Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Happiness can be a habit

Happiness can be a habit

You may think this post is about some tips to make your present life happy. The first article indeed begins with that purpose. However, the dialog progresses in diverse directions. It touches various topics such as Vegetarianism, Solitude, Aloneness and loneliness, creator and creation of universe, Maya, Lila, Dwaita, Adwait, Vishishtadwait, the ultimate happiness or pure bliss of merging of Jeevatma with Paramarma. Finally it is concluded that Happiness is not an achievement, it is a choice and it is mostly in our hands.
A rather long journey through thick jungle of philosophy of vedic style, with part passing through ancient and contemporary western thinking also. 

Raghuvir Rustagi:
Dear Friends, Namaste
Let us examine the creative Options to spend time in retirement!

OPTION 1. Hobby.
Hobby is defined as a favourite pursuit or pastime.
It may be a new pursuit  or a ‘ forgotten’ hobby from the past. For example: I remember  the chief design engineer of a NJ valve company retired in 1988 and moved to Florida. His interest was not consultancy, but to pursue sculpture as a hobby. He enrolled in an Art College in Florida. I had met him once, and he seemed to be happy with his decision, I found his health had improved too. Hobby of such kind is however, a dedicated solo effort. Similarly singing, dancing, painting, writing are other good hobbies.

Similarly, one member in our group is enjoying video movie-making as his favourite hobby.

I also know an engineer-friend in Michigan USA; he and his wife decided to devote the retirement time together. The husband-wife team are collecting charity donation on behalf of India Development Fund, and travel once or twice a year to India. He had initially tried investment as a new hobby, to realise the american dream of making million dollars. He gave up as he got more busy, more removed from the family at home.

In my opinion, a hobby in retired living should involve both - the husband as well as the wife- to utilise their intellectual and emotional levels together, assuming they do not have serious financial restraints be compelled keep working to making money.

OPTION 2. Habit.
Habit is defined as a tendency to repeat an action, thought or feeling in the same or desired way.
The popular pursuits are- quit smoking, dieting, reading/studying scriptures, exercise each morning, going to bed at a certain time, informing wife at home if arriving late from friendly parties, not to interrupt people while talking etc.

A good habit can be acquired, it  is not an inborn talent. It is simply an outcome of putting your skills, and intellect together to good use. Newer habit skills can be learnt through part-time courses, online distance coaching, and so on.

Usually smoking can be quit in 14 days. A dog can be trained in 14 days; the puppy in my son’s home had jumped at the Fedex delivery boy, the court ordered the dog is trained in better behavioural manners.

I call these good habits of medium complexity. Every one has a few bad habits to sacrifice, and there is a constant need to create good habits. This is called change in life style.
There are other habits of greater complexity, as outlined in option 3.

OPTION 3. Habit of Happiness.
Can the Habit of Happiness be developed?
Happiness is a goal which appears to be as perplexing as trusting or meeting God, but I submit it need not be so, nothing is out of reach if you sincerely believe something can be achieved by hard work, good planning, and discipline. Your experience of gaining material success in your career has to be re-oriented or modified for non-material pursuits in the retirement days.

The following steps are suggested for developing the Habit  of Happiness.

Step 1. Make a Decision.
Pledge whole heartily in your body/mind/heart: from today, I will make my best efforts to remain happy 24/7.
In my personal experience, such decisions/pledges should be taken in the morning meditation. Routinely, I have been able to remember some important dates, important documents, important commitments, simply from taking the decision at that hour of the day. It works as a solemn tryst with self. The secret is body/mind/heart working in harmony.

Step 2. Be patient. Think of the rewards.
Trust the new goal/change is possible. Being a better person, or shedding a wrong habit of several years, however does not happen overnight.
The good news is many others have benefitted. Why not you? You will gradually realise better memory, and win over forgetfulness in older age.
In my home, I constantly watch the 20-month grandson, his innate happiness is inspiring. It is my conclusion, our natural habit is to be happy. The retirement period is an opportunity because happiness can be regained in the remaining lifetime.

Step 3. Analyse the cause(s) of sadness.
Your sadness is not the initiating cause, it is the result/effect, a ghost perception in mind, sort of tendency in social behaviour such as lack of knowledge, poor health, a bad habit of blaming others, drifting mind, forgetting the present task in hand, remembering the past, or worrying unnecessarily of the future. It is a complex affair, but scientific analysis helps. Mind needs problems, anxieties, tension, and anguish for its survival.  Mind can also adjust to a new regimen. A simple chore of making the bed right after waking, works to create a happier environment.

The trick is creating higher awareness, and looking deeper into the causes.

Step 4. Plan your task.
Break the task in sequential parts, instead of doing haphazardly. The trick is devote all your energies to the part of the task in hand at the present moment. I apply this strategy in the shower, in cooking, gardening, typing and everything I do. It soon becomes a handy tool of relaxing.

Step 5. Relax and watch.
Every few minutes, while typing I close my eyes, deep breathe, silently ‘witnessing’ I run my consciousness from the lowest toe to top of the head systematically.
Is each limb relaxed? If there is a strained limb such as the lower neck, I perform instant relaxing exercise to preferentially focus on the strained limb, before resuming the work. The quality of your doing is transformed.


B K S Nair :

I have gone deeply into our (India's or Bharath's) trditional, ancient culture.  I find it to be deeper, more broad minded and broad-based than any I have a smattering about. It is most unfortunate that our young intelligentsia with their IT exposure and gadget addictions are ignorant of it and, worse, often pooh-fooh it.  But the big flip side of the generation subject to the above influences is that they fail to develop mind and and consciousness, the most precious gifts of the Suprme Reality--call it what you prefer.  The overall result could be a gradual degeneration of a good section of the population with its attendant deleterious effects on the nation as a whole..

If you are agreeing we can continue these metaphysical discussions.  One thing I miss in my otherwise peaceful and fulfilling senior years or the golden years is the dearth of an intellectual/s  with whom I can have highbrow discussion mutually delightful.

Ravi Rustagi :
You will be glad to know I am now vegetarian by choice, mostly I cook my simple satvik meal. This lifestyle change took place 2-1/2 years ago. You will be glad to know my health and well-being has now improved. I was led to believe in favour of non-veg diet by doctors and nurses attending my wife. But no complaints, they advised her to the best of their knowledge. Such experiences make the world a better place to live and learn than merely reading the books.

It will be a pleasure to continue enriching our lives together.
B K S Nair :

I have been keeping myself intellectually busy though rather quiescent physically.  As you have pointed out my spiritual practices and diet control have seemed have paid some dividends.

In the future, we can go further into the spiritual side of our life and metaphysical ideas which are slowly crystallizing

Ravi Rustagi

Nice to meet you friends first thing in the morning, after I am done with the routine yoga practice, and simple chores.
I have further experienced that engaging in a professional training class of similar age group people to learn something new, or which you like to repeat in joy, is very helpful.
It may be a group related to health, entertainment, volunteering, helping less privileged people, study of scriptures, establishing contact with friends like what we do in this Retirees Group  etc

The key issue is not to feel lonely. While Aloneness is a wonderful gift, loneliness is not. Dictionary and most people often confuse- don’t we hear a cry from a youngster- Dad Leave Me Alone?

Refer to BG Ch. 6- the Yoga of Self Control- sloka 6.10. Lord Krishna began with discipline, then he told Arjuna to remain in solitude, and then he added the word alone. Being alone means separating yourself from things that keep you from being with God. In retired stage, you must carve out time for Aloneness. This is not a matter of distancing from people, buildings, and obligations. In this state of Aloneness कैवल्य there is no loneliness.


Raghavan Varadhan :

Prof.Rustagiji's comment "Aloneness is a wonderful gift, loneliness is not" tickled my thought process on the following lines!

In the beginning "He was alone".Silence and Stillness prevailed. Everything was in a state of Static equilibrium. "He felt lonely". The One wanted to become Many. He moved and the process of Creation began. Silence gave way to Omkara. Stillness gave into dynamic movement. Sada Ananda Thandavam, the Cosmic dance, is what we see as the Universe of names and forms. The universe is in a state of Dynamic equilibrium. It is therefore natural to seek Al-oneness, Silence, and Stillness in the form of Dakshinamurthy. When feeling bored with being alone, be one with the Cosmic dance of lord Shiva.  Advaita, Visishtatdwaita and Dwaita are all beautiful perceptions of the same Reality by the three great exponents of Sanatana Dharma after they attained Atmasatshatkara. Even the Vedas are not able to fully describe and define Paramatma. So, without knowing "Who am I", it may not possible to understand fully about Jivatma and Paramatma.

Mohan Rao :
Raghavanji: This is a masterpiece that I have no problem agreeing with. No one is foolish enough to think that there is a two-handed two-legged creature called God busy creating us, dispensing daily staple, solving our problems etc etc. We needed to metaphorize, create a narrative, and do all that we have done to perpetuate and inspire ourselves with the idea. Life is an opera and God is a phantom in the opera who has fallen in love with us for having made him (or her or it) a figureless genius looking for the soprano in a dark and dingy opera house. Some call him among other things the Holy Ghost, some call him Bhuta and have found all kinds of words, destiny, karma, maya, lila to describe his (or her or its) antics. Some take him ( or her or it) for what he is, formless, shapeless, timeless Absolute. Some divide him, a bit to keep within ourselves (atman, Self) and the rest out there everywhere (Paramatma).  From a para I wrote some twenty years ago:

“The post-modern man is free to conduct his business the way he likes. He is free to stay within the ‘promontory of thought’ as Victor Hugo calls it, or to break loose into the experience of the heights. If he stays within, he stays within the conventional norms of society and there is nothing wrong with that. Like prisoner in Plato’s cave, he perceives a shadow for reality like a tied prisoner in the cave. If he breaks loose, the skies and the oceans in front, among the winds, the waves and the heights, he is in for more than an experience. He is in for the dream of all dreams, the adventures of all adventures. He is in for the extraordinary, the boundless, the mystical, the worlds that moved the Blakes, the Einsteins and the Buddhas, the Christs and the countless yogis of all stripes. The experience of the mystical awakening of the Self belongs to the one who steps across the abyss, and chooses light over darkness, freedom over shackles, and eternity over death. The one who crosses carries the cross for the one who doesn’t”.

Ravi Rustagi:
I couldn’t have used better words to describe Aloneness. Still I cannot gulp, ‘God feeling Lonely’. I would rather describe the world-manifestation as Lila of God or Godly play. My intent was to distinguish between synonyms in practical manner.


Raghavan Varadhan :
Perhaps, it should have been "Did He feel lonely?" Why did the One want to become Many? Isn't that also a desire? So, Lila of the One as Many,is a mega serial, drama, a play,Maya is perhaps more appropriate. Even in that He alone is the Director !

Bhisham Menghani :
Koti Koti Namaskar

Raghvan Sahib: Thanks for beautiful  explanation of Creator & Creation  in very simple and authentic words.
He wanted become many so created All Living & Non living things  including Marvelous,Fantastic Human Body- (शरीर) loaded with Pranmayi kosh, Manomayi Kosh,Vigyan mayi Kosh and more over SELF present  as ANANDAMAYI KOSH(Witnesser/ Experiencer~ अनुभव कर्त्ता )

To create a Lila/Maya,he allowed human beings to perform the role as per script with Ananda(happiness)  & Love .
But  Mind present in Body wants to take the credit that the drama/Lila running around him is created by him and forgotten the script & identity of self (happiness and joy).
So if human being known as "Bhisham"  realized that he is not the Bhisham, actually  performing the role of Bhisham in the LILA he will be happy and joyful.

Mohan Rao :
A beautiful thought to get up to: Behind every thought there is a Thinker, behind everything seen there is a Seer and behind every deed there is a Doer. Furthermore, if you care to see we are all safely tucked in a pouch like a kangaroo baby and there is a Carrier holding the pouch close to his stomach. Let us enjoy being cared for.

Ravi Rustagi
A nice commentary indeed, Bhishamji.

Can it be summarised in the following words-
While our Destiny is inscribed at our birth, it is worthwhile to remember, we may alter it, through our choices, the power of our will, our actions, our ego, and entanglement in Maya, or disentanglement by Self-realisation.
Destiny then becomes our Fate.
Does that lead to the conclusion- We can’t control our Destiny, but can control our Fate?. Fate becomes our Destiny in the next life. This is cycle of Mayajaal!


Ravi Rustagi:
Very beautiful relationship between God and man. Thanks Shri Mohan Rao.

Raghavan Varadhan :
Destiny is the result of ones karma,a reaction to ones past deeds. The Director of the Lila, is an Indestructible ( Kootasthaha),Witness(Sakshi) and Catalyst(Antaryami) in the reaction.Without Him, There can be no action or reaction.Remaining alone as Jivatma, He directs the "Lila".

Krishan Chopra :
Such appropriate narration by all, about creator, creation, destiny etc have inspired me to add a few words. Any action, physical or otherwise starts with thought. Thought in turn is the result of tendencies ingrained in the mind based on past experience superficiously analysed and saved in mind . Call it past Karma. Only way to negate these past karma or say not to allow these to cause unhappiness or negativity is to realise the cosmic law and its inevitivity,This requires tremendous effort ,will to undergo pain and regular practice to still the mind.(meditation) Physical yoga is the first step to cultivate the habit of true observer i.e practice to observe the sequence , movement of muscles and other parts of body not visible on the surface. Then prctice to observe the ways of mind better to say research the ways of mind understand the  tendencies and perhaps may teach the coorrective action

From Rustagi

I cannot but agree to your experience, to your wisdom.

How To Be Lucky Can Be A Habit too.

In the same vein, more information has come to light that even good fortune(How to Get Lucky) can be a sub-set of four(4) simple habits-

The first step is to start believing: the outcome of your effort is going to be good. Feeling lucky in the background boosts you optimism, and lets you do your work with greater self-assurance. It works like a harmonious Tanpura music going on and on. This may explain why many people wear Lucky Charms!

Modern Social Science research has revealed the 'fortunate few’ by habit, talk to lots of people, attracting people to them, and keeping in touch via letters, phone calls, SMS. They are known to attend conferences, sign up for a new lesson-hobby. Hey you never know, a chance encounter may end up as your soul mate, your business partner, your mentor. The goal is to stay open to possibilities.

There is a value even in a bad luck, so say the scriptures. If you sincerely believe in this maxim, your brain then begins to process the ‘bad’ situation differently. Lucky people are able to transform a stumbling block into a positive stepping stone. Lucky people face a setback with these questions: What have I learnt? What do I want next? How can I get it? You may have heard this- Throw a lucky man in the stream, he will come out with a fish in his mouth. The trick is POSITIVITY. Do not find fault with the Nature.

I read in a book by Dr. Dipak Chopra, M.D. A lady-patient of his in the Boston hospital suffered from severe abdominal pains. On detailed diagnosis, it was a case of Cancer.
The husband however, requested Dr. Chopra not to reveal the ailment to his wife. Dr. Chopra told the patient, Madam, you can be cured with pain-killers. The patient shouted,' Doctor Thank You for the good news that I do not have cancer in the abdomen.’ Dr. Chopra wished her good luck, and the patient got discharged. Surprisingly, the patient returned after six months of vacation in a health resort in the catskill mountains in NY. There was no trace of cancer.

It is shown in many research studies, you always get a silent forewarning of the impending danger. Call it an instinct or intuition, or an inner voice. The lucky ones are known to trust their instincts, they are apt to tune in to their inner voice, in meditation, and taking solo walks. This applies to many successful business managers.

I had taken my 6 month long practical training in 1957 engineering college days in the ball bearing factory NBC in Jaipur. The company was owned by the Birla group. One of the senior managers was a typical Marwari in his speech and attire. He was in the habit of taking business decisions in unconventional style, so was his reputation. The company made good progress under his leadership.

My friends, Either you believe, or disbelieve in it. No arguments will reveal any better.
It can be mathematically proved, how dramatically your chances of success improve by taking all the four steps simultaneously.

If each sub- habit has only 20% chance of success, the overall success rate is 60%;  [1.0 - (1.0 - 0.20)^4]= 0.60

In any case, I would not discard the professional advice. Let that contribute the remaining 40%.


Mohan Rao :
Chopra Saab: The topic we are talking about is the crux of the Gita and the Upanishads both of which spend almost their entirety discussing the “cosmic law” and is perhaps the only places where it has been taken head on and elaborated. The process of understanding our own body, mind and spirit (yoga) shows two venues, one of ego or self-aggrandizement, and the other of leading the mind to void itself of the clutter of thoughts which ends in a state of ‘prajna’ or pure consciousness. The former path leads us to choreography of an objective reality in which we live our lives. The latter state is one of the Absolute in that it exists by itself and without relation to anything else. We discover it by looking within and not at the outer reality that it views as an illusion (maya). It is immutable in that cannot be destroyed (BG: ...what cannot be slayed, swords pierce not; arson burns not; floods drown not; elements destroy not...). It is part of the same Absolute that we refer to as God, Brahman or by so many ways in various religions/scriptures. It is without limits because space, time, physicality are all nothing but thoughts that our mind creates from time to time. On the other hand, it is part of the “nothingness” which is the womb of all creation where man’s intuitive understanding seems to converge with the knowledge and speculations of our origin. It is in this Absolute that we will realize love, hope and joy. As sage Brigu Varuni says in Taittreya Upanishad:

“And then man saw that Brahman was Joy.
For, from Joy all beings have come,
For Joy they all live, and unto Joy they all return.”

Happiness is the worldly good that we all seem to seek. Many people have argued that chasing happiness in the material world is judged to be morally right and desirable (so-called Happiness Principle). But the path of the ego leads us to realize soon that such a hedonistic path may offer happiness that is temporary but inevitably leads to sorrow, as Buddha discovered and announced life is dukka (or sorrow).  It is the submission to Self and realization of Self that puts us in the path of God and lasting Joy or Bliss.

Nandkishore Agarwal :
Another beautiful quote I came across in the Sacred space of Times of India regarding Happiness reads as:" Happiness is not an achievement: it is a choice. Nothing can make you happy until you make the decision to be happy.. And there's no need to be perfect to inspire others: let people get inspired by how you deal with your imperfection."
I liked it very much and wish to share it with our friends in the group.

Ravi Rustagi :
It is a beautiful quote. It further reinforces the Topic 'Happiness Can Be A Habit’.

1. If we look at our routine daily acts, thoughts and feelings, these reflect our habits.
The way we address or ignore a family member in the morning.
The way we keep the dirty plate after breakfast in the sink or leave on the table.
The way a student wastes food in school cafeteria or fills only as much as needed.
The way we keep the appointment on time or be late.
The way we relax or not relax.
The way we react angrily or maintain calm and smile, when poked.

Surely, the above is a pattern of controllable acts. These are our doings. We have enough resources mainly the free will to discard a bad habit, and acquire a good habit.

2. Then there are other experiences such as our hunger and thirst (when to feel hungry or thirsty), the crowd in the street, the accident on the highway, or the rain causing the cancellation of train etc, these are happenings. Yet we have a choice in how we behave in these unplanned or ‘godly’ event, pray or curse, read a book in the car you never had time before, or waste the gift of time; help the affected person involved in the accident, or ignore or loot the victim etc. Are these acts a matter of our habit? No because we are not the primary cause of the event; yes, we still have a responsibility, a citizen role, an opportunity to help, learn and make progress. This is Davit philosophy. Eswar has a role and we too, as instruments, media of Ishwar on earth.

3. There are many other mind-boggling situations- why was I born in India, not in the UK; why my wife bore a girl; why my friend married in a rich family to drive a loan-free BMW, and I drive simple Suzuki purchased on loan etc. I would say these are definitely not your doings. This may be your destiny. At best a reflection of your previous life Karmas, which we know nothing about.  Still you can keep cool in the struggling life, follow the rules, and come out a winner in the end. You can thank God that you were not born a donkey, or a lizard.

4. In conclusion, Happiness Is Mostly In Our Hands.
To experience more of this happiness, Yoga is the key. The latest good news is the American Association of Physicians of Indian origin AAPIUSA are spearheading yoga studios all over USA in 2016 to provide Low cost treatment for BP, aches/pains, anxiety and other common afflictions. Traditional Yoga, Ayurveda and modern MD network are bowing Namaste to each other. You will be wondering- why this change of American heart? The new President of the Association, a reputed lady Dr. Seema Jain, it is the result of her early upbringing back in India. This is India shining! Acche Din for USA.


Raghavan Varadhan :
Thought is a powerful entity. Our mind is a flow of thoughts.Through Ashtanga Yoga, when one reaches"Samadhi",it is said to be a state of "Thoughtless Awareness". Paramatma is said to be in "Yoga Nidhra" after Maha Pralaya for two hundred Brahma years. He is alone. All Jivatmas, Prakriti, Mahat,Trigunas etc are attached to Him. At the end of 200 Brahma years, it is time for restart of Creation. He is in a state of thoughtless Awareness. Then a thought that He is alone arises! To become many, He just moves a bit and process of creation starts with Brahma as the Chief of all creative activities!
It is therefore necessary to be fully aware of ones thoughts as they arise.

Mohan Rao :
The universe is unto itself. Every piece of creation reflects how it came to be there and how the future is going to unfold in its nature. I discussed sometime ago the upswings and downswings of every piece of creation as well of the universe at large (nature of entropy). As long as there is energy in the system, it keeps building from energy to matter and once the energy dwindles, matter dissolves into disorder ultimately to a state of a sea of nothingness. What your narration calls yoga nidhra (sleeping state of the universe), pralaya (matter dissolving to a sea of energy) metaphorically address to this state. At this point the universe in a state of pure thoughtless awareness (in other words, just energy fully dispersed, all particles/matter dissolved reflecting nothingness, only pure thoughtless awareness). Restart of the universe is metaphorically described by you as “He alone arises” or elsewhere “God said: Let there be light and there was light (Holy Bible)”. Cosmologists and particle physicists narrate or speculate that quantum fluctuations in that primal energy state can restart the process of creation, from energy into matter and anti-matter particles which use energy and build block by block into primordial matter which build themselves into galaxies, stars, suns and planets, finally into self-replicating cells as in the case of our planet into life including humans. We sense this creation through only four dimensions while there in fact more than four and we see only the shadow of reality not the reality in its entirety. We may even be living in a multi-verse, a family of universes each unique, often occupying the same cosmological space. What we call ‘prajna’ or pure awareness we experience is nothing but a flash of this universal consciousness. In my view this is the point where philosophy, religion, science and our own intuition and experience come together. Most of these relate to areas outside the space-time continuum, the cocoon we are restricted to see and live in, no thanks to our physical limitations. In that sense, our origin, will always remain somewhat of an unknown to be awed at, experienced with our mental abilities and capacity to story-tell among ourselves. Who knows how our own future unfolds?

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