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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?

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.

Positive Intent

Have you ever woken up in the morning deciding to make someone’s else life hell? If yes, then it is better that you don’t get out of bed. Jokes aside, earnestly when have we wished to hurt another person. If you are like an average person then your thoughts will be focused more on you – I am already running late, I need to do a zillion things, traffic is going to be worse. Etc etc.

Then why do we assume somebody else would want to wish us to harm intentionally?

For example, you are driving to work, and somebody cuts you off – how often do we jump to the conclusion that he did it on purpose. When in reality the other driver might not even be thinking about you – all he wants to do is get to work like you.

Or, at work, if somebody forgets to do what you asked them to do – the immediate response is a judgment on his ability when in reality the server might be down, and he could not access the work he had done to bring it to you.

You go to a party, and the hostess takes one look at you and does a 180-degree turn. You think she does not like you, but it is possible she realized she just left her purse in the toilet.

Now, in most cases, we will never know what the other party intended but what is in control is our reaction to the situation. This is where you choose to feed the dog and not the wolf within you.

Dalai Lama, said, “Love and Compassion Are Necessities Not Luxuries, Without Them, Humanity Cannot Survive.” Look at the world around us, the circumstance in which we live – we need more of the positive energy, and we can do our bit towards it.

It doesn’t have to stop with us. If you have a friend or a companion, who jumps to negative in everything try and plant a good possibility in their minds. And of course, if somebody has decided to live in a world where everybody assumes harmful intent towards them then wish them well and make sure you protect your well-being when you interact with them.

All significant journeys start with one baby step. The first step here is to become aware of the fact that you are not assuming the positive intent. Most of the times our minds conditioned to see the worst in the people – that mental model needs to be modified. And for it to evolve first we need to know in which situations do we use that mental model – shine a light on it – and the very act of shining the light on it will at the very least decrease the intensity of our response or adverse reaction.

Another way to incorporate into our lives would be when you are preparing for an awkward conversation with a loved one or a colleague – make a conscious decision to assume that they have the best intentions. This would take out 80% of the stress from our lives due to such situations.

And the best way to learn something is to teach it – so if you can spread your light to another person, the light will only get bigger.

Aki The Great

I would like you to meet our Shiba Inu pup – Aki (which means Bright Prince in Japanese). He is two years old, and honestly, I don’t know what life was like without him. All the secret to success mantras like positive thinking, the power of thought Aki knows them all instinctively – the ones that I still have trouble grasping. This post is dedicated to Aki and his greatness.

1. Power of Thought: Aki lives in a world where his humans exist to give him treats. The minute I step into the laundry room the possibility of not getting a treat does not exist for him. He will just sit there, and in his eyes, he is 200% sure that he will get the treat and he usually does. I wish I had the same unwavering faith in the outcomes I want in my life.

2. No grudges: Aki has a very short memory. He has no recollection of things, so every day is like a groundhog day for him. This one time Aki got free from his collar and took Adam on a one-hour ride. And he was punished by cage time, but by evening he had forgotten that he was ever in the cage and he was as excited to see Adam as any other day. I, on the other hand, took two days go let go.

3. Serious Business: Aki is a watchdog of some sort. And he takes this very seriously – it doesn’t matter to him if I am giving him a treat at that time. A scrap of paper flapping in the corner of the road is serious business. If he thinks there is danger he is on it – tail straight, teeth bared. He means it – how much ever Adam and I might find it funny. Sometimes I wish I could go on with the things which I thought were serious, even if people around me were laughing.

4. Relax: Aki can relax at any time. There is nothing that stops him from going to sleep if he wants to. He can sleep immediately and get up instantly. There is no getting ready for bed for him or waking up in the morning. I am asleep, and now I am not. I wish I could switch off like that.

5. Unconditional love: This one I doubt if I will ever master in this lifetime. For Aki, there is no doubt about the love he has for us. It is so ingrained that it possibly doesn’t even cross his mind. We are a pack – end of story. Until I met Aki, I didn’t think I was capable of unconditional love or putting somebody else’s needs before me (Yes, I know I am selfish.) Aki neither earns any money or does any chores, but his humans serve him willingly – what a life!

I had heard about how great it is to have a dog but having a dog makes you realize that all that is true. There is so much simplicity and pure joy in his life that it is a miracle. You can follow him on instagram @ iamluckyaki.

Creations By The Moment

I sat down to write my blog, and I didn’t know what to write. Usually, I have an idea that I have been toying with and then its just a matter of letting it all flow on the paper. This time was a little different. I looked at my backlog, racked my brains, but nothing came up, so I decided to write about what I was experiencing – creating.

Some of you probably know I have a dance class that I teach and the first class of the year is on Jan 22nd, this coming Monday. I choreograph the songs in advance, and it is an exciting process. I scout the upcoming Bollywood movies for songs. And once I identify a song, I listen to it a dozen times, look at a few of the existing dance videos and then start choreographing it. The first time is a little sketchy – steps are random, they don’t quite fit. But the second time around it falls into place and voila! I have the song choreographed. Isn’t this amazing that I have a set of steps for a song which did not exist before – this is creativity. Creating something that did not exist before.

Much like writing this blog, it did not exist until I started putting words on paper. Similar to cooking too, where you get a bunch of ingredients to create something that did not exist before. Even at work where you create a document, process, product – it did not exist until you created it.

Life is no different – we are creating something that did not exist before – moment by moment.

Does it mean that we create the problems in our life too? Yes, like how you create joy in your life? For most of us, we are not aware of what we are building. For example, let’s say you are about to go and have an awkward conversation with a stakeholder – take a moment and notice your thoughts. Are they filled with loving-kindness towards this person or do you fear, anger towards this person? Depending on what views you have – the situation will present itself. If you approach the situation with Metta, then things will be amicable, but if you advance with animosity, you have set the stage for a confrontation. Now, when we say thoughts – it is not the superficial mind chatter we are talking about, we are talking about the feeling that you have deep down which you know how you are feeling. That sense will dictate how the conversation proceeds.

Now that we know we create our life and the situations in it – we can proactively create joy. If we believe that we still have negativity, then we postpone the meeting until we get to space where it is positivity. Even if we have no choice but to have the conversation awareness of your thoughts will lessen the intensity of the outcome.

We are indeed creating our life moment by moment. We can direct it how we want – let’s all go forth and create the life we want.

Happy New Year. #Sydnye

Happy New Year All.
This year we were in Sydney for the New Years and decided to do what we never did even once in the seven-year we lived in London. Watch the fireworks in person. A well-organized event in Sydney. There are different vantage points. The one we chose was the McMahons point – it opens from 8 am – 1 pm but capacity is limited to 15000. We reached there at 4:00 – the place was packed. We managed to squeeze in our three chairs somehow and just sat there ignoring the irritated looks of the people next to us. We could see the Opera house on the left, Harbour Bridge in front of us and then a sea of people with humongous colorful umbrellas and tents.

Around 4:00 pm it was still hot in Sydney, so everybody was applying sunscreen on a regular basis, but as the evening cooled down, tents come down, people wore sweatshirts to protect themselves from the chilly winds. And by that time we had practically become family to our initially unfriendly neighbors. The huge crowd of thirteen teenagers and one mom who was parked in front of us were asking us to move closer as their tent come down. I was tapping my feet to their music. We even sang happy birthday to somebody in the group at midnight. Somethings happen only in cities – where strangers share intimate, private moments and then go back to being strangers.

I was quite impressed by the portable toilets. There were about 20 toilets at the lower level and maybe another five male toilets at the upper level. That meant roughly one bathroom for 600 people. The queues were thirty minutes to one hour long. But they were all clean and operational even at 11:30 pm. Now that is an impossible feat if you ask me – hats off to the planners.

As we started getting closer to midnight, I could feel the excitement building up in the air. People got their glow necklaces, bracelets, and headbands. Now that it was dark we noticed the projections on the wall on the two sides of the bridge. And as a teaser, they release fireworks for five minutes at 8:30 and at 10:30 pm. People would gather and stand up as it neared those times.

Fireworks were shot from the boats behind the bridge, and they lighted up the bridge. It looked as if the bridge itself was a silent spectator enhancing the beauty of the fireworks. The way wind was blowing all the smoke shifted towards opera house which looked like three priests looking out from their cowls in the darkness. The display for five minutes was so dazzling that I found myself looking forward to the twelve-minute show at midnight.

And soon enough after a surprisingly quick 8 hours, the final countdown started from 75 seconds. And there was silence as the fireworks exploded like there was no tomorrow (which was true for 2017). There were different types of fireworks with varied colors. Some were concentric circles of different colors. Kids immediately labeled it as a rainbow. Then there was golden rocket which sprouted a dozen others as it fizzled out. And they made full use of the bridge. They shot upwards from the top of the bridge; there even was a golden waterfall at the end from the bottom of the bridge. The trains still going across the bridge just made the experience even more surreal. Crowds Oohed and Aahed with the rhythm of the fireworks. Little kids perched on their dad’s shoulder watched with their mouths open, finger pointed, but no voice came from them. As the frenzy grew so did the fireworks, it was like without a break.

When it was all done we made our way back home taking the miracle of the fireworks – Thank you #Sydnye (Syd New Year’s Eve). We could not have found a better way to usher in the New Year.

Courage – in daily life

“It is easy to fight a war, but it’s the day to day life that wears us out.” Like all things that have something to teach us this quote stayed with me. The words might not be the same, but it does convey the message. It is easier to tackle a big crisis than with the minutiae of our daily life.

For example, it is easier to work towards the project deadline than to say no to chocolates. A big goal helps us focus our energies – it is so big that we find it hard to see anything else. It is difficult to deal with the smaller things that keep chipping away at our willpower because they slip under the radar. Oh! Its just one chocolate we say, but that tiny hole is enough to break the dam.

What is courage really? Courage is required for us to climb everest but courage is the following little things as well.

– Courage is not participating in gossip about a person at the workplace.
– Courage is refusing to join in the complaining about the state of the world.
– Courage is refusing to eat chocolates or junk food when offered to you.
– Courage is going for another lap in the pool when your mind is saying no, but your body is ready.
(It is good to take action too but the first step is to recognize the behavior and stop encouraging it.)

And like everything else in the world, the golden mean applies here too. There is no wisdom in pushing yourself so hard that you faint while running as opposed to stopping when your body tells you. It is a delicate balance that comes with awareness and experience.

It is a skill that can be learned and not something that people are just born with. Like strawberry beer, this is an acquired taste. Good news is this that we can learn this in the school of life. We don’t have to go to university and take on a student loan to learn how to be courageous.

As you go about your day be aware of your thoughts, sensations and most importantly what your inner voice is saying. Every time we suppress the inner voice that is asking us to be courageous there is a frission in our soul. Note that moment when the crack appears and next time instead of accelerating the break just stay silent. Next time your colleagues/family start talking about somebody behind his or her back dare to remain silent or just walk away. Be brave and say no to the temptation to join in. If you are not able to resist yourself, then make a mental note that you tried. Even this small act of awareness feeds the little courage inside of you. And some more actions of this kind will feed the courage until its ready to reveal itself and act. Show itself; it will – courage that is.

And if each of one of us minds his or her own business and focuses the energy internally on strengthening the inner muscle of courage the world will be whole with a few fewer fissures.

No Need To Respond

A bunch of us were talking about our holiday plans for the year-end. The person sitting on my left was telling me about how he and his wife had gone to Brussels and spoke to this young girl who was traveling Europe with just a backpack. And I responded with, “I didn’t like Brussels, as it was frigid and all that seemed worth seeing there was the Manneken Pis.”

Now, was there genuinely a need for me to respond? Did he ask me about my experience in Brussels? There are a lot of such situations where I respond unnecessarily. How many times in conversations with friends and family I have ignored what they are saying and just butted in with what I think is more important. Most of the time I am talking to myself even in a conversation. The intent with which I have a conversation is one to reply not to understand.

Why do I respond when there is no need? There are many reasons. Primarily, I believe it is my need to show that I know more – a little bit of ego. Since I live in Columbus, I think I need to prove that I don’t belong to Columbus. Secondly, it is just lack of listening. I am not hearing, genuinely listening to what the other person is saying. Lastly, its because I am not intentional in my discussions. I am not sure myself on what the purpose of the conversation is and what my role is? Are they looking to pass the time, seeking advice, share good news or just need somebody to listen.

What are the few ways I can change this attitude?
1. Set the intention: If I even thought for a few seconds in any conversation about what my role is in the conversation it will be a lot better. If I am overtly aware that the other person is just filling their time, then I can focus my energies elsewhere. Or, If I determine that my purpose in this conversation is to set direction then I can respond accordingly.
2. Be Selfish: Dalai Lama said, “When you talk, you just repeat what you know. If you listen then you might actually learn something new.” Next time take the learning approach to the conversations.
3. Take small steps: If I decide to do the above in all my conversations, I will be exhausted. I might end up doing more harm with no progress. The next baby step is to start with one or two conversations a day and then build on that.

Silence is also an acceptable response and most of the times a better one.

We are all Mad

Adam and I were walking to a coffee shop downtown. I saw this lanky young man with a head full of thick curls walking towards us. He was talking non-stop and was holding onto his pants. As he walked past us I realized that he was talking to himself and not on bluetooth as I had assumed.

For some reason him talking to himself stayed with me for a while. I asked my husband, “What goes through your mind when you see a mad person talking to himself?” His answer was,”Compassion. I think that homeless people are judged twice – once because of their condition and second because of the way we treat them – with fear, pity , ignorance.” Did I ever tell you that Adam is a really nice guy?

My initial thought when I see a crazy person is Fear but not because I am afraid of them. I am scared that there is a very fine line that separates me from them. He talks out aloud where as my mind talks inside all the time. I will be honest and this is not an original thought (if there is such a thing). I read this in the opening pages of the Tolle’s Power Of Now. I read that book about ten years ago now and I am still evolving.

If you want to experiment – just sit quietly and watch where your monkey mind goes. There is no end to the branches it climbs. There is no rhyme or reason to the thoughts – there is no method to madness here. We all carry our monkey mind with us every moment of our living lives.

The difference between crazy person and sane person is that sane person does not talk his thoughts aloud. Probably because sane person is aware that is not accepted social behavior and partially because at some level he knows that whatever goes through his mind is not real. We can distinguish between what is real and what is not at some level. It is a very fine line though.

There is another distinguishing factor – sane person knows that he is not his mind chatter to a certain extent. Let’s say you are in an argument and your mind chatter is running amuck. It’s telling you how the other person is out to get you, they are lying etc etc. There are sometimes when you don’t listen to the mind chatter and you remain calm but there are times when you get carried away with what your mind is telling you. And you become your mind chatter – that’s when we have lost our balance. To use another analogy our head is under water,we have lost touch with what is real and we cannot see clearly. The times when we can ignore our mind chatter, realize that there are two sides to a story and stay calm are the times when our head is above the water.

The human life itself is a very precious gift and being able to watch our mind chatter is another gift – let’s make the most of it.