Tag Archives: #contribute

Those Were The Days

I just watched the Netflix Series – ‘Alma Mater – Inside the IIT dream’. It was a trip down memory lane – nostalgic, and I did not want it to end in some ways. So much packed in those days, just like peeling the layers of the onion.

I did my engineering and then did my MBA. Both of these experiences were only four and two years long, but a lot happens in those years at a rate that you cannot process.

In the series, they had a section on on-campus placements. I kid you not, my body constricted watching them go through it. I could relate at a visceral level. This you have to experience to know what I am talking about. The anticipation, shortlist, quant or aptitude test, interview. Your life up till then has been one thing after the other or, as Churchill said about history – ‘One damn thing after another. You study hard to get good grades in 10th to get into a good stream – science/arts. And then you study hard so that you can get into a good engineering college. And then you study hard so that you can get into a good company and then it switches to marriage, kids etc. But the pressure builds on.

And nobody – no one person is doing this to you. I do not ever recall my parents putting pressure. In my case, it was all self-inflicted, unknowingly. The world I created ended if I did not get placed. I still remember the very first company I interviewed with. I did not get the offer. I went nuts – I holed myself in my room and studied like crazy. Now, I wonder what I studied for an interview, but at that time, it was necessary. I remember my mom bringing me food to my room. And the actual day, we were there on campus for the entire day. I was such a bundle of nerves that I could not even eat. Everybody in my building knew. All my neighbours knew that I had my campus interviews. It was a big deal.

And I remember late in the day they announced the list, and my name was there. It was relief followed by a tug in the heart when some of my friends did not make it. I remember calling my mother, and the relief was palpable even on the phone.

All this drama, and when we showed up for work the first day, they had no idea we were joining – hehe!

At that time in my life – it was necessary. The drama, the stress, friendship – the experience was significant. It made me who I am today. It creates a bonding experience with others. I probably learnt a lot of life lessons in those situations which I cannot even articulate. Isn’t this what life all about – experiencing life situations. What has changed is now I am not as identified as those life situations. There is an understanding that this will also pass.

Enjoy what you have NOW as it will pass, but you, the watcher – remain the same.

Saluting Mother nature in all of us

I am my Father’s daughter. I have so many of his mannerisms that I can predict with almost 99% accuracy what he is thinking or saying. Growing up, I looked up to my dad, and he was/is my best friend. I would tell him everything and still, to this day, do so. And he never judged me or told me what to do – which is probably why I told him everything.

My relationship with my mom was more of a rebellious nature, primarily around marriage. It seemed to eclipse all other memories. My mom wanted me to get married, and I did not. Looking back more than the marriage – it was the act of ‘Being Told’ to do something. Life works out in mysterious ways, and I decided to do my MBA to avoid marriage. And I met my husband, Adam, during my MBA. As Master Oogway says in Kung-fu panda, ‘You often meet your destiny on the road you take to avoid it.’

I took the course ‘Creativity and Personal Mastery’, which started changing my relationship with Mom. I was beginning to see where people were coming from. Yes, for the longest time ever, I was very selfish – still am but relatively less. And I understood her more than before. And as I have grown as a woman and been a wife, the understanding has increased. And my respect and appreciation for what a mother does have shot up exponentially.

Switching tracks, my brother has two daughters. And the youngest one was born when my parents were there. And I watched my mom and my dad interacts with the baby. My dad was amazed at what she did and said, ‘Wow, she grabbed my finger.’ And my mom even watching her over skype – the unconditional love in her eyes was so evident. She didn’t have to say it, but it was so clear that she was just so happy that my niece existed – however she was, regardless of what she was doing. I do not think my mom existed in that space – isn’t that wonderful. My niece responded to that love in ways that she did not to others. It is the unspoken language of true love. When I am sick, I want my mom around me. I am sure most of us do.

Women in my mom’s generation got married relatively young and were primarily housewives. They cooked and cooked and cooked some more. My mom still cooks for us as a family when we are all together. And she does that without any grumbling. I complain if I have to cook during the week or if cooking takes more than fifteen minutes. Granted that I have a day job. My mom and others like her have made peace with what is for the most of their lives. They have surrendered and learnt to live with the present moment and accept what it offers. There is very little resistance. All roads lead to Rome.

Recognize the mother nature in you and rejoice in it!

The Biggest Culprit Of All – Time

Eckhart Tolle tells the story of his dad, who in his older years remarked that the quality of mirrors has deteriorated since his younger days. I am sure most of us have looked at the mirror and wondered what happened? Or, go for reunions and somebody remarks on how young we were? Or, go through the albums and realize that some people are not alive anymore. Albums are a significant source of this realization – the wedding, the party, the celebration each of them was so crucial at that Time, and now they are just memories.

What happened? Time happened. Time is the biggest culprit of all, but nobody has ever seen Time. Because Time is a human-made concept that exists only in our heads. And in the head of society at large. But life does not happen in Time – it occurs in the now. Right now, there is no concept of Time – it may be 7:33 PM, but you cannot experience 7:33 PM. You can see it on the ever-pervasive timers on the laptop, phones, clocks on the wall, but you cannot feel it. You can only experience what is happening now. Hence, Time is the biggest culprit, but nobody has seen it.

Time manifests itself as past or present. Time – this four-letter word has become so powerful that it runs the world. We have even come up with sayings like Time is money or Time and tide wait for no man. Some courses teach you how to manage Time. Time management is a skill that you are supposed to have.

And in all honesty, it is driving most of the society mad. In my parents time, I never remember calling somebody to say, ‘Hey, can we come over?’. We would go over – and they would be there or not there. In our village there is no time – people follow the natural body clock – when the sun sets it Time for bed. Fast forward a few decades, we have calendars that sync with each other. We have watches and phones that remind us of different events. ‘Finding’ Time on people’s calendar is a nightmare. God knows what shape will Time take in the future.

We believe in the artificial deadlines that we have created that we do not even question anymore. I am not advocating that we do away with Time. Then it will create chaos – the world will stop functioning. But maybe there is a possibility to revisit our relationship with Time. Perhaps we stop thinking about the past or future so much but focus on the now? Maybe instead of thinking about what we need to next, we focus on where we are now? Instead of Time driving us – let presence drive us.

It is about Time (no pun intended) that we took our life away from Time and lived in. Instead of blocking into chunks for things to do – have some time where we live in a timeless – eternal world.

So, what has Time planned for you next?

Are We Lying To Ourselves?

Have you ever been in a situation where you did something without remembering you just did that? Take a shower without realizing it or driving home from the office or travelling on a tube and may be missed your stop. Your mind was so engrossed in something that you forget what you are ‘actually’ doing. 

Has it ever happened that your body reacts to something which is not accurate because it sees/hears/tastes or touches something? I remember standing on the escalator in Warren Street tube station, watching the ads on the sides of the walls. One of the ads was about a hamburger, and my mouth started salivating even though I was a budding Vegan).

We have six sense doors – smell, sight, sound, taste, touch and our thoughts. And our body is blind without these. Our body gets a sense of what is going on in the outside world only through these sense doors. 

Let’s connect the dots. Your mind has a strong habit, also called conditioning, of never being in the present moment. It lives mainly in the past or the future. For the most part, you are playing out the movie that the thoughts in your head are displaying. And if your mind is one of the sense doors, then your body starts to react to it as if it were real.

For example, you missed your tube in the morning, or you had a fight with your boss – and on your way home, you replay that incident in your head. Your physical body is sitting in the tube, but it reacts as if you are fighting your boss now. But, at the same time, a part of you knows that you are sitting in the tube – because you cannot deny it. Your feet on the floor, your bum is uncomfortable on the cushion.

What happens to a piece of string when pulled in two different directions? Or when you apply pressure on metal in different positions. They will break or become brittle and will not be able to perform the essential functions. This is what we do to our bodies all day long. We are somewhere, but we trick our body into thinking we are somewhere else. We may be in the car, but we are thinking about how nice our childhood was or how bad our childhood was. You may be eating your dinner, but you are thinking about your last vacation. No wonder stress is one of the significant issues on the planet earth today.

Merriam Webster dictionary defines hypocrisy as a feigning to be what one is not or believe what one does notbehaviour that contradicts what one claims to believe or feel. In this sense, are we all not hypocrites – doing something but accepting something else is real. And we go through our lives without really living. And even worse, our poor bodies have no idea what is going on. One Minute they are excited about getting the promotion, and the next, they are worried about the rise. Can you imagine what it does to your body? What happened to the body being a temple?

How are you treating your body?

Do Ducks need to go to Ivy League? And Humans?

A few weeks ago, we saw Mr and Mrs Duck looking for suitable accommodation for producing ducklings. They looked far and wide, from our sidewalk to the pond few blocks away. And our dog Aki was always excited to play with the ducks.

And then we did not see them, so we assumed they had settled on a place. A few days ago, when Adam was taking Aki for a walk, he sniffed in the bush right in front of our house, and a duck came out of it. Adam looked inside the bush, and to his surprise, he saw a concerned duck sitting on her eggs.

I was curious, so I decided to take a look. And if I did not know that there was a duck in the bush – there is no way I would have known that the duck was in the bush. From the outside, all I could see was the bush. Even when I looked inside, I had to really look to see the duck as she was camouflaged so well. Hopefully, we will get to see the little ducklings come out into the world.

It made me wonder, though – ducks do not go to schools to learn how to find a nesting place. They do not go to ivy league schools to get a fancy degree. Yet, the places they find are THE BEST. This is true for birds and their nests – be it rain or wind, the nest stays put. It is inbuilt in them. Nature and everything in nature has an innate quality that guides them – they have an inbuilt compass.

Now that leads us to the question – what is inbuilt in us? As we are also part of nature right. We are not separate from the rest of the planet. This is where it gets tricky – because, for most of us, we have lost touch with ourselves even to understand what is innate to us. Let’s spend a little bit of time on this.

The one thing that differentiates us from other beings is our Mind – which creates a self-image. Humans are the only creatures on the planet who have a relationship with themselves. I am happy. I am sad. I am so good. I hate myself. I love myself. I am bored. It’s like we are two people – I and Myself. Isn’t that weird? My dog does not go around thinking about him – he does not have a relationship with himself – Thank God!

If we are not even sure who we are – I or myself then how we can get in touch with what is innate in us? It is like the ocean and the ripples on the ocean. If we think we are the ripples all the time, how will we discover the oceanic depths?

The next question is how do we do get in touch with the deeper dimension in us. Awareness is the first step – recognizing that the voice in the head is not YOU. It is pretending to be you so that it can stay alive.

Are you ready to go beyond thought to who you really are?

This Is A Robbery in the NOW

March 18th, 1990 – St Patrick’s day in Boston, 13 priceless art pieces go missing (Robbed) from the Isabella Stewart Gardner’s Museum. Fast forward almost thirty-one years later – paintings are still missing. The empty frames are still hung in the museum expecting the art pieces to show up someday.

This is the premise of the docuseries ‘This is a Robbery’ from Netflix. Watching the four-episode series felt like the slow unveiling of an intriguing painting. For example, one of the stolen paintings was Rembrandt’s The Storm on the Sea of Galilee. The Storm on the Sea of Galilee is the only seascape ever painted by Rembrandt. It depicts Jesus calming the waves of the sea, saving the lives of the fourteen men aboard the vessel. Of these fourteen men, Rembrandt included a self-portrait of himself in the boat, next to Jesus and his twelve disciples.

There is a lot of items that happen in the series – reporters who find informers, get clues; Museum guards who are suspects, hippies; Mafia people who get murdered and some are still suspects; Museum staff like director, boards and their corporate politics; even two passersby who were the only witness; FBI, Boston police who are trying their best – But no paintings.

Often, you hear the characters say – that if this happened today, things would be different. In those days catching a mafia don was more critical than finding art. In those days, climate control in the museum was more critical than security. Those days the protocols around missing evidence were not as advanced. Isn’t that true always? Hindsight is always 20-20. 

What caught my eye in this whole series were the following things. 

Happy New Year 2020 with Glasses isolated on yellow background

First, it is not easy to see the accurate picture – you have to see multiple sides of the story before you even get a sense of what is going on.

Second, art is sacred to the people who understand it. The passion and zeal in people’s eyes when they talk about the painting strikes a resonant chord in your true being.

Third, corporations or big companies can only play at being nimble. There is something inherently faulty with the way they work. Museum knew that their security was vulnerable and that the mobs were casing it – but still, it didn’t click.

Last but not least – everything is temporary. Imagine your photo album. Right now, you look at it and see two people on a canoe. It is your white water rafting trip. A few years down, your grandkids know that photo as their grandparent’s canoe trip. A few years down the line, it is just a photo of two people doing what was cool years ago. It makes you wonder what is life all about. What I was ok at ten years ago – I am a lot better today. And something I was excellent at years ago – not so much now. What matters is the moment – ‘the NOW’ when you are doing it. 

How in the world did this blog end here from the Robbery – I do not know. But, I guess this is what looking at an authentic piece of art feels like.

What are you doing in the NOW?

Oops – I Made A Mistake!

As some of you may know, I took a new role [Read a bit about it in this blog]. I changed my profession. And being the kind of person I am, I read a book called ‘The First 90 Days’ as I transitioned into my job. One of the exercises is to evaluate how complex the move is, and my change was difficult at all levels – new area, a new profession, a new team and a lot happening in the role. 

In the past, I have made moves with unrealistic expectations of myself being a superstar the day I started. This time I thought I had set my expectations correctly – of learning for a year and give myself grace. Setting expectations did not prepare me for the actual thing – ‘You cannot tell how it is until you experience it.’ And it’s been such a long time since I had made a change. I forgot what it was like to struggle, feel like you are underwater some if not most of the times, realize that you just don’t something even if it is required for you to know. And worst of all, I did not consider I will make mistakes – things will happen that shouldn’t have. 

And I acknowledge my emotional maturity just because I can say – I am struggling, or I made a mistake publicly. It is ok to be vulnerable. Do not get me wrong – this experience, however painful it is right now, is precisely what I wanted when I took the new role. But it does not make it any easier as I go through the experiences. 

What am I learning from this situation? It feels like a time of change and upheaval in my life. I need these experiences to realize how much I have grown. Remind myself that the universe does not give me anything that I cannot handle. It will require me to dig deeper into my inner reserves of courage, patience and growth (more than now). Maybe it will teach me the much-needed lesson of humility. And strengthen my practice of looking at the entire picture. For every challenging experience I have – I have pleasant experiences. Connection with people, bonding with my team, the little aha as I learn something, feeling that you are using all parts of your brain. The feeling of quiet satisfaction when I realize I am fully capable of what the situation requires of me, newness, fresh perspectives, no judgements – not feeling bored. It has made me realize the importance of laughter – not to take life too seriously.

And most importantly, an opportunity to revisit what is essential in my life. Every painful situation is a way out of suffering. It is a reminder to ground myself even deeper in the NOW. This is the time to put into practice all that life has prepared you for. The question to ask is not what I want from my life but what life wants of me. Be the conduit for life.

How to deal with cracks in your life?

How many times in your life have your plans gone awry? You wanted something to happen, and it does not happen. You did not want something to happen, and it happens. This is the basic definition of Suffering. So, as per this definition, we all suffer and – we have all suffered a lot. Our addiction to Suffering is like filling up a bottomless bucket. 

My last blog was about holes in our lives’ tapestry and how they are a way out of Suffering. As humans, we build stories about how we want our lives to pan out and when they do not we are upset. The travesty of our sandcastles not being able to withstand the first small tides. Our stories are meant to have cracks in them because they allow us to see the light shining through the cracks. Everything in the world of objects is temporary, and the only truth is they are temporary. Change is constant. Don’t believe me – then think about your life so far and tell me one situation that worked out exactly as you had imagined it to be, and you are still content with it now. If you do have such a life situation, wait, and dissatisfaction will creep in. 

Imagine you are playing with clay, and you have made these fascinating creatures of clay. They have names, relationships, cars, houses – everything they wanted but all in clay. And you become so engrossed in the play that you forget they are temporary, and when the figures start to sag – you do your best to bolster them. They stick around for sometime before flagging down. What if, instead of trying to do the impossible, you enjoy the clay figures while they last. The primary focus is your awareness of the drama, not what the clay figures are doing in their very short-lived life. It does not mean that we do not enjoy the clay figures – we do, but our primary focus is our awareness of the drama being played out.

When a clay figure flags or when something unwanted happens, there is space that opens up. And in that space, we have a chance to realize that we are the awareness, the witness. We have an opportunity to see our identification with the clay figures for what it is – temporary and futile. When the crack appears, the light shines on our ignorance. Instead of letting the gap appear, we fill it with another clay figure because we are so identified with the clay figures that we are afraid to realize who we are. It’s like trying to drink water through a thimble when you stand in a vast bottomless lake of water. (Read here about why we started playing with clay figures in the first place)

Next time a crack appears be aware of it and if the desire to fill it with another story comes up, watch that too for however long you can. And more you do it, the more you realize that the crack stays open for longer and longer until there is only light.

What cracks are you filling up right now?

Hole In The Tapestry Of Life

Imagine an intricate tapestry made of a rich fabric of vibrant colours. It is so huge that it covers the entire wall. You have never seen the wall behind the Tapestry. For you, the wall does not exist. You spend all your time admiring the Tapestry – so beautiful, so breathtaking.

One day you see a tiny hole in the Tapestry – and slowly, it starts to grow. The hole is big enough that you can see the wood-like brown colour of the wall. Your Tapestry is no longer perfect, so you weave another pattern to fill the hole. And then these holes keep appearing more and more frequently, and you are so busy weaving other designs that you no longer enjoy the tapestries.

What if I tell you that this is what we do with our lives? We build a story of how our life should be in our minds. 

I will get a promotion, get a wonderful life, marry a rich, handsome guy, have lovely kids and live happily ever after. 

I will write the next famous app like angry birds, and it will earn me millions, and I will never have to work again.

I will win a lottery and become the richest man in the world and be happy.

It never quite works out as the story in our head. For starters, your car may decide to break down in the morning, or your heater broke down, and you have to fix it. Or your friend marries a rich guy. So a hole appears in the story of our lives, and we fill it up with other stories. We are so uncomfortable with holes that we have a back up ready if a spot does appear – we stuff the backup plan to cover the gap.

Let’s go back to the Tapestry on the wall for a second – what if one day you got so tired of filling up the holes that you give up. You let the gaps appear, and you do not fill them up. Your wonderful Tapestry dissolves right in front of your eyes. You weep as you see it decaying. But, then you see that there is a door in the wall. The Tapestry had been preventing you from seeing the door. 

You open the door and enter inside to find an entire room filled with beautiful tapestries. Even more importantly, you do not feel the need to fill the holes in them anymore because you still see the beauty.

Our lives are the same way – we are so busy building stories that we never discover the wonderful treasure that waits for us behind the stories. It is like Tolle says in his book – ‘Power Of Now’, we are all like beggars sitting on a treasure chest who never look inside it. 

What is that treasure? What is the door hidden behind? Our true self – unchanging self, the self that watches the story unfold without becoming the story. The screen on which the story unfolds does not care about the story – it exists. Are you ready to not fill the gaps anymore?

Humanity’s True Religion is the capital ‘I’.

‘I was born into the Hebrew persuasion, but when I got older, I converted to narcissism’ is a famous quote by Woody Allen. 

He is more aware of the core belief than most of us, who harbour the belief that we are not in love with ourselves. The truth is we only love ourselves – the sooner we come to terms with it better for us and humanity as a whole. The degree to which we all suffer from this dis-ease may vary, but there is no denying that this is a universal illness.

Anytime something happens in your life – your car breaks down, your husband leaves you, your kid is expelled, your boss leaves the company, your pizza delivery guy is late. What is your first thought? What about me? What will I do?

The ‘I’ is so important in our lives; we capitalize it. If it is not, then it is considered a grammatical error. Look out for yourself, stand up for yourself – and the I have become collated into bigger I’s based on caste, race, gender, birthplace, financial status. These bigger I’s are now fighting other bigger I’s because they believe in their I. They are fighting for a cause – a cause that is bigger than the smaller I.

Does this mean that we should stop thinking about ourselves and focus on others – give up everything and live like a monk or a nun. Unfortunately, how much ever we try, we are wired to be selfish. We are focusing on the wrong I. We have mistaken the sign for the destination. It’s like the dog who keeps looking at his owner’s fingers when he needs to look at what the fingers are pointing towards.

We are focused on the role that we play in our short time on planet earth. We play many roles – boss, employee, mother, wife, widow, pet owner, vegan, meditator, spiritual seeker, capitalist. The list is truly endless. Unless we are in touch with the unchanged within us – these roles are like filling up a bottomless bucket. Beneath all the roles we play, that entity observes the role. The very fact that we have a relationship with ourselves means there is a watcher and the watched. 

When we say, ‘I am sad,’ – the I is aware of the sadness. There is a part that is sad and a part that can observe the sadness. No other species on the planet except humans have a relationship with themselves. A dog does not have a self-image. A bird does sit on a tree branch wondering, ‘Should I fly now? Can I make it? What if this gust of wind is not good enough? Will I get where I want to go?’ No, this is the speciality of human minds alone. [Read my story about how this came to be at this link]

It is time to awaken from the drama and realize who you are. We need to be aware of the roles we play and take them for what they are – Roles. Only then will we be able to get in touch with the true self, which is love. And for that self – talking about love is like talking to a fish about water.

What role are you playing now?