Tag Archives: #quotes

Listening – Muscle

I have a hard time listening to others. I am very good at listening… to myself – I am beginning to realize that I love the sound of my own voice. And recently with the change in my role as a people leader I find myself coming back to the listening more and more. Maybe, its because I am realizing that unless I learn to listen I won’t be efficient. And like everything else this is also an ability that can be learnt and it will take time.

I have given this matter – “Why I don’t Listen?” some serious thought.

REASON 1: I believe I know all the answers. I believe I am smarter than others and get to solution quicker. And maybe I can but that’s not the end – is it? I would never do something if somebody told me to do it – unless I realize that’s it something I want to do usually it means I have thought about it. So this applies to other people too. And it depends on the situation – if you know somebody is running towards fire then you will do your best to stop them and not listen to why they are trying to burn themselves. Most situations in life aren’t that dangerous or crucial.

REASON 2: I don’t have the time. I have other things to do and cannot waste my time listening to people talk. Really! That is not true. And irony is if I don’t slow down and listen now, then I will always be hurrying. If I have to make life easier for me then I have to slow down and listen to people.

REASON 3: If I am just listening then what value am I adding? I have to realize that listening to people, truly listening people is the greatest gift I can give them in this world. And it is definitely more valuable than talking.

Or sometimes I wonder if it is the fear of silence, un-comfortable feeling that arises when there is silence – does it mean I have to hold off a little longer. Give people some more time before wrapping it up or filling it in?

Talking takes up a lot of energy and most of what I talk is utter nonsense. Just to fill the space. There is a very little part of what I say during the day that really has to be said. Rest of the time I am just trying to prove how smart and important I am. Now – that has its own place but not all the time. So, even though I know all this then why is it so hard for me to listen? Because I forget, and old habits die hard. But all great journeys begin with one step. And I set the intent to listen every day. Even I fail to do that the intention is there and that is the first step.

Why do I feel it is important to listen? Because I feel it and at this point in my life it is something that I need to learn. Like my dad had said – “I am trying to increase my listening capacity.” He and my husband, Adam would know as they listen to me all the time. I am grateful for that.

I am on a journey and hopefully I am at a different station when we talk about this topic next.

Right Path

Let’s take a scenario: You have a early morning meeting at work. And for some reason you slept late the previous night and woke up late. You forgot to make your lunch and it’s your turn to take the puppy out for a morning walk.

I am sure all of us have experienced the following scenarios
1.You work up feeling really great, early morning hour traffic was non existent, your husband decided to take the puppy out – things just flowed and it felt as if the universe was going out of its way to ensure you get to the meeting. And you reached your office in plenty of time and even managed to get Starbucks coffee on your way in.

2. You woke up feeling grumpy,not only you have to take the dog out but also drop him to the day care, and there was an accident on top of the rush hour traffic and by the time you reached office you had missed a couple of meetings and rest of the day was not looking that great either.

There are lots of other examples of being in the flow – when the mojo is just right. Like for one person the promotion was like a cakewalk where as for somebody it took them years. We have all had experiences where it felt as if you were making things happen and also when everything that could go wrong went wrong. And most of the times there is no direct connection between what you did to “deserve” one of the above options.

This is why I love the book “The Artist’s way” by Julia Cameron – she has a way of saying things very clearly and seems to touch a chord in almost all of us in some shape or form if we are ready for it.

If we are on the right track – the one that will make us a better human being then things will happen – timing might not be as we expected but they will. Even when we think the things are not happening as we want them – what is happening is what we exactly need. Like a kid who has a cold but refuses to take the medicine because its bitter but that’s exactly what the doctor ordered.

So then how can we make sure we are in the flow or on the right track. Let’s say you plant a seed of a Neem tree (a very bitter medicinal plant) and you stand in front of it and say “I want sweet mangoes, I want sweet mangoes.” There is no way you are going to get sweet mangoes – you will get bitter Neem leaves only. It is the law of nature – similarly if we plant bitter seeds in our life then we will bear bitter fruits and if plant good seeds then we will taste sweet mangoes in our life. [Credit of the story goes to Goenka Ji from Vipassana]

What are bitter and good seeds then? If we think kind thoughts,do good deeds, enjoy the success of others – these are examples of good seeds. And if we keep cursing others, calling them names when they are not looking or try to prove them wrong so that we can prove ourselves right, take joy in other’s plight then we are planting bitter seeds.

The picture below says it all

The Need To Know

For a while I was into these quotes thing and I had picked up this greeting card at the yoga studio – it called out to me at that time.
“I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer…” (rainer maria rilke)

Basically he is saying that it doesn’t matter what the question/answer is as someday you will be living it. What matters is the NOW. That’s one take on it.

The reason I bring this quote is – we all have situations in our life where we have tried our best to make things happen and we fight for it with everything we have. And it doesn’t work out and we ask ourselves the question – why did it not happen? Why did he not like me? For me, it was my first love (if I can call it that). Since it has the word “First” in it, it is quite obvious I was really young at that time. And fortunately or unfortunately my parents had been a very good buffer between me and the rest of the world. And in my world I got what I wanted well the reasonable and the logical wants for sure. So when things did not go the way I wanted – it was a tough lesson. A lesson that I needed to learn. And once I got over the initial angst and drama of injustice I wondered why did this not happen?

And one of the lessons I learnt was that sometimes we have to learn it’s ok to live without knowing the answer and I might never know the answer. The answer really doesn’t matter except to our mind which loves creating stories/dramas. And as Steve Jobs said you can connect dots backwards or as the quote above says after a certain time it loses relevance.

I met somebody recently who was going through the same phase I went through at her age. And it got me thinking that at that age I spent countless nights staying up with my girlfriends analyzing every single move or exploring all the angles of the situation and now it’s not even a passing thought. Time does put things in perspective and it is all relative – if you have got a stone crushing your feet a tiny prick on your finger will go unnoticed.

And sometimes we are so intent on looking for the answer we want that we do not see all the different answers/choices we have. It’s like when one door closes we keep staring at it for so long that we do not see all the countless doors that open. The faster we let go faster we will move.

Stay Calm and Keep Moving without Knowing

Long Term – how long is long?

I remember my hindi teacher at school telling us this story. It went something like this:
There is a bus that is going from A to B. On the way to B it runs into a oncoming truck and everybody on the bus dies. People come running to the accident to help any survivors and all they see is this 90+ year old woman who gets up with the help of her stick. Everybody comments on who lucky she is. She gets into a rickshaw so that she can go to the bus stop. The rickshaw runs over a tiny stone, loses it balance and overturns killing the old woman in the process.

What do you think is the moral of the story? The time of your death is pre-determined, you will die when your time comes, not a second later, not a second earlier.

There maybe some of you who are thinking well if the old lady had her seat belt on – she could have survived. Yes, that is correct but then it wasn’t the right time.

At the same time I am sure this story and the conversation so far is making you uncomfortable. Talking about death or dying does make people very uncomfortable. I have wondered why? I will be sad when the ones close to me die – it will leave a hole where they filled it but death is one of the most certain things in life. The one thing we know for sure is we will die but still we live our entire life denying it. The quote below says it all

So, how does it relate to the topic of the blog which is “Long Term”. A lot of the leadership and self-help books talk about “Long Term Thinking”. What is your five-year plan? Where do you see yourself in your 2-3 years? The real long term is a little different I think.

When you are trying to prove you are right to a co-worker – that’s when you think long term. You are going to die anyways does being right on whether the status report should say X or Y really matter. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that we should not have opinions but the intensity and impact can come down a notch if we keep the long term goal in mind.

As everything else this kind of long term thinking is also a choice – I am just presenting a option , a different way of thinking. If someone overtakes you while you are driving – we have two choices a) get mad and ruin precious moments of your life or b) life is too short to get worked about something you are not going to remember in 24 hours.

“If somebody was to say – you have two hours to live.” What will you do? This is not a morbid question but a check on who well you are living your life. Are you living in the future or past? Or are you living in the moment – you are satisfied and at peace with where you are right now?

This is how I measure my happiness level – The art of dying is in essence the art of living. If you don’t believe me read this article on reasons behind Bhutan’s high Happiness index.

Making Friends – Mentoring

We have a mentoring event at office and one of my friends is on the panel. He asked me if I could speak at the event for a few minutes and give my testimonial from last year. I obviously said yes – I love being in the limelight even if I obsess about it before.

This got me thinking about mentoring, meeting new people … friendships.I still remember my first meeting with mentee – it was like meeting a complete stranger and was really awkward. We spoke and I realized that she is in a complete different space than mine – she was into big data, data warehouse. I went home that day thinking about what am I going to do in the mentoring sessions. I was convinced that I cannot add any value. I went home and conferred with my voice of wisdom who told me that its too early and I should not imagine the worse.

We had a first meeting – did introductions – spoke about feedback. She said that one of the feedback she had received was that she needs to be more confident and not ask too many questions to validate what she is doing. I remember using some general quotes and came home and once again conferred with my voice my wisdom [Who is my husband, if you hadn’t guessed that already] and he suggested well – you can tell her what you do about it, right?

It got me thinking – and I started exploring but exploring inwards which is another path to know yourself. Next meeting I suggested that she do a mental chatter exercise where she notes down her mind chatter – just bring awareness. And Voila! next meeting she told me of two instances where she realized that she didn’t have to ask for validation… from then on our journey grew – she painted, she tried different techniques with her team, she took ownership of some of the items in her home and last year she got promoted :). I cannot say that it was all because of me but remember the saying “No smoke without mirrors.”

What did I gain from it? First and foremost the advice you give to others is advice that you need to take. So in essence I was giving advice to myself. I found myself thinking about why don’t I try this in a similar situation.

It makes you pause and wonder about where you are in your journey – my mentee had taken a route which was very different that mine but could have been mine too. We both did our engineering in the same year but she got married right after that and I went gallivanting around the world. And now here we are – it made me realize that it could have been me too.

Once I stopped worrying about adding value and being present – everything worked out well because I was listening to her. Listening is a great skill to have – and it’s not listening to what the other person is telling you but what is she trying to tell you by talking about it. It’s a journey on its own.

I am moving onto new mentees this year but I know I have a friend now.

Need a Break!

It’s Sunday evening and you are thinking about all the things that you haven’t done. You have a busy day ahead and want to get to bed early but at the same time you have not had a break. Anyways you go to bed with the unfinished business hanging over your head.

You wake up in the morning with a feeling of never-ending list hanging over you.(All you want is some space to yourself) It’s Monday – busy day at work, things just keep piling up, people keep requesting things from you and you didn’t get a moment to do anything on your list.(You cannot wait for the break when you get home).

You get home – walk your dog – make food and eat. (All this while you are looking forward to a break). And finally you end up staying late so that you can have that time to yourself that you have been wanting for days now.

And the cycle starts again. Sounds familiar?

The question here is Why do need a BREAK from something?
Because you are so fed up with what you are doing that you need a break.
Why are you so fed up?
Because you think you would be rather doing something else than what you are doing right now.

We are not accepting the moment which unfortunately or fortunately is the only thing we have. The following quote from

Imagine we have a pipe through which water is flowing and we keep blocking one end of the pipe slowly. There comes a time when the pipe is blocked and water stops flowing.

When somebody comes with a request while all we want to do is to send the email – we resist it and add a little pebble to the end of the pipe. Note that we already added quite a few pebbles to the pipe over the weekend and as the day goes by we just keep adding pebble after pebble. No wonder when we come home all we want is a BREAK.

Now, if we just accept whatever happens as something that is exactly what we wanted then there is no pebble and water keeps flowing.

How do we do that? First and foremost as usual, awareness is the key, second practice and third actual experience of acceptance of what it is. And surprise, surprise when we accept things as they are we end up having more than enough time to do all that we ever wanted. This like all major shifts will take effort.

If you are ever present in the moment then the feeling of “Needing a Break” will diminish leaving more energy for you to do your own things or just be.

Another way to look at it is through my favorite Quote “You cannot travel the path until you have become the path itself.” Ros Zander who co-authored “The art of possibility” with Ben Zander talks about her experience in writing the book. She got herself a nice cabin in woods, well-equipped. And she would go there every weekend but end up doing everything else except writing – we have all been there! Until one day she realized that everything else that she was doing was also writing – it was food for thought like taking her dog for a walk, washing dishes etc.

Similarly if we view our daily life as all connected and every single piece including – broken pipe you need to fix, the stakeholder who has an urgent request then life just flows – there is no blockage.

Mind Over Matter – how much can you stretch?

It was summertime and I remember very vividly that my dad who is usually very fit kept sleeping for an entire weekend – non-stop. He had just made a trip to Delhi or some other city for business and when he came back all he did was sleep. His clothes had a slightly yellowish tinge – anyways they did go to the doctor. Doctor did a few tests and told him that he had jaundice but it’s on the decline now. The worst was over. So his Jaundice was at the peak during his business trip but it didn’t affect him at all.

If you are wondering why I am telling you this incident then here it is – Mind Over Matter. I believe that my Dad is one of the few people I know who are very good at mind over matter. What does it really mean?

In my dad’s case he willed his body to believe that it was all good – one can argue that he slept the whole weekend but you get the point. Basically what this is saying is that your body can withstand anything it’s your mind that you have to convince. There are scientific studies which prove this as well – let’s say you flip a coin 20 times what are the chances of heads/tails – 50% right? However, there was an experiment done where they had participants who willed a certain outcome like either heads and tails and the probability was not 50%. Check out this article for more details. If it could be done for coin flip experiment – imagine what we could all do if we ALL set our minds to it. Another famous example is the DC crime rate which started dropping when a meditation project was started and then started increasing when the project was disbanded – read about it here.

Our faith can move mountains. All we have to do is to believe.

The question is – If there is so much evidence that meditation/focusing your mind on an object is so powerful then how come most of the people don’t do it? Why is that each and every one of is not drawn to meditation?
The only answer that I can come up with is – when the student is ready , teacher will be ready otherwise even if you read about it, even if you see it, you are still blocked to it – you will not see it really. But it doesn’t mean we don’t try.

And then there’s a flip side to it too – you can only push yourself so much. It’s like different rubber bands can be stretched only to certain points before they break – so you have to find out your breaking point and work on it to increase its elasticity if you are so interested and called to do so!

It also comes back to my favorite quote – its all in me – all in the mind. Everything that happens to us, including the angry boss, difficult stakeholders, great pets, lovely spouses is all within our mind even the so called external circumstances like political situation/global warming all of them – they are all creations of our mind and most of us are ignorant of what our minds are creating.

But nobody said it better than the Mysore style Ashtanga teacher Pattabhi Jois – it’s true even in yoga.

Cooking Creativity

When I first met Adam one of the my very emphatic statements to him was that I am not going to cook. Coming from India where it is assumed that girls will grow up and cook for their husbands and family, I assumed that Adam had similar notions. I was all set to make it straight. Adam’s cool answer to my “ready to go to war with” statement was “OK”.

And now surprise, surprise I love cooking – well, trying new recipes and if they are vegan/gluten free/healthy and have chia seeds or other superfoods even great. Like this weekend I made Onion Garlic Buttah [Vegan butter from Cashews], I have been on this cooking journey since last year. This weekend as I was making the Buttah I thought about why the sudden change. At first, I thought it was because, now it’s not expected of me – it’s my choice. But then I realized it was because it was creative. That got me thinking and hence the blog.

The picture above says it all and the output of the cooking is a lot different from the input itself. You do create something new and that’s what I like. Even the recipes I have made once I always change something in them. There is something very satisfying in taking different ingredients and making something new out of them.

And maybe this is why I love Software development too – creation of a website/form that did not exist before. As an engineer I assumed that I wasn’t creative but as I got into management the one thing I really missed was the creation of something tangible. And we will not talk about the fact that creativity might end up looking like a skyscraper when the client really wanted a small cabana on the beach – minor details.

And it was when I read Artist way that I started opening up to my creative self. And it is a journey – for years I grew up thinking creativity was something was outside of me – even the dictionary meaning of creative states that is something which is used for artistic work like painting/art. So if you are not a poet or an artist you are not creative.

the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.

However, now I am realizing that creativity is inbuilt in us as humans. Well, to begin with the mind chatter – voice in our head creates these lovely movies about things that don’t even exist or will never exist. For example, you see somebody in a party and your Mind Chatter creates a reality where that person does not like you. Or you have just given an interview and your Mind Chatter creates a reality where you will never get the job or where you get the job. We are creating all the time.

In fact, every day we wake up in the morning we are creating our day – every moment is a one that did not exist before. We are all creative beings in that sense – and now I beginning to understand where creativity and personal mastery come together.

What kind of a life are you creating right now, at this moment?

We are all in Prison

Raymond Fiest, one of my favorite fantasy authors writes in his book, “The Magician”

we are the architect of our own prison

What does he mean by that? Let me tell you a story.

A rich couple are blessed with a baby boy after several years of marriage. They bring the boy up and groom him to be a business man so that he can take over his dad’s business. Twenty five years of father’s life have gone in building the dream that his son will carry on his legacy. You can imagine the dismay when his son announces that he wants to be a farmer and not a business man like his father. The father tells his son, “You have made me very unhappy.”

QUESTION: How many of you think he is right? That the son is responsible for his father’s unhappiness.

Here’s a tip: All that the son did was tell his father that he was going to be a farmer. The father had the choice to be happy or unhappy. And he made the choice to be unhappy. That was the prison he created for himself. He not only made himself unhappy but refused to take ownership for that as well.

Imagine how many times in our life we refuse to take the ownership of our own choices. In fact some of us live under the delusion that the external circumstances have made our life miserable and not us. We are not even aware of our own choice.

For example, I remember telling my dad that I was probably going to hate Columbus after London. And my dad in his practical fashion, responded, “You can hate Columbus all you want, Columbus doesn’t care.”

You don’t get the promotion you want, your spouse divorces you or your kids take to marijuana or somebody you don’t like became the head of your office/country – you make a choice to be happy or unhappy.

It’s ok to make either choice – even if you decide to be unhappy about it – do it knowing that it’s your choice nobody’s making you unhappy. Own the decision. That’s the first step – it’s harder to accept the decision as the best thing that can ever happen to you though. Difficult but not impossible – practice does make everything perfect.

Let’s take the prison theory to next level. This gets a little into the spiritual realm more so than usual. Even when we own our choice or decide to be happy about it all that we are doing is getting better food – in the prison. In the human predicament we are all already in the prison we are just moving to a better one. It is very hard to explain such things in words because words are not enough.

My favorite quote comes to mind,

“In this plane there is no answer and outside the plane there is nobody to ask the question.”

However, in his book UnTethered Soul, Michael singer provides a great description of what I am trying to say. Imagine space/vaccuum in which things are floating like Cars/your ideal job/ your partner/ your savings account etc. The minute your mind focuses on the car , it becomes a block and many such blocks build the prison. It’s all an illusion but we have forgotten that we are actors and are convinced that this is the reality.

How do we get out of the prison? All paths lead to Rome. If this article has planted a seed in you then nurture it, watch for it – if you are drawn towards painting/writing/aerobics or something that you always wanted to do as a kid. Go for it, it might open the door that may be your path out of the prison. For those of us who meditate or do yoga – when we breathe or we are focused on sensations at that moment there is no thought – in that moment we are free
.

Namaste and Accepting Thanks

I practice Ashtanga Yoga – Mysore style. I started it in London at Hamish’s studio who is one of the most content people I have ever known. And I admire people who are content – truly content with what they have because I “think” I lack that. Anyways, I digress. It was at this studio where I picked up the habit of bowing down to the teachers in the studio after the class which is also known as Namaste.

Today Namaste is used most commonly for Hello, but it has a deeper meaning that that. The more I spend time with books like Ramana Maharishi and Webu Sayadew the more I realize that the rituals of the past had a deeper purpose, a vision to them which the people of today have forgotten. It’s like we keep reciting the prescription without ever tasting the medicines prescribed on it. Namaste is another one of them – when we bow low to somebody we are essentially reminding ourselves that we are all one. That’s what the movie Avtaar meant with the dialogue – “I see you.”

When we moved to Columbus and started practicing at the Ashtanga Yoga Studio I did the same thing. However, I noticed that most of teachers are uncomfortable to the namaste. A bit like when somebody expresses Thank You and you brush it off or try to talk over it. A lot of people are not comfortable with accepting gifts/compliments or even a simple Thanks. I was also in the same boat.

Until I realized the following two things
1. Scenario time: Let’s say a friend has sent you a package that you have been waiting for ages. The Fedex guy comes over to your place to deliver it. He knocks on the door, you open it and immediately offer him drinks, put a garland on him, touch his feet because he got you this lovely gift. – Right it would be taking it a little too far.

Life’s a lot like that – we are all Fedex couriers. Yes, everything happens through us , it’s the ego and pride in us which makes us think I did it. And it is this “I” which brings in the UN-comfortableness. If we accept the thanks and express gratitude for being the medium what is there to be uncomfortable about?

Yoga and Meditation are two such jewels where the teachings have been poured into this vessel which we call body from one generation to the other. It’s to this knowledge and teaching that I bow to – not the body/vessel that contains it. Once we grasp this at a deeper level the discomfort will vanish truly.

2. Something that my prof at Creativity and Personal Mastery course in London Business School,had mentioned. He had said that if we do not accept the thanks or help that somebody is offering then we are blocking the flow. If you help somebody and if somebody else helps you , accept it gracefully and keep the flow going.

That said, last thing I want to talk about is helping others. There is a difference between helping and being of service. If we say, “Let me help you,” it automatically puts you above the other person in some fashion. Where as if you ask,”How can I be of service?” then it takes a different tone. The idea here is that you should be grateful that you can be of service. The words – help/service do not matter, what matter is the intention behind it?
Are you helping because it stroked your ego?
Are you helping because its filling up an empty space within you?
Are you helping because that’s who you are?

A lot of different messages in this thread and I will leave you with this one.