Do You Really Want Your Neighbor’s Wonderful Life?

Are you feeling angry? Tired?  Frustrated? Envious? Do you think you are working harder than ever, yet not making much progress?

If your answer is yes, you are not alone.

Millions of people feel that life is passing them by. No matter what they do, it is always the other guy who gets the promotion, buys fancy cars, and sends his kids to Harvard, while they are barely treading water.

Are they right? And if so, what is the solution?

Facebook version of reality

Beach Vacation

Beach Vacation

You “friend” people on Facebook. Or other “social media” sites. Then they send you pictures of their beach vacations, their happy and smart kids, their new cars. And here you are, struggling with the daily grind of your mundane life.

Disconnect

Anger often arises if you want something badly, and your desires are thwarted. Or you think you deserve something, and yet you end up not getting it.

Frustration commonly has similar roots.

Reality

The real world exists.

We want it to be a certain way, but it is a stubborn beast. It goes along its merry way, impervious to our desires. It defies our efforts to control it.

Sooner or later, reality clashes with our expectations. The results, if not put into perspective, can be disastrous.

Grown-ups’ problems

tantrumAs children, we are often pampered. If we want something, we go to our parents, and demand we get it. If we don’t get our way, some of us throw a tantrum.

And then we grow up.

Control and compare

The first clash with reality in an adult world comes through comparisons.

We look at our colleagues and our neighbors. And we feel envious if they are better off than we are. Because we feel that we are just as smart as they are, if not smarter.

Envy, if not dealt with firmly and rationally, leads to resentment, bitterness, and anger.

From here, where?

So you are upset. You are better (you think), but your colleagues get all the riches. You hate that.

angryWhere is this going to lead you? Anger, hatred, resentment … this is a recipe for sleepless nights and an acid feeling in your gut. Will this make you any richer? Will that Lamborghini parked next door find its way into your garage?

No, and no.

You will be no richer, and your outlook towards life is likely to get clouded. Your enjoyment of life will diminish.

So what is the answer?

We need less envy, and more clarity of thought, more empathy, more gratitude.

Think about it.

You envy your neighbor’s mansion, his big car, his fancy vacations. But they do not exist in a vacuum. They are often the end result of a number of decisions he made along the way. Decisions which you do not know about. Decisions that you might not have made if you had that choice.

Perhaps he studied hard while his college classmates were out partying.

Perhaps he toiled at part-time jobs while others were slumped in front of their TVs, sipping beer and devouring potato chips.

Do you want his whole life?

This is the real clincher.

Your neighbor’s life is a package deal.

LamborghiniYou drool over his car. But with it might come his son’s drug addiction, his wife’s loneliness and depression, the alimony he pays to ex-wives, and the grief he gets from them. If you want his car, you will have to accept his problems, too. Ready for the deal?

Pick and choose

That is what we want to do. We want the “Facebook” elements of others’ lives, but we want to steer clear of their problems, many of which we do not even know about. Life does not work like that.

Live happily ever after?

And even if you got your neighbor’s life, and his riches, then what? You will ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after? Hardly. Life is not a Hollywood movie.

Where now?

You need a strategy to deal with life. Bitterness, envy, resentment, anger, and frustration are not strategies. They are symptoms. Symptoms that you are not happy in your own skin.

Accept reality

You are what you are. Sit down. Take a deep breath in. Look deep inside you. Analyze your strengths and weaknesses. Be grateful for what you have. You probably have more than a lot of the 7 billion or so people on this planet, especially if you live in the Western world.

Then take a cold, hard look at your problems. Is the lack of a Mercedes a real problem? Do you really need a beach house and several million dollars to be happy in this world? If so, mankind is really doomed.

What matters in life

Sooner or later, you will have to decide what it is that you really want. What will make you happy? What will give your life meaning? What will give you satisfaction?

If your answers deal with material things, you will always be disappointed. Kids will move out, and the large house will be mostly empty, except for stuff. Stuff that nobody uses anymore.

JunkThe car will lose its shine. The new car smell will fade. Eventually, it will go to the junk yard.

Stuff is temporary. Life is temporary.

The neighbor’s Lamborghini? It will end up as scrap metal one day.

So what should you do?

  • Remember all the good things that have happened to you.
  •  Be Grateful!

    Be Grateful!

    Be grateful for all of them.

  • Live in the moment and enjoy it to the fullest. This is the only moment you have. The past is gone. The future is not guaranteed. So enjoy all aspects of the present moment. This is when you are alive. This is your life.
  • Focus on friends, family, love.
  • You have one life. It might not be perfect. But it is yours. Live it, instead of grumbling about it.

 

Secrets of Pride, Anger, and Social Emotions

“You are a genius!”

“You are such a total failure!”

Each one of us has an inner voice which keeps nagging us. It keeps a running scorecard of everything we do, and regularly passes judgment. One second it can take us to the top of a mountain, and the very next, bring us crashing down.

Why is this so?

Evolution

evolution

This is a convenient target to blame. We are wired this way. We cannot help ourselves.

To some extent, that is true.

Living beings need to survive, and propagate the species. Social animals want to move up the social hierarchy, because that improves the odds of survival and reproduction.

And thus are born instincts and emotions, which warn us against danger, and help us get ahead in the world.

Is this relevant today?

Yes and no.

Dangers to life and limb are of a different nature today. The stress system previously triggered by the roar of a tiger in the wild is now brought into play when we are sitting in traffic, fretting and fuming because we are late for a meeting. The hormones pouring into our bloodstream (cortisol and adrenaline), which were meant to aid fight or flight, now end up raising our blood pressure and blood sugar.

Are primary or basic emotions still useful?

To some extent, they are. They still alert us to the possibility of harm.

Anger, joy, sadness, surprise, fear, and disgust develop in the first 9 months of an infant’s life

fear

These basic human emotions have characteristic facial expressions which accompany them. An early signal of both fear and surprise is a widening of the eyes, which increases our field of vision, allowing a better chance of fast escape, as we can see more of our surroundings.

surprise

The emotions of anger and disgust show the same initial facial expression, a  wrinkled nose, which was likely designed to reduce the potential for breathing in particles dangerous to health.

Modern role

Many researchers believe that emotions affect our cognition, influence our thinking, and influence the way we make decisions.

Gut feeling

The human brain can take in vast amounts of information, process it rapidly, and present to us a plan for rapid action, without our having to think about it at a conscious level. Our emotions play a key role in this, through our “instincts,” or “gut feelings.”

In many situations, the amount of information available is so much that analyzing it carefully and consciously would take a lot of time. You might be in a car showroom, with the salesman pushing you to close a deal. But your brain sees a red flag, and tries to warn you. You start getting an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of your stomach. You do not know what it is, but your brain has been there before, and it is warning you that something is fishy, and you should leave. Only later do you find out that the sales person has a track record of duping customers. Your instincts, however, picked up some subtle cues and warned you in time.

But it can work against you

Emotions act in a very simplistic manner. They present you information about your surroundings and circumstances rather broadly, and you react to that without too much conscious thought. This, however, can also create problems in the modern world. When things do not go your way, you tend to get angry, and this could become a recurrent pattern. Chronic anger can create health problems, such as high blood pressure, and even heart disease.

Self-conscious emotions

These emotions can cause even greater problems.

pride

Pride, hubris, guilt, and shame are commonly considered to be “self-conscious” emotions. They develop later in life than the basic emotions of anger, fear, etc. (which can be seen by 9 months). Pride, for example, develops by the end of the third year of life.

These emotions depend on an interaction between a person and the society in which he or she lives.

Pride and social status

Society and culture often dictate what kind of a person we are expected to be. Pride helps us to regulate our behavior to gain the approval of society. It also motivates us to avoid actions of which society disapproves. Thus it helps us to avoid feelings of rejection.

Pride is an important building block for self-esteem, helping us to attain and maintain a certain status in society.

Pride and goal setting

People constantly evaluate social norms, and then set goals for themselves. If they meet or exceed those goals, they feel a sense of pride, which promotes further achievement. A failure to meet those goals leads to a sense of shame or guilt.

Thus pride depends on constant self-evaluation.

Is pride two emotions?

Pride and hubris are being studied afresh these days.

It is commonly felt that the difference between the two is only of degree. An excessive sense of pride is commonly called hubris, which is detrimental to emotional and social development.

Some researchers feel, however, that we need to distinguish between an achievement-based pride and a hubristic pride

Pride in achievement

Almost all of us have experienced this.

You run track, and come in first in a tough competition. Or you are a musician, and win an award for a fine performance. You might, perhaps, receive praise and a promotion for completing a project which wins your company new clients.

Most human beings would feel proud under these circumstances.

Hubristic pride

This is more problematic.

hubris

This is the pride a person feels because of who he thinks he is.

Most people in this category have a distorted sense of self-perception, and may have delusions of grandeur. They are often arrogant and conceited.

They feel that they deserve praise for who they are, not just for what they have achieved.

Impact of pride

Psychologists feel that an achievement-based pride helps to develop self-esteem, and promotes “good behavior” and the promotion of societal goals.

Hubris and narcissism

Unlike “regular pride,” hubristic pride is a clearly negative emotion, with strong ties to narcissism.

Such people frequently have deep-rooted insecurities. They might feel inadequate, and often harbor feelings of shame. To protect themselves from these emotions, they adopt a cloak of arrogance and self-aggrandizement.

This is a defensive process, and is maladaptive in nature.

Demonstration of pride

This depends on the cultural and social norms the persons grows up learning.

In Eastern, “group based” cultures, demonstration of pride aggressively is frowned upon, and pride is often considered a negative emotion.

However, in the more individualistic societies of the West, pride is usually considered a virtue. Rather than condemning it as a vice, Western societies like to encourage pride in both children and adults.

A deeper truth?

Even achievement-based pride can create problems.

This pride depends on positive results. However, results of our actions are never under our control. We can only control our own actions.

Results, pride, and self-esteem

If you praise yourself, or your child, mostly for achievements, you might be sending the wrong message.

You can try your best, and yet fail in an enterprise. Other times, you could cruise through your assignment, and still get positive results purely through luck. What would you rather praise and encourage, the effort, or the result? What is more likely to stand you in good stead through the course of a lifetime?

So what is the bottom line?

joy

  • Emotions are deeply ingrained in the human psyche.
  • We receive an evolutionary benefit from emotions, as they alert us to danger and promote prompt, subconscious action.
  • In the modern setting, many emotions are triggered inappropriately, or excessively, and they can hurt us, causing significant unhappiness and dissatisfaction with life.
  • Chronic anger, excessive sadness, and inappropriate fear can ruin many a life.
  • Excessive pride and shame can also have deleterious effects.
  • Emotions trigger thought and action.
  • It is vital that we understand and control our emotions and their triggers, in order to moderate our responses, and avoid becoming slaves to our emotions.
  • There is often a lack of association between effort, action, and achievement. Be careful what you praise and encourage.

Emotions, happiness & satisfaction

You can read more about this connection in my book, available here:

http://goo.gl/4tp2t9.

Is Pride Good, Bad, or Indifferent?

pride

Pride

Are you proud of what you have achieved in life? Are you a proud man? Is there a difference? Is pride good or bad? What is pride anyway?

Confusion

These questions have been confusing mankind for centuries. One reason might be that research has been limited because pride is not usually included in the category of basic emotions.

Basic emotions

These emotions are not limited by culture or nationality, but are felt to be truly universal.

Anger

Anger

Anger, fear, happiness, surprise, disgust, and sadness are commonly accepted as the basic emotions.

Another characteristic of these emotions is that they are accompanied by non-verbal expressions, which can be understood by almost anybody living anywhere in the world. For example, the facial changes which occur when a person is angry are usually not subtle, or limited by nationality.

Secondary or complex emotions

These develop later in the life of an infant, and depend on an ability to evaluate aspects of society, culture, and a sense of “self.”

Some of these emotions are combinations of the basic emotions.

Jealousy

Jealousy

Examples of these are envy, jealousy, and resentment.

This issue has been dealt with in a previous article here … http://goo.gl/hZ5Qlk.

Self-conscious emotions

I did it!

I did it!

This is an interesting, and at times confusing, set of emotions, which require a complex interplay between a person and society or culture.

The person develops a sense of individuality or “self.” He or she then looks around to see what society expects. This leads to goal-setting, and finally an evaluation whether those goals have been met. A sense of success or failure is the common result of such an evaluation.

Shame!

Shame!

This complex process is felt to be responsible for our “self-conscious” emotions of pride, hubris, guilt, and shame.

Why do we have emotions?

Emotions are clearly evolutionary in nature. They help us to survive, reproduce, and move up in the food chain.

Emotion and reason

We have the capacity for both. And they serve different functions.

Fear!

Fear!

Take a basic emotion like fear. In the good old days, when we heard a roar in the wild, it alerted us to danger to life and limb. We did not sit around, form a committee, and debate rationally the probabilities of a tiger attack. Instead, we were immediately gripped by a mortal fear, our fight-or-flight response took over automatically, adrenaline poured into our bloodstream, and we ran like crazy. And lived to fight and reproduce another day.

Aggression

In addition to just living, we also wanted to adapt and thrive. Here our rational being came into play. It helped us to venture out, capture animals, avoid danger ahead of time, develop agriculture, and enhance our welfare by forming tribes and societies.

Social good

Group living helped us, but also led to the development of more emotions. Individual survival now competed with group survival. An aggressive individual was of value, but could lead to trouble within the group.

Thus social and cultural norms and hierarchies were born. You could kill invaders, but not your neighbors in your tribe.

The tribes also needed leaders, and followers. The leaders enjoyed unique privileges. There was often competition to become a leader. Certain traits were valuable in a leader, and others were frowned upon.

Thus arose pride and shame.

Desire

There is another theory of emotions.

Human beings have desires. Some of these are basic, while others are conditioned by society or culture.

All of us have a desire to live. We also want to be successful, to be liked, to move up in society, to be accepted and admired.

Events in our daily lives either lead to the satisfaction of these desires, or their frustration. These events produce mental and physical changes in us, which we recognize as emotions.

For example, the presence of a tiger threatens our desire to live, so we experience fear.

Moving on up?

Moving on up?

Buying a flashy new car satisfies our desire to move up in society, and so we feel joy.

Denial of a promotion frustrates our desire to be recognized and admired, and we feel anger.

 Where does pride fit in?

Pride is confusing.

The Greeks both admired it, and detested it. They valued pride in their warriors, but also recognized the problems with excessive pride, or hubris.

 

Achilles

Achilles

Most of the characters in Homer’s “Iliad” were led to their ruin by pride.

Christianity

Since ancient times, Christian teaching has talked of the seven deadly sins, of which pride is one.

Dante

Dante

He was not bashful about his opinions. He considered pride to be the deadliest of the seven deadly sins.

Pride and the Gita

         Dambho darpo abhimanashcha krodhah parushyamevacha

          Ajnanam cha abhijatasya Partha sampadam asurim  (Gita 16:4)

This epic of ancient Indian philosophy and religion narrates how Lord Krishna, a Hindu god, described to his pupil Arjuna the specific traits of people born with a demonical nature: hypocrisy, arrogance, pride, anger, harshness, and ignorance.

Emotions and happiness

So what can we take away from this?

Do emotions help us?

In the modern setting, can they hurt us?

Is pride always good, or always bad?

Complexity can be reduced

By studying emotions in greater detail, we can understand their evolutionary benefits.

Similarly, we can also understand their potential to derail our pursuit for happiness and satisfaction in the modern world.

We will discuss this further in subsequent post.

Stay tuned!

Want to read more?

Confused about happiness? Your ship just came in!

Confused about happiness? Your ship just came in!

The pursuit of happiness and satisfaction is discussed in more detail in my book available here … http://goo.gl/4tp2t9.

Do Not Let Envy Derail Your Happiness!

Most human beings have the ability to achieve happiness fairly quickly in life, and without enormous effort. Then why don’t we?

Potholes

pothole

We let negative emotions create potholes on a road which would otherwise be smooth.

Envy, jealousy, and resentment: These are common human emotions, and cause uncommon suffering.

A little soul?

“Envy is a littleness of soul, which cannot see beyond a certain point…”

-William Hazlitt

Envy or jealousy?

People often feel that these two emotions are similar, but they really are not, at least not technically.

The emotion of envy essentially implies that someone else has something that you lack, and really want for yourself. You covet that possession, or situation, or attribute.

jealous

Jealousy implies that you are afraid of being replaced by somebody else. It is often used in situations where you feel that someone you love might start loving somebody else more. So you have something (usually a relationship), and this is being threatened by a third individual.

Primary emotions

shame

Happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, shame, grief, and disgust are found in most cultures all over the world. Even young children have been shown to display these emotions.

Non-basic (secondary) emotions

Examples of these are envy, jealousy, and resentment. These are more complex, and depend on the child discovering cultural and social rules as he or she grows up. As such, they develop later than the primary emotions.

Mixture

Some of these secondary emotions result from a mixture of the basic emotions. Jealousy, for example, contains elements of fear and anger. Similarly, feelings of guilt can be a summation of sadness and fear.

Wrong

Fundamentally, you feel envious when you do not have a quality or object which somebody else has. In addition, you feel that this situation is unfair, or wrong.

Poor self-esteem

inadequacy

People who are troubled by severe envy often feel inadequate. They are frustrated by the sense of not having achieved their goals, and are angry at others who have.

Envy can lead to maliciousness, and a desire to harm or humiliate the other person. A perverse wish to scratch your neighbor’s brand-new Ferrari falls into this category!

Invidious hostility, such as gossip, backbiting, and defamation are some of the other consequences of envy.

Resentment

resent

This is a complex emotion, and is usually a combination of anger, fear, and disappointment.

It is often directed against a person whose social status is higher than yours.  The underlying feeling you get is that you have been treated unfairly, and you are not in a position to do much about it.

It can even be the result of envy, if you feel that you have worked hard, and have not received much recognition or reward, while another person, who you think has not worked as hard, has gone ahead in life.

Quite often, resentment can leave you feeling bitter and depressed.

Resentment can be mistaken for pure anger, but the two emotions frequently have distinct external expression. People often express anger in an aggressive manner, while resentment is commonly internalized, where it can “burn the person up” from the inside.

Phthonos

The Greeks were no strangers to envy. Phthonos was their spirit of envy and jealousy in ancient times, and he also had a more popular female counterpart.

Nemesis

She was the Greek goddess of jealous retribution, the female counterpart of Phthonos. Her domain was indignation, especially directed at subjects who were felt to be undeserving of their good fortune.

Ill effects of envy

Envy can seriously undermine one’s mental health. It creates unnecessary stress, and leaves the victim feeling overwhelmed. Anxiety, hostility, and depression are common results of envy. Irritability and anger often follow, and the envious person suffers the loss of friends (who do not want to hang out with a grumpy person) and descends into a chronic state of unhappiness and dissatisfaction with life.

Bitterness

This is a common result of chronic envy, resentment, and jealousy. These negative emotions extract a heavy toll.

Count whose blessings?

“Envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of your own.”

-Harold Coffin

Long lasting

“Our envy always lasts longer than the happiness of those we envy.”

-Heraclitus

The Gita on envy

murudeshwar-172586_1280 (1)

The Gita is an ancient Indian epic dealing with philosophy and religion. It addresses most of the common roadblocks on the path to happiness.

      Ahankaram balam darpam kamam krodham cha sanshritah

      Mamatmaparadeheshum pradvishantoabhyasuyakah  (Gita 16:18)

In this verse, Lord Krishna, a Hindu god, is explaining to his disciple Arjuna the character traits found in people who have demonic personalities. He says that such people are egotistical, violent, arrogant, and full of lust. They are angry and full of envy. They forget that God is present in their bodies, and the bodies of all other human beings, as their soul. By harboring these destructive emotions, they abuse and dishonor their innermost sacred selves.

So what to do?

Feelings of envy, jealousy, and resentment are deeply ingrained in our psyche from millennia of evolution. Human beings have survival mechanisms which alert them to danger, and enable them to take action. These days, however, these emotions are triggered subconsciously, often at inopportune times, and have harmful effects.

  • First, become more self-aware.
  • Analyze your emotions and responses frequently, and identify what triggers envy, anger, resentment, and bitterness in you.
  • Recognize and remind yourself that talent and rewards are not always evenly distributed in this world.
  • Remind yourself often of your own unique abilities and gifts, which many others may lack.
  • thanks
  • Develop a sense of gratitude for all that has been given to you, rather than moan about what you don’t have. In other words, count your blessings! Frequently! You can read more about the value of gratitude here: http://goo.gl/wMMBDB.
  • medit
  • Take up meditation, yoga, and deep breathing. The technique and benefits of deep breathing are described here: http://goo.gl/v9dQ0d.
  • If you still feel that these emotions are not under good control, consider consulting a trained mental health professional.

Summary

The pursuit of happiness is made unnecessarily complicated by a host of negative emotions. Recognizing and controlling them will go a long way toward improving your satisfaction with life.

Read more about leading a happy and satisfying life athttp://goo.gl/4tp2t9.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can You Learn To Say Enough Is Enough?

“How much money is enough?” somebody once asked John D. Rockefeller. John was the first ever American billionaire, and was also the world’s richest man at one point. He is still considered by many to have been the richest man in modern history, because he was a billionaire in the early 1900s.

“Just a little bit more,” was his answer.

More, and then some more!

chateau

The size of the average American home was 1000 square feet a few decades ago. It is now almost 2500 square feet. Our garages, basements, and attics are bulging with stuff.

Households in the US owed a total of $11.83 trillion at the end of 2014, up $117 billion as compared to the previous quarter (estimated by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York).

And yet we want more.

Do you need it?

Who care anymore about need!

Necessity used to be the mother of invention. Now, invention is the mother of necessity. How did we ever get along without this gizmo in the past, we ask ourselves in the store, while whipping out our credit cards.

Yet, a report estimated that 85 million phones were lying unused in the UK in 2013.

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”

-Marcus Tulius Cicero

I want it!

“It is preoccupation with possession, more than anything else, that prevents men from living freely and nobly.”

-Bertrand Russell, 1872

content

“Contentment comes not so much from great wealth as from few wants.”

-Epictetus, 55 AD

Cost of stuff

We pay for things with money at the store. Then we pay some more. Personal storage revenues in the US are over $24 billion a year. Some of this storage is short term, but a lot of stuff languishes in these “warehouses’ for months, if not years. Stuff we thought we needed enough to shell out money for in the first place.

“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”

-Henry David Thoreau, Walden

So why do we buy things?

One-upmanship is part of the answer.

limo

“My house is bigger than yours, my car is bigger than yours, my wife is prettier than yours. So I am a better man than you, buddy,” we seem to be shouting, figuratively, from the rooftops.

Sense of power

camels

In ancient times, the chief of the tribe was the man with the most camels, or goats, or oxen, or whatever. His possessions were the symbols of his power. He was the one to establish rules for the tribe to follow. He also, more often than not, had the opportunity to mate with the woman of his choice, and often more than one.

Even today, the rich and powerful (aren’t they the same?) seem to play from a different rulebook.

 Envy

This green-eyed monster has more control over our lives than we care to admit. Bertrand Russell said that envy was one of the chief reasons for human unhappiness.

The feeling of envy arises when a person sees a quality or possession that somebody else has, and wishes that either he or she acquires it, too, or that the other person loses it.

Many a person has bought a boat, a car, or jewelry, based on envy, and then regretted it.

Aristotle defined envy as “the pain caused by the good fortune of others.”

Envy is often the result of poor self-esteem. The envious person feels empty inside. The Latin term invidia for envy means “non-sight.” Envious people are often blind to their own qualities and covet those in others.

Happiness

shopping

People buy stuff, convinced that this will make them happy. They refuse to acknowledge the rather obvious fact that things are transient. Material possessions fade, lose their shine, malfunction, and eventually disintegrate. Where is the happiness in that?

Security

A well rounded person feels secure in himself or herself. People lacking that sense of mooring wander from object to object, wrapping themselves in blankets of possessions, seeking in external objects a value that can only come from within.

Loneliness/emotional response

It is said that when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping. The truth is slightly different. Lots of people try to apply the balm of material goods to hide the pain they feel inside: whether it is loneliness, or emotional loss. We all know how that turns out.

Advertisements

sale

We live in a consumer society. Data indicate that we consume twice as many material goods than we did fifty years ago.

The market place is flooded with goods and products churned out by factories all over the world. Media outlets of all kinds have a responsibility to make sure that we buy that stuff, whether we need it or not.

The average person in the US is exposed to at least 5000 ads daily. Businesses pay for ads, because they work. And the consumer society goes on, leaving people, for the most part, no happier than before.

We are selfish and greedy

Not much needs to be said about that. Selfishness is a survival mechanism for the species. Carried to extremes, however, it becomes counter-productive.

So what now?

Shop till you drop is bad for human happiness. It leaves people emotionally drained.

We need to simplify our lives.

For that, we need clarity of thought.

More on that in subsequent posts. Please stay tuned.

Find Happiness Today: Quit Digging!

There is a law of holes. When you are in a hole, the first thing you need to do is to stop digging.

The road to happiness and satisfaction is full of potholes. Some of them are tiny, and only make your car sink and jump a bit. Others can swallow you up, car and all.

Most of us insist on digging our own holes, and then we work day and night to make them bigger. Yet we insist that we are pursuing happiness.

Desperation

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

-Henry David Thoreau, Walden

desperate

Why are people unhappy? Why are they dissatisfied?

Because they keep hurting themselves by making wrong choices.

Ignorance

We do not know where we want to go.

If you want to see the Eiffel Tower, you should go to Paris. If you follow the road to New York, and expect to see the Eiffel Tower there, you will be disappointed.

If you pursue material objects, and luxuries, and get no lasting joy, don’t be surprised. You’ve followed the wrong path.

We wear masks

masks

“How are you doing?’ is no longer a question. We automatically answer, “Fine, thanks,” smile sweetly, and move on. Most of the day we have our party faces on. Smile, shake hands, say “Have a nice day,” and keep on trudging. How do we really feel deep inside? We dare not ask ourselves that, for the answer is too painful.

So we avoid introspection, we avoid solitude, we avoid serious thought.

We have a spouse, 1.5 kids, a house in the suburbs, two cars in the garage, and a free-range chicken in the pot. We must be happy.

We demand guaranteed results

An annual raise is considered a right. Whether the employee’s work is satisfactory or not.

We want all our kids to be A-students, to get on the honor roll, to gain admission to the college of their choice, to find marvelous jobs, earn tons of money, and live happily ever after.

Life does not always play out like that. Disappointments are inevitable. Yet we don’t always teach ourselves or our kids how to deal with them.

Instant gratification

This is one of the biggest holes you can dig for yourself.

vacation

Borrow several thousand dollars, fly off to Europe, live it up for a week, and then spend the next year or more trying to pay off the loan.

Buy a fancy car, just because your neighbor has one, and work overtime for five to ten years to meet the monthly payments.

Desires, expectations, and reality

Society does not teach us to control our desires. Newspapers, TV, magazines, the internet, all of them want us to buy, buy, buy. The latest phone, smart watch, smart car, smart socks.

We can no longer distinguish between what we want and what we truly need.

gadgets

The consumer society and modern advertising create an insatiable demand for things displayed attractively in stores or on the internet. We buy the latest gadgets, and a month later, it is time for a different flavor. And we think this will make us happy.

There is also a disconnect between our expectations and reality.

Expectations

Desires keep surging in our bosoms. We then expect them to be fulfilled.

A college graduate expects immediate placement in the job market. If you get a Harvard MBA, you tend to think that companies will knock on your door day and night, and you will drown in offers to become the CEO of this company or the other right away.

Again, harsh reality often intervenes.

Patience and tolerance

Society has devalued these solid, age-old virtues to the point where they have become undesirable.

The modern prayer seems to be, “God give me patience, and please give it right now!”

This is another hole we dig for ourselves, impatiently flitting from pleasure to pleasure, unable to smell a rose and appreciate it fully before being drawn to another shiny flower, and then another.

Tolerance is not weakness

     Matra sparshastu Kaunteya sheetoshna sukhadukhadah

     Agamapyino anityaah taans titikshasva bharata  (Gita 2:14)

We blast the air conditioner to Arctic temperatures to keep out the warmth of summer, and set the thermostat to boiling to combat the chill of winter. Our predecessors did not die off in alarming numbers when the weather changed, but we demand a monotony of indoor temperatures, because we are unable to tolerate summer or winter. And our bodies become softer because of that.

In the verse above, Lord Krishna, a Hindu god, is teaching his disciple Arjuna the importance of tolerance. He says that feelings of heat and cold, pleasure and sadness, all arise from the interaction of external stimuli and our sense organs. All of these feelings are transient, they come and go, and you should therefore learn to tolerate them.

cold

Transient feelings and emotions

This is yet another hole, a hole in our thinking.

We allow our understanding of reality to be so distorted that we cannot distinguish between what is transient, and what is permanent. Most sensory pleasures are transient. A shiny BMW loses its luster, and the heady new car smell, fairly swiftly. Down the road, it becomes just another car. Especially if our neighbor buys a gorgeous Ferrari. Which ceases to give him pleasure the moment the guy down the block buys a personal jet.

Emotions are the same. Nobody is angry all the time. Nobody is sad all the time (except in cases involving mental health problems). We need to learn to take the rough with the smooth, without getting bent out of shape. The tide does turn. One just needs patience and tolerance.

A cruise ship sails smoothly over the waves of the ocean. A row boat bobs up and down wildly with each wave, always on the verge of tipping over, making no forward progress.

rowboat

As you negotiate life, which one would you rather be? You can read more about this here … http://goo.gl/xm1Mn9

Don’t dig holes for yourself!

hole

  • Being happy and satisfied is not that difficult.
  • Mostly we need an attitude adjustment.
  • We need to stop creating problems for ourselves, and then making them worse.
  • Focusing on appropriate actions, keeping desires under reasonable control, setting realistic expectations, and having a clear-eyed view of reality will set us on the right path.
  • Not letting transient set-backs knock us down, and learning to differentiate between the truly valuable, and merely fashionable, will stand us in good stead.
  • Tolerance can build strength and happiness.

Want to read more?

These issues, and more, are discussed in further detail in my E-book, “How to Lead a Satisfying Life: 11 Universal Lessons from the Gita,” which is available here … http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00W5TGM1U

 

 

 

Choose Today: How Not to be Angry

Wouldn’t you just love to have everything go your way?

Your spouse does everything you want him or her to do, even before you express your wishes.

Your boss gives you a raise before you can ask for it.

The red traffic lights all turn to green just as you approach them, and traffic jams dissolve before you get snarled up in them.

Well, dream on. Real life is not like that.

Welcome to reality

robot

You don’t really control much of anything at all, if you think about it deeply enough. You can control your actions, barely, if you work hard at it. Everything else… well, good luck!

Frustration begets anger

There are many reasons for people to get angry. We have discussed this in detail in a previous post at http://goo.gl/3Q6Moz. A major cause is the frustration resulting from the realization that things are not going the way you want them to go.

And, by the way, others often don’t do what we want them to do. Ever notice that? That can make you fly off the handle, too, if you are not careful.

Disappointment and worry

worry

We tend to have expectations of how people should behave, how things should turn out, how our lives should unfold. Yet nobody has all of his or her expectations met.

Unmet expectations, constant worry, and disappointment can all be expressed as an outburst of anger.

Why worry about anger?

Many authorities warn us about the dangers of uncontrolled anger.

An Indian epic of philosophy and religion, the Gita, warned us about a living hell on earth thousands of years ago:

          Trividham narkasya idam dvaram nashanamatmanah

          Kamah krodhastada lobhastasmadetat trayam tyajet  (Gita 16:21)

This Sanskrit verse tells us that there is a door which leads the living soul to hell and destruction. This door is made up of three parts: anger, uncontrolled lust/desire, and greed. All three of these evils must be rejected forthright.

When to seek help

When anger interferes significantly with your lifestyle, your work, your relationships, it is time to take action. Some steps you can take yourself, while others are best done under the supervision of professionals.

Know thyself!

There is no way you can get a handle on your anger issues unless you first take a step back, sit down in a quiet place, and ask yourself: “What makes me angry?”

It is not that difficult

You do not need to reinvent the wheel here. Most people get angry with issues related to family members, friends, their careers/ work environment, or traffic problems.

traffic

Most of the triggers involve a feeling of loss of control, or things not going according to your plans or wishes.

Identify the major situations and triggers which set off a spasm of anger, and preferably write them down.

Confine yourself to major or frequent issues. As they say, don’t sweat the small stuff.

What do you really want?

This is often the crux of the problem. We want X to love us, but he or she loves Y.

We want the cars ahead of us to get a move on and get out of our way, because we are getting late.

We want the book we wrote to become an overnight success.

When it doesn’t happen, we get angry.

We need to ask ourselves, “What do I really want to happen, which is not happening?”

Logic dissolves anger

Logic

Once you start thinking things through calmly, your brain starts taking control, and your emotions stop pulling and pushing you all over the place.

Distorted thinking, rapid-fire decision making, and impulsive, aggressive action are the hallmarks of the anger response. Shining the light of reason can help to dispel the darkness of emotion and anger.

So solve the problem!

When you explode in anger, you are reacting (quite often, over-reacting).

Let’s get away from that, identify the problem, and then try to solve it.

Once you find out what makes you angry, and what you would like to be different, it is time to ask yourself: “Can I do anything about it?”

Tried controlling others?

It usually cannot be done. The only one truly under your control is yourself, and your own actions. So quit trying to control the world (or your spouse)!

Light a candle

Candle

Don’t just curse the darkness!

Once you identify a problem, try to think about solving it in a different way. Instead of blaming others, make an attempt to change your own behavior and expectations.

Suppose you and your spouse are often late for your appointments. Instead of ranting and raving at your significant other, and blaming them for always making you late, ask yourself if they are overworked. If you help lighten their load, they will appreciate it, and have more time to get ready.

Change yourself, and perhaps others will notice it, and be more motivated to work with you to solve problems rationally.

Other techniques

We have discussed time-outs, yoga, deep breathing, mindful meditation, exercise and their role in anger management in a previous article at http://goo.gl/v9dQ0d.

Avoiding grudges, practicing forgiveness, and use of humor are also beneficial techniques.

Professional help

Seek the help of trained specialists:

  • If your own steps to manage your anger do not show satisfactory results.
  • If you cause harm to others during your outbursts.
  • If your anger causes problems with your job and career.
  • If you do things in a fit of anger which you wish you had not done.
  • If you have had problems with law enforcement agencies as a consequence of your actions when you were angry.

Epictetus of Rome (55 AD- 135 AD)

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

“When you are offended at any man’s fault, turn to yourself and study your own failings. Then you will forget your anger.”

The philosopher emphasized that external events cannot disturb your equilibrium, no matter how nasty they are. Only you can do that, by deciding how you will react emotionally to those events. Choose wisely and thoughtfully.

The Gita, again

Gita

          Shaknotihaiva yah sodhum prak sharira vimokshanata

          Kamakrodhotabhavama yogama sa yuktaha sa sukhi narah (Gita 5:23)

This verse tells us that there are waves (usually giant waves) of uncontrolled desires and uncontrolled anger that all human beings experience during their lives. The true yogi, the one who has mastered yoga, and the truly happy person, is he or she who is able to tolerate and ride out these waves.

Summary

  • You have a choice.
  • Choose not to be angry, but to solve the problem.
  • Choose to be a yogi.
  • Choose to be happy.
  • There are many techniques and many pathways to a happy and satisfying life. Read more about this in my book “How to Lead a satisfying Life: 11 Universal Lessons From the Gita,” available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00W5TGM1U.

 

Do You Know What Makes You Angry?

Superman

“I’m mad, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

“Don’t get mad, get even!”

Comments and advice about anger are pervasive. People get angry, and then do something about it: act on it, get even, whatever.

It usually makes matters worse.

Act on your anger?

We have all seen examples of problems this can create.

The idea of revenge, of getting even with the person who has wronged you, of hitting out at whomever has made you angry, can be very enticing, especially when you are in the throes of your strong emotion. However, doing that can often hurt you more than it hurts the other person. And it frequently does not solve the problem.

As Mahatma Gandhi believed, an eye for an eye will eventually make the entire world blind.

So bottle up your anger?

That is not very helpful, either.

It is far better to understand your anger and its manifestations. This can be a prelude to making realistic plans to control your anger and channel your feelings in a more healthy direction.

Why are you angry?

This is the most important question you must ask yourself when you get angry, or at least as soon as you are capable of rational thinking after your anger eases up a little.

Unless you can identify the underlying reasons for your anger, it is unlikely that you will be able to control the damage it does.

Judging situations

We have a storm of thoughts constantly raging in our minds. Thoughts are essential, because they determine our actions.

So when we are in a novel situation, our minds immediately go to work. We first evaluate the conditions and quickly decide whether we are safe or not.

This is a built-in evolutionary response. If our ancestors did not perceive threats quickly and respond to them right away, they had to pay a heavy price. It was essential for survival that they evaluate and act promptly.

We still have those mechanisms in us, but they do not always function as they were designed to. Also, not everybody learns the skills needed to view reality objectively.

So we can misinterpret reality, and that can make us angry.

Response to a threat

Anger is a very common response whenever we feel that we or our loved ones are facing a significant threat. The signs and symptoms of anger, which we are all familiar with, are the result of hormonal changes in our bodies, with the underlying aim being to help us to deal with the threat rapidly and aggressively.

tiger

Adrenaline pours into our bloodstream, our blood pressure and heart rate rise, and the blood flow to muscles increases. We are prepared for “fight or flight.”

All of this happens very fast, with our thinking simplified in order to just assess the threat and respond immediately. Detailed and nuanced thinking is put on the back burner.

What threat?

Sorting this out can be challenging.

The threat might be real, and it might be directed at your body.

If you are in school, a bully could be threatening you with bodily harm. As an adult, you could be assaulted by another person.

At times, the threat is to your loved ones. And that can make you even more angry. In the animal kingdom, if a baby bear faces an aggressor, the mama bear gets very vicious and fights off the invader. Human parents can behave similarly.

Threat to property

An intruder could enter your home and attempt to rob you. Most people would respond to this with anger as a prelude to violence.

Threat to ego

This can provoke anger which is often misplaced, and uncalled for.

“How dare he/she say that/do that to me!”

In strongly patriarchal societies, men can have inflated egos, and misconstrue simple comments from their significant others as direct challenges to their “authority,” or ego. This triggers a spontaneous, angry response, which can, at times, escalate into a violent outburst of rage.

Members of certain groups can take offence if they hear statements from their colleagues which they consider to be “disrespectful.”

There are also people who have a rather distorted sense of self-esteem. The slightest blow to that image they have of themselves is poorly tolerated, and can lead to outbursts of anger.

Gang violence can be a manifestation of the above phenomenon.

Threat may be imaginary

anger

This is one of the major problems we notice when we explore the emotion of anger in detail.

Real threats provoke anger, and that can be beneficial, as we try to urgently deal with an unexpected danger to life, limb, or property.

However, people can also imagine threats, and perceive threats which do not truly exist, except in their own minds. This leads to an unthinking angry response, which can hurt them.

Take a married couple, for example. One partner says or does something, which the other person does not like. It might be an innocent act, but the other person might take it as a deliberate slight. This can provoke either an outburst of rage, or sometimes passive anger, which can remain pent-up, and lead to chronic resentment. If there is a lack of frequent, honest communication, this can become a recurrent behavior pattern, driving the partners apart, and even leading to divorce.

Childhood conflicts

angry child

Not everybody has a perfect childhood. Many adults, however, can reconcile themselves with those experiences, and develop healthy attitudes as grown-ups.

Some people, on the other hand, are unable to move beyond the traumatic childhood events, which again could be real or imaginary.

A child who faces rejection from his or her parent, friends or relatives may carry a sense of bitterness, failure, and resentment into adulthood. This can cause a poor self image and a rather fragile ego. As an adult, such a person can become hyper-critical of others, and react angrily to otherwise ordinary comments and occurrences.

Unrealistic expectations

People may have an image of their abilities which is not shared by others. This leads them to feel that they will achieve certain financial or career goals, and when that does not happen, they feel disappointed. In some people, this disappointment turns into chronic bitterness, resentment, and anger.

Similarly, many people expect their friends, family members, or colleagues to act in a certain way, which may or may not be realistic. When faced with a different response, some of these these people can get very angry.

Loss of control

We are not always in control of events in the world or even in our lives. Unexpected things happen with surprising regularity in the lives of human beings. Some people are able to deal with it reasonably well, while others are not. This loss of control is a common cause for anger in many people.

Our desires or goals are interrupted

Angry

“I wanted to lead this project, but my boss has appointed John instead.”

“I wanted a diamond ring for my birthday, but my husband bought me a washing machine.”

“I want to earn a million dollars in the next five years, but the job market does not understand my unique skills.”

Feelings of entitlement

“I am smart. I should have a better job/more money/better girlfriend or boyfriend/bigger house/better car.”

Learned behavior and genetics

There are households in which one parent or the other always reacts to any unpleasant event with uncontrolled anger. Children in these households grow up without learning healthy methods of dealing with disappointments. Many of them are chronically angry as adults.

Workplace environments can also produce similar results. If your boss is constantly yelling and screaming at his or her subordinates, you might pick up those behavior patterns also, and start thinking that that is an appropriate way of dealing with others who report to you.

There is also a school of thought which believes that some children are predisposed to be more angry and irritable, and this persists in later life.

Frustration, skills and the blame game

GOLFER

A lot of people who get unduly angry repeatedly have poor social skills and a low tolerance for frustration. They have limited problem solving skills, and often blame others for their problems and their outbursts of anger. Their perception of reality is often distorted and one-sided.

Summary

Things are not always going to go the way we want them to go. People are not always going to behave the way we want them to. That is the nature of life. We need to learn to deal with this. Yelling and screaming and blaming others will not get us far. We have all seen people who do that, and most of them end up hurting themselves or their loved ones.

On the other hand, we have also seen people who react to similar circumstances in a more calm, relaxed, and mature manner. They focus on solving problems, not just on assigning blame.

We can learn to cope with our anger. For that, we need to understand what makes us angry, and then we can go on to acquire anger management skills.

We will deal with that in our subsequent posts. Stay tuned.

What about you?

What makes you angry?

How do you deal with your anger?

Please let us know.

 

Warning! Anger Comes In Many Forms

stress-543658_1280

His heart felt like it would leap out of his chest. The chest started to tighten up, and a burning feeling spread up from there to his face, and then his head. Someone was hammering away inside his head, desperate to burst out, as soon as his head exploded.

Most people have experienced symptoms like this at some point in their lives. This is what anger can do to you. No matter what the cause, a fit of rage can make you feel like a volcano ready to spew lava.

What you do at that point can affect your life in the most profound manner.

Because uncontrolled anger is a powerful destroyer of human happiness.

Tantrums

Have you ever seen a child in a grocery store begging for chocolate or candy? And what happens when the parent does not give in? The child screams, flings its arms around and stomps its feet. What do you think the parent should do?

angry-152486_1280

Most childish temper tantrums do not achieve much. The same is true for adults.

Range of anger

Obviously, most people do not boil over at the slightest provocation.

Minor annoyances are quite common in everybody’s life, and we are all familiar with the feeling of mild irritation at work, at home, or in social situations.

And then there is the violent rage.

At which end of the anger spectrum your response falls will depend on the provocation, but also on your ability to handle stress and manage your anger.

Why worry about anger?

At times, anger can actually help us.

If we get angry when we see injustice, either to us or to other people, it can motivate us to marshal our resources, and fight against it.

The entire world became angry and took a stand against apartheid, and a whole country had to back down.

However, quite often, uncontrolled anger hurts us, and can hurt others in our lives.

So what should we do?

If our anger controls us, we will be in trouble more often than not.

So the key is to keep your anger under control. Not to repress it, but to manage it.

However, in order to do that, you have to recognize the various forms anger can take, and also the reasons why people get angry.

Forms of anger?

Yes, anger comes in different forms. Not everybody kicks and screams, and rants and raves when in the grip of anger.

Volatile anger

This, of course, is what everybody is most familiar with.

sledgehammer-151228_1280

Typically, you see somebody suddenly go red in the face, and start shouting. They might pound on a table with their fists. Some people start throwing objects, either at a wall, or occasionally at another person, who might be the target of their anger.

The media frequently reports instances of domestic abuse, where a partner can get seriously hurt, or even die, as a result of the other partner’s outburst of rage which turned violent.

Tragically, children can be injured when they are in a situation where two domestic partners are fighting, and one turns violent.

Overwhelmed anger

burn-231306_1280

Modern life has become quite stressful and very demanding. Social support systems are under enormous strain. Jobs are disappearing and wages are dropping for working people. Childcare options for the middle class are not plentiful. As such, many people feel that their ability to cope is being stretched to the breaking point. They are simply overwhelmed by the demands of daily life, and this is expressed as anger.

Judgmental anger

People often compare themselves to others. We also judge other people fairly frequently. If we do not maintain a very healthy coping mechanism, we can become resentful of others, which is a form of anger at others. We may feel that we are more worthy than they are of receiving the good things in life.

Anger at self

Some people judge themselves very harshly. They may set unrealistic standards for themselves. And when they fail to meet those standards, they start feeling guilty. This is commonly reflected as anger directed toward oneself.

Avoidance

Many people feel embarrassed at the thought of being angry, or of showing their anger. In addition, they may not have developed healthy mechanisms for anger management. As a result, they end up suppressing their feelings of anger. This may work for a while, but in the long run, keeping your anger bottled up inside you is not a good idea. It keeps festering inside, and there is no resolution of the underlying problem which made you angry in the first place. All that you achieve is an increase in stress and tension, which is not very healthy.

Chronic anger

The people suffering from chronic anger go through life feeling angry all the time, at real or imagined injustice. They end up resenting others, and tend to have a very defensive view of the world. They appear to resent life itself, and are unable to enjoy any aspect of daily living.

Such an attitude places enormous stress on the individual, and can cause physical and mental health problems.

Chronic headaches, stomach headaches, and even heart disease might result from this chronic stress, and it also has an adverse effect on the immune system of the body.

Passive anger

This can be particularly difficult to control. It is also not easy to identify this kind of anger. In fact, even the person who indulges in this behavior may not realize that the underlying emotion is anger.

A common example is sarcasm. Other examples are being mean to people, or completely ignoring them. Quite frequently, the persons displaying this attitude are angry with others, or with themselves, and are unable or unwilling to confront their fundamental problems directly in an effort to resolve them.

Such people may be late for school or work, and may even skip them altogether. They end up hurting themselves, and often lose friends and alienate family members.

Where to go from here?

  • Uncontrolled anger is destructive.
  • Anger comes in many forms. It is important to understand them, before you can begin to control your anger.
  • Once you recognize the emotion, you must identify the underlying reasons for your anger.
  • Only then can you begin to embark on a journey of anger management.
  • We will discuss the reasons for anger, and how to control your anger, in subsequent posts.
  • Please let me know your thoughts, and stay tuned!
  • holding-anger-is-like-drinking-poison-anger-quote

 

 

 

Are You a Row Boat or a Cruise Ship?

Want to have some fun? Try crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a small row boat.

rowboat-405411_1280

You are going to bob wildly with each wave, always on the verge of flipping over.

On the other hand, you could make the journey on a cruise ship. You will barely notice the waves. They will not disturb the ship’s balance significantly as it glides majestically over the waves, staying on an even keel.

Go forward, not up and down

When you enter the ocean, you can expect waves. Some of them will be huge. It would be naïve to expect smooth sailing all the time.

Life is like that, too. You can expect periodic setbacks and disappointments.

The rowboat struggles to stay afloat. It just bobs up and down in an ocean, not making much forward progress.

And the cruise ship? Steady as she goes.

cruise-ship-112002_1280

As you negotiate the rough waters of life, would you like to be the cruise ship or the row boat?

Emotions

You can blow up when things don’t go your way. You can scream if your boss chooses your rival to head a project instead of you. That will not take you very far.

No one is against honest emotion. You feel sad from time to time. You are happy on other occasions. That is part of being human.

Love and hatred are also common feelings.

Control

The issue is one of control. Are you going to keep your emotions under control, or are you going to let them control you?

Uncontrolled happiness and excitement can flow over into mania. Extreme sadness can merge into depression.

musician-664432_1280

If you get over-excited at the smallest success, you tend not to prepare yourself for further challenges. And further challenges always lie ahead.

Similarly, if you are down in the dumps with each disappointment, you spend precious energy feeling sorry for yourself, rather than analyzing reasons for your failure and actively working to correct them.

Yoga is even-mindedness

If you don’t control your emotions, you will lurch from one extreme to the other. And what is the problem with that?

It detracts from performance

There is an important message in the Gita, an ancient Indian epic of philosophy and religion:

Yogasthah kuru karmani sangam tyaktava Dhananjaya

sidhayo asidhayo samo bhutva samatvam yoga ucchyate (Gita 2:48)

Lord Krishna, a Hindu god, is advising his disciple Arjuna in this verse to perform all his actions while remaining steadfast in yoga, and avoiding undue attachment to external objects. He further says that we should remain even-minded in success and failure. He declares that even-mindedness is truly yoga.

yoga-402634_1280

Success and failure are inevitable

Nobody succeeds all the time.

Theodore Geisel submitted his first book to publishers, and got rejected: 26 times. On the 27th attempt, he was accepted. This led to his second book: “The Cat in the Hat.” And the world came to know Dr Seuss.

Nobody fails all the time.

During a particularly dark period, it may appear that a black cloud is following you around. But if you hang in there, quite often the tide does turn, and success can be yours again.

Composure

Calmness, even-mindedness, equanimity: No matter what you call it, you better strive for it.

baby-432665_1280

The Latin term aequanimitās is derived from aequus (even; calm; fair), animus (mind; soul) and itās. From this comes the French équanimité and the English “equanimity.”

Not getting too bent out of shape by events” might be another way of putting it.

Na prahrishayeta priyam prapyam na udvijeta prayama cha apriyama

Sthirbuddhih asammudhoh brahmavid brahmani sthitah (Gita 5:20)

One with God & the world

In the above verse, Lord Krishna is describing to Arjuna the attributes of the person who has obtained an understanding of God, and who is firmly established in that state of oneness with God.

Such a person does not get thrilled to bits when he obtains something pleasing to him, and does not get all worked up if some misfortune befalls him. His mind and intellect are calm and steady. He is not readily confused by the happenings of this world. He understands the presence of God.

He is one with God.

He is also one with the universe, and is well equipped to function well in the world.

The wise muni

Dukheshu anudvignamanah sukheshu vigatasprihah

veet raga bhaya krodhah sthitadhih munih ucchyate (Gita 2:56)

This is a description of the “Muni,” or a learned and wise person, whose intellect and wisdom are steady and well established in sound principles. Such a person does not let his mind be perturbed by sad or unpleasant events. Likewise, he does not allow himself to crave material pleasures. He has risen above the bonds of attachment, fear and anger.

We have already discussed the roller coaster ride which your emotions can take you on. But pleasure and happiness? Should we not pursue them?

Is happiness a goal?

Not really. It is a state of mind, not just a pursuit. The more you pursue happiness, the more you are tempted to let external events and material pleasures determine your fate. And those are not always under your control.

And they are not permanent.

It is far better to practice a steadiness of thought and of intellect, to better control your actions and your reactions to events. These are the things which are actually under your control.

So what to do?

meditate-481700_1280

Don’t wait for happiness and satisfaction. Grab them now. The yoga of even-mindedness and calmness is one way.

Mindful meditation and deep breathing will also help.

More about those later.

Want to read more?

The above issues, and more, are discussed in detail in my eBook “How to Lead a Satisfying Life: 11 Universal Lessons From the Gita, which is available here.