Tag Archives: #choice

Sweet And Sour

When I lived in London, I was introduced to a multitude of dishes and most of them I was open to trying and loved for the most part. The one sort of meal that I could not digest was the one that had both sweet and spicy flavors. I could not understand why you would put honey on chili chicken or the sweet and spicy sauces or addition of pineapple in spiciest thai dishes.

Recently, I have started to understand that the flavors enhance each other – still, not a big fan but at least gained an appreciation for two competing flavors to enhance the other one.

Green Mangoes are sweet and sour at the same time, and they are a big hit in India. Sweet and sour are also two completely different flavors, but they do add a zing – just like many of the memories or experiences in our lives.

First Love, Leaving Home, Long Distance Relationship, Ending Of An Experience or a holiday. The list is never-ending. That’s why some memories are called bittersweet. And it is the bittersweetness of the memories that make them unique because we learn from them – more from just either bitter or sweet because life is not black or white, it comes with shades of grey.

It took me forever to come to terms with the fact that my first love was never meant to be – especially given the Type A in me. It was probably my first life lesson which I took forever to learn. It was the bane of my existence ages ago, but now I recall the aftertaste fondly and recall the memories both bitter and sweet and enjoy the taste. I guess my taste in life experiences evolved with my taste in food.

Any experience in life is sprinkled with both black and white memories like two sides of a coin. Due to conditioning, we tend to focus on either the black or the white, but in reality, it is both black and white that makes our life. Just like life – people have shades of grey. That is what makes life more interesting. Imagine if we were all robots where would the joy in life be.

As humans, we have the choice to experience life in its full glory. Be open and aware of every thought that comes by but act on the one that feels alive in us. We do not have to judge ourselves by the thought that comes to our mind but by our actions. We are not defined by the thoughts we have but the actions we do and most importantly our intention. Our intention might be pure but the initial thoughts might not be – and this bittersweet combination is what makes life interesting for us. All you can do is marvel at the fact that we can have conflicting items and have the choice to pick between the two. It might be easier if it was all black or all white, but then it would not help us grow or discover who we are. The question, the choice is what makes us human.

How will you exercise your choice to be human, today?

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.>

Mirror Test

STORYLINE: Prisoners are made to work in inhuman conditions and have to produce a certain number of shirts by the end of the day. If one of them falls behind either that person is killed, or the entire unit suffers. The authorities approached one of the prisoners to become a supervisor – he takes up the dreaded role because if not him then somebody else would accept that position. And while he is the supervisor one of the prisoners on his team becomes seriously ill and falls back on her quota. He makes the call to kill her so that the rest of the unit can live a little longer. (This is roughly the storyline of one of the Law and Order episodes)

It was the supervisor’s choice to sacrifice the minority so that the majority can live. Was it the right choice? We don’t know, and we will never know. But in these cases what is most important is: can the supervisor wake up in the morning, look himself in the mirror and be at peace. Ultimately you live with yourself, your actions, your past, your thoughts.

Not all the choices we make in our lives have such dire consequences, but we are responsible for the smallest of our choices. Sometimes I wonder if ignorance is indeed bliss. There are so many moments in our life where we make decisions we are not aware of
– cutting somebody off in traffic
– closing the elevator door before anyone can get it – because we are in a hurry
– using the company printer for personal uses
The list is endless – we even have a term for this – white lies – lies/actions that we believe don’t hurt others.

And for the most part – we are not even aware of these choices, and we can look at ourselves in the mirror and feel at peace. Hence, ignorance is bliss.

The point here is that the size or the impact of your choice does not matter. What matters is how does that choice make you feel? Does it give you sleepless nights or does it bring a smile to your face everytime you think about it?

We all have a certain threshold unique to each one of us which when crossed will disturb our peace. That threshold determines whether we can wake up in the morning and look at ourselves. We have an inner radar, personal check that stops us from crossing the limit – the key is to listen to it. A lot of us suppress the original voice that tells us to stay but we press ahead, and an inner hell of mind chatter replaces our inner peace. We try to reduce those thoughts by other distractions like continually keeping busy, eating a lot of food, watching movies.

Buddha said that hell and heaven exist within each of us and this is what he meant by it. Our choices are pathways to hell or heaven. And for some of us, we have lived in hell for so long that we do not even know there is any other place we can live in.

All great things start with awareness – let the light of awareness shine brightly on each one of us.

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.

We are all in Prison

Raymond Fiest, one of my favorite fantasy authors writes in his book, “The Magician”

we are the architect of our own prison

What does he mean by that? Let me tell you a story.

A rich couple are blessed with a baby boy after several years of marriage. They bring the boy up and groom him to be a business man so that he can take over his dad’s business. Twenty five years of father’s life have gone in building the dream that his son will carry on his legacy. You can imagine the dismay when his son announces that he wants to be a farmer and not a business man like his father. The father tells his son, “You have made me very unhappy.”

QUESTION: How many of you think he is right? That the son is responsible for his father’s unhappiness.

Here’s a tip: All that the son did was tell his father that he was going to be a farmer. The father had the choice to be happy or unhappy. And he made the choice to be unhappy. That was the prison he created for himself. He not only made himself unhappy but refused to take ownership for that as well.

Imagine how many times in our life we refuse to take the ownership of our own choices. In fact some of us live under the delusion that the external circumstances have made our life miserable and not us. We are not even aware of our own choice.

For example, I remember telling my dad that I was probably going to hate Columbus after London. And my dad in his practical fashion, responded, “You can hate Columbus all you want, Columbus doesn’t care.”

You don’t get the promotion you want, your spouse divorces you or your kids take to marijuana or somebody you don’t like became the head of your office/country – you make a choice to be happy or unhappy.

It’s ok to make either choice – even if you decide to be unhappy about it – do it knowing that it’s your choice nobody’s making you unhappy. Own the decision. That’s the first step – it’s harder to accept the decision as the best thing that can ever happen to you though. Difficult but not impossible – practice does make everything perfect.

Let’s take the prison theory to next level. This gets a little into the spiritual realm more so than usual. Even when we own our choice or decide to be happy about it all that we are doing is getting better food – in the prison. In the human predicament we are all already in the prison we are just moving to a better one. It is very hard to explain such things in words because words are not enough.

My favorite quote comes to mind,

“In this plane there is no answer and outside the plane there is nobody to ask the question.”

However, in his book UnTethered Soul, Michael singer provides a great description of what I am trying to say. Imagine space/vaccuum in which things are floating like Cars/your ideal job/ your partner/ your savings account etc. The minute your mind focuses on the car , it becomes a block and many such blocks build the prison. It’s all an illusion but we have forgotten that we are actors and are convinced that this is the reality.

How do we get out of the prison? All paths lead to Rome. If this article has planted a seed in you then nurture it, watch for it – if you are drawn towards painting/writing/aerobics or something that you always wanted to do as a kid. Go for it, it might open the door that may be your path out of the prison. For those of us who meditate or do yoga – when we breathe or we are focused on sensations at that moment there is no thought – in that moment we are free
.