Tag Archives: #body

Long Term – Strategy

In my current role I have to manage a team of people – mostly project managers. And every month we have a strategic meeting and some kind of a fun activity either within ourselves or with other teams we work with. If I chair a meeting it has to be fun at least for me – otherwise why would I have a meeting that I myself don’t want to attend. And at the same time they have to be useful.

Brainstorm Ideas why meeting should be over

What do I in my meetings – in the strategic meeting every month we go over Road-map/NW news/Continuous improvement and about 30% of the meeting is dedicated to watching a movie – a soft skill one, like this time we watched the four agreements summary a) Be impeccable with your word b)Don’t take it personally 3)Don’t make assumptions 4) Do your best.

And for our fun activity we met with the scrum masters in our area and played “What color you are game?” and a trivia about each person.

I never thought about why I do what I do – until one of my team members made a comment that I seem to like these sort of things. It is true – I love the people aspect of it, it is very important for people to know each other as opposed to just coming to work. Whether we realize it not workplace is a social place for us where we spend most of our lives.

But there is another reason why I invest in people. Because in my mind it is the long term strategy. All of us our acutely aware of how hard it is to bring change in ourselves. We also know that unless we change ourselves there is no long term improvement. Changes will happen at the superficial level or will not be full committed too and we revert back to our old ways of working. Otherwise – we would all lose weight by just reading the book, right? So in my mind unless we bring about change in people themselves there is no long term improvement or change.

And I am also aware that I cannot change people but what I can do is create an environment where it is easy for them to be a)aware of the change b)make it easy to adapt to the change. Awareness is a big step in itself.

For example: as a project manager we work with a lot of people and different kinds of people. Not only in rank but also in styles. And as a project manager your maim aim is project delivery. And at the end of the day a project manager is a human being who comes in with her own views too. With all these it is very easy to assume that a team member exists solely to make your life miserable – and when we are so busy with other things this story subconsciously gets embedded in our mind and we start behaving that way. But, if we realize that he is also looking out for the project success we will approach the whole thing differently.

So the key thing is here is not telling the project manager that she should work on her “Stakeholder Management” or “Team Building” skills but shine light on the fact that she may have made an assumption about the team member. And if you know something about that person like they might have the same hobby as with you – you are less likely to make the assumptions.

So this is my long term strategy at work and have fun while you are at it.

Where you are.

As some of you know I have started learning swimming. I can swim now – except the breathing part. I still use a swimming snorkel but I am more comfortable in water and have more stamina. When I first started off I couldn’t even take 2 strokes and I was swimming next to little kids who could do laps. Let’s say instead of practicing I just stood their thinking about a) how good the kids are b) how I will never learn swimming – then I am actually just failing behind in my aim to swim. But that space where your mind spins stories is so enticing or rather so conditioned that we actually love to wallow in that space. We refuse to see where we are. Yes, whether you like it or not you make a choice to dwell and not take the next step.

This is why sometimes it feels as if we are stuck in a pattern and are not able to get out of it or any situation we get into it always comes down to the same thing. In fact, in some cases the stories we spin in our heads to avoid facing “where we are” has so many layers that we are light years from reality.Like in the swimming example if I start extrapolating it to the rest of the world and say everybody else can learn swimming, they can have a better life but look at me I cannot even swim – then this is further taking me away from the core – which is kick and move your hands in water.

It’s like the quote from Einstein

You have to be able to peel back the layers of onion, get rid of the baggage and see the reality as it is. And take an action – even a small step towards your goal counts. If I decide to just swim to the middle of the pool and just do it even if it means I stop after every stroke. It is a mixture of lot of things – will power, your desire (true desire) to get to the goal, your past experiences all contribute to it. But it doesn’t matter because you can only start from where you are. There is absolutely no point in comparing yourself to others or where they are – it’s a waste of energy and time. Another quote from Einstein here

Ramana Maharishi also said that the world will be a much better place if everybody minded their own business.If these thoughts did not exist then I would just swim – there is nothing stopping me from swimming.

We have to accept the fact that our past deeds in this lifetime or past lifetimes have created the circumstances in which we find ourselves today but the response to this situation is in our hands. We have to see the reality as it is, accept where we are and move from there. It’s not easy but hey this is life, this is you.

Vipassana in Pali literally means “to see things as they are”.

Yoga – musings

Growing up in India words like Gurus/Meditation/Yoga are white noise because a) they are so common- it’s like asking a fish what is water (we might not know what it really means but we know) b) there are a lot of charlatans and you are always wary when these words are mentioned.

I never had anything to do with yoga until I moved to London. It was in the Creativity and Personal Mastery class that one of the students mentioned Bikram Yoga. I was teaching assistant at that time. And in the class prof. had an exercise which was called ‘Public Commitment’ – it meant you made a public comment to share something you like with the class and do it with them like eating at your favorite restaurant, going to salsa class, hiking etc. Basically it was a way to do more of what you like and share it – thus adding emotional energy into it. One of the students said she wants to take interested people to Bikram Yoga.

To be honest I wasn’t that keen but as a teaching assistant I decided to go. I guess it did call to some part of me. As I am not the one for doing things if I don’t want to as my family/friends will confirm. So me, another student and her went to a class. We were in the last row and we did not faint. For those of you who are not familiar with Bikram Yoga – it is a 90 minute class – at 110 F – 13 postures done twice. It’s actually really good.

At that time Adam and I were doing the long distance relationship thing and I had a lot of time in my hand. So I decided to join Bikram Yoga and I got addicted. It definitely accelerated my inner journey. I did it every day for almost two years and I loved it. Infact my criteria for finding an apartment was that it should be walking distance from the studio. We did find one [Lovely place – 8 minutes from oxford street]. Point is I was obsessed and as my dad loves to say I left the golden mean -“the ideal moderate position between two extremes”

But it was too much – I had busted miles away from my mean. So, I remember waking up one day and telling Adam that maybe it’s a little too much , doing it every day. He gave me a look which said “Yeah, obviously.” So, I didn’t do yoga for 6 months. The pendulum has to swing both sides before it can find the center.

Then Adam mentioned about Ashtanga Yoga which is in some ways polar opposite of Bikram. This article describes it really well. For me Bikram was ambitious and competitive – type A, where as Ashtanga is do it at your own pace and there is no comparison – no mirrors in the room. It’s just you. I guess I had changed because we started going to Ashtanga and I have been doing it for 6 years now and don’t think about it twice. It is what it is.

I am not in a hurry to learn poses now – I am happy. The reason I do yoga is I feel happy, my body feels happy. And plan to do it till I die. And I am very grateful for all the teachers who have taught me as Yoga is one valuable gem which has been passed on from one generation to other.

And for inspiration check out the video of the 98-year old doing yoga.

V. Nanammal is a 97-year-old woman from Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu. Even at her advanced age, Nanammal practices the art of yoga, and what’s more, also teaches it to other enthusiasts.

Being Different – concept of Who Am I?

I remember when I moved to Columbus from London – it was an identity crisis of sorts. The first step was to recognize that my identity was tied to working as a Project Manager in British Telecom and having a MBA degree from London Business School. I identified myself with these two things without even realizing it in London. When I moved to Columbus nobody even knew British Telecom or London Business School – I even had somebody ask me what does an MBA stand for. That was the first time I realized that unknowingly I had created an identity for myself and was attached to it. And looking back I can see that it had taken me some effort to build my identity in London so it wasn’t easy to let it go. And let it go for what?

Moving to Columbus gave me the fresh start as I wasn’t encumbered by preconceived notions of what people thought about me. Let’s ignore the fact that the preconceived notions are in my head to begin with. Fresh Start – eh! that didn’t last long though.

I was driving back from work one day and my thoughts wandered to how I am different and have always been different. For example, I am a South Indian but I grew up in North – so really I didn’t fit in either places. [South India as different from North India like UK and Spain]. And then I joined the software engineering which at that time was still very much Male-centric world. And when I moved to US – again I was different, same in UK [Although London feels like home as everybody is from outside] And then I married someone out of my caste , first one from my community to go do an MBA,list continues…

The point being that this is the only life I know and hence I identify myself as being different. In fact, I would probably feel threatened if I was the same as others.

How am I different now? We (Adam and I) don’t drink. We don’t watch TV – we don’t even have cable. We do Meditation and Yoga. We love talking about well-being, self and being on the Journey. We don’t seem to be driven by materialistic desires as much. The usual small talk isn’t for us.

Then the question is – so is this better? Is this good that I am different and differ in the way stated above?
The short answer to that is NO. It doesn’t matter what identity I have – the key is to be aware that I have an identity. In the human predicament we have to play the role(s). The key is to know that you are playing a role and the role is not you. And we cannot get away from playing the roles as long as we are in the human predicament. We might as well as enjoy playing different roles and play them with gusto.

A role might be this perfect do-gooder who can do no wrong. Another role can be of a inspirational leader at office. Another role might be somebody is who is victim to everything that happens to them. Another role might be of a drug-addict. Another might be of a politician or in some cases even an enlightened Guru.

In essence it really doesn’t matter who we are – we are all one whether we truly realize it or not is a different question.

Viriya – Effort

This blog follows the last one where I talk about the different ways in which we can accept or not accept other’s judgements/opinions.

In this blog I am going to talk about how to increase the “effort” factor in implementing the different ways. Before we get started let me explain what I mean by “effort – viriya”. If you recall in one of my blogs I talk about the Ten Perfections (Paramis)

Viriya: Energy
May I be energetic, vigorous and persevering.
May I strive diligently until I achieve my goal.
May I be fearless in facing dangers and courageously surmount all obstacles.
May I be able to serve others to the best of my ability.

Viriya in simple terms means Energy, that’s it. Pure and simple energy. Every time somebody tries to impose/project their own imperfections/shortcomings onto you, you need effort to not accept those gifts. You can always apply more effort until you reach the final stage.

There are many ways to work on developing Viriya. First of all you can do it anytime – literally anytime. Let’s say you are driving to work and your mind is busy as usual passing opinions. Every time you bring your awareness to sensations to breathing instead of the opinions you are increasing the effort factor – every little bit counts. Imagine how easy it is to do this. And every time you do this your effort factor increases.

Secondly, every time you interact with someone and they are gossiping or doing unwholesome deeds (to the extent you can determine this) then observe your sensations – re-double your efforts.

Thirdly, you can always use physical activity to train your mind – this might be helpful in the beginning stages. For example, if you run or if you swim then do that extra 5 minutes or the extra lap. Every time you do this you are working on the muscle.

This is a little different from will power because the desire to increase the effort has to come from within. Until then try to light the flame of effort. Once it’s lit then it will be hard to put out.

And another thing to keep in mind is that what matter is the right kind of effort – which in Vipassana means being aware of your sensations in everything that you do. If you are sitting/standing/sleeping or as you go about your daily activities be aware of sensations. These has the double advantage of a) working on your effort/sensations b) mindfulness in your day-today work.

A big part of this practice is to know whether you are tuned up or not. And this comes by practice. Let’s say there are a few drops of water on table and you use a cloth and it absorbs all the water. Let’s say there is a glass of water and you use the same cloth to soak it all up – it won’t work. It is s continuous cycle as your cloth grows the more water you can absorb. The more water you can absorb the more the cloth will grow until there is no water/cloth.

Similarly the effort factor will increase every time you use it, the more you use it the more effort factor will be until there is just you.

To Accept Or Not Accept

In the 10-day Vipassana courses Goenkaji tells us some stories during the discourses. The one below is similar to the one Goenkaji narrates during the course.

There once lived a great warrior. Though quite old, he still was able to defeat any challenger. His reputation extended far and wide throughout the land and many students gathered to study under him.

One day an infamous young warrior arrived at the village. He was determined to be the first man to defeat the great master. Along with his strength, he had an uncanny ability to spot and exploit any weakness in an opponent. He would wait for his opponent to make the first move, thus revealing a weakness, and then would strike with merciless force and lightning speed. No one had ever lasted with him in a match beyond the first move.

Much against the advice of his concerned students, the old master gladly accepted the young warrior’s challenge. As the two squared off for battle, the young warrior began to hurl insults at the old master. He threw dirt and spit in his face. For hours he verbally assaulted him with every curse and insult known to mankind. But the old warrior merely stood there motionless and calm. Finally, the young warrior exhausted himself. Knowing he was defeated, he left feeling shamed.

Somewhat disappointed that he did not fight the insolent youth, the students gathered around the old master and questioned him. “How could you endure such an indignity? How did you drive him away?”

“If someone comes to give you a gift and you do not receive it,” the master replied, “to whom does the gift belong?”

Now how does this apply to us? There are two aspects to this – one who is giving you the gift and the one is accepting the gift.

ONE GIVING THE GIFT: We are all making judgements – a part of human conditioning. Some people might think you are kind, some people might think you are rude, some might think you are beautiful and some might think you are ugly. All these opinions are correct – from the perspective of the people who are passing these judgements. These opinions and judgements are a reflection of themselves really! This is why they say that world is a mirror.

ONE ACCEPTING THE GIFT: We have a choice as to whether accept the gift or not. But most of the time we don’t even know we have accepted the gift. What does accepting the gift mean? Let’s say somebody says you are ugly – what do you do? Do you just listen to what’s being said and let is pass like moving clouds [Then you have not accepted the gift]. Or do you think about what the other person said , ruminate about it for hours and want to get back at the person or the world, do you want to shout at the top of your voice and let everybody know that you are not ugly [Then you have accepted the gift].

Want to know how not to accept the gift? Watch out for my next blog post.

Long Term – how long is long?

I remember my hindi teacher at school telling us this story. It went something like this:
There is a bus that is going from A to B. On the way to B it runs into a oncoming truck and everybody on the bus dies. People come running to the accident to help any survivors and all they see is this 90+ year old woman who gets up with the help of her stick. Everybody comments on who lucky she is. She gets into a rickshaw so that she can go to the bus stop. The rickshaw runs over a tiny stone, loses it balance and overturns killing the old woman in the process.

What do you think is the moral of the story? The time of your death is pre-determined, you will die when your time comes, not a second later, not a second earlier.

There maybe some of you who are thinking well if the old lady had her seat belt on – she could have survived. Yes, that is correct but then it wasn’t the right time.

At the same time I am sure this story and the conversation so far is making you uncomfortable. Talking about death or dying does make people very uncomfortable. I have wondered why? I will be sad when the ones close to me die – it will leave a hole where they filled it but death is one of the most certain things in life. The one thing we know for sure is we will die but still we live our entire life denying it. The quote below says it all

So, how does it relate to the topic of the blog which is “Long Term”. A lot of the leadership and self-help books talk about “Long Term Thinking”. What is your five-year plan? Where do you see yourself in your 2-3 years? The real long term is a little different I think.

When you are trying to prove you are right to a co-worker – that’s when you think long term. You are going to die anyways does being right on whether the status report should say X or Y really matter. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that we should not have opinions but the intensity and impact can come down a notch if we keep the long term goal in mind.

As everything else this kind of long term thinking is also a choice – I am just presenting a option , a different way of thinking. If someone overtakes you while you are driving – we have two choices a) get mad and ruin precious moments of your life or b) life is too short to get worked about something you are not going to remember in 24 hours.

“If somebody was to say – you have two hours to live.” What will you do? This is not a morbid question but a check on who well you are living your life. Are you living in the future or past? Or are you living in the moment – you are satisfied and at peace with where you are right now?

This is how I measure my happiness level – The art of dying is in essence the art of living. If you don’t believe me read this article on reasons behind Bhutan’s high Happiness index.

Need a Break!

It’s Sunday evening and you are thinking about all the things that you haven’t done. You have a busy day ahead and want to get to bed early but at the same time you have not had a break. Anyways you go to bed with the unfinished business hanging over your head.

You wake up in the morning with a feeling of never-ending list hanging over you.(All you want is some space to yourself) It’s Monday – busy day at work, things just keep piling up, people keep requesting things from you and you didn’t get a moment to do anything on your list.(You cannot wait for the break when you get home).

You get home – walk your dog – make food and eat. (All this while you are looking forward to a break). And finally you end up staying late so that you can have that time to yourself that you have been wanting for days now.

And the cycle starts again. Sounds familiar?

The question here is Why do need a BREAK from something?
Because you are so fed up with what you are doing that you need a break.
Why are you so fed up?
Because you think you would be rather doing something else than what you are doing right now.

We are not accepting the moment which unfortunately or fortunately is the only thing we have. The following quote from

Imagine we have a pipe through which water is flowing and we keep blocking one end of the pipe slowly. There comes a time when the pipe is blocked and water stops flowing.

When somebody comes with a request while all we want to do is to send the email – we resist it and add a little pebble to the end of the pipe. Note that we already added quite a few pebbles to the pipe over the weekend and as the day goes by we just keep adding pebble after pebble. No wonder when we come home all we want is a BREAK.

Now, if we just accept whatever happens as something that is exactly what we wanted then there is no pebble and water keeps flowing.

How do we do that? First and foremost as usual, awareness is the key, second practice and third actual experience of acceptance of what it is. And surprise, surprise when we accept things as they are we end up having more than enough time to do all that we ever wanted. This like all major shifts will take effort.

If you are ever present in the moment then the feeling of “Needing a Break” will diminish leaving more energy for you to do your own things or just be.

Another way to look at it is through my favorite Quote “You cannot travel the path until you have become the path itself.” Ros Zander who co-authored “The art of possibility” with Ben Zander talks about her experience in writing the book. She got herself a nice cabin in woods, well-equipped. And she would go there every weekend but end up doing everything else except writing – we have all been there! Until one day she realized that everything else that she was doing was also writing – it was food for thought like taking her dog for a walk, washing dishes etc.

Similarly if we view our daily life as all connected and every single piece including – broken pipe you need to fix, the stakeholder who has an urgent request then life just flows – there is no blockage.

Mind Over Matter – how much can you stretch?

It was summertime and I remember very vividly that my dad who is usually very fit kept sleeping for an entire weekend – non-stop. He had just made a trip to Delhi or some other city for business and when he came back all he did was sleep. His clothes had a slightly yellowish tinge – anyways they did go to the doctor. Doctor did a few tests and told him that he had jaundice but it’s on the decline now. The worst was over. So his Jaundice was at the peak during his business trip but it didn’t affect him at all.

If you are wondering why I am telling you this incident then here it is – Mind Over Matter. I believe that my Dad is one of the few people I know who are very good at mind over matter. What does it really mean?

In my dad’s case he willed his body to believe that it was all good – one can argue that he slept the whole weekend but you get the point. Basically what this is saying is that your body can withstand anything it’s your mind that you have to convince. There are scientific studies which prove this as well – let’s say you flip a coin 20 times what are the chances of heads/tails – 50% right? However, there was an experiment done where they had participants who willed a certain outcome like either heads and tails and the probability was not 50%. Check out this article for more details. If it could be done for coin flip experiment – imagine what we could all do if we ALL set our minds to it. Another famous example is the DC crime rate which started dropping when a meditation project was started and then started increasing when the project was disbanded – read about it here.

Our faith can move mountains. All we have to do is to believe.

The question is – If there is so much evidence that meditation/focusing your mind on an object is so powerful then how come most of the people don’t do it? Why is that each and every one of is not drawn to meditation?
The only answer that I can come up with is – when the student is ready , teacher will be ready otherwise even if you read about it, even if you see it, you are still blocked to it – you will not see it really. But it doesn’t mean we don’t try.

And then there’s a flip side to it too – you can only push yourself so much. It’s like different rubber bands can be stretched only to certain points before they break – so you have to find out your breaking point and work on it to increase its elasticity if you are so interested and called to do so!

It also comes back to my favorite quote – its all in me – all in the mind. Everything that happens to us, including the angry boss, difficult stakeholders, great pets, lovely spouses is all within our mind even the so called external circumstances like political situation/global warming all of them – they are all creations of our mind and most of us are ignorant of what our minds are creating.

But nobody said it better than the Mysore style Ashtanga teacher Pattabhi Jois – it’s true even in yoga.

We are all in Prison

Raymond Fiest, one of my favorite fantasy authors writes in his book, “The Magician”

we are the architect of our own prison

What does he mean by that? Let me tell you a story.

A rich couple are blessed with a baby boy after several years of marriage. They bring the boy up and groom him to be a business man so that he can take over his dad’s business. Twenty five years of father’s life have gone in building the dream that his son will carry on his legacy. You can imagine the dismay when his son announces that he wants to be a farmer and not a business man like his father. The father tells his son, “You have made me very unhappy.”

QUESTION: How many of you think he is right? That the son is responsible for his father’s unhappiness.

Here’s a tip: All that the son did was tell his father that he was going to be a farmer. The father had the choice to be happy or unhappy. And he made the choice to be unhappy. That was the prison he created for himself. He not only made himself unhappy but refused to take ownership for that as well.

Imagine how many times in our life we refuse to take the ownership of our own choices. In fact some of us live under the delusion that the external circumstances have made our life miserable and not us. We are not even aware of our own choice.

For example, I remember telling my dad that I was probably going to hate Columbus after London. And my dad in his practical fashion, responded, “You can hate Columbus all you want, Columbus doesn’t care.”

You don’t get the promotion you want, your spouse divorces you or your kids take to marijuana or somebody you don’t like became the head of your office/country – you make a choice to be happy or unhappy.

It’s ok to make either choice – even if you decide to be unhappy about it – do it knowing that it’s your choice nobody’s making you unhappy. Own the decision. That’s the first step – it’s harder to accept the decision as the best thing that can ever happen to you though. Difficult but not impossible – practice does make everything perfect.

Let’s take the prison theory to next level. This gets a little into the spiritual realm more so than usual. Even when we own our choice or decide to be happy about it all that we are doing is getting better food – in the prison. In the human predicament we are all already in the prison we are just moving to a better one. It is very hard to explain such things in words because words are not enough.

My favorite quote comes to mind,

“In this plane there is no answer and outside the plane there is nobody to ask the question.”

However, in his book UnTethered Soul, Michael singer provides a great description of what I am trying to say. Imagine space/vaccuum in which things are floating like Cars/your ideal job/ your partner/ your savings account etc. The minute your mind focuses on the car , it becomes a block and many such blocks build the prison. It’s all an illusion but we have forgotten that we are actors and are convinced that this is the reality.

How do we get out of the prison? All paths lead to Rome. If this article has planted a seed in you then nurture it, watch for it – if you are drawn towards painting/writing/aerobics or something that you always wanted to do as a kid. Go for it, it might open the door that may be your path out of the prison. For those of us who meditate or do yoga – when we breathe or we are focused on sensations at that moment there is no thought – in that moment we are free
.