Monthly Archives: July 2018

First Time Ever

My favorite city in Europe is Paris.
You might say that it’s a cliche or there are better cities than Paris in Europe, and you are probably right. The way I classify favorite is to ask the questions – Did I have fun? Did it satisfy my curiosity to explore? And the primary reason Paris checks those boxes is that it was my first time in a European city. Everything was new – in some ways, Paris set the baseline for the rest of the cities I traveled to. My next trip was to Amsterdam and whether I wanted to or not I was comparing the people, food, high street to the ones in Paris. Remaining cities all blurred together, there is a castle, cathedral, high street or downtown, and gardens but Paris stands out. Do not get me wrong, there are memories of all the cities I went to, but Paris is unique – whether I like that or not.

Moving to a new Place.
My move to Phoenix was a milestone in growing up.
I have moved places almost every 5-7 years since I was born – that’s a lot of places, but Phoenix was the first place where I moved to on my own. I had figure out – finding a home, internet, grocery shopping, my taxes, driving, cooking food, social life – man! That was hard, but it stands out. And then I moved to London – it was also another significant move, but in my head I was ready, and I had a baseline – everything in London was a delta to what I did in Phoenix or classified as being new to London. The newness of moving wasn’t there because I had done it before.

My first series of books – Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven.
Secret Seven was the first series I read. I had other stand-alone books, but this was my first ever series. And I loved it, and I remember desperately searching for the next book in the series. I read lots of series afterward like famous five, secret series, nancy drew, and some of them from the same author but the charm and discovery in the first series is truly unique. I was thrilled to know that they had passwords for their meetings – in some ways it was my first exploration of the city of secret series like Paris.

At work, I have a penchant for telling what I call ‘My Nephew Jokes’ like
Why was the computer late to work? – because it had a hard drive.
Some people laugh at them, and some don’t. Some people are laughing inside which I have come to understand is another way of saying – I don’t find that funny. And some people laugh because they like my enjoyment of the jokes.

It is possible that a few of you might not agree with my “First” theory, but you have your model of what remains with you – what evokes the spirit of discovery and excitement in you – and brings up the childlike wonder and curiosity in you. And I aim to keep that alive and never let it get jaded.

Live every day like a new day.

L for Listening and Q for Questions

I have been fascinated with the Socratic type of questioning since I heard about it first in Creativity and Personal Mastery Course. I am also captivated by zen Koans like “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” These are questions which do not have a definite answer, and the purpose is to open your mind, think outside the box – literally.

And now that I am a people leader I am slowly discovering what great tool questions are. At my recent Vipassana course, whenever one of the Dhamma servers would ask the question to the teacher his response was to ask us the question back, and that just stood out for me. Until I asked a question to which the teacher replied, but then he asked me – how would I answer this? And whether I wanted it or not I found my mind asking myself the same question and the answer I gave hit home for me – Thank you, for helping me experience the power of questions.

And me being me – I have started reading books on questions. One of the books I am listening to now is “Great Leaders Ask Great Questions” by John Maxwell. I have not completed the book yet, but there were some quotes in it which just grabbed me.

Take every opportunity to keep my mouth shut
I love this statement, and I am going to do more of this – and this is very hard for me. Because I think I am unique and I have interesting things to say, and I know it all. Now I still believe that I am special, and I have interesting things to say, but I am beginning to realize that I may not know it all. And if I have to know it all, I have to ask questions and listen. And the rare times I have tried it, I have realized that those moments are stress-free and relaxed because all I am doing is listening and Voila! I still get what I am looking for with minimal effort. But, a lot of effort needs to go into keeping my mouth shut. Ironic!

All things alike – people do business with people whom they like
Even if all things are not like people still do business with people who they like

It goes back to the saying that people forget what you said, but they always remember how you made them feel. I am new to this listening and asking questions stuff. I understand innately that this is what is needed for the next phase of my life – it doesn’t mean that I become this silent, secretive type but it means I master it well enough so that I can use it as a tool in my arsenal and use it at will as needed. And everything needs time when the student is ready the teacher appears.

After all – how hard can it be? All I have to do is to ask the question back and keep quiet, right?

I am here to serve

I did my first 10-day Vipassana course in Delhi, Gurgaon. Vipassana meditators run all the Vipassana courses on a volunteer basis – nobody is paid. They do it because they want to and genuinely too. I had to do two more courses before the desire to serve arose in me.

I remember standing at the door in Dhamm Dipa in London and saying aloud for the first time in my life – “I am here to serve.” Vipassana changed my life and continues to change my life – it is hard work, I won’t lie, but it does change the grand canyons I have built in mind consciously or unconsciously. This blog is dedicated to Vipassana and S.N.Goenka who brought this course to the rest of the world from Burma.

If you have ever done one of the 10-day courses in Vipassana as taught by S.N.Goenka, then the following will resonate with you – more so if you have served.

One of the rules we have to observe is segregation between males and females – they have separate quarters, separate dining rooms, etc. When we (dhamma servers as Goenka Ji likes to call us) are preparing meals in the kitchen, you will hear statements like
– Is the female rice ready?
– Do we need Male Olive Oil?
Everything is divided into three categories – female, male or serve because that is how we partition food and prepare the dining rooms and set the food out.

Second, gongs – I never wear my watch in Vipassana because life is so simple and everything is announced with a gong. There is a morning gong that wakes you up, gong before every lunch, gong after breaks, gong before group sits. If you miss the gong – the course manager will make sure you don’t forget. And I remember the first time I rang the gong – the vibrations from the gong centered me to the core.

Third, silence. It is a silent retreat. You do not speak unless asking for supplies or questions for the teacher when you are sitting a course. While serving there is talking but very less, and all the students are silent. There is something about the quietness that lets you hear the incessant chatter of the mind and move towards just observing it and not becoming it. Nine days of silence increases the depth to which you explore with every course.

At the end of the course, Goenka Ji says that one of the reasons there is no charge for the Vipassana course is – “What price will you pay?” The teaching is so invaluable there is nothing you can pay that can compare to the value you get. There are some things in life which are truly priceless, and Vipassana is one such gem for me.

I am eternally grateful
– to Buddha for discovering it
– to all the teachers who maintained the teaching
– to Goenka Ji who helped spread it to the rest of the world where I could receive it
– that I got the human birth
– that I was born in a period where dhamma in its pure form is being taught

My heart overflows with gratitude.
May all beings be happy!

Choose Where You Live

I am not talking about your physical location like home, town or state but the one place where you are present constantly – you never leave that place even for a second: Your Mind.

What comes to your mind when you listen to this song?
What do you think of when you smell the scents of foods that your mom used to cook?
What do you think of when you see two friends giggling over something?

The above items trigger memories or lead our mind in specific directions. For me when I listen to the song I immediately think of the dance steps involved in the song, I also think of all the fun we have had in our class whenever we have done that song. The smile that comes on students faces when they realize that it is this song – I remember the joy we shared when we all watched the movie. It takes me a to a happy place.

Now, it is possible that the same song might take me to a different place. It might remind me of a friendship that no longer exists; it might recall my breakups (a scene in the movie). In this case, it is taking me to a not so happy place.

Do we have a choice in where our mind takes us? One would like to think so.
Let’s talk about the memories that we already have, the ones created in the past. In most cases, we flow where they take us. When the memories were created, we had limited understanding of the world around us (This is based on the assumption that you mature every year – as you grow). Let’s say as a kid your best friend who loved potato fries left you for another friend. And it left such an impact on you that you have hated potato fries since then.

At that time it was so painful that you were trying to come to terms with what you labeled “betrayal” from your best friend. To ask you to interpret the situations in different ways at that time would be an almost impossible task. But, now after all these years when the topic of that friend pops up in a conversation – what comes to your mind? The betrayal or the moments that you enjoyed as a best friend. Our mind is very tricky and unfortunately has been conditioned to focus on the one moment of betrayal and ignore all the other beautiful moments. One way to change this is to focus on the good memories and ignore the betrayal.

You are the director of your movie, and you get to choose what shots you keep and which shots you discard – but the trick is we forget that we are the director – we identify so strongly with that one scene of betrayal that its the only that exists for us. The first step is to acknowledge that there are lots of moments and accept that I have a choice.

Next time your mind decides to take you on a tragic journey – change the channel – live the life you wanted – it is as simple as this.>