Tag Archives: #self-help

Thinker or Observer?

“I certainly do not think. Hence, I hear the words that come out of my mouth at the same time as you hear them. This means that there is nobody teaching anybody here.”

This is what Eckhart Tolle says to his audience in one of his retreats. It is funny when you hear it the first time. Here is a great spiritual teacher, and he is saying, ‘I have no idea what is going to come out of my mouth.’ 

Isn’t that scary? Imagine going to a meeting and not being prepared – the agony of not knowing what you are going to say next. How will you prove you are smart unless you can give a more intelligent answer or retort in a conversation.

We do not exist because we THINK – wary of the quote if you are looking for inner peace.

Eckhart’s answer to this is – If he is still, and indeed present then a better quality answer will arise. He has a strong belief that words will arise when he needs. Most importantly, he is not uncomfortable with silence. What does he mean by being present? 

We have two modes of operation – a) thinker and b) observer. For most of us, we are so engrossed in the thinker that we never observe. And if you are always in that mode then you are not truly present to what you are hearing/seeing/feeling – hence it will be a reaction and a lower quality one. 

Watch the thinker and you are operating at a higher level of consciousness

But if you are in the observing mode of operation, then you are in tune with the reality as it is. You hear the words, listen to the sounds, see without any interpretation or labels. As an observer, you are positioned to take the right action if any is needed, and it will be of a higher quality.

How will this play out in real life?

  1. You are with a group of friends talking about guys. Your friend comments that the guy likes X person. You also like the same guy. 
    1. THINKER: Man! I knew it, X is annoying why cannot she keep away that guy. She is much prettier and thinner – I stand no chance.
    2. OBSERVER: She said, ‘Guy likes X.’
  2. You are talking to somebody at the office. She is going on and on about how exciting her new role is. She just got a promotion, is expanding her team by 50%. She got a full-time admin.
    1. THINKER: She is so lucky! Nothing ever works out for me. Why don’t I get promoted? Maybe I am not good enough. Will I ever succeed in life?
    2. OBSERVER: She is telling me she has got a promotion, is expanding her team.

NOTE: As a thinker, you can think positive thoughts as well, but regardless you are creating a story in your head.

Can you see how as a thinker, your actions will be driven by baseless (unreal) thoughts or stories? And as an observer, there is no need to do anything – listen to the words and let them pass.

This practice is not easy because if we identify with the observer, thinker feels threatened, and he comes up with ‘Important’ thoughts.

REMEMBER: Nothing matters absolutely – all thoughts are a bunch of letters put together. They arise and always pass away.

Who Are You?

Imagine you have gone to watch a fantastic play in a lovely theatre. The actors are supposed to be so good that it’s almost life-like. It is a very engaging drama with all the trials and tribulations of human life that we all go through in our real lives.

Now, let’s suppose that the drama is so real that you completely lose yourself in it – especially in one of the characters. You identify with her 100%. You are upset because you (she) cannot get the love of her life. You try with might and vain to solve your (her) legal problems, and you fail. You weep when your (her) close friend dies. In short, you have become the character. And let’s say now you watch the drama all the time because you have become the character and you replay the same drama over and over. In the end, you forget who you are, and you carry out the same character even when the drama ends.

What would you call that? Silly, Stupid, Crazy. Now, what if I told you that we are all like that. We are the actor and the audience. But we have forgotten that we are all the audience of our life where the actor in us plays different dramas.

I was cleaning my room a few weeks ago and came across some of my old diaries. And I quickly glanced through them Рit was scary and eye-opening in some ways. I quickly realized that there is always some drama in my life Рlove, exams, career, parents, family… The story might change, but the drama is constant. And I play the part of the actor with gusto РI weep, rejoice, cry my eyes out for weeks, go on a diet, meditate. I forget that I am also the observer of my own life Рbecause I get caught up in the acting so much.

Why is this important? If I am identified with the actor, then life will be very challenging or as Buddha said – it will be suffering. Because I am suffering whatever the actor goes through. If I remember that I am the audience, then I will applaud the great performances and move on. I will make better decisions in my real-life if I remain rooted as an audience and not be carried away by the whims and fancies of the actor I am portraying right now.

Imagine a Jar which we are filling with sand/stones and other items. What matters is the space in the jar, which allows things to rise, not what we fill the space with. It is the same with our lives – we have to remember that we are the screen on which the various dramas arise and pass away, but the screen remains constant. If we are rooted in this truth and connected with the screen all the time – life would be a breeze, and we will enjoy it like a play.

Who are you, the actor or the audience or the screen?

Make Your Dreams Come True

How many of us daydream every day to escape from our daily grind? Imagining about writing a novel, buying your dream house, creating a reading nook in your home, your job as a CEO, your successful business, having kids, going to exotic places for vacation…. the list is endless.

There are two aspects I want to cover in this blog. Why do we daydream or rather why I think we daydream? Second, how can we make daydreaming more effective?

For the why – the keyword is escape. We are unhappy with the now. We do not like the reality as it is. We use daydreaming as a means to endure the suffering by forgetting about it for a while. Sometimes we may lack the courage needed the face the reality as it is and make peace with it. Or we do not want to face reality, so we daydream. Or, you have dreams that you want to accomplish, and you daydream about them. Or, you cannot afford your goals, so you daydream about them.

On the surface, daydreaming or fantasizing is not a bad thing. We all need it to survive our lives which is ‘Suffering’ if one-word could describe it. But, there may come the point when you feel hollow, and it does not seem as rewarding it used. You can use it as a trigger.

The article in BBC.com has an acronym for how to make daydreaming more effective. WOOP – Consider your Wish, Imagine your Outcome, Identify your Obstacle, Make a Plan. It does require some work – like all things worth achieving do. Every time you daydream – think of what do you want, articulate what is stopping you and take the next smallest step you can towards it.

Example: I want to write an epic fantasy novel series. I want my books to enthral readers and lead them into a fantasy world (no pun intended). I am not very proficient in writing. Write something every day.

Example: I want to become a CEO. I want to leave a mark in this world. I do not have all of my skills yet. Make a list of skills needed for a CEO.

Example: I want to create a reading nook in my house. I want a quiet space in my home. I do not have the means or space to do it. What is the minimal step you can do to make your space your own – light a candle, buy a perfume, get one of those beautiful Japanese screens?

Example: I want to move to a perfect house. I want a lovely neighbourhood to live in. I do not have the means to do it. Make a plan – how much money do I need? Do I need to move further away? Do I need to compromise?

For all these examples, if you are stuck on the plan – there is google, communities – no shortage of resources. How to make a quiet space in a small house? How to become a CEO?

And as you work steadily towards making your dreams into reality, think about what is the trigger (WHY?) – and maybe you will discover unmet needs and VOILA! You may find another easy way to make your dreams come true.

What are you daydreaming about?

The road ahead, not the turn

I recently saw the movie, ‘Stand and Deliver’ based on the real-life story of Jamie Escalante, a math professor. He is famous for teaching calculus to high school students in Garfield High School in East LA. Most of the students are of Hispanic origins who passed the test.

There are a couple of scenes that stood out to me from the movie.

SCENE 1: One of his students wants to quit because his uncle has offered him a job fork lifting and paying him time and a half. And within a year he can have a car of his own.
Jamie takes him a car ride, and as they reach a crossroad, he asks him urgently, ‘Left or Right’. The student in a hurry says, ‘Left, Left.’ and they end up in a dead-end.
Jamie says, ‘Look at the road ahead and not at the turn.’

SCENE 2: One of the students asks Jamie, ‘Are you nervous that we will screw up the test royally, tomorrow?’ Jamie replies, ‘Tomorrow is just a day, honey. I am worried that you will screw your lives.’

Both these scenes stood out of to me because it is evident that Jamie is thinking ahead. He is looking at the road and not the turn.

How many times have we thought of the turn ahead but not the destination – and ended up in a dead-end? How many times have we made a decision because it brings us momentary or short term gains at the expense of long term benefits? Settled for a partner because of social pressure even if it was not the right match. Gone for a job because of prestige even though it was not what you wanted. Went on a fad diet to lose weight only to put it all back.

People will tell you, ‘Marriage is all about compromise.’ or ‘You can do any job for two years.’ And it is tempting, really tempting because at the moment all you want is that desire to be fulfilled. But remember, ‘He who laughs last, laughs the best.’ These are times when you need to anchor to your values. Do you want to spend your life with somebody who is not the best match for you? Do you want to go to work every day knowing this is not the job you wanted?

Another big question, ‘How do I make the decision?’ The most common and annoying answer to that is, ‘Trust your gut.’ But, by the time you get to your gut, you are no longer able to sense it forget about trusting it. Or, sometimes you can hear what your gut is saying, but you do not want to listen. What do you do in these situations?

There is no right or wrong. In the end, the universe always has your back and will get you where you need to be. How you get there might be painful or comfortable, depending on the path you take? Sometimes, you have to remind yourself that its just life – make a decision and move on. The important thing is to be happy and be at peace.

Are you looking at the turn or the road?

Reality Is…

I had given a talk to OSU – MBA students last year. And one of them asked me a question, ‘I have seen the movie Dangal in which Aamir Khan had to fight with society and sometimes even his daughters to make them into national wrestling champions. I want to know how the experience was for you?’

My answer was, ‘I have been fortunate in that matter. I always use to tell my parents that my brother got to do everything because he was a boy and how they loved him more than me. And one day, my dad being my dad asked me – Tell me one time when I stopped you from doing something.’ And that was it I never brought up that topic again.

But it makes me wonder why is this even a story in my life? That as a girl, I had to fight for or did not get the same chance as usual people. 

I just saw the movie, ‘Gunjan Saxena – The Kargil Girl’ which depicts the life of the first female pilot in India. As the first female pilot in the Indian Air force, she had to deal with all men counterparts, no female toilets or changing rooms. Tired of this, she does go back home and tells her dad that she wants to get married and settled down. Her dad played by the brilliant actor – Pankaj Tripathi, tells her – ‘The way to get out of the cage is free your way out of the cage and not clip your wings.‘ A compelling statement if you think about it. How many of us give up on our dreams by clipping out wings, settling for the mediocre in our life. It takes courage to pursue what you want despite difficulties. And if we remember that the growth happens in the journey and not at the destination, maybe it might become easier.

There is another scene where she is rejected in her first medical exam because of a) 7 Kg overweight and b) 1 cm less in height. She comes back home sad and refuses to wake up from her bed the next day. Her dad says, ‘People who never stop working hard, destiny/fate will never stop working for them. You do what is in your control and rest we will see how it pans out.‘ Such simple advice but how difficult to follow in practice. All I have to do is to work hard and do what is in my control, but it is so easy to get caught up in the drama of things that are out of our control. For example, a colleague tells you about how somebody else got an exciting project because he or she knows somebody. Now do you ignore that comment and continue working on your skills, or do you keep wondering how you will never be successful because you do not know anybody higher up?

You get what you work for not what you wish for. Are you wishing or working?

Beyond Our Noses

Have you ever been in a situation in your life where it felt like ‘THE End Of The World’? Like, nothing would be ever right in your life again. What will people think of you? How will you ever get out of bed and face life again?

And here you are, reading my blog hale and hearty with no recollection of that life-ending moment. I am reading the book, ‘Failing Forward’ by John Maxwell, where he says that failure is not an event. It is a journey, just like success. The first time you bombed your interview or sent a text that should have been deleted is not the end of the cliff but only a little event on a long journey. If we keep that perspective, then it gives us the perseverance to keep going and also changes our attitude towards failure to something that we know how to do better next time.

Growing up, it is not explained to children that failure is ok. In fact, as a kid, I remembered that I had the mental model that engineers and doctors have a decent life, poets and artists usually starve and have horrible things happen to them. I also had a similar model where if I did not do well in exams – there was nothing beyond that. It was in my mind the end of the world. I could not imagine a world beyond bad grades. I am sure some of it was from the movies or society or cultural upbringing. But, now that I am an adult, I do not have to deal with failure this way.

So what, if this relationship did not work out? So, what if the house I had my eyes set on did not come through? So, what if I never made it to the second round of interviews? So, what if I said some nasty things to my loved ones? So, what if I stopped exercising? Do not get me wrong I am not a proponent of anybody stopping exercising or getting their home deal. We have to remember that sometimes life does not work out the way we want it to because something else is planned that way and time will show us how. The keyword here is the time. If we live in a world where we do not keep the long term view in perspective, then everything seems catastrophic, but if we remind ourselves that life is a marathon and not a sprint, then we will be able to pick ourselves a lot quicker and move on. In fact, it is better to hurry up so that you can get to the next thing.

And maybe somewhere along the journey, we will all realize that life is all about the journey and not the outcome. And the journey as it happens with its own ups and downs. As Prof. Rao from Creativity and Personal Mastery says, ‘The purpose of washing dishes is not to clean dishes but to wash dishes.’ A very zen saying but very profound if you think about it a little more.

Are you washing dishes to clean them or wash them?

Can You See It?

All of us have been part of at least one of the following scenarios.
SCENARIO 1: Seen a kid, niece or nephew and commented on how much they have grown? – ‘Oh My God – she has grown so much.’
SCENARIO 2: An uncle, aunt or somebody older than you comment on how much you have grown? -‘Look how tall you have become.’

And if you haven’t, then I am sure at some point you have looked at your old pictures or even in the mirror and commented on how much you have changed. These changes are physical changes that our body goes through as we age. And these are very visible, unfortunately for us especially as we age. Grey hair, Wrinkles, not so firm Skin, height, weight are all outward appearances of growth.

What about the signs of internal growth – emotional and mental maturity. They are not as visible but equally important if not more. It is hard for even us to see the growth that has happened to us. We don’t get a halo or a ring around our head as we progress on the path of maturity. And it is also not automatically correlated to our physical maturity – for example now that you are X age – you are at 60% mental maturity. I am sure all of us have met people who are wiser than they look and people who could do with a little bit more growing-up.

From the time we are born, we automatically start learning, and that learning happens in leaps and bounds as we do not know anything. And most of that learning happens without us knowing about it. If our parents told us to brush our teeth twice a day – that’s what we did. We never sat down and analyzed if that is a good thing. Unfortunately, as we grow up, we do not that either – we just let it happen without actively learning.

For example, you have a boss who is a micromanager, and you listen to the boss and get your job done, or you speak up and ask for autonomy. How often do we sit down and say to ourselves, ‘I have a situation here – how should I go about it?’ or ‘Well, that did not go well – what can I learn from here?’ We wake up and get on with our lives – ups and downs included.

Our emotional growth and maturity would be faster and targeted if we were an active participant. What if we started the day wanting to be a better version of ourselves every day. What if we sat down at the end of the day and did a quick lesson learnt session. How much better we would be, our life would be. And our emotional maturity marker might not be visible, but it would be in an upward trajectory. Guess what, if it did not increase as much, then it is a reminder to ask ourselves what we can do next?

Can you see and track your emotional growth inside?

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?

So Close.

I recently finished reading the book – ‘Girl On The Train’ by Paula Hawkins. She is also the author of ‘Gone Girl’ which is also a movie. She is one of the rare authors who use unreliable narrators in her stories and does it well too.

This book is also very similar. I got caught up in the life of the three women – Anna, Rachel and Megan. I got a sense that something was off with the characters but could not place my finger on what – Which was the same for Rachel as well in the book until the end when I finally realized what was happening.

This blog is how similar I felt with the characters in the book. There were aspects of them which I know I had shown in the past – berating myself over some mistake I did, called some people multiple time when I knew it was all over, doubting myself, being jealous. I have never made drunken calls but have been on receiving end of a couple and can understand that state.

We have all come close to going over the edge about something or the other – at some point in our lives. We all have the demons that we are fighting. Some people are oblivious to those – Ignorance is bliss. And some of us are so acutely aware of them that it is a demon in itself that we are fighting. The point is – the vast majority of the humans on this planet are either wanting something or not wanting something. We are either desiring something or resenting something. The item itself might differ – boyfriend, baby, promotion, new house, money, fame, success, lose weight, win a race – the list is endless, but we are all dealing with it. We are all crazy about something.

Eckhart Tolle wrote in his book about the incident when he came across a mad man in men’s restroom. He realized that the only difference between them was that crazy man was talking about aloud, whereas Tolle talk was all inside his head. Such a thin veil that separates us from madness. And we judge other people.

I am not trying to prove that we are all mad – we might very well be, but I am not the right person to judge. I realize that we are all human in the human predicament. We all have our moments of Suffering. Suffering is human. May we be kind of ourselves and each other in moments of Suffering.

Before we come to this awareness – it is essential to realize that we are all suffering. Suffering is the common thread that connects all humankind across barriers of caste, religion, creed or money. And who knows this Suffering might be what will take us out of our misery.

Do you know you are Suffering?

Hierarchy

Have you ever wondered why the CEO gets the corner office on the topmost floor? Have you ever wondered why everybody has to rise when Judge enters the room?

There is a distinct hierarchy everywhere – in hospitals, airports even in Restaurants: head chef and a sous chef, Pilot and a co-pilot, Doctor and a nurse.

It makes sense that the doctor does the operation, and the nurse has a supporting role, but it does not mean that the nurse’s job in any way inferior to the doctor’s job. I am sure nobody says this aloud but isn’t it implicit. We all grow up having a mental model around what is essential and what is not – who has power, and who does not? Principal versus the teacher in school. As a kid, nobody explained the org. Chart of the school to me, but it was evident to me that the Principal was at the top.

Just because somebody has a corner office or has more responsibilities or gets paid more does not mean that they are at the top of the food chain. We, humans, have a come a long way since our Stonehenge days in terms of technical and medical advances. But we have been unable to get rid of this hierarchical system – it is ingrained in us.

Ideally speaking every person in a company has a role and they get paid based on the risk they take (in most cases), instead of treating the CEO like any other role we have made it THE role. OK – so CEO makes the final decision, earns money, but he/she also carries the risk of the decision. Still, everybody underneath him plays an equally important role, then why does CEO role get biased attention.

I am not advocating that we do away with the entire reporting system. We do need some structure. But, do we need the associated superior/inferior label that people seem to attach to it. Just because I am somebody’s boss doesn’t mean I automatically get the best chair in the room or tea gets served me to first. All of this is an ego trip and has nothing to do with my job.

Undue importance to the superior roles creates an additional set of actions which add no value. All of a sudden, the boss becomes the person who can make or break your life. All the employees want to be in his good graces because he makes the call. Shouldn’t the decision be made on more objective measures than the whims and fancies of just one person? The role of that person is to serve not to rule. There is nothing wrong with ruling as long as there is no I involved. It is harder than said, but it needs to come from both sides. Boss needs to understand that its just a role that he is playing and the employees need to treat him/her accordingly.

How are you encouraging the hierarchy?