On The Other Hand

Recently, I have started noticing different things.
There are a lot more people who are walking their dogs.
I see father/son going on a walk.
I see mother/daughter running with their dog.
I see families going on bikes together.
I see couples walking around the park.

With the coronavirus quarantine, we are spending time with people who matter the most in our lives. We are beginning to look – really look at our spouses, children and see them for who they are. We are calling up family far and near and zooming/skyping with them.

The question does arise, ‘Does it take a pandemic for us to wake up and do what we should have always been doing?’ Somebody wise said, ‘If you want to be enlightened, then spend a month with your parents or closed one.’ Because those closest us to know our hot buttons and prolonged exposure to them will force us to deal with the hot buttons – thus making us all a better version of ourselves. There are some blogs doing rounds predicting an increase in the baby boom and divorce after the pandemic.

flat character design and elements. vector illustration

Dolphins/Swans/Fishes are coming back in droves to Italy waters.
People are travelling when necessary, be it via car or planes.
Aeroplane travel is almost down to the bare minimum.
Most industries have shut down.

Can you hear mother nature heave a sigh of relief and take a deep breath as she gets much-needed downtime to recoup and refill her coffers? Again, the question arises, ‘Does it take a pandemic for us to stop depleting Mother Nature’s resources?’ Some say that this is Mother Nature’s way of imposing her will on us so that she can take a break. Can you imagine what a positive impact this is having on the environment? The air quality will improve tenfolds.

The coronavirus is forcing all of us to have a holistic detox – lifestyle, food, people. And with the slowing down comes the free time, which will spark our creativity. People are playing games, reading books, watching movies and soon as the layers of daily life lift from us we will start to gravitate towards activities that were looking to bloom like drawing, writing and whatever form this creativity may take for each of us.

W.H Davis said, ‘What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare. No time to stand beneath the boughs. And stare as long as sheep or cows.’ Guess what, now we have all the time to stare.

We are spending a lot of time with ourselves, which can be very dangerous. Blaise Pascal said, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” We will see what comes of this. It is up to each of us to make the most of this time and most importantly when this passes, and it will pass – take the lessons we have learnt into the new consciousness that will arise.

Do I Know You?

Coronavirus – Let’s start with THE topic on everybody’s mind. Even if you do not want to hear about it you have no choice – it is impacting almost everything. We finally gave in to the fear that we might have no food at home (which made no sense) and Adam decided to make a trip to Kroger, our local supermarket store. The shelves were empty, and he admitted feeling the panic vibe as other people piled items into the shopping cart.

Let’s move to the real topic of this blog.

And as he was walking down the almost empty aisles – a stranger walking from the other side looked at him and asked, ‘Are you Aki’s dad?’. For those of you who do not know Aki is our Shiba Inu pup who has his own Instagram account – you can follow him @IamLuckyAki. Adam was a little surprised, and he said, ‘Yes’. The stranger told him that his wife works at the Big Walnut Boarding Center, where we board Aki sometimes. Aki, who is super diligent about his social media following, immediately reached out to the stranger on Instagram who expressed a desire to meet Aki in person someday. Aki hasn’t responded but feel free to stay tuned in to his account to see what he thinks of the suggestion.

With social media and private data floating around, it should not come as a surprise that people know us even though we do not know them. A lot of my work colleagues follow Aki on Instagram, and it gives them a sense of connection to me which I might not feel always.

Is there anything like privacy anymore? Or a more pertinent question – is that even feasible unless you live entirely off the grid in which case you won’t be able to read this blog either. Another critical question is, does it matter? I am not talking about the information like Credit card/SSN etc. but general information that most people feel comfortable posting like their, pet photos, vacation photos, food photos.

Like everything else, there are two sides to the coin. People might use that information for the wrong purpose, but the other side of the coin is that information is readily available. And it can help us connect as well. Social media does help us connect with people as it narrow downs your likes/dislikes. Most people who follow Aki are dog lovers or have a pet of their own which makes the connection so much easier. I feel comfortable talking to a stranger with a dog than with one who does not have a dog.

Apart from the connection, it also helps the spread of information quickly. Think about Coronavirus and how we know at our fingertips how many cases are there, which country is the epicentre. Some might argue that it is information overload, but it is readily available. Unlike in the past, when it would take days for the information to reach and the damage cannot be undone.

Key is awareness and intention. Are you aware of your interactions with social media? Are they working for you? Are you aware of your consumption of the information? And what is your intention as you interact with these – is it to get a specific update or general mindless wandering?

Stay Healthy, Stay Aware. May All Beings Be Happy!

As Good As It Gets

Adam and I recently finished level 1 Improv Class. It was something that we were always curious about, and I was personally very interested in learning how to go with the flow. So, we did the class and finished it successfully as well.

There is an activity in Improv called Dr.KnowItAll. Three people stand on the stage. The idea is they are one person with three talking heads, and each head can utter one word at a time. The audience asks questions, and the Dr.KnowItAll answers them all. 

Let’s say I am on the stage, and the audience asks a question, ‘Are Birds Real?’ What I want to say is, ‘Only If You Can Fly’. I know pretty sassy right. But, I am dependent on what my partners say, and if I try to force-feed my answer, it just makes the situation worse. The answer that comes out might not be what I want, but it is the reality as it is. 

Does this sound familiar?

Another exercise or activity in Improv is – Audience gives a keyword, and 2-3 students have to do a skit on it. First, you are dependent on the keyword that the audience gives you. You may have no interest in squirrels, but that’s the word your team got. And now, you are also dependent on what your partners say on stage. You may want to form a squirrel army and take on the world, but your partners on stage may decide to go on a picnic instead.

Does that sound familiar?

All of us have situations in life where things do not go as we planned or wanted them to. I might have wanted all top performers in my team, but I got a mix of high and medium performers. Or I have a team of top performers, but they are not high performing. 

Life in general very rarely goes the way imagined it to, right? How many of our and our friend’s lives went as we imagined it to be? Life is Improv. 

What Improv teaches you is

  • Yes-and: to accept the gift that you are receiving and build on it and pass it on as a gift to others. 
  • Listen: If we are so busy imagining what life should be like we will miss out on what is happening
  • Trust your gut: Your body knows best. Even if you have no idea how the sentence will form, say the word that your gut tells you to.
  • Support the team: For it all to work, we all have to be in it together. 

Imagine if we lived our life using the above principles. I admit it is hard, especially for type A’s out there who have a higher standard and want things to go a certain way. It is hard to live with an OK answer when you had such a brilliant one in your head. 

This is the time to face reality – sometimes you have got to do the best with what you have got – because this is as good as it gets.

How are you going to face reality? 

Echoes Of Past

I have mentioned in the past that I do run a Bollywood Dance Class as a side hustle. It is my creative outlet for me, given the rest of my work is pretty organized.

It so happened that I choreographed wedding dances for three couples and one of them included proposal as well. And all in a span of roughly six weeks. I could not help but wonder at the coincidence.

Firstly, I am grateful that I can be a part of their lives in a small fashion. And I love this kind of a behind-the-scenes impact. I am a medium through which they get to shine. And it is deeply satisfying.

I am amazed at how ‘I just want to dance’ evolved into ‘Connection with people’ business. At the heart of any enterprise – it is all about people. We are mostly focused on tasks at work, but there is still a people element to it. Yes, I know robots are soon going to become our colleagues at work, but you know in Japan they believe that robots have a soul too!

It is fascinating to watch the couple dynamics – who listens to whom, which songs do they enjoy the most and how they share the humour between them. There is something special when you first start a relationship. You are getting to know another person more. And you do change the minute the relationship is official. The guy you meet and the guy you marry are two different people even if they are the same guy.

It made me look back at my own life and wonder if we were also in a similar phase. It is funny how if we are not in the thick of it – it loses its awareness for us. It made me realize that just because I am done with that phase does not mean it is not happening around the world. Even now, as I am writing this blog, I am sure people are connecting, getting engaged, getting married.

What seemed to be present for Adam and me ten years ago is now a faint echo from the past. And choreographing the wedding dances reminded me of my past and how we have come a long way. Marriages are like wine – it gets better with age.

Anytime you focus on the past, you wonder about the future. What is alive for me now will be a faint echo in the future. Is this the echo I want to listen to? Am I living the life I want to live? What kind of memories am I building? Who knows how it will be another ten years.

There is joy in the anticipation and also the power of creating now. The awareness that the present will be an echo in the future helps us focus more on the present. That is all there is to life – the moment, the now. Eckhart Tolle talks about it in his book – ‘Power of Now’.

How are you creating the now?

Human Predicament – Musings

I just watched the movie Parasite. (Disclaimer: there might be some spoilers below). It is a Korean oscar-winning movie. The premise, plot and complemented with the acting. It is not a light watch – instead, it left me feeling very heavy in my heart for reasons that I cannot articulate. Hence, the blog.

If you have been reading my blogs, then you are familiar with my fascination with the human predicament. The human predicament for me refers to the condition(s) that arise with being human. For example, – our need for control, our bond with mind chatter, and so on.

Parasite seems to touch on so many of the human predicaments – that it struck a chord which is still resonating. Let’s explore some of the themes that I could see in the movie.

History repeats itself, but we are not any wiser.
I cannot get around my head around the fact of how we never learn our lessons (me included) regardless of how many times we are in the same situation. We as a human race have survived – wars, holocausts, genocides, and still, they keep happening. Will we as a race every learn? In the movie, the Kim family fail to empathize with the housekeeper and her husband, even though they are in the same situation. We have not realized that we are all one; hence we tend to attack each other – metaphorically in various ways.

We see only a part of the reality.
Parks have no idea that they have a couple living in their basement; they do not even know they have the second – deeper basement. The Parks also do not realize when the Kims con their way into their homes. Parks also have no idea that they are supporting the entire Kim family. In fact, till the end, nobody discovers the basement. There are so many things that we do not see in our daily lives because we are caught up in our drama.

The best plan is no plan.
This is a line from the movie. Dad Kim tells his son that the best plan is not to have any plan because then nothing can derail it. We can make all the beautiful plans in the world, but there is always something that can derail it. We can account for all the contingencies, back up plans, but in the end, there is no guarantee that a plan will work.

We can die at any moment.
With so many calamities happening all around the world, be it Tsunami, Earthquake, Gun shooting – there is no guarantee that I will wake up alive when I go to bed. And no guarantee that I will come back home alive when I leave the house. I know this sounds morbid, but this is the truth of life. Here today – gone tomorrow. But we conduct our lives in a fashion as if we are all immortals.

Unfortunately, none of what you are reading is a new theme – we are all familiar with the issues, but they are not how we lead our lives.

Did this tug at your heartstrings? What does this spark in you?

Do You Think About It?

We had one of our leaders come and talk to us at a work meeting. He was talking about expense pressure and how it is a given. He made a comment that stood out to me – ‘You do not walk around thinking about Gravity, do you?’

His point was expense pressures will always be there – so why spend unnecessary energy thinking about its existence and griping about it? He makes an excellent point. But to treat expense pressures (or any other habit) like gravity requires work.

His comment is not valid only for expense pressure but for any habit that we are trying to build. Think about the process of building a practice. Let’s tackle an easy one – brushing your teeth every day. Do you think about it every day? The chances are that you don’t go around thinking about brushing your teeth. You just wake up and do it. Now, think about avoiding sugar or processed foods. It is highly likely that you think about food a lot when you are trying to build a good eating habit. The goal is to get to a point with food where you treat it just like gravity – it exists.

To get there with habits takes time and courage. First, the desire in you has to be resolute that you do not give up despite challenges, obstacles. Let’s continue with the food habit. It is highly likely that you switch back to the old eating habits in a couple of days or a week and then it takes you days to get back on the ‘good eating’ bandwagon. The desire to have a good eating habit needs to be strong for you to keep trying. And it takes courage to get up after you have fallen umpteen times. The one thing that very few people talk about which you need the most is Self-Compassion. It is tough to change habits because they are ingrained in our minds as neural pathways. And to accomplish this daunting task, we need to have a love for us as we fail.

When we are babies and learn how to walk – we are not caught in the human predicament yet. Hence as babies, we pick ourselves up with very little mind-chatter and keep at it until we start walking. But as we grow up, we become more human; our mind chatter takes over. As a result, we give ourselves a hard time when we fail at anything. And this is where self-compassion is the solution. Be kind to yourself like you would towards a friend until the habit you are trying to build becomes like gravity.

Once the gravitational pull exists, then it does all the work for you – you just have to build enough energy to gather the strength that sucks you into the habit.

Kindness and desire – are the two keywords to build a habitational pull that sustains all the good habits for you.

How will you work on building your habitational pull?

We Think With Our Eyes

For reasons unfathomable at this point, I had watched Karate Kid sometime ago, and the line that stood out for me from that movie was – ‘We think with our eyes.’ We see something that feeds into our mind, and we create our lives through that.

It is very much like a computer – you provide the input, and then the CPU (central processing unit – the equivalent of our mind/brain) goes into its existing database and creates an output. And the range of the output is dependent on the database built from our past experiences and what we glean from media and other outlets subconsciously. As a human being, we have the capacity to discern, be aware – Pause and exercise our choice on the output. Sadly, it is not a widely used or known capability.

I remember watching a movie clip that Prof.Rao from Creativity and Personal Mastery used to show us in the class. It looked like as if a man was running away after stealing something from another man. But when looked at it differently it showed him running to save an older man from a box (or a crane) falling on his head.

We have all seen the following image of the Young and the Old Lady. Or the 3D illusions where your eyes show you something but the reality is something else.

All these examples depict that what we see with our eyes is not the reality as it is. Isn’t it scary that we live and create a world mostly just believing what our eyes show us? What we see is a piece of reality, and as long as we keep that in mind, the chances that we are more reasonable in our judgements of others are higher.

Another way to balance the fact that we are biased towards what we see with our eyes is to give it time. Let’s say you see something that bothers you or you read an email that annoys you. Try sitting with the pain, uncomfortableness that arises from the email. Notice the need to react and lash out immediately – there is power in that. Because most of the times, our first reaction is not the best or the most accurate response. Blaise Pascal said, ‘All of humanity’s problem stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room.’

We cannot hold space within us for problems/painful items. We need to resolve them quickly – sometimes causing more pain in return. If we develop the ability to sit with a question – we will realise that the answer is within us or the question is no longer relevant. If we could do this as a race we will recognise how shortsighted we are in our view of each other and the world. If we could see – a true sight that comes with tolerance, patience and one-ness, we could see that there are very few items that require conflict/discord or disagreement.

How will you balance the bias of your eyesight?

Joy By Proxy

When I started my Bollywood Dance Class – I had no idea that it would be so much more than just dancing or driving Monday Blues away as I said on my website. What do I mean by this?

One of my very first clients was a hen night or Bachelorette party. It was the bride and her friends who wanted to learn a Bollywood Dance. It was my first time doing such an event – I planned it like a project manager would – Steps/ timings/ music etc. What I did not account for was the priceless joy of being included in somebody’s celebrations. The joy I felt was not dampened by being behind the scenes; on the contrary, it was freeing.

Since then, I have had numerous occasions to be a small part of other people’s celebrations. Like a boyfriend wanting to propose to his girlfriend at the end of the dance as a surprise, couples preparing for their wedding dance, parents planning to surprise their children with a special dance or children planning a surprise for their parent’s anniversary. The list is endless.

Joy or happiness by itself is free, and it is not the property of any one person. There is no such law that says that a person who is getting married is happier than her best friend. Only we can determine our level of happiness. 

Today, I taught a charming song to a lovely couple who are getting ready for their wedding. And I felt so much peace and joy, watching them enjoy the dance and bond between them. Technically speaking all I am doing is teaching them a series of hand and leg movements. There is no I or Me involved here at all.

What stops me feeling joy at hearing somebody else’s promotion or success? There are other situations where other happiness or celebration can be the cause of suffering. The answer to that is capital I. The minute we add I to anything pain begins – it becomes all about them and us. We are disconnected and view ourselves as separate beings. And once we do that it becomes a zero-sum world, more for them means less for them.

I just watched The Report on Amazon Prime about torture done by the CIA. And in that Dan Jones says, ‘But fear and shame do not make for better policy decisions and the fact that the people who we captured didn’t look like us or believe the same things we do, made it that much easier to do the things we did.’ 

The day we realize that Joy, by proxy, is the same as Joy by oneness or connectedness is the day we leap the next level of consciousness. If it is possible for us to experience Joy by watching others when we are not personally involved in it, it is possible for all of us to have the connection. We have to expand our circle of who is included in the I.

How will you experience connectedness today?

Why The Impartiality?

Two little kids decide to have some fun and go and roll in the mud – pretending to be pirates saving their ship amid a storm. When they go back home their faces covered with grime and their clothes dripping mud.

The mom tells one child, ‘How could you behave like this? These are brand new clothes, and we have guests coming in today. How can you be so insensible? You never listen to me and always do what you want.

To the other child, mom says, ‘Well, looks like you have had some fun. You do not do this often so I guess it’s ok this one time. But next time make sure you tell me, and we can get you into another pair of clothes.

You are probably wondering why the different reaction, right? Which one would you prefer – most of you see are thinking the second one. Now, what if I tell you that you are the person who displays the same impartiality. The first child is you and the second child is your friend or others.

Yes, that is correct. We are mean to ourselves but kind to others. If we missed a workout – we would berate ourselves. If our friend misses the workout, it’s ok. Why the bias? Why not treat yourself with the same compassion that you give your friend? We need to be self-compassionate which means we need to be loving and kind towards ourselves.

Sadly, we grow up learning how to build a relationship with others, but nobody talks about or teaches building a relationship with oneself. We never learn how to speak to ourselves, how to forgive ourselves and behave with ourselves. For us to be genuinely compassionate and kind to others, it has to start from us.

When things are going fine, some of us do celebrate, which is good, but we need self-compassion the most when we fail or have proven inadequate in some fashion. It is these situations where we need to exercise kindness and not judgement. After all, we are all in the human predicament – we are not supposed to be perfect, that is the joy of human life.

At the same time, it is essential to be mindful about not coddling oneself too much under cover of ‘Self-compassion’. Sometimes to get better, you have to swallow a bitter pill – and this is also self-compassion if done with kindness.

It is ok to be selfish and take care of oneself. When was the last time you decided to spend a day with yourself doing activities that you like? Journaling, watching a movie, sleeping in, reading a book, cooking – whatever you fancy. For most of us, we would be at a loss to identify activities that we can do for a day just by ourselves. And we spend the entire life with ourselves who we do not know very well.

It is time to get to know you, love you – look at the stranger in the mirror and have a loving conversation, first of many to come.

Be Fallow, Be Free

In the old days, farmers would let a piece of land be without crops for a season as it would regain its fertility. This land which was left as it is was called fallow land. There was another technique called crop rotation which involved rotating crops in a fashion to replenish the nutrients in the soil — for example, rotating between corn – heavy nitrogen user with Soybean – low nitrogen user. The farmers and people that time understood that sometimes you have to let things be so that they can be active again. Nothing is bottomless.

The farmers can, of course, ignore the above and continue to grow crops, but the land will have very low productivity and yield. And then there is the artificial hybridization for fast-growing plants or using fertilizers/pesticides which ultimately get into food and cause problems two-three generations down the line.

If you are wondering, how is this related to our lives? Think again! How many times in our lives have we just kept going without being fallow? The few instances we do talk about being ‘As it is’ is in terms of exceptions like sabbaticals. Or worse, sometimes it is forced upon us in terms of illness, injury – because we overused all the nutrients and now our body and mind are forcing us to lay fallow.

Yes, we do take vacation ts, but for it to be genuinely a vacation – it has to be an extended period. Imagine growing crops all year and then letting the land be fallow for a weekend or if we are feeling extravagant, it will be for the long weekend or ten days. Wow! Ten days to recover after years of toiling – we/society feel guilty about this.

What kind of a world have we created where doing nothing is considered worse than working ourselves to death. Now, doing nothing has a very sacred meaning which we have forgotten. Doing nothing does not mean mindlessly watching TV or giving up on your responsibilities or actively thinking (or worrying) about things that have happened or might happen. Doing nothing also does not mean actively doing something other than working – like pursuing a hobby or training for a marathon. It means no doing.

Then the question arises – if we are not doing something that what are we doing? We are being and not doing. There is a vast difference. Doing something from the space of being is enriching instead of just doing something because you exist. It is the inner stillness. Clarity arises from stillness only as confusion emerges from Chaos.

It is possible to maintain the inner stillness even when we are doing stuff. Still, to the first experience, the inner stillness – being fallow is essential, especially given how busy our lives are. Being Fallow is being free. And then can we be truly high performing, productive, superstars.

How will you experience and enjoy Fallowness?