Tag Archives: #selfhelp

You can find it – NOW

Meditation, Spiritual, Journey, Self, Isha, Tolle, Yoga, Consciousness, Presence – these have become buzzwords today. Almost everybody I know is aware of these things even if they are not actively practising. There is an aura or mystery around the whole spiritual journey which feels to be very remote from our day to day lives. For an ordinary householder who has a family to feed, a job to go to this seems irrelevant or impractical. And also to some unattainable unless you are going to sacrifice everything in your life or become a monk.

The reality is – that is not the case. It does not matter who you are – your race, wealth, family, gender – none of it matters. Each one of us can achieve inner peace NOW.

Imagine a drop of water longing to be an ocean. It keeps saying that it is stuck in a river, and there is no way it can experience the vastness of the sea or feel its unfathomable depths. What we forget is that the very essence of the drop of water or an ocean or a river is H2O. If the drop of water realizes that – then the vastness/depth of the ocean will not matter as much. Now, I am aware that this sounds very esoteric so I will switch to other examples.

Have you ever watched a beautiful sunrise, or a rainbow or a lovely tree or a flower? Have you ever watched a beautiful bride and cried? Have you ever looked at a baby or a young child and felt indescribable joy? If, the answer to any of this is yes – then you have already experienced inner peace within you. It might have been for a tiny fraction of second, but you have. Eckhart Tolle says that without these kinds of spaces, we would go mad.

Or, let’s say you have wanted something a car, promotion, a bigger house and you get it. At that moment for a brief second, you are happy because at that moment you are fulfilled.

And you know why we cry or feel so much joy and peace – because at that moment we have no thought. We experience the situation for it is – nothing is lacking or added. The moment as it is perfect. And to be honest, that is all there is – the present moment, NOW. If we can increase the span of time, we feel that space of ‘no-thing’ or no thought we will live in joy.

You can actively, consciously become aware of such moments, or you can induce them as needed. Please take a look at anything around you, be your dog, house plant or leaf anything and look at it without labelling it, or interpreting it. You will experience no-thought for a microsecond which will turn into seconds, minutes, hours – and an entire lifetime. And you will notice that when you genuinely look/see/hear or experience something in this manner, it will become more beautiful, melodious.

If it weren’t possible, we wouldn’t be discussing it. A part of us wants the inner joy and peace – that is why we do what we do.

How will you find space today?

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?

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?

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?

Competition

Adam and I were walking with Aki – our fabulous Shiba Inu pup one day. It was a hot summer day, and Aki was dragging his feet. We ran into another couple with their Shiba Inu pup. We exchanged notes, and they continued walking with their white Shiba Inu pup leading the way, happily bounding towards his home.

The minute they left, I turned to Aki and said, ‘What is wrong with you? Why cannot you also walk like the other Shiba Inu?’ Aki made no move from the shade of the tree, but I realized that I might no longer live in India, but the competitive spirit that Asians/Indians have hasn’t left me.

Did you know that for the last decade or so the National Spelling Bee championship has been won by Indians (Second Generation)? I shared this fun fact with a few people and let’s see what their reaction was

Adam (My husband): Laughter mixed with – what am I not getting here?
American Friend: Polite ‘hehe’ and then move on to the next topic
American Friend: Confusion – no clear on the context (Awkard)
Indian Friends: Laughter with a clear reflection of empathy in their faces
Indian Parents: Sigh with a deep understanding of the motivation

There is so much cultural context in the statement that even we as Indians will not be able to articulate it. A child is born in India with the knowledge that he/she is competing with the billion other people.

When I gave my 10th grade and 12th-grade exams, nobody said it, but I knew that if I do not well, then the world will end. Imagine a hundred thousand(s) kids write the entrance exam for engineering and only the top 1% get admission. If you got 99.7%, you missed the cut-off, and you are a failure. Nobody told me growing up that this is how the system works, but I understood it loud and clear. It is only now in hindsight when I try to understand why I am so competitive that I articulated it. However gruelling it may sound I learnt a lot and a part of loves the thrill, hard work, anxiety and anticipation.

Well, so now I know why I am competitive, and I accept that this is who I am. I am one of those people who will look for the next thing – Stay Hungry, Stay foolish. Will this last forever – who knows? The important thing is I accept my competitive nature as who I am for now. And being competitive is not a bad thing as long as it is not a compulsion but a choice. If you are competing with everybody over everything, it is unsustainable – I tried. What do you think made me wonder why I was so competitive in the first place, eh? But, if it is a choice, then it brings out the best in me – and that is my motto in life. Be a better version of myself every day.

What are your compulsions? And do they need to be choices?

Innocent – Are You?

A few days ago, NASA launched astronauts to the space station. And a few days ago George Floyd was killed as a result of police brutality or racial injustice as some of us would say it.

Somebody in your team made a mistake, and you tell that person it’s ok – this is the time to offer grace and show some self-love. You come home and end up eating an entire bar of chocolate and beat yourself up.

There are people like Sri M, Sadhguru who are looking to lead us towards higher consciousness and we have a few people in this world who need not be named who are trying to the do the opposite.

What I am trying to say through these examples is that all these realities exist simultaneously. Humankind is on the verge of making robots real, whereas at the same time, we are not able to see some of our peer humans as real.

Has this kind of a spectrum always existed? Is there a reason why this spectrum exists? I honestly do not have an answer for this – not even an intellectual or a logical one which makes sense. Except that maybe it takes everybody to make this world, there is a reason behind everything whether we like it or not.

Right now, there is a lot of anger around George Floyd; emotions are running high. A white policeman killed a black man. And everybody is angry at the white policeman while expressing sympathy towards the black man. The question I want to pose is who is responsible for the white policeman’s behaviour. Haven’t we all created a society in which it was acceptable for this to happen? We can all say – I don’t do this. I wasn’t a part of it. But you know what – we all are. We let this happen collectively as a society, and that is on us too. It is not fair to blame the white policeman 100%. We have looked past so many items that they have become routine for us until something significant like George Floyd happens. Most of us turn a blind eye to it – consciously or unconsciously.

There are a lot of things that we ignore because we do not know how to deal with it or we do not have the time, or we are too selfish. The homeless person on the street when you are in your car. The little girl who was begging for money when you stop at the lights. When your co-worker makes an inappropriate comment, and you let it slide. When we ignore a bunch of young guys eve-teasing a girl.

If we all acted and did something about these minor things, maybe they won’t go out of control. It requires all of us, including me, to have the courage and awareness all the time. It needs me to be mindful of not only me but also people around me. It means I have to tune into how others are feeling so that I can respond with the ability I have.

Maybe this is the universe’s way of jolting us into the new consciousness which we all need to evolve into – for us to survive.

Sign Of Intelligence

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function – a quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

It is hard to see both sides of a situation – understand the truth of both parties – knowing that they cannot be reconciled. It is easier to switch to one side because it is a more comfortable choice.

Let’s say at work, you have a so-so employee, needs monitoring, and on top of it spreads rumours. He is eager to show improvement but is not consistent. What would you do? Put him on a performance plan and take it from there. Now, what if I told you that he was the sole breadwinner of his family and his looking after grandson. Does your decision change? Can you understand why he might not be paying attention to details? Can you understand why he starts a crazy rumour of people losing jobs because that’s his greatest fear?

The question still stands – what would you do? Fire him or keep him on. A tough decision isn’t it? This is the intelligence that Fitzgerald is talking about.

Life would be a lot easier if things were white or black. If people were either good or bad. If people behaved consistently all the time without deviating from the character you have created for them in your head. But, then you wouldn’t need humans – you could program robots to run the world. Hey, they may as well be running the world in the years to come, but I digress.

If your friend slept with your boyfriend and she works with youth at risk – is she a good or a bad person? If your boyfriend forgot that you had a dinner date tonight because of work? What if your boss cannot make tough decisions as he is afraid of confrontations? These are all real-life situations which exist because we are human. If we were all robots that we would have a strict code to adhere to and we would not budge from them.

Let’s face it. Life is messy. We are humans and by definition, not perfect. We all make mistakes, and that is what makes us human. It is understanding this and recognizing this in other humans is a sign of intelligence. It does not mean that you do not make a decision. Maybe you make a decision to fire the employee, or you put him on a performance plan with clear expectations, or you shift him to another area and hope he does well there. There is no right or wrong answer. You do what your style and belief system says – but the key is to do it knowing that there are other sides to it—knowing that you are deciding to fire that person even though you know his family situation—knowing that you may have made the wrong decision.

How are you exercising your right to be human?

Timepass or Pasttime

When Adam and I got together, he used to hang around me and my Indian friend Ranjani. And we both used to talk in Hinglish which is Indian’s way of using English with Hindi. And one day he asked me what did we mean by timepass. And that’s when I realized that Indians have a different usage or meaning of certain words which only Indians can understand. Like the head nods – Indians know instinctively what the head nod means.

So, timepass is a unique word in the sense that it is an activity and is also a review of activity (I am paraphrasing Kanan Gill – Indian stand up comic). Let’s look at a few usages of timepass.

Ques: What are you doing?
Answer: Timepass

Ques: How is the movie?
Answer: Timepass

Ques: What do you think of my boyfriend?
Answer: I think you should leave him, he is doing timepass.

Ques: Where are the kids?
Answer: Must be doing timepass somewhere.

Not sure if this gives you a gist, but it means you are doing an activity – may be useful, may not be helpful.

Word usage can tell us a lot about the culture. Again, inspired by Kanan Gill. In the US, people do not do timepass they have pastimes.

In literal terms, it means – for Indians time passes whereas, for Americans, they pass the time. That is a very profound statement because it is the fundamental difference between being and doing.

In India, there is an understanding of flow, time flowing by – understanding that it is ok to be a watcher – an observer. If you ever happen to go to India, you will see Indians just sitting around doing nothing. It is prevalent to find people just sitting under a tree or side of the streets – doing nothing.

In America, past time refers to a hobby or activity that you do actively to pass the time. It is something of your choice that you actively decide to do to make the best of your time or your skills. It is very rare to see people just whiling away time – there is a sense of rush or urgency – a need to get somewhere.

The point of the blog is not to say one is better than others. It is to ponder on this unique connection of words and what they say about culture. And also maybe plant a seed of awareness around your preference. Do you like to pass the time or do you sit there while time passes you?

Aristotle to the rescue – golden mean is the solution to everything. As long as it is a choice and not a compulsion, you are good to go. If you were rushing all the time because you do not have any other option, then it is good to pause and think – is it needed? Yin and Yang – there is a reason why Golden mean, and yin/yang keep popping up.

What is your preferred choice?