Monthly Archives: December 2017

Kindness – A Choice

I just finished reading the Inspector Gamache Series by Louise Penny. It is a series of murder mysteries set in the fictional village of Three Pines in Quebec. It is an excellent read if you read fiction books. Louise Penny does such a great job of describing the characters that you feel like you can just go to the bistro in the village and have a hot chocolate with them. The role that I fell in love with is Inspector Gamache himself. And what I like about him is that when people see him they see the kindness in his brown eyes. What kind of a person he has to be for kindness to reflect in his eyes?

He is an explorer not of places but human emotions.He goes in the inner crevices of the human being to find out what spark happened in their life which led to this murder. For somebody to go and explore that is a brave act. Because for me I am afraid to go into the dark corners in other people as I avoid it in myself – I guess. I believe that this ability has something to do with kindness.

For example, if you can spend a day as a beggar then you will have an understanding of the homeless, and it might change the way you see them, you think about them. But what it entails is that you can spend a day as a beggar – feel how they do, live in dirt and grime, eat leftovers. It is hard – you need empathy, the ability to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes and still retain the skill to be detached. Not easy – not for me yet.

Another trait of Gamache that I admire is his ability to listen. He listens and is not afraid of uncomfortable silence. He knows that it is only after the lull that storm arrives and you have to sit patiently through the hiatus readying yourself for the storm. I tend to fill the silence with unnecessary chatter because my listening muscle is weak.

What has empathy and listening got to do with kindness? Like everything in life kindness is a choice. And the decision becomes more comfortable if we have understood what the other person is going through or have sat through the silence which deepens the human bonds.

Why is it hard to do? We believe that we are the star around which sun revolves. We are the hero of the movie called life, and everybody else is the star-struck audience. It is hard for me who lives in a me-Centered world to step out of that role and watch somebody else be the hero in the movie. But the beauty of life and the secret of success is in living in the Other-Centered Universe. We can only flourish when we let other shine their light.

Next time you have the urge to show off your brilliance – hold it, nobody cares. For them they are brilliant and as in one of my previous quotes – people will forget what you said, what you did but remember how you made them feel.

Courage – in daily life

“It is easy to fight a war, but it’s the day to day life that wears us out.” Like all things that have something to teach us this quote stayed with me. The words might not be the same, but it does convey the message. It is easier to tackle a big crisis than with the minutiae of our daily life.

For example, it is easier to work towards the project deadline than to say no to chocolates. A big goal helps us focus our energies – it is so big that we find it hard to see anything else. It is difficult to deal with the smaller things that keep chipping away at our willpower because they slip under the radar. Oh! Its just one chocolate we say, but that tiny hole is enough to break the dam.

What is courage really? Courage is required for us to climb everest but courage is the following little things as well.

– Courage is not participating in gossip about a person at the workplace.
– Courage is refusing to join in the complaining about the state of the world.
– Courage is refusing to eat chocolates or junk food when offered to you.
– Courage is going for another lap in the pool when your mind is saying no, but your body is ready.
(It is good to take action too but the first step is to recognize the behavior and stop encouraging it.)

And like everything else in the world, the golden mean applies here too. There is no wisdom in pushing yourself so hard that you faint while running as opposed to stopping when your body tells you. It is a delicate balance that comes with awareness and experience.

It is a skill that can be learned and not something that people are just born with. Like strawberry beer, this is an acquired taste. Good news is this that we can learn this in the school of life. We don’t have to go to university and take on a student loan to learn how to be courageous.

As you go about your day be aware of your thoughts, sensations and most importantly what your inner voice is saying. Every time we suppress the inner voice that is asking us to be courageous there is a frission in our soul. Note that moment when the crack appears and next time instead of accelerating the break just stay silent. Next time your colleagues/family start talking about somebody behind his or her back dare to remain silent or just walk away. Be brave and say no to the temptation to join in. If you are not able to resist yourself, then make a mental note that you tried. Even this small act of awareness feeds the little courage inside of you. And some more actions of this kind will feed the courage until its ready to reveal itself and act. Show itself; it will – courage that is.

And if each of one of us minds his or her own business and focuses the energy internally on strengthening the inner muscle of courage the world will be whole with a few fewer fissures.

No Need To Respond

A bunch of us were talking about our holiday plans for the year-end. The person sitting on my left was telling me about how he and his wife had gone to Brussels and spoke to this young girl who was traveling Europe with just a backpack. And I responded with, “I didn’t like Brussels, as it was frigid and all that seemed worth seeing there was the Manneken Pis.”

Now, was there genuinely a need for me to respond? Did he ask me about my experience in Brussels? There are a lot of such situations where I respond unnecessarily. How many times in conversations with friends and family I have ignored what they are saying and just butted in with what I think is more important. Most of the time I am talking to myself even in a conversation. The intent with which I have a conversation is one to reply not to understand.

Why do I respond when there is no need? There are many reasons. Primarily, I believe it is my need to show that I know more – a little bit of ego. Since I live in Columbus, I think I need to prove that I don’t belong to Columbus. Secondly, it is just lack of listening. I am not hearing, genuinely listening to what the other person is saying. Lastly, its because I am not intentional in my discussions. I am not sure myself on what the purpose of the conversation is and what my role is? Are they looking to pass the time, seeking advice, share good news or just need somebody to listen.

What are the few ways I can change this attitude?
1. Set the intention: If I even thought for a few seconds in any conversation about what my role is in the conversation it will be a lot better. If I am overtly aware that the other person is just filling their time, then I can focus my energies elsewhere. Or, If I determine that my purpose in this conversation is to set direction then I can respond accordingly.
2. Be Selfish: Dalai Lama said, “When you talk, you just repeat what you know. If you listen then you might actually learn something new.” Next time take the learning approach to the conversations.
3. Take small steps: If I decide to do the above in all my conversations, I will be exhausted. I might end up doing more harm with no progress. The next baby step is to start with one or two conversations a day and then build on that.

Silence is also an acceptable response and most of the times a better one.

Inner Change

Have you ever been in a situation where the person you consider the bane of existence is the apple of the eye for another person? Have you ever heard a different experience from somebody you trust about a familiar friend? Why is that we all have different experiences with the same person in the same situation?

Since we are the only differentiating factor, I would suggest that the answer lies within us. We are responsible for the experience we have – that is why we all have different realities. Let’s say ten people are watching the sunset on the same spot at the same time, but each of them is wearing different color glasses. Even though they are watching the same sunset, they see it through their unique colored lenses, and hence they all have different experiences. To add another layer of complexity each of the ten people has a strong preference for some colors. For example, person one might hate the green color, and that’s the tint that these glasses have – so whether he knows it or not he will be influenced by his preference of the green color.

Similarly, we all have our glasses through which we view the world. And we build our glasses from our own experiences which are unique to us. So, it is pure luck when two people agree with their assessment of another person – it means their experiences have enough similarity that they are looking through the same section of the glasses.

If we have a strong attachment to our way of looking at the world, then we will not like somebody whose view is opposite to ours as that’s not the way our world works. Let’s say you believe you are a stellar employee but your boss thinks you to be a mediocre employee, so you want a free rein, but your boss wants to monitor you more – herein lies the conflict. You are wearing “I am stellar” glasses whereas your boss is wearing “He is mediocre” glasses. In this case, if both parties are aware of their beliefs then they can have an honest conversation about it.

However, in most cases, we are not aware of our beliefs, and we just react without knowing the cause. What we see is a symptom, not the cause. For example, you might have had an accident with a red car when you were a child. And now whenever you see the color red your subconscious kicks in to warn you. Your best friend might be wearing a red color dress, and you end up arguing with her – it is possible.

There is no easy way to see all the beliefs that have – but we can work towards awareness – awareness of our thoughts, conscious that we may be wrong, acknowledging that we might have acted on an assumption. These things were help but ultimately what is needed is for us to know ourselves which is a journey which might take one lifetime or many!

Gnothi Seauton