Sunday, 15 January 2012

Lessons from death: some observations & a short fable

Let this blog find you exploring, searching & fulfilling the purpose of your life!!

Here is my favourite line from ILLUSIONS, by Richard Bach:

“Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you're alive, it isn't.”

I remember 26 November 2008, where Tajmahal Hotel in Mumbai & some other places came under attack and lot of people were glued to the TV telecast. A friend of mine was staying in Oberoi Hotel for last few months as part of his India assignment & checked out the same morning. Another friend specially came from Singapore that evening and was trapped in the event. I am sure it was a life changing incident for everyone involved in the incident directly or indirectly.

That night I got many phone calls & sms from near & dear ones, especially those staying out of Mumbai. “Please confirm your well being”.  This reminded me that when our time is up, no one can stop us from going. Till then, no one can force us to leave this earth.

Last 3 months I attended two funerals. One was of a friend who was only 35 years old and was suddenly found ill & in next 6 days simply left the earth. Luckily I got a chance to meet him in this short time & we completed our circles with each other.

I learnt one crucial lesson: Our time here is limited & uncertain. So it’s better spent following my heart, instead of living someone else’s life & ideals. Also may be the time of others near & dear ones is also limited & unknown. So it is better to complete our circles with them ongoingly: acknowledging, apologizing, forgiving, resolving old misunderstandings etc.

Why is it that when someone near & dear departs from the earth, people cry & experience loss? I think the real loss is that for a long time, we wanted to do something for that person, say something to him/her or spend some time. Now that opportunity is forever gone and that leaves us incomplete.

One exercise we give to participants in our workshops is as follows:
“visualize a picture of a dear one who has departed this earth. Say the following to that image:
  • I thank you for _______.
  • (say all that you wanted to say when that person was alive & you did not)
  • I love you
  • I RELEASE YOU FROM MY ORBIT and wish you all the best for your next journey
  • So it is NOW”
In Hindu tradition “Shradh” ceremony was probably designed to release the departed soul for the next journey. When suggesting this exercise we came across many people who were still very attached to the departed soul of their dear ones (especially parents) and refuse to say “I release you from my orbit”. This statement simply allows the departed soul to proceed on its next journey while still being available to guide us when we really need it. It keeps them & us free to fly to the next destination.

Here is one of my favourite fables: narrated by Somerset Maugham
There was a merchant in Bagdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, "Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture, now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me.

The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went. Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw Death standing in the crowd. He went to Death and said, "Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?"

"That was not a threatening gesture,” Death said, “it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Bagdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra."
Think about the people in your life who have truly grown you & made you the person you are today: parents? Mentors? Friends? Colleagues? Bosses? This can be a long list. Maybe the time has come to complete each circle one by one…

Warm regards

Rohan Singal 

Link to our workshops

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Viewing life situations & journey from a different perspective

Here comes a new year 2012 with its promises & possibilities. Let this mail find you looking up to the year ahead for many new insights, awareness & opportunities to shine & express yourself.

The start of a new year is a good time to do a quick review of accomplishments.

External & Internal progress:
I have learnt that it is worthwhile to focus on two dimensions of our life’s journey:
  • External: This includes all our education, earnings, designations, accomplishments, good health, assets acquired on the way etc. This everyone notices, appreciates.
  • Internal: This includes the progress made internally. Here we travel within. What we discovered about ourselves. Our capacity to handle unknown situations & adversities; recover from downfalls. Our ability to shine under tough times. Our ability to turn every situation into a learning experience. Surpassing our fears, expressing our true self, being authentic. Our ability to inspire others.
It would be interesting to pause and list your external & internal accomplishments in 2011. Please give some special thought to the internal ones. You can then make a list of internal & external progress you wish to accomplish in 2012.

Life as a finite trip:
My mentor recently asked me on returning from our Goa trip: “What did you really bring from there?” We could not bring back the trees, butterflies, breeze, open sky, the serenity. Photographs could capture only a limited dimension and not what we truly experienced. I realized we really brought back an experience, a higher level of awareness and connection with nature’s purity.  I also noticed that I was fully aware that after a finite time, we will return to our base in Mumbai. So there was no attachment to the places in Goa. We did not hold on to the things we liked there. We primarily followed our original plan of activities with some modifications.

I also attended funeral of a friend’s mom last week. There were many quotes written on the walls of the crematorium, which were very humbling. Especially one “Are you really taking back all that you spent your life’s attention on??

Have you wondered whether this life also is like a trip? We can choose to get attached to the external progress, to the objects owned by us, to the people around us, to our external goals. But none of that will go back with us to our source. What goes back is the awareness we generated in us while accomplishing the external goals. We have heard it so many times and yet the mind prefers to believe that this life is the beginning & end of everything.

Forest Rule of neutrality:
Here is another interesting rule: Forest Rule. We use it very often in our workshops for enhancing expression & communication skills & maintaining neutrality in a situation & thus resolving it.

Imagine you are walking in a forest / orchard. The trees that you left behind are your PAST. You have limited/no view of them. The trees on your sides are your PRESENT. The trees in front are your FUTURE.

If your perspective & awareness is limited to your eye level, you have very limited perspective. Now if you lift yourself up in a helicopter and look down, what will you see? The entire forest / orchard. You will also notice yourself from outside.

I learnt that operating in life with the forest rule can enhance everything. It gives us a neutral perspective, it is very inclusive, it includes all other parties and ourselves. We bring neutrality as we go beyond ourselves.

This also applies in any communication – sms, email, face to face talk. If we communicate from the forest view, the audience will get the full message – what happened, what is the status & what am I going to do? What they are expected to do? By when?

If PAST is removed, it removes the basis. If FUTURE is removed, it becomes just for information, devoid of action.

I request you to give this rule a shot. Whenever you are in a tricky situation, shift yourself to the helicopter, or see things from the moon and you will be amazed at the clarity you get.

Maze of life & the role of awareness in simplifying it:

Have you noticed some people are able to handle a whole lot of challenges in life positively & learn from it? While there are many others who keep facing repeated tough times without learning from them. Here is a perspective:


Remember in childhood, we went to amusement parks with different kind of mazes. The real ones were very tough to clear as we kept going in circles. Some simple ones got cleared in few minutes. We still remember the tough ones, the fear experienced when we kept hitting the closed hedge and finally the thrill on coming out of the maze.

We can take the external journey as two dimensions in life plotted on a 2D plane: X & Y axis. We learn, grow, have families, buy assets, get promoted, float companies etc., and finally leave this earth. That journey is like a maze. If my eye level is above the maze height, it is very simple. If it is below the maze height, I have a tough time with all trials & errors.

The internal progress or raising awareness takes us up the Z-axis. More we travel within, more we are internally aware, more simple the maze of life on X&Y plane becomes.

Note that the maze does not change. Only we become more aware and the forest perspective simplifies the maze and thus the same journey can become full of enrichment, learning & awareness.

I wish you a whole lot of internal progress this year that makes your external progress journey simple and full of joy.

Warm regards

Rohan Singal