

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Most of us remember the James Cameron directed 2009 epic Avatar as a technically brilliant Sci Fi extravaganza. But what fascinated me about the story was the vast neural connectivity between every living organism on that beautiful world of Pandora. A network which allowed the humanoid species called Na’vi to not only connect to every other flora and fauna on the planet but to an evolved and higher planetary consciousness called Eywa. Eywa apparently is all about deep connection , bonding and balance, termed in Na’vi language as tsaheylu, and this alone becomes responsible for the defeat of the otherwise technologically superior and better armed human army.

Sometime back I had mused on the influence of internet and social media connectivity and the shift it is bringing to our society in ‘A World of Tweeple’. A shift that is moving large swathes of humanity from traditional groupings of ethnicity, community and religion to individual ‘Me- Self’ connectivities that satisfy emotional and social needs. My crystal ball gazing showed up two paths. One leading to a frightening Matrix like future where wired to central intelligences, we access information at will in return for our innermost thoughts and beliefs on display for others to examine. The other path holding the promise of our individualism being empowered by the power of networks to achieve a utopian future.
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What is it about these visions of connectivity that fascinate so? Does such connectedness somehow, somewhere, signify an aspect of yearning, an area where we see a lack? I dwell upon this. I see myself connected to every life form through that double helix structure called DNA. I see my connections in the symbiotic relationship of the air, food and water that I take in. And I also see my connections in my social needs to bond and belong.

So what exactly is lacking?

I decide to do a reality check. What is it that makes us prefer Facebook friends to real ones? Could this be because deep down we remain diffident and uncertain about our ability to ‘connect with our hearts’, so essential to blossom a real friendship? Could this be because Facebook and such social media technologies allow us to calibrate and control how much, when and where we choose to share? Something which real friendships and connections could never tolerate. Could this be the reason that as technology gives us the means ‘to connect’ more and more, we see increasing evidence of disempowering disconnect all around? As we try and escape by shifting our connectivity to gadgets and technologies than to each other……….

I once again come round to the thinking that we have indeed become obsessed with a “Me- Self” mindset. And have chosen to forget all that had our forefathers had learnt to reach this stage of societal development. Aspect of being there for each other. Aspects of trust and empathy. The need to reboot our ‘operating system’ back to “Us –Selves” from the recently acquired “Me- Self”

So I come back to the question about what could we do to steer onto the alternative path promising that utopian future?

In a recent graduation address, Nipun Mehta, the 32 year old founder of CharityFocus.org and a recipient of the Jefferson Award for Public Service, speaks of three keys that helped him to return to a place of connection.

• Key number one ‘To Give’: Contrary to what the corporate world teaches, Nipun started with the hypothesis, “Maybe Greed is good but Generosity is better”. His experience with several projects has shown that (in his own words) ‘People consistently underestimate generosity, but human beings are internally wired to give.”

• Key number two ‘To Receive’: In Nipun’s words, “With any act of unconditional service, no matter how small, our biochemistry changes, our mind quietens, and we feel a sense of gratefulness. This inner transformation fundamentally shifts the direction of our lives.” It is in giving that we receive.

• Key number three ‘To Dance’: Contrary to what most people do, Nipun says that we should never try and track what is being given or received. Instead we need to let go and tune into the rhythm. The real reward of the give and take lies not in the value of what is being exchanged but the connection which flows underneath.

To Nipun Mehta’s three keys, I wish to add a fourth one.

• Key number four ‘To be Conscious’: As conscious beings, we are uniquely endowed with awareness and imagination. Aspects which allow us to connect to the Universe. As we do this, using vehicles like Science, Art and Religion, we are able to gain the unique understanding of the “spirit” that permeates and connects all things. Much like the connectivity in Avatar, it is this spiritual consciousness that becomes our ultimate connection to everything in the universe.

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So, are we ready to give, to receive, to dance and to be conscious……… and to connect as we move through our lives?

“The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.”
― Carl Sagan, 1990.

In Learning…………………… Shakti Ghosal

Acknowledgement: Miserable & Magical: A Graduation Speech for Paradoxical Times– by Nipun Mehta, May 27, 2013.

Connecticut, Delhi and HO’OPONONO……..


What we feel and think and are is to a great extent determined by the state of our ductless glands and viscera. ~Aldous Huxley, English author, 20th century

Over the last month the media streams have remained clogged with two events. First,the horrific massacre of school children and teachers in Connecticut, USA. Second, the barbaric rape and “murder” of an Indian medical student in Delhi.

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As part of an increasingly aware and connected society, we remain quick to rationalise into the underlying reasons and ascribe blame. The flickering screens become full with debates and sermons as questions and suggestions fly thick and fast.

Why does the U.S. Government not take up with the National Rifle Association and amend the gun ownership laws?
• What makes the Indian police so insensitive and ill equipped to take care of women safety on the roads?
• If, as it now emerges, gunman Adam Lanza displayed worrisome and awkward behaviour, why did his mother not do something about it?
• What was the trigger for the gang of rapists to have conducted themselves in such a brutal and violent manner?

…and so on, the list goes on and on.

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We may sit in judgement and hold holier than thou perceptions. As we take time out to show our solidarity with the cause and impatience and distrust with the ‘powers that be’. Or we may choose to get involved with our hearts, indulge in emotional outpourings and feel we are doing our bit. Either way we do not take responsibility for what happened.

But could it be that as we come across such evil and darkness in the world, there lies a seed of responsibility within us? When we accept the status quo of injustice on the plea that this is how it has been? When we prefer to remain an onlooker to a crime perpetrated on someone else? When we spend our energy to protect our own cocoon only? When we expect the Government and the police to follow standards of morality and behaviour higher than our own?

My thoughts flit to Joe Vitale and his book “Zero Limits”. About therapist Dr.Hew Len and his handling of a ward of criminally insane patients. Dr. Len never saw patients but only reviewed their files. As he looked at the files, he would work on himself by repeating the following universal mantras.
• I am sorry.
• Please forgive me.
• I thank you
• I love you.

And as he worked and improved himself, the patients started to improve and heal!

Dr. Hew Len was following the concept of HO’OPONONO, a Hawaiian word dealing with “extreme responsibility” which requires the person to take total responsibility of his life including all people and situations coming into it. A ‘tough to swallow’ and bizarre concept on first sight!

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But as I muse on the need to take responsibility of anything that shows up in our life, absolutely everything, I start seeing a continuum. Between extreme responsibility and that of reconciliation and forgiveness. I also come face to face with my Karma in that I must be willing to experience myself what I have allowed to happen to others, either by my inaction or inability.

And today in this new millennium, as we sit on the explosive powder keg of increasing disparity, isolation of the ‘left behinds’ in fast changing societies and values and technology driven, rapid creation of awareness and beliefs, could HO’OPONONO show us the way forward?

In learning……… Shakti Ghosal

Acknowledgement: Zero Limits: The Secret Hawaiian System for Wealth, Health, Peace, and More by Joe Vitale & Ihaleakala Hew Len, Dec. 2008.

What if……..


If thought is the fabric from which reality is made, then faith and intention become the mechanisms by which we focus and project thought.

                                                                                                              – Anonymous

What if we were spirits, balls of energy?  What if prior to being born, we could choose the Men and Women who would conceive us and help us with our values and beliefs? What if we could meet up with all the other spirits who would also be born to play enabling roles in our future life? What if we could choose our destiny?

What if…..

Grounded back to our reality, we see “What if….” as the yearnings of a meandering soul. Or a delusionary dream that needs to be closeted in the attics of our minds. But what if we did carry a master blueprint containing all our yearnings somewhere in our DNAs? Or what if the dream did have moorings in our wakefulness?

I see two pathways. One arising out of faith and the other from our intention. Which path to follow becomes our choice.

Our faith leads us to the realms of spirituality .We conjecture that situations do not happen randomly nor people come into our lives by chance. As we move through this maze of situations and people, we can choose to see our life journey as a blueprint ordained by a higher purpose. With this choice comes the realisation that the reason we are here is to heal our beliefs, learn from them and not to master and forcibly change them. Such a perspective does allow us to make peace with areas of our life which we find confusing and out of control.

But were we to move on the pathway of intention, we can choose to see our life as something we create and are responsible for. This becomes the essence. As we step out with positive intentions to make a choice, we start understanding the underlying reasons why we fail to do so on many occasions.

I get reminded of that wonderful Arbinger Institute publication, “Leadership and Self Deception: Getting out of the box”. While the book focuses on leadership in the organisational context, its argument applies in our life situation too. The book states that people respond to “how we feel about them” and not because “how we treat them.” Let us halt here and absorb the import of what is being said. “Feeling inside” has far greater impact than “action outside.” The genuineness, or otherwise, of what our true feelings or thoughts are, seeps out irrespective how or what we show on the outside.

We “get into the box” as we allow our lives to be dominated by our insecurities and start projecting our failures on to others to try and protect ourselves from our own reality. This then becomes our strategy of self deception and “keeps us trapped inside the box”, away from the truth of our attitude towards others and its crippling impact on our relationships.

As an example, if you are in an abusive relationship, this could be due to your belief that you are unloved. If you believe you are unlovable, you will attract those ‘into the box” who can help you to demonstrate this belief because you have it, not because it is the truth. Abuse is one way that this belief can be played out.

But intention does allow us to choose to become the observer of our beliefs and changing them once they are no longer working for us. And as we change ourselves inside, what we attract on the outside also changes. And this becomes our pathway to move “out of the box.”

So, do we move on the faith path as we reconcile and make peace with our troubling beliefs and other aspects of life? Or do we follow our intentions as we face failure and turbulence in our efforts to implant new beliefs and a life change?

What if….. we could make this choice?

In Learning………                                                                                                  Shakti Ghosal

Acknowledgement:

* Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box – An Arbinger Institute publication, 2008.

The Transience of our Permanence

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They say when you get a lover
You begin to lose a friend.
That the end of the beginning is the beginning of the end.
They say the moment that you’re born is when you start to die.
And the first time that we said hello began our last goodbye.

                                            Roger Whittaker in The First Hello The Last Goodbye, 1976.

Have you wondered why most fairy tales end with the lines, “…..and then they lived happily ever after.”

Somewhere these words leave a warm feeling inside of permanence and stability. As we go through life, we like to moor ourselves to our family, our home and our possessions. We see permanence and derive comfort from the known just as we feel discomfort in transience and avoid the unknown.

But we are born and live through a world always in transience. And buffeted by the changes, we also keep changing. I remember the lines made famous by Bob Dylan in the sixties.

Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.”

Yes, we better start swimming and we do swim. But we do this because we are somehow conditioned to maintain the permanence of our situation and not because we are conscious of   “times they are a – changin’.” So while our rational mind does notice the kaleidoscopy of transience happening all round us including our own self, our emotional core tries to hold onto the solidity of our perceived permanence.

I wonder about this as I ask myself, “Why do we long for this permanence when we know we are in transience?” Does the answer lie in religion? For religion does seem to offer sedateness amidst the noise and striving surrounding us. Religion tells us that permanence lies in loving God and loving one another. But love is a feeling. So does religion signify permanence of our feelings as it speaks of the transience of our physical selves?

                     “That nothing walks with aimless feet;

                      That not one life shall be destroy’d,

                      Or cast as rubbish to the void

                     When God hath made the pile complete”

                                           Lord Alfred Tennyson in “In Memoriam A.H.H.

Throughout history, our quest for a stable mooring has created philosophies which have debated about human consciousness and its permanence. At the individual level, this has been termed as our “soul” and that oft asked question, “Does our soul persist when our bodies fall?” has remained unanswered. I believe the reason we hold onto this philosophy is because it helps us reconcile the dread of the ‘physical death’ transience of our bodies by hooking onto this faith in the permanence of our conscious ‘souls’.

Was it this obsession with permanence which made the Egyptian pharaohs build pyramids five millennia back? Is it the same mindset that makes us store photos, videos and momentoes even today? Almost as if we need to keep our memories hostage in the inanimate world to reassure us of our permanence. This attitude of permanence has led us to develop a ‘content storage’ mindset. When asked, we quip back, “I am in a hurry…… things are moving fast….. I would always come back to savour these memories later.”

So how do we reframe our perspective from this mere ‘content storage’ to a higher ‘content experience’ mindset? I believe we can do this as we focus on pure experiencing with less and less obsession with storing. We then move into a state of heightened mindfulness. Where we let go of permanence and immerse in the flows of transience.

I think again of this transience- permanence polarity and I start noticing symmetry.

As I get up in the morning and look out, I derive this intense comfort from the permanence of the palm trees surrounding the pool and the curved pathway moving away on both sides. This has remained changeless since many years. But looking out of the window, I also see a pair of pigeons nesting and laying eggs and delight at the transience of this.

A memory I have held dear and which offers a soothing balm during stressful times, is of me sitting on the banks of a clear running stream, my legs resting on an immersed stone. While the running water may be seen in transience around the permanence of the stone, for me it is the timeless rushing (permanence?) of the stream as it erodes the stone (transience?) into smoothness, that leads to a deep inner peace.

As I reflect, I realise that these symmetries of transience and permanence are the moments when I gain the expanded consciousness of my here and now.

Happiness and the Theory of Relativity


“Learn to let go. That is the key to happiness.”

                                                     –   Buddha

The other day, I chanced upon a report on the Happiness Index 2012 based on a global poll. What intrigued me were the results.

 On the top of the heap, as the happiest, are folks from Indonesia,India and Mexico. An Indonesia repeatedly ravaged by earthquakes and tsunami. An India struggling with one of the highest malnourished young population. And a Mexico racked by drug cartels and violence.

And at the bottom of the rung with low happiness levels are countries with some of the highest human development indices viz.Germany, Japan, France and Italy. The results do seem to fly in the face of our belief that happiness is a function of wealth, quality of life, health, education etc. And if this be not so, what really are we looking for when we seek happiness?

I get down to finding out what happiness is all about. Is it that warm fuzzy feeling that we get inside when we feel pleasure? Is it the lightheadedness on achieving that long cherished goal and recognition? Is it the contentment of our current situation, be it our family, work or surroundings? Or could it be the exhilaration offered by our material possessions?

As I reflect, I realise that we carry this hugely relative view regarding happiness. On one end of the scale we see it closely linked to pleasure. And so we aggressively seek it, doing everything in our powers to possess it. On the other end of the scale, we try to achieve happiness through “high thinking simple living” moral posturing which denigrates pleasure as something shallow and non-spiritual.

I drill and probe into this relativity surrounding happiness.

My thoughts veer towards the age old fable of the Buddha and the young woman Kisagotami. The story goes that when Kisagotami’s first born dies, her desperate attempts to seek out medicine.to revive the infant takes her to Buddha. Buddha, hearing her pleadings, tells the woman, “To make the medicine, I would need a handful of mustard seeds from a house where no child, husband, parent or servant has died.” As Kisagotami goes on her quest, she realises that hers is not a unique predicament. She leaves the body of her child  in the forest and returns. Buddha helps Kisagotami to “let go” of her perceived source of happiness- her child, to gain a higher view of happiness.

I see how I, like Kisagotami, instinctively position myself at the centre of my universe and hold on to all I have. So no matter what is happening out there, it comes down to how it will impact me. I notice this every time that inner voice complains, “Even though there is an economic downturn, why should I lose on my investments? Why does my child’s school not provide her the extra support? Why does it always happen to me?’ And so on…. I notice my self centric view and the need to hold on is really at the core of my perennial happiness hunting mission.

Me…. Mine….. Myself…..Acquire……. Protect.

Our instinctive happiness mantra. Words and thoughts close to our core. All contributing to our “me-first” perspective. Do we see the need to shift away and increase awareness of many other perspectives around us? As we make this shift, our “me first” point of reference loses ground. And this is when we enter into the world of relativity. Similar to what Einstein conceived a century back, this is a world where each of our reality is relative and all points of view subjective to the beholder. A world where the sheer act of noticing can change the outcome.

We cannot have happiness without unhappiness, pleasure without frustration. Just as we cannot have well being without catastrophe. All on a continuum, all relative to each other.  As we shine the light of this realisation on our “narcissistic self”, we see the relativity of our self concept and its reactions like anger, anxiety, doubt and grief, conditioned as we are to hold onto them. As we do this, our sense of solidity of the “self” collapses into a realm of relativeness.

So we come back to the question, “What is happiness?”  I believe it is an attitude floating in relativity. An attitude to accept pain and disappointment as part of pleasure. An attitude to move away from self obsession while being obsessed with our core values and commitments. An attitude to retain our faith as we face ridicule and hurt to that “me –first” self. An attitude to welcome the Good without being possessive along with   the Bad without being disappointed. The attitude to “let go” when it no longer serves us.

Could it just be that such an attitude gets fostered in an environment full of uncertainty and challenge? An environment which simply does not allow us to seek refuge in our individualistic cocoons. An environment which allows us to “let go.”

Could it just be why the Happiness Index 2012 has thrown up the kind of results it has?

In Learning………                                                                         Shakti Ghosal

I AM…….


The words “I am” are potent words; be careful what you hitch them to.  The thing you’re claiming has a way of reaching back and claiming you. 

~A.L. Kitselman, American author, early 20th Century

Some days back, on the seventieth Birthday of the iconic Mohammed Ali, I watched some of the old grainy footages of another time, another place. Of a newly crowned world heavyweight champion declaring, “I am the Greatest!” Did these words come from a space of vanity and arrogance? Of projecting a ‘bigger than life’ aura as a shield against racism and perceived injustice? Or was it simply to frighten and unnerve the opposition?

In my childhood, my parents and teachers told me, “Do not fall prey to self arrogance, be humble. Shun personal greed, be generous in giving, be of service.” And there were enough morals like ‘thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’’ floating around to reinforce the belief in me that anything to do with ‘Me, mine, I am…etc” reeked of selfishness and a self serving attitude and thus needed to be hidden from view.

And as I have gone through life, I have had my share of successes. In areas of family, work, money. I have run these races and done better than many. And at times like these, as I have looked at the other faces, did I feel those twinges of guilt deep down? Was this the underlying belief rearing its head to derail me from further success?

It was only the other day that my moderator Leon led me to the TBOLITNFL website featuring “The Deuce Lutui Story”. This is a story of Coach Steve Hardison and his coaching relationship with footballer Deuce Lutui. TBOLITNFL means ‘The Best Offensive Linesman in the National Football League’ and this is what Deuce transforms into. Watching the site video is a moving experience and brings home the sheer power of ‘I AM….’

For Deuce Lutui ‘I AM….’ resonates with the infectious positivity of ‘Personal Internal Commitment.’ As Steve Hardison writes to Deuce in one of his E mails, “Your commitment is so profound and so deep and so powerful.  I believe that if we took a blood sample right now and put your blood under a microscope and looked at the individual blood cells you would see letters floating in your blood cells. Do you know what letters you would see in the blood cells?  These letters: TBOLITNFL :)”

I reflect.

‘I AM…’ is about ME. But does it only relate to my personal internal commitment? The ancient Vedas of India speak of Soham which means, “I AM…” Soham is a Universal mantra with its breath like vibrations creating a bridge between the individual’s senses, actions and his awareness. But at a more fundamental level, Soham also celebrates that deep underlying essence of Being. The Being that does not need to react, that just is and is part of the universal consciousness.

I see the connection.

“I AM…” is what I am committed to, what I am passionate about. It is about rewiring my long held beliefs, my internal sinews and muscles as I proclaim “I AM…” to the outside world.  But my senses and actions come from the space of Being. “I AM…” therefore is neither my arrogance nor my selfishness. “I AM…” is no longer a zero sum game in which my wins are at the cost of someone else. I make the transformational leap   allowing my personal commitments to be at peace with my values of humility, generosity and service to others. “I AM…” is my tryst with the universal consciousness.

I realise now that Mohammed Ali’s declaration so many decades back had more to do with his belief in himself and his personal internal commitment than the opposition or the outside world. AsLeonbeautifully sums it up, “Failure to commit to I AM… is high cost of low living”.

I am an inspirational leader of men.

I  AM…..

I am a loving and positive minded husband and father.

I AM…..

I am the best CEO and Executive Coach for this age of discontinuity.

I AM…

“When you truly want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

                                                                                  Paulo Coelho ‘The Alchemist’, 1993

 

 

In learning…….                                                                        Shakti Ghosal

 

Acknowledgement:  http://www.tbolitnfl.com