Tag Archives: #innerjourney

It’s Not Working.

How many times do you go through your pantry and throw away stuff that has expired or gone bad? The things you thought you would use but have forgotten or no longer need.

How often do you go through your closet and select clothes to throw away or donate? Clothes that do not fit you or are out of fashion.

Now, how often do you go through your thoughts or beliefs and throw the ones that are not working for you any more? The beliefs that do not serve you but have become harmful.

At some point in my life I thought that a) I could only have one best friend and b) that friend should know everything about me or more than others. Now at that young age, it was possible to do that – but as I grew up it became impossible because the social circle changed, I changed – things that I thought were important were no longer relevant. That belief was not working for me, so I had to change it – expand it.

It was an innocuous belief, but it had far-reaching impacts on who I trust even now. I know what I don’t do, which is a blessing, but it doesn’t change what I do. It is an effort.

We all have such mental models on which we base our life. And these models worked when they did – that’s why we use them again and again, but there comes the point when they don’t work, but we still try to use them like squeezing the honey out of an empty bottle. A wise person would wake up to the fact that the bottle is empty and its time to get a new jar of honey.

It is obvious to use when we outgrow our clothes, but we are very negligent when it comes to our thoughts and mental models. Mental hygiene is not taught in our society. Nobody talks about it – that is another widely held belief in the community. So much of the problems in the world exist because we do not let go of what has expired. Imagine eating food that has expired – no way; we throw it away even if it is a day past. But we hold onto thoughts are that centuries old. Don’t believe me – then take up any popular Netflix show – you will see the same themes pop up – underdogs rising, a man fighting with a man for territory (or planet), greed, politics. We haven’t changed and never will unless there is a rise in consciousness.

Real change and a much-needed one can happen if each one of us becomes aware – self-management is the key. A tree knows what it has to do when it rains or when it’s windy. We do too, but we have been focused on how we look, how others look that we never look inside to see what we know.

If each one of us took upon us to wake up our inner compass, the world would be a different place to live. How will you go about discovering your inner compass today?

Groundhog Day

I have been watching episodes of Law and Order Season 2, which aired in 1990. Apparently, it was the first series to introduce the forty-five-minute episode format and also the first to include both sides of the story (Law and Order). I am enjoying it – if you remember reading my blog about Right Vs. Right it helps me exercise my ethics muscle – it does make me wonder whether there is something that can be truly right or truly wrong. But what I am left wondering as I watch the episodes is that we are still facing the same issues two decades later – racism, abuse, drunk driving – in some ways it does feel like groundhog day.

Now, if we go back to Romans, Greeks – the politics, power play existed then and exists now. We have made some progress (I would like to believe so) regarding slavery etc., but I am not convinced that we have come any closer to solving the cause of the problem.

What do you think is the cause of the problem? The society we live in? The world we live in? Our leaders? Our parents? Or is the right question – WHO is the cause of the problem. The answer is Me, You, Us – Humankind. We are the root of the problem. We are the only constants since society’s humble beginnings.

Root Cause Problem Solving means you tackle the problem at the root and not alleviate the symptoms. If we don’t realize that we are the problem we will look outside to solve it.

A policeman sees a drunk man searching for something under a streetlight and asks what the drunk has lost. He says he lost his keys and they both look under the streetlight together. After a few minutes the policeman asks if he is sure he lost them here, and the drunk replies, no, and that he lost them in the park. The policeman asks why he is searching here, and the drunk replies, “this is where the light is.”

For example:
We all fall sick, but instead of trying to find out why we are sick we get medicines. Now do not get me wrong – medications have their place but isn’t it important to know why you fell ill in the first place.
There is so much violence in the world, and we have organizations like Samaritans, child helpline who can help you cope with that but do we ask ourselves why there is so much violence in the first place?

Something goes wrong in our life, and our instant response is – it was somebody else’s fault. She was micro-managing me. She is so overly critical of me. Do we ever pause and wonder what part did I play in what happened in my life? Humankind as a whole has faced and is facing problems. And if each one of us who collectively make this humankind look inwards and think about how we could alter ourselves, humanity would improve as a whole. But do we know how to do that? Are we taught how to do that? Are we even aware that this is a possibility? [Meditation, self-awareness courses are some of the ways]

Two things are certain – Change starts from within AND unless we accept our part in what happens to us we will never be able to do anything about it.

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.

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.

Likes and Dislikes

Story 1: For almost a year in a row I had two apples for breakfast every day. I would wake up in the morning, use my apple corer, fill up a plastic cup and eat them during the car ride to the office. It was convenient, healthy and kept the doctor away. I don’t really care for apples though.

Story 2: I usually wear dresses to the office, personal choice. I like wearing dresses because they are more feminine. The day I turned up wearing jeans on Friday I got a lot of surprised looks and comments. During winter or around fall I wore jeans to the office during most Fridays. One of my colleagues pointed it out and said, “I thought you didn’t like wearing jeans.”

Story 3: I was introduced to Bikram Yoga by a friend in London. And I loved it so much that we rented a flat next to the studio. I went to the studio almost every day for two years. Then I stopped doing yoga altogether for six months and haven’t practiced Bikram Yoga since then.

This post is about likes and dislikes. I may like or dislike something but that doesn’t mean I am bound by some law to do what I like and not do what I dislike. For me, practicality and convenience overcome likes and dislikes. Eating an apple for breakfast made my life easy.
I was feeling cold in office and jeans kept me warm. It doesn’t matter whether I like jeans or not – for me being warm was more important than wearing cotton pants which by the way I do like.
My likes and dislikes change. I have no control over them like in the case of Bikram Yoga, hence I do not see the value in tying myself to my own likes and dislikes which change and are fleeting. Never say never.

We all have our pet peeves and the way we like things. We might like our eggs to be a certain way, we might like our co-workers to be a certain way or not be a certain way. The way we like our parents to behave, our partners to react, our pets to act… The list is endless.

That said I am also guilty of having an attachment to the things I like – I love having Indian tea with milk even though I am trying to go Vegan. I dislike drinking. We all have a strong attachment to things we like and aversion to the things we dislike. There is nothing wrong with liking or disliking something – we don’t have a choice. Our subconscious has already judged something but we do have control over our attachment or aversion to something.

Another thing is to note is that our likes and dislikes really don’t matter. We may not like rain but if it is raining we have three choices a) be upset about it (if you dislike rain) b) be happy about it (if you like rain) c) don’t care because it doesn’t matter to you. None of these three choices change the fact that it is raining. 99% of the time life is that way – the reality as it is doesn’t change and we have the freedom to choose our response to it.

Communities and Creation

Last Saturday our two year old pup – Aki decided he wanted to experience freedom. He wiggled free from his collar and went for an hour jaunt around the neighborhood. My husband, Adam trudged behind, coaxing Aki to come back. Aki is a shiba inu and they are known for their stubbornness so he kept going. Fortunately, Adam ran into another couple walking their dogs,he explained what happened and asked them to watch out for Aki if they see him. And Aki decided to say hello to their dogs and they managed to catch him. Adam and I are grateful to them for catching Aki.

It is easier for dog owners to relate to each other as they all go through similar experiences. Even though the dog owners do not explicitly share their experiences they can relate to each other. In some ways the community of Dog Owners just exists – nobody had to create it. I was telling a stranger in dog park about how Aki has become more rebellious since he turned two. He responded, “Maybe he is just being a teenager.” For somebody who does not own a dog this conversation might not make a lot of sense but the dog owners know that for them their dogs are just like children.

We all know the quote that “friends are the family we choose”, I believe that the same thing exists for communities or social circles as well. Lot of people ask me how is London different from Columbus. Personally, the main difference is that I felt at home in London and I never realized it until I left London. In London everybody is from outside, from somewhere else. Every other person is talking in their own language, different cuisines – even the airport in London has welcome in different languages. And that itself is a community of people who don’t belong anywhere – global nomadic community. Adam and I feel at home there because we don’t really belong anywhere too.

Can you imagine a world where we believe that humanity or rather the human condition itself is a community.Our existence on earth as a human being goes beyond the race, religion and other barriers we have created. We all face heartbreaks. We experience the same emotions of happiness, sadness, jealousy, envy. These are more powerful binding agents than what kind of dress you wear or language you speak. We all go through the same phases in life – birth, baby, kids, young adults, teenagers, adults, family, old age and death. Instead of finding commonness here we look for other factors like skin color, religious beliefs as something to bind us. Just because I was born in India and Adam in America does not mean we experience different anger or joy. It is the same.

I am an utopian – I believe in an ideal world. And I fail to understand why humanity as a community is termed as Utopian. When I share my views with people the usual response is – “In an ideal world – yes.” Humans understanding each other as a human and relating to each other as human is just table stakes not an ideal world. This is how we should all live – but then maybe this is what is Utopia.

That person does not exist

I recently attended a CPM alumni retreat in London. And it has been a decade since I took the course first at London Business School. In the first class Prof. Rao invited us speak about what we want from the class. And at that time I was at crossroads in my life journey – on how I want to live my life. I asked – “I would like to know by the end of the course what choice should I make?” And prof. replied, “Well, I am not sure if you will find answers but you will definitely have more questions.”

That answer did leave me perplexed because I believed that all things should have an answer – a very clear, direct, black and white answer. And CPM started me on a spiritual journey and I haven’t looked back since then. I started doing yoga, meditating seriously, hanging out with the likes of Eckhart Tolle, Ramana Maharishi and recently I discovered Michael Singer. And ten years have gone by and I meet people who are starting on the journey. I find that my language has changed since I started and sometimes I am not able to relate at that level. And I discussed this with prof. and he said, “Of course, that would be the case because the person who took the course first time does not exist anymore.”

That was that – as simple as that. And it is true isn’t it, all of us are no longer that person anymore and that is how nature intended – change is constant after all. But some of use refuse to let our old selves go and we hang on to them and wonder why we are not evolving.

It’s like you had a tiff with somebody ten years ago and you decided you are going to remember the hurt forever and in some cases we even say, “I will remember this for seven lifetimes.” Well, have fun hanging on to the hurt that was probably caused by some misunderstanding on your part. This is just one example of how we do not let ourselves go. Yes, we hang on these bits and add to the building blocks of our prison.

Our existence on earth is not a sprint its a marathon and you have no way of figuring out who started out when. But, if you believe that you have evolved then you act as a guidepost for other people who are on the same track like how people ahead of you did for you. All the people in your life, all the interactions you have are sign posts to guide you on your journey. It doesn’t matter whether you liked them or not. For example, you are on your way from A to B and a signpost points to the left and says B <-- This way. But you decide to go forward because you don't like the color of the signpost. It doesn't matter what the color is - what matters is the direction on it.

That person does not exist anymore – it is really powerful to know that at many different layers.

Everybody Is An Outsider

In our recent trip to London I could not help but wonder on how different my mind and body react to being in London. The tall buildings – crowds of people around you – the buzz of the tubes, buses which you do not notice anymore. I automatically start to walk fast, whiz through the tubes with oyster card. It’s like my body relaxes and my mind feels safe.

I feel safe and at home amongst the tall buildings and the crowds. It is amongst crowds that I truly am myself because no one is watching but I feel connected. It is ironic but you have to know the rhythm of the city before you can connect to it. Cities have a rhythm of their own – it’s like a drum beat, once you know the beat you are good until then it feels very unfriendly and foreign. The connection in the city is not very obvious – slap on the back type connection. This type of connection goes beyond the ‘How are you? and the weather talk.” These are built in by the common experiences of living in a city – the waiting for the tubes, the annoying way the tourists stand on the right had side of escalators, London weather, the times when you catch another stranger’s eye in the tube and share a silent smile over something funny.

Before I left for London somebody asked me, “So, when you come back will you have a British accent?” I laughed and said,”No, nobody British lives in London.” The following is a picture I took one day in tube – this is what I mean.

Everybody is from outside so you don’t feel out of place. Now of course this is true for people who have led a urban nomadic life – by that I mean never stayed in one place forever. In my narrow view of the world there are two kinds of people one who travel [Like Live in different cities not just tourist] and one who don’t. And neither is good or bad – it is what lifestyle suits you. But they both are a world apart in every way you can think of.

In someways it is the difference between lonely and alone. When you are in a city you are alone but lonely. And that is a huge difference. Being alone is a state of being and Being lonely is a state of mind. And I am just talking about my experience here – I am sure for others it doesn’t matter where they live. We all came alone into the world and we will go alone out of the world too. Whatever happens in the middle is only a journey which we all travel inner-ly, it does not matter whether we have companions or not.

We are like an outsider for our inner self who is traveling alone in this journey called Life.