Effortless Living

November 2016

By Shivi Verma

Instead of fighting against the tide, it is possible to ride the high wave of effortlessness, spontaneity and joy, says Shivi Verma

Surfing a Wave. Bali Island. Indonesia.

When we were children, life gushed through us like a young mountain river, dancing, frolicking, and cavorting her way down the rocky hills. We sprang out of bed at daybreak, spent the day in tireless activities, and had to be coerced to go to sleep at night by our harried parents.

As a child I used to wonder how elders could nap after lunch. While they snored, after exhorting us to go to sleep, we kids used to stealthily sneak out of the room and spend the afternoon playing, squealing, running, swinging or climbing trees. Sloth or inertia were alien to us and life meant endless joy, hope, sunshine and possibilities. The only thing we resented was the control of parents over our lives, and we wanted to grow up fast to be able to live our lives on our terms and do what pleased us. Our dreams were woven around becoming ballet dancers, ice-skaters, tennis players, actors, and magicians. Life waltzed on ball bearings.“Childhood is the best time of your life. There are no responsibilities to bog you down,” my mother used to often tell us. But I could never understand this. For me adulthood signified the freedom to do what you wanted to, and I was aching to take the reins of life in my own hands.But as I grew, I realised life was not a bed of roses. There were enough conditions, curbs and expectations to rein the horses of childlike enthusiasm, and cause them to jogtrot through life.

Effortful life

Spontaneity and naturalness were often curbed by statements like, “If you do not study well, you will one day become a grass cutter. One has to work hard to achieve something in life. ” “Children poor at science and mathematics, do not have a bright future ahead.” “Girls who do not show interest in kitchen and household activities do not get praise after marriage.” “Nobody pays artists, singers, painters or musicians. You must become a doctor, engineer or an IAS officer to earn respect and status in society, pay your bills and maintain your family. ” “Look at our neighbour’s son. He is a gold medallist who is going to a US college on a government scholarship. Such things happen to people who are sincere, focussed, hard working.” As expectations piled on and comparisons with peers increased, I began to find life an uphill task. The world needed me to be a certain way in order to fit in. While boys were expected to excel in tough subjects like medicine and engineering, girls were raised on a strict behavioural code, so that they didn’t challenge the status quo of male superiority. They learnt to please others, swallow insults, and muffle their angst.Schools and teachers, books and parents, friends and relatives, all strove to mould us into acceptable forms. And it wasn’t easy. You had to work hard and sacrifice many pleasures to achieve all that. Some could live up to these expectations while others could not, but what we gradually realised was that life was a painful movement against our natural impulses.Says Partha Gupta, a teacher of breath processes, from Hyderabad, “Out of compulsions is born a lack of will. One cannot have willpower and growth in a compulsive state. Our will power is spiritual power, and when will is lacking, spirit languishes.”Most feel this compulsion most acutely when they enter the job market and take up jobs their heart is not into, or when the challenges of everyday living, responsibilities, worries of the present, and future begin to bog them down. Waking up everyday to face demands from children, boss, spouse and society, a barrage of self-critical inner dialogue, and fear of failure or success can sap the joy out of living.Says Partha, “I worked for a corporate firm where I was responsible for creating franchisees. I was under pressure to perform. There was a career to be nurtured, a home to look after, and an ongoing inner conflict because my proposals were only good on paper. I was not happy at all. Even waking up in the morning and going to work became an effort.”

He adds, “Relationships, particularly Indian marriages, are even more subject to compulsion. The man juggles between wife and mother, striving to keep both happy, and the woman lives under the compulsion of keeping everyone in the house happy. A very simple flow of life which should be an effortless witnessing, becomes a drama of effort.”Says Bhaavin Shah, a Mumbai-based life coach, “Until 2005 I was doing what I didn’t want to do. I was continuing in the business of manufacturing nuts and bolts out of my own insecurity and sense of obligation. Although as a regular SSY meditator, I was exposed to the concept of non-doing, I had not delved deeply into it.”

A glimpse of effortlessness

Meditate daily to calm your mind and seed it with self-fullfilling ideas.Meditate daily to calm your mind and seed it with self-fullfilling ideas.

Always a procrastinating, diffident girl who found even minor things challenging, my first brush with effortlessness happened when the Divine touched me benevolently. I was living at my aunt’s place in Delhi, and was wondering what to do in order to get a job. In those days she would make me sit alongside her while doing her meditation and ask me to follow suit. Within two days of following her instructions I saw a complete shift in my energies. From her altar I felt a sudden rush of energy hastily enter my ajna chakra. In a few seconds I was awash with Divine love entering my heart and taking full control over my being. This rush of energy filled me with dynamism, optimism and a new lease of life. All negativity and lethargy was pushed aside, and I was brimming with joy and spontaneity.I used to spring out of bed at 6 am sharp, ready to take on the world. The supply of energy used to be inexhaustible. I would finish all the household chores with enthusiasm and gusto, and rush to a small temporary job I had taken up. There I would work happily and tirelessly till my day got over and rush back home, only to attack the remaining chores with much fervour and joyfulness. Since my aunt was a working woman I wanted to free her of as much work load as I could. My efficiency, and acuity astounded everyone. But I knew in my heart that it was not me, my small ego self which was accomplishing so much joyfully and effortlessly, but something else which had taken me over.

After two to three months, the phase left me but not without giving me an idea of how our lives as ordained by God were supposed to be. Surprisingly, I focussed only on the job at hand, without fretting or worrying about my career. I was deeply confident that the job I was looking for, would come to me on its own. And it did come, without my having to lift a finger for it. An effortless life involves living one day at a time, doing your duties to the best of your abilities, and trusting that your larger concerns will be taken care of by the Universe, which it does.For me it took Divine intervention to realise how joyful and effortless daily living and performing your duties can be.

How to get into the state of effortless doing?

The flow of the Universe is full of power. The moment you come in alignment with its natural rhythm you fall into the realm of effortlessness. Since fears, stress, anxieties,  and worries  keep us from being in touch with the flow of universal energy throbbing in our being, we mostly miss its refuelling and energising force. Here are some of the ways to get in touch with its force:

Calming your mind

Such was Sudha's passion for dancing that even an amputated leg could not stop her from realising her dreams Such was Sudha’s passion for dancing that even an amputated leg could not stop her from realising her dreams

Endless thoughts, worries, anxieties, ambition and desires can make your overwrought. While initially the desire to excel and prove your mettle can spur you on, it may not sustain you in the face of prolonged challenges and difficulties. These may provoke you to either lose sight of your goal and give up, or sacrifice your happiness, health, peace of mind and relationships in singleminded pursuit of the goal.

An invaluable and effortless way to achieve your goals is to use the power of the subconscious mind, instead of relying on your own ideas and efforts. The subconscious is connected to the Universe and will access you events and opportunities outside the ken of your own capability. In order to access the subconscious, you need to move to the Alpha state of mind. Meditation will help you do that by enabling you to calm the mind. After that you can seed your subconscious mind with images and affirmations of your goals.Says Kartika Rane, a teacher from Pune, “After I attended a SKY healing session taught by Santosh Joshi and learnt the method of visualisation, I got many things quite effortlessly. My daughters got admission into prestigious schools and colleges without much effort, and my own newly started day care centre received plenty of admissions without my having to advertise or work hard for it. People simply googled, found my contact number, and called me.”According to Sunil Parekh, mind trainer and founder of Rise Development Academy, if one sets a goal by writing it down in the notebook, and reads it everyday, especially before going to sleep and immediately after waking up, it will help one greatly to achieve what one wishes to achieve.Concurs Priyank Marda, a businessman, “After attending Sunil Parekh’s workshop, I started attracting opportunities which I could never have thought of. I always had a dream of doing some projects in Africa, and suddenly, some of my father’s friends who live in Tanzania contacted us and said that they would like us to take up a massive software development project for the government of Tanzania. I never understood software but once this opportunity came up, things started falling into place. I visited Tanzania thrice, and now the deal is well on its way to execution.”Says Mitali Srivastava, a civil servant from Hyderabad, “I badly wanted to join the civil services and was burning the midnight oil for it. But my personal life was full of tremendous hurdles. I was unable to stay in one place to focus on my studies. Circumstances kept moving me from one place to another, and I was falling into despair.Then one day I determinedly sat down and filled an entire notebook with the statement, “I can do it, and I will do it” scrawled emphatically on the pages.Surprisingly within a few days all the hurdles vanished. I began meeting people who were helpful and soon my studies became seamlessly effortless. I passed the exams with top marks and am currently at a top position.”Through her forceful writing, Mitali had given a clear command to her subconscious about what she wanted. As her confusions cleared, the Universe too got clear instructions and helped her get what she wanted.Says Mrs Jaya Row, founder of Vedanta Vision, “The one who wins the gold medal in Olympics is not the one who has worked and practised the hardest, but the one whose mind is the calmest at the time of competition.”

Increase prana in the body

The happier we are, the more energetic our bodies and lives. Highly advanced beings are charged like dynamos. They are not driven by motivations of personal gain or loss. Purified of desires, and a sense of doership, they take full, complete breaths which is full of prana, the life force which makes everything happen. It also makes them highly spontaneous.Although most of us are a work in progress and it can take us time to reach this state, we can always avail of the pranic force which is available in abundance through the air we breathe, food we eat, and the lifestyle we lead.

Partha Gupta asserts that whatever we wish to manifest exists in a certain breath frequency. Says he, “Instead of visualising things mentally, it is best that we access that breath where it lies. When breath matches the frequency of what you are looking for, it becomes a part of your life experience as a manifested experience. Since I practise this form of breathing, I never chase after things. I stay in the present moment, respond to my thoughts and trust that whatever I need will come to me on its own. And it always does.”Yoga and pranayama too have the power to charge your batteries and make you dynamic, energetic and supremely confident.Says Dev Barrot, a Mumbai-based social worker, “I have been doing yoga consistently over the past 18 months, and it has had tremendous benefits on my physical and mental health. On my recent trip to Tiruvannamalai, my friend and I decided to climb the sacred hill Arunachala which is about 2,700 ft high. It was literally a vertical climb and with the sun directly above us, it was quite energy sapping too. Even descending it required patience and agility as climbing down needs more focus and awareness. ”He adds, “I would occasionally get breathless and stop and would quickly regain my breath. That’s when I remembered the contribution of my regular yoga practice, in building up my stamina and mental agility. I felt immensely grateful.”Natural foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and dried fruits like almonds, peanuts and raisins, sprouts, and fresh water are high in prana and give you an everyday energy boost. Apart from that, being true to yourself, your inner truths, and leading a life in consonance with your conscience helps you in keeping your mind clear and confusion free.

Find your passion

Bhaavin Shah practises the science of non-doing which comes from a space of spontaneity and originality Bhaavin Shah practises the science of non-doing which comes from a space of spontaneity and originality

When artists, scientists, sportspersons, seekers or even ordinary people are absorbed in doing what they love they lose count of time and effort that goes in accomplishing a task. So finding your passion and being true to it is one of the key ways of accomplishing much without feeling the pain of effort.The famous mathematician, Ramanujan, had such a passion for deriving complex mathematical formulas that he did not care to study other subjects and failed his college exams despites having won a scholarship. Despite his academic failure Ramanujan threw himself into the pursuit of new results in mathematics. A friend of Ramanujan, Sandow, once praised him for being a genius to which Ramanujan showed him his elbow which had become rough and black. When Sandow asked him the reason, Ramanujan said, “My elbow has become rough and black in making a genius of me! Night and day I do my calculations on slate. It takes too long to look for a rag to wipe it with. I wipe the slate almost every few minutes with my elbow.”

When Sandow enquired why Ramanujan used slate when he could use paper to do his calculations, Ramanujan replied that when food itself was a problem, how could he find the money to buy reams of paper every month? Since Ramanujan’s devotion to mathematics was total and he was unwilling (even incapable) of paying attention to mundane affairs of life like earning money, providence looked after his monetary needs through kind and helpful benefactors who recognised his talent. His gift was eventually recognised by Professor George Hardy of Cambridge University in England, who invited him to do research with him. Though he died early at the age of 32 because of poor health, Professor Hardy considered him one of his finest discoveries.Sudha Chandran, famous dancer and TV actor, was a passionate dancer who had done hundreds of stage shows by the age of 13. Sadly in the year 1981 she met with a road accident which fractured her right leg. Her leg had to be amputated to stop the gangrene from spreading. But this born dancer did not let this deter her. She says, “I decided to re-learn what I had known my entire life – to dance”. She got herself a prosthetic leg and continued to practise dancing even though it was a slow and painful process. “With every step I re-learnt I knew that this was what I wanted, ” she says. When she gave her first dance performance with the prosthetic leg, she was celebrated everywhere and covered by the media. Later, she even played the lead role in a Hindi film, Nache Mayuri, made on her life, which was a remake of a Telugu film on her called Mayuri.

According to the Hungarian psychologist, Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, when we are deeply involved in trying to reach a goal, or an activity that is challenging but well suited to our skills, we experience a joyful state called ‘flow.’ One may find still greater happiness experiencing ‘flow’ in working towards long-term, meaningful goals. The Taoist philosopher, Zhuangzi, proposes that happiness is nothing but wuwei (no contrived action) that is, using one’s natural abilities and intuition to flow with one’s environment. When one is fully engaged with what one is doing, one begins to act effortlessly, and one’s whole mindset changes from fear and avoidance to that of engagement and openness.

Be fuelled by love

The force of love is strong enough to make people do things which they otherwise may be loath to. Mothers are the best example of this form of action. Young mothers with small babies can work tirelessly day and night to ensure the comfort and happiness of their offspring. There have been cases when a mother has summoned enough strength to lift a heavy car singlehandedly, to save her baby trapped underneath it.  And this is not limited to humans alone. There are examples in the animal kingdom too where mothers have fearlessly taken on animals much larger and more ferocious than them to protect their young. Recently, a video surfaced on the internet showing a female rat successfully fighting a cobra and saving her baby from its grip. My own mother worked tirelessly and uncomplainingly for years to ensure the health and safety of  my sister and me. Saddled by the responsibility of managing a home, teaching in college, and looking after two demanding children I never saw her complaining. Up before anyone of us in the morning, she used to get us ready for school, serve us breakfast, pack our lunchboxes, tidy up the house before getting ready to trot off to her college at 10:30 am. In the evening, after picking us up from our uncle’s place, she used to sit us down, help us with homework, feed us supper and make preparations for the next day, in addition to looking after my father’s needs. And this she continued to do everyday for years, with no sign of fatigue or boredom until we left home for further studies. Who can forget the love story of Dashrath Manjhi, a native of Gahlaur, near Gaya district of Bihar, who cut a tunnel across a huge mountain that stood between his village and the nearest town. When his beloved and heavily pregnant wife fell from the mountain one day while trying to cross it, she had passed away by the time Dashrath brought her to the hospital, 70 miles away. Dasrath swore to cut a passage through the mountain, even if nobody came to assist him, to prevent any such future casualty. Even though the villagers laughed and called him mad, Dashrath was undeterred. For 22 long years he kept chipping away at the formidable mountain and managed to dig a 360-feet-long, 30-feet-high and 30-feet-wide passage through it. Thanks to the tunnel, the hospital is a mere 15 kms from his village. Mata Amritanandamayi of Kerala is the epitome of this love-fuelled relentless action. Her love embraces the entire globe. Urged by the desire to comfort, wipe tears, and bring solace, she sits for more than 12-13 hours at a stretch to hug a long queue of devotees. She also runs innumerable mammoth projects to help and serve the needy, actions that speak volumes for her good heart.

Learn to let go

Obsession with achievement can mentally stress and exhaust you and you might find your goal slipping away from your grip. When you enjoy the process of working instead of thirsting for the fruit of your labour, life becomes joyful, free flowing and effortless. You know that joyful action without expecting and fretting over results ultimately leads to the desired outcome. This is especially true for people who are naturally dynamic and action-oriented.Says Vyjayanti Tejuja, “After one month of getting my license as an Access Bars facilitator and having facilitated a couple of classes in Mumbai, I decided to now have one in Bengaluru.  I turned to my sister and cousins to organise a bars class in the city feeling confident that it would all get done instantly.A few days passed by and my expectations kept building up as invitations were being forwarded and people personally informed. I worked hard on my presentation. But it all came crashing down. Not one person showed interest. I wondered how that was possible after all of us had put in so much effort and time?”Gradually, it dawned on her that we are not the creators.  Rather, our job is to choose with gratitude the creation we would like to experience. “With this awareness in place, I set out to recreate the class in Bengaluru as a form of play with no expectations attached. Around three months later, a friend brought her sister who was from Bengaluru for a consultation with me. During the course she got drawn to me. She was willing to be my hostess and organise the class with a certain number of people at her home in Bengaluru. This time I was relaxed. Three months later, I received a phone call from my hostess to reach Bengaluru in the next couple of days. I learnt that there were only three participants. I quickly booked my tickets and flew down in total gratitude for what I had got from the Universe.” Eventually, it turned out to be a three-day affair with 12 participants and different sessions as they were eager to learn more than what she had set out for.Vyjayanti realised that when we try to control things we may create but it would be through struggle and would be limited, whereas when you drop into effortlessness and create with the Universe, you create beyond your limitations and in unexpectedly surprising ways, particularly when you are in a state of gratitude and appreciation. So after you have put in your best foot forward, just step back and let the Universe take over.

Go with the flow

The flow of life in itself is effortless. If you can witness the giant and unstoppable force and flow of life, you would realise that life with all its ups and down, crests and troughs is anyway speeding you towards your goal.

I personally experience it as a state of non-resistance. I mostly feel in a state of rest, and when an impulse to do something takes over me, I finish it without any second thoughts. I do not fight against blocks and hurdles. Instead, I let them stay their course, knowing that in a synchronised Universe they too have a significant role to play, and at the right time they will clear away, putting me in the effortless action zone again. In the course of writing this article too I was in the midst of a challenging situation at home. I tried hard to write this article but was unable to. Then instead of struggling or fretting, I let go, trusting the flow of the Universe. And then one fine day the haze cleared, and the article began to flow smoothly through me.

Says Bhaavin Shah, “Consistent action is something I do not admire very much. It is driven by ego personality and focuses on one thing to the exclusion of other important aspects of life. Super achievers, highly productive, efficient people may also be very deeply frustrated and unhappy people, because of being highly strung most of the time. Work is worship but overwork is not. Just like innately nourishing food can become toxic when overeaten. To some extent work gives pleasure but beyond a point it can make life difficult for you. You can begin with goals but eventually you have to  move to a space beyond goals, where you are like a cloud in the sky, a leaf in the wind. When you refrain from work you fill up the space with other important, self-nurturing things such as family, hobbies, or personal growth. I teach people the benefits of leisure and loafing. In such a state you have no personal goals. If something is welling up inside you, you do it, knowing well that it is the Universe working through you. In such a state you touch the very bliss of human existence. The highest states are natural and spontaneous, when your mind and thoughts do not impede the flow of life gushing through you.”

Gradually one comes to realise that your life seems challenging and difficult only as long as your sense of doership is alive. And the moment you realise that you are not the doer, effortless living begins. Says Swami Chidananda, a teacher of Vedanta and Krishnamurthy philosophy, “Effortless living is what happens when our spiritual intelligence is awakened. Effort is the expression or result of the concerns of the ego. In spiritual awakening, the ego is erased. The ego has numerous likes and dislikes, personal preferences and fears. In the context of all these, we experience ‘effort’ in everything we do. When our ego dies, thanks to the spiritual wisdom, we gain ‘utter simplicity’ or ‘extraordinary objectivity’. Effort then disappears, making way for spontaneous living. To make matters simple, we may say: when there is ego, we are driven by the thought, ‘I must win’. When there is no ego, we are driven by unconditional love.”

This, my friends, is the ultimate secret of effortless living.

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