Tag Archives: #innerpeace

Mirror Test

STORYLINE: Prisoners are made to work in inhuman conditions and have to produce a certain number of shirts by the end of the day. If one of them falls behind either that person is killed, or the entire unit suffers. The authorities approached one of the prisoners to become a supervisor – he takes up the dreaded role because if not him then somebody else would accept that position. And while he is the supervisor one of the prisoners on his team becomes seriously ill and falls back on her quota. He makes the call to kill her so that the rest of the unit can live a little longer. (This is roughly the storyline of one of the Law and Order episodes)

It was the supervisor’s choice to sacrifice the minority so that the majority can live. Was it the right choice? We don’t know, and we will never know. But in these cases what is most important is: can the supervisor wake up in the morning, look himself in the mirror and be at peace. Ultimately you live with yourself, your actions, your past, your thoughts.

Not all the choices we make in our lives have such dire consequences, but we are responsible for the smallest of our choices. Sometimes I wonder if ignorance is indeed bliss. There are so many moments in our life where we make decisions we are not aware of
– cutting somebody off in traffic
– closing the elevator door before anyone can get it – because we are in a hurry
– using the company printer for personal uses
The list is endless – we even have a term for this – white lies – lies/actions that we believe don’t hurt others.

And for the most part – we are not even aware of these choices, and we can look at ourselves in the mirror and feel at peace. Hence, ignorance is bliss.

The point here is that the size or the impact of your choice does not matter. What matters is how does that choice make you feel? Does it give you sleepless nights or does it bring a smile to your face everytime you think about it?

We all have a certain threshold unique to each one of us which when crossed will disturb our peace. That threshold determines whether we can wake up in the morning and look at ourselves. We have an inner radar, personal check that stops us from crossing the limit – the key is to listen to it. A lot of us suppress the original voice that tells us to stay but we press ahead, and an inner hell of mind chatter replaces our inner peace. We try to reduce those thoughts by other distractions like continually keeping busy, eating a lot of food, watching movies.

Buddha said that hell and heaven exist within each of us and this is what he meant by it. Our choices are pathways to hell or heaven. And for some of us, we have lived in hell for so long that we do not even know there is any other place we can live in.

All great things start with awareness – let the light of awareness shine brightly on each one of us.

How Am I Doing?

Across the world, there are a lot of different ways of saying Hello. In England talking about the weather is a way of starting a conversation – even though the weather doesn’t change – it is just gray, gloomy and dark. In most places – “How are you?” is the common greeting. At work especially – as you pass somebody in the corridor, in the elevator – the conversation starter is, “How are you doing?”.

And my answer is Good most of the time. A couple of the times I had somebody question me, “Really?” I was taken aback, and I responded back with, “Why – should I not be feeling good?” And this got me thinking and hence the blog.

For most people, the way they feel depends on what is happening in their life.
A disagreeable meeting with a stakeholder – lousy day
Had a promotion – good day
Boss unhappy – bad day
Got bonus – good day

The list is endless – but what this means is that you have no control over your mood. Your well-being is dependent on the events that happen in your life, and you are a slave to them. And as such you have no control over your happiness.

I fundamentally disagree with this approach. I am happy regardless of whatever happens in my life. Just because I had an awkward conversation with one of my team members does not mean I am going to be upset. The level of peace and contentment in me does not vary because of that one incident. Now, don’t get me wrong – it does not mean that I don’t think about it, wonder what I could have done better, or give myself a pat on the back if it went well – I do all these things, but they don’t affect my mood. They are the exception as opposed to the norm.

It is simple to me, but I am finding it is a complicated concept to explain to others. For them that is the way the world works – you should be upset if something terrible happens and overjoyed if something good happens and they are ok with the emotional roller coaster.

I have made a conscious choice not to do the above. At some point in my life, I had the same mental model – I got a call for the interview I was delighted – the sun was shining, and birds were chirping. I did not get the job – Why is it so hot? And do the birds always make so much noise. But I realized that I could not live my life like this – as I have no control over the outcomes and to tie my happiness to something I have no power over sounded silly and I started working towards it to get to a point where I am equanimous most of the time. With equanimity comes the knowledge that change is the only constant.

Your inner peace is the genuine measure of happiness, not the events that come and go through your life. We are like the ocean – we experience the waves as they arise and pass away, but the ocean is the constant.