Tag Archives: #humanpredicament

Leap Of Faith or Same Old?

I recently watched the movie – ‘The White Tiger’ on Netflix. It is one of those movies which has more than just a basic storyline. It depicts India, and it’s culture – things that probably most Indians don’t even think about anymore. But it goes a lot deeper than that. I have noticed that when shows or movies are made from the presence and not ego, they resonate more with the audience. The audience might know the reason, but it touches a chord somewhere deep down.

Eckhart Tolle tells us a story about an Indian and another countryman talking. Indian asked the other person – ‘What do you live by?’ He replies, ‘We live by guts.’ And then asks the same question to the Indian. The Indian says, ‘We live by grace.’ In India the illusion of control does not exist – cars can travel on the wrong side of the road, you are supposed to move even if it is red light, it might take you years to get your aadhar card, you have to make multiple trips to the bank to open an account. These things are considered standard in other countries. Nothing works the way it does in India, but it all turns out to be alright in the end.

Having lived in India and watching this movie reminded me that to be human is to be imperfect. And that implies that the life situation we are in is flawed and will not last. If you think you have everything under control now – wait for a few weeks or months or years. The human predicament is called predicament for a reason – it is supposed to be uncomfortable. That is why things we want do not happen, and something we do not want to keep happening – which as Buddha said is the definition of suffering.

All the billions of people on the entire planet – keep experiencing this and still keep going on as if the next thing would be any different. The life situation may change, but it will not last. It’s like a child building a sandcastle and expecting it to last forever. When the first one crumbles – he goes on to create another one expecting the same thing.

We do the same things with our lives – get good grades, get a good job, marry, have children, get another job, move cities, divorce, get laid off, get a promotion but nothing lasts.

Let’s be clear here – I am not saying that you do not do these things. We are born as humans to experience these life situations, but we should remember that these life situations are a portal to what does not change. That is why human life is so precious it is the bridge between the physical and the spiritual world. Only humans have this choice; no animal or tree can exercise this choice.

The irony of the situation – of the billion people only a few will bite and of those who bite only a few will get hooked – because it takes them towards a realm where you do not need sandcastles – you have it all.

Will you take the leap of faith or stick to building sandcastles?

What Matters Most?

When you read a book, do you wonder about the blank spaces around the words? Do you wonder about the blank pages on which the letters appear?

When you enter a room, do you think about the space in the room? When you use the furniture, do you think about the space in which it exists?

When you watch a film, are you aware of the screen on which it is playing? When you see the actors in the movie, do you realize that they are people?

Let’s bring it all home with a story. One of my friends got laid off from a toxic job and not the best fit for her. She was miserable in that role working long hours in a thankless role. When she told the news to her parents and in-laws, their reaction was, ‘Wow, that is amazing!’ and ‘Good riddance – such great news!’. My friend is a little upset about it even though she knows its the best direction for her.

Her parents and in-laws are happy because they care about my friend, not her life situation. They care about what matters most – the person behind the job, the blank space behind the words, the person playing the role.

Think about how much of our life we spend thinking about our life situation and not life itself. There is nothing wrong in thinking about a life situation, but we have to keep life in perspective. As a human society, we have become so life-situation centric that the real meaning of life is non-existent.

Why is the space in which it all exists so essential? Because it is the only constant – life situations will come and go. The little or big Me (ego) will grow bigger and then deflate itself. The entity we call ‘I’ will play many parts or actors in various plays. If we remember the space/entity, we will not identify ourselves with the actor or the life situation. That gives us breathing space to choose – to be aware that its all a play and we are all actors. It is not the essence of who we are.

If you knew that the life situation playing currently in your head where EGO is the main actor – ‘I am so busy’, ‘I will never get the promotion’, ‘COVID has ruined our lives’, is just that – plays, then will you be unhappy? We will play the role with gusto, knowing that it’s not who we are.

How do we keep in touch with space, person, and not identify with roles or thoughts? An easy way is to be in your body – if you are walking your dog, but your mind is thinking about work, what is real and what is fantasy? It is ok to think about the future or past as long as it is practical. Another way is to keep reminding yourself – ‘Is this a problem that is happening right now?’

Will you be aware of the blank pages or space next time? What about now?

Wake Up!

I had a dream that I was in a marketing office with my friend. My friend was having issues with her peer, and we were walking down the corridor to the boss’s office. All of a sudden fire alarm start – annoying kind, Kiiiiii-Kiiiii Kiiiii. We look at each other and assume it is some test and keep walking. We walk into the office, and I tell her peer to be nice to my friend. The alarm is still blaring. I also explain that I am intervening because I care about the project. The alarm is beeping faster now.

And then I realize that it is my clock alarm – I Wake Up. And all of a sudden the dream that was so real turns into nothing – just made up stuff. However, elaborate the dream might be when you wake up, you know it is not real.

The question is – do we realize that we dream in our so-called real life as well? Most of the time. Don’t believe me? How many times have you driven home without realizing that you are driving until you reach home? How many times have you zoned out in a meeting? How many times do you run through a scenario that happened in the past? Or you want to happen in the future?

Our minds are conditioned to either live in the past or the future. And for the most part, it is like they are on auto-repeat – there are a couple of themes that keep playing again and again. And we become those thoughts and lose touch with reality. When the only place we can truly live is in the NOW rest, everything else is in our head.

This year with people being in lockdown – the nature of our mind has become, louder and we are not able to ignore it. A lot of people assume that they cannot stop thinking about the to-do list because they are stuck at homes. The real truth is this is the nature of your mind, and you never noticed it before.

This jumping away from the present moment is more noticeable when you are doing something unpleasant. I got the idea for the blog while I was doing Surya Namaskar B in yoga – because I find it boring and painful and my mind jumped on the opportunity to escape. And then I woke up and realized that I was touching my feet with my toe.

So, what can you do about it? First, realize that this is the nature of your mind. It finds the present moment boring because there is nothing to do except live the current moment. There is no drama in the now. Second, notice whenever it jumps into the past or the future – even if it is after two hours of daydreaming. Third, whenever possible, bring your attention to your body – if you are sitting on a sofa, feel it. If you are typing, touch the keyboard.

Nothing like a dose of body sensations or breath to train our mind to be in the now. Where are you living?

Togetherness – Makes Sense

I love solitude, the difference between being lonely and alone. Nature and a crowded city both let me be – which is why I find them both very soothing to my soul. I enjoy watching movies alone, eating by myself, going to cafes on my own. Best of all, I like to travel alone because nobody knows me and I do not have to behave or worry about what other people think about me. I feel like I am invisible there and merge with the background.

However, that said there are times when a family, companionship or community makes life a tad more enjoyable. So today was the festival of lights – Diwali, India. For as long as I can remember it was a day I looked forward to because I would do fireworks, eat incredible mom-cooked food and wear nice clothes.

I can do these by myself but what is missing the social or the community aspect of it. In India, people start shopping for Diwali weeks before, mom (and aunties) start cooking days ago. On the day of Diwali and days leading up to it – there is a constant stream of fireworks going off somewhere in the local area. And there is that subtle smell of fireworks in the air. I cannot regenerate the experience on my own. I can have youtube videos that mimick it, but it’s not the real thing.

I remember as a kid going to all our neighbour’s houses with a box filled with goodies that my mom cooked and coming back home with the goodies from their house. I remember chatting with the other kids about what kind of fireworks they had or even watching each other as we let rockets or bombs off. I remember the nervousness every time I would light a cracker with the incense and throw it off before it bursts.

That is why some things are best shared – as long as everybody celebrates it, we still get the vibe. And that is why celebrating Diwali in any other place other than India feels weird. It is not the same – it feels like a good mimicry of what was.

It is hard to explain to others – it’s like celebrating Thanksgiving in London, nobody else is. And that is why the saying, ‘Do in Rome as Romans do.’ Maybe that is why we have the tradition of these festivals in all cultures. And that is also why we do not have too many of them. Because once in a while, it is good, but if this were an everyday occurrence, our usual differences would crop up and not create such a unique experience.

Somethings we treasure because they do come along only so often. The spirit of togetherness that feels so good in Diwali exists every day – we do not know how to tap into it because we think we are separate from others. The day we realize we are all one – every moment would be Diwali eternally.

Do you believe we are one?

What’s in a name?

One’s progress in childhood is marked by how soon you can answer the question, ‘What’s your name?’ And if you are also aware of your parent’s names – you are going places.

As a newborn baby, you are utilizing your five senses to the fullest. Your understanding of your mom is through the smell, touch, voice, visual and also how you feel. Your knowledge of the entire world is based on sense perceptions. When the kid reaches the eighteen-month mark, the mind becomes active and wants to know everything. And that’s when the mind takes over.

The mind knows the object on the side of the road is a tree. But it knows it only as a name – and it’s perceived understanding of what a tree is. We never ask the child how does a tree sound like? What does the tree feel like? I am sure some of you are wondering what kind of stupid questions are these. A tree can be a lesson in life itself. It lets go of its leaves when its fall without clinging to them. It faces storms, rains and gales with the same equanimity. They clean the air without wanting anything in return. These aspects also equally make up a tree and are more meaningful than the four-letter word we have reduced trees to in today’s world.

Think about all the other things we have reduced to their lettered names. The rose, sears tower, sea, ocean, individuals – in fact, in today’s world, you can google anything and feel like you know it all. Our minds may read and memorize the entire encyclopedia, but without experience, it means nothing. I understand that some things are good to learn like how do stoplights work or how to drive a car? But they are a minority when you come to think of it. It’s like we are unable to go beyond naming something.

Why is this important? Because it can help keep our minds in control. Like anything else in this world – if we overuse our mind, then we are in trouble. Minds are just tools to help us function in the world, but in today’s world, we are ruled by our minds. The collective human mind governs society. We believe every thought that arises in our mind instead of watching it as it appears and let it go. In the watching lies the choice on whether to act or not based on the thought.

We have forgotten that NO THOUGHT matters absolutely. What matters is the space in which the thought arises. And once you are rooted in that space, all decisions you make from that space will be of higher quality than the one you make based on your mind. Because a mind is a tool and like a hammer, the only thing it sees everywhere is a nail.

We are human beings who are having a spiritual experience and minds help us navigate the physical realm. Isn’t it time we ruled the minds?

What is your relationship with the mind?

If Nature could speak…

I just finished a week of an exciting event called – Give Back Hack. It is an event where strangers come together and form teams around something they are passionate about – and then turn it into a working idea by the end of the weekend. And due to COVID this year it was a week-long event. And all events have to have a social impact.

I was not very keen on giving up an entire week when I started, but when I heard the pitches, I knew I was all in. There were a few ideas that caught my interest. The one I settled on was – making sustainability a way of life by getting individuals to pick a habit which reduces the carbon footprint in some fashion or other.

My team was a lovely bunch of folks. We got along really well, and we worked hard! To cut a long story short – we won the first prize and got what we asked for in terms of funding. What’s next? We will see.

The name of the company is called 3tree – feel free to check it out and please do leave us your details if you are interested. Or, even better pick up a habit.

It is amazing what happens when people get together at events like this – it’s like magic. Think about it, a week ago as far as I was concerned most of the team did not even exist. And the website that we created where almost 42 people signed up did not exist. And now it is an entity in its own right. How cool is that!

As most of you are aware – I am a true believer that change comes from within, and as an individual, you can lead from where you are. This is what fuels my passion for the environment. And a part of me feels like what we as humans are doing to planet earth and the environment is not right. We are taking unfair advantage of their goodness. Mother earth and nature – it is in their nature (pun intended) to give. And sadly, for humankind as a whole, it is in our nature to take. 

We, as humans, have the option to voice our feelings, hurt. But it is not the case for the trees which we cut down or the animals who are dying because of us. That weighs heavily on my mind. I feel guilty because I feel like I am in some ways responsible for it – and that is what drives my passion around the environment. 

If nature and mother earth could voice their opinions, it would be unbearable for us to listen to cries of pain and agony as they suffer the insanity called humans which has been inflicted upon them. Just because we cannot hear them does not mean there are no consequences.  

Balance is the way of life, and the scales will tip and what the world will look like is scary, to say the least, unless we do something now however little. 

What will you do?

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?