Tag Archives: #selfgrowth

Hard Vs.Tough

I gave a talk on Leadership yesterday at an undergraduate class, my first ever talk as a leader officially. The students asked a lot of questions at the end of the, and on my way back I was thinking about the talk and life in general. That’s when I realized the difference between Hard and Tough.

Dictionary meaning of Hard is: with a great deal of effort.
Dictionary meaning of Tough is: strong enough to withstand adverse conditions or rough or careless handling.

I think Hard is more in the intellectual space and Tough in the heart space. For example, one might find equations hard to understand but if you work hard enough or a good tutor explains them to you-you will understand it. Whereas Tough to me is, you might know that ‘Be Kind to everyone’ but it is tough to do that in your life.

If something is hard to do, then you can do it by working hard – it’s a matter of practice and perseverance. Tough things in life are ‘harder’ to master even if they are not hard to understand.

I want to focus on the ‘Tough’ things because they are overlooked most of the time in favor of hard work. Everybody believes that you work hard, network hard you will get a promotion. Very few people will tell you that – if you authentically work on yourself – promotion will come to you. Why? Because it is easy to work hard but tough to work on oneself.

Why is it tough to work on oneself? Let’s take the most straightforward example out there – eating healthy. All of us are well aware and on a journey to eat healthy right? It is not hard to understand that we should eat healthy but tough to do it. Why is it tough to do it? Because we give in to the short term pleasure than long term gain. We have been trained to sprint and not for marathons. Or, is it because we do not have will power. Let’s call this our ToughHandler Muscle. We never work on strengthening this muscle – we work on building our physical body, family, bank balance but the essential thing ToughHandler – we forget. For some people, the concept of ToughHandler does not even exist. They are so engrossed in getting to the destination that they have forgotten to take care of the car that is going to get them there.

How to work on this ToughHandler Muscle then? First and foremost, is Awareness. If you are not aware of something how can you do anything about it? Well, now you know about it. Next practice it – how, whatever way calls out to you – Meditation, stay away from sugar for a day, for a week, for a month. The possibility of you failing to do this is high because you have started the journey and ToughHandler muscle is weak but with continuous practice, it will be strengthened and will help you prepare the marathon that life is.

How will you strengthen your ToughHandler muscle today?

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?

Union Of Mind And Body

In India when I was growing up, corporal punishment was allowed (it is illegal now). I still remember the punishments where one had to stand up with both hands up – straight and other was to bend down and put your hands underneath your knees and touch your ears (Called as the Murga Position).

If you have never been subject to these punishments then you are lucky – these positions start as easy, but after a few minutes the pain is excruciating. Recently, I have been reading a lot about the significance of rituals/things that we Indians do, and I came across an article that described that the two punishments as the easiest way to get the blood going to your brain which is supposed to calm the person down. It makes absolute sense on why the punishments were devised in such a way.

Similarly, there is a reason why women wear bangles and men wear Kadas. In earlier days when joint families were common – all the women folk would stay behind in homes and men would go off to farm. And when a large number of people dwell together in a small space tension arises – the bangles were supposed to rub against your wrists so that the blood flow is active and it activates the energy nodes which keeps you calm, alert and aware. It was a natural way to ensure that the relationships in the house were kept cordial and joyful.

How is all this related to the Union of Mind and Body? If you do yoga then you know what I am talking about – Yoga is necessarily the union of body and mind. And the instance above give you a clear example of the connection between the physical and the mental.

If you do Surya Namaskar – it is supposed to help weak constiution and increase will power. The poses in the sequence activate specific nodes or energy centers which strengthen those qualities.

If you have a squeaky wheel you put in oil to make it move faster, similarly our body is a mechanism and if you know how to tweak it will run smoothly. All the rituals in India were targeted towards this, but with time we have lost them, or they have turned into superstitions which have lost their original purpose.

We are all human beings having a spiritual experience – in some ways this human body is a prison, a prison of our own making. And our deepest desire to break out the human predicament by realizing the union with one. By doing yoga or other activities that connect the mind and body your stay in this prison becomes easier and your body becomes ready to break out the prison.

Sadly, for a lot of us, we do not even realize that we are in prison. And for those of us who do realize it is a prison, we are happy if we get better food, a better cell but the ultimate freedom is when there is no prison. Only I can break myself out of this prison – I cannot do it for you, you have to do it for yourself – walk the path yourself.

What step will you take on this path?

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?

Go With The Flow

Imagine if you could hear a tree talk like us humans. What do you think the tree would say?
Option 1: ‘Oh! My God. It started snowing again. How can it snow again when it just snowed yesterday? And the tree next to me – why cannot it just stick to its own space always leaning into my space. And on top of this, I am losing my leaves also…’

Option 2: ‘It is snowing. Leaves are falling. The tree next to me is leaning into me…’

Regardless of which option you chose, the trees are living option 2. They go with the flow – they bend when the wind comes, they stand straight when it is sunny. Be it floods, hurricanes they take everything in their stride because they know that trees are a part of an ecosystem and they are only playing their role. Trees mold themselves to what is happening as opposed to fighting against it. They surrender and accept what is.

Let’s look at us – the great human species. We cannot even accept that there is traffic on the road. It is happening, and for most of us it happens every day, but we fight against it with all our might and vain. And on top of it we make up stories about everyone else and how they are all the bad guys, and we are the only good one left on this planet. What is funny is that we humans have a fantastic skill to ignore what is happening and wish something else is happening.

Let’s say we have fallen sick – we will spend most of our time thinking about why it happened and why it is so bad that we are unwell, as opposed to accepting we are sick and then just moving on. Nothing is that easy for us – why would we make it easy? Our Life is supposed to be a misery and of our own making. Sometimes I wonder – the saying, ‘I was born intelligent – education (growing up) ruined me.’ might have a grain of truth in it.

Why do we fight against accepting what is? Habit, perhaps. We do not know any better. I don’t know. But I do know that we fight before allowing – that is the truth. Regardless of why we do it, now that we know that we do not go with the flow – what can we do about it? How do you go with the flow?

The first step for everything is awareness – become aware of the situation that you are resisting right now? Is it a difficult stakeholder at work? A tough circumstance in personal life? Is your car not working?

The second step after awareness is accepting the reality as it is. Accept that car is not working. Accept that you have a problematic stakeholder at work. Accept the problematic situation in life. Face it – look it in the eye.

And do not beat yourself up if you do not accept it entirely but when you do accept it and surrender you will know what the next step is – that is magic.

Will you let the magic happen in your life?

True Connection

While doing the annual house cleaning, I decided to watch some Netflix to give me company. I was not looking for something particular, so I did a quick browse, and the name ‘Watership Down’ sounded familiar, and it was an animation with rabbits – I pressed play and settled down to clean with a fun cartoon series. However, a few minutes in – I was gripping the edge of my seat. Watership Down was not at all happy hoppy, jumpy bunny story but it was a reflection of humankind in 1972 which sadly is no different from today.

The point I want to bring up is that what we see and think in our head – does not match up with reality, but we believe in the illusion in our minds than the truth as it manifests.

One of the Bollywood actors was saying that Social Media has also become a channel for hate with no repercussions. People write all kind of stuff because they do not have to face the outcome. If they were to meet the person they were writing about in person – they wouldn’t say what they had to say. Social media in some ways dehumanizes – disconnects from humanity. The other side of the coin is that Social Media when used appropriately, lets us connect to a large number of people.

How many times has it happened that you have imagined something about somebody or cooked up a story about what happened? And when you get to meet the person or find out what ‘really’ happened, it was nowhere close to what you were thinking. Our minds are a tool, and if not tamed they are like a wild monkey jumping from one branch to other and cooking up stories – yes, literally cooking up stories because that is what the mind does.

Our minds like any unruly child do not want to do our bidding, and thus it devises these distractions, and it has years of practice of going untamed. And what it creates is not real, its an illusion – showing us the reality is not one of our mind’s strengths, in fact, it should just observe not judge. And humans are still struggling to use the mind as a tool for centuries – so we get caught up in the drama in our heads and then go about to play it out in real life. Sadly, for us, it works most of the time or we each seem to think so and thus the disconnect. Our minds have taken fodder from the media, TV, books, society to form our reality even before it has happened and that clouds our eyesight and prevents us from seeing from what the truth is.

Don’t believe me – think of someone who genuinely meant harm to you and you know for sure – it is an undeniable fact that they were going to harm you. Go on. I dare you!

For most of us, the answer would be no one – except our minds. And yet, we live in a world where we do not believe in positive intent. It is time to wake up and connect.

Who will you connect with today?

Camera Lens

I practice Vipassana Meditation – Vipassana in Pali means “To see things as they are”.

And in the book Non Violent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg he also talks about “Observing without judgment”.

At one level it makes perfect sense – how can we live in this world if we are not able to see things as they are?. If you see a red apple, you see a red apple. If you see a tall building, you see a tall building. It is easy to see the reality as it is in such matters.

But, how about when you look at your best friend talking to somebody else, and you think, “she does not love me anymore.”
Or, when you see someone else and think, “He is so much more handsome than me.”
Or, you see somebody at work and think, “Man, I will never be like that person.”

Now, in these instances are you seeing the reality as it is? And these are the situations when we should see the truth as it is and not as we would like it to be.

When a baby is born in the world, let’s assume that they start with a clean slate (not getting into past karma) – They should be able to see the reality as it is right? Is that true? If your parents smoked when you were a kid smoking will not be a bad thing for you, and that’s your reality but is it how things are in the world. From the time we are born we are creating our realities – as we grow up we have created the world we live in and the illusion is so strong that it is almost real.

When the seed of enlightenment sprouts within you (because all human beings have the seed) then we have a desire to see who we are. And we start exploring which leads us to things like NVC, Vipassana, CPM, etc. And what these things do is to give us a way to see within ourselves – look inward because from the time we are born we are always outward focused. And when we look inward and can understand the inner workings of our body and mind, we move one step closer to realization. One way to start is to look at life as you are looking at it from a camera lens – for example, “All you see is your best friend talking to somebody else.” (not that she does not like you anymore).

Then the question arises – how do we know that what we are experiencing is the ultimate reality? This is where my favorite quote comes in as the answer, “In this plane, there are no answers, and beyond this plane, there is nobody to ask the question.”

One thing is for sure, what you experience right now is your reality, and that is as good as any the place to start from. Maybe when you start you blame the other party 100%, and maybe after working on oneself for a while you will begin to see your part in what happened, and as you continue to work on yourself you will eventually come to the realization that whatever happens is 100% because of you whether you know it or not. Once we accept this reality as our real progress begins – changes truly start from within. And we are more focused because we are not distracted by what others are doing but what is going on inside of oneself.

What the kale!?! #VeganLife

This year I become a Vegan. It has honestly been a journey. I gave up chicken because I stopped enjoying it, next year I gave up fish, last year I gave up milk and this year eggs. Before I go any further let me say that I believe in the Chinese proverb -“80% is perfect for me”. You will catch me eating the occasional cheese or drinking chai with regular milk, but it is not the norm.

A few people ask me why I became vegan. I have no clear answer except it was time – a part of it was for weight control, but I believe that most of it is because of the meditation practice (Vipassana) and my tuning with my body needs. I practice Vipassana and know that it is my path in my life. And as a part of Vipassana, you are encouraged to maintain the five precepts in your daily life if you are a serious meditator.

And one of the precepts is to refrain from killing any living beings – and that includes refraining from acts that encourage killing living beings as well. And I believe that if you take these precepts, they have to have an impact and maybe that is why I am on this journey or simply put I am more in tune with my body needs now than before as a part of my spiritual practice.

Now, why would my body needs shift towards Vegan? I follow what my body needed, but I recently saw a video by Sadhguru (A guru from Isha Yoga Center – one of the few yogis who meets people where they are) on eating meat. He explained that herbivore animals have molars for chewing, grinding and they also have a long alimentary canal to aid in digestion whereas carnivores have canines for tearing the meet and a short alimentary canal as they do not digest food for long. Now, which of these systems do you think we humans have? We have molars and a long alimentary canal – and the climate in our body is tropical – so can you imagine what happens to meat left outside (or inside our body) for long periods of time? [Especially when it takes meat 24-28 hours to process through our bodies]

He also has another reason for those of us who are spiritually inclined- that if we eat other beings who have emotional feelings, then it is a) like killing them b) we are just collecting their imprints which are not suitable for preparing our body for spiritual practice.

And he also says that if you live in areas with harsh climates like deserts where you have to eat meat – in that case eat meat which has the lowest emotional content like fish. This makes sense because fish was the last animal meat I gave up.

These are facts or beliefs depending on what you searched for in Google, but your body does not lie. Unfortunately, most of us have lost the ability to listen to our body.

What’s next for me? Eating Less and Eating Simple – Mindfully. I am on a journey and grateful to be on it. Will you be my fellow traveler?