Monthly Archives: January 2020

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?