Tag Archives: #awareness

Can You See It?

All of us have been part of at least one of the following scenarios.
SCENARIO 1: Seen a kid, niece or nephew and commented on how much they have grown? – ‘Oh My God – she has grown so much.’
SCENARIO 2: An uncle, aunt or somebody older than you comment on how much you have grown? -‘Look how tall you have become.’

And if you haven’t, then I am sure at some point you have looked at your old pictures or even in the mirror and commented on how much you have changed. These changes are physical changes that our body goes through as we age. And these are very visible, unfortunately for us especially as we age. Grey hair, Wrinkles, not so firm Skin, height, weight are all outward appearances of growth.

What about the signs of internal growth – emotional and mental maturity. They are not as visible but equally important if not more. It is hard for even us to see the growth that has happened to us. We don’t get a halo or a ring around our head as we progress on the path of maturity. And it is also not automatically correlated to our physical maturity – for example now that you are X age – you are at 60% mental maturity. I am sure all of us have met people who are wiser than they look and people who could do with a little bit more growing-up.

From the time we are born, we automatically start learning, and that learning happens in leaps and bounds as we do not know anything. And most of that learning happens without us knowing about it. If our parents told us to brush our teeth twice a day – that’s what we did. We never sat down and analyzed if that is a good thing. Unfortunately, as we grow up, we do not that either – we just let it happen without actively learning.

For example, you have a boss who is a micromanager, and you listen to the boss and get your job done, or you speak up and ask for autonomy. How often do we sit down and say to ourselves, ‘I have a situation here – how should I go about it?’ or ‘Well, that did not go well – what can I learn from here?’ We wake up and get on with our lives – ups and downs included.

Our emotional growth and maturity would be faster and targeted if we were an active participant. What if we started the day wanting to be a better version of ourselves every day. What if we sat down at the end of the day and did a quick lesson learnt session. How much better we would be, our life would be. And our emotional maturity marker might not be visible, but it would be in an upward trajectory. Guess what, if it did not increase as much, then it is a reminder to ask ourselves what we can do next?

Can you see and track your emotional growth inside?

A Select Few

There is a lot of news about the suicide of the Bollywood Actor – Sushant Singh Rajput. It has raised questions on the powerful few who own most of the industry – which movies make it, who is the hero etc. Soon after that, there was another post from a singer stating that it is the same state in the music industry – a select few make the choices. In the retail sector, a few own all the Malls and hence dictate the rents for the stores.

Hence the name Mafia/Cabal etc. The dictionary meaning of Cabal is – ‘a secret political clique or faction’ and dictionary meaning of Mafia is – ‘a closed group of people in a particular field, having a controlling influence’.

What all these examples share is the Pareto principle (80/20). The Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule, states that for many phenomena, 80% of the result comes from 20% of the effort. The principle has been named after Vilfredo Pareto—an Italian economist—who, back in 1895, noticed that about 80% of Italy’s land belonged to 20% of the country’s population. 

In the cases mentioned above, cabals are 20% of the population that holds 80% of the Power. Is this right? Is this how things should be?

Unfortunately, there is not a straight answer. Before we solution lets understand Power. How many you cringed when you read the word Power? How many of you have a negative connotation with the word Power? If you search the internet, watch movies – they will send the message that Power is a bad thing.

1st Baron Action even had a quote for this – ‘Power tends to corrupt, and absolute Power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men…’ 

I recently read the ‘One Minute Manager’, and there is a quote in there which talks about – ‘The sole advantage of Power is the ability to do more good. Thus, if you want to do more good for yourself and more good for the people around you, it is important to learn how to tap into your points of Power.’

Power by itself is neutral – it is how you use it defines it. And honestly, you do need some Power to make changes.

In the previous examples – if all the stores got together and said these are the rents we want – the mall owners cannot do anything. If all the actors/directors boycotted the select few – the producers will have to change their view. If all the nerds and average children in the class got together against the bullies then – there will be no cliques. 

What we forget is that they might be 20%, but we are the remaining 80%. We have the majority of Power – but most of us are selfish. We look out for us, and our closed ones and the 20% take advantage of that. And for this not to happen, each one of us needs to realize our Power – work on ourselves, raise our awareness so that we can use our Power for good.

How will you use your Power today?

More Than Before

Before 2020 I was living my regular routine – going to work, getting things done and accomplishing the goals I had set for myself. I also spent a considerable amount of time with Wild Tiger Tees. Wild Tiger Tees is a social enterprise which Adam, I and three of our friends formed. Our mission is to empower youth experiencing homelessness through the art of screen printing. And as a part of it, we interacted with youth experiencing homelessness – most of them ‘not’ surprisingly were black. Adam and I had tons of discussion about generational poverty, how black are disadvantaged economically. We had debates, we talked about and then got back into the routine.

Cut to this year – 2020 which will go down in history as a remarkable year and the year is not over yet.

This year started with rumblings of Coronavirus in China, which I ignored brushing it off as something that will come and disappear. And then slowly in March, we began Work From Home. The reality had not sunk in then. Sixty days in – I realized that this is momentous. A single virus – COVID-19 had a global impact. Most of the world was working from home – who would have thought. We all have a tolerance limit, and dealing with coronavirus took some of it. For some more than others – like people who lost their jobs, it impacted them more than the rest. There were a lot of people who were/are unemployed, and that causes a sense of unrest. Even though the nature around us was a gentle hush – there were rumblings.

And then George Floyd was killed by police brutality.

It further increased our anxiety and reduced our tolerance limit. For some people that was it – the maximum they could take. For me – I admit that I am unable to brush this off as a discussion topic – Social injustice and racism. It took more screen space in my daily routine than the debates we had. My awareness of this topic has heightened that I cannot juast brush it off. And it bothered me that we lived in a society in which this could happen. And this led to a desire to act – do something. I signed petitions, donated money, wrote blogs – more than discussions or debates.

‘Doing More’. And I see it reflected everywhere – Sales of the book – ‘White Fragility by Robin DeAngelo’ and ‘How to be an anti-racist by Ibram X Kendi’ have gone up significantly. My company Nationwide did a public show of unity by kneeling in silence in downtown today. All the leaders spoke about what they are doing personally – being more thoughtful – teaching kids – speak up more – be an ally to our black/coloured friends – donate more money. Most corporates have publicly declared that they do not stand for racial injustice. Minneapolis has done away with the existing police structure and is embarking on a new way to police themselves.

I hope that this change lasts for me and does not get overtaken by my regular routine. We all hope that this will lead to lasting change – it took the pandemic and an event like George Floyd for a slight increase in global consciousness – that is a big step for humanity. Hope it continues and in the future becomes the norm until there are no native Americans or African-Americans or Indian Americans but just Americans or even better JUST HUMANS.

Be Surprised

I was a little down when we were leaving London – it is almost a physical tug on my heart. It gets harder and harder to leave London, much like India. Such is life – and we ordered a Uber to get to the airport.

I got into the cab all prepared to dwell on the sombre feeling of despair as we edged towards the airport in grey London weather. And before I could fasten the seatbelt – Adam said, ‘Hey, look he has the new Prius.’ Adam and I drive Prius, which started as being a cost-saving option but now has become a way to reduce our carbon footprint. I was super excited to see the Prius dashboard and how it could connect to the phone so seamlessly. I expressed my joy in so many words and that got our driver Piotr (from Poland) to start the conversation. He even paused and reversed the car to show us all the features.

And then we got talking – first about how easy it is to be a Uber driver in the US when compared to the UK. Being MBA students, we ended up doing a back of the envelope math on how much a Uber driver will have to earn in the UK to break even. And then the conversation drifted to how he goes home to Poland, and with all the relative hopping, he feels like he needs a vacation when he comes back to London. How expensive it is to live in London but he cannot go back to Poland because his kids are English. We spoke about driverless cars, insurance, Brexit, climate change and before we knew it, we were at the airport.

And I enjoyed the conversation – the conversation was no different from what I would have with any other dear friend of mine from London over tea. The topics – home, longing for home but not being able to go, climate change, Brexit, voyages were all something that I relate it. Mind you; this was the conversation I had with my Uber driver. How often does this happen?

London as a city invites people or rather sculpts people into this mould because the city encourages discussion, openness. Once you cross the local – petty personal problems – then we can see that there are bigger things in play. The diversity in London makes us look beyond borders. What is the point in fighting over a silly line which we call a country border when the planet might not even survive in fifty years? What is the point in investing millions of dollars in the new technology when we will be having a bottle bath in a few decades? And we don’t even use 10% of the technology we have today – do we use our iPhones and Androids to their full capacity. We all have more computing power in our wristwatches these days but do we understand our carbon footprint on this planet?

This blog took its meandering path from a lovely conversation to awareness of our planet – making the title of this blog apt.

How are you going to surprise yourself?

To Give Up Or Not.

At lunch, I was telling my family about an amazon prime video I had watched. It’s called ‘Spotlight’ and is based on real events depicting the Boston Globe newspaper’s journey in exposing the child abuse by priests. It led to a lively discussion around institutions, power, giving up and from there, the topic led to Anthony De Mello – who was an Indian Jesuit priest and psychotherapist. He has written lots of excellent books (Recommend Awareness if you are interested). Adam mentioned that in one of Anthony’s clips he says (I am paraphrasing) – ‘When he would talk to priests – all they would want to talk about is sex – because that’s what they have given up. And when he would talk to sex workers or prostitutes, all they wanted to talk about was God and spirituality.’

Moral of the story – you are obsessed with what you give up. Because when you give up something, you are so focused on giving it up that it is almost an obsession. For your mind – it does not make a distinction between whether you are giving it up or not – all it knows that a particular topic is on your mind a lot. For example, you decide to give up dairy – and you keep googling various kinds of non-diary desserts, articles on benefits of giving up dairy. All your mind knows is that you think about dairy non-stop which from its perspectives it’s true.

Why is it that when you give up something, you are obsessed with it? If you give up something before you are ready to give it up, then there is no point. How do you know you are prepared to give up something? You are not looking to replace it with something – you are not doing something in its stead that’s when you know you are ready to give it up, but at that point, you are not giving it up because you do not have it.

I know it sounds confusing – Prof.Rao from Creativity and Personal Mastery says, ‘You cannot give up desire – desire has to give you up.’ That is the essence. But we are all humans, and we have to start somewhere. Why is it important to know the difference – so that we can accept and absorb something fully before giving it up. How can we give something up if we are not done with it – and be done with something means knowing it fully, we have explored it fully.

We cannot solve a problem by thinking the same thing – it’s the same with giving up – there has to be something different about the way we think about it and in order to do that sometimes you have to immerse yourself in it fully as opposed to fighting it even before you know what it is. Everything in life is there for us to learn – if we have not learned the lesson how much ever you try to give it up – it won’t work. But the minute you learned from your experience – it will disappear.

What are you trying to give up without having grasped it fully?
Leaving with a poem from the famous saint poet – Kabir

Kabir’s poem
“When I gave up the tying of ribbons, still I tied my garment
about me:
When I gave up tying my garment, still I covered my body in its
folds.
So when I give up passion, I see that anger remains;
And when I renounce anger, greed is still with me still;
And when greed is vanquished, pride and vainglory remain;
When the mind is detached and casts Maya away,still it clings to
the latter.
Kabir says, ‘Listen to me, dear Sadhu! the true path is rarely found.””
― Kabir, Songs of Kabir

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?

Food For Soul

Have you ever had an experience where you had met a good friend(s) and left feeling more energized than when you entered the conversation?
Have you ever watched a movie or read a book which inspires you to be creative and leaves your mind buzzing?
Have you ever watched somebody speak and felt the energy change in the room – People came in angry but leave hugging one another?

These are all examples of soul food – that nourishes your soul, not your body or your intellect. So, what do we mean by soul food?

No Judgements or comparisons – instances where you are just yourself without the fear of being judged or being not loved or pressure of being a certain way because that is how it is supposed to be.

Laughter – not a superficial laugh but laughter that starts in your belly and resonates in your entire body. These moments become memories or mental screensavers that bring laughter to you whenever you think about it.

Nonsensical – there is something to be said about the times when it does not matter what utter nonsense comes out of your mind/mouth but it all makes sense because the sense of connection is much deeper than words.

Energy – instances where no matter how you felt at the beginning of the interaction, by the end of it there is a change for the better.

At Ease – we do not realize this because most of the time our bodies are not at ease – they are clenched in some area or the other, and sadly, we are so accustomed to it that it is our default state. However, when you have soul food your body is at ease – complete ease – there is no disease.

I am sure you could relate to one or more of the above instances. Why is the soul food important? Because this is what keeps us sane, keeps us who we are and not what others think who we are. If we lose touch with who we are then why do we even exist?. And just like your body which needs sustenance to continue your soul needs nourishment to maintain the life force which is inside all of us.

In an ideal world, all that we would consume would be soul food, unfortunately, or fortunately, the world we live in cares only about intellect and the outer skin and not about the deepest core which is what connects us all humankind with the planet earth. If we were really on soul food all the time we would be more connected with the planet earth – we will see the trees on this planet as the ‘lungs’ in our body and take more care of them. We will be kind to our fellow humans because we would see them as ourselves.

We are so distanced from each other that we are losing touch with ourselves – and if we cannot retain the bond with ourselves how will we ever connect with others. There are many ways to access soul food – the first step is being aware of the hunger for soul food. Are you hungry, now?

Diversity And Inclusion – Airbnb

I had written a post about Diversity and Inclusion a while ago. And I am still fascinated by the power of diversity.

I like to travel as some of you know – and I realized that for the last few trips we have always stayed at an Airbnb. I remember being skeptical about the idea initially. What! Do you live in someone’s house? They live there too! How does that work?

But, after the very first one, I was hooked to the idea. I was a total convert. Why do I like Airbnb? And how is it related to Diversity and inclusion. For those of you not familiar with Airbnb – here is the link to the website. But even important is their mission

“Our diverse global community makes Airbnb possible. Building an inclusive platform for all hosts and guests is our greatest goal, and we’re always working to improve it.”

Brian Chesky – co-founder and CEO of Airbnb states the following succinctly.

If you think about it, the very foundation of Airbnb is based on inclusion. You open your houses first to a stranger and then open your hearts to them as well. It is difficult to not like a human after you have ‘really’ seen them. For example, in my most recent trip to Toronto with my friend we were staying with an Asian family – complete with a kid, grandparent, and the parents. It was a very lovely Airbnb – the living room and kitchen was a common area, our bedrooms and bathroom were separated.

And if you are from an Asian culture, you instinctively understand the situation. The grandparent(s) usually travels along with the family to take care of the kid. They did not speak English, and we did not speak Chinese. The first day we were there, we were very polite and just nodded and smiled at each other if we crossed paths. At night the little kid starts crying. My friend and I give each other a look – ‘Kids’ and we went to sleep as the rooms were very well segregated. Next day we saw what they had for breakfast, they saw that we skipped breakfast. We could see the kid viewing us to see what we did, how we did etc. That evening she came up to us with her mother shyly and gave us two candies. Next day we returned the favor. And by that time we had become quite familiar with each other. And when we left, we took selfies. We exchanged our names.

Now, this is what happens in a joint family in India. You live with other people – you ADJUST, and you ACCEPT. This is what makes us a grow as a person. Living in Airbnb reminds me of that. And at the same time in a world where technology is pulling people away, we need more of these instances to remind us that we are all humans who share space on this lovely planet called earth.

I enjoy these tiny, intimate connection with people who I have never met – because it reminds me of our oneness.

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.

Courage – in daily life

“It is easy to fight a war, but it’s the day to day life that wears us out.” Like all things that have something to teach us this quote stayed with me. The words might not be the same, but it does convey the message. It is easier to tackle a big crisis than with the minutiae of our daily life.

For example, it is easier to work towards the project deadline than to say no to chocolates. A big goal helps us focus our energies – it is so big that we find it hard to see anything else. It is difficult to deal with the smaller things that keep chipping away at our willpower because they slip under the radar. Oh! Its just one chocolate we say, but that tiny hole is enough to break the dam.

What is courage really? Courage is required for us to climb everest but courage is the following little things as well.

– Courage is not participating in gossip about a person at the workplace.
– Courage is refusing to join in the complaining about the state of the world.
– Courage is refusing to eat chocolates or junk food when offered to you.
– Courage is going for another lap in the pool when your mind is saying no, but your body is ready.
(It is good to take action too but the first step is to recognize the behavior and stop encouraging it.)

And like everything else in the world, the golden mean applies here too. There is no wisdom in pushing yourself so hard that you faint while running as opposed to stopping when your body tells you. It is a delicate balance that comes with awareness and experience.

It is a skill that can be learned and not something that people are just born with. Like strawberry beer, this is an acquired taste. Good news is this that we can learn this in the school of life. We don’t have to go to university and take on a student loan to learn how to be courageous.

As you go about your day be aware of your thoughts, sensations and most importantly what your inner voice is saying. Every time we suppress the inner voice that is asking us to be courageous there is a frission in our soul. Note that moment when the crack appears and next time instead of accelerating the break just stay silent. Next time your colleagues/family start talking about somebody behind his or her back dare to remain silent or just walk away. Be brave and say no to the temptation to join in. If you are not able to resist yourself, then make a mental note that you tried. Even this small act of awareness feeds the little courage inside of you. And some more actions of this kind will feed the courage until its ready to reveal itself and act. Show itself; it will – courage that is.

And if each of one of us minds his or her own business and focuses the energy internally on strengthening the inner muscle of courage the world will be whole with a few fewer fissures.