Tag Archives: #betterworld

Human Predicament – Musings

I just watched the movie Parasite. (Disclaimer: there might be some spoilers below). It is a Korean oscar-winning movie. The premise, plot and complemented with the acting. It is not a light watch – instead, it left me feeling very heavy in my heart for reasons that I cannot articulate. Hence, the blog.

If you have been reading my blogs, then you are familiar with my fascination with the human predicament. The human predicament for me refers to the condition(s) that arise with being human. For example, – our need for control, our bond with mind chatter, and so on.

Parasite seems to touch on so many of the human predicaments – that it struck a chord which is still resonating. Let’s explore some of the themes that I could see in the movie.

History repeats itself, but we are not any wiser.
I cannot get around my head around the fact of how we never learn our lessons (me included) regardless of how many times we are in the same situation. We as a human race have survived – wars, holocausts, genocides, and still, they keep happening. Will we as a race every learn? In the movie, the Kim family fail to empathize with the housekeeper and her husband, even though they are in the same situation. We have not realized that we are all one; hence we tend to attack each other – metaphorically in various ways.

We see only a part of the reality.
Parks have no idea that they have a couple living in their basement; they do not even know they have the second – deeper basement. The Parks also do not realize when the Kims con their way into their homes. Parks also have no idea that they are supporting the entire Kim family. In fact, till the end, nobody discovers the basement. There are so many things that we do not see in our daily lives because we are caught up in our drama.

The best plan is no plan.
This is a line from the movie. Dad Kim tells his son that the best plan is not to have any plan because then nothing can derail it. We can make all the beautiful plans in the world, but there is always something that can derail it. We can account for all the contingencies, back up plans, but in the end, there is no guarantee that a plan will work.

We can die at any moment.
With so many calamities happening all around the world, be it Tsunami, Earthquake, Gun shooting – there is no guarantee that I will wake up alive when I go to bed. And no guarantee that I will come back home alive when I leave the house. I know this sounds morbid, but this is the truth of life. Here today – gone tomorrow. But we conduct our lives in a fashion as if we are all immortals.

Unfortunately, none of what you are reading is a new theme – we are all familiar with the issues, but they are not how we lead our lives.

Did this tug at your heartstrings? What does this spark in you?

Do You Think About It?

We had one of our leaders come and talk to us at a work meeting. He was talking about expense pressure and how it is a given. He made a comment that stood out to me – ‘You do not walk around thinking about Gravity, do you?’

His point was expense pressures will always be there – so why spend unnecessary energy thinking about its existence and griping about it? He makes an excellent point. But to treat expense pressures (or any other habit) like gravity requires work.

His comment is not valid only for expense pressure but for any habit that we are trying to build. Think about the process of building a practice. Let’s tackle an easy one – brushing your teeth every day. Do you think about it every day? The chances are that you don’t go around thinking about brushing your teeth. You just wake up and do it. Now, think about avoiding sugar or processed foods. It is highly likely that you think about food a lot when you are trying to build a good eating habit. The goal is to get to a point with food where you treat it just like gravity – it exists.

To get there with habits takes time and courage. First, the desire in you has to be resolute that you do not give up despite challenges, obstacles. Let’s continue with the food habit. It is highly likely that you switch back to the old eating habits in a couple of days or a week and then it takes you days to get back on the ‘good eating’ bandwagon. The desire to have a good eating habit needs to be strong for you to keep trying. And it takes courage to get up after you have fallen umpteen times. The one thing that very few people talk about which you need the most is Self-Compassion. It is tough to change habits because they are ingrained in our minds as neural pathways. And to accomplish this daunting task, we need to have a love for us as we fail.

When we are babies and learn how to walk – we are not caught in the human predicament yet. Hence as babies, we pick ourselves up with very little mind-chatter and keep at it until we start walking. But as we grow up, we become more human; our mind chatter takes over. As a result, we give ourselves a hard time when we fail at anything. And this is where self-compassion is the solution. Be kind to yourself like you would towards a friend until the habit you are trying to build becomes like gravity.

Once the gravitational pull exists, then it does all the work for you – you just have to build enough energy to gather the strength that sucks you into the habit.

Kindness and desire – are the two keywords to build a habitational pull that sustains all the good habits for you.

How will you work on building your habitational pull?

We Think With Our Eyes

For reasons unfathomable at this point, I had watched Karate Kid sometime ago, and the line that stood out for me from that movie was – ‘We think with our eyes.’ We see something that feeds into our mind, and we create our lives through that.

It is very much like a computer – you provide the input, and then the CPU (central processing unit – the equivalent of our mind/brain) goes into its existing database and creates an output. And the range of the output is dependent on the database built from our past experiences and what we glean from media and other outlets subconsciously. As a human being, we have the capacity to discern, be aware – Pause and exercise our choice on the output. Sadly, it is not a widely used or known capability.

I remember watching a movie clip that Prof.Rao from Creativity and Personal Mastery used to show us in the class. It looked like as if a man was running away after stealing something from another man. But when looked at it differently it showed him running to save an older man from a box (or a crane) falling on his head.

We have all seen the following image of the Young and the Old Lady. Or the 3D illusions where your eyes show you something but the reality is something else.

All these examples depict that what we see with our eyes is not the reality as it is. Isn’t it scary that we live and create a world mostly just believing what our eyes show us? What we see is a piece of reality, and as long as we keep that in mind, the chances that we are more reasonable in our judgements of others are higher.

Another way to balance the fact that we are biased towards what we see with our eyes is to give it time. Let’s say you see something that bothers you or you read an email that annoys you. Try sitting with the pain, uncomfortableness that arises from the email. Notice the need to react and lash out immediately – there is power in that. Because most of the times, our first reaction is not the best or the most accurate response. Blaise Pascal said, ‘All of humanity’s problem stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room.’

We cannot hold space within us for problems/painful items. We need to resolve them quickly – sometimes causing more pain in return. If we develop the ability to sit with a question – we will realise that the answer is within us or the question is no longer relevant. If we could do this as a race we will recognise how shortsighted we are in our view of each other and the world. If we could see – a true sight that comes with tolerance, patience and one-ness, we could see that there are very few items that require conflict/discord or disagreement.

How will you balance the bias of your eyesight?

Joy By Proxy

When I started my Bollywood Dance Class – I had no idea that it would be so much more than just dancing or driving Monday Blues away as I said on my website. What do I mean by this?

One of my very first clients was a hen night or Bachelorette party. It was the bride and her friends who wanted to learn a Bollywood Dance. It was my first time doing such an event – I planned it like a project manager would – Steps/ timings/ music etc. What I did not account for was the priceless joy of being included in somebody’s celebrations. The joy I felt was not dampened by being behind the scenes; on the contrary, it was freeing.

Since then, I have had numerous occasions to be a small part of other people’s celebrations. Like a boyfriend wanting to propose to his girlfriend at the end of the dance as a surprise, couples preparing for their wedding dance, parents planning to surprise their children with a special dance or children planning a surprise for their parent’s anniversary. The list is endless.

Joy or happiness by itself is free, and it is not the property of any one person. There is no such law that says that a person who is getting married is happier than her best friend. Only we can determine our level of happiness. 

Today, I taught a charming song to a lovely couple who are getting ready for their wedding. And I felt so much peace and joy, watching them enjoy the dance and bond between them. Technically speaking all I am doing is teaching them a series of hand and leg movements. There is no I or Me involved here at all.

What stops me feeling joy at hearing somebody else’s promotion or success? There are other situations where other happiness or celebration can be the cause of suffering. The answer to that is capital I. The minute we add I to anything pain begins – it becomes all about them and us. We are disconnected and view ourselves as separate beings. And once we do that it becomes a zero-sum world, more for them means less for them.

I just watched The Report on Amazon Prime about torture done by the CIA. And in that Dan Jones says, ‘But fear and shame do not make for better policy decisions and the fact that the people who we captured didn’t look like us or believe the same things we do, made it that much easier to do the things we did.’ 

The day we realize that Joy, by proxy, is the same as Joy by oneness or connectedness is the day we leap the next level of consciousness. If it is possible for us to experience Joy by watching others when we are not personally involved in it, it is possible for all of us to have the connection. We have to expand our circle of who is included in the I.

How will you experience connectedness today?

Why The Impartiality?

Two little kids decide to have some fun and go and roll in the mud – pretending to be pirates saving their ship amid a storm. When they go back home their faces covered with grime and their clothes dripping mud.

The mom tells one child, ‘How could you behave like this? These are brand new clothes, and we have guests coming in today. How can you be so insensible? You never listen to me and always do what you want.

To the other child, mom says, ‘Well, looks like you have had some fun. You do not do this often so I guess it’s ok this one time. But next time make sure you tell me, and we can get you into another pair of clothes.

You are probably wondering why the different reaction, right? Which one would you prefer – most of you see are thinking the second one. Now, what if I tell you that you are the person who displays the same impartiality. The first child is you and the second child is your friend or others.

Yes, that is correct. We are mean to ourselves but kind to others. If we missed a workout – we would berate ourselves. If our friend misses the workout, it’s ok. Why the bias? Why not treat yourself with the same compassion that you give your friend? We need to be self-compassionate which means we need to be loving and kind towards ourselves.

Sadly, we grow up learning how to build a relationship with others, but nobody talks about or teaches building a relationship with oneself. We never learn how to speak to ourselves, how to forgive ourselves and behave with ourselves. For us to be genuinely compassionate and kind to others, it has to start from us.

When things are going fine, some of us do celebrate, which is good, but we need self-compassion the most when we fail or have proven inadequate in some fashion. It is these situations where we need to exercise kindness and not judgement. After all, we are all in the human predicament – we are not supposed to be perfect, that is the joy of human life.

At the same time, it is essential to be mindful about not coddling oneself too much under cover of ‘Self-compassion’. Sometimes to get better, you have to swallow a bitter pill – and this is also self-compassion if done with kindness.

It is ok to be selfish and take care of oneself. When was the last time you decided to spend a day with yourself doing activities that you like? Journaling, watching a movie, sleeping in, reading a book, cooking – whatever you fancy. For most of us, we would be at a loss to identify activities that we can do for a day just by ourselves. And we spend the entire life with ourselves who we do not know very well.

It is time to get to know you, love you – look at the stranger in the mirror and have a loving conversation, first of many to come.

Be Fallow, Be Free

In the old days, farmers would let a piece of land be without crops for a season as it would regain its fertility. This land which was left as it is was called fallow land. There was another technique called crop rotation which involved rotating crops in a fashion to replenish the nutrients in the soil — for example, rotating between corn – heavy nitrogen user with Soybean – low nitrogen user. The farmers and people that time understood that sometimes you have to let things be so that they can be active again. Nothing is bottomless.

The farmers can, of course, ignore the above and continue to grow crops, but the land will have very low productivity and yield. And then there is the artificial hybridization for fast-growing plants or using fertilizers/pesticides which ultimately get into food and cause problems two-three generations down the line.

If you are wondering, how is this related to our lives? Think again! How many times in our lives have we just kept going without being fallow? The few instances we do talk about being ‘As it is’ is in terms of exceptions like sabbaticals. Or worse, sometimes it is forced upon us in terms of illness, injury – because we overused all the nutrients and now our body and mind are forcing us to lay fallow.

Yes, we do take vacation ts, but for it to be genuinely a vacation – it has to be an extended period. Imagine growing crops all year and then letting the land be fallow for a weekend or if we are feeling extravagant, it will be for the long weekend or ten days. Wow! Ten days to recover after years of toiling – we/society feel guilty about this.

What kind of a world have we created where doing nothing is considered worse than working ourselves to death. Now, doing nothing has a very sacred meaning which we have forgotten. Doing nothing does not mean mindlessly watching TV or giving up on your responsibilities or actively thinking (or worrying) about things that have happened or might happen. Doing nothing also does not mean actively doing something other than working – like pursuing a hobby or training for a marathon. It means no doing.

Then the question arises – if we are not doing something that what are we doing? We are being and not doing. There is a vast difference. Doing something from the space of being is enriching instead of just doing something because you exist. It is the inner stillness. Clarity arises from stillness only as confusion emerges from Chaos.

It is possible to maintain the inner stillness even when we are doing stuff. Still, to the first experience, the inner stillness – being fallow is essential, especially given how busy our lives are. Being Fallow is being free. And then can we be truly high performing, productive, superstars.

How will you experience and enjoy Fallowness?

Be Elastic

I am sure all of you have used rubber bands – they are very elastic. If they were stiff, then there is no point in using them. Each rubber band has its breaking point, but for the most part, they are flexible when it comes to holding things together – be it a small bundle of pens or a big wad of paper. Rubber bands have a spectrum or a range in which they operate as opposed to a binary decision point.

We all make resolutions or decide to make some new habits, right? For example, waking up at 5:30 am every day. For most of us, it is a binary item – we are successful if we wake up at 5:30 am and unsuccessful if we do not. Either we wake up at 5:30 am, or we do not. Does that make sense? Does that take into account that the rest of our life is not so binary? What about the nights when you have extra work, and you are not able to go to bed at your regular bedtime. Or what about when your baby refuses to go to bed on time? Or you have your best friend visiting you? Or how about you need a break? Our life is unpredictable. The waking up at 5:30 am needs to adjust for those needs. When we decide the success criteria for such habits, we need to have a range like if I wake four days out of 7 at 5:30 am it is a success – for example.

Operating within a range or spectrum – being elastic has its benefits. One, it is practical. The Chinese have a saying that doing something 80% is perfection. Second, it helps us be kind to ourselves. Imagine beating yourself up because you did not get up at 5:30 am because you wanted to sleep in one day. Third, it accommodates for us being humans. We all have days when we are lazy or don’t want to get up at 5:30 am, and elasticity gives us a way to honour that need.

Not, all items we do can have a range. Like, if you are catching a flight at 5:00 am then the plane is leaving at 5:00 am – there is no range around that. But most situations, you can build an array. I like to get up in the morning and do a bit of yoga – and my plan used to be – get up do yoga every day. If I missed a day, I would beat myself about it, which would of course not motivate me to do it anymore. So, now I have different built-in levels. For example, if I am up and early – I do all the exercises. If I got up late or have to go to work soon, then I do one cycle of each exercise. And if I have absolutely no time, then I do one sun salutation. This way – I still do my yoga, life-permitting and also be kind to myself.

How will you bring elasticity in your life?

Why Is It So Hard?

Have you ever seen somebody do tightrope walking? They are very alert every moment when they are walking on the rope. And they should be as their life depends on it, literally. Whereas on either ends or the extremes they are more relaxed. Even after a lot of experience, they might get better at tightrope, but it still warrants the same attention every second, every time.

Goenka Ji during ten-day Vipassana meditation retreat repeatedly tells us that the idea is to move from gross sensations towards subtle sensations. He also asks to maintain continuous awareness of sensations. It is effortless to become aware of an intense sensation like headache, stomach pain, but very difficult to be mindful of the subtle sensations like at the tip of the nose.

Every year for the past decade I have kicked off the year with a hard reset like doing a ten-day or a twenty-day master cleanse – which is a liquid diet (yup, that’s right no solids at all) or I have done the raw vegan diet. After such a hard reset, it is challenging for my body to switch into unhealthy eating habits. This year for reasons unknown I decided not to do a detox, instead chose to eat in moderation.

What I found is that it is straightforward for me to go without eating any solids for twenty days but very difficult to eat every meal in moderation. Why is it? Only because it requires continues awareness like the tightrope walker walking on the rope. And extremes are natural for me because there is an end in sight whereas in eating in moderation – it is a lifestyle thing. And it requires a different muscle to run a sprint than a marathon.

All these years, I have used bursts of will power to do the hard resets, but it requires a different usage of will power to exercise it every meal — something which I have not developed a practice for or quite frankly harboured a desire for. I have lived my life in extremes and been proud of it too. Why the switch to the golden mean?

I like to challenge myself, and I know that I can do any of the detox diets without any issues. So, maybe it does not excite me anymore? Perhaps the desire to challenge me by eating in moderation seems hard – another milestone to achieve (which will be a lifelong one?). Last but not least, maybe I have gained enough wisdom to understand that moderation is the key. For example, in the Aristotelian view, courage is a virtue, but if taken to excess would manifest as recklessness, and, in deficiency, cowardice.

And this is more fundamental to the way I live my life and not restricted to food. Moderation in life is the habit or challenge. The same muscle that will help me eat moderately will help me watch TV shows in moderation.

Can I do it? Let’s see. Unlike a twenty-day cleanse, there is no end in sight on this path. Maybe, when I have truly mastered the art of moderation, I will not seek the end of the path?

How will you practice moderation?

Relapse – Part Of Recovery

It is 2020, a new day, a new year, a new decade. Technically speaking, this is just another day with twenty-four hours in it. Non-technically speaking it is a big deal. People stay up till midnight to usher in this new dawn. Resolutions are made, relationships are built or broken.

I fail to understand why we have to treat this one day out of the three hundred and sixty-five days in a year as unique. Being the logical person I am, I fail to understand the purpose behind welcoming the new year in a bleary-eyed state and wake up tired on the first day of the year. I am one of those people who go to sleep on time and wake up bushy-tailed rearing to go. I do make an exception for special occasions – like fireworks in Sydney – once in a lifetime events.

Going back to resolutions, why would you chose this one day to resolve. It makes more sense to do it when you are ready and not make the New Year Day is THE day to make a resolution. I have found that if I make one day the pivotal point and if I drop off the wagon then it is harder for me get back on as it takes another 365 days for me to re-invigorate my habit.

I remember talking to somebody who was addicted to alcohol and is now over it. But that person said that even now he/she counts every day she has been without alcohol. And when you are starting – relapse is considered a part of recovery. What a benevolent way to become a better version of yourself!

My vision in life is to be a better version of myself, and I do that with all the might and vain which comes with having an abundant supply of will power. With will power comes a strong force which if not balanced, will leave me swinging from one extreme to the other. In some ways, its the difference between dealing with life like a rock-solid mountain vs flowing stream. That is a lesson that I am still in the process of learning. So, I tend to be more hard on myself when I miss out on my habits. Or, I go the complete other way and don’t even try to get back into my practice.

Internalizing the fact, ‘Relapse is a part of the recovery’ means being gentler to myself (one of my resolutions this year to be kind to myself) and being ok to start as many times as it takes to get back on the habit I am trying to build. I have come to know myself enough that I am not going to give up on any practice but knowing that it is ok to fail is a blessing that I need allow.

It does not matter if you make resolutions today as long as you know that this is not the only day – there are three hundred and sixty-four days which can have an even more significant and meaningful impact on your lives.

Have you accounted for relapsing?

Small Connections

While growing up at home in India, I was not very observant. But now that I am away and I come back – I see more and more. Like my parents make tea for the watchman and our maid everyday. My parents went to our neighbour’s wedding, who also happens to be the Ruby Fruits shop’ owner – shop across from where we live. (Street shops are more common than malls, still thankfully).

Yesterday, we smelled something burning outside. And today we found out that our building watchman had informed our neighbours that he saw a snake, so they decided to put all the dried leaves etc. together and burn them to prevent the snake from getting tempted.

Our neighbours know when my parents are away for a long time so that they can watch the house. They all know that I live in the US, and my brother lives in Sydney.

You cannot hide anything from the community. My parents decided to live in our ancestral house in the village for a month or so. And they would diligently go for a walk in the evening. After a week or so it was a frequent topic of discussion – people would ask, ‘Not going for a walk? or How was the walk?’

Communities are a reality for cities and villages in India. You end up forming a connection which starts off with small talk but eventually ends up being a little deeper than that.

Lives in India seem more intertwined naturally as the remnants of a reducing community culture still exist. These small gestures help us stay grounded in the fact that we are all humans going through the human predicament. We are not that different from each other despite what religion, leaders or sometimes even textbooks say.

Just because you go to a different place of god – does that make you a different human from me? Only because you live across a man-made boundary, does that make you any less human than me? If we genuinely interacted with other humans, we will realize that we all are not that different from each other. Unfortunately, the society we live in today does not encourage or provide opportunities for such interactions. In India, it still exists, but in lots of other countries people live inside their house and occasionally wave to their neighbours, or they don’t even know who their neighbours are. In contrast, my parents can tell you who are all our neighbours not only in our building complex but on the street we live as well.

Trust word as symbol in chrome chain

Social media and technology seem to be driving us towards a culture of divisiveness. We need to remember that we are connected at a fundamental level. We need to pro-actively indulge in activities that bring us together as a race so that we start from a place of trust and not from a place of mistrust. We tend to trust people less than we should because we believe the media and the news which tells us what is happening in 10% of the world – what about the 90% of the world which contains humans just like you and me.

How will you connect today?