Tag Archives: #betterversion

Lost In Russian Dolls?

Have you ever seen a new-born baby? For the first six months or so they have no idea of who they are, they are not aware of their legs and arms. One of my nieces used to pull her hair as a baby and start crying – unable to tear her hand and stop the pain.

Babies live in the NOW – there is no concept of past/future or self/I. They do have minimal basic desires and wants like milk/sleep/food. They have no great desires or plans – a baby does not think when I drink milk twenty-four times a day I will become a millionaire or other ridiculous cravings/aversions that we tend to get as we grow up. For the baby, there is nothing except the present moment.

As we grow up, we get to know the mind-based concept of time. And with time comes the need to get somewhere, the desire to meet our plans or the aversion towards something happening. And we leave the present moment and start to live in the future and past. The conditioning becomes stronger.

Another thing that happens as we grow up is our sense of ME. We start creating a picture of who we are, what people should think about of me, what society should think of me? And we go about making that image to our liking. A baby does not think – my dad should think of me as pretty or my brother should look up to me. When we grow up this self-image becomes so ingrained that we are not even aware of it.

The society, media and other factors are all egging us to live in the future/past or create an ‘Ideal self-image’. The TV ad that tells you that if you use their aftershave lotion, you will find love, the news piece about a spiritual coach, the interview with an actor/actress with a so-called perfect body.

Nowhere people tell you that the practically impossible to live in the future or the past. My body is right now sitting on a couch, typing these words in the keypad. I can’t skip to the next weekend – but my mind starts thinking about the following weekend, and I have lost touch with reality. I can think about it all I want – the weekend will get here when it is NOW.

We/our minds keep jumping away from the present moment all the time – into past or future or dreamland. There is nothing wrong with planning. We do not stop at planning; we derive a sense of self from something happening or not happening in the future, which becomes futile.

Like the nested Russian dolls, we have lost sense of who we are or where we are. There is so much depth to the present moment that we never explore because we are so busy looking at the outer covers – its paints, designs. A big part of understanding the depth is the acknowledgement of the inevitable is-ness of the present moment.

Where are you right now?

Plain Old Living

I just watched the latest Pixar animation movie – ‘Soul’. It is a must-see even though not at the same level as their other movie – ‘Inside Out’. Before we get into the actual blog a word about the creation process for these movies. Pixar movies generally speaking come from a very different place. If you ever watch a Pixar movie and read some of the spiritual books like, ‘Untethered Soul’ or ‘The power of now’ – you will see some overlap. For a movie to reach that depth level, the creation has to flow through you and not forced. The creation process happens through the presence and not ego, which is a feat in itself. Hats off to that creation!

In the movie, there is a dialogue where a little kid is asking about his/her purpose. The kid says, ‘Maybe walking is my purpose; I am very good at walking or even watching the sky.’ And the other person replies, ‘Well, that cannot be your purpose, it’s just plain old living.’

We have reduced the majority of our life into a Plain Old Boring Job. What do most humans do in their daily lives – sleep, eat, walk, talk, watch – right? And even if you have a purpose – most of that also includes – walking, talking.

Now – we have two options. First – not do everyday things like walking, talking, eating etc. – but then how will you live your life? Second – Remove these activities from the boring list – but these are boring!

There is a Zen saying – ‘Chop Wood and Carry Water’. It essentially means that it does not matter if you have chopped wood and carried water for the last twenty-five years. It is new every time you do it because it is NOW. Our mind/ego finds it boring – I have carried water for so long, it is hard work. Why do I have to carry water? It is so dull. Do I have to carry it forever? Why cannot somebody else bring water?

Our minds live in the past and present – which is practically impossible. We hardly live IN the PRESENT moment, which is the only place you can exist. If we could start living in the now without living in the mind-created world, our lives would become so much more straightforward. And then chopping wood and carrying water will be more enjoyable.

Another example is walking – we have made walking a means to an end. You want to get somewhere, a meeting, home so that you can do something else. How many times have we walked without really walking but running through the todo list in our mind? All it does is – it uses up energy from the actual doing of the todo list, so when the time comes to do the tasks you are exhausted.

You have thought about carrying water and chopping wood so much that when it comes to doing it – you are exhausted! Are you carrying water and chopping wood or thinking about it?

Grim Reaper

Make Your Life Easy, and You Can Do It are two of the books that I have authored. And they both start with the chapter on Suffering. My preference was to begin them with Grim Reaper, but my husband managed to convince me that it might be too morbid for the general audience.

The reason I started the book with Suffering is to highlight the impermanence of our lives. Each of our lives is like a book with a definite ending of Death. The only thing that is guaranteed in our lives is that we will die – we do not know when. For some reason, this truth has become a taboo. In some cultures, it is a common practice to put makeup on dead bodies to lessen the effect of Death. Why is Death such a secretive phrase when it is so common – I will never understand, but I have accepted that Death makes people uncomfortable.

As long as I can remember, Death has never been a touchy subject for me – I can talk about it in the same breath as cheesecake. One of the questions that I always ask myself is, ‘What if I was to die now?’ And the answer to that question helps me live fully. The unfulfilled desires, ambitions, dreams all are suddenly put in perspective. As some say – you have to master the art of dying so that you can master the art of living.

I am even contemplating putting this question at my office desk. Are some of you wondering why I want to stare at this so-called morbid question all day long? Let me give you a couple of examples. A colleague comes into my office and tells me that they haven’t done something that they should have done. And I remember giving precise instructions on how important it was. I get annoyed, and then I glance on the question, ‘Am I ready to die now?’ and it helps me realize that in the big scheme of things – this situation will also pass. The result is – I probably deliver the same message with compassion instead of anger.

Another example: Ruby has wanted to be an athlete since she was a kid. Her entire life revolves around her exercise routine, competitions. She wins some matches, and she loses some. And it so happens that she has an accident and is confined to a wheelchair. If she asked herself, ‘What if she was to die now?’ then maybe it might be easier for her to accept the reality as it is and move to gratitude.

I am in no way suggesting that we do not complain or give up our goals or never say anything harsh. All I am saying is that keep life in perspective because Death is the only constant. And the constant reminder of Death will eventually make us more compassionate and more alive. If we knew we were going to die then would we still be annoyed with our friend over something that happened eight years ago? Would we still hold a grudge against a family member who ignored us at a party?

What is your relationship with Death?

Glued To Your Seat

Imagine you are in a theatre watching a string of movies. The movies and the actors cater to all the emotions you can think of – fear, sex, violence, love, family, patriotism, terrorism, heist – the whole gamut of life as we know it.

Let’s say that the movies are so fascinating that you identify yourself with the actor in the film. And the identification is so strong that you have forgotten who you are. Let’s say that the actor in the movie is a hotshot playboy and now you are the playboy, and you feel everything that he feels in the film. Or, Let’s say the actor now is a CEO who has gone from rags to the riches. Or, the actor is worried about how he/she is going to feed her kids in the future. Or, the actor’s friend betrayed him and he is possessed by revenge. Or, the actor’s family does not get along, and she is upset.

The list is endless, and you go through each of these emotions with so much conviction that you have no recollection of you sitting in the leather seat with popcorn and soda. For brief instances of time, you realize that you are the watcher, not the actor but then the pull of the movies is so strong that you lose yourself over and over again. You are confused to the point that you have trouble understanding who is real – the person sitting in the chair or the actor on the screen.

How can you find out who you are? By touching the chair, you are sitting on – by feeling the popcorn that you are eating. By being grounded in the physical act of sitting, you can be sure that you are the person watching the movie and not the actor. If you are ever confused if you are the actor or audience feel your feet or hands and you will be back to the ‘real’ reality.

If you are identified with the actor, you are not enjoying the movie, but you are suffering through everything that the actor goes through on the screen. If you are grounded as the watcher, then you enjoy it thoroughly for what it is.

All of us do this every moment of our lives. We lose ourselves in some actor in the movie we makeup, and we forget we are the audience. And in that, we suffer because we lose touch with the reality of the moment and start suffering or enjoying whatever the person in our mind made movie is doing. And the way out of this is to be present in NOW.

Why is it so important to live in the NOW? Because it is the only place you can live – the rest is all in your head. You can worry about the future or replay the past – BUT the only action that can take place is in the NOW. Sure the past and future can guide you but if they consume you that you do not have the energy to live in the NOW.

Are you glued to your seat or are you lost in the screen?

Wake Up!

I had a dream that I was in a marketing office with my friend. My friend was having issues with her peer, and we were walking down the corridor to the boss’s office. All of a sudden fire alarm start – annoying kind, Kiiiiii-Kiiiii Kiiiii. We look at each other and assume it is some test and keep walking. We walk into the office, and I tell her peer to be nice to my friend. The alarm is still blaring. I also explain that I am intervening because I care about the project. The alarm is beeping faster now.

And then I realize that it is my clock alarm – I Wake Up. And all of a sudden the dream that was so real turns into nothing – just made up stuff. However, elaborate the dream might be when you wake up, you know it is not real.

The question is – do we realize that we dream in our so-called real life as well? Most of the time. Don’t believe me? How many times have you driven home without realizing that you are driving until you reach home? How many times have you zoned out in a meeting? How many times do you run through a scenario that happened in the past? Or you want to happen in the future?

Our minds are conditioned to either live in the past or the future. And for the most part, it is like they are on auto-repeat – there are a couple of themes that keep playing again and again. And we become those thoughts and lose touch with reality. When the only place we can truly live is in the NOW rest, everything else is in our head.

This year with people being in lockdown – the nature of our mind has become, louder and we are not able to ignore it. A lot of people assume that they cannot stop thinking about the to-do list because they are stuck at homes. The real truth is this is the nature of your mind, and you never noticed it before.

This jumping away from the present moment is more noticeable when you are doing something unpleasant. I got the idea for the blog while I was doing Surya Namaskar B in yoga – because I find it boring and painful and my mind jumped on the opportunity to escape. And then I woke up and realized that I was touching my feet with my toe.

So, what can you do about it? First, realize that this is the nature of your mind. It finds the present moment boring because there is nothing to do except live the current moment. There is no drama in the now. Second, notice whenever it jumps into the past or the future – even if it is after two hours of daydreaming. Third, whenever possible, bring your attention to your body – if you are sitting on a sofa, feel it. If you are typing, touch the keyboard.

Nothing like a dose of body sensations or breath to train our mind to be in the now. Where are you living?

Another Ten Days

It is time for my annual Vipassana retreat blog. 

Like all things this year, Vipassana retreat centres have been closed in most places. At the beginning of the year, I thought I might be able to do it in a centre – but as the year progressed that possibility dwindled. I have always done a course at a centre and was not sure about the self-course at home. So, I waited and watched to see if the desire remains, and by grace, I realized the need to do a 1-day even if it is at home. And I am delighted to announce that I finished it today. 

At the core, it is just like any other course at the centre – the meditation technique remains the same. Water will boil, and ice will melt regardless of where in the world you are (depending on the temperature), it does not change its nature. However, this course was a lot harder because I had never realized the energy boost that the centres, teachers and other students provide. And I had to fill that gap by myself – it was tough. There were days when I found myself wondering what I have gotten myself into.

 All I did was meditate, eat, rest and sleep. And meditate mostly, 4:30-6:30 AM, 8:00-11:00 AM, 1:00-5:00 PM and 6:00-9:00 PM. Pretty hardcore, eh? All I did was observe my breath or my body sensations. And in this technique, you have to keep silent, and you cannot read/write/check emails; it’s just you and yourself.

Vipassana means to see ‘Reality as it is’ and not as we would like it to be. And it is a means to get rid of all suffering (misery, anger, anxiety etc.). For example, we all know that we should have compassion for all human beings. But I am sure we all can think of at least one person right now towards whom we have negativity. At the level of mind, we all know that it is not right, but we cannot help ourselves. Vipassana helps you see how you are the root cause of the negativity and not the other person and enables you to eliminate it. When we generate negativity there is an unpleasant sensation in our body (also our regular breathing rhythm changes) – once we become aware of the sensation and do not react it – we have changed the habit pattern of the mind.

Why I do Vipassana? Because there is the inner knowing that this is the right thing for me. It helps me achieve my personal vision of – ‘Becoming a better version of myself every day.’ Because I am a better person, I can make a better contribution to society.

Whether you do Vipassana or something else – it does not matter. What matters is you do – there is nothing more important in this world that self-awareness. It is not about building the next iPhone (god knows we don’t use the existing technologies a 100%) it is about understanding oneself.

Gnothi Seauton: How well do you Know Thyself?

Togetherness – Makes Sense

I love solitude, the difference between being lonely and alone. Nature and a crowded city both let me be – which is why I find them both very soothing to my soul. I enjoy watching movies alone, eating by myself, going to cafes on my own. Best of all, I like to travel alone because nobody knows me and I do not have to behave or worry about what other people think about me. I feel like I am invisible there and merge with the background.

However, that said there are times when a family, companionship or community makes life a tad more enjoyable. So today was the festival of lights – Diwali, India. For as long as I can remember it was a day I looked forward to because I would do fireworks, eat incredible mom-cooked food and wear nice clothes.

I can do these by myself but what is missing the social or the community aspect of it. In India, people start shopping for Diwali weeks before, mom (and aunties) start cooking days ago. On the day of Diwali and days leading up to it – there is a constant stream of fireworks going off somewhere in the local area. And there is that subtle smell of fireworks in the air. I cannot regenerate the experience on my own. I can have youtube videos that mimick it, but it’s not the real thing.

I remember as a kid going to all our neighbour’s houses with a box filled with goodies that my mom cooked and coming back home with the goodies from their house. I remember chatting with the other kids about what kind of fireworks they had or even watching each other as we let rockets or bombs off. I remember the nervousness every time I would light a cracker with the incense and throw it off before it bursts.

That is why some things are best shared – as long as everybody celebrates it, we still get the vibe. And that is why celebrating Diwali in any other place other than India feels weird. It is not the same – it feels like a good mimicry of what was.

It is hard to explain to others – it’s like celebrating Thanksgiving in London, nobody else is. And that is why the saying, ‘Do in Rome as Romans do.’ Maybe that is why we have the tradition of these festivals in all cultures. And that is also why we do not have too many of them. Because once in a while, it is good, but if this were an everyday occurrence, our usual differences would crop up and not create such a unique experience.

Somethings we treasure because they do come along only so often. The spirit of togetherness that feels so good in Diwali exists every day – we do not know how to tap into it because we think we are separate from others. The day we realize we are all one – every moment would be Diwali eternally.

Do you believe we are one?

Time For Upgrade?

Let’s start with THE NEWS of the day. Biden has won the elections in the United States of America today. Depending on which side you support, you are either relieved or disappointed. For the most part majority of the population is happy that the election rigmarole is all behind us. A few of my peers, friends and even my husband had a few rough nights with the stress of vote counting dragging on.

The techie in me wonders in this day and age why are we still operating in such a manual fashion. How hard is it to develop software that lets you vote online? With fingerprinting, iris scanning, face recognition and numerous ways to recognize an individual – it should be reasonably straightforward for software developers to come up with a digital voting system. Think about the benefits – no paper, much less labour, people can vote from the comfort of their homes AND faster results and probably more accurate. And for people who do not have that facility, we can use cyber cafes, mobiles. Yes, I understand that there is the threat of hacking, but the threat exists now with claims about social media influencing voters anyways.

This leads to me think about the interview on antitrust hearing that big tech CEO’s had to go through, which also highlighted their limited understanding of technology. For example, how they confused Twitter with Facebook in this interview short. Some would say that even a child would know the difference between Facebook and Twitter. I know other snafus happened before as well. 

Given that importance of technology in our lives today – we are truly headed to a digital age. How that age will pan out, we will have to see. But, the question is the governing bodies around the world capable of leading us in that age? Do they have enough understanding to make and pass laws/policies about technology? Most, importantly will they make decisions that impact the population of this world, keeping the tech lens in their radar?

I will leave you to make your own decisions – I do not have to spell it out. For most of the jobs in the entire world be it a janitor or a teacher or a VP or a CEO – there are basic qualifications you have to satisfy before you can even apply. But, for politics, there is no basic set of qualifications. I know of politicians in India who are not even that highly educated but rule their state and are a part of the governing body.

Now, the people sitting in these seats have to pass the law about themselves. How many of them will be willing to pass a law that says unless they clear these technical exams they cannot govern? There is a disconnect between the governance structure and the rest of the world. I do wonder, would we have thought about Coronovirus differently if we had a different set of mindset and attitude in the governments around the world?

What do you think – Is it time for Government 2.0?

What’s in a name?

One’s progress in childhood is marked by how soon you can answer the question, ‘What’s your name?’ And if you are also aware of your parent’s names – you are going places.

As a newborn baby, you are utilizing your five senses to the fullest. Your understanding of your mom is through the smell, touch, voice, visual and also how you feel. Your knowledge of the entire world is based on sense perceptions. When the kid reaches the eighteen-month mark, the mind becomes active and wants to know everything. And that’s when the mind takes over.

The mind knows the object on the side of the road is a tree. But it knows it only as a name – and it’s perceived understanding of what a tree is. We never ask the child how does a tree sound like? What does the tree feel like? I am sure some of you are wondering what kind of stupid questions are these. A tree can be a lesson in life itself. It lets go of its leaves when its fall without clinging to them. It faces storms, rains and gales with the same equanimity. They clean the air without wanting anything in return. These aspects also equally make up a tree and are more meaningful than the four-letter word we have reduced trees to in today’s world.

Think about all the other things we have reduced to their lettered names. The rose, sears tower, sea, ocean, individuals – in fact, in today’s world, you can google anything and feel like you know it all. Our minds may read and memorize the entire encyclopedia, but without experience, it means nothing. I understand that some things are good to learn like how do stoplights work or how to drive a car? But they are a minority when you come to think of it. It’s like we are unable to go beyond naming something.

Why is this important? Because it can help keep our minds in control. Like anything else in this world – if we overuse our mind, then we are in trouble. Minds are just tools to help us function in the world, but in today’s world, we are ruled by our minds. The collective human mind governs society. We believe every thought that arises in our mind instead of watching it as it appears and let it go. In the watching lies the choice on whether to act or not based on the thought.

We have forgotten that NO THOUGHT matters absolutely. What matters is the space in which the thought arises. And once you are rooted in that space, all decisions you make from that space will be of higher quality than the one you make based on your mind. Because a mind is a tool and like a hammer, the only thing it sees everywhere is a nail.

We are human beings who are having a spiritual experience and minds help us navigate the physical realm. Isn’t it time we ruled the minds?

What is your relationship with the mind?

What Am I Going To Do With My Life?

I just finished watching, ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ on Netflix, based on a novel by Walter Tevis. To summarize, it’s about an orphan who is a chess prodigy and how she battles the demons of her mother’s death and wins at chess – dealing with drugs, addiction, loneliness.

It is quite thrilling for a movie about chess. It took all of my will power to restrain myself my googling the ending or moving the cursor forward. What caught my attention was the statement by her adorable friend Jolene who says, ‘Girl, you have been the best at what you do for so long that you do not even know what it is like for the rest for us.’

And I also recall a video from Brene Brown where she says that in today’s world all of us want to be the best. And in a room full of people – if you apply the law of averages it is not possible. All of us cannot be the best, and this means only some of us will be the best and not that rest of us are not the best. This is where society’s fixation on the top three or five has skewed the entire world.

I want to speak to the person who first introduced the concept of first and attached so much importance to it that is outright silly or illogical. My litmus test these days is to ask myself, ‘What would an alien say?’ And if an alien did come to earth, sat through all the games – regional, quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals – and saw that people only spoke about the person who came first – what would his response be.

He would be flabbergasted – it’s like preparing for a hundred-mile walk and only talking about the last step across the winning line. He would probably laugh saying that we have missed the point of the race or the walk or the competition or even LIFE. We focus only on 1% of the life which society shines a light on – what about the 99% which is us. Sadly for most of us, we never get to discover what is essential for us. Most of us go through the life trying to live the life we believe we chose BUT believe it or not society – our unconsciousness had a big role to play in it.

Don’t believe me – then tell me one thing in your life that you would do even if you were penniless. If you can think of one – good, I commend you for maintaining sanity in the mad world. Let me ask you this – would you still do that one thing if no one was watching?

That is the litmus test – what matters most to you? The journey or the end or both. And to find out what ONLY YOU are best at – let life flow through you – be life and then the question – what am I going to do with my life DOES NOT MATTER.

Will you be one with life and let it flow through you?