What better time to answer this question than around this time of Guru Purnima- an Indian festival dedicated to all teachers and gurus. It is celebrated in the month of June – July on a full moon day, when people pay their respects to their teachers and express their gratitude.
People have often told me that I am their ‘Laughter Guru’, and then they ask me, “Who is your guru?” I tell them that there is no one particular guru. At various stages of life different people have played different roles to teach me several things which hold a lot of relevance in my life.
The word guru is derived from two words – gu and ru. In Sanskrit the root meaning of gu is ignorance, while ru means dispeller. Therefore, a guru is one who removes all our darkness and ignorance and guides into light and prosperity in life.
Our Parents, Teachers & Mentors
Our parents are our first gurus who not only bring us into this world but also help us in understanding the outer world. They also teach us certain values which lay the foundation for our personality. To shape it further, we have our teachers in schools and college who help us acquire academic knowledge, which is very important for making our living.
To take all that knowledge and apply it in our lives we need certain mentors, who with their guidance make us more proficient and successful in our professional careers. But remember, being successful is not everything. To be happy and live a satisfactory life we need some spiritual guidance from our gurus. That will help us to remain grounded and maintain the right work-life balance in our lives.
Then there are those who inspire you by their incredible body of work and contributions, whether you meet them personally or not. For example, I have been greatly inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and Swami Vivekanand. Though I never met them, I have tried to manifest their teachings and values in my life. I feel they are my spiritual gurus, who have helped to mould my thinking, my behavior, my actions and my approach towards life and others.
Besides my teachers and gurus, I learnt a lot from my own students who have been propagating Laughter Yoga in different ways according to their cultures. In fact, I have learnt much more than I taught them. As my favorite saying goes, “I am a great teacher because I have great students.”
Learning From Your Own Mistakes & From Others
One of your best gurus is yourself. You can learn from your positive experiences as well as from your mistakes. It is very true that the more you learn from your mistakes, the more you wish they’d never happened. We may abide by the maxim, “To err is human”, but the real challenge is to avoid the same mistake from happening again. Something important I have learned is calmness, and to turn every mistake into a learning experience. All you need is to graciously accept your fault and make a conscious decision of not repeating it.
Here is an interesting account of my recent travel from Mumbai to Bangalore. I checked in online but did not print my boarding pass thinking it would be saved in my mobile. On reaching the airport, I thought I would get away faster through the baggage drop counter, which is quicker than the normal check in, but alas it was not to be! At the counter, the lady insisted I go the automatic machine and print my boarding pass. I was already getting a bit frustrated, but having no choice, I left the queue to print the pass. By the time I retuned, the queue had become longer and the lady asked me to wait my turn.
By then, I lost my cool and started arguing that it was she who made me step out of line, and now that I had the pass I should be allowed to avail my turn out of queue. But the lady was very firm and told me to stand in line. I started getting angry and even called a senior manager of the airline, but she too said the same thing that it was a rule and that I will have to follow it.
After a heated spat, all in vain, I finally gave in and got back to the queue. Later on, as I looked back on the whole incident, I realized I was wrong. I went through negative emotions unnecessarily. I knew I had blundered, but was not ready to admit. It was foolish on my part to lose my temper and get into a needless squabble.
This is what I call Reflection. This helps you make the right decisions and implement them in the future. Had I not thought about it and put some energy into the whole process, I’m sure I would never be able to manage my emotions effectively under similar circumstances. Therefore, it is imperative to reflect, learn and make the appropriate decisions about how to react, how to behave and how to manage a tricky situation.
Life Is The Best Teacher
The best way to learn is to learn from your experiences in life. And what is life – It is a series of experiences we go through. If your experiences are good, life is good; if your experiences are bad, life is bad. But bad is not always bad – maybe, it is the beginning of good things in your life.
Every day we go through many positive and negative experiences. While everybody loves the positive, nobody wants the negative. But remember, the quality of life does not depend on how many good things happen in your life; instead it depends on how you deal with life when bad things happen.
We have an exercise in Laughter Yoga called ‘Guru Laughter’, in which we first place one hand on our head symbolizing ‘I learn from my mistakes’ and then put the other hand on the head which means ‘I learn from others’ mistakes’. We laugh by swinging our heads from side to side.
This exercise is a great reminder of how much we can learn from our own mistakes. It is possible to laugh at our mistakes and then work hard to correct them. So, be your own ‘Guru’. Your life may not be that long to learn from your mistakes, therefore it is better to learn from the mistakes of others.
Importance Of Reflection
We all make mistakes and keep on repeating them, unless we reflect or learn from them. Therefore, it is important to spend time reflecting on your experiences. This is best done on the day of the occurrence because it is fresh in your memory and reinforces your decision not to repeat that mistake if a similar situation happens in the future. The best time to reflect is at the end of the day before going to sleep. Your body and mind is completely relaxed and you can store that information which will help you to change your behavior in future.
Reflection or looking back in hindsight generates a humbleness to admit our ignorance or our mistake, which in turn saves us a lot of pain. It teaches one to accept and acknowledge screw ups. It is natural to want to cover up our mistakes or be embarrassed by them. But being honest about them increases our capacity to change our behavior and action. It allows us to let go of the embarrassment and helps us concentrate on learning and growing thereby becoming much better human beings.
So, the new maxim in your life should be “Let’s learn from our mistakes and promise never to repeat them” – it will save you a lot of unnecessary trouble and give you a lot of happiness…. hahhah