Be Fallow, Be Free

In the old days, farmers would let a piece of land be without crops for a season as it would regain its fertility. This land which was left as it is was called fallow land. There was another technique called crop rotation which involved rotating crops in a fashion to replenish the nutrients in the soil — for example, rotating between corn – heavy nitrogen user with Soybean – low nitrogen user. The farmers and people that time understood that sometimes you have to let things be so that they can be active again. Nothing is bottomless.

The farmers can, of course, ignore the above and continue to grow crops, but the land will have very low productivity and yield. And then there is the artificial hybridization for fast-growing plants or using fertilizers/pesticides which ultimately get into food and cause problems two-three generations down the line.

If you are wondering, how is this related to our lives? Think again! How many times in our lives have we just kept going without being fallow? The few instances we do talk about being ‘As it is’ is in terms of exceptions like sabbaticals. Or worse, sometimes it is forced upon us in terms of illness, injury – because we overused all the nutrients and now our body and mind are forcing us to lay fallow.

Yes, we do take vacation ts, but for it to be genuinely a vacation – it has to be an extended period. Imagine growing crops all year and then letting the land be fallow for a weekend or if we are feeling extravagant, it will be for the long weekend or ten days. Wow! Ten days to recover after years of toiling – we/society feel guilty about this.

What kind of a world have we created where doing nothing is considered worse than working ourselves to death. Now, doing nothing has a very sacred meaning which we have forgotten. Doing nothing does not mean mindlessly watching TV or giving up on your responsibilities or actively thinking (or worrying) about things that have happened or might happen. Doing nothing also does not mean actively doing something other than working – like pursuing a hobby or training for a marathon. It means no doing.

Then the question arises – if we are not doing something that what are we doing? We are being and not doing. There is a vast difference. Doing something from the space of being is enriching instead of just doing something because you exist. It is the inner stillness. Clarity arises from stillness only as confusion emerges from Chaos.

It is possible to maintain the inner stillness even when we are doing stuff. Still, to the first experience, the inner stillness – being fallow is essential, especially given how busy our lives are. Being Fallow is being free. And then can we be truly high performing, productive, superstars.

How will you experience and enjoy Fallowness?

Be Elastic

I am sure all of you have used rubber bands – they are very elastic. If they were stiff, then there is no point in using them. Each rubber band has its breaking point, but for the most part, they are flexible when it comes to holding things together – be it a small bundle of pens or a big wad of paper. Rubber bands have a spectrum or a range in which they operate as opposed to a binary decision point.

We all make resolutions or decide to make some new habits, right? For example, waking up at 5:30 am every day. For most of us, it is a binary item – we are successful if we wake up at 5:30 am and unsuccessful if we do not. Either we wake up at 5:30 am, or we do not. Does that make sense? Does that take into account that the rest of our life is not so binary? What about the nights when you have extra work, and you are not able to go to bed at your regular bedtime. Or what about when your baby refuses to go to bed on time? Or you have your best friend visiting you? Or how about you need a break? Our life is unpredictable. The waking up at 5:30 am needs to adjust for those needs. When we decide the success criteria for such habits, we need to have a range like if I wake four days out of 7 at 5:30 am it is a success – for example.

Operating within a range or spectrum – being elastic has its benefits. One, it is practical. The Chinese have a saying that doing something 80% is perfection. Second, it helps us be kind to ourselves. Imagine beating yourself up because you did not get up at 5:30 am because you wanted to sleep in one day. Third, it accommodates for us being humans. We all have days when we are lazy or don’t want to get up at 5:30 am, and elasticity gives us a way to honour that need.

Not, all items we do can have a range. Like, if you are catching a flight at 5:00 am then the plane is leaving at 5:00 am – there is no range around that. But most situations, you can build an array. I like to get up in the morning and do a bit of yoga – and my plan used to be – get up do yoga every day. If I missed a day, I would beat myself about it, which would of course not motivate me to do it anymore. So, now I have different built-in levels. For example, if I am up and early – I do all the exercises. If I got up late or have to go to work soon, then I do one cycle of each exercise. And if I have absolutely no time, then I do one sun salutation. This way – I still do my yoga, life-permitting and also be kind to myself.

How will you bring elasticity in your life?

Why Is It So Hard?

Have you ever seen somebody do tightrope walking? They are very alert every moment when they are walking on the rope. And they should be as their life depends on it, literally. Whereas on either ends or the extremes they are more relaxed. Even after a lot of experience, they might get better at tightrope, but it still warrants the same attention every second, every time.

Goenka Ji during ten-day Vipassana meditation retreat repeatedly tells us that the idea is to move from gross sensations towards subtle sensations. He also asks to maintain continuous awareness of sensations. It is effortless to become aware of an intense sensation like headache, stomach pain, but very difficult to be mindful of the subtle sensations like at the tip of the nose.

Every year for the past decade I have kicked off the year with a hard reset like doing a ten-day or a twenty-day master cleanse – which is a liquid diet (yup, that’s right no solids at all) or I have done the raw vegan diet. After such a hard reset, it is challenging for my body to switch into unhealthy eating habits. This year for reasons unknown I decided not to do a detox, instead chose to eat in moderation.

What I found is that it is straightforward for me to go without eating any solids for twenty days but very difficult to eat every meal in moderation. Why is it? Only because it requires continues awareness like the tightrope walker walking on the rope. And extremes are natural for me because there is an end in sight whereas in eating in moderation – it is a lifestyle thing. And it requires a different muscle to run a sprint than a marathon.

All these years, I have used bursts of will power to do the hard resets, but it requires a different usage of will power to exercise it every meal — something which I have not developed a practice for or quite frankly harboured a desire for. I have lived my life in extremes and been proud of it too. Why the switch to the golden mean?

I like to challenge myself, and I know that I can do any of the detox diets without any issues. So, maybe it does not excite me anymore? Perhaps the desire to challenge me by eating in moderation seems hard – another milestone to achieve (which will be a lifelong one?). Last but not least, maybe I have gained enough wisdom to understand that moderation is the key. For example, in the Aristotelian view, courage is a virtue, but if taken to excess would manifest as recklessness, and, in deficiency, cowardice.

And this is more fundamental to the way I live my life and not restricted to food. Moderation in life is the habit or challenge. The same muscle that will help me eat moderately will help me watch TV shows in moderation.

Can I do it? Let’s see. Unlike a twenty-day cleanse, there is no end in sight on this path. Maybe, when I have truly mastered the art of moderation, I will not seek the end of the path?

How will you practice moderation?

Relapse – Part Of Recovery

It is 2020, a new day, a new year, a new decade. Technically speaking, this is just another day with twenty-four hours in it. Non-technically speaking it is a big deal. People stay up till midnight to usher in this new dawn. Resolutions are made, relationships are built or broken.

I fail to understand why we have to treat this one day out of the three hundred and sixty-five days in a year as unique. Being the logical person I am, I fail to understand the purpose behind welcoming the new year in a bleary-eyed state and wake up tired on the first day of the year. I am one of those people who go to sleep on time and wake up bushy-tailed rearing to go. I do make an exception for special occasions – like fireworks in Sydney – once in a lifetime events.

Going back to resolutions, why would you chose this one day to resolve. It makes more sense to do it when you are ready and not make the New Year Day is THE day to make a resolution. I have found that if I make one day the pivotal point and if I drop off the wagon then it is harder for me get back on as it takes another 365 days for me to re-invigorate my habit.

I remember talking to somebody who was addicted to alcohol and is now over it. But that person said that even now he/she counts every day she has been without alcohol. And when you are starting – relapse is considered a part of recovery. What a benevolent way to become a better version of yourself!

My vision in life is to be a better version of myself, and I do that with all the might and vain which comes with having an abundant supply of will power. With will power comes a strong force which if not balanced, will leave me swinging from one extreme to the other. In some ways, its the difference between dealing with life like a rock-solid mountain vs flowing stream. That is a lesson that I am still in the process of learning. So, I tend to be more hard on myself when I miss out on my habits. Or, I go the complete other way and don’t even try to get back into my practice.

Internalizing the fact, ‘Relapse is a part of the recovery’ means being gentler to myself (one of my resolutions this year to be kind to myself) and being ok to start as many times as it takes to get back on the habit I am trying to build. I have come to know myself enough that I am not going to give up on any practice but knowing that it is ok to fail is a blessing that I need allow.

It does not matter if you make resolutions today as long as you know that this is not the only day – there are three hundred and sixty-four days which can have an even more significant and meaningful impact on your lives.

Have you accounted for relapsing?

Joy Of Moments Shared

Imagine you are an observer at a wedding. The wedding celebrations have just started – the stage decorated with flowers. The priest, groom and the bride’s father are performing the religious rites. A handful of people can be spotted sitting in the audience. You see an elderly man sitting patiently in the audience.


A few minutes later, another man walks up to the elderly gentleman in the audience with a hopeful smile. He taps him on the shoulder. The man from the chair gets up, and his face lights up with a smile – they shake hands. And they both sit down – chatting eagerly. And as the wedding celebration picks up the pace more and more, such gentlemen walk in. And it’s the same routine — the gentleman who walks in taps somebody on the shoulder with a big grin on his face. The person who is sitting down gets up, and his face glows with pure joy as recognition sets in – they shake hands, move down a chair and make space. The new arrival greets other people. Sometimes he needs help to connect the dots, and other times he knows who he is talking too.


As an observer, you find the entire process fascinating. There are some apparent similarities at first glance. They are all older men retired or getting ready to retire. They are all bank officials (once you have worked for a bank in India, it leaves an indelible stamp on you). They all have grey hairs or balding hair situations. If you look closely, you will notice that they might look old, but they are reliving the memories of yesteryears when they all roomed together, fresh out of college – no wife, family. The carefree young days when they cooked, watched movies and lived together 24 X 7. They are connected by days of working together, matching journal entries, making sure the ledgers are correct. They share the experience of having a not so good manager, being shouted at by an angry client. They do not talk about these things, but it is evident that these gentlemen share a deep bond which goes beyond caste, religion, language.


What you see is a genuine camaraderie with no upmanship. The experiences in the bank have made them very wise in life – they can laugh at themselves, accept whatever life throws at them, and they know there is a right time for everything. If you listen carefully the conversation revolves around – ‘How somebody has changed?’, ‘Where all they moved since the last time they met?’, ‘How their mannerisms are the same?’ It is apparent that they are looking at each other from the lens of old days and the pure happiness radiating from their faces is a testimony to the friendship they have which has withstood years of minimal to no contact.


As one of the gentlemen in the crowd struggles to take a photo, I step in and offer to help. Even though the picture is from the present – you can catch a glimpse of how these young men worked together in Punjab National Bank.


This blog is dedicated to my dad and his friends at Punjab National Bank – and their genuine friendship. I had accompanied my dad to one of his friend’s daughter’s wedding, and in all honesty, it was a reunion for these old friends, which left me with a warm joy in the heart.

Small Connections

While growing up at home in India, I was not very observant. But now that I am away and I come back – I see more and more. Like my parents make tea for the watchman and our maid everyday. My parents went to our neighbour’s wedding, who also happens to be the Ruby Fruits shop’ owner – shop across from where we live. (Street shops are more common than malls, still thankfully).

Yesterday, we smelled something burning outside. And today we found out that our building watchman had informed our neighbours that he saw a snake, so they decided to put all the dried leaves etc. together and burn them to prevent the snake from getting tempted.

Our neighbours know when my parents are away for a long time so that they can watch the house. They all know that I live in the US, and my brother lives in Sydney.

You cannot hide anything from the community. My parents decided to live in our ancestral house in the village for a month or so. And they would diligently go for a walk in the evening. After a week or so it was a frequent topic of discussion – people would ask, ‘Not going for a walk? or How was the walk?’

Communities are a reality for cities and villages in India. You end up forming a connection which starts off with small talk but eventually ends up being a little deeper than that.

Lives in India seem more intertwined naturally as the remnants of a reducing community culture still exist. These small gestures help us stay grounded in the fact that we are all humans going through the human predicament. We are not that different from each other despite what religion, leaders or sometimes even textbooks say.

Just because you go to a different place of god – does that make you a different human from me? Only because you live across a man-made boundary, does that make you any less human than me? If we genuinely interacted with other humans, we will realize that we all are not that different from each other. Unfortunately, the society we live in today does not encourage or provide opportunities for such interactions. In India, it still exists, but in lots of other countries people live inside their house and occasionally wave to their neighbours, or they don’t even know who their neighbours are. In contrast, my parents can tell you who are all our neighbours not only in our building complex but on the street we live as well.

Trust word as symbol in chrome chain

Social media and technology seem to be driving us towards a culture of divisiveness. We need to remember that we are connected at a fundamental level. We need to pro-actively indulge in activities that bring us together as a race so that we start from a place of trust and not from a place of mistrust. We tend to trust people less than we should because we believe the media and the news which tells us what is happening in 10% of the world – what about the 90% of the world which contains humans just like you and me.

How will you connect today?

Do Not Throw It All Away.

During the ten days Vipassana Retreat, Goenka Ji tells the story of a little kid and his favourite dish. His mom makes his favourite dish – rice pudding and to add flavour she adds cardamom to it. The little kid sees the cardamom seeds, thinks they are small stones and refused to eat the dish. Mom tries to convince him that it will taste good, but the kid refuses. Mom gives in and takes the seeds away, and the kid happily eats the dish.

If his mom had not taken away the seeds, the kid would have thrown away the entire pudding which he loved. How many of us throw away the whole dish because of stones – which in reality add flavour?

As some of you may recall, I was a big fan of Bikram yoga (see my previous blog). Recently I happened to watch the documentary on Netflix about Bikram himself – titled, ‘Yoga, Guru, Predator.’ Even when I was taking the class, there was talk about how Bikram owns a fleet of Rolls Royce et al. It did not fit in the usual stereotype of a yoga teacher. I remember thinking that regardless of who Bikram is or what he does, the yoga itself – 26 postures with two breathing techniques is fantastic. It worked – for me. I left the classroom feeling refreshed and energized. I looked forward to going to yoga in the hot room. If I had not practised yoga but heard about Bikram and decided not to pursue it – I would be missing out on a beautiful experience. Akin to the little kid throwing away the entire dish because of perceived black stones.

If you do watch the documentary – one of the students says that the best advice she got was, ‘Separate the man from the teacher.’ Pretty logical, if you think about it. We all have ready-made ideas of how a Yoga teacher or a Guru or a Manager should be like. And if they do not fit the mould, we tend to discount what they see. But, is it possible that some things they say might be exactly we need even if it is coming from a person who does not fit our idea of ‘The Person.’? When the student is ready, the teacher appears. The teacher might not be what we expected, but the teaching is exactly what we need. If we are not careful enough, we might discard what we need because it is not offered it to in a medium that we had expected.

If you read about the qualities of Hitler – he was a teetotaller, vegetarian, a strict disciplinarian. – All good qualities, right? I am not suggesting that we all start doing what he is doing – the point I am trying to make is we have to look for what is useful for us and take it and have the wisdom to the leave the rest. Yes, it is wisdom.

What gems are you missing because you are discarding the entire dish?

The Sounds Of India

I landed in India after twenty-three hours of flight time. I enjoy long flights however gruelling it may seem – there seems to be something about being suspended in the air – which is very freeing. And I look forward to landing and coming out of the aeroplane. Not only my mind but also my body and other senses realize that I am home — the humid and hot air, that smell and most importantly, the sounds. People are speaking in an Indian accent – which is not an accent for me, technically speaking. It’s the sounds that fascinate me the most and this blog is dedicated to those familiar sounds.

Horns: You do not even have to get out of the airport to listen to the honking sounds. The small golf carts in the airport had a horn to them to get people to move aside.

Pressure Cooker: In India, the house is very close to each other as there are a lot of us who need to fit in a small space. One can always listen to the pressure cooker in some house or the other – lunch, dinner. Some homemaker is busy cooking.

Crows: I am not sure about other countries, but the crows in India are distinct. You can hear them during the day cawing, anywhere.

Dogs: There are so many stray dogs in India, and they seem to come to an understanding amongst themselves. They choose a street for them, and that’s their territory. God forbid – another dog or a new person comes to the road – they will bark their heads off until somebody comes out to see what the ruckus is all about.

Hawkers: Yes, street hawkers are still popular. They sell all sorts from curtains to carpets or even vegetables or will buy old newspapers from you. You will hear at least one a day.

Frogs/Insects: If it is the rainy season, you will hear the cacophony of the frogs, which is a consistent ringing.

Traffic: It does not matter where you live, but you will hear at least one scooter/car or even buses on the road near you. Or some truck is moving near you.

Neighbour’s TV: If you are careful enough, you might be able to catch a glimpse of what your neighbours are watching from at least one room in your house. It is hot enough that people leave at least one window open.

When I lived in Bombay, we lived near Bombay dyeing – mill which had a constant humming sound. And when it shut down on national holidays, I had a hard time sleeping. I saved the best for the last – Fans. Yes, all rooms in all houses have a fan, and they all like people have a unique personality which changes depending on their fan speed. Some squeak on lower speeds and some rattle at higher speeds but they all make a noise.

These noises or sounds help us remind that we are all connected and if nothing else that we all have to bear the same sounds together in the human predicament. And in this world of divisiveness, we need to look for more connections.

How are you finding connections with other humans?

In Your Head

As some of you know, we have the most gorgeous, most handsome, loveliest of all pups – Aki. His Instagram handle is #iamluckyaki. Some would say that he is a little spoiled and they would be right. He gets daily massages, owns the house. He goes to daycare a few days in the week. Adam and I always imagine what he and other doggy friends might talk about during the day.

Scenario 1: As they greet each other in the morning
Aki: Guess what guys, it is my birthday today. My humans gave four beautiful chew toys. I was so tired that I slept off without even playing with them.
Dog 1: Wow, that is so cool. My parents bath me that day – can you imagine?
Dog 2: Well, I don’t even know if my humans know when my birthday is.

Scenario 2: During lunchtime
Aki: Man! I wish my humans gave me lunch like yours.
Dog 1: You think this is good. You should see what I get at the dinner table.
Dog 2: Yeah, the human cubs are the best – they share everything with me. By everything, I mean everything.

Scenario 3: As they leave
Aki: Remember, guys – behave as if you own the house and your humans will let you sleep in your bed.
Dog 1: Easy for you to say, I am not sure I can do that.
Dog 2: I am not even going to try – the human cub makes the plea on my behalf and works every night.

Adam and I are not the only ones who imagine these things. Movies like Cars, bolt, life in the days of pets are all prime examples of such thinking. Now, do you want to know what happens in a dog’s mind?

Oh! I am hungry, let’s eat. I smell something – is it coming from here? A dog peed here; I better pee over it. My human is back – maybe he will play with me. I need a belly massage; I am going to lie on my back. My paws need licking. I am tired. I need a nap. Nothing is going on – life is good.

They live in the moment without worrying about the past or the present. Dogs are content with what is. But, we humans see ourselves in everything and everyone. So, the chances that what you are thinking is what others are thinking about is rarely correct. What does this mean?

If you think that your friend does not care for you because she forgot to call you. Chances are she got stuck in traffic, her phone got stolen, or in the rare case, she did forget it is not because she did not care for you. We live in our head and make that a reality when the reality is always different.

Somebody told a monk once, ‘You are out of your mind.’ The monk said, ‘Thank you – it took years of practice.’ And that my friend is the key to everything. And like everything else, it starts with awareness.

Which story is your mind concocting now?

In Your Own World

I am an avid fan of Downton Abbey. For those of you who are not familiar with the show here is a quick synopsis.

The series, set in the fictional Yorkshire country estate of Downton Abbey between 1912 and 1926, depicts the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their domestic servants in the post-Edwardian era—with the significant events in history affecting their lives and the British social hierarchy. Events depicted throughout the series include news of the sinking of the Titanic in the first series; the outbreak of the First World War, the Spanish influenza pandemic, and the Marconi scandal in the second series; the Irish War of Independence leading to the formation of the Irish Free State in the third series; the Teapot Dome scandal in the fourth series; and the British general election of 1923, the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, and the Beer Hall Putsch in the fifth series. The sixth and final series introduces the rise of the working class during the interwar period and hints at the eventual decline of the British aristocracy. And recently they have released a movie as well.

I love the British-ness of the show. Humour is just too good, especially Maggie Smith who plays the dowager – her lines are to die for, and I am sharing some of them with you

If you are looking for logic, I won’t look for it in the English upper class.
She sits on a swivel chair, and when asked if she would like to move, she responds – ‘I am a good sailor.’
When a dinner guest says that he can do the work on a weekend, she leans over to the guest next to her and says, ‘What’s a weekend?’

If you look at the show, it is nothing but a depiction of the daily life of the people upstairs and downstairs in that era. And the entire play takes place much inside the Abbey itself. Isn’t that fascinating? The lives of the people who live in the Abbey is enough to sustain an award-winning show for six seasons. I found myself wondering as a fan of the fantasy genre why do I find Downton Abbey so exciting – it is mostly set in the Abbey, no planets, no aliens just normal life.

The show pulls you in – before you know you want to know what happens in the lives of the people who live in Downton Abbey. And the Abbey becomes your whole world with characters in the Abbey creating season after season with their drama. Does this sound familiar?

Doesn’t it sound a lot like the lives you and I live? Extending our life stories by the dramas, we create with characters around us. What is scary is we have forgotten that this is just a show. And there is life outside of the show. We are so engrossed in our petty dramas of ‘She said this to me. He was rude to me. They did not want to go out to dinner with me; My Dog loves me.’ – There is no end to these stories.

It is time we raised our awareness and consciousness outside of the entertaining but albeit distracting dramas to Humanity as a race on this planet earth.

What dramas are you going to let go of?