Tag Archives: #realityasitis

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?

Lost In Russian Dolls?

Have you ever seen a new-born baby? For the first six months or so they have no idea of who they are, they are not aware of their legs and arms. One of my nieces used to pull her hair as a baby and start crying – unable to tear her hand and stop the pain.

Babies live in the NOW – there is no concept of past/future or self/I. They do have minimal basic desires and wants like milk/sleep/food. They have no great desires or plans – a baby does not think when I drink milk twenty-four times a day I will become a millionaire or other ridiculous cravings/aversions that we tend to get as we grow up. For the baby, there is nothing except the present moment.

As we grow up, we get to know the mind-based concept of time. And with time comes the need to get somewhere, the desire to meet our plans or the aversion towards something happening. And we leave the present moment and start to live in the future and past. The conditioning becomes stronger.

Another thing that happens as we grow up is our sense of ME. We start creating a picture of who we are, what people should think about of me, what society should think of me? And we go about making that image to our liking. A baby does not think – my dad should think of me as pretty or my brother should look up to me. When we grow up this self-image becomes so ingrained that we are not even aware of it.

The society, media and other factors are all egging us to live in the future/past or create an ‘Ideal self-image’. The TV ad that tells you that if you use their aftershave lotion, you will find love, the news piece about a spiritual coach, the interview with an actor/actress with a so-called perfect body.

Nowhere people tell you that the practically impossible to live in the future or the past. My body is right now sitting on a couch, typing these words in the keypad. I can’t skip to the next weekend – but my mind starts thinking about the following weekend, and I have lost touch with reality. I can think about it all I want – the weekend will get here when it is NOW.

We/our minds keep jumping away from the present moment all the time – into past or future or dreamland. There is nothing wrong with planning. We do not stop at planning; we derive a sense of self from something happening or not happening in the future, which becomes futile.

Like the nested Russian dolls, we have lost sense of who we are or where we are. There is so much depth to the present moment that we never explore because we are so busy looking at the outer covers – its paints, designs. A big part of understanding the depth is the acknowledgement of the inevitable is-ness of the present moment.

Where are you right now?

Another Ten Days

It is time for my annual Vipassana retreat blog. 

Like all things this year, Vipassana retreat centres have been closed in most places. At the beginning of the year, I thought I might be able to do it in a centre – but as the year progressed that possibility dwindled. I have always done a course at a centre and was not sure about the self-course at home. So, I waited and watched to see if the desire remains, and by grace, I realized the need to do a 1-day even if it is at home. And I am delighted to announce that I finished it today. 

At the core, it is just like any other course at the centre – the meditation technique remains the same. Water will boil, and ice will melt regardless of where in the world you are (depending on the temperature), it does not change its nature. However, this course was a lot harder because I had never realized the energy boost that the centres, teachers and other students provide. And I had to fill that gap by myself – it was tough. There were days when I found myself wondering what I have gotten myself into.

 All I did was meditate, eat, rest and sleep. And meditate mostly, 4:30-6:30 AM, 8:00-11:00 AM, 1:00-5:00 PM and 6:00-9:00 PM. Pretty hardcore, eh? All I did was observe my breath or my body sensations. And in this technique, you have to keep silent, and you cannot read/write/check emails; it’s just you and yourself.

Vipassana means to see ‘Reality as it is’ and not as we would like it to be. And it is a means to get rid of all suffering (misery, anger, anxiety etc.). For example, we all know that we should have compassion for all human beings. But I am sure we all can think of at least one person right now towards whom we have negativity. At the level of mind, we all know that it is not right, but we cannot help ourselves. Vipassana helps you see how you are the root cause of the negativity and not the other person and enables you to eliminate it. When we generate negativity there is an unpleasant sensation in our body (also our regular breathing rhythm changes) – once we become aware of the sensation and do not react it – we have changed the habit pattern of the mind.

Why I do Vipassana? Because there is the inner knowing that this is the right thing for me. It helps me achieve my personal vision of – ‘Becoming a better version of myself every day.’ Because I am a better person, I can make a better contribution to society.

Whether you do Vipassana or something else – it does not matter. What matters is you do – there is nothing more important in this world that self-awareness. It is not about building the next iPhone (god knows we don’t use the existing technologies a 100%) it is about understanding oneself.

Gnothi Seauton: How well do you Know Thyself?

YES to the moment

Saying YES to the moment is a buzzword these days. Surrender to what is will ring true if you are on a spiritual or self-growth path. And like anything profound and straightforward – we have managed to complicate it because we think with our minds. Our mind is flawed when it comes to more profound things in life because it operates only at the physical level.

How have we managed to complicate the simple YES to the moment?

SCENARIO 1: Let’s say you are in a difficult situation. Let’s say a bully is about to beat the daylights out of you. Or, your boss has done something that you fundamentally disagree with. Or, your colleague has made an offhand remark about you.

Saying yes to the moment does not mean that you let the comment that your colleague made go. You don’t like what your boss did, but you are going to accept the moment as it is and move on. Or, you are going to let the bully beat you.

What it means is you see the reality as it is. Your peer has uttered a bunch of words, and it bothers you. Accept that this has happened. You make a call on whether you are going to act or not. Be still and let the right action arise within you. Saying YES enables you to see the situation as it is and then act accordingly with better quality.

SCENARIO 2: You have lost your entire wealth in the stock market crash. Your wife has also left you. You have nothing left – no house, no car, nothing. You are sitting on a bench and contemplating your life.

Accepting the moment as it does not mean that you tell yourself, ‘I should accept that I am a loser. I made bad decisions in life, and now I have to suffer. I was a bad husband, and hence my wife left me.’ This is not accepting the moment; this is creating a story (not real) and making it real.

Accepting the moment is – acknowledging that you are sitting on a bench with five dollars in your pocket. You have nothing in your bank, and your wife wants a divorce. And you take action from here.

It is quite simple. Now, let me also say that accepting the moment does not mean that you do not learn lessons. You do, now you have another data point on investing in the stock market, behaving in the workplace or how to be a better husband.

We have become slaves to our mind instead of being the master. Minds are tools that are supposed to used as appropriate. That is why it is so complicated – mind (our ego) wants to make a story, predict the future, pass judgements—everything except being in the moment because it is painful and honestly quite boring.

What do you find more exciting? The guy who lost all his wealth or he is on a bench with five dollars.

How will you change the way you say YES to the moment?

Weird Place

I just finished watching a movie called ‘Is Love Enough? SIR’ by Rohan Gera. It is a love story set in Mumbai revolving around a prosperous guy who falls in love with his maid. There is a scene where his friend says, ‘You cannot date your maid.’ The guy responds with, ‘Keep that aside.’ And his friend says, ‘How can you keep it aside?’

Imagine an alien comes to our world, and he sees the movie. I am sure he will be super confused as to why he cannot marry his maid. And he will probably conclude that we are a weird society.

This movie made me think about all the things that we accept but does not make any sense outside the construct of the society we live in. For example, in the movie, the maid’s husband dies within four months of marriage. And she tells her employer that being a widow in her village means ‘your life is finished’. You cannot wear any jewellery, you have to wear sombre clothes, you are considered inauspicious to be seen at weddings. Yes, it does happen in India. What a weird society?

Imagine if the CEO of a company decides to quit and become a janitor? Just play along with me. I do not have to tell you what the society – we the people will think about him. There might be an enlightened few who will mind their own business and carry on, but it will be harder for the CEO to face the society as a janitor.

The labels around being Gay, Lesbian, Queer, Transgender, Divorced, Single are getting better, but the very fact that these labels exist means they are treated differently. So what if a guy or a girl decides not to marry or chooses not to have kids or decides to adopt. The alien would not have given this a second thought. But, we are bogged down with what people will think? How will he or she manage? All this is useless baggage that we decide to carry on our own without even knowing that we are carrying the baggage. Can you imagine how light our lives would be if we did not have this baggage? We are all so bowed down that we cannot see what is in front of us – the reality as it is.

In the movie, when the maid leaves for Mumbai from her village – she puts bangles on her hand on the bus because in a city nobody cares whether she is married or widowed. It’s like just because she moved to a new place she can be a different person – a new place, a new society. Again, the alien would wonder what kind of a weird place we live in where the same woman can wear bangles in one place and a few miles away cannot.

Made me wonder – do we even know who we are? And what we want?

What kind of a weird place have we created?

Not Fair – Just A Slap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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