Tag Archives: #mind

True Connection

While doing the annual house cleaning, I decided to watch some Netflix to give me company. I was not looking for something particular, so I did a quick browse, and the name ‘Watership Down’ sounded familiar, and it was an animation with rabbits – I pressed play and settled down to clean with a fun cartoon series. However, a few minutes in – I was gripping the edge of my seat. Watership Down was not at all happy hoppy, jumpy bunny story but it was a reflection of humankind in 1972 which sadly is no different from today.

The point I want to bring up is that what we see and think in our head – does not match up with reality, but we believe in the illusion in our minds than the truth as it manifests.

One of the Bollywood actors was saying that Social Media has also become a channel for hate with no repercussions. People write all kind of stuff because they do not have to face the outcome. If they were to meet the person they were writing about in person – they wouldn’t say what they had to say. Social media in some ways dehumanizes – disconnects from humanity. The other side of the coin is that Social Media when used appropriately, lets us connect to a large number of people.

How many times has it happened that you have imagined something about somebody or cooked up a story about what happened? And when you get to meet the person or find out what ‘really’ happened, it was nowhere close to what you were thinking. Our minds are a tool, and if not tamed they are like a wild monkey jumping from one branch to other and cooking up stories – yes, literally cooking up stories because that is what the mind does.

Our minds like any unruly child do not want to do our bidding, and thus it devises these distractions, and it has years of practice of going untamed. And what it creates is not real, its an illusion – showing us the reality is not one of our mind’s strengths, in fact, it should just observe not judge. And humans are still struggling to use the mind as a tool for centuries – so we get caught up in the drama in our heads and then go about to play it out in real life. Sadly, for us, it works most of the time or we each seem to think so and thus the disconnect. Our minds have taken fodder from the media, TV, books, society to form our reality even before it has happened and that clouds our eyesight and prevents us from seeing from what the truth is.

Don’t believe me – think of someone who genuinely meant harm to you and you know for sure – it is an undeniable fact that they were going to harm you. Go on. I dare you!

For most of us, the answer would be no one – except our minds. And yet, we live in a world where we do not believe in positive intent. It is time to wake up and connect.

Who will you connect with today?

Choose Where You Live

I am not talking about your physical location like home, town or state but the one place where you are present constantly – you never leave that place even for a second: Your Mind.

What comes to your mind when you listen to this song?
What do you think of when you smell the scents of foods that your mom used to cook?
What do you think of when you see two friends giggling over something?

The above items trigger memories or lead our mind in specific directions. For me when I listen to the song I immediately think of the dance steps involved in the song, I also think of all the fun we have had in our class whenever we have done that song. The smile that comes on students faces when they realize that it is this song – I remember the joy we shared when we all watched the movie. It takes me a to a happy place.

Now, it is possible that the same song might take me to a different place. It might remind me of a friendship that no longer exists; it might recall my breakups (a scene in the movie). In this case, it is taking me to a not so happy place.

Do we have a choice in where our mind takes us? One would like to think so.
Let’s talk about the memories that we already have, the ones created in the past. In most cases, we flow where they take us. When the memories were created, we had limited understanding of the world around us (This is based on the assumption that you mature every year – as you grow). Let’s say as a kid your best friend who loved potato fries left you for another friend. And it left such an impact on you that you have hated potato fries since then.

At that time it was so painful that you were trying to come to terms with what you labeled “betrayal” from your best friend. To ask you to interpret the situations in different ways at that time would be an almost impossible task. But, now after all these years when the topic of that friend pops up in a conversation – what comes to your mind? The betrayal or the moments that you enjoyed as a best friend. Our mind is very tricky and unfortunately has been conditioned to focus on the one moment of betrayal and ignore all the other beautiful moments. One way to change this is to focus on the good memories and ignore the betrayal.

You are the director of your movie, and you get to choose what shots you keep and which shots you discard – but the trick is we forget that we are the director – we identify so strongly with that one scene of betrayal that its the only that exists for us. The first step is to acknowledge that there are lots of moments and accept that I have a choice.

Next time your mind decides to take you on a tragic journey – change the channel – live the life you wanted – it is as simple as this.>

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.

Creations By The Moment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are all Mad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Patience and Love

Let’s take two scenarios.
Scenario 1: You are having a really busy day – rushing from one thing to the other. You have had a whirlwind day – and you have got 15 minutes before you get on tube. You have been looking forward to the 15 minute break all day long and one of your old acquaintance from school calls you. She is looking for a job in your area and needs to touch base with you. Chances are that you are curt or don’t listen to her or listen to her but you just want the call to end. Or you may decide not to even pick up the call.

Scenario 2: Same day as before. And your sister calls you – you pick up the phone and are ready to do whatever she wants – even if it is a catch up.

Now in the above scenario the acquaintance/sister could be anybody can be but the point is if it is somebody you really care about that the conversation is really different. You are coming from a different space and are a different person as opposed to the one in Scenario 1.

Why is that? I am guessing its because we really care for person in scenario 1 than in scenario 2. And when we really care for that person we put them ahead of us – we move from being in a me-centered universe to a other centered universe [Exercises we learnt in CPM]. We are not thinking about how the 15 minute call is impacting me but instead we are thinking about how we can be of service to the other person even if it is by listening.

And in the above two scenarios our behavior was automatic as we have a relationship with those people which has grown organically that way. We did not consciously think about how we are going to behave with them. The key is we can choose the space where we come from regardless of who we are talking to. With people we care about this happens naturally. But next time our friend calls we can choose to be in that space where we are thinking about them.

I am not suggesting that we do this all day long – it would be ideal if we had the capacity to do so without disturbing our inner peace. But it seems like a good world to live in where we put everybody else ahead of us and are truly happy doing that. More and more we live in that space the more easier and nicer our life will be.

I am sure you are thinking if I do that more and more who will do my stuff? What about my thoughts and opinions? The answer is if you put others ahead of yourself the universe will do the same for you. If you don’t believe in the universe or an higher paper then I invite you to think – how important or crucial is the thing or comment you need to tell as opposed to listening. And in the previous example you were ready to use the 15 minutes for your sister so all we need to do is to expand the circle where we include more and more people.

The Capital “I”

I am reading this book called ‘Ego is the enemy.’ One of the speakers at my work mentioned this book and like all things that are on your path call out to you – this book did too. I have been fascinated by ego and always wondered if I have a big ego or not. One of the reasons is that I am very high on an individualistic scale. I love to stand apart, need a high degree of independence and freedom of expression. I also aim high and seem to enjoy power which are the trappings of Ego. And as one progresses on the corporate ladder it becomes even more tricky hence the need to read the book. Now, I haven’t finished the book but that is not a requirement for me to write a blog on ego so here we go.

To begin with Ego is not a bad thing and I don’t think we can be without Ego. Like everything else this is also a tool and we should know how to use it. Like you don’t like being angry but if you see a little kid trying to put his fingers in fire you have to act angry – Ego is a bit like that I believe.

How do you know you have ego problem? Apparently the CEO of one company has very fixed directions on how much cologne his personal steward should apply – now that is definitely an ego problem. To be honest I really don’t know what is that line when it becomes a problem but if we focus on keeping it in balance then we should ok.

What does mean to be in balance then? If something is bothering you then ask yourself is it the Ego in me – do I think I am special enough? Why is something not happening as I want it? All these are in some ways examples of ego. And if some situation in your life is causing you so much pain or suffering that you cannot stop thinking about it- then the best thing to do is to do just the opposite. This is how you will find inner peace. For example if you want your friend to call you because its her turn and now you have spent a week thinking about why she hasn’t called and how great you are etc? Then its about time you give her a call.

The book that I am reading it’s author (Ryan Holiday) says”I hope you will be less invested in the story you tell about your own specialness.” For me that resonated with me deeply and its really hard for me to do. And we all live in a world where the world revolves around us. This whole life is a movie and we are the stars. I am not saying that all of us live our lives with puffed up egos all the time but there are times when admittedly it would make the best sense to not listen to the ego – to lose that argument with a friend even though you know you are right! When you just keep quiet and listen to somebody tell you how much fun they had in London even though you lived in London for years!

This quote sums it all

Running Away

The story goes – Abraham Lincoln’s brother wrote him a letter stating that he wanted to move from his current location because he didn’t like the people, didn’t like the place. His brother moved places and after a few months the same story and the same letter to Lincoln. Lincoln wrote back and said, “How could you expect anything to change when you took the problem with you?”

Let’s look at another example, you have got a boil on your arm that refuses to go away and causes a lot of pain. You keep changing the shirts and even move places but the pain does not go away. Any logical person would point out that how could the pain go away when the problem is in you?

It all seems very logical and common sense to us now. How about the situation in our life when we wished that somebody would leave our team? if only the family member we found annoying would go away? If only the next guy I date was really serious? If only the difficult stakeholder would get a new job? If only my boss would quit? The list is endless – everybody else should go away because I am squeaky clean. Sounds familiar?

The world is like a mirror – it reflects back only you. Everybody including the people you like, don’t like, detest, hate, care about are all showing you some part of yourself. If you take it a step further then you actually created them in some sense too, but let’s leave that for now. Wishing other people to go away is not going to take away your problem unless the root of the problem is solved. And it is all within us and we have the power to change ourselves but often times we don’t because it is easy to blame others and be a victim as then I don’t have to do anything else.

Universe wants the best for you and like a loving parent will do whatever it takes to make you better or learn the lesson so that you can grow. And like the casino , universe wins ALL the time so you better listen to it. If you don’t pay attention to its small nudges it will give you a tight slap but it will make you learn the lesson.

Next time when you find the person who annoys you in your life be grateful as now universe is offering you a chance to learn the lesson. Make the most of it with gratitude and courage. It take courage to face our fears and work on one self. The hardest part for working on ourself is that the image we have of ourself breaks and we don’t like that. In our mind we have this lovely beautiful image – I am so great, I am so this and that. And when somebody comes into our life and shows the mirror to us we don’t like what the mirror shows so we blame the person showing the mirror.

As Goenka ji says in Vipassana – if we become aware that we have created the image and have become attached to it. And it’s that attachment that is causing us suffering then light will shine.

Golden Mean

When I was in London I took up Bikram Yoga and took it up with a vengeance – I went almost daily for two years until one day I decided it was too much and stopped doing yoga for six months. And now I practice Ashtanga Yoga at a more moderate pace. It is all about the golden mean – which means the ideal moderate position between two extremes.

Aristotle talks about morality but the golden mean can be applied to anything really. So we all know intellectually that yeah that makes sense. But the bigger and most important question is how do we go about getting to the golden mean. Each to his own – for me I have to know what my extremes are before I can find my middle.

This applies to everything – let’s say you are trying to work on communication skills – for example: How to remind somebody of something they need to do? You will start from your default style which let’s say is a direct approach. You go to the person and tell him, “Hey you missed the deadline on this – Which part of my instruction was not clear, eh? or you tell him, “Hey, sorry to bother you but do you know by any chance if you have had a chance to think about the deadline that was due this afternoon?”

Both of these statements and any variations will depend on a lot of situations like culture (are you in UK or Amsterdam?) or person you are dealing with (sensitive or driver). But in either case you start from somewhere and then refine and adjust. If you don’t then you will never improve your style – you will be stuck in your ways. And let’s say you adjust/refine yourself ones and then situation changes and you need to do it again. If you fail to refine yourself then you are inflexible.

The point here is we find our balance by trial and error method. All the experiences we have in our life are a means for us to find the balance. In most cases we just fight the issue or run away from it instead of using it as a vehicle for self improvement or to find our balance.

Why do we have to find our balance? Its a good question – we can be just as we are and go about our daily lives. Just like anything else this is a choice we make. What style suits us? and are we ready to deal with the consequences. For me personally the only life I have known is of constant change – so if things do not change after a while it feels weird but for some change is foreign. And I guess there is no right or wrong – it depends on what kind of lifestyle you want and what’s your personal style. But in order to find the personal style we have to experience things and welcome all situations, people that occur in our life with open arms.

Be a scientist and observer at the same time!