Tag Archives: #lifelesson

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?

Every Moment – Change

In the ten-day Vipassana course, Goenka Ji tells us lots of stories. My mind wandered over to the following story today.
Goenka Ji asks that the light bulbs we have in our houses – they appear to remain the same for a long time, if they do not change then why do we pay electricity bills?
Similarly, the candle flame appears to remain the same, but after a few minutes or hours it grows smaller in size, right?

Even though the candle flame and the light bulb appear to remain the same – they are changing every second. Every second the old flame dies, and the new one takes its place. But it happens so fast that our naked eye cannot see it – hence the illusion that the flame/light bulb remains the same.

Similarly, we change every moment too – that is why we grow old. The change that happens is not only at the physical level but also at a mental level. We are adapting every minute and at some point, the change accumulates, and it manifests itself. Whether, we like it or not, whether we believe it or not change is the only constant in our inner selves.

If change is the only constant then why do people find change so hard not only in ourselves but also in others? When I lived in London, I had a thriving social life, and that meant talking to a lot of people mostly about the same topics. I told my ‘story’ around the theme so much that the story became a reality and then a belief because I invested my emotional energy talking about it. For example, I was a devoted Bikram Yoga practitioner for two years, and that meant for two years the story was that I go to Bikram yoga every day – it was the staple fodder of all my conversations for those two years. And one day I woke up and decided that I have had enough – it was more work to relay the change in my story to others after that – because in thier and my mind I was going to do Bikram Yoga every day forever. And who knows how many of those two years was because of the story I was telling myself and others – if I did not have the story then maybe I might have stopped sooner.

Bikram Yoga is just one example, but this permeated in every aspect of my life. I felt bound by the stories I was telling others because it was harder to change them even if I had moved on from that old story. When I moved to Columbus, it was freeing because I could be who I wanted. And it gave me the space to explore, try and fail and adopt new realities.

I am not advocating that having social circle is a problem, all I am pointing out is that change is the constant and sometimes the stories we tell ourselves and others prevent us from making a change because the story continues to gain our emotional energy and becomes a prison from which we find hard to break.

What story will you break free from, today?

Despite Humans

I was discussing with my parents on our weekly skype about a talk from Sadhguru about love and relationships. He talks about relationships in this quick 10-minute video. And what he said made me think. He says that these bonds do not have to be body-based or blood bound.

For example, Adam and I have a three-year-old Shiba Inu pup – Aki. And we love him to bits. Adam and I are also strangers in that sense, but we do like each other very much. For my parents, I am their blood – I came out of my mother’s womb but for me, they are not from my body, and they are the ones who defined love for me. And given the amount of travel I have done in my life I have stronger relationships with strangers than my cousins. And to date, some of my friends are more dear to me than my own family.

This whole concept that only if it is from your physicality can you love someone starts to sound a little far-fetched. Sadhguru expresses his view on adoption vs. fertility treatments. And he makes a clear point when he says that reproduction was a means of ensuring that the human race survives and now humankind is the only race that is not in the danger of extinction. On the other hand, there are so many species on earth that need protection from human poaching.

What we humans have forgotten is that we are a part of this big ecosystem called earth where we are not the center of the attention but just something on the side. Rest of the planet, trees, birds, sun or even earth do not care whether we exist or not – they carry on their life purpose in most cases despite us. Trees do not distinguish between humans when they give shade or provide fruits – they live their life purpose.

We, humans, have forgotten what our purpose is, do we even know why we exist. I am not asking this as a profound spiritual quest but as a simple ask – why do you lead the life you do? The very fact that this question is considered a deep and spiritual shows how much we have gone away from our roots. Human beings are different from other creatures in the sense that they have consciousness – they can make a choice. Trees have no choice in how they live their life but we do. And sadly, we do not even think about the choice which is our gift in this world. Instead, we live in a world of fog where the light of consciousness does not even penetrate – we might glimpse it a little by chance but never bask in its full glory.

We go about our lives living like a robot. We eat junk food without even getting in touch with how it makes us feel. For most of us, we are so desensitized that we are immune to the connection between us and what we eat, the world around us.

How will you connect your inner self to the outer world?

Constant Gentle Pressure

Check out this article first at this link

The idea that it is life’s job to keep moving the salt shaker off the center of the table and my job to keep putting it back at the center – is so to the point.

I knew about this article in 2010 when Prof.Rao from CPM institute narrated this to us in London Business School. Recently, I remembered this article while preparing for the Wild Tiger Tees (WTT) team meeting. We have been up and running since August last year (I know it has not been that long), and I have tried to implement a lot of things (maybe a bit prematurely), and most of them have failed. Yes, I admit it. For a project manager and a driver like me, I had a tough time grappling with the inability to get things done. A few tries later (Quite a few tries) then I came to few realizations

  • We are doing this on a volunteer basis and mission is to support the youth.
  • There is entirely no point in beating myself over things in WTT because there is nothing at stake – we are making a difference.
  • Just because things do not work does not mean you stop trying.

The third point is why my mind dug up this article from the archives and brought it to the forefront of my mind chatter. Once I made peace with the situation, it became a lot easier. Now, I was open to trying different ways to make it work – it was like a game or a puzzle. I was trying to pick and see which piece would fit the best and then move on the next bit so that we can see the entire picture.

Lots of lessons in this one – Failure was a must for me to move on to the next step. The next step was the discovering that there is no need to treat every situation like a nail just because I have a hammer. Once I let go of the attachment to the outcomes I automatically starting exploring different ideas – creativity arose. And from there pure joy and well-being.

Life is pretty much the same way. Sometimes you have to keep chugging along even if the results are not there, but you know that it is the right track. The way our society shapes us we never fail enough. It is just not a done thing – however many books you may read, however many studies are out there which tell us that it is ok to fail. I take failure personally. Maybe it is time to rejoice the failures because then we can be unfettered in our next moves. Sometimes it might be best to fail and get the pressure out of the way so that you are free to experiment.

Yoda was right when he said – do or do not; there is no trying. If something fails then do something else – any beating yourself up, wasting time on what-ifs is not worth it.

What will you keep doing now?

A Whole New World

I am sure all of us have heard the Aladdin’s song – A Whole New World. And I am sure they could see a whole new world and a fantastic view from the carpet.

A few of us also believe in the parallel universe theory, where we might be doing different things – altogether a completely new world. And then we have people who believe in Aliens – that’s an altogether completely different world as well.

But, we don’t have to go that far to visit new worlds. They exist right here, right now. For example, my mom hangs the laundry on the terrace. One day it looked it like it was about to rain – so the maid asked if she should bring the clothes down. I was listening to the conversation, and I had just looked at the weather on my phone, and I let them know that it wasn’t going to rain – and the sun will be out in a few minutes. All of us went our ways.

In half an hour, the sun was shining brightly, and the maid noted to my mom, ‘Anu looked at the phone and said it wasn’t going to rain – a good thing, I did not bring the clothes down.’ Our maid does not know how to read or write – so for her what I did was from another world. 

This leads me to my topic – can you imagine the world that she lives in – where there are no letters, no alphabets. How do you make sense of a world if you are not literate? Her generation probably grew up in the era when the world was changing – when girls were sent to school and she probably just missed the window. [There are adult literacy classes offered for free by the government for this section of people]. I cannot imagine a world where I cannot read or write. See, we have two different worlds right here amidst us.

Similarly, our building watchman has no family, no possessions – he gets his salary as a watchman and doing ad-hoc laborer task. He does not own a single thing except maybe a few sets of clothes. And I believe that this is choice he has made. In this day and age, it is not difficult for an average man to work enough to get a roof to call his own and accumulate a few possession. Again, a very different world than mine. The minimalism that I am aiming for does not even come close to describing his lifestyle.

What this means is we might be living on the same planet earth, but, we all inhabit a different planet. We create our worlds in our mind and whether we realize it or not we all have individual mini planets that we live in, even on the planet called earth. Maybe, it is time to delve deeper and explore the world we live in before we start exploring the worlds beyond.

What will you explore today in your world?

Do We Realize?

Life as we know is very fleeting, but we live as we are immortals. Do we ever wake up in the morning feeling so grateful because we are alive, our dear ones are alive? No, we take it for granted that we will wake up in the morning every time we go to bed.

I am not proposing that we live in fear of death every second of our lives and as Goenka Ji says, ‘Cry on our birthdays because we are one year closer to death.’ All I want to do is to bring attention (however fleeting it might be) to the beautiful feeling of being alive which we seem to have permanent amnesia for.

Even if we do experience death of another person, we think about it for a few hours, few days and almost never in the context that we will also die but how we miss the other person. When in reality there is a lot of commonalties between death and birth.

In both instances, there is a magic that happens. In birth, a person suddenly starts existing and in death suddenly a person stops existing. In both cases we are naked and left only with ourselves – our family, well-earned grades, paid off loans – nothing we bring with us or take with us. We come with our body and leave with it.

Life and death are not opposites but two different sides of the same coin. If you know how to die well, that means you know how to live well. And if you know how to live well, then you are ready for death. What does living well or dying well mean to you? No simple answer to this question.

Why is that when we live we never give death a thought? We never live like we are going to die at any moment – Because we are disillusioned. The illusion has become a reality and we are so caught up in it that nothing is real for us. All the things we do in this life we think of it as permanent, real – something that we have control over. When in the blink of an eye we will willingly/unwillingly leave it all. And this is the reason why talking about death is a taboo because it reminds us of how fragile and delicate our lives are. And we don’t believe in that – it’s like emperor’s new clothes, nobody is willing to say that the emperor is naked.

Again, do not think that I am advocating that everybody you meet – you tell them, ‘you are going to die’ albeit a true statement. Given the immersion in our different realities in this Maya, at the very least ponder on the fact that if you are going to die then how will it change the way you live your life. If reading this blog has made you grateful that you are alive, even once that that is one time more than never. 

What will change in your life now that you have been reminded that death is inevitable?

Window Cleaning

Have you your tried to clean something which has been covered with grime and dirt? One single swipe of the finger will not do it – neither will one single swipe of a cloth. It takes time. First, you might have to let it soak in some liquid for hours and then clean it layer by layer. Now imagine – as you clean new dust settles in – it makes the task harder. Now you have to clean at a faster rate than the rate at which new dust settles. And until you get to a certain level of cleanliness, the world will look different to you. You will not be able to the see the world as it is but only through the filter of grime and dirt accumulated over ages.

Our minds are similar – we have accumulated all sorts of dust and grime over the years and some of it we pick up throughout the day without awareness. Unlike our bodies, we do not spend time cleaning our mind. What does this dust look like? For example, as you were driving to work somebody cut you off – you got annoyed and vowed not to let it happen again. Every time you drive now, you make sure that anybody who looks like he is going to cut you off- you are on it. With every thought, you are applying a layer of dust on your mind – dust that will prevent you from seeing the reality as it is (Maybe he has a sick child, a bad day, fight with a wife). We will never know the reason but our belief that he is out to get you is mostly inaccurate, and this is what constitutes the dust.

Light shining through glass privacy window. Abstract background

Let’s say you are listening or reading to the news – all the news about abuse, corruption leaves a not so pleasant taste in your mind and at the same time clouds your mind with its dust. The movies you watch, the conversations you have, people you hang out with – all leave a residue on your mind. And more you do it more it happens – mostly unaware because we believe that we are not actively participating in it, but your mind is always active.

All this dirt and grime in our mind is what constitutes to ignorance and makes us believe we are separate from one another. My main aim in life is to be a better version of myself every day – clean this dirt thoroughly – turn my mind into a surface where dust is unable to stick. Only when we wipe the dirt in our mind does wisdom arise. One of the ways to gain wisdom is to get rid of ignorance. And that means cleaning the windows so that you can at least get a small patch of light through which shows you a glimpse of what the real world looks like.

We are starting with so many accumulated layers of dust that it is in some ways a miracle that we all humans live and function despite all the dirt clouding our judgment. The first step towards a clear mind is awareness – know that you have filters on and if it calls to you then immerse yourself in a good spiritual book, do yoga or meditate.

Most importantly recognize that there is a layer of dust!

Reality(s)

Yesterday Wild Tiger Tees (a social enterprise of which I am one of the co-founders) went to festival for good in Columbus Ohio.

It is a cool festival about ‘Doing more good’ – all the booths in this festival have a social tinge to it like how Wild Tiger Tees empower youth experiencing homelessness, there were other missions like Passion works that enable less able people to express their creativity, etc.

Everybody comes to these events with their reality.
1. Wild Tiger Tees: We came to test our business model, spread word, get some business and honestly to have a lot of fun. I am very grateful that I love hanging out with our team, so a day with them seemed like a great idea.
2. Police at the event: For them, success means happy people. Nobody is upset or grumbling – then they can enjoy themselves.
3. Beer People: For some, it was an event where they can hang out, drink some beer and have good food – with not much inclination towards the social cause.
4. Aki (Our Dog): It was not the best event because of all the traffic and the noise from the music on stage.
5. New People: And some people were just new to Columbus and were looking to meet like-minded people.

Everybody came to the same event with their reality. It is the same event, but everybody got a different experience. If you asked a few people you will hear different versions of the same event based on their expectations and experience. For the person who is coming to make friends is looking for people he can hang out with, for a person who is genuinely interested in the social mission – he is looking to meet as many social enterprises he can.

Life is no different. We all live on the same planet earth, drink the same water and breath the same air. But, our individual lives are so different. We have different realities and different expectations from life in general. What this means is that we do not have the full picture of the events including life itself. Second, we get what we are looking for, so we miss out on a lot of other things. And our understanding of the events is never complete at any given point in time.

What does this mean for us? Awareness that our reality might not be the only reality. Next time we get into an argument with somebody or do not agree with their point of view – remember we only know our end of the story. It’s like we are all in one big house and everybody has a different view from their room windows, and when we meet for dinner, we are all talking about our room views, which is ok as long as we realize that other people are also thinking the same way about their view. People who have come to our room know what we are talking about, but people who haven’t won’t know much.

Observing things and not labeling them is one way to remain grounded in this reality – that we have different realities.

Great Healer

Do you remember something you wanted as a child? A toy, teddy bear, candy. And what about now? Do you still want it? Do you remember the first time your heart broke over love? Do you still feel the same angst? Do you remember the time when you fell as a child? Do you still have the same pain?

No.

Even if we grew up with unfulfilled desires as a child – there comes a time when the desires are longer relevant. Now as a grown adult the desire for a toy is no longer relevant. There comes the point when the questions drop away, and you start living the answers even if the answers are not what you expected.

I know one of my excellent friends who for reasons best known to the universe never married and after a while, the question ‘Are you married?’ does not matter. I know a few couples who never had a child and now the question ‘Do you have kids?’ does not matter. Because whether you like it or not time moves on and you will move with it (if you are wise). Because after a certain age – having a partner or having kids is no longer relevant.

And this brings me to the essence of the blog post.

Why is this good to know?
We can be assured from our experience that what we are experiencing now – will become irrelevant in the future, so there is no need to spend excessive amounts of energy for the situation. It can be used as a tool to deal with not so pleasant situations in our life currently.

It is the knowledge that the universe gives you only what you can handle – rest time will take care of it. Life is short – enjoy what you can, while you can.

It can aid in decision making knowing that in the long run time does take care of things – and it can reduce the agonizing over the decisions – if you let it be.

It helps you live your life entirely – which is an essential belief to grow in. If you think about the fact the earth is just a tiny mote of dust in the vast universe then not getting the promotion or not having a child or not having a partner is not that big of a deal. And as the saying goes – all roads lead to Rome, if this road does not work for you then take another route. Time is on your side after all!

Whenever you are in a situation that is bogging you down – do your best to deal with the situation as wisely as you can and always remember that in the long run time is in your side. And you might not even remember this situation down the road, or also if you do recall the situation it might bring laughter or tears of joy when you look back because with every second that passes – a new you is born and the new you has the potential to be free from the past you(s)

Let it go!

In Creativity and Personal Mastery course, prof.Rao tells us a story.
A baby is happily drinking his bottle of milk. Let’s say you take it away. The baby’s face gets all red, and he bawls his little lungs out. There is no mistaking that he is upset. And when you give the bottle back to him, he goes back to drinking milk again as nothing happened. At this moment the baby has completely let go of the fact that you took the bottle away.

Something happens to us when we grow up – we learn to hold onto things. We learn to re-live what happened in our mind and replay it again and again. Sadly, we forget how to let go. Holding on to things also prevents us from being fully present at the moment. If your bag is already filled with stuff then how will you find space for new things. If your jar is already full – how can anything else come in.

We clean our bodies every day to make sure that all the dirt and grime from the day is washed away. But we do not do this for our minds which have rolling in one thing after the other and picking up whatever comes our way. Let’s face it, in our human condition how much ever we try we are not always conscious of what our mind is experiencing. Meditation morning and evening is one way to clean our minds. Letting go is a part of it – when you meditate you watch the thoughts pass away without becoming the thoughts – and thus allowing them to go.

Another way to let go is to watch your thoughts – through the mind chatter itself. That is the beauty and the curse of human existence. Our thoughts are what makes us hold on to things, and our thoughts are what help us let them go as well. Next time your mind starts replaying a scenario or rides off on the train of bitterness – don’t fight it, don’t get upset – watch the train go and enjoy the journey not as a passenger but as an observer. And when we do that we are no longer holding onto things, in fact, we are happily standing by waving our goodbyes.

When things expire in our kitchen do we still hold on to them – no we throw them in the trash because consuming them will be harmful to us. Similarly, for the thoughts/things that have expired – let them go – throw them in the garbage and make space for new things to come in. The expiration of thoughts is not as tangible as the products in our kitchen, and sometimes we are afraid of new ideas – so we hold on to what we know even if it is harmful to us.

Like all things in life, this is easier said than done but that said the only way to do such things is to start with awareness – all you have to do is shine your light on holding on to things and they will automatically let go.