Winning, losing and happiness

Over the past decade, I’ve been competing in cycle races across the UK. In those 10 years, I’ve finished in just about every position from first to last. As an athlete there is always part of you which is striving to win; but at the same time as trying to win, I’ve tried to learn the art of being happy and cheerful whatever the outcome (harder in practise than theory.)

Sri Chinmoy offers the supreme philosophy.

He is the great winner
Who wins.
He is the greater winner
Who is the cheerful loser.
He is the greatest winner
Who gives equal value
To victory and defeat.
He alone is the real loser
Who separates
Defeat from victory.

– Sri Chinmoy (1)

This is a lofty philosophy, and I wouldn’t say I have been able to manage such a sense of oneness with the winner of races; I still prefer to win! But, it is a potent reminder that there is more to a race than winning. The hardest test for a human is to remain cheerful whatever the outer circumstances. If we can remain happy, despite outer disappointment, that is a great achievement.

Some things I have learnt from 10 years of competing


Cheerfulness helps performance. I remember once hearing Sri Chinmoy tell runners in the 3100 Self-Transcendence mile race that if they smile more, they would run faster. I took this lesson to mean that if we can be cheerful and remember to smile, it can help us to be in a better frame of mind, and when we are in a better consciousness we can do better. Cheerfulness helps many aspects of performance. When we get angry and disappointed with ourselves, the opposite happens, we can lose our determination, confidence and enthusiasm. Maintaining cheerfulness helps us to be positive and determined. More subtly, a cheerful attitude helps us to get into that elusive ‘flow’ of good energy.

Dealing with disappointment. There isn’t any athlete who hasn’t been disappointed with their performance at some time of their career, if not every year. We are striving to do better and make improvements, but the body doesn’t respond in the way that we hope and expect. From a practical point of view it is important to be realistic and remember, this is an inevitability of life and physical performance. It may be a bit of cliché, but we never make progress in a straight line, it is more like a corkscrew, sometimes we have to go down as well as up. Remembering this inevitability, helps to prevent needless introspection and loss of motivation. Another cliché, often rolled out – is the fact that defeats are just as important as the victories. It maybe clichéd, but it is also true. With disappointing results, firstly we have to keep things in perspective; this creates a sense of detachment and balance which helps us to move on.

Enjoy the experience. The joy of winning is fleeting at best. You get to lift a trophy and a moment’s fame, but this joy is transient. A much better approach to sport is to try and enjoy every aspect of training, and racing. In one sense, racing on the limit is physically painful, but it gives a sense of satisfaction that you can’t get from sitting on a comfortable sofa. If we can remember to enjoy the exhilaration of performance and competing, we will get a much more lasting sense of fulfilment, that isn’t reliant on winning. Sri Chinmoy once said something like a marathon is torture for the body, mind and vital, but joy for the heart (unofficial quote from my memory)  I think all athletes can relate to the paradox of physical and mental pain, but at the same time getting some kind of joy from the whole experience.

Self-transcendence. Self-transcendence is simply our effort to better ourselves. This can be on any level – physical, mental and spiritual. We may not have the greatest natural talent, but we can always try to beat our previous bests or the best for our age category. Self transcendence means we are not comparing ourselves with others, but competing with ourself. From a practical point of view, it is very beneficial to only concentrate on your own performance and not think about other athletes. When you start wondering what your competitors are doing, you will lose focus. We cannot always transcend our physical capacities, but even if our time is disappointing, we can still try and transcend our approach to victory.

Detachment. Related to self-transcendence and the goal of competing with ourselves, we need to cultivate the capacity to have detachment from the result. Detachment doesn’t mean not caring. It just means we try to maintain equanimity whatever the outcome. Rather than seeing ourselves as a failure or success, we can just focus on what we achieved. As long as we have given everything, then we should seek satisfaction from that, and not the outer result.

The past is dust. Another great mantra, is ‘The Past is Dust’ Perhaps one performance or one season was disappointing. If we dwell on this, we bring a lot of negativity into our mind and this will only adversely affect our future performance. It is always better to concentrate on doing what we can at this present time, and just let go of any unfortunate experience. Just take a very practical approach, whatever position we are in, what is the best thing we can do from this situation? Continue reading “Winning, losing and happiness”

How to be honest with yourself

Real happiness and genuine spiritual progress requires an ability and willingness to be honest with ourselves. We could call it self-criticism, but I prefer honesty. If we can be honest about our motives and actions, we will learn to cultivate a more self-giving attitude and keep our ego in check.


This self-awareness and personal honesty, doesn’t mean we have to be overly critical of ourselves. We are not trying to make ourselves feel guilty; it is not about confessing sins, but a willingness to understand our true motivations and be aware of our shortcomings. If we always live with an attitude of self-justification and feel we are always right, we will struggle to make any real progress and will be more prone to pride and insecurity. But, if we can be honest and aware of our shortcomings, we can become the person we really want to. It may be a little hard work, but it will pay off in the long run!

These are some exercises we can take to make sure we are not living in a bubble.

1. Motive. Before undertaking an action what is the motive behind it? If we are undertaking an action, why are we doing it? Would we still do it if nobody was aware of it? It is not wrong to welcome appreciation of others. But, if our action is only motivated by the desire to please others or show off, then we are only feeding our ego and it can cause problems. A pure motive helps us to transcend the ego and we gain satisfaction from extending our sense of oneness.

2. Criticism? Do we put other people down to make us feel better? There is a part of us that tries to bolster our self-esteem by feeling better than others. This can make us critical of other people. We may not even be aware we are doing this, unless we can be really honest about our motives. Instead, we should feel our self-esteem can be built by encouraging and being sympathetic to others. It means avoiding the temptation to jump onto a train of gossip. It means we need to cultivate more self-belief and self-confidence.

3. Do we spend too much time making excuses?

It is human nature to try and blame our misfortune on other people and outer circumstances. But, shifting the blame onto other people is often a clever way of hiding our own shortcomings. Sometimes we think that only if we can move away from people who make life difficult for us, everything will be OK. But, when we do move somewhere else, we find the same problems are just as prominent. This is because the weakness is stemming from ourselves. We only see the our limitations reflected in other people.

“The only devils in this world are those running around in our own hearts, and that is where all our battles should be fought.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

If we are prone to anger, we can always blame the situation and the actual trigger for our anger. But, this will never deal with the underlying problem. Instead, we should make a conscious decision to overcome anger, and bring peace into our system. Here honesty is helping us to become aware of our shortcomings and helps us to realise that it is up to us to decide what will causes us to lose our inner peace. Continue reading “How to be honest with yourself”

How to overcome insecurity

We often cherish insecurity without being fully aware of it. Insecurity about what people think of us is quite common and it can lead to unnecessary problems. When we are insecure, it tends to make us more suspicious, it makes us try harder to impress. Because we are insecure about ourselves, we lose the self-confidence to be true to our real nature.


A oneness-heart

– Sri Chinmoy [1]

These are some steps to overcoming insecurity.

Recognise the problem and make an effort to overcome

The first thing is that people may not realise a lot of their anxieties, worries and fears stem from a sense of insecurity about ourselves. We worry because we are insecure about our standing in society and amongst friends. When we are aware of a misplaced insecurity, it becomes much easier to try and overcome it. This requires an awareness and honesty about our motivations and actions.

Don’t be overly critical of other people.

If you spend time criticising and judging other people, you will subconsciously fear the same treatment yourself. Invariably highly critical people have a deep seated insecurity themselves. The motivation to criticise comes from a need to make themselves feel superior to other people. However, the attempt to make yourself feel better by putting other people down will never work. At best, we get a temporary false sense of security, but it never lasts. If we want to create a genuine sense of self-belief and self-confidence, never base it on being superior to others. In fact it is the opposite, if we can have a sympathetic and empathetic attitude, we will feel better ourselves. Continue reading “How to overcome insecurity”

Effective Ways To Get Out of a Negative Mindset


It is too easy to get into a negative mindset which invariably leads to unhappiness and depression. To avoid being overwhelmed by negativity we need to make a conscious effort to avoid the experience. When life seems like a perpetual dark tunnel these are some suggestions to change your outlook on life.

Don’t Cherish Destructive Thoughts.

Often we don’t realise how much we subconsciously cherish negative thoughts. It may seem counter intuitive, but often a negative frame of mind occurs because we won’t let go of the negative thoughts and ideas. Sometimes the mind clings on to these thoughts with a feeling of self pity or injured pride. We don’t like the negative frame of mind, but at the same time are we consciously trying to overcome it? The problem is that if the negative thoughts go round and round in our mind they can become powerful and we lose a sense of perspective. Just make a conscious decision to ignore the negative flow of thoughts and sentiments and be persistent in these attempts.

Do You want to be Happy or Miserable?

Do you want to be always happy?
Then give up fighting
For negativity
And learn the beautiful art
Of self-encouragement.

Sri Chinmoy [1]

We should feel a negative mindset is a choice. If we feel a victim to our own emotions and thoughts, nobody else will be able to help us. We should feel that by holding on to a negative frame of mind, we are inevitably choosing to be unhappy; each negative is a conscious decision to be miserable. If we really value the importance of our own inner peace and happiness, we will aspire to cultivate this through good, uplifting thoughts. Next time you feel the onset of a depressed state of mind, just ask yourself the question: Do I want to be happy or Miserable?

Spend Time With Positive People

The best antidote to negativity is simply to spend time doing positive, uplifting activities. Sometimes if we analyse and examine our own negativity it does nothing to reduce it. By engaging in useful fun activities, we forget about the reasons for our negativity; this is often the most powerful way to overcome a depressed state of mind.

Continue reading “Effective Ways To Get Out of a Negative Mindset”

Irrational Thinking and How To Overcome it


One of the biggest problems we have is the tendency for our mind to think in an irrational / unbalanced way. We see issues and other people through a clouded and fuzzy perspective. This judgement leads us to many problems, not least it makes life more stressful and depressing.

These are some of the common perspectives on life which are misleading.

Jumping to Conclusions

Often we jump to conclusions on a small fraction of evidence. Perhaps someone does not reply to our message at a particular point in time, we then project our own thoughts as to why this is. The mind creates a powerful scenario which we come to believe. Yet, our mental projections are often far from reality. To make things worse we often jump to conclusions in a negative way. The mind is suspicious of others’ intentions and we definitely create problems for ourselves by doubting our friends and relatives. We have to be very wary of jumping to conclusions; at the very least we should remind ourself our conclusion is likely to be wrong.

It may be unfortunate to be mistreated by others, but, it is much worse to have a suspicious mind

Black and White Thinking

We often come to see the world in black and white terms – either we are a total success or failure. Other people are either friends or enemies. The problem is that one small mistake can make us feel a total failure. For example, we say one wrong thing so then assume we have messed up a relationship with someone. On the other hand a small success can bloat us with pride. Life is never so clear cut; we have to avoid both the depths of despair and heights of vainglory. Rather than seeing ourselves as a total failure just see mistakes as stepping stones on the path to self-development.

Blaming other People for own Faults.

Often we sit in judgement on other people, but, if we were honest we would realise many of their faults we too share. We are not judging out of compassion but out of a sense of self-importance. The worst thing is when we do something wrong but seek to pass the blame onto other people – If  only other people had done the right thing we would been fine. This is just our clever mind justify its wrong actions. But, with this attitude we will just continue doing the wrong thing and create more problems. We have to be honest with ourselves.

“We are our own fate-makers. To blame others for the unfavourable conditions of our lives is beneath our dignity. Unfortunately, this act of blaming others is one of man’s oldest diseases.”

– Sri Chinmoy [1]

Continue reading “Irrational Thinking and How To Overcome it”

Yoga and Self Improvement


Yoga is the ancient art of Self-Discovery, and  Self-Realisation. Yoga is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘Union with God’, – ‘Union with the Highest consciousness’. When we talk of Self-Realisation, it means realising the divine nature of our Higher Self, our Inner Pilot. A Buddhist may call it entering into Nirvana, a Hindu may talk of liberation / God-realisation. Ultimately, it is a state of consciousness beyond name and form and the limitations of the mental world. The Upanishads talks of ‘Sat Chid Ananda’ – Existence, Consciousness, Bliss – Our highest Self – a being of pure delight.

Such ideas may seem very far from our present state! Given the limitations of our mind and nature, a consciousness of unbridled delight and peace seem a far cry. Most of us would  settle for just a little bit more peace, a little bit more joy. But, the highest teachings of yoga tell us that there is no end to our inner self-transcendence. – All we need to do is realise the divinity within.

In the West, yoga often invokes images of hatha yoga – difficult postures for calming the physical being and gaining greater peace of mind. But, hatha yoga is only one small aspect of the ancient path of yoga. There is also.

  • Bhatki yoga – the path of love and devotion.  Bhakti yoga doesn’t worry about philosophical discourse and explanations, it merely seeks to love. It is not a human love based on possession and expectation. But, a divine, universal love without expectation or sense of possession.
  • Jnana yoga – the path of wisdom – gaining true insight into our real being; a wisdom which is much more than intellectual understanding. A wisdom that comes from knowing our deepest soul through meditation.
  • Karma Yoga – the path of action. Making progress through selfless service to the rest of humanity. It is selfless service without expectation of reward, recognition. It is egoless work done with detachment to the outcome.

How To Make Progress Through Yoga

Yoga means we make a conscious effort to transform our consciousness. It means facing upto  and transcending our weakness. It requires a faith in God, or at least a faith in our self. It requires patience and persistence and the ability to remain focused on our self-improvement.

Patience, Perseverance.

Patience is sometimes viewed as a negative, or at least static thing. But true patience means ignoring the demands of the ego and accepting the transformation of nature which inevitably takes time. It is a mistake to think the path of yoga is about austerity and a bed of thorns. To seek our real self, is the most rewarding thing we can undertake. But, neither is it an easy downhill path with everything done for us. But, nothing worthwhile is without trials and challenges. We cannot give up at the first hurdle, but must remain committed to yoga, however, bumpy it is. How to be more patient


To make progress in any aspect of life, we need an enthusiastic attitude. It is the same with yoga, we can make the fastest progress only when we value and are enthusiastic about the goal. See: Enthusiasm

Honesty / Self Appraisal.

In yoga we need to overcome the ego. The justifications and excuse of our ego, just make our journey longer. See balance between self-criticism and self-encouragement

Inner Strength.

Yoga is not for the feint hearted, sometimes, you need to go against the prevailing way of the world. We cannot allow ourselves to be sucked into materialistic goals. Yoga doesn’t negate the outer life, but, seeks to give a proper balance between inner wealth and outer wealth. This needs an inner strength to be true to our inner calling.


Sometimes it is the simplest things which matter in yoga. A sincere smile, doing something with love, doing something selflessly – outwardly it may not sound much but it can make a big difference in yoga.

Each smile
Is a radical

– Sri Chinmoy

photo: Sri Chinmoy Centre Gallery

(1) Excerpt from Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 21 by Sri Chinmoy

Is self-discovery a selfish act?

We’ve all heard it before from well-meaning people – that focusing on our own self-improvement is an intrinsically selfish act. That it ignores all the people out there less fortunate than ourselves we should be helping. That it is basically an exercise in narcissism.

Let me say it right from the start – there is absolutely not even a grain of truth in this. And here are three very powerful reasons why:

Reason 1: You have to have it in order to give it

If we do not have inner awareness, or reached a state of inner contentment, then the so-called help we offer to the world will be driven by our need for self-approval and self-validation. We become more concerned about gaining approval for what we have done than about the people we are helping. We may have the outer resources necessary to help others, but we do not have the inner resources to do the job wisely, and with the proper amount of concern and detachement.

The journey of self-improvement gives you those inner resources. It brings to the fore new talents and capacities you never knew you had, and these capacities give you a greater sense of self-confidence as you go out into the world. Continue reading “Is self-discovery a selfish act?”

Overcoming jealousy once and for all

Sometimes we get a subtle kind of thrill by indulging in jealous thoughts of other people, thinking that what goes on in the confines of our minds can’t really harm anyone. But for people who are consciously trying to better themselves and grow into their highest potential, indulging in jealousy can infact be a significant stumbling block to inner progress.

Why is that? Well, when we harbour jealous thoughts, we inhabit a mental space that consists solely of the person we are jealous of. In doing so we limit our possiblilities and our view of the world shrinks; we begin blaming other people for our current state rather than doing something about it ourselves.

Jealousy also brings us further away from true awareness of the world, as it invariably always exaggerates the person’s bad qualities, and these exaggerations then become our reality. It acts as a kind of a filter where we often see only the bad things about the person, and not the person as a whole. Continue reading “Overcoming jealousy once and for all”

Eliminating your weakness – the positive way


Often we feel that by constantly being aware of our weaknesses and analyzing them to death, we are making progress towards eliminating them. Yet very often the exact opposite is true: by focusing on our weaknesses, we often end up only perpetuating the cycle of misery and self-loathing that these weaknesses inflict upon us, and we in fact increase their hold upon us.

It can be much more rewarding to instead work on cultivating the opposing positive quality as an antidote. This has a number of advantages over merely ruminating on your negative qualities. By invoking positive qualities and seeing the transforming effect they have on your life, you feel a new sense of empowerment and are inspired to continue. Also, we all like adding new things to our life, and each new positive quality we develop makes us feel a fuller, more rounded person. Most importantly, we deprive these negative qualities of the mental oxygen they need to fester inside us.

Here are a few negative qualities and the ‘antidote’ quality to them that you can cultivate; as you can see, it is by no means an exhaustive list and I am sure you can easily think of a few more….

Doubt and certainty

Self-doubt can be one of the most damaging of all our negative qualities, in that it scuppers our attempts at self transformation and often dooms us to failure before we even get out of the starting blocks. Often we are so burdened down with doubt and hesitation that we never make the first move at all. However if we can feel that inwardly we are destined to achieve our goal, then the distance between us and that goal shortens immeasurably. We may stumble time and time again, but the very fact that we are determined never to give up means that these qualities will one day surrender to our will power.

Lethargy and dynamism

This is one very obvious application of cultivating a positive quality. In fact the very word ‘dynamism’ has great power, and just by repeating it over and over again, you begin to feel like a human dynamo, filled with energy and constantly on the move. As you feel it you can try and identify where in your body the lethargy is coming from, and imagine that you are surcharging that area with tremendous energy and enthusiasm.

Jealousy and oneness

Jealousy comes because we feel a sense of ‘otherness’ – i.e. someone else has what we do not, someone else has achieved something and is getting all the credit. In this case, the best antidote is to remove this sense of otherness by instead feeling your oneness with that person. In a way, you can think of the world as a giant family. In a normal family, when someone does something great, the brothers and sisters feel just as proud and happy as if they had done it themselves. Similarly, you can feel the same sense of joy that someone in your global family has done something great – in fact when you really develop this sense of oneness, you can definitely feel the same joy as if you achieved that thing yourself.

Anger and peace

The effect that inner peace has on controlling your anger is something many people find out about naturally when they take up a practice of meditation. For example, I came to the practice of meditation not knowing exactly what to expect. Practically the first thing I found that the ‘trigger spots’ that used to make me see red somehow failed to have that effect anymore – the inner peace I had found from meditation had somehow seeped into my outer life and neutralised much of the temper I had. In fact one meditation exercise you can do is use breathing to cultivate peace; when you breath in, feel that peace is entering and spreading through your entire being, and when you breathe out, you can feel that all the stress, tension and anger is leaving your system for good.

(Photo: Sri Chinmoy Centre Galleries Macedonia)

Self-Improvement Ideas

Rails in the sun

We often look at aspects of our lifestyle and say to ourselves “oh, I wish I could change that”, but the prospect of commiting to change for an indefinite period of time is something we often find quite intimidating! Instead, why not try and embark on a new course of action for a finite period of, say, a month? There is some scientific evidence to support the notion that after about three weeks of doing something, a habit begins to form and you find it much easier to do that thing. 30 days is also a long enough time for you to see the benefits of what you are doing, so that you will be encouraged to pursue it further.

Here are three suggestions – there are many other ideas that would suit a 30 day programme out there, which I may write about in a future blog entry….

A little writing project with a big difference

No, we’re not talking about an essay or a creative composition – we’re only talking about a couple of minutes in the morning where you write down three dreams you hope to fulfill. You might start with writing down some things you hope to get done within the day, but often a spontaneous idea will often come along, or a thing you’ve never done but always wanted to try – write them all down, even if they are impractical at the moment or cannot be fulfilled immediately. The very act of writing generates a spontaneous energy to go out and fulfill the dream; it might not be realised overnight, but at least on that day you have begun to take the first step. Continue reading “Self-Improvement Ideas”