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?

Do You Own It?

Scenario 1: Do you brush your teeth every day? Do you floss every day? Do you take care of your teeth religiously, making sure that they are healthy?
Scenario 2: Do you skip brushing your upper teeth because you can do it the next day? Who cares whether you brush your teeth or not?

The chances are that you fall in scenario 1 – you take care of your teeth. You do not just wake up and not brush because who cares right? You do, you care about your teeth, your health. You are important to you.

Now, let’s get to work. Have you ever done something half-heartedly because you did not care about it? Have you not done a spell check because you didn’t think it mattered or rather you did not want to do it?
I am sure all of us know somebody at work who always goes the extra mile – goes above and beyond what is needed. And we all know that one person who wants to do the bare minimum – a sloppy job too!

What distinguishes the two people? They both come to work, get paid the same amount then why are they so different. Look at the image below and tell me what comes to mind?

They were not doing it for themselves. They did not make the work their own. They lacked ownership. One might argue that it is work – and work is different from the rest of your life? Is it? I ask you – well, then a big chunk of your life is not your life anymore because your work is ‘different’ from your life.

We use this as an excuse for not showing up our best selves every moment of the day. We live in the moment, and we forget that we are all connected – everything that we do has an impact. Us making a choice, not making a decision has an effect on you, your life, your family, your community and your world. Your choice to not show up at work a 100% impacts the earth in some way or other. If we really could experience the universe as our own body then would we deface it by cutting down trees, by using plastic. No, we would feel the pain and stop. But now, we can ignore it because we say it does not impact me.

Some people might say, but I genuinely do not feel the connection, and that is ok but are you 100% true to what you feel connected to? What do you feel connected to? And how do you show up there? Change starts from within, and this is no different – first let’s be aware of how we are fully present for something in our lives and then spread it to other areas of our life. We might have all the time in the world, but we live in a moment and then moment to moment. And how you show up at the moment defines your life on this planet earth.

How are you showing up this moment?

All The Time In The World

‘I want to meditate and exercise but have no time to do it.’
‘I have so much to do and no time to do them.’
‘If only there were more hours in the day.

Do the above statements resonate with you? Now, have you heard of the quote that time is an illusion? See what Tolle has to say about it.

If what Tolle says is true then how come we are always so crunched up for time? It took me a month of not doing anything to get started on the theory that Time Is Indeed An Illusion. Let me share some of the tidbits with you.

Let’s start with the question – Can you live in the past? Can you live in the future? The obvious answer is no. We can only live in the now – the present moment – what does that mean?

Let’s say you are having a crazy day and you are finishing up writing an email to your boss. And you have to do the meeting minutes from the previous meeting and finish up the financials sheet for your team – and get to the home early so that you can pick up your puppy. The predominant mind chatter at this point – how are you going to get all these things done? But, the only thing you can do right now write that email – other things are just distractions. The quote from Deepak Chopra below sums it up well. It might sound a little paradoxical.

What he is trying to say that most of the time we are not short of time – we are just thinking about being short of time which in turns results in us in losing time – which indicates that we are losing time only in our head and minds and hence it is an illusion.

Time is a man made a construct, we made clocks and calculated the distance from earth/sun and decided that this is how our time management works. Now, to function in this society time is needed but we forget that we invented time. Do not get me wrong; I am not saying that we never plan and show up whenever we want because we have all the time in the world. What I am saying is that we can stop worrying about things in the past or the future and focus on the now – as that is the only place we can live.

And if we manage to live in the moment without thinking about the past and the future and continue that from moment to moment – we will have infinite time. At this moment when I am writing – I am aware of all the zillion things that I have to do before I go to bed, but at this moment I am writing, and I have all the time at this moment to write. And if I entirely live in this moment, then the anxiety of the other things undone does not exist.

Are you in the moment, 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?

View from the Terrace

Humankind has made tremendous progress in the last century than ever before. In our lifetimes, we have seen the journey of the internet from its birth to becoming the digital oxygen. Connecting across borders is easier than ever – we have come a long way from letters/steamer ships to instant messaging and Skype. With Google information is literally at our fingertips. Google has become a verb now.

With all these advances then why are we losing the sense of connection? Why are the suicide rates increasing? Why is depression becoming common?

Let me take you on my trip back to India. India has a population of 1.35 billion with the square footage of 1,269,219 sq miles which means that every person gets roughly 0.00094016222 square miles. Don’t get hung up on numbers – India is just crowded, you cannot step anywhere without running into people. I used to join my parents for a walk on the terrace, and I would look around. I could see kids playing skipping rope on a building terrace couple of blocks away. I could see two young men sitting on the water tank smoking cigarettes (probably hiding from their parents). I could see a woman picking off the clothes of the clothesline. And if I looked down the streets were teeming with life. I could empathize with the young lady coming back from work. I could see the old lady struggling to carry a heavy bag. I could see kids cycling off to someplace very urgently.

Even if you don’t go on the terrace, it is impossible to miss the sounds of life around you in your house because of the proximity of the homes. You can hear the kids upstairs playing marbles or something similar on the floor. You can listen to your neighbor’s tv. You could listen to the milkman and vegetable man in the morning. It is challenging to forget that you are a human and live among other humans. The maid comes in every day. The watchman brings you the newspaper every day.

When I came back to Columbus, there are a few people around on the street. You might see a few people running or walking their dogs. The houses are so apart that you could forget that you have neighbors once you get inside the house. We all sit in our cars – go to work and come back. Most families are nuclear these days, so the interaction is limited to family members these days when we get a break from the digital world. The sense of connection is not very easy – you have to seek it out.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that overpopulation is the only way to feel connected. I am stressing on the importance of human connection. We are social animals who crave some connection, warmth. And there are many ways to connect – with nature, with candles, with people, with self. Having contact is important. If you do not get a daily dose of connection, then put yourself in situations where you cannot avoid feeling the oneness with the rest of the humankind. And of course, once you realize the unity with the self and others, then the need for connection goes away as you are always in a state of oneness.

How will you connect today?

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?

I Wonder

As we were driving down the roads in India, my husband commented that he sometimes wonders what all these people on the road are doing or not doing? 

There are a lot of people in India who sit and wait or wonder or do something so complex that it is beyond a simple mind like mine which does not understand the concept of not doing anything or just plain simple wondering.

If you are going through the streets of villages you will see people sitting around a small tea shack and not doing anything. You will see people sleeping under trees. You will see people sitting outside their houses (Old houses had this inbuilt – a bench or a small verandah where you could sit and socialize).

If you are in the busy streets of a city, you will still see people sitting outside a tea shop on motorbikes. You will see them sit on piers or water fronts. You will see them sitting at bus stops, train stations. You will see them sitting in various shops, waiting or wondering.

If you didn’t know, India is the most populated country in the world with a whopping 1.3 billion and more coming by the second. And to add to the people let’s not forget all the cows and the dogs that roam as if they have equal rights to the road as any other Indian Citizen.

With so many people, one wonders how people have so much time. It is amazing that with so many people things still get done – with no order or organization. That is the beauty. You can impose control/order and laws only to a certain limit in a democracy. After that life takes over – it has its own order which works with the chaos – infact chaos is needed.

With so many people and limited infrastructure, we as humans are forced to resign to the fact that we are after all puppets in this whole drama called life. We want to move faster, but the traffic is not budging. We want to get an appointment as soon as we visit the doctor’s office, but there are like a dozen people in front of us. We want to zoom right through the traffic, but there are potholes, cows and dogs to avoid. In the face of such situations, the best thing to do is to accept it and use that time to wonder. I  believe that’s why there is so much just sitting and staring that happens. People have learnt that sometimes the best thing to do is to ‘just’ live. 

I had always rushed through life, even when I lived in India before. And even now I cannot stop running or doing. I admit that I used to look down on ‘not doing’ state as something of a lowly task. It’s only now that I am beginning to see the value and appreciate the state of wonder that many Indians tend to have automatically.

Do not get me wrong, this comes with its frustrations and issues but given the population and given the infrastructure, the happy medium is to keep calm and carry on and enjoy life for what it is – a super entertaining drama!

Acceptance

At our village market a cow got free and was trying to eat the vegetables off the stalls – the owners and the customers shooed the cow away, and then life went back to normal.

During the cyclone in Tamilnadu, a few of the trees just fell.

During winter the trees shed their leaves, and during spring the leaves grow again.

What do the three scenarios above have in common? Going with the flow. At the market, life went on as usual despite the cow sauntering in. Nobody gave it much thought – keep calm and carry on. Nature is the best example of going with the flow. Everything in nature goes with the flow as I have never seen a tree try to hold onto the leaves in winter because doing so would be foolishness and impossible. Imagine if a tree decided it was not going to grow any leaves in spring!

I am sure you are thinking what a ridiculous idea, right? Now, what if I told you that we not only entertain but even try to execute such ideas. For example, we do not get the partner of our choice, but we do try to do our best to make it happen. We might not get a job we like, but we strive against the verdict with all might and vain.

At some level, we know that life is flowing all around us and we are just little drops in that flow enjoying the ride. We get so busy in our human experience that we start to believe that we are like the banks of the ocean and we can contain and direct the water inside it. That is the human predicament – knowing that we are a drop in the ocean, but the drop includes everything that the ocean does.

We also like things the way they were and are resistant to change. The drops in the ocean change so rapidly that it is hard to distinguish it from the ocean. We, humans, try our best to cling to the shape and size which to put simply is a futile effort. But we still try. This is a human predicament.

We have to accept that we are in a human predicament. What we have is a choice – on how we view this human predicament – as a boon or a curse.

It will be a curse if we view the human predicament as a constraint. If we see it as a problem that shackles us from living our life because things do not happen as we want them to – the big ocean we are a part of refused to listen to the whims and fancies of this miniscule ocean drop – then it will be a problem.

It will be a boon if we see this as the freedom to experience life as a drop knowing that we are a part of the ocean then this is amazing. It’s like living life as an actor and experiencing the different scripts as we can play the characters to the fullest knowing that we are not the characters. This gives us the opportunity to live life fully.

What will your choice be?