Tag Archives: #self-help

Being A Women – What Do You Know?

‘There will always be a$$*0**$ at work. You have to learn to deal with them.’ My first ever mentor told me – and I did not see her as a mentor then, but now I am very grateful. I learnt a lot, A LOT from her.

I was in my late twenties and my first job after my MBA. I was on a rotational program. A peer of mine and I got assigned to a project for six months. Two weeks into the job, my boss called me into his room and gave me a wad of papers and said, ‘Can you make copies of this?’ I remember not knowing what to say or do. I took the copies with me, went to my task, and it dawned on me that he is treating me like a secretary. I went down to his office with the papers and told him, ‘You do not pay me MBA salary to make copies; ask your secretary.’ I remember my heart was beating fast, and I spent the next few days in a daze. I eventually let my coordinator know – she said, ‘Don’t worry, this won’t affect your performance.’ I am sure my peer, who was a male, never had to go through this.

I remember talking to my female friend (mentor mentioned earlier), an executive at a leading company. She told me very clearly that this does happen at work, and I have to learn to deal with it. I am very grateful she did. I never entered the workforce, thinking I need to prepare mentally for such scenarios. Maybe we should prepare both men and women!

It’s been a long time since this incident, and I have learnt to handle myself. How to work in an all-male team? How to identify types of men? But, even now, when I think of the incident, there is some turmoil in my heart. The reason why this incident bubbled up in my memories is – Moxie, Netflix move about patriarchy.

The issue of patriarchy existed when I was born and still exists today. Things have improved. I know it has gotten better, but there is a part of me that baulks at the unfairness of it all. And it is hard to blame one person at it – so if you cannot blame one, blame all. Yes, we are all a part of why it happens; it is up to each of us to be aware of it and take the right steps. 

Where do we go from here? Spend some time understanding the problem. We are so quick to come up with solutions in the form of committees or give examples of supporting women etc. It is good that you do that, but before anything else – stay in our shoes for a minute or two – and that is all, right action will arise.

I know we have evolved when there is no need for a blog like this to be written. So, do you know what it feels like? Really, feel like? (If you like this blog, you may enjoy this blog)

Have You Experienced Time Yet?

  

We might all think we run our lives – and we are all wrong. Time runs this entire world. The little watches we have on our wrists, calendars on the walls, or our electronic devices rule the world. From the time we wake up to the alarm to the time we go to bed – all we do is run around the clock.

It is almost ten. Is breakfast ready yet?
I have a meeting in ten minutes – can we do this later?
I have to get this done now.
I wish I had more hours in the day?
Where does the time go?

Sounds familiar! We live in a mad world where the human-made concept of time shackles us all. Nature does not live on a timetable, and neither do the planets and sun. I understand that we need to have some concept of time to live in a civilized fashion. But like all things, we have become slaves to time.

Given that time has such significant importance in our lives, one would think that we have experienced time, right? But, have we – experienced time? The past and the future that we talk about are just thoughts that occur in our mind, but not something we know as real—the closest thing to time that we do experience is this moment – NOW. We may plan for the future or repent our past – the only place where we can live and do something is this moment. However, we all live everywhere except in the present – and we wonder why we are not happy?

Imagine you need to get a loaf a bread. You get into the car so that you can get a loaf of bread. You go to the grocery store so that you can get that loaf of bread. You stand in the line so that you can get the loaf of bread. And finally, you get home and eat that loaf of bread so that you can get on with the next thing. And you never even taste that loaf of bread.

Can you see why life is unfulfilling because we never live? We treat this moment as a means to something else. We are conditioning our mind to ‘Live’ in the future or the past but never NOW.

Since we treat every moment as a means to do something that we are never living, no wonder we all go through life feeling something is missing. So, what do we do? First is the awareness that there are two dimensions to living – vertical and horizontal. The purpose of washing dishes is to wash dishes and not to clean them. The primary goal is to wash dishes, and the secondary is to clean them.

In summary, it means doing one thing at a time without thinking about the result and the next item after that. Even if you do, it is secondary – what matters is how mindful you are of what you are doing now.

As you read this article, are you aware of the letters flashing in front of your eyes, or is this article stopping you from getting on with the next moment – which will happen in the NOW?

HumanKind-ness. It’s the ultimate truth

A young woman lost touch with her dad as a child when her parents divorced. As she grows up, she desires to meet him – she finds out that he is dead. She wishes she had made an effort to reach out to him sooner.

A woman’s in-laws shun her because she could not produce a male heir. And the problem is not with her but her husband but still she bears the grunt of insults.

Another young woman is in a toxic relationship with her boyfriend. They are going to therapy but cannot break the vicious cycle of emotions that keep them tied to each other and unhappy.

A young girl’s parents demand that the boy they found with her marry her even if he is not of the same caste. Boy’s parents have no choice but to agree.

All these stories, I am sure sound familiar to you right. You might have had some experiences yourself or know of friends who did. As a part of the human experience, we all suffer through the same emotions. Even if the situations are different, some situations may be as drastic as the death of close one or minor like a car breaking down, but the feelings we go through remain the same.

If I told you that the first three stories are about billionaires who buy a fifteen thousand dollar fish maw for soup and the last is of a poor farmer of a low caste. Does your perspective change?

Until we knew that they were super-rich or poor, we had a different kind of connection, and when we got to know their financial status, there was a small shift. And the shift happened in our head – our mindset. Why does race, finances, skin colour, country of origin have to play in part in how we relate with each other? We all have two eyes, two ears, one nose and a mouth.

Imagine you and your friends are playing a video game where you each have an avatar. One of your friend’s avatar hits the jackpot and can fly now. And your avatar becomes a mean underworld don. Will you start treating each other differently? No, right because that would be silly. Just because a bunch of pixels on the screen can fly does not mean you treat your friend differently.

But we do this in real life all the time? If somebody is rich, they get a different preference than somebody who is not. If somebody is a CEO, they are looked upon differently from a janitor? Who said that just because somebody is a CEO, they are better than a Janitor? As a society, we came up with this structure because our mind (ego) likes differentiation. If there was no comparison or need for control, then there is no need for ego – Ego will have to die, which it does not want.

Life is no different from the video game where we have avatars who go around doing all this stuff – underneath it all we are all the same.

Are you in touch with the essence underneath the avatar?

Leap Of Faith or Same Old?

I recently watched the movie – ‘The White Tiger’ on Netflix. It is one of those movies which has more than just a basic storyline. It depicts India, and it’s culture – things that probably most Indians don’t even think about anymore. But it goes a lot deeper than that. I have noticed that when shows or movies are made from the presence and not ego, they resonate more with the audience. The audience might know the reason, but it touches a chord somewhere deep down.

Eckhart Tolle tells us a story about an Indian and another countryman talking. Indian asked the other person – ‘What do you live by?’ He replies, ‘We live by guts.’ And then asks the same question to the Indian. The Indian says, ‘We live by grace.’ In India the illusion of control does not exist – cars can travel on the wrong side of the road, you are supposed to move even if it is red light, it might take you years to get your aadhar card, you have to make multiple trips to the bank to open an account. These things are considered standard in other countries. Nothing works the way it does in India, but it all turns out to be alright in the end.

Having lived in India and watching this movie reminded me that to be human is to be imperfect. And that implies that the life situation we are in is flawed and will not last. If you think you have everything under control now – wait for a few weeks or months or years. The human predicament is called predicament for a reason – it is supposed to be uncomfortable. That is why things we want do not happen, and something we do not want to keep happening – which as Buddha said is the definition of suffering.

All the billions of people on the entire planet – keep experiencing this and still keep going on as if the next thing would be any different. The life situation may change, but it will not last. It’s like a child building a sandcastle and expecting it to last forever. When the first one crumbles – he goes on to create another one expecting the same thing.

We do the same things with our lives – get good grades, get a good job, marry, have children, get another job, move cities, divorce, get laid off, get a promotion but nothing lasts.

Let’s be clear here – I am not saying that you do not do these things. We are born as humans to experience these life situations, but we should remember that these life situations are a portal to what does not change. That is why human life is so precious it is the bridge between the physical and the spiritual world. Only humans have this choice; no animal or tree can exercise this choice.

The irony of the situation – of the billion people only a few will bite and of those who bite only a few will get hooked – because it takes them towards a realm where you do not need sandcastles – you have it all.

Will you take the leap of faith or stick to building sandcastles?

Trickster Mind

For the last eighteen months or so, I had been on the path to get a new role at work in a different profession. I had gotten a couple of interviews but never made it into the second round. Subconsciously, I lived in a world where I want the role but was never going to get it. Third time around, I made it into the second round – and then actually landed the role.  

You would expect an overabundance of joy from me, correct? I did too. Instead, I had fear or more shock as the primary emotion. I do feel joy in spurts and bursts. I was disappointed because I did not get the role, now I am unhappy because I got the role – which is correct? Neither, the truth is I have got a new role – end of the story. A more profound truth is right now my hands are typing on the keyboard as my eyes watch the bunch of words appear on the laptop screen.

Our minds/egos love the vacillation – they need to identify with something it does not matter what. If you watch your thoughts, you will notice what a turncoat the mind is – Hopes to fear, Rags to riches. It contains the entire collection of the shows you can find on streaming these days. And we get caught up in that story and forget about the space in which the story takes place.

Eckhart Tolle tells a story in one of his talks – In Greece, there was a knotted rope which was very complicated. The story was that the person to undo the knot would be a great person. Many came and tried in vain to untie the knot. Then one young boy came and cut the knot with a sword – rumour has it, he grew up to be Alexander the Great.

Sometimes, the only way to get over the mind stories is through the sword of presence. What does that mean? It is hard to explain it in words, so here are some pointers:

  1. Remind yourself – ‘No thought matters absolutely.’ Be it about job, career, food, family, death, politics – it’s just a bunch of words. Be in the NOW.
  2. Treat your mind like a little child – pat its head and nod politely. You cannot be serious about all that little kids talk about, right? Mindfulness always works.
  3. Focus on breath or body sensations – because it brings you to reality. If it’s not happening now – you are living in the dream (what-if) world. Presence is the key.

Easier said than done. When you are in the grips of the story where your career is going down the drain, it is tough to step out of it and say – ‘It’s just a bunch of words.’ The way to get there is to notice every time it happens, even if it is hours after it happened. Because every time you become aware, you are de-personalizing the mind. The mind is not you anymore at least for that brief second. And then there will come the point when you will laugh at the stories that mind builds up and watch them as they arise and pass.

Trick Question: Which thought of your mind matters absolutely?

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?

Plain Old Living

I just watched the latest Pixar animation movie – ‘Soul’. It is a must-see even though not at the same level as their other movie – ‘Inside Out’. Before we get into the actual blog a word about the creation process for these movies. Pixar movies generally speaking come from a very different place. If you ever watch a Pixar movie and read some of the spiritual books like, ‘Untethered Soul’ or ‘The power of now’ – you will see some overlap. For a movie to reach that depth level, the creation has to flow through you and not forced. The creation process happens through the presence and not ego, which is a feat in itself. Hats off to that creation!

In the movie, there is a dialogue where a little kid is asking about his/her purpose. The kid says, ‘Maybe walking is my purpose; I am very good at walking or even watching the sky.’ And the other person replies, ‘Well, that cannot be your purpose, it’s just plain old living.’

We have reduced the majority of our life into a Plain Old Boring Job. What do most humans do in their daily lives – sleep, eat, walk, talk, watch – right? And even if you have a purpose – most of that also includes – walking, talking.

Now – we have two options. First – not do everyday things like walking, talking, eating etc. – but then how will you live your life? Second – Remove these activities from the boring list – but these are boring!

There is a Zen saying – ‘Chop Wood and Carry Water’. It essentially means that it does not matter if you have chopped wood and carried water for the last twenty-five years. It is new every time you do it because it is NOW. Our mind/ego finds it boring – I have carried water for so long, it is hard work. Why do I have to carry water? It is so dull. Do I have to carry it forever? Why cannot somebody else bring water?

Our minds live in the past and present – which is practically impossible. We hardly live IN the PRESENT moment, which is the only place you can exist. If we could start living in the now without living in the mind-created world, our lives would become so much more straightforward. And then chopping wood and carrying water will be more enjoyable.

Another example is walking – we have made walking a means to an end. You want to get somewhere, a meeting, home so that you can do something else. How many times have we walked without really walking but running through the todo list in our mind? All it does is – it uses up energy from the actual doing of the todo list, so when the time comes to do the tasks you are exhausted.

You have thought about carrying water and chopping wood so much that when it comes to doing it – you are exhausted! Are you carrying water and chopping wood or thinking about it?

Grim Reaper

Make Your Life Easy, and You Can Do It are two of the books that I have authored. And they both start with the chapter on Suffering. My preference was to begin them with Grim Reaper, but my husband managed to convince me that it might be too morbid for the general audience.

The reason I started the book with Suffering is to highlight the impermanence of our lives. Each of our lives is like a book with a definite ending of Death. The only thing that is guaranteed in our lives is that we will die – we do not know when. For some reason, this truth has become a taboo. In some cultures, it is a common practice to put makeup on dead bodies to lessen the effect of Death. Why is Death such a secretive phrase when it is so common – I will never understand, but I have accepted that Death makes people uncomfortable.

As long as I can remember, Death has never been a touchy subject for me – I can talk about it in the same breath as cheesecake. One of the questions that I always ask myself is, ‘What if I was to die now?’ And the answer to that question helps me live fully. The unfulfilled desires, ambitions, dreams all are suddenly put in perspective. As some say – you have to master the art of dying so that you can master the art of living.

I am even contemplating putting this question at my office desk. Are some of you wondering why I want to stare at this so-called morbid question all day long? Let me give you a couple of examples. A colleague comes into my office and tells me that they haven’t done something that they should have done. And I remember giving precise instructions on how important it was. I get annoyed, and then I glance on the question, ‘Am I ready to die now?’ and it helps me realize that in the big scheme of things – this situation will also pass. The result is – I probably deliver the same message with compassion instead of anger.

Another example: Ruby has wanted to be an athlete since she was a kid. Her entire life revolves around her exercise routine, competitions. She wins some matches, and she loses some. And it so happens that she has an accident and is confined to a wheelchair. If she asked herself, ‘What if she was to die now?’ then maybe it might be easier for her to accept the reality as it is and move to gratitude.

I am in no way suggesting that we do not complain or give up our goals or never say anything harsh. All I am saying is that keep life in perspective because Death is the only constant. And the constant reminder of Death will eventually make us more compassionate and more alive. If we knew we were going to die then would we still be annoyed with our friend over something that happened eight years ago? Would we still hold a grudge against a family member who ignored us at a party?

What is your relationship with Death?

Glued To Your Seat

Imagine you are in a theatre watching a string of movies. The movies and the actors cater to all the emotions you can think of – fear, sex, violence, love, family, patriotism, terrorism, heist – the whole gamut of life as we know it.

Let’s say that the movies are so fascinating that you identify yourself with the actor in the film. And the identification is so strong that you have forgotten who you are. Let’s say that the actor in the movie is a hotshot playboy and now you are the playboy, and you feel everything that he feels in the film. Or, Let’s say the actor now is a CEO who has gone from rags to the riches. Or, the actor is worried about how he/she is going to feed her kids in the future. Or, the actor’s friend betrayed him and he is possessed by revenge. Or, the actor’s family does not get along, and she is upset.

The list is endless, and you go through each of these emotions with so much conviction that you have no recollection of you sitting in the leather seat with popcorn and soda. For brief instances of time, you realize that you are the watcher, not the actor but then the pull of the movies is so strong that you lose yourself over and over again. You are confused to the point that you have trouble understanding who is real – the person sitting in the chair or the actor on the screen.

How can you find out who you are? By touching the chair, you are sitting on – by feeling the popcorn that you are eating. By being grounded in the physical act of sitting, you can be sure that you are the person watching the movie and not the actor. If you are ever confused if you are the actor or audience feel your feet or hands and you will be back to the ‘real’ reality.

If you are identified with the actor, you are not enjoying the movie, but you are suffering through everything that the actor goes through on the screen. If you are grounded as the watcher, then you enjoy it thoroughly for what it is.

All of us do this every moment of our lives. We lose ourselves in some actor in the movie we makeup, and we forget we are the audience. And in that, we suffer because we lose touch with the reality of the moment and start suffering or enjoying whatever the person in our mind made movie is doing. And the way out of this is to be present in NOW.

Why is it so important to live in the NOW? Because it is the only place you can live – the rest is all in your head. You can worry about the future or replay the past – BUT the only action that can take place is in the NOW. Sure the past and future can guide you but if they consume you that you do not have the energy to live in the NOW.

Are you glued to your seat or are you lost in the screen?