Tag Archives: #betterlife

Oops – I Made A Mistake!

As some of you may know, I took a new role [Read a bit about it in this blog]. I changed my profession. And being the kind of person I am, I read a book called ‘The First 90 Days’ as I transitioned into my job. One of the exercises is to evaluate how complex the move is, and my change was difficult at all levels – new area, a new profession, a new team and a lot happening in the role. 

In the past, I have made moves with unrealistic expectations of myself being a superstar the day I started. This time I thought I had set my expectations correctly – of learning for a year and give myself grace. Setting expectations did not prepare me for the actual thing – ‘You cannot tell how it is until you experience it.’ And it’s been such a long time since I had made a change. I forgot what it was like to struggle, feel like you are underwater some if not most of the times, realize that you just don’t something even if it is required for you to know. And worst of all, I did not consider I will make mistakes – things will happen that shouldn’t have. 

And I acknowledge my emotional maturity just because I can say – I am struggling, or I made a mistake publicly. It is ok to be vulnerable. Do not get me wrong – this experience, however painful it is right now, is precisely what I wanted when I took the new role. But it does not make it any easier as I go through the experiences. 

What am I learning from this situation? It feels like a time of change and upheaval in my life. I need these experiences to realize how much I have grown. Remind myself that the universe does not give me anything that I cannot handle. It will require me to dig deeper into my inner reserves of courage, patience and growth (more than now). Maybe it will teach me the much-needed lesson of humility. And strengthen my practice of looking at the entire picture. For every challenging experience I have – I have pleasant experiences. Connection with people, bonding with my team, the little aha as I learn something, feeling that you are using all parts of your brain. The feeling of quiet satisfaction when I realize I am fully capable of what the situation requires of me, newness, fresh perspectives, no judgements – not feeling bored. It has made me realize the importance of laughter – not to take life too seriously.

And most importantly, an opportunity to revisit what is essential in my life. Every painful situation is a way out of suffering. It is a reminder to ground myself even deeper in the NOW. This is the time to put into practice all that life has prepared you for. The question to ask is not what I want from my life but what life wants of me. Be the conduit for life.

How to deal with cracks in your life?

How many times in your life have your plans gone awry? You wanted something to happen, and it does not happen. You did not want something to happen, and it happens. This is the basic definition of Suffering. So, as per this definition, we all suffer and – we have all suffered a lot. Our addiction to Suffering is like filling up a bottomless bucket. 

My last blog was about holes in our lives’ tapestry and how they are a way out of Suffering. As humans, we build stories about how we want our lives to pan out and when they do not we are upset. The travesty of our sandcastles not being able to withstand the first small tides. Our stories are meant to have cracks in them because they allow us to see the light shining through the cracks. Everything in the world of objects is temporary, and the only truth is they are temporary. Change is constant. Don’t believe me – then think about your life so far and tell me one situation that worked out exactly as you had imagined it to be, and you are still content with it now. If you do have such a life situation, wait, and dissatisfaction will creep in. 

Imagine you are playing with clay, and you have made these fascinating creatures of clay. They have names, relationships, cars, houses – everything they wanted but all in clay. And you become so engrossed in the play that you forget they are temporary, and when the figures start to sag – you do your best to bolster them. They stick around for sometime before flagging down. What if, instead of trying to do the impossible, you enjoy the clay figures while they last. The primary focus is your awareness of the drama, not what the clay figures are doing in their very short-lived life. It does not mean that we do not enjoy the clay figures – we do, but our primary focus is our awareness of the drama being played out.

When a clay figure flags or when something unwanted happens, there is space that opens up. And in that space, we have a chance to realize that we are the awareness, the witness. We have an opportunity to see our identification with the clay figures for what it is – temporary and futile. When the crack appears, the light shines on our ignorance. Instead of letting the gap appear, we fill it with another clay figure because we are so identified with the clay figures that we are afraid to realize who we are. It’s like trying to drink water through a thimble when you stand in a vast bottomless lake of water. (Read here about why we started playing with clay figures in the first place)

Next time a crack appears be aware of it and if the desire to fill it with another story comes up, watch that too for however long you can. And more you do it, the more you realize that the crack stays open for longer and longer until there is only light.

What cracks are you filling up right now?

Hole In The Tapestry Of Life

Imagine an intricate tapestry made of a rich fabric of vibrant colours. It is so huge that it covers the entire wall. You have never seen the wall behind the Tapestry. For you, the wall does not exist. You spend all your time admiring the Tapestry – so beautiful, so breathtaking.

One day you see a tiny hole in the Tapestry – and slowly, it starts to grow. The hole is big enough that you can see the wood-like brown colour of the wall. Your Tapestry is no longer perfect, so you weave another pattern to fill the hole. And then these holes keep appearing more and more frequently, and you are so busy weaving other designs that you no longer enjoy the tapestries.

What if I tell you that this is what we do with our lives? We build a story of how our life should be in our minds. 

I will get a promotion, get a wonderful life, marry a rich, handsome guy, have lovely kids and live happily ever after. 

I will write the next famous app like angry birds, and it will earn me millions, and I will never have to work again.

I will win a lottery and become the richest man in the world and be happy.

It never quite works out as the story in our head. For starters, your car may decide to break down in the morning, or your heater broke down, and you have to fix it. Or your friend marries a rich guy. So a hole appears in the story of our lives, and we fill it up with other stories. We are so uncomfortable with holes that we have a back up ready if a spot does appear – we stuff the backup plan to cover the gap.

Let’s go back to the Tapestry on the wall for a second – what if one day you got so tired of filling up the holes that you give up. You let the gaps appear, and you do not fill them up. Your wonderful Tapestry dissolves right in front of your eyes. You weep as you see it decaying. But, then you see that there is a door in the wall. The Tapestry had been preventing you from seeing the door. 

You open the door and enter inside to find an entire room filled with beautiful tapestries. Even more importantly, you do not feel the need to fill the holes in them anymore because you still see the beauty.

Our lives are the same way – we are so busy building stories that we never discover the wonderful treasure that waits for us behind the stories. It is like Tolle says in his book – ‘Power Of Now’, we are all like beggars sitting on a treasure chest who never look inside it. 

What is that treasure? What is the door hidden behind? Our true self – unchanging self, the self that watches the story unfold without becoming the story. The screen on which the story unfolds does not care about the story – it exists. Are you ready to not fill the gaps anymore?

Humanity’s True Religion is the capital ‘I’.

‘I was born into the Hebrew persuasion, but when I got older, I converted to narcissism’ is a famous quote by Woody Allen. 

He is more aware of the core belief than most of us, who harbour the belief that we are not in love with ourselves. The truth is we only love ourselves – the sooner we come to terms with it better for us and humanity as a whole. The degree to which we all suffer from this dis-ease may vary, but there is no denying that this is a universal illness.

Anytime something happens in your life – your car breaks down, your husband leaves you, your kid is expelled, your boss leaves the company, your pizza delivery guy is late. What is your first thought? What about me? What will I do?

The ‘I’ is so important in our lives; we capitalize it. If it is not, then it is considered a grammatical error. Look out for yourself, stand up for yourself – and the I have become collated into bigger I’s based on caste, race, gender, birthplace, financial status. These bigger I’s are now fighting other bigger I’s because they believe in their I. They are fighting for a cause – a cause that is bigger than the smaller I.

Does this mean that we should stop thinking about ourselves and focus on others – give up everything and live like a monk or a nun. Unfortunately, how much ever we try, we are wired to be selfish. We are focusing on the wrong I. We have mistaken the sign for the destination. It’s like the dog who keeps looking at his owner’s fingers when he needs to look at what the fingers are pointing towards.

We are focused on the role that we play in our short time on planet earth. We play many roles – boss, employee, mother, wife, widow, pet owner, vegan, meditator, spiritual seeker, capitalist. The list is truly endless. Unless we are in touch with the unchanged within us – these roles are like filling up a bottomless bucket. Beneath all the roles we play, that entity observes the role. The very fact that we have a relationship with ourselves means there is a watcher and the watched. 

When we say, ‘I am sad,’ – the I is aware of the sadness. There is a part that is sad and a part that can observe the sadness. No other species on the planet except humans have a relationship with themselves. A dog does not have a self-image. A bird does sit on a tree branch wondering, ‘Should I fly now? Can I make it? What if this gust of wind is not good enough? Will I get where I want to go?’ No, this is the speciality of human minds alone. [Read my story about how this came to be at this link]

It is time to awaken from the drama and realize who you are. We need to be aware of the roles we play and take them for what they are – Roles. Only then will we be able to get in touch with the true self, which is love. And for that self – talking about love is like talking to a fish about water.

What role are you playing now?

Being A Women – What Do You Know?

‘There will always be a$$*0**$ at work. You have to learn to deal with them.’ My first ever mentor told me – and I did not see her as a mentor then, but now I am very grateful. I learnt a lot, A LOT from her.

I was in my late twenties and my first job after my MBA. I was on a rotational program. A peer of mine and I got assigned to a project for six months. Two weeks into the job, my boss called me into his room and gave me a wad of papers and said, ‘Can you make copies of this?’ I remember not knowing what to say or do. I took the copies with me, went to my task, and it dawned on me that he is treating me like a secretary. I went down to his office with the papers and told him, ‘You do not pay me MBA salary to make copies; ask your secretary.’ I remember my heart was beating fast, and I spent the next few days in a daze. I eventually let my coordinator know – she said, ‘Don’t worry, this won’t affect your performance.’ I am sure my peer, who was a male, never had to go through this.

I remember talking to my female friend (mentor mentioned earlier), an executive at a leading company. She told me very clearly that this does happen at work, and I have to learn to deal with it. I am very grateful she did. I never entered the workforce, thinking I need to prepare mentally for such scenarios. Maybe we should prepare both men and women!

It’s been a long time since this incident, and I have learnt to handle myself. How to work in an all-male team? How to identify types of men? But, even now, when I think of the incident, there is some turmoil in my heart. The reason why this incident bubbled up in my memories is – Moxie, Netflix move about patriarchy.

The issue of patriarchy existed when I was born and still exists today. Things have improved. I know it has gotten better, but there is a part of me that baulks at the unfairness of it all. And it is hard to blame one person at it – so if you cannot blame one, blame all. Yes, we are all a part of why it happens; it is up to each of us to be aware of it and take the right steps. 

Where do we go from here? Spend some time understanding the problem. We are so quick to come up with solutions in the form of committees or give examples of supporting women etc. It is good that you do that, but before anything else – stay in our shoes for a minute or two – and that is all, right action will arise.

I know we have evolved when there is no need for a blog like this to be written. So, do you know what it feels like? Really, feel like? (If you like this blog, you may enjoy this blog)

Have You Experienced Time Yet?

  

We might all think we run our lives – and we are all wrong. Time runs this entire world. The little watches we have on our wrists, calendars on the walls, or our electronic devices rule the world. From the time we wake up to the alarm to the time we go to bed – all we do is run around the clock.

It is almost ten. Is breakfast ready yet?
I have a meeting in ten minutes – can we do this later?
I have to get this done now.
I wish I had more hours in the day?
Where does the time go?

Sounds familiar! We live in a mad world where the human-made concept of time shackles us all. Nature does not live on a timetable, and neither do the planets and sun. I understand that we need to have some concept of time to live in a civilized fashion. But like all things, we have become slaves to time.

Given that time has such significant importance in our lives, one would think that we have experienced time, right? But, have we – experienced time? The past and the future that we talk about are just thoughts that occur in our mind, but not something we know as real—the closest thing to time that we do experience is this moment – NOW. We may plan for the future or repent our past – the only place where we can live and do something is this moment. However, we all live everywhere except in the present – and we wonder why we are not happy?

Imagine you need to get a loaf a bread. You get into the car so that you can get a loaf of bread. You go to the grocery store so that you can get that loaf of bread. You stand in the line so that you can get the loaf of bread. And finally, you get home and eat that loaf of bread so that you can get on with the next thing. And you never even taste that loaf of bread.

Can you see why life is unfulfilling because we never live? We treat this moment as a means to something else. We are conditioning our mind to ‘Live’ in the future or the past but never NOW.

Since we treat every moment as a means to do something that we are never living, no wonder we all go through life feeling something is missing. So, what do we do? First is the awareness that there are two dimensions to living – vertical and horizontal. The purpose of washing dishes is to wash dishes and not to clean them. The primary goal is to wash dishes, and the secondary is to clean them.

In summary, it means doing one thing at a time without thinking about the result and the next item after that. Even if you do, it is secondary – what matters is how mindful you are of what you are doing now.

As you read this article, are you aware of the letters flashing in front of your eyes, or is this article stopping you from getting on with the next moment – which will happen in the NOW?

Are you ready to fly and soar?

I watched a cartoon movie called Rio- about a domesticated macaw named Blu who goes to Rio from Minnesota to mate with a female named Jewel and produce more offsprings of his kind. 

Jewel is free-spirited and literally ‘wild’, and Blu does not even know how to fly. And in the climax, while saving Jewel’s life, he ends up flying accidentally. All his life Blu lived in a cage, never flew and then when he got a chance to spread his wings, he never looked back. 

Have you wondered how many of us, including you and me – are in Blu’s category? We live in our routine studded life where the unhappiness due to the ups and downs of life is considered normal. You did not get the promotion – of course, you are sad. You got the promotion – others are jealous. There is no perfect life situation, but we keep living life as if it is or even worse do our best to make it perfect. Remember, in a bet against the casino – Casino always wins just as Universe as the last word.

Our minds and ego love routine or control so much that they clip our wings and we forget that we can spread our wings and fly. Sometimes it is the external world that clips our wings – societal norms, peer pressure, movies, unrealistic expectations. But the Universe is benevolent, and it wants what’s best for us – to break free and spread our wings. And it keeps nudging us towards that goal – even if we keep resisting.

We see all the signs but ignore them because we cannot fly because we have never used our wings. If this is all sounding too abstract, let’s take an example. 

I did software engineering, and the belief that I had was that engineering and creativity do not go together. I grew up telling myself that I am not creative. And in Indian society, you do not make money with creativity – you need a real job. Sparks were there even then – I started writing stories when I was less than ten years old. Indian newspaper published my article about riots with the title – ‘Ingenuity of a child.’ My college published my sarcastic-humour article about our then prime minister. I was happy that it happened but never gave it any serious thought. 

It wasn’t until I took the creativity and personal mastery course that I let a small part of myself believe that I am creative. And when I did ‘The artist way‘ by Julia Cameron – I opened my wings tentatively. And since then I wrote three books and also ran a Bollywood Dance company. And if I hadn’t expressed my creativity, it would lead to a climax like Blu/Jewel. And that climax would have been more painful. Universe nudges you gently at first, and if you do not listen, it gives you a right slap that leaves your ear ringing. It is up to you which one you pay attention to!

And since then, I have met people who surprisingly are interested in writing a book. Once you spread your wings – others see themselves doing it too. 

Are you ready to spread your wings and soar?

HumanKind-ness. It’s the ultimate truth

A young woman lost touch with her dad as a child when her parents divorced. As she grows up, she desires to meet him – she finds out that he is dead. She wishes she had made an effort to reach out to him sooner.

A woman’s in-laws shun her because she could not produce a male heir. And the problem is not with her but her husband but still she bears the grunt of insults.

Another young woman is in a toxic relationship with her boyfriend. They are going to therapy but cannot break the vicious cycle of emotions that keep them tied to each other and unhappy.

A young girl’s parents demand that the boy they found with her marry her even if he is not of the same caste. Boy’s parents have no choice but to agree.

All these stories, I am sure sound familiar to you right. You might have had some experiences yourself or know of friends who did. As a part of the human experience, we all suffer through the same emotions. Even if the situations are different, some situations may be as drastic as the death of close one or minor like a car breaking down, but the feelings we go through remain the same.

If I told you that the first three stories are about billionaires who buy a fifteen thousand dollar fish maw for soup and the last is of a poor farmer of a low caste. Does your perspective change?

Until we knew that they were super-rich or poor, we had a different kind of connection, and when we got to know their financial status, there was a small shift. And the shift happened in our head – our mindset. Why does race, finances, skin colour, country of origin have to play in part in how we relate with each other? We all have two eyes, two ears, one nose and a mouth.

Imagine you and your friends are playing a video game where you each have an avatar. One of your friend’s avatar hits the jackpot and can fly now. And your avatar becomes a mean underworld don. Will you start treating each other differently? No, right because that would be silly. Just because a bunch of pixels on the screen can fly does not mean you treat your friend differently.

But we do this in real life all the time? If somebody is rich, they get a different preference than somebody who is not. If somebody is a CEO, they are looked upon differently from a janitor? Who said that just because somebody is a CEO, they are better than a Janitor? As a society, we came up with this structure because our mind (ego) likes differentiation. If there was no comparison or need for control, then there is no need for ego – Ego will have to die, which it does not want.

Life is no different from the video game where we have avatars who go around doing all this stuff – underneath it all we are all the same.

Are you in touch with the essence underneath the avatar?

What is a genuine human connection?

In the ten-day Vipassana retreat, Goenka Ji tells us a story about Kisa Gotami. Kisa Gotami was the wife of a wealthy man of Savatthi. Her story is one of the more famous ones in Buddhism. After losing her only child, Kisa Gotami became desperate and asked if anyone could help her. Her sorrow was so great that many thought she had lost her mind. An older man told her to see the Buddha. The Buddha told her that he could bring the child back to life if she could find white mustard seeds from a family where no one had died. She desperately went from house to house, but to her disappointment, she could not find a home that had not suffered the death of a family member. Finally, the realization struck her that there is no house free from mortality. She returned to the Buddha, who comforted her and preached to her the truth. She was awakened and entered the first stage of enlightenment. Eventually, she became an Arahat

I had heard this story on previous retreats, but this time it struck a chord with me. What made me emotional was how painful it must have been for Kisa Gotami to realize that her son has died and there is nothing she can do about it. The gut-wrenching realization is almost like a physical ache in your heart.

When things do not go our way, and we want it to happen badly – it is painful to face reality and move on. In the human predicament, situations come and go, what is common is our desire/aversion towards specific outcomes and the joy/pain when that happens. When we recognize that the pain or pleasure is common across everybody – that is a sign of genuine compassion.  

In the story of Kisa Gotami – yes, it is excruciating to have your only son die – there is no denying that. It is even more painful to accept that and move on. You had so many dreams, future built on your son and when he died all that comes crashing – the reality as you imagined it is not going to happen and that is devastating to the human mind. For her to realize that her son has died and she cannot do anything about it – is what I connected with.

Everybody on the planet goes through these life situations. When we see a fellow human being overcome her challenges and face reality – there is a shared understanding of what it takes to accept it. And if we connect at that level, then we are connecting with the human predicament and the ability to transcend it – which is genuine compassion. As long as we identify with the human form, we will have to overcome such situations, and in some ways, that is what we need. Imagine reading a novel where everything goes well, and nothing happens – who would read such a book. The very reason things do not work forever in our lives because it is our destiny to transcend them.

Imagine if we truly understood what connected us as humans – will we still fight over our skin colour or what part of the land we were born? Can you feel the shared connection?

Leap Of Faith or Same Old?

I recently watched the movie – ‘The White Tiger’ on Netflix. It is one of those movies which has more than just a basic storyline. It depicts India, and it’s culture – things that probably most Indians don’t even think about anymore. But it goes a lot deeper than that. I have noticed that when shows or movies are made from the presence and not ego, they resonate more with the audience. The audience might know the reason, but it touches a chord somewhere deep down.

Eckhart Tolle tells us a story about an Indian and another countryman talking. Indian asked the other person – ‘What do you live by?’ He replies, ‘We live by guts.’ And then asks the same question to the Indian. The Indian says, ‘We live by grace.’ In India the illusion of control does not exist – cars can travel on the wrong side of the road, you are supposed to move even if it is red light, it might take you years to get your aadhar card, you have to make multiple trips to the bank to open an account. These things are considered standard in other countries. Nothing works the way it does in India, but it all turns out to be alright in the end.

Having lived in India and watching this movie reminded me that to be human is to be imperfect. And that implies that the life situation we are in is flawed and will not last. If you think you have everything under control now – wait for a few weeks or months or years. The human predicament is called predicament for a reason – it is supposed to be uncomfortable. That is why things we want do not happen, and something we do not want to keep happening – which as Buddha said is the definition of suffering.

All the billions of people on the entire planet – keep experiencing this and still keep going on as if the next thing would be any different. The life situation may change, but it will not last. It’s like a child building a sandcastle and expecting it to last forever. When the first one crumbles – he goes on to create another one expecting the same thing.

We do the same things with our lives – get good grades, get a good job, marry, have children, get another job, move cities, divorce, get laid off, get a promotion but nothing lasts.

Let’s be clear here – I am not saying that you do not do these things. We are born as humans to experience these life situations, but we should remember that these life situations are a portal to what does not change. That is why human life is so precious it is the bridge between the physical and the spiritual world. Only humans have this choice; no animal or tree can exercise this choice.

The irony of the situation – of the billion people only a few will bite and of those who bite only a few will get hooked – because it takes them towards a realm where you do not need sandcastles – you have it all.

Will you take the leap of faith or stick to building sandcastles?