Tag Archives: #selfhelp

Home Away From Home

I have talked about this topic in a few of my previous blogs. But every time I am in London, I am reminded of my global nomadic tribe despite living in Columbus. I cannot deny the almost visceral feeling that I am home while in London. Every fibre of my being relaxes knowing it has arrived – what is it about London that makes me feel at home.

Well, partly, it has nothing to do with London. It is the fact that I have moved around so much that I feel at home only when I don’t belong anywhere. And where else in the world would that be possible except in London.

When you land in London – you are welcomed in a dozen languages at the airport itself. You only have to step outside to hear all the multitude of languages that are being spoken around you. If you were blindfolded and dropped in London, you wouldn’t be able to identify you were in London just by listing to the languages around you. Different accents, Different looks, Different nationalities – THAT IS HOME for me.

I have walked on the streets of London for long enough to make them my home. The pure nostalgia of walking down the old paths and hanging out at the old haunts – makes me feel like I could go back to my old flat in Cleveland street and be back in my good old London days.

Another aspect of London is the proximity to Europe. This time in less than seven days I had visited Paris (for a day) and Spain (for the weekend). The pure joy of listening to french in the day and come back home to the Italian-English accent of the Uber driver in London feels home to me. Because honestly, that’s how I grew up in London, trips every weekend. Within 3 hours you can immerse yourself in the Spanish culture, eating dinner for three hours and have a nice long siesta and then be back in London for work.

And it is always nice to know that I haven’t lost touch with the ‘Things Londoners Do’ – get irritated at people who stand at the left side of the escalators. I had just gotten off the airport, and I was back in the element – mentally willing the tourists in front of me to shift to the right side so that I could zip down the escalators. The way a true Londoner sidesteps around the tourists, politely smiling at their awes. I used to work at British Telecom, conveniently located in st. Pauls – joke around the office was that we were probably in a large number of photos around the world than in our family albums.

London welcomes diversity with open arms and love. That is what this world needs right now – not divisiveness of Brexit or not – but pure love which you cannot take out of London. I am grateful for the fact that you can take a Londoner out of London but not London out of them.

Empty Your Cup

Let’s start with a story this time

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

This zen parable does not need any explanation. We are all guilty of it; well, most of us are. It is good to have opinions or ideas as they help us move. The views and the speculations give us the confidence to move forward. It is when they become ‘THE’ opinion that it prevents us from learning.

For example, let’s say I am trying on a new recipe which requires me to steam the potatoes. I do exactly as the recipe says and the dish turns out to be perfect. I make it when my friends come over; they compliment the meal. I have a strong opinion about how to best use potatoes in a dish. Now, my friend comes across, and she says it would be quicker to boil the potatoes than steam them. If I were open to learning, I would at least give it a try. There could be two outcomes – a) The potatoes are done faster, and the dish tastes the same or even better b) The potatoes are done quicker, but the recipe turns out to not so good.

If you are afraid of failure, the chances are you will not try a new technique. Being open to learning means that you have to embrace failure. And to do that, we have to make space for either teaching or failure. And as per the parable if we are full of ourselves, then we have no space. We will be stuck with something that worked for us without moving onto a better version.

There is no denying the fact that it is hard to accept that what worked so well for you in the past is no longer working for you; in fact, it might even be deemed harmful. Our attachment to our way of working is so powerful, and it is this attachment that causes us grief when we try to break it off.

The best way to handle this is to first, respect and honour what worked for you so long – the opinions you held were working. Second, be open to failure and learning – this is hard, the more you do it, the easier it gets. Third, do not beat yourself about it – there is nothing in this life that is worth beating yourself up about; you are just making it difficult for you to learn in the future. Easier said than done, I know.

Practice is the best teacher. Like everything else, it is all about building the muscle. To build the muscle, you have to exercise it as much as possible. You can start by failing in small matter like rolling your tongue, riding a bike without holding the handles, learn a new hobby etc.

What will you learn/fail to make space for new opinions?

It’s Not Working.

How many times do you go through your pantry and throw away stuff that has expired or gone bad? The things you thought you would use but have forgotten or no longer need.

How often do you go through your closet and select clothes to throw away or donate? Clothes that do not fit you or are out of fashion.

Now, how often do you go through your thoughts or beliefs and throw the ones that are not working for you any more? The beliefs that do not serve you but have become harmful.

At some point in my life I thought that a) I could only have one best friend and b) that friend should know everything about me or more than others. Now at that young age, it was possible to do that – but as I grew up it became impossible because the social circle changed, I changed – things that I thought were important were no longer relevant. That belief was not working for me, so I had to change it – expand it.

It was an innocuous belief, but it had far-reaching impacts on who I trust even now. I know what I don’t do, which is a blessing, but it doesn’t change what I do. It is an effort.

We all have such mental models on which we base our life. And these models worked when they did – that’s why we use them again and again, but there comes the point when they don’t work, but we still try to use them like squeezing the honey out of an empty bottle. A wise person would wake up to the fact that the bottle is empty and its time to get a new jar of honey.

It is obvious to use when we outgrow our clothes, but we are very negligent when it comes to our thoughts and mental models. Mental hygiene is not taught in our society. Nobody talks about it – that is another widely held belief in the community. So much of the problems in the world exist because we do not let go of what has expired. Imagine eating food that has expired – no way; we throw it away even if it is a day past. But we hold onto thoughts are that centuries old. Don’t believe me – then take up any popular Netflix show – you will see the same themes pop up – underdogs rising, a man fighting with a man for territory (or planet), greed, politics. We haven’t changed and never will unless there is a rise in consciousness.

Real change and a much-needed one can happen if each one of us becomes aware – self-management is the key. A tree knows what it has to do when it rains or when it’s windy. We do too, but we have been focused on how we look, how others look that we never look inside to see what we know.

If each one of us took upon us to wake up our inner compass, the world would be a different place to live. How will you go about discovering your inner compass today?

Is It The Right Knife?

During my first Vipassana Service, I served in the kitchen. And we usually cook for like about 70-90 people – breakfast, lunch for these many people. And it means everything we do is in huge quantities like potatoes – 4 Kgs, cucumber – 2 Kgs. One of the tasks that I was assigned to was cutting tomatoes – Kilos of them. I admit that I was a novice at cooking and had a hard time cutting tomatoes because the knife would just slide by as opposed to make a clean cut. One of my fellow servers saw me struggling with tomatotes and came over with a serrated knife and cutting tomatoes has been a source of joy since then.

Have you ever tried to slice ginger? If so, then you probably know that if you are having a hard time slicing it then it probably means you just have to flip it to the other side. Yes, one side of ginger is more amenable to being cut than the other.

What does all this mean? That things do not have to be hard – if they are then that means you are doing it the hard way, not necessarily that it is hard.

This technique is not restricted only to cutting vegetables or in the kitchen – this is true even for life. When we are doing something for the first time, it is hard because we are figuring out which knife to use for which vegetables – which side to turn the ginger on to ensure that the knife slices smoothly. When I became a people leader – it was hard because I was learning, and as I keep at it, I realized that I have a toolkit and now I use the tool needed for that situation.

People might tell you how to be a great leader, you can read all the books you want, but nothing can replace the hands-on experience. Sometimes people who write the books are so well experienced in their craft that they do not think that mentioning that using a ‘serrated’ knife is the key because for them it is the only way to cut tomatoes. We build our toolkit – the one that works for us, not the one that made the author successful. It does not mean that you have nothing to learn from the books – of course, you do, but just reading books is not going to cut it.

If something is hard, then it is a good thing because it means you will eventually learn how to make it easy or you will learn something new. Giving up is not the option – a lot of people say nowadays I have so many emails in my inbox that I cannot read all emails – Excuses!!! If you cannot manage your inbox, then how are you managing your life. You haven’t figured out how to manage your inbox the easy way, and you have given up and accepted that it is hard – that is a sad situation.

Which knife are you looking for?

Where Will It Lead Us To?

This blog is a little bit different from my other blogs in the sense that it is a collection of various bits of information about Japan that I find fascinating. For a while, I have been fascinated by Japan. Not only because our Shiba-Inu pup is from Japan but because of the demographics in Japan.

Some interesting facts about Japan
43% of 18-34-year-olds say they have never had sex.
64% of 18-34-year-olds say they are not in a relationship
In 2018 there were 921,000 births and 1.37m deaths, with government efforts failing to encourage families to have more children.

So Japan is one country where people are dying faster than babies are being born. And on top of it, young people in Japan do not show an inclination towards having babies – I wonder where it will lead it.

I am sure you are wondering why young in Japan are moving towards sexless orientation. I think that it is because housing is tiny and expensive. In Japanese culture, – Men are breadwinners. It is a stigma not to have a full-time job. Full-Time jobs are exhausting – many companies violate labour laws. With these factors, it is hard for men to find a job that can help them form a family.

Also, most men seem afraid of rejection, and they spend most of their time on animation or with their phones, hence the fascination with Manga. They have a relationship with their phones. There are counsellors in Japan who teach young men how to approach women. Women seem to prefer their independence. One woman says that her desire to have food and sleep wins over sex.

Japan has a rental service for lonely people. In Japan, an agency supplies role-playing family members to people struggling with loneliness and isolation. Sometimes it’s to maintain face at social events. Sometimes it’s to provide company and companionship to those who find themselves alone.
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If this trend continues, then, Japan would truly become sexless and would take us into the Sci-Fi world where babies are born in factories in a controlled environment. Men and Women never touch each other and live with machines for companionship.

What’s happening in Japan is not isolated to Japan. Think of your childhood and think of children growing up now. I was never inside the house – I was always outside playing with other kids or just being outside. Nowadays, kids are on the digital highway. They have online friends. Earlier my parents used to drop into friends place – neighbours would drop into our home unannounced. Now, it takes weeks to schedule a coffee with someone.

In Europe, streets were built so that people can hang out and showcase their singing/dancing and other talents – the community was so integral that it was built into the infrastructure. Now, we live vicariously through Netflix, Facebook, Instagram.

We are progressing so rapidly in the technological domain that it is taking precedence over all other aspects of a society that needs nurturing for a fully functioning community. Honestly, do we need another version of iPhone or Samsung – I doubt if we are using our current phones to their fullest extent. What we need is more hugs, physical touches – human connection.

How will you connect with humanity today?

Who Are You Kidding?

I taught five-year-olds science during a volunteering project. I was nervous because I did not know what to expect, but I enjoyed it. The main reason was I left the class feeling hugged (not Physically but general vibe). I often wonder why that is – my take is because with kids they are who they are – they are not trying to be someone else or make you believe something. They are just themselves. On the very first day of the class – a kid came up to me and asked, ‘Where is the teacher?’. I told her it was me. She looked at me and said, ‘You are too short.’ And walked off. She forgot about it, and there was no intention behind it – it was a comment and moved on. Something happens to all of us as we grow up. We start behaving in public.


So, does it mean we say what comes to our mind even when we grow up? No. But, it doesn’t mean that all we do is behave – because then we are what the world around us molded us to be. It is vital to retain your inner spark even when you have to act. As we grow up we have to adapt our behavior to different situations, different people – but underneath it all, you know who you are, and you are very well aware that all you are doing is just acting.

Another aspect of it inward. Are we faithful to ourselves even when no one is watching? This is even more important than behaving in public because at the end of you live with yourself 24 X 7. If you say something in society but do something else in private then it creates a crack within you – and if not controlled the break can devastate your inner self leaving you constantly not at peace. It is better, to be honest with yourself first. Know who you are (it all comes to down that) and once you know where you stand, it will automatically show up in the way you behave. It is tough in this day and age to not have a difference between who you are and how you act? But, as long as the gap is minimum and there is a slice of your life where these two are identical you are good to go.

It is crucial to have people or opportunities in your daily life with whom you can who you are without any doubts because they do not judge you. Some people find it easier to open up to strangers than to loved one whereas others are completely open to their family and friends. There is no right or wrong -what is essential that you have somebody with whom you can be yourself and let your inner self breathe freely.

When was the last time you let your inner self breathe freely?

Priorities

I recently watched an amazon prime series, ‘Made in Heaven.’ It is about a couple of wedding planners whose clients are the elite of elitist in Delhi, India. The show was ok overall, one-time watch. But, there was a thread in that show that got me worked up a bit – and not a lot of things do that to me now – thankfully.

One of the wedding planners is gay, and in the show, gay rights had not been legalized in India. Article 377 which in summary stated that any LGBTQ was illegal and a criminal act was still in effect. (On 6th, September 2018 – Indian constitution deemed article 377 invalid and accepted homosexuality as natural.) I have a lot of friends in the LGBTQ community and some very dear friends too, but I understood a lot more when I watched the show. In the show, the gay partner is reported to the police by his landlord and then jailed where the police officer abuses him.

This is the part where I struggled (and still struggle) to wrap my head around the whole concept. Can you imagine being punished for who you are? Being put in jail because you are who you are. Imagine having to live a double life 24 X 7. This is beyond my understanding.

I am a project manager by trade and maybe even by nature. If I were project managing earth then trying to round up the LGBTQ community into jail would never make it to any priority list, on the contrary, what this world needs right now is Love – in any shape or form, regardless of gender. There are so many other vital issues on earth that need to be tackled than spending precious resources trying to hunt down people who at the end of the day just want to have a normal life.

Let’s consider the following two fictional scenarios – we have a tree that is giving very sweet and a nutritional fruit in abundance. The unique thing about this tree is that it does not require a seed to grow, all it needs is a branch of an existing tree and once you plant it – it grows naturally.

And then we have another kind of a tree – which is not satisfied by its fruits, and it actively infects other trees to destroy them from having fruits by poisoning it. This tree is hungry for power and preys on the weaker sex for selfish reasons. But it grows in the typical fashion from a seed.

Which one would you focus on getting under control? Something that nature has deemed right or something that is twisted in its inner core and lives with harmful intentions.

In ancient history, homosexuality is celebrated and depicted on the walls of many ancient temples in India. Even transgenders figure in old Indian epic stories like Mahabharata. Makes me wonder what happened to those pure and loving thoughts? I asked my professor once – ‘Are there truly evil people? And his response was, ‘There is nothing evil – there is only ignorance.’

How can you contribute to getting rid of ignorance?

True Connection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who will you connect with today?

Camera Lens

I practice Vipassana Meditation – Vipassana in Pali means “To see things as they are”.

And in the book Non Violent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg he also talks about “Observing without judgment”.

At one level it makes perfect sense – how can we live in this world if we are not able to see things as they are?. If you see a red apple, you see a red apple. If you see a tall building, you see a tall building. It is easy to see the reality as it is in such matters.

But, how about when you look at your best friend talking to somebody else, and you think, “she does not love me anymore.”
Or, when you see someone else and think, “He is so much more handsome than me.”
Or, you see somebody at work and think, “Man, I will never be like that person.”

Now, in these instances are you seeing the reality as it is? And these are the situations when we should see the truth as it is and not as we would like it to be.

When a baby is born in the world, let’s assume that they start with a clean slate (not getting into past karma) – They should be able to see the reality as it is right? Is that true? If your parents smoked when you were a kid smoking will not be a bad thing for you, and that’s your reality but is it how things are in the world. From the time we are born we are creating our realities – as we grow up we have created the world we live in and the illusion is so strong that it is almost real.

When the seed of enlightenment sprouts within you (because all human beings have the seed) then we have a desire to see who we are. And we start exploring which leads us to things like NVC, Vipassana, CPM, etc. And what these things do is to give us a way to see within ourselves – look inward because from the time we are born we are always outward focused. And when we look inward and can understand the inner workings of our body and mind, we move one step closer to realization. One way to start is to look at life as you are looking at it from a camera lens – for example, “All you see is your best friend talking to somebody else.” (not that she does not like you anymore).

Then the question arises – how do we know that what we are experiencing is the ultimate reality? This is where my favorite quote comes in as the answer, “In this plane, there are no answers, and beyond this plane, there is nobody to ask the question.”

One thing is for sure, what you experience right now is your reality, and that is as good as any the place to start from. Maybe when you start you blame the other party 100%, and maybe after working on oneself for a while you will begin to see your part in what happened, and as you continue to work on yourself you will eventually come to the realization that whatever happens is 100% because of you whether you know it or not. Once we accept this reality as our real progress begins – changes truly start from within. And we are more focused because we are not distracted by what others are doing but what is going on inside of oneself.

What the kale!?! #VeganLife

This year I become a Vegan. It has honestly been a journey. I gave up chicken because I stopped enjoying it, next year I gave up fish, last year I gave up milk and this year eggs. Before I go any further let me say that I believe in the Chinese proverb -“80% is perfect for me”. You will catch me eating the occasional cheese or drinking chai with regular milk, but it is not the norm.

A few people ask me why I became vegan. I have no clear answer except it was time – a part of it was for weight control, but I believe that most of it is because of the meditation practice (Vipassana) and my tuning with my body needs. I practice Vipassana and know that it is my path in my life. And as a part of Vipassana, you are encouraged to maintain the five precepts in your daily life if you are a serious meditator.

And one of the precepts is to refrain from killing any living beings – and that includes refraining from acts that encourage killing living beings as well. And I believe that if you take these precepts, they have to have an impact and maybe that is why I am on this journey or simply put I am more in tune with my body needs now than before as a part of my spiritual practice.

Now, why would my body needs shift towards Vegan? I follow what my body needed, but I recently saw a video by Sadhguru (A guru from Isha Yoga Center – one of the few yogis who meets people where they are) on eating meat. He explained that herbivore animals have molars for chewing, grinding and they also have a long alimentary canal to aid in digestion whereas carnivores have canines for tearing the meet and a short alimentary canal as they do not digest food for long. Now, which of these systems do you think we humans have? We have molars and a long alimentary canal – and the climate in our body is tropical – so can you imagine what happens to meat left outside (or inside our body) for long periods of time? [Especially when it takes meat 24-28 hours to process through our bodies]

He also has another reason for those of us who are spiritually inclined- that if we eat other beings who have emotional feelings, then it is a) like killing them b) we are just collecting their imprints which are not suitable for preparing our body for spiritual practice.

And he also says that if you live in areas with harsh climates like deserts where you have to eat meat – in that case eat meat which has the lowest emotional content like fish. This makes sense because fish was the last animal meat I gave up.

These are facts or beliefs depending on what you searched for in Google, but your body does not lie. Unfortunately, most of us have lost the ability to listen to our body.

What’s next for me? Eating Less and Eating Simple – Mindfully. I am on a journey and grateful to be on it. Will you be my fellow traveler?