Monthly Archives: May 2017

Island with no Stallions

This is a different blog than usual – it’s about our trip to Mackinac Island (pronounced Mackinaw). I am done with my quota of touristy things like visiting every point of interest, going to all the top restaurants. Thanks to my stint in London, UK, my friend Ranjani and my husband I have had my fill of it. As prof. Rao says in his Creativity and Personal Mastery says “You Cannot Leave Desire, Desire Has To Leave You.” And the desire has left me.Those were good times but my focus at that time was checking my list rather than enjoy the city for what its worth. I am drawn to the human stories or little nuggets that most don’t know about but it wasn’t my primary focus.

Anyways, so weekend trip to Mackinac Island – first of all there are no cars on the islands just bikes and horse buggies. The words – Taxi, Shuttle, Uber will bring you something like below:

The horse drivers were all very interesting – they come up for 4-6 months and then take off to their winter homes.One of our drivers had been doing this for 10 years. There is no certification needed to drive a horse buggy – they give you some training and then you are on your own. You have to learn how to do a three-way turn/U-turn on the tiny winding mountains roads filled with bikes/people and kids – need I say more. We got talking to one of the drivers and I asked him if they breed horses in the island and he said, “No, there are not stallions on the island. There might be some males but the ones who cannot reproduce.” Reason being that horses are matriarchal society so if you put a male/female together in a cart female is trying to outrun the male but the male has bigger hoof-steps than female so makes for a very bumpy ride. [An interesting article that talks about the matriarchal society in horses]

Life on an island must be very interesting as the island is your home. Our lovely puppy got all the fan fare he wanted – the day we showed up a young kid with hair as long has he was tall showed keen interest in Aki. We got talking and it turns out his name is Dex, he lives in the island all year long, he is in 3rd grade and goes to the Mackinaw public school. He hitched a ride on his bike alongside our shuttle. Next day morning we ran into him and a bunch of his friends in the woods – apparently they were building a fort. And then in the afternoon he comes along with this bunch of friends and offers to give Aki a walk for 2$. When Adam said he will think about it, he said he would even do it for free. He and his friends were having a lot of fun – you could see that they belonged and they were not just visiting.

This post will not be complete without mentioning Aki. He is a social crutch for me – conversations with strangers don’t have to awkward, no more small talk as people like to come up and say all sorts of things. I am listing some of the common things.
Person1:”What kind of a dog is he?” Anu: “Shiba Inu” Person 1:”Shiba Unu” [for some reason its hard to say shiba inu the first time you hear it]
Person2:”Can I pet your dog?” Anu: “Yes, you can.” [This is my favorite]
Person3:”Do you know your dog looks like a fox?” Anu:”Yes, I do” [Sometime I feel like responding with a sarcastic – really I never noticed.]

And here is the photo of the famous dog Aki who left his indelible mark at the island

Where you are.

As some of you know I have started learning swimming. I can swim now – except the breathing part. I still use a swimming snorkel but I am more comfortable in water and have more stamina. When I first started off I couldn’t even take 2 strokes and I was swimming next to little kids who could do laps. Let’s say instead of practicing I just stood their thinking about a) how good the kids are b) how I will never learn swimming – then I am actually just failing behind in my aim to swim. But that space where your mind spins stories is so enticing or rather so conditioned that we actually love to wallow in that space. We refuse to see where we are. Yes, whether you like it or not you make a choice to dwell and not take the next step.

This is why sometimes it feels as if we are stuck in a pattern and are not able to get out of it or any situation we get into it always comes down to the same thing. In fact, in some cases the stories we spin in our heads to avoid facing “where we are” has so many layers that we are light years from reality.Like in the swimming example if I start extrapolating it to the rest of the world and say everybody else can learn swimming, they can have a better life but look at me I cannot even swim – then this is further taking me away from the core – which is kick and move your hands in water.

It’s like the quote from Einstein

You have to be able to peel back the layers of onion, get rid of the baggage and see the reality as it is. And take an action – even a small step towards your goal counts. If I decide to just swim to the middle of the pool and just do it even if it means I stop after every stroke. It is a mixture of lot of things – will power, your desire (true desire) to get to the goal, your past experiences all contribute to it. But it doesn’t matter because you can only start from where you are. There is absolutely no point in comparing yourself to others or where they are – it’s a waste of energy and time. Another quote from Einstein here

Ramana Maharishi also said that the world will be a much better place if everybody minded their own business.If these thoughts did not exist then I would just swim – there is nothing stopping me from swimming.

We have to accept the fact that our past deeds in this lifetime or past lifetimes have created the circumstances in which we find ourselves today but the response to this situation is in our hands. We have to see the reality as it is, accept where we are and move from there. It’s not easy but hey this is life, this is you.

Vipassana in Pali literally means “to see things as they are”.

Yoga – musings

Growing up in India words like Gurus/Meditation/Yoga are white noise because a) they are so common- it’s like asking a fish what is water (we might not know what it really means but we know) b) there are a lot of charlatans and you are always wary when these words are mentioned.

I never had anything to do with yoga until I moved to London. It was in the Creativity and Personal Mastery class that one of the students mentioned Bikram Yoga. I was teaching assistant at that time. And in the class prof. had an exercise which was called ‘Public Commitment’ – it meant you made a public comment to share something you like with the class and do it with them like eating at your favorite restaurant, going to salsa class, hiking etc. Basically it was a way to do more of what you like and share it – thus adding emotional energy into it. One of the students said she wants to take interested people to Bikram Yoga.

To be honest I wasn’t that keen but as a teaching assistant I decided to go. I guess it did call to some part of me. As I am not the one for doing things if I don’t want to as my family/friends will confirm. So me, another student and her went to a class. We were in the last row and we did not faint. For those of you who are not familiar with Bikram Yoga – it is a 90 minute class – at 110 F – 13 postures done twice. It’s actually really good.

At that time Adam and I were doing the long distance relationship thing and I had a lot of time in my hand. So I decided to join Bikram Yoga and I got addicted. It definitely accelerated my inner journey. I did it every day for almost two years and I loved it. Infact my criteria for finding an apartment was that it should be walking distance from the studio. We did find one [Lovely place – 8 minutes from oxford street]. Point is I was obsessed and as my dad loves to say I left the golden mean -“the ideal moderate position between two extremes”

But it was too much – I had busted miles away from my mean. So, I remember waking up one day and telling Adam that maybe it’s a little too much , doing it every day. He gave me a look which said “Yeah, obviously.” So, I didn’t do yoga for 6 months. The pendulum has to swing both sides before it can find the center.

Then Adam mentioned about Ashtanga Yoga which is in some ways polar opposite of Bikram. This article describes it really well. For me Bikram was ambitious and competitive – type A, where as Ashtanga is do it at your own pace and there is no comparison – no mirrors in the room. It’s just you. I guess I had changed because we started going to Ashtanga and I have been doing it for 6 years now and don’t think about it twice. It is what it is.

I am not in a hurry to learn poses now – I am happy. The reason I do yoga is I feel happy, my body feels happy. And plan to do it till I die. And I am very grateful for all the teachers who have taught me as Yoga is one valuable gem which has been passed on from one generation to other.

And for inspiration check out the video of the 98-year old doing yoga.

V. Nanammal is a 97-year-old woman from Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu. Even at her advanced age, Nanammal practices the art of yoga, and what’s more, also teaches it to other enthusiasts.

The Need To Know

For a while I was into these quotes thing and I had picked up this greeting card at the yoga studio – it called out to me at that time.
“I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer…” (rainer maria rilke)

Basically he is saying that it doesn’t matter what the question/answer is as someday you will be living it. What matters is the NOW. That’s one take on it.

The reason I bring this quote is – we all have situations in our life where we have tried our best to make things happen and we fight for it with everything we have. And it doesn’t work out and we ask ourselves the question – why did it not happen? Why did he not like me? For me, it was my first love (if I can call it that). Since it has the word “First” in it, it is quite obvious I was really young at that time. And fortunately or unfortunately my parents had been a very good buffer between me and the rest of the world. And in my world I got what I wanted well the reasonable and the logical wants for sure. So when things did not go the way I wanted – it was a tough lesson. A lesson that I needed to learn. And once I got over the initial angst and drama of injustice I wondered why did this not happen?

And one of the lessons I learnt was that sometimes we have to learn it’s ok to live without knowing the answer and I might never know the answer. The answer really doesn’t matter except to our mind which loves creating stories/dramas. And as Steve Jobs said you can connect dots backwards or as the quote above says after a certain time it loses relevance.

I met somebody recently who was going through the same phase I went through at her age. And it got me thinking that at that age I spent countless nights staying up with my girlfriends analyzing every single move or exploring all the angles of the situation and now it’s not even a passing thought. Time does put things in perspective and it is all relative – if you have got a stone crushing your feet a tiny prick on your finger will go unnoticed.

And sometimes we are so intent on looking for the answer we want that we do not see all the different answers/choices we have. It’s like when one door closes we keep staring at it for so long that we do not see all the countless doors that open. The faster we let go faster we will move.

Stay Calm and Keep Moving without Knowing

Being Different – concept of Who Am I?

I remember when I moved to Columbus from London – it was an identity crisis of sorts. The first step was to recognize that my identity was tied to working as a Project Manager in British Telecom and having a MBA degree from London Business School. I identified myself with these two things without even realizing it in London. When I moved to Columbus nobody even knew British Telecom or London Business School – I even had somebody ask me what does an MBA stand for. That was the first time I realized that unknowingly I had created an identity for myself and was attached to it. And looking back I can see that it had taken me some effort to build my identity in London so it wasn’t easy to let it go. And let it go for what?

Moving to Columbus gave me the fresh start as I wasn’t encumbered by preconceived notions of what people thought about me. Let’s ignore the fact that the preconceived notions are in my head to begin with. Fresh Start – eh! that didn’t last long though.

I was driving back from work one day and my thoughts wandered to how I am different and have always been different. For example, I am a South Indian but I grew up in North – so really I didn’t fit in either places. [South India as different from North India like UK and Spain]. And then I joined the software engineering which at that time was still very much Male-centric world. And when I moved to US – again I was different, same in UK [Although London feels like home as everybody is from outside] And then I married someone out of my caste , first one from my community to go do an MBA,list continues…

The point being that this is the only life I know and hence I identify myself as being different. In fact, I would probably feel threatened if I was the same as others.

How am I different now? We (Adam and I) don’t drink. We don’t watch TV – we don’t even have cable. We do Meditation and Yoga. We love talking about well-being, self and being on the Journey. We don’t seem to be driven by materialistic desires as much. The usual small talk isn’t for us.

Then the question is – so is this better? Is this good that I am different and differ in the way stated above?
The short answer to that is NO. It doesn’t matter what identity I have – the key is to be aware that I have an identity. In the human predicament we have to play the role(s). The key is to know that you are playing a role and the role is not you. And we cannot get away from playing the roles as long as we are in the human predicament. We might as well as enjoy playing different roles and play them with gusto.

A role might be this perfect do-gooder who can do no wrong. Another role can be of a inspirational leader at office. Another role might be somebody is who is victim to everything that happens to them. Another role might be of a drug-addict. Another might be of a politician or in some cases even an enlightened Guru.

In essence it really doesn’t matter who we are – we are all one whether we truly realize it or not is a different question.