Tag Archives: #betterlife

Silence Is The Key.

I love traveling and with traveling there comes a certain adventure because you never know what happens – delay in flights, missed connections. I was telling somebody that I loved being on planes and in the airport because while I am there, I am nowhere – I have nothing to do, and I am in transit. And since my husband and I have experienced a fair share of airport delays, we are at home in airports.

Once it so happened that I had a trip planned for one of the weekends, but it got canceled due to the weather. And as it was a weekend trip, there was no point in re-scheduling it. And I found myself in this unique situation where I was at home when I was not supposed to be so frankly speaking there was nothing for me to do because I wasn’t supposed to be here. And it was one of the best weekends I ever had because I had nothing to do.

A few years ago the concept of doing nothing would have been unthinkable if not outright terrifying. The idea of silence was not my cup of tea, but recently I have learnt to appreciate the quiet and no doing time. More so after I have progressed on my creative journey. Because silence is a must for things to arise. Silence can be of many types. Sometimes when I am reading an excellent book or watching an excellent movie, my mind takes that as silence because it is not just running around like a mad monkey – some of my best ideas have come right after finishing the video or the magazine.

In today’s world, there is a false sense of urgency – blame it on time, traffic or even media that keeps telling us that if we are not watching the news, we are missing something. Honestly, the world is not going to come to stand still if you just took a day-off. The sun will again rise, the earth will always keep spinning, and your fellow human beings will continue the work. For most of us, there is nothing in life that cannot wait a couple of days.

We can realize this when we stop and see for ourselves that nothing happened when we paused. And for most of us, it is hard to stop – to find that time. So we keep running afraid that if we stop something bad will happen. I still remember my childhood days of doing nothing when a simple walk around the block was one of the most adventurous trips of the day.

There are two sides to any coin. If you are working, then you need time when you are not working. This is true not only if you are in the creative field but also a professional area. All things in life need me time – the car needs maintenance, plants need night time to process the O2, this is why you put your laptop to sleep when you are not working. Why don’t we take a break? Yes, we sleep at night, but that is for the physical body. What about this mind that has been ruminating over things some real some imagined (mostly imagined) all day long?

Meditation is one way to provide some respite to the mind. Creative activities, doing nothing, nature walks are other ways.

What do you do to provide rest to your restless mind?

What If I Poke You?

If you poke your finger in a lake or ocean what do you get? More Water.
If you poke your finger in a desert what do you get? More Sand.
If you poke your finger in a watermelon what do you get? More Watermelon.

If I was to poke you – what would come out of you? Now, I do not mean the blood and physical stuff but emotionally. What will pour out of you? Will it be love, anger, jealousy, fear, happiness? What do you want to come out of you? And what input are you giving yourself? Are the input and the output in sync?

Let’s say you love a person. If this person is right next to you – do you have love towards that person? What if the person is 3 miles away from you? What if the person is at the office? What if the person is on another continent? In all these situations you are capable of feeling loving towards the person regardless of the distance.

Now, let’s say this person dies – are you still capable of loving them? Yes. So the capability of love exists within you – it has nothing to with that person. That person is just the medium through which you express your love but the love comes from you and stays within you even of the object of love is dead. [This story has been taken from inner engineering program by Sadhguru]

It does raise an interesting question. Most of the time we are under the impression that we feel something because of some other person. Like if we are angry its because the other person did not do what we wanted them to do. We are jealous because they got something we wanted. We are sad because something did not happen the way we wanted. But if we are capable of generating love within us, then it means we are capable of creating other emotions within us too without the other person being involved. Now, you might argue that even though the other person is not there – their memory is what is responsible for the emotion.

Ok, but then does it mean that everybody who sees that person feels the same emotion as you. For example, you have a neighbor who gets on your nerves. The minute you see the neighbor your mood turns nasty, and you transform into a devil from an angel. So, this neighbor is responsible for that transformation. But, then does everybody who sees him feel the same way? No, his family must adore him. His mother might think he is god’s gift to the world. So, if other people are responsible for our emotions then how come we all don’t feel the same way towards that person.

We are responsible for how we feel. Nobody else can make us feel something. It is our choice whether we recognize it or not. We react to the story that we have told ourselves within our head. We are reacting to that story and not the person. Regardless of whether the other person is a saint or a robber – we have an image, perception of who this person is and that is what we react to.

If all our stories are filled with love then only love will pour out of you if I poke you.

What do you want to come out of you when poked?

Who Are You Kidding?

I taught five-year-olds science during a volunteering project. I was nervous because I did not know what to expect, but I enjoyed it. The main reason was I left the class feeling hugged (not Physically but general vibe). I often wonder why that is – my take is because with kids they are who they are – they are not trying to be someone else or make you believe something. They are just themselves. On the very first day of the class – a kid came up to me and asked, ‘Where is the teacher?’. I told her it was me. She looked at me and said, ‘You are too short.’ And walked off. She forgot about it, and there was no intention behind it – it was a comment and moved on. Something happens to all of us as we grow up. We start behaving in public.


So, does it mean we say what comes to our mind even when we grow up? No. But, it doesn’t mean that all we do is behave – because then we are what the world around us molded us to be. It is vital to retain your inner spark even when you have to act. As we grow up we have to adapt our behavior to different situations, different people – but underneath it all, you know who you are, and you are very well aware that all you are doing is just acting.

Another aspect of it inward. Are we faithful to ourselves even when no one is watching? This is even more important than behaving in public because at the end of you live with yourself 24 X 7. If you say something in society but do something else in private then it creates a crack within you – and if not controlled the break can devastate your inner self leaving you constantly not at peace. It is better, to be honest with yourself first. Know who you are (it all comes to down that) and once you know where you stand, it will automatically show up in the way you behave. It is tough in this day and age to not have a difference between who you are and how you act? But, as long as the gap is minimum and there is a slice of your life where these two are identical you are good to go.

It is crucial to have people or opportunities in your daily life with whom you can who you are without any doubts because they do not judge you. Some people find it easier to open up to strangers than to loved one whereas others are completely open to their family and friends. There is no right or wrong -what is essential that you have somebody with whom you can be yourself and let your inner self breathe freely.

When was the last time you let your inner self breathe freely?

Now It Exists and Now It Doesn’t

My brother and sister-in-law had a baby a few months ago. Until the day she was born – she was a concept. We spoke about her; we figured out her names, her traits – who will she look like. And then one day she was born – she was there in reality. And now she is a human being who exists on this planet.

Sleeping baby silhouette, stylized line logo. Cute simple vector illustration.

A bunch of us attended the Give Back Hackathon last year. And in that weekend we busted everything we had to set up the business, figure out the market proposition – even managed to get 25 orders. And until then our company was just an idea, and today Wild Tiger Tees is its entity – it is an LLC. We have youth who print T-shirts. Like, it is real, and it exists.

In both these examples, there was a seed of the idea first, and then you nurture it, water it and then Lo! Behold it becomes real. A baby or a new product do not exist one day, and then they live the next moment. There is a lot of creativity involved in bringing something to life, literally.

Now, I am sure some of you might be thinking – this all sounds good, but I am not creative. I want to challenge that. First, of all let’s talk about what creative means. Most people assume that unless you are drawing, painting or writing poetry – you are not creative. Our limitation of creativity is limited by profession.

I want to put forward the idea that we are creative because we exist. Our existence itself a piece of primary evidence that we are creative. Our parents conceived the idea of us first before they brought us into reality – everyone around us has been conceived at some point as an idea first and then in flesh and blood.

Every moment since then has been your creation. You wake up in the morning and create your day. For those of you who do not believe that you are 100% in charge of your life then let me modify the statement to say – you wake up in the morning, and then you co-create your day. The day happens because you do something, you invest emotional and physical energy into the next moment. You think about how the meeting is going to go or your interaction with the other person – sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously. You create things that did not exist before, like the experiences throughout the day, the emails you write, the food you cook. All these things did not exist until you invested energy in them.

To say that you are not creative is in someway disowning the very energy that created you. Even if you don’t believe that you are ‘creative’ in the literal sense – at the very least recognize that you create your life moment by moment. And if it calls out to you then explore your inner creativity by being with nature or by taking a journey in books like Artist way by Julia Cameron.

How did you express your creativity today?

You Are Not Done Yet!

Some of you might know that I have a dance class that I teach as a side hustle. I have been doing it for five years, every Monday teaching a class. At the end of last year, I could feel my interest in dance class waning. So, I decided to call it quits – I did float the idea with my students around June, but they were shocked, so I continued. Come October; I decided to take a break, a long break. At the beginning of 2019, I decided it was time to end Bollywood Dance classes. There was some inner conflict there – I love dancing, but I could not get myself to choreograph another song.

A few weeks ago I got an email asking if there was a potential teaching opportunity. I initially said no, but then Adam urged me to at least meet with that person. I reached back out, and we met. And it was a perfect match – she wanted to teach, and I had the setup. So, the dance classes are back on, and this week I attended my dance class as a student, and I had so much fun. Somewhere during the class, my heart was filled with gratitude at the gift I was receiving from her. All these years of dancing had taken away the joy of pure dancing which I loved, and now I have it. The universe works in its unique way.

This got me thinking. You know, how there are times when you cannot decide between choices like should you move to a different location, transfer to a different job, eat ice cream. Just make a choice; if something is meant to be it will come back to you. That’s what happened with Bollywood Dance. We weren’t done with each other – it was not time yet. I did try but it wasn’t time yet.

Prof.Rao from CPM always said that if it is a bet between you and life, always place your bet on life. Sometimes, we don’t know what is best for us – we have our grand designs, but the universe might have other more ambitious plans. I am talking about fate vs. free will and just offering another way to look at things. Sometimes we work ourselves up debating a choice – in such cases go forward, and it will all work out.

If you don’t know where you are headed, then it does not matter what road you take. (It’s a quote from Alice In Wonderland). Or if you know where you are headed and not sure if it is the right direction – don’t worry universe will take you where you need to be.

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear or re-appear in some cases. Life wants the best for us, but we believe we know better because we don’t know any better. If we give life a chance, we might be able to live more easily.

What chance will you give your life?

Priorities

I recently watched an amazon prime series, ‘Made in Heaven.’ It is about a couple of wedding planners whose clients are the elite of elitist in Delhi, India. The show was ok overall, one-time watch. But, there was a thread in that show that got me worked up a bit – and not a lot of things do that to me now – thankfully.

One of the wedding planners is gay, and in the show, gay rights had not been legalized in India. Article 377 which in summary stated that any LGBTQ was illegal and a criminal act was still in effect. (On 6th, September 2018 – Indian constitution deemed article 377 invalid and accepted homosexuality as natural.) I have a lot of friends in the LGBTQ community and some very dear friends too, but I understood a lot more when I watched the show. In the show, the gay partner is reported to the police by his landlord and then jailed where the police officer abuses him.

This is the part where I struggled (and still struggle) to wrap my head around the whole concept. Can you imagine being punished for who you are? Being put in jail because you are who you are. Imagine having to live a double life 24 X 7. This is beyond my understanding.

I am a project manager by trade and maybe even by nature. If I were project managing earth then trying to round up the LGBTQ community into jail would never make it to any priority list, on the contrary, what this world needs right now is Love – in any shape or form, regardless of gender. There are so many other vital issues on earth that need to be tackled than spending precious resources trying to hunt down people who at the end of the day just want to have a normal life.

Let’s consider the following two fictional scenarios – we have a tree that is giving very sweet and a nutritional fruit in abundance. The unique thing about this tree is that it does not require a seed to grow, all it needs is a branch of an existing tree and once you plant it – it grows naturally.

And then we have another kind of a tree – which is not satisfied by its fruits, and it actively infects other trees to destroy them from having fruits by poisoning it. This tree is hungry for power and preys on the weaker sex for selfish reasons. But it grows in the typical fashion from a seed.

Which one would you focus on getting under control? Something that nature has deemed right or something that is twisted in its inner core and lives with harmful intentions.

In ancient history, homosexuality is celebrated and depicted on the walls of many ancient temples in India. Even transgenders figure in old Indian epic stories like Mahabharata. Makes me wonder what happened to those pure and loving thoughts? I asked my professor once – ‘Are there truly evil people? And his response was, ‘There is nothing evil – there is only ignorance.’

How can you contribute to getting rid of ignorance?

Not Enough

At work, we go through a lot of assessments – leadership, personality, etc. You will find a few statements common across these assessments and today I want to talk about one of such statements – ‘I have high expectations of myself and work hard but should be careful about expecting the same from others.’ I am paraphrasing, but you get the picture.

As long as I was an individual contributor, this was never a problem. And believe me I work hard, and I play hard. The picture was not so rosy once I became a people leader. And it forced me to examine why I had high expectations of myself and why others think I am a perfectionist when I know I am not.

Adam and I talked about this, talked about it some more, until at some point I told Adam, ‘In India if you get 99.6% you are considered a loser. That one question you got wrong can cost you a free seat in one of the top engineering colleges.’

Let me put things in perspective. When I was growing up in India – the system was that your %ages in Physics, Chemistry, and Maths would be totaled and then ranked with all the students who applied to that university. And then the cut-off would be the number of seats the university had. So let’s say if a university had 100 seats then the top 100 in the ranked list of %ages get a seat. Doesn’t sound so bad, right!

Imagine if thousands of students applied for 50 seats – yes, that’s the odds we are talking about in India especially if you do not want to pay tons of money for an engineering seat at a college. If you want a free seat (regular tuition) in one of the top engineering colleges, anything less than 99.6% was of no value. I got 100/100 in science in 10th grade – which was my saving grace.

I grew up in an unforgiving environment – and given the population of India there are various other incidents where you have to do your best – sometimes even that is not enough, you have to do better than the rest.

If you think, this is a horrible way of growing up then let me introduce you to a two-year-old in Hong Kong. We were at my friend’s wedding in Hong Kong, and one of his friends was telling us that his two years old cute daughter, will give an interview and is building a resume. She was taking piano lessons. She will be competing with thousands of applicants for a dozen seats at an esteemed nursery at an age where she is still learning potty training. Imagine growing up in Hong Kong. [Read more at this link ]

Growing up in such an environment shaped me to never settle for less – there is always more that I can do. Expectations at the end of the day are relative. I am grateful for the experiences I had for making me who I am today. Would I be who I am today if I had not had the experiences I had – Who knows?

How did your experiences shape you?

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?