Tag Archives: #selflearn

If Nature could speak…

I just finished a week of an exciting event called – Give Back Hack. It is an event where strangers come together and form teams around something they are passionate about – and then turn it into a working idea by the end of the weekend. And due to COVID this year it was a week-long event. And all events have to have a social impact.

I was not very keen on giving up an entire week when I started, but when I heard the pitches, I knew I was all in. There were a few ideas that caught my interest. The one I settled on was – making sustainability a way of life by getting individuals to pick a habit which reduces the carbon footprint in some fashion or other.

My team was a lovely bunch of folks. We got along really well, and we worked hard! To cut a long story short – we won the first prize and got what we asked for in terms of funding. What’s next? We will see.

The name of the company is called 3tree – feel free to check it out and please do leave us your details if you are interested. Or, even better pick up a habit.

It is amazing what happens when people get together at events like this – it’s like magic. Think about it, a week ago as far as I was concerned most of the team did not even exist. And the website that we created where almost 42 people signed up did not exist. And now it is an entity in its own right. How cool is that!

As most of you are aware – I am a true believer that change comes from within, and as an individual, you can lead from where you are. This is what fuels my passion for the environment. And a part of me feels like what we as humans are doing to planet earth and the environment is not right. We are taking unfair advantage of their goodness. Mother earth and nature – it is in their nature (pun intended) to give. And sadly, for humankind as a whole, it is in our nature to take. 

We, as humans, have the option to voice our feelings, hurt. But it is not the case for the trees which we cut down or the animals who are dying because of us. That weighs heavily on my mind. I feel guilty because I feel like I am in some ways responsible for it – and that is what drives my passion around the environment. 

If nature and mother earth could voice their opinions, it would be unbearable for us to listen to cries of pain and agony as they suffer the insanity called humans which has been inflicted upon them. Just because we cannot hear them does not mean there are no consequences.  

Balance is the way of life, and the scales will tip and what the world will look like is scary, to say the least, unless we do something now however little. 

What will you do?

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?

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 – it was scary and eye-opening in some ways. I quickly realized that there is always some drama in my life – love, exams, career, parents, family… The story might change, but the drama is constant. And I play the part of the actor with gusto – I 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 – because 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?

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?