Tag Archives: #selflove

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?

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?

Another Ten Days

It is time for my annual Vipassana retreat blog. 

Like all things this year, Vipassana retreat centres have been closed in most places. At the beginning of the year, I thought I might be able to do it in a centre – but as the year progressed that possibility dwindled. I have always done a course at a centre and was not sure about the self-course at home. So, I waited and watched to see if the desire remains, and by grace, I realized the need to do a 1-day even if it is at home. And I am delighted to announce that I finished it today. 

At the core, it is just like any other course at the centre – the meditation technique remains the same. Water will boil, and ice will melt regardless of where in the world you are (depending on the temperature), it does not change its nature. However, this course was a lot harder because I had never realized the energy boost that the centres, teachers and other students provide. And I had to fill that gap by myself – it was tough. There were days when I found myself wondering what I have gotten myself into.

 All I did was meditate, eat, rest and sleep. And meditate mostly, 4:30-6:30 AM, 8:00-11:00 AM, 1:00-5:00 PM and 6:00-9:00 PM. Pretty hardcore, eh? All I did was observe my breath or my body sensations. And in this technique, you have to keep silent, and you cannot read/write/check emails; it’s just you and yourself.

Vipassana means to see ‘Reality as it is’ and not as we would like it to be. And it is a means to get rid of all suffering (misery, anger, anxiety etc.). For example, we all know that we should have compassion for all human beings. But I am sure we all can think of at least one person right now towards whom we have negativity. At the level of mind, we all know that it is not right, but we cannot help ourselves. Vipassana helps you see how you are the root cause of the negativity and not the other person and enables you to eliminate it. When we generate negativity there is an unpleasant sensation in our body (also our regular breathing rhythm changes) – once we become aware of the sensation and do not react it – we have changed the habit pattern of the mind.

Why I do Vipassana? Because there is the inner knowing that this is the right thing for me. It helps me achieve my personal vision of – ‘Becoming a better version of myself every day.’ Because I am a better person, I can make a better contribution to society.

Whether you do Vipassana or something else – it does not matter. What matters is you do – there is nothing more important in this world that self-awareness. It is not about building the next iPhone (god knows we don’t use the existing technologies a 100%) it is about understanding oneself.

Gnothi Seauton: How well do you Know Thyself?

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?

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?

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?

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?