Tag Archives: #betterme

Out Of The World

My dad has been talking about this guy called Sri M for a couple of years. Sri M has written a few books, and my dad has read them all. The topic of Sri M came up again recently, and I decided to give his books a try. I share my dad’s kindle – clicked on the book and voila downloaded.

The book was titled, ‘Apprenticed to a Himalayan Master – the autobiography of a yogi. As some of you know, I am into these kinds of books – so I sat down with a cup of chai and started reading the book.
And I finished the book in two sittings. The book is out of the world for most of us. What do I mean by that?

This book has many examples of enlightened beings who know that they are spiritual beings having a human experience. We are all spiritual beings having a human experience, but for most of us, we have no inkling about the spiritual side. And hence this book might seem out of the world for most of us.

In the book, Sri M has an encounter with a serpent god from another planet in another galaxy in the Miky way. As per Sri M – there was a time on earth when humans and serpents lived harmoniously. The serpent folk were highly evolved and taught humans a lot. And as usual, humans became greedy and started massacring serpents in mass. The serpent lord – called Anantha called his folks back. Only the sick, old or rebels were left behind. And with too much interbreeding they have lost all essence of their original selves, and we know them as snakes today.

There are other examples where people communicate telepathically, travel instantaneously, can speak foreign languages even if they haven’t read it. All this for most of us out of the world. And I am sure some of us will dismiss this as fiction.

But, aren’t we limited with what we can perceive. For the longest time earth was flat, and we all lived in that reality. Our belief in it was so strong that we would kill people who tried to argue otherwise. Greek philosophers proved that the earth was round and then Newton confirmed that it was spherical. What does this mean? That we know only what we know and have a strong tendency to disbelief what we cannot see.

The fault with this kind of thinking is that we are limited by our sense doors – what we can see, feel, touch, hear – what if we have other senses that we are not aware of. Everything in nature operates under its laws. If we understood those laws, how would our lives change?

The purpose of this blog is not to prove that serpents exist as evolved creatures in this galaxy. Instead, it is to plant a seed that states – there might be more to what meets the eyes. What we know might not be reality. Another purpose also was to introduce Sri M to more people.

And I told one of my professors about Sri M. And guess what the next day his friend (one he hadn’t heard from a long time) forwarded a link to the online talk from Sri M – Out Of The World, right?

How does this change your perception?

The New Normal

The dictionary meaning of normal is ‘conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.’

Like, as an Asian child growing up – to be ‘normal’ was to work super hard, get excellent grades and a get a good job. Continuing further, it also meant that you married a nice boy that your parents chose, had babies and lived happily ever after. So, to summarize normal meant – education, job, marriage and family.

And there were other aspects of normality that I took on even though it was never articulated – no smoking, no drinking, no drugs, no partying. Yes, I know you think that my definition of normal is what weird meant for you.

And if I had probably stayed in India that would have been my definition of normal. However, as life would have it, I travelled abroad and met a few people and without realizing my definition of normal changed.

First, I had roommates in Phoenix who drank and partied hardcore, and to my surprise, I found that they were lovely human beings. Then, I had another roommate in London who blew away all my mental models of happiness. She was forty years old at that time – separated, about to get divorced, no kids and THE MOST HAPPIEST PERSON I had ever met. I was about twenty-seven at that time. An age where most of us looking for a job, looking for a partner – looking for something. It was quite fascinating to see somebody on the other side of the bridge and see what mattered. She also gave me the best career advice on how to run a meeting – which in my later years transformed into owning the room, executive presence etc. I digress.

Until I met her, my idea of a normal (and hence happy) life meant you had to be married and have kids. Divorce is an awful thing and should be avoided at all costs. And for the first time in my life, I realized that being normal wasn’t that important or even right for that instance. My forty year old divorced and now single roommate blew that normalcy for me. And since then, I have realized that I can define my own normal – which is very powerful if you think about it.

But, how many times we or society go back to revisit the normal. Slavery was normal at some time, and now it is a criminal offence. Do you ever wonder what if we sat down now as a society and decided what the new normal will look like? Especially, given all that, we are going through now with COVID-19. We have a unique chance to re-imagine at least some aspects of our lives which were not working.

What did news look like before coronavirus? What happened to all that? Do we still need that in our life? What about travel? What about all the items/events that we thought were necessary and now we do not even think about them?

How are you working towards the new normal?

Not Just Funny!

So, I have been watching a standup comedy show called – Comicstaan on Amazon Prime Video. This is an Indian show featuring Indian comedians. I stumbled upon it – watched the trailer, loved the jokes and got hooked to it.

I have watched other standup comedians too, mostly western and I enjoyed those, but there was something more endearing about Comicstaan. As I kept watching episodes, it dawned on me that it is the Indian context that I connected with at a deeper level sometimes even more so than the comedy.

Because I knew what they were talking about as I had gone through the experience myself. I believe that the punchlines are just a lot stronger in Hindi or other regional languages because that is what I heard growing up and some words aren’t translatable. You have to know them.

It was more of a nostalgic journey for me, as well. It brought back all the school memories, eve-teasing in India, local trains. The daily routine that I had and brought into sharp focus the sad/annoying parts of it in a humorous way – the beauty of stand up comedy. For example, when I was growing up, we had to do this thing called ‘March Past’. It was a squad of kids who would march around the school grounds and turn to look at the chief guest when we passed them. One of my favourite comedians – Kannan Gill did a 5-minute bit about it. To paraphrase, he said, ‘Which perverse chief guest wants to see kids sweat in the sun and look at him as they march past him?’ Authentic, made me wonder why we did that, but this is the beauty. You laugh at all the agony you went through.

It is also a source of connection for me. I shared this with my good friend and even my dad. And when I described it to them there was this moment of instant connection when we all went back to our school days – experienced the same thing – came back to the conversation feeling more connected.

It also brought me up to date with what has happened in India after I left. India now has the tallest statue in the world – called ‘Statue of unity.’ The state of ‘Allahbad’ is now called ‘Prayagraj’. And apparently, dick pics/casual sex/dating are the rage in India. It made me realize that India I knew and grew up in does not exist. I do not think I will be ‘at home’ in India the same way I was before – there will be a lot of catching up to do.

And of course, I laughed a lot. I chuckled and sometimes came close to rolling on the floor. When we can laugh at our follies – it is as close to nirvana or enlightenment that we can get to. We tend to take ourselves too seriously, and sometimes we need somebody else to point out that funny side.

How do you bring humor in your life?

Illogical

I have recently discovered Self-Compassion. I knew it was the right thing to do; it is something we should practice. But as we all know, there is a vast difference between knowing and knowing, right? When the student is ready teacher appears.

I watched the video by Kristen Neff on Self-Compassion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvtZBUSplr4&t=666s. If this topic calls out to you, then watch it. I am like in pre-kindergarten or pre-kg as Indians would say when it comes self-compassion. So, this talk was very insightful. It is in this talk she says – we all want to be above average, and if we look at the audience how is that even possible? Like, logically, practically possible. Makes sense, right? But then we all want to be above average. What is wrong with being average – when lots of people are average? As a matter of fact, what is wrong with being below average? Nothing, the only thing is you do not fit into the society’s definition of good. 

Perfection is a myth

The other item she talks about is being human is being imperfect. I love it. As a struggling perfectionist (and perfectionists are always struggling because it is difficult to achieve) I loved it that as humans, we are imperfect. We will mess up. If you haven’t messed up yet, too bad, it will be a lot to handle when it hits- one of the reasons for fear and anxiety in our society. To get the promotion, to top the class or if you are not competitive, then to be the best that you can be. What if you weren’t in the mood? Or, there are genuinely more intelligent, fast people than you. 

It’s like telling a river – you better win the race. Stupid, right. The river is happily flowing or bubbling – whatever it feels like and now all of a sudden the mother nature starts telling all its rivers – move fast, you have to be the one to reach the ocean first. Would that even work? And why would the river care – it is going to reach the ocean anyways. But, no as a society, we have to tell people to hurry up and reach their full potential.

If there is a judgement of any kind, then there is no compassion or self-love. Judgement at the end of the day is just another form of self-hatred. And it prevents you from accepting what is. Another excellent point that Kristen Neff makes is that self-compassion is loving yourself the way you are with flaws and all. All of us have parts of us that we love; usually, the ones that get external validation and other parts are neglected. Why the bias? I exist, and that is all there is to it. Imagine you tell your hand I love your pinky finger but the thumb not so much. First of all, stupid comparison – every finger has its use. And what is the point of comparison?

It is time to be kind of ourselves first – unless we learn that we will never be able to do it entirely for others. How will you be kind to yourself?

That Worked Out Well.

With the coronavirus shutdown, I am finding it easier to go inward. I had already started an introspection journey this year, so the lockdown came as a pleasant addition.

I wanted to share some experiences with you.

Engineering Days: I was not happy about the fact that I got admission into girls-only college. I wanted to have the same kind of fun my other friends were having in the co-ed (Mixed) colleges.

The first-ever interview: I did not get an offer from the first-ever company I interviewed with after engineering. I thought I was never going to get such a good job offer. (They were going to send me to Greece).

MBA: I had the impression that I was not a success because I had not got a job in consulting or finance after graduation. I harboured the belief that I was a second class citizen because I got a job in an industry.

The pain, disappointment and agony I felt in the previous situations were real, and it lasted from a few days to years. It felt like the end of the world; I will never amount to anything; nothing good is going to come out of this—a lot of missed opportunities and regret based on these situations. And of course, self-flogging was a given in all these situations.

And now, let’s look at what happened

Engineering Days: When I did get my first job offer, I realized I was more forthcoming and open in my opinions and comments at work. Since I spent four years in the engineering college with all girls, I was more comfortable in my skin and had no inhibitions that most of the friends from co-ed did. And this is something that is helping me even now.

The first-ever interview: The company never made good on their offers and my friends who had accepted the offer – could not sit for other companies and eventually had to look for a job without the campus interview process.

MBA: I learnt a lot while doing a great job of managing my work-life balance which was skewed towards life a lot more if I am honest. I got the time to immerse myself fully in the Creativity and Personal Mastery course, which taught me how to live life (a reason and inspiration behind this blog too). I understood the concept of hourly rate when I compared the hours’ other friends (in consulting/finance) and me in Consulting/finance worked.

Now, in hindsight, it makes so much more sense, and of course, it took its time sometimes years like five years, but the result is more to liking than the original plan. The reason why I am writing this is that I need to remember that 

  • What is mine will be mine – nobody can take it from me.
  • If I do not get what I want, then I have something even better in store for me.
  • It all works out; Universe has my back.

To bring it all back – Coronavirus too has a reason, there is a method behind the madness. And in the years to come, we will see the results.

Loud Silence

We are living in interesting times – something that is making history right now even as I write this blog. 

India is in a 21-day lockdown, and some of the temples shut down a bit earlier. My parents told me that within a few days of the lockdown, wild animals started roaming in the vicinity like tigers, snakes and monkeys. The silence due to the absence of humans is being with filled with nature. 

Within the last few weeks, Europe has seen a dramatic improvement in air quality in many regions. With a reduced human population, nature is breathing a sigh of relief, and we can see the results of that.

Humans have a way of invading everything – land, forests, fuels, water, air, animals. We have impacted everything on this planet and not for the better in most cases. We are loud, and it’s like we want to shout our presence. For somebody who is a million times smaller than a speck in this universe, we do make a lot of noise and a lot of it unnecessary. 

The primary reason for this is as Blaise Pascal said, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone” as I mentioned in my previous blog ‘On The Other Hand‘. 

Why is it so hard for most of us to spend time with ourselves? Because we have this deafening mind chatter going on. It is constant, mindless and for the most part – illogical. And we are not trained or not even aware of this constant noise in the background that creates not only our lives but this entire world. It is that voice that tells you that you are not good enough, that you will never get a partner, that tells you that the world is coming to an end, that tells you to do yoga, that tells you not to trust another person. If you dig deeper, you will realize that all our habits/fears/desires/needs/feelings – all are just that – our mental chatter. 

Uncontrollable mind chatter is why we look to escape, unable to spend time with ourselves.

Any change and one such drastic as this will put a sudden break to our everyday life as we know it. With end comes new beginnings. We are more aware of our lives as opposed to the frenzied robotic way of living. For most of us, the pace of life has slowed down, and we are discovering what it is to spend more time with our loved ones. 

And with fewer distractions or new fodder than usual, we are forced to become aware of the mind chatter we have. When all else quiets down the internal noise take precedence. We can use this as a means to become super aware of our mind chatter and learn to sit with ourselves and meet/define who we truly are. 

This could lead to the new consciousness that will help us take the next big leap in evolution, or it may drag us all down into the depths of unawareness. What choice will you make?

If you want to befriend your mind chatter – check out my free ebook on amazon – ‘You Can Do It.

On The Other Hand

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

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

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

flat character design and elements. vector illustration

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

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

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

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

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

Do I Know You?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Good As It Gets

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

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

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

Does this sound familiar?

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

Does that sound familiar?

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

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

What Improv teaches you is

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

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

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

How are you going to face reality? 

Echoes Of Past

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How are you creating the now?