Monthly Archives: April 2017

Viriya – Effort

This blog follows the last one where I talk about the different ways in which we can accept or not accept other’s judgements/opinions.

In this blog I am going to talk about how to increase the “effort” factor in implementing the different ways. Before we get started let me explain what I mean by “effort – viriya”. If you recall in one of my blogs I talk about the Ten Perfections (Paramis)

Viriya: Energy
May I be energetic, vigorous and persevering.
May I strive diligently until I achieve my goal.
May I be fearless in facing dangers and courageously surmount all obstacles.
May I be able to serve others to the best of my ability.

Viriya in simple terms means Energy, that’s it. Pure and simple energy. Every time somebody tries to impose/project their own imperfections/shortcomings onto you, you need effort to not accept those gifts. You can always apply more effort until you reach the final stage.

There are many ways to work on developing Viriya. First of all you can do it anytime – literally anytime. Let’s say you are driving to work and your mind is busy as usual passing opinions. Every time you bring your awareness to sensations to breathing instead of the opinions you are increasing the effort factor – every little bit counts. Imagine how easy it is to do this. And every time you do this your effort factor increases.

Secondly, every time you interact with someone and they are gossiping or doing unwholesome deeds (to the extent you can determine this) then observe your sensations – re-double your efforts.

Thirdly, you can always use physical activity to train your mind – this might be helpful in the beginning stages. For example, if you run or if you swim then do that extra 5 minutes or the extra lap. Every time you do this you are working on the muscle.

This is a little different from will power because the desire to increase the effort has to come from within. Until then try to light the flame of effort. Once it’s lit then it will be hard to put out.

And another thing to keep in mind is that what matter is the right kind of effort – which in Vipassana means being aware of your sensations in everything that you do. If you are sitting/standing/sleeping or as you go about your daily activities be aware of sensations. These has the double advantage of a) working on your effort/sensations b) mindfulness in your day-today work.

A big part of this practice is to know whether you are tuned up or not. And this comes by practice. Let’s say there are a few drops of water on table and you use a cloth and it absorbs all the water. Let’s say there is a glass of water and you use the same cloth to soak it all up – it won’t work. It is s continuous cycle as your cloth grows the more water you can absorb. The more water you can absorb the more the cloth will grow until there is no water/cloth.

Similarly the effort factor will increase every time you use it, the more you use it the more effort factor will be until there is just you.

How to – accept or not

This blog follows the last one where I talk about the choice we have in accepting or not accepting the judgements from others.

In this blog I am going to talk about how we can exercise that choice. I will start with the quote from Ramana Maharishi where he says

“If every body minds their own business the world will be a better place.”

STORY TIME: Let’s say you are on a long journey and you are out of water. You are very thirsty – all you can think of is water because that is what you need now. And your map shows you that if you walked for another 20 minutes you will get to a well. You are so thirsty that you start running. You are also stinking from the sweat – your face and clothes are covered with dust and sweat, you hair is matted and smelly.

As you run a lot of passersby scrunch up their noses and make comments like “Dirty Person – Good riddance to bad rubbish.” They move away as you pass by. Kids laugh at you. What do you do? Do you stop and answer back or keep running to the well.

If you always keep in mind the long-term picture or the goal that you have then you won’t have time or energy to pay any attention to what others said. Vice Versa – if you are engrossed in your own journey you won’t bother about others. Or if you are thinking you don’t have a goal just think about the longest term goal- death.

Meditation or Yoga always helps too. Whenever something pleasant or unpleasant event happens to us, we react to it but what we really react to is not the event but to the sensations in our body. If we can focus on the sensations or breathing then we can address it at the root and this is what Yoga/Meditation train our minds to do. For example: if you are angry have you noticed how your breathing is fast and your heart races a little tad faster. Regardless of what is making you angry your body reacts in a certain way and we usually react to that. When we meditate or do yoga we are in essence training the muscle that reacts to just observe. And if we do that we will witness the situation instead of accepting it and make it our own drama. You become the observer – the actors are only acting in the movie they are not real.

It always comes down to me – everything is within me. If I am passing judgements its because I am not at peace with the situation internally and hence I try to solve to externally by passing judgements. a) you can meditate and not focus on the why – if this works for you. b) if not, we are all intellectual beings – it is worthwhile exploring what is the trigger than wants to make us pass judgements and make the effort to just observe and not express or suppress.

Watch out for my next blog to increase the effort factor!

To Accept Or Not Accept

In the 10-day Vipassana courses Goenkaji tells us some stories during the discourses. The one below is similar to the one Goenkaji narrates during the course.

There once lived a great warrior. Though quite old, he still was able to defeat any challenger. His reputation extended far and wide throughout the land and many students gathered to study under him.

One day an infamous young warrior arrived at the village. He was determined to be the first man to defeat the great master. Along with his strength, he had an uncanny ability to spot and exploit any weakness in an opponent. He would wait for his opponent to make the first move, thus revealing a weakness, and then would strike with merciless force and lightning speed. No one had ever lasted with him in a match beyond the first move.

Much against the advice of his concerned students, the old master gladly accepted the young warrior’s challenge. As the two squared off for battle, the young warrior began to hurl insults at the old master. He threw dirt and spit in his face. For hours he verbally assaulted him with every curse and insult known to mankind. But the old warrior merely stood there motionless and calm. Finally, the young warrior exhausted himself. Knowing he was defeated, he left feeling shamed.

Somewhat disappointed that he did not fight the insolent youth, the students gathered around the old master and questioned him. “How could you endure such an indignity? How did you drive him away?”

“If someone comes to give you a gift and you do not receive it,” the master replied, “to whom does the gift belong?”

Now how does this apply to us? There are two aspects to this – one who is giving you the gift and the one is accepting the gift.

ONE GIVING THE GIFT: We are all making judgements – a part of human conditioning. Some people might think you are kind, some people might think you are rude, some might think you are beautiful and some might think you are ugly. All these opinions are correct – from the perspective of the people who are passing these judgements. These opinions and judgements are a reflection of themselves really! This is why they say that world is a mirror.

ONE ACCEPTING THE GIFT: We have a choice as to whether accept the gift or not. But most of the time we don’t even know we have accepted the gift. What does accepting the gift mean? Let’s say somebody says you are ugly – what do you do? Do you just listen to what’s being said and let is pass like moving clouds [Then you have not accepted the gift]. Or do you think about what the other person said , ruminate about it for hours and want to get back at the person or the world, do you want to shout at the top of your voice and let everybody know that you are not ugly [Then you have accepted the gift].

Want to know how not to accept the gift? Watch out for my next blog post.

Long Term – how long is long?

I remember my hindi teacher at school telling us this story. It went something like this:
There is a bus that is going from A to B. On the way to B it runs into a oncoming truck and everybody on the bus dies. People come running to the accident to help any survivors and all they see is this 90+ year old woman who gets up with the help of her stick. Everybody comments on who lucky she is. She gets into a rickshaw so that she can go to the bus stop. The rickshaw runs over a tiny stone, loses it balance and overturns killing the old woman in the process.

What do you think is the moral of the story? The time of your death is pre-determined, you will die when your time comes, not a second later, not a second earlier.

There maybe some of you who are thinking well if the old lady had her seat belt on – she could have survived. Yes, that is correct but then it wasn’t the right time.

At the same time I am sure this story and the conversation so far is making you uncomfortable. Talking about death or dying does make people very uncomfortable. I have wondered why? I will be sad when the ones close to me die – it will leave a hole where they filled it but death is one of the most certain things in life. The one thing we know for sure is we will die but still we live our entire life denying it. The quote below says it all

So, how does it relate to the topic of the blog which is “Long Term”. A lot of the leadership and self-help books talk about “Long Term Thinking”. What is your five-year plan? Where do you see yourself in your 2-3 years? The real long term is a little different I think.

When you are trying to prove you are right to a co-worker – that’s when you think long term. You are going to die anyways does being right on whether the status report should say X or Y really matter. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that we should not have opinions but the intensity and impact can come down a notch if we keep the long term goal in mind.

As everything else this kind of long term thinking is also a choice – I am just presenting a option , a different way of thinking. If someone overtakes you while you are driving – we have two choices a) get mad and ruin precious moments of your life or b) life is too short to get worked about something you are not going to remember in 24 hours.

“If somebody was to say – you have two hours to live.” What will you do? This is not a morbid question but a check on who well you are living your life. Are you living in the future or past? Or are you living in the moment – you are satisfied and at peace with where you are right now?

This is how I measure my happiness level – The art of dying is in essence the art of living. If you don’t believe me read this article on reasons behind Bhutan’s high Happiness index.

Making Friends – Mentoring

We have a mentoring event at office and one of my friends is on the panel. He asked me if I could speak at the event for a few minutes and give my testimonial from last year. I obviously said yes – I love being in the limelight even if I obsess about it before.

This got me thinking about mentoring, meeting new people … friendships.I still remember my first meeting with mentee – it was like meeting a complete stranger and was really awkward. We spoke and I realized that she is in a complete different space than mine – she was into big data, data warehouse. I went home that day thinking about what am I going to do in the mentoring sessions. I was convinced that I cannot add any value. I went home and conferred with my voice of wisdom who told me that its too early and I should not imagine the worse.

We had a first meeting – did introductions – spoke about feedback. She said that one of the feedback she had received was that she needs to be more confident and not ask too many questions to validate what she is doing. I remember using some general quotes and came home and once again conferred with my voice my wisdom [Who is my husband, if you hadn’t guessed that already] and he suggested well – you can tell her what you do about it, right?

It got me thinking – and I started exploring but exploring inwards which is another path to know yourself. Next meeting I suggested that she do a mental chatter exercise where she notes down her mind chatter – just bring awareness. And Voila! next meeting she told me of two instances where she realized that she didn’t have to ask for validation… from then on our journey grew – she painted, she tried different techniques with her team, she took ownership of some of the items in her home and last year she got promoted :). I cannot say that it was all because of me but remember the saying “No smoke without mirrors.”

What did I gain from it? First and foremost the advice you give to others is advice that you need to take. So in essence I was giving advice to myself. I found myself thinking about why don’t I try this in a similar situation.

It makes you pause and wonder about where you are in your journey – my mentee had taken a route which was very different that mine but could have been mine too. We both did our engineering in the same year but she got married right after that and I went gallivanting around the world. And now here we are – it made me realize that it could have been me too.

Once I stopped worrying about adding value and being present – everything worked out well because I was listening to her. Listening is a great skill to have – and it’s not listening to what the other person is telling you but what is she trying to tell you by talking about it. It’s a journey on its own.

I am moving onto new mentees this year but I know I have a friend now.

Life A School

An apple tree knows its purpose in life – its purpose is to give apples. From the time the seed is planted till the first apple grows on its branches that’s what it does. It does a lot of other things too like – provides shelter for birds, squirrels, provides shade and oxygen, helps in water cycle, keeps the earth grounded with its roots. It’s main purpose still is it to give apples.

Now think about athletes – they grow up like rest of the us but at some point in their life they figure out their purpose be it tennis/swimming and they train for it. Everything they do, they do it for the purpose. They do other things on side too like breath, sleep, have mind chatter, brush their teeth, hang out with friends and family but they are aiming for the goal.

When they win a race or set a record in swimming we applaud them and maybe ponder on them for sometime or just dismiss the thought after a few seconds. But do we ever make statements like -“Wow, that was easy for her. She just got handed that race.” NO! We all know [at least I am making that assumption] the amount of hard work that goes into winning a medal. The grueling hours of workout, the strict discipline, the ever pushing the limits exercise schedule and not to mention your own mind chatter.

Now let’s thing about work scenario – somebody in your company gets promoted into the Executive Leadership level, where they are leading people – a role model for the rest of the organization. The thoughts probably range as before in the athlete example.

BUT, At this point we are probably not thinking about all the hard work that they have put in to get there. [I am talking about good leaders and I believe that for somebody to get to the top 3-4 levels in any company they have to be good leaders]. They probably spent a lot of their time becoming a good leader which we do not think about.

For example, an SVP I know has a grueling schedule – he has a workday from 5:30 am – 5:30 pm,runs 6 miles a day and eats healthy. Indra Nooyi, Obama all do similar things. But a lot of us forget about the work that they have put in to reach where they are at a personal level and they are probably still on the journey [Stay hungry , Stay Foolish]

Life is a school – whether we have a purpose or not , whether we know it or not. And there is nothing stopping us from becoming the human being we want to be. You are already one – whether you are aware of it or not. The motivation to be better has to be intrinsic if it has to be long lasting otherwise it will fizzle out soon.

First you have to make a choice – on what kind of a person you want to be and act on it. And use other people as an example to inspire you on your journey and not use them as an excuse [Oh! she just got it handed to her] for us not to work on ourselves. And they are on a journey as well – we put them on a pedestal. They can make mistakes like anybody else.

To Summarize: Choose your path or it will be chosen for you. Think of how the leaders got there and not just where they are now.