Tag Archives: #changestartswithme

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?

Every Moment – Change

In the ten-day Vipassana course, Goenka Ji tells us lots of stories. My mind wandered over to the following story today.
Goenka Ji asks that the light bulbs we have in our houses – they appear to remain the same for a long time, if they do not change then why do we pay electricity bills?
Similarly, the candle flame appears to remain the same, but after a few minutes or hours it grows smaller in size, right?

Even though the candle flame and the light bulb appear to remain the same – they are changing every second. Every second the old flame dies, and the new one takes its place. But it happens so fast that our naked eye cannot see it – hence the illusion that the flame/light bulb remains the same.

Similarly, we change every moment too – that is why we grow old. The change that happens is not only at the physical level but also at a mental level. We are adapting every minute and at some point, the change accumulates, and it manifests itself. Whether, we like it or not, whether we believe it or not change is the only constant in our inner selves.

If change is the only constant then why do people find change so hard not only in ourselves but also in others? When I lived in London, I had a thriving social life, and that meant talking to a lot of people mostly about the same topics. I told my ‘story’ around the theme so much that the story became a reality and then a belief because I invested my emotional energy talking about it. For example, I was a devoted Bikram Yoga practitioner for two years, and that meant for two years the story was that I go to Bikram yoga every day – it was the staple fodder of all my conversations for those two years. And one day I woke up and decided that I have had enough – it was more work to relay the change in my story to others after that – because in thier and my mind I was going to do Bikram Yoga every day forever. And who knows how many of those two years was because of the story I was telling myself and others – if I did not have the story then maybe I might have stopped sooner.

Bikram Yoga is just one example, but this permeated in every aspect of my life. I felt bound by the stories I was telling others because it was harder to change them even if I had moved on from that old story. When I moved to Columbus, it was freeing because I could be who I wanted. And it gave me the space to explore, try and fail and adopt new realities.

I am not advocating that having social circle is a problem, all I am pointing out is that change is the constant and sometimes the stories we tell ourselves and others prevent us from making a change because the story continues to gain our emotional energy and becomes a prison from which we find hard to break.

What story will you break free from, today?