The master storyteller and industry veteran on seeking sanity in the otherwise fast paced television business…

Recently, after a conversation with Siddhartha Laik, Editor at IndianWikiMedia, regarding how one could stay ‘sane’, ‘productive’, ‘at peace’… within this extremely tough, competitive Television Industry that thrives on 18 hour days, Television Ratings Pressure, Politics of creativity-quality-individuality and personal vanity amidst the desire to churn out an episode every day, the pressure to be ‘heard’ and remain relevant, the pressure for actors and other freelance technicians to be constantly ‘seen’ or ‘talked about’ or the plain pressures of just finding employment , the pressure of dealing with demanding broadcasters, phew!…It’s then that I ended up recollecting and realising the power of Don Miguel Ruiz’s five agreements that have been embedded in my mental system for some years now… and I realised how thanks to these rules, my ‘sanity’ would largely be restored positively from an abysmal zero to a sanguine calm one! One doesn’t claim at all to be a calm cucumber…but a little more self aware when anger, panic, annoyance, self pity, envy etc start building up.

There have been and will be many instances of ‘rejection’…be it rejection of an idea by a channel, rejection of a show by our audiences, rejection of an actor post an audition, replacement of a technician because they are not ‘performing’ as per expectations.  Day in Day out, our world constantly sees ‘heartbreaks’ and being sacked/being rejected makes us bitter and adds in a negative way to our mental impressions, our subconscious mind. One of the agreements that I have tried following honestly – ‘DONT TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY’! Nothing others do is because of You. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality. Their minds, their perceptions with life. One has to gently find ways to ‘let go’ and find a way to become gracefully ‘immune’ to the opinions and actions of others so that one is not a victim of needless suffering.  Also nurture the grace to take failures in our stride, without the need to fix blame on one particular person or situation. Take a bird’s eye view of a failed opportunity and let it gently go! Refuse to be a victim. Learn from the unfortunate incident — failed audition; being fired; losing at love, and do something about it,  and then try succeeding at the next go-around. I think a lot of us secretly wallow in self pity and enjoy our acute ability to promote our failure in candid conversations.

The only way we can combat these stories of self-judgement, judgement by the world, fear of failure and the stress of delivering in this zany competitive world is to hone our ability to make space for some SILENCE daily. In SILENCE, we get access to what we truly are…get a glimpse of our true nature, which is beyond the stories of ‘what should happen in our lives/ where should I be at this stage of my life?/or is my life a huge screw up?

The other constant struggle is our fear of politicking at shoots, production or channel work places, our fear of falling ‘out of favor’ with whosoever is holding the power strings in a set up, our fear of being sidelined in a set up, our fear of eventually being ‘thrown out’! The only way out is to be courageous and to ‘dance’ at the twists and turns of our journey, with faith in our hearts to do with our larger calling. The agreement that makes me extremely calm when it comes to trust issues and fear of ‘politics’ is ‘DONT MAKE ASSUMPTIONS”. The story that’s playing in our heads, is largely due to our fears, insecurities and assumptions. We have to nurture the ability to read human behaviour well, to read people’s intentions and perceptions better, as we grow in this profession. We need to find the courage to ask questions and to express what we really want. We have to hone the ability to communicate with others as clearly as we can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama.

The third agreement is a truly a tough one in an industry which is constantly shifting its positions, constantly worried about how to make the new boss/new power centre happier, or how to survive in this mad ‘dog eat dog’ environment … but in the long term the ability to stand by your conviction, your words and your commitment professionally and personally speaking is the biggest cornerstone of ethically living this life! ‘BE IMPECCABLE WITH YOUR WORD’. Speak with Integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Although we all are guilty of gossip to casually entertain ourselves, one has to be conscious of that often we end up spreading false stories, rumors and create ‘scandals’ out of fabricated ‘perceptions’, and do a lot of harm to people’s lives and reputations.

‘DONT TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY’! Nothing others do is because of You. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality. Their minds, their perceptions with life. One has to gently find ways to ‘let go’ and find a way to become gracefully ‘immune’ to the opinions and actions of others so that one is not a victim of needless suffering

The fourth agreement is a gentle reminder to oneself every day…’ALWAYS DO YOUR BEST’- Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are burnt out and tired as opposed to well rested. Under any circumstance, simply do your best and you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse and regret.

The fifth agreement is ‘QUESTION ALL STORIES’ that our mind is creating. Stories are how we describe our reality. Be alert and question the habitual stories (thoughts/perceptions/descriptions) that you and others tell. Ask yourself “Who would I be without the story?”. The fifth agreement is ultimately seeing whole reality just the way it is, with the eyes of truth, without words. The only way we can combat these stories of self-judgement, judgement by the world, fear of failure and the stress of delivering in this zany competitive world is to hone our ability to make space for some SILENCE daily! The manner in which many of us find the time for physical exercise amidst a cluttered routine, we also need to find some space for pure SILENCE for at least twenty minutes in a day. We are filling our lives with texting, phone calls, meetings, crazy conversations, drinking bouts, partying, GOT and other cool television shows… but challenge yourself to not depend on anything and challenge our minds with pure silence for 20 minutes… No TV, No phone around…. I chant ‘Nam Myoho Renge Kyo’ to find my silence… many others find the time to meditate, practice breathing or praying in some form and honestly this silence helps us go beyond the trappings of what we think we are. A self-image is a fabricated story, just an idea which is ever changing, ephemeral. And in SILENCE, we get access to what we truly are…get a glimpse of our true nature, which is beyond the stories of ‘what should happen in our lives/ where should I be at this stage of my life?/or is my life a huge screw up?’….The  only way that we can nurture our intuition, build our resilience and potential for a wiser response to life and be more in alignment and harmony with the dance of life, is by operating from a space within us which is rooted in stillness and silence, and beyond the ever crazed panicking thinking mind/outward personality. Fighting for a dream, and yet not resisting whatever the present moment brings, holds the key for a happier life.

‘BE IMPECCABLE WITH YOUR WORD’. Speak with Integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others

Quoting my favorite spiritual teacher Adyashanti– “There is a very simple secret to being happy. Just let go of your demand on this moment. Any time you have a demand on the moment to give you something or remove something, there is suffering. Your demands keep you chained to the dream state of conditioned mind. The problem is that when there is a demand, you completely miss what is now.  Letting go applies to the highest sacred demand, and even to the demand for love. If you demand in some subtle way to be loved, even if you get love, it is never enough. In the next moment, the demand reasserts itself, and you need to be loved again. But as soon as you let go, there is knowing in that instant that there is love here already. The mind is afraid to let go of its demand because the mind thinks that if it lets go, it is not going to get what it wants – as if demanding works. This is not the way things work. Stop chasing peace and stop chasing love, and your heart becomes full. Stop trying to be a better person, and you are a better person. Stop trying to forgive, and forgiveness happens. Stop and be still.”

The conditioned mind will set you on the course to ask and demand that a certain dream be fulfilled. Fight for the dream, but also allow life to speak to you! Also allow life to be a two way conversation! You will be able to ‘listen’ to life more clearly, and its demands of your ‘potential’ in stillness and fulfill your potential/swadharma in the manner in which LIFE deems fit; not necessarily the way your conditioned mind sees it.

I would like to end by quoting theatre legend ‘Colleen Dewhurst’ — “The dream we hold for anything is not in vain. Having the dream realised is rare or sporadic, but it’s real. This is true in the theatre; this is true in marriage; this is true in friendship; it’s very painfully true in motherhood. What I mean is you come into all of these things of what it should be, could be, must be, and the reality is grittier, tougher. It’s still beautiful and worthy and worth it all, but you still get hit in the face with how hard things are. It’s worth it.”

(Sukesh is an industry doyen having head Fiction Content at Zee TV and now is a promoter at Bodhi Tree Productions)

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