Each life is precious and this uniqueness gives an person’s his or her ‘mysteriousness’- their allure. I was reading recently about Audrey Hepburn who died in 1993 at the age of 63. Her son says that when he was young, he didn’t realise his mother was a ‘movie star’ until later. She lived an ordinary life, according to him, walking her dog and eating simple pasta. For an outer life led in the spotlight, her inner life was simple- it had to be balanced. Her unique allure was her simplicity and the full life she led.
Her son, Luca Dotti, says about his mother, ‘She didn’t have to impress anyone, really. It was what she loved and how she lived.’ Audrey Hepburn was a ‘humanitarian’ at heart- doing less of acting work as she grew older and instead quietly devoting herself to to UNICEF. Since 1954, she worked in some of the most profoundly disadvantaged communities of Africa, South America and Asia between 1988 and 1992. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in December 1992 (she was to die the following year). Until the end of her life, she tirelessly ‘renewed herself’ from being a ballet dancer, a chorus girl to Hollywood star and then to humanitarian activities. She also was a style icon with her unique hair style and way of dressing which no one has been able to duplicate since. Whether walking her dog or being with poor children, she was just herself. I wondered how we are always trying to be someone else, copying styles and forgetting ourselves? How easy can be it to be just ourselves? Surely being ourselves can’t be that difficult and yet, it is the most difficult thing in the world.
Daisaku Ikeda says, ‘Never for an instant forget the effort to renew your life, to build yourself anew. Creativity means to push open the heavy, groaning doorway of life itself. This is not an easy task. Indeed, it may be the most severely challenging struggle there is. For opening the door to your own life is in the end more difficult than opening the door to all the mysteries of the universe.’
I have been quite ill recently- seems like I have spent most of my days and weeks in hospital and it seems like there is more to come. I felt quite despondent about this and following my heart seemed to be about having enough rest to get some strength to get back to more hospitals. Is this what a creative life is about, I wondered- Just trying to have just enough energy to do my daily chores? I looked at some of my colleagues and thought how wonderful it would if I had their good health, then only I could so much more. Then it came to me. I did not have to compare myself to others. If my day could be even one bit better than the previous day, I had succeeded. Life was about baby steps. The creative life is about taking baby steps towards your goals every day. Yes, every day has been a struggle but if in the morning, I could determine that one that day i could feel even one bit better and do one creative thing (whether that was in the kitchen or anywhere else), then I had won! As Daisaku Ikeda says,”It is not how you compare to others that is important, but rather how you compare to who you were yesterday. If you’ve advanced even one step, then you’ve achieved something great.”
I came across an inspirational video about Jadav Payeng. Singlehandedly, he has created a forest out of barren land with no money or help. He has been working since 1979, with no social media or press congratulating him on his achievements until recently when he was ‘found’ by chance. By planting one seed or sapling daily, he has created a forest bigger than Central Park in New York- a park which will prevent erosion and save wildlife. Learning to take baby steps towards our goals without external validation is the most important thing we can do each day.
Daisaku Ikeda says “Everything passes. Both soaring joys and crushing sorrows fade away like a dream. However, the knowledge of having lived one’s life to the fullest never disappears.”
My life has been quite full so far and yes, I have done foolish things too and wasted time. However, the time that I have spent following my heart have been the most joyful (including writing these blogs, which have helped me to understand myself). Yes, I can to look back at the foolish stuff I have done, yet they were learning experiences, even though they may have been sometimes unhappy. The present is the only moment to live, fully. We don’t know what the future may bring but as Alan Kay says, “The best way to predict the future is invent it.”
Happy invention today to all of you!
The power of the mind has been in the news this week a lot- from Indian mystic who claims to have lived on ‘cosmic energy’ harnessed by the power of the mind for 70 years (yes, 70 years!) to the volunteers at the University of Minnesota who managed to fly model helicopters through hoops using the power of thoughts (you can see it on youtube if you like).
What many new age thinkers have been saying based on age old traditional wisdom, has now been proved scientifically. Buddhism talks about the one-ness of mind and body and for too long, mind and body have been treated separately by medical practitioners and science. So it is worth looking into what we have been thinking when we fall ill- did we have negative thoughts about ourselves or for others? Does a particular food or surrounding trigger off negative emotions or depression? How does lack of exercise make you feel?
While it is not always practical to remove ourselves from negative environments or people, we can limit their presence and as soon our interaction with them is over, we can send out positive thoughts to them and ourselves. I did that recently with a woman I met on the street- although I initially felt angry at what she said to me, as I walked on, I continued to smile and send her smiles as well. I had the most amazing day!
As Daisaku Ikeda says- “One thing is certain: That is that the power of belief, the power of thought, will move reality in the direction of what we believe and conceive of it. If you really believe you can do something, you can. That is a fact.” I truly believe this now. So do start using this from now on- it may be the best thing you have done for yourself and for others!
I am of the sensitive kind and try to please others (as I am sure most of us do). Most of my life I have followed other people’s hearts. Now recently I have taken the step of following my own heart and starting writing this blog to give myself some courage and lift.
I read this somewhere- when one is 18, one worries constantly about what others think of them; when one turns 40 one does not care what others think of them and when one is 60, one realises that no one was thinking of them all along! Well, wouldn’t we be all the more wiser and true to ourselves if we only followed the ’60 rule’. I think some of us stay at age 40 or even 18 all our lives! It is not easy but we can start today to be ’60’, no matter what our age.
‘Being 60’ a courageous step- I sometimes feel quite fearful about the steps I have taken recently in my professional and private life but most of the time I feel so happy doing what I have always wanted to do. I wish I had started earlier but at least I have started this journey before the age of 60 anyway, before it is too late. But even if you are 60, don’t worry or have regrets, it is never too late- just start today! As Daisaku Ikeda says,”It is not about how others are or how society is. The most important thing is to ask yourself, “What should I do?” and “What can I do?” One who stands up with moral courage and conviction can change society and create waves of transformation around the world.”
(Lotus flowers in Kew Gardens. Photo credit: Author)
Earlier I wrote about the four universal sufferings that human beings experience, no matter what their status, wealth or fame. Buddhism says that these are the sufferings of life, illness, ageing and finally death. The lotus flower is especially significant in Buddhism. Mired in the muddy pond, beautiful blossoms bloom, undeterred. Life is like that- we live in world with evil, suffering, corruption and injustice but we can still blossom despite it. In fact, the ‘muddy’ world allows us to show our brilliance and creativity just like the relationship between the lotus and it pond; and the ‘muddy pond’ of our world supplies us with the right materials to manifest our highest potential.
Lotus is the only flower that carries the mature seeds inside it, signifying the simultaneity of ’cause and effect’ i.e. whatever you ‘sow’ you reap instantly in that it ingrains a particular effect on you. Thus, whatever you think or do, creates the instant effect of changing something inside you whether it is immediately visible or not. We can learn from the lotus flower that by having positive and creative vision and taking action, we are instantly changing ourselves and our world.
Daisaku Ikeda, the Buddhist philosopher, says-“…we can transform the sufferings of being born into this world into the joy of living life to the fullest; the sadness and loneliness of ageing into the pleasures of fostering the younger generation; the challenges of illness into an opportunity for elevating our state of life; and even the sorrow of death into a song of eternal triumph”.