Life is fast.
So fast that we don’t even notice the roses, let alone stopping to smell them.
But every now and then, an event forces life to slow down or come to a grinding halt. We question where we’re headed. And we don’t like the answers.
Life was meant to be fun, not something we forced ourselves through in order to make a living. There have to be better ways. Unfortunately, we struggle to figure out what they are.
Reality does little to help. If anything, it reinforces that we should do more of what we’re doing, that this nagging dissatisfaction will pay off handsomely in a distant future that’s changing faster than our mood.
So we resign to a lifestyle that everyone follows. At least if things go wrong, we won’t be alone. We hope that what they say about a happy future will come true someday, although each event that brings uncertainty sets off alarms bells.
You don’t have to wait for those alarm bells to turn into tornado sirens. You can forget reality for a bit. Instead, turn to beautiful short fables that give you the most powerful feeling — hope. Let them help you build a life that you control, that feels meaningful, and that doesn’t get derailed by sudden changes.
The Ramayan That Nobody Read
Valmiki, the sage who wrote the epic Ramayan, heard that Hanuman had also written a version.
Curious, he set out in search of the forest where Hanuman lived. There, he found the banana leaf on which Hanuman had written His version.
The grammar, vocabulary, and melody were so perfect that Valmiki began to cry, “After reading this, nobody will read Valmiki’s Ramayan.”
Immediately, Hanuman crushed the leaf, popped it into his mouth, and swallowed it.
“Why did you do that?” Valmiki asked.
“You need your Ramayan more than I need mine,” Hanuman replied. “You wrote it because you want people to remember you. I wrote it because I want to remember Lord Ram.”
We often work for benefits like money and status. But such “benefits” turn into a curse if we don’t use our work as a means to improve our own selves.
We keep feeling that someone will steal what we have. We keep trying to one-up anyone we see as a threat. Sustaining our wealth becomes impossible.
The only thing that grows is unhappiness.
But when we focus on creating value, we grow mentally and emotionally as well. And economic growth always follows.
How can you use your work as a means to create value for others?
The Blind Man and The Lamp
A blind man spent a few days at his friend’s house. Then one night, he started out for his hometown.
When his friend handed him a lantern, the blind man asked, “Of what use is a lamp to me?”
The friend said, “This lamp is not for you. It’s so that the person in front doesn’t bump into you.”
The blind man agreed, took the lantern, and set out on his journey.
Down the road, someone collided with him and caused him to fall. Angry, the blind man asked, “Can’t you watch where you’re going? I have a lamp. Why did you bump into me?”
“What lamp?” the man who bumped into him asked. He looked around. Then he found it and said, “Oh yes! This lamp here. But the flame went out a long ago.”
The blind man held the lamp for the light it emitted. But holding it after the flame went out became a meaningless ritual.
Many of us fill our daily lives with activities because we’ve either done them for a long time or because they keep us busy. But when we don’t understand their purpose, they turn into meaningless rituals.
In fact, upon reflection, we’ll find that most of our activities just waste our time and energy. They stop us from noticing how the world is evolving and from keeping up with it. Then, when an unexpected event strikes, our future gets messed up.
The blind man couldn’t tell when the flame went out. But you can.
If you reduce or stop doing meaningless tasks, your life will become simpler and results will improve vastly. You can find your true North and turn it into a guiding lamp. Or you can create new tools that guide you towards your destination.
Practice Makes Perfect
One day, Lord Indra got upset with farmers and declared a 12-year drought. There would be no rain and farmers would not be able to reap crops.
Farmers begged Lord Indra for mercy, who said it would rain if Lord Shiva played his pellet drum. Secretly, he requested Shiva to not give in to the farmers’ pleas.
When the farmers approached Lord Shiva, He stated that he wouldn’t play the pellet drum for the next twelve years.
The farmers had no choice except to wait.
One farmer, however, kept digging, treating the soil, and sowing seeds. Other farmers laughed at him. “Why do you waste your time and energy when you know it won’t rain?”, they asked.
“I know we cannot harvest crops,” the farmer said. “But I must keep practicing so I’m fit to produce crops the moment it rains.”
When Goddess Parvati heard this, She was pleased. She shared it with Her husband, Lord Shiva, and said, “You might forget how to play the pellet drum after 12 years.” The innocent Lord Shiva tried to play it to check whether he still remembered.
The result was immediate rain. The farmer who regularly tilled his field got rewarded with a bounty of crops, while the others scampered to dig their fields and search for seeds to sow.
Lack of practice makes our physical and mental muscles atrophy, according to research. We also become oblivious to change or end up too slow in our response.
Any crisis — a recession, a lockdown, or a break — is similar to the time when the rain didn’t fall. Rather than drowning in anxiety, you can use it to sharpen your skills and upgrade your knowledge.
Outrageous goals are often not a result of massive action but of a thousand tiny steps one after the other. The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle.
You cannot choose what happens in life. But you can choose how you frame them as memories. You can choose to make yourself better rather than bitter.
The power lies in your mind. Master it before it masters you.
Which was your favorite story? Do leave a comment. I would love to hear from you.