Tag Archives: #humanpredicament

Thinker or Observer?

“I certainly do not think. Hence, I hear the words that come out of my mouth at the same time as you hear them. This means that there is nobody teaching anybody here.”

This is what Eckhart Tolle says to his audience in one of his retreats. It is funny when you hear it the first time. Here is a great spiritual teacher, and he is saying, ‘I have no idea what is going to come out of my mouth.’ 

Isn’t that scary? Imagine going to a meeting and not being prepared – the agony of not knowing what you are going to say next. How will you prove you are smart unless you can give a more intelligent answer or retort in a conversation.

We do not exist because we THINK – wary of the quote if you are looking for inner peace.

Eckhart’s answer to this is – If he is still, and indeed present then a better quality answer will arise. He has a strong belief that words will arise when he needs. Most importantly, he is not uncomfortable with silence. What does he mean by being present? 

We have two modes of operation – a) thinker and b) observer. For most of us, we are so engrossed in the thinker that we never observe. And if you are always in that mode then you are not truly present to what you are hearing/seeing/feeling – hence it will be a reaction and a lower quality one. 

Watch the thinker and you are operating at a higher level of consciousness

But if you are in the observing mode of operation, then you are in tune with the reality as it is. You hear the words, listen to the sounds, see without any interpretation or labels. As an observer, you are positioned to take the right action if any is needed, and it will be of a higher quality.

How will this play out in real life?

  1. You are with a group of friends talking about guys. Your friend comments that the guy likes X person. You also like the same guy. 
    1. THINKER: Man! I knew it, X is annoying why cannot she keep away that guy. She is much prettier and thinner – I stand no chance.
    2. OBSERVER: She said, ‘Guy likes X.’
  2. You are talking to somebody at the office. She is going on and on about how exciting her new role is. She just got a promotion, is expanding her team by 50%. She got a full-time admin.
    1. THINKER: She is so lucky! Nothing ever works out for me. Why don’t I get promoted? Maybe I am not good enough. Will I ever succeed in life?
    2. OBSERVER: She is telling me she has got a promotion, is expanding her team.

NOTE: As a thinker, you can think positive thoughts as well, but regardless you are creating a story in your head.

Can you see how as a thinker, your actions will be driven by baseless (unreal) thoughts or stories? And as an observer, there is no need to do anything – listen to the words and let them pass.

This practice is not easy because if we identify with the observer, thinker feels threatened, and he comes up with ‘Important’ thoughts.

REMEMBER: Nothing matters absolutely – all thoughts are a bunch of letters put together. They arise and always pass away.

Make Your Dreams Come True

How many of us daydream every day to escape from our daily grind? Imagining about writing a novel, buying your dream house, creating a reading nook in your home, your job as a CEO, your successful business, having kids, going to exotic places for vacation…. the list is endless.

There are two aspects I want to cover in this blog. Why do we daydream or rather why I think we daydream? Second, how can we make daydreaming more effective?

For the why – the keyword is escape. We are unhappy with the now. We do not like the reality as it is. We use daydreaming as a means to endure the suffering by forgetting about it for a while. Sometimes we may lack the courage needed the face the reality as it is and make peace with it. Or we do not want to face reality, so we daydream. Or, you have dreams that you want to accomplish, and you daydream about them. Or, you cannot afford your goals, so you daydream about them.

On the surface, daydreaming or fantasizing is not a bad thing. We all need it to survive our lives which is ‘Suffering’ if one-word could describe it. But, there may come the point when you feel hollow, and it does not seem as rewarding it used. You can use it as a trigger.

The article in BBC.com has an acronym for how to make daydreaming more effective. WOOP – Consider your Wish, Imagine your Outcome, Identify your Obstacle, Make a Plan. It does require some work – like all things worth achieving do. Every time you daydream – think of what do you want, articulate what is stopping you and take the next smallest step you can towards it.

Example: I want to write an epic fantasy novel series. I want my books to enthral readers and lead them into a fantasy world (no pun intended). I am not very proficient in writing. Write something every day.

Example: I want to become a CEO. I want to leave a mark in this world. I do not have all of my skills yet. Make a list of skills needed for a CEO.

Example: I want to create a reading nook in my house. I want a quiet space in my home. I do not have the means or space to do it. What is the minimal step you can do to make your space your own – light a candle, buy a perfume, get one of those beautiful Japanese screens?

Example: I want to move to a perfect house. I want a lovely neighbourhood to live in. I do not have the means to do it. Make a plan – how much money do I need? Do I need to move further away? Do I need to compromise?

For all these examples, if you are stuck on the plan – there is google, communities – no shortage of resources. How to make a quiet space in a small house? How to become a CEO?

And as you work steadily towards making your dreams into reality, think about what is the trigger (WHY?) – and maybe you will discover unmet needs and VOILA! You may find another easy way to make your dreams come true.

What are you daydreaming about?

Can You See It?

All of us have been part of at least one of the following scenarios.
SCENARIO 1: Seen a kid, niece or nephew and commented on how much they have grown? – ‘Oh My God – she has grown so much.’
SCENARIO 2: An uncle, aunt or somebody older than you comment on how much you have grown? -‘Look how tall you have become.’

And if you haven’t, then I am sure at some point you have looked at your old pictures or even in the mirror and commented on how much you have changed. These changes are physical changes that our body goes through as we age. And these are very visible, unfortunately for us especially as we age. Grey hair, Wrinkles, not so firm Skin, height, weight are all outward appearances of growth.

What about the signs of internal growth – emotional and mental maturity. They are not as visible but equally important if not more. It is hard for even us to see the growth that has happened to us. We don’t get a halo or a ring around our head as we progress on the path of maturity. And it is also not automatically correlated to our physical maturity – for example now that you are X age – you are at 60% mental maturity. I am sure all of us have met people who are wiser than they look and people who could do with a little bit more growing-up.

From the time we are born, we automatically start learning, and that learning happens in leaps and bounds as we do not know anything. And most of that learning happens without us knowing about it. If our parents told us to brush our teeth twice a day – that’s what we did. We never sat down and analyzed if that is a good thing. Unfortunately, as we grow up, we do not that either – we just let it happen without actively learning.

For example, you have a boss who is a micromanager, and you listen to the boss and get your job done, or you speak up and ask for autonomy. How often do we sit down and say to ourselves, ‘I have a situation here – how should I go about it?’ or ‘Well, that did not go well – what can I learn from here?’ We wake up and get on with our lives – ups and downs included.

Our emotional growth and maturity would be faster and targeted if we were an active participant. What if we started the day wanting to be a better version of ourselves every day. What if we sat down at the end of the day and did a quick lesson learnt session. How much better we would be, our life would be. And our emotional maturity marker might not be visible, but it would be in an upward trajectory. Guess what, if it did not increase as much, then it is a reminder to ask ourselves what we can do next?

Can you see and track your emotional growth inside?

So Close.

I recently finished reading the book – ‘Girl On The Train’ by Paula Hawkins. She is also the author of ‘Gone Girl’ which is also a movie. She is one of the rare authors who use unreliable narrators in her stories and does it well too.

This book is also very similar. I got caught up in the life of the three women – Anna, Rachel and Megan. I got a sense that something was off with the characters but could not place my finger on what – Which was the same for Rachel as well in the book until the end when I finally realized what was happening.

This blog is how similar I felt with the characters in the book. There were aspects of them which I know I had shown in the past – berating myself over some mistake I did, called some people multiple time when I knew it was all over, doubting myself, being jealous. I have never made drunken calls but have been on receiving end of a couple and can understand that state.

We have all come close to going over the edge about something or the other – at some point in our lives. We all have the demons that we are fighting. Some people are oblivious to those – Ignorance is bliss. And some of us are so acutely aware of them that it is a demon in itself that we are fighting. The point is – the vast majority of the humans on this planet are either wanting something or not wanting something. We are either desiring something or resenting something. The item itself might differ – boyfriend, baby, promotion, new house, money, fame, success, lose weight, win a race – the list is endless, but we are all dealing with it. We are all crazy about something.

Eckhart Tolle wrote in his book about the incident when he came across a mad man in men’s restroom. He realized that the only difference between them was that crazy man was talking about aloud, whereas Tolle talk was all inside his head. Such a thin veil that separates us from madness. And we judge other people.

I am not trying to prove that we are all mad – we might very well be, but I am not the right person to judge. I realize that we are all human in the human predicament. We all have our moments of Suffering. Suffering is human. May we be kind of ourselves and each other in moments of Suffering.

Before we come to this awareness – it is essential to realize that we are all suffering. Suffering is the common thread that connects all humankind across barriers of caste, religion, creed or money. And who knows this Suffering might be what will take us out of our misery.

Do you know you are Suffering?

More Than Before

Before 2020 I was living my regular routine – going to work, getting things done and accomplishing the goals I had set for myself. I also spent a considerable amount of time with Wild Tiger Tees. Wild Tiger Tees is a social enterprise which Adam, I and three of our friends formed. Our mission is to empower youth experiencing homelessness through the art of screen printing. And as a part of it, we interacted with youth experiencing homelessness – most of them ‘not’ surprisingly were black. Adam and I had tons of discussion about generational poverty, how black are disadvantaged economically. We had debates, we talked about and then got back into the routine.

Cut to this year – 2020 which will go down in history as a remarkable year and the year is not over yet.

This year started with rumblings of Coronavirus in China, which I ignored brushing it off as something that will come and disappear. And then slowly in March, we began Work From Home. The reality had not sunk in then. Sixty days in – I realized that this is momentous. A single virus – COVID-19 had a global impact. Most of the world was working from home – who would have thought. We all have a tolerance limit, and dealing with coronavirus took some of it. For some more than others – like people who lost their jobs, it impacted them more than the rest. There were a lot of people who were/are unemployed, and that causes a sense of unrest. Even though the nature around us was a gentle hush – there were rumblings.

And then George Floyd was killed by police brutality.

It further increased our anxiety and reduced our tolerance limit. For some people that was it – the maximum they could take. For me – I admit that I am unable to brush this off as a discussion topic – Social injustice and racism. It took more screen space in my daily routine than the debates we had. My awareness of this topic has heightened that I cannot juast brush it off. And it bothered me that we lived in a society in which this could happen. And this led to a desire to act – do something. I signed petitions, donated money, wrote blogs – more than discussions or debates.

‘Doing More’. And I see it reflected everywhere – Sales of the book – ‘White Fragility by Robin DeAngelo’ and ‘How to be an anti-racist by Ibram X Kendi’ have gone up significantly. My company Nationwide did a public show of unity by kneeling in silence in downtown today. All the leaders spoke about what they are doing personally – being more thoughtful – teaching kids – speak up more – be an ally to our black/coloured friends – donate more money. Most corporates have publicly declared that they do not stand for racial injustice. Minneapolis has done away with the existing police structure and is embarking on a new way to police themselves.

I hope that this change lasts for me and does not get overtaken by my regular routine. We all hope that this will lead to lasting change – it took the pandemic and an event like George Floyd for a slight increase in global consciousness – that is a big step for humanity. Hope it continues and in the future becomes the norm until there are no native Americans or African-Americans or Indian Americans but just Americans or even better JUST HUMANS.

Innocent – Are You?

A few days ago, NASA launched astronauts to the space station. And a few days ago George Floyd was killed as a result of police brutality or racial injustice as some of us would say it.

Somebody in your team made a mistake, and you tell that person it’s ok – this is the time to offer grace and show some self-love. You come home and end up eating an entire bar of chocolate and beat yourself up.

There are people like Sri M, Sadhguru who are looking to lead us towards higher consciousness and we have a few people in this world who need not be named who are trying to the do the opposite.

What I am trying to say through these examples is that all these realities exist simultaneously. Humankind is on the verge of making robots real, whereas at the same time, we are not able to see some of our peer humans as real.

Has this kind of a spectrum always existed? Is there a reason why this spectrum exists? I honestly do not have an answer for this – not even an intellectual or a logical one which makes sense. Except that maybe it takes everybody to make this world, there is a reason behind everything whether we like it or not.

Right now, there is a lot of anger around George Floyd; emotions are running high. A white policeman killed a black man. And everybody is angry at the white policeman while expressing sympathy towards the black man. The question I want to pose is who is responsible for the white policeman’s behaviour. Haven’t we all created a society in which it was acceptable for this to happen? We can all say – I don’t do this. I wasn’t a part of it. But you know what – we all are. We let this happen collectively as a society, and that is on us too. It is not fair to blame the white policeman 100%. We have looked past so many items that they have become routine for us until something significant like George Floyd happens. Most of us turn a blind eye to it – consciously or unconsciously.

There are a lot of things that we ignore because we do not know how to deal with it or we do not have the time, or we are too selfish. The homeless person on the street when you are in your car. The little girl who was begging for money when you stop at the lights. When your co-worker makes an inappropriate comment, and you let it slide. When we ignore a bunch of young guys eve-teasing a girl.

If we all acted and did something about these minor things, maybe they won’t go out of control. It requires all of us, including me, to have the courage and awareness all the time. It needs me to be mindful of not only me but also people around me. It means I have to tune into how others are feeling so that I can respond with the ability I have.

Maybe this is the universe’s way of jolting us into the new consciousness which we all need to evolve into – for us to survive.

There’s More To It

Coronavirus seems to have crept on us from something that was happening elsewhere to becoming a global pandemic. When it first started, I never anticipated the impact it will have on the entire world. Even after we discover a vaccine, I suspect life as we knew it might not return to normal.

I am sure all of us are digesting to this reality in our fashion. Given that I have been cooped up in my home and combined with the fact that a) I am a rebel at heart and b) There is not much of a social interaction I decided to cut my hair real short – ok somewhat short. As I was leaving for the salon, I asked my husband if our dog Aki would be able to recognize me. And he said, ‘Yes because Aki knows that you are more than your hair.’ And when I come home – Aki did not even blink – he just waited for his dog treat as if nothing had changed.

It made me realize how our perception of ourselves is different from others. I see myself as somebody whose haircut defines looks. Whereas for Aki, the hairstyle does not even make it to the identification criteria. Things that are important to me might not be as relevant to him.

For example, I may wake up with a pimple on my nose. And I go through the rest of the day making a big deal of the pimple – how it is a blemish on my face, how I get a pimple when I have an important meeting at work, wonder what other people are thinking about it. Whereas in reality, others may not even notice it. I am sure they have their ‘own personal’ pimples to think about.

And if we take it a step further, we may impose the importance of our pimple on somebody else who does not care about the pimple as we do. For example, I am a project manager and having a structured approach is like second nature to me. Let’s say I meet somebody else who is not as structured and hence does not have a plan.

If I use the lack of a plan to pass judgement on them or their personality, then am I passing judgement on them or making a statement about myself? If I live my life thinking that people without a plan are lesser than me – the joke is on me. Because I am very narrow-minded – I am not able to think of a reality where people can exist without plans. I am not talking about items that we all fundamentally know to be wrong like cheating, lying, etc., but more mundane issues.

Sometimes in life, we get so ingrained in our way of life that it becomes THE WAY TO LIVE LIFE, and we forget that other people who grew up differently have a different way of life. Their pimples are different than mine. The haircut that is an event in my life might not even make a dent in life for a second. And that is entirely acceptable however unpalatable that it may be for me.

Are you aware of your pimples?

Not Fair – Just A Slap

If something is unfair and nobody is aware that it is unfair – is it still unfair?

I am writing this blog right after watching the Bollywood movie – ‘Thappad’ which translates into – ‘Slap’. And I am writing this caught up in an emotion which can only be described as ‘Outraged helplessness.’

This movie hit hard because it articulated out aloud what I knew was unfair. I have talked about this often. And my admiration for the tolerance that my mom, her mom and her mom have- has only increased. And how often it goes unnoticed or unappreciated.

I am successful by society’s standards. I am a software engineer with an MBA working at a prestigious company. I have written three books, founded a dance company and co-founded a social enterprise. But, it still bugs me that when I go back home – my extended family does not ask about my work – they ask my mom if there is good news aka ‘If I am pregnant or not.’ When I got admission into London Business School – the vast majority did not celebrate the success instead were worried about my marriage prospects.

I am not stating this because I want to list my accomplishments or point out the ignorance of others. Instead, I want to point out that according to society, my purpose is to get married and have kids—a woman’s life.

Even as I write this, I feel a bitterness inside of me. Me, my mom and thousands like us are told that a woman has to adjust, compromise and keep the house together. And guess who tells us this – other women.

I am not blaming anybody. We are where we are as a society, and the only way is forward. I get that. I also get that women have come a long way. I also understand it is easy for me to make these statements because I am independent. Most women do not have this choice. I am also not blaming men – they know what they know, are learning, and every day it is getting better.

PLOT SUMMARY: A couple in love – a housewife and ambitious husband. Husband comes to know that he has not been awarded the position he wanted in his company and slaps his wife at the celebration party. Just one slap and the first time it has happened. Wife says – One slap brought into focus all the other items that were unfair in her life. And her husband, her mother and mother-in-law all tell her. ‘It was one slap – Let it go – Women have to adjust.’

I am outraged that this happens, and I know some of the people I know would give me the same advice. I feel helpless that there is no one easy solution for this.

We are all in this together. Women and Men. We have to re-imagine what is possible and make it happen. But, we limit ourselves by our perceptions of reality and what is possible. There is a fear to break the societal norms because that’s the world we know. We all have moments in our life when it tugs at our heartstrings – when it does act on it. That holds for me as well.

Maybe coronavirus is nature’s way of showing her outrage at what we did for ages. Will we learn?

My recommendation especially if you are a woman – watch it. It is available on amazon prime video.

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?

Do I Know You?

Coronavirus – Let’s start with THE topic on everybody’s mind. Even if you do not want to hear about it you have no choice – it is impacting almost everything. We finally gave in to the fear that we might have no food at home (which made no sense) and Adam decided to make a trip to Kroger, our local supermarket store. The shelves were empty, and he admitted feeling the panic vibe as other people piled items into the shopping cart.

Let’s move to the real topic of this blog.

And as he was walking down the almost empty aisles – a stranger walking from the other side looked at him and asked, ‘Are you Aki’s dad?’. For those of you who do not know Aki is our Shiba Inu pup who has his own Instagram account – you can follow him @IamLuckyAki. Adam was a little surprised, and he said, ‘Yes’. The stranger told him that his wife works at the Big Walnut Boarding Center, where we board Aki sometimes. Aki, who is super diligent about his social media following, immediately reached out to the stranger on Instagram who expressed a desire to meet Aki in person someday. Aki hasn’t responded but feel free to stay tuned in to his account to see what he thinks of the suggestion.

With social media and private data floating around, it should not come as a surprise that people know us even though we do not know them. A lot of my work colleagues follow Aki on Instagram, and it gives them a sense of connection to me which I might not feel always.

Is there anything like privacy anymore? Or a more pertinent question – is that even feasible unless you live entirely off the grid in which case you won’t be able to read this blog either. Another critical question is, does it matter? I am not talking about the information like Credit card/SSN etc. but general information that most people feel comfortable posting like their, pet photos, vacation photos, food photos.

Like everything else, there are two sides to the coin. People might use that information for the wrong purpose, but the other side of the coin is that information is readily available. And it can help us connect as well. Social media does help us connect with people as it narrow downs your likes/dislikes. Most people who follow Aki are dog lovers or have a pet of their own which makes the connection so much easier. I feel comfortable talking to a stranger with a dog than with one who does not have a dog.

Apart from the connection, it also helps the spread of information quickly. Think about Coronavirus and how we know at our fingertips how many cases are there, which country is the epicentre. Some might argue that it is information overload, but it is readily available. Unlike in the past, when it would take days for the information to reach and the damage cannot be undone.

Key is awareness and intention. Are you aware of your interactions with social media? Are they working for you? Are you aware of your consumption of the information? And what is your intention as you interact with these – is it to get a specific update or general mindless wandering?

Stay Healthy, Stay Aware. May All Beings Be Happy!