Tag Archives: Spiritual

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?

We are all Mad

Adam and I were walking to a coffee shop downtown. I saw this lanky young man with a head full of thick curls walking towards us. He was talking non-stop and was holding onto his pants. As he walked past us I realized that he was talking to himself and not on bluetooth as I had assumed.

For some reason him talking to himself stayed with me for a while. I asked my husband, “What goes through your mind when you see a mad person talking to himself?” His answer was,”Compassion. I think that homeless people are judged twice – once because of their condition and second because of the way we treat them – with fear, pity , ignorance.” Did I ever tell you that Adam is a really nice guy?

My initial thought when I see a crazy person is Fear but not because I am afraid of them. I am scared that there is a very fine line that separates me from them. He talks out aloud where as my mind talks inside all the time. I will be honest and this is not an original thought (if there is such a thing). I read this in the opening pages of the Tolle’s Power Of Now. I read that book about ten years ago now and I am still evolving.

If you want to experiment – just sit quietly and watch where your monkey mind goes. There is no end to the branches it climbs. There is no rhyme or reason to the thoughts – there is no method to madness here. We all carry our monkey mind with us every moment of our living lives.

The difference between crazy person and sane person is that sane person does not talk his thoughts aloud. Probably because sane person is aware that is not accepted social behavior and partially because at some level he knows that whatever goes through his mind is not real. We can distinguish between what is real and what is not at some level. It is a very fine line though.

There is another distinguishing factor – sane person knows that he is not his mind chatter to a certain extent. Let’s say you are in an argument and your mind chatter is running amuck. It’s telling you how the other person is out to get you, they are lying etc etc. There are sometimes when you don’t listen to the mind chatter and you remain calm but there are times when you get carried away with what your mind is telling you. And you become your mind chatter – that’s when we have lost our balance. To use another analogy our head is under water,we have lost touch with what is real and we cannot see clearly. The times when we can ignore our mind chatter, realize that there are two sides to a story and stay calm are the times when our head is above the water.

The human life itself is a very precious gift and being able to watch our mind chatter is another gift – let’s make the most of it.

That person does not exist

I recently attended a CPM alumni retreat in London. And it has been a decade since I took the course first at London Business School. In the first class Prof. Rao invited us speak about what we want from the class. And at that time I was at crossroads in my life journey – on how I want to live my life. I asked – “I would like to know by the end of the course what choice should I make?” And prof. replied, “Well, I am not sure if you will find answers but you will definitely have more questions.”

That answer did leave me perplexed because I believed that all things should have an answer – a very clear, direct, black and white answer. And CPM started me on a spiritual journey and I haven’t looked back since then. I started doing yoga, meditating seriously, hanging out with the likes of Eckhart Tolle, Ramana Maharishi and recently I discovered Michael Singer. And ten years have gone by and I meet people who are starting on the journey. I find that my language has changed since I started and sometimes I am not able to relate at that level. And I discussed this with prof. and he said, “Of course, that would be the case because the person who took the course first time does not exist anymore.”

That was that – as simple as that. And it is true isn’t it, all of us are no longer that person anymore and that is how nature intended – change is constant after all. But some of use refuse to let our old selves go and we hang on to them and wonder why we are not evolving.

It’s like you had a tiff with somebody ten years ago and you decided you are going to remember the hurt forever and in some cases we even say, “I will remember this for seven lifetimes.” Well, have fun hanging on to the hurt that was probably caused by some misunderstanding on your part. This is just one example of how we do not let ourselves go. Yes, we hang on these bits and add to the building blocks of our prison.

Our existence on earth is not a sprint its a marathon and you have no way of figuring out who started out when. But, if you believe that you have evolved then you act as a guidepost for other people who are on the same track like how people ahead of you did for you. All the people in your life, all the interactions you have are sign posts to guide you on your journey. It doesn’t matter whether you liked them or not. For example, you are on your way from A to B and a signpost points to the left and says B <-- This way. But you decide to go forward because you don't like the color of the signpost. It doesn't matter what the color is - what matters is the direction on it.

That person does not exist anymore – it is really powerful to know that at many different layers.

Everybody Is An Outsider

In our recent trip to London I could not help but wonder on how different my mind and body react to being in London. The tall buildings – crowds of people around you – the buzz of the tubes, buses which you do not notice anymore. I automatically start to walk fast, whiz through the tubes with oyster card. It’s like my body relaxes and my mind feels safe.

I feel safe and at home amongst the tall buildings and the crowds. It is amongst crowds that I truly am myself because no one is watching but I feel connected. It is ironic but you have to know the rhythm of the city before you can connect to it. Cities have a rhythm of their own – it’s like a drum beat, once you know the beat you are good until then it feels very unfriendly and foreign. The connection in the city is not very obvious – slap on the back type connection. This type of connection goes beyond the ‘How are you? and the weather talk.” These are built in by the common experiences of living in a city – the waiting for the tubes, the annoying way the tourists stand on the right had side of escalators, London weather, the times when you catch another stranger’s eye in the tube and share a silent smile over something funny.

Before I left for London somebody asked me, “So, when you come back will you have a British accent?” I laughed and said,”No, nobody British lives in London.” The following is a picture I took one day in tube – this is what I mean.

Everybody is from outside so you don’t feel out of place. Now of course this is true for people who have led a urban nomadic life – by that I mean never stayed in one place forever. In my narrow view of the world there are two kinds of people one who travel [Like Live in different cities not just tourist] and one who don’t. And neither is good or bad – it is what lifestyle suits you. But they both are a world apart in every way you can think of.

In someways it is the difference between lonely and alone. When you are in a city you are alone but lonely. And that is a huge difference. Being alone is a state of being and Being lonely is a state of mind. And I am just talking about my experience here – I am sure for others it doesn’t matter where they live. We all came alone into the world and we will go alone out of the world too. Whatever happens in the middle is only a journey which we all travel inner-ly, it does not matter whether we have companions or not.

We are like an outsider for our inner self who is traveling alone in this journey called Life.

Ashville, NC – charming with extras

We recently visited Ashville, NC. And this is our second trip. First time we were passing by and spent a day here exploring the downtown and cool eating places. To be honest it was a)Dobra Tea House b)Chai Pani that brought us here. We loved it so much that we decided we will make another trip and we did.

I believe that it was more than these two places that made us come back to Ashville. There was this T-shirt that I saw in one of the shops which read “If you are too weird for Ashville, then you are just too weird.” And I agree with this. Ashville residents are not hippie but almost hippie. Lot of people with braided hair and a very nonchalant air about them which comes with meditation or sometimes using other mood enhancing stuff. There is a certain newness in the air as you stroll down the streets. And the fact that the mountains around Ashville are vortex centers might have something to do with it. It’s like Sedona except this is actual city as opposed to tourist stop on your way to Grand Canyon.

Like all such places, Ashville is very open and diverse. In one of the cafes, SunnyPoint cafe restroom signs said “All Gender”. Most places had a sign saying that we welcome all, everybody with pictures of people from different races. And for a place to embrace this unanimously says something about the openness of the culture. If you lived only in Ashville all your life your world would be a lot different.

Ashville has a lot of sass to it – I cannot remember some of the comments but two that stand out are
-Indian restaurant had a sign outside: “Tikka look inside.”
-Sign on a t-shirt: “I don’t carrot at all.”
-The best of all – a different take on religions

The owner of the store who had some of the cool T-shirts recognized our Shiba right away – he was a dog breeder for rottweilers in his past life. People there are very friendly. We ran into this gentleman in dog park who had moved from Texas to Ashville fifteen years ago with his wife. He is a author and piano player and they have a B&B. We got into a very good discussion about writing, MFA etc.They also have this cute little bookshop called Battery Park Exchange which has lots of cute window seats for budding authors. While we enjoyed a cup of tea and carrot cake we saw many groups come and meet in there.

Variety of restaurants in a place is also a good sign of diversity – they had a Mediterranean place called BabaNahm, Thai place, Indian, french, Chinese, Vegan and regular comfort food. We couldn’t try all the places but they were all in the top of the list in TripAdvisor. And if this is not enough they also have a double decker bus from London that serves amazing coffee/desserts.

And last but not the least it is a very dog friendly place. Almost 99% of our conversations with strangers was because of Aki. And they have these cool trails for both humans and pets.

I enjoyed my trip to Ashville and it is a gem in North Carolina. I may be biased in my opinion but as they say “Each to his own.”

Right Path

Let’s take a scenario: You have a early morning meeting at work. And for some reason you slept late the previous night and woke up late. You forgot to make your lunch and it’s your turn to take the puppy out for a morning walk.

I am sure all of us have experienced the following scenarios
1.You work up feeling really great, early morning hour traffic was non existent, your husband decided to take the puppy out – things just flowed and it felt as if the universe was going out of its way to ensure you get to the meeting. And you reached your office in plenty of time and even managed to get Starbucks coffee on your way in.

2. You woke up feeling grumpy,not only you have to take the dog out but also drop him to the day care, and there was an accident on top of the rush hour traffic and by the time you reached office you had missed a couple of meetings and rest of the day was not looking that great either.

There are lots of other examples of being in the flow – when the mojo is just right. Like for one person the promotion was like a cakewalk where as for somebody it took them years. We have all had experiences where it felt as if you were making things happen and also when everything that could go wrong went wrong. And most of the times there is no direct connection between what you did to “deserve” one of the above options.

This is why I love the book “The Artist’s way” by Julia Cameron – she has a way of saying things very clearly and seems to touch a chord in almost all of us in some shape or form if we are ready for it.

If we are on the right track – the one that will make us a better human being then things will happen – timing might not be as we expected but they will. Even when we think the things are not happening as we want them – what is happening is what we exactly need. Like a kid who has a cold but refuses to take the medicine because its bitter but that’s exactly what the doctor ordered.

So then how can we make sure we are in the flow or on the right track. Let’s say you plant a seed of a Neem tree (a very bitter medicinal plant) and you stand in front of it and say “I want sweet mangoes, I want sweet mangoes.” There is no way you are going to get sweet mangoes – you will get bitter Neem leaves only. It is the law of nature – similarly if we plant bitter seeds in our life then we will bear bitter fruits and if plant good seeds then we will taste sweet mangoes in our life. [Credit of the story goes to Goenka Ji from Vipassana]

What are bitter and good seeds then? If we think kind thoughts,do good deeds, enjoy the success of others – these are examples of good seeds. And if we keep cursing others, calling them names when they are not looking or try to prove them wrong so that we can prove ourselves right, take joy in other’s plight then we are planting bitter seeds.

The picture below says it all

Khanti – Patience , Forbearance,Forgiveness

In one of my previous blogs I had talked about the 10 Paramis or Virtues. Today I want to talk about one of them which is

6. Khanti: Patience
May I ever be patient.
May I be able to bear and forbear the wrongs of others.
May I ever be tolerant and see the good and beautiful in all.

Like everything else this also has many layers to it. First stage is trying to get over the fact that it doesn’t matter if I think the other party is wrong or right – focus is on me being able to bear it and be calm about it. Second stage is just the limits to which you can bear it – like my previous blog about bending in the wind. If you are working to develop this parami then with every such incident in your life you bend a little bit more before you snap right back up. And like all great things in life this takes practice too. The more you practice the more you will be able to bend without breaking or snapping up.

Forbearance or self-control is the ability to exercise restraint, to stay in balance. It is disciplining yourself to be measured and temperate in your response to trying circumstances. It is being patient and even keeled while enduring hardships. It is having the ability to constrain your own worst impulses and allowing thoughtful, wiser aspects of yourself to govern what you say and do.

Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. Forbearance protects us against doing harm on impulse in the throes of anger or fear. Since so much of virtue is about finding a balance point between two kinds of excess, forbearance helps to keep us close to the center of our better selves.

What does it mean for us in real life? If somebody is annoying you then a)you don’t get annoyed b)you are still at peace c)you are grateful to that person for helping you strengthen your practice of Khanti. This depends on what your overall goal is – let’s say your goal in life is to get retired at the age of 50 or another goal could be to the better version of myself. How you approach a situation will depend on what goals you have? If all you care about is making money and retiring early then you will have a short-sighted approach. Where as if you want to be happy peaceful forever you will adopt a long term strategy of developing your patience.

It is possible that you can still practice patience with the goal of retiring early – the point is sometimes you have to revisit your ultimate goal to put this virtue into practice. These things take time and when the student is ready the teacher does appear. And also it depends on how important it is for your to develop this virtue? To reach to the point of ultimate patience is really long and every journey starts with small steps – it is only by taking one step a time then we complete out journey with Patience!

Long Term – Strategy

In my current role I have to manage a team of people – mostly project managers. And every month we have a strategic meeting and some kind of a fun activity either within ourselves or with other teams we work with. If I chair a meeting it has to be fun at least for me – otherwise why would I have a meeting that I myself don’t want to attend. And at the same time they have to be useful.

Brainstorm Ideas why meeting should be over

What do I in my meetings – in the strategic meeting every month we go over Road-map/NW news/Continuous improvement and about 30% of the meeting is dedicated to watching a movie – a soft skill one, like this time we watched the four agreements summary a) Be impeccable with your word b)Don’t take it personally 3)Don’t make assumptions 4) Do your best.

And for our fun activity we met with the scrum masters in our area and played “What color you are game?” and a trivia about each person.

I never thought about why I do what I do – until one of my team members made a comment that I seem to like these sort of things. It is true – I love the people aspect of it, it is very important for people to know each other as opposed to just coming to work. Whether we realize it not workplace is a social place for us where we spend most of our lives.

But there is another reason why I invest in people. Because in my mind it is the long term strategy. All of us our acutely aware of how hard it is to bring change in ourselves. We also know that unless we change ourselves there is no long term improvement. Changes will happen at the superficial level or will not be full committed too and we revert back to our old ways of working. Otherwise – we would all lose weight by just reading the book, right? So in my mind unless we bring about change in people themselves there is no long term improvement or change.

And I am also aware that I cannot change people but what I can do is create an environment where it is easy for them to be a)aware of the change b)make it easy to adapt to the change. Awareness is a big step in itself.

For example: as a project manager we work with a lot of people and different kinds of people. Not only in rank but also in styles. And as a project manager your maim aim is project delivery. And at the end of the day a project manager is a human being who comes in with her own views too. With all these it is very easy to assume that a team member exists solely to make your life miserable – and when we are so busy with other things this story subconsciously gets embedded in our mind and we start behaving that way. But, if we realize that he is also looking out for the project success we will approach the whole thing differently.

So the key thing is here is not telling the project manager that she should work on her “Stakeholder Management” or “Team Building” skills but shine light on the fact that she may have made an assumption about the team member. And if you know something about that person like they might have the same hobby as with you – you are less likely to make the assumptions.

So this is my long term strategy at work and have fun while you are at it.

Habits – inner change

Let’s say you have a poisonous tree in your backyard – it is infected by some insect which is causing it to be poisonous. The infection is in the roots of the tree. You keep cutting the tree down and telling yourself that the problem is solved. At a superficial level it does look like as if the problem has gone away. But after sometime the tree grows again and the cycle starts again.

Imagine if the cycle kept getting repeated – you are getting frustrated because you have cut down the tree so many times but still it keeps rearing its ugly head. You read a lots of books, you try a lots of pesticides but nothing is working the tree still keeps growing.

I am sure at this point you are thinking – ‘Duh! the infection is in the roots until we treat the roots the problem will not go away’

Guess what this is what we do with ourselves too:
Let’s say you want to lose weight – you go on fad diets, you go on different diets, you stop eating sugar/gluten/dairy, you try exercising but the weight keeps coming back.
Let’s say you want to meditate every day – you listen to meditation tapes, you look for group sits, you look for courses, you manage to sit for an hour for a week, then 30 minutes and then you are back to not meditating.
List is endless – isn’t it and the reason is the same we are not tackling the problem at the root level.

For simplicity and due to my own limited knowledge let’s say there are two kinds of minds – conscious mind which we will call intellect and the unconscious mind which we will call subconscious.

The so-called subconscious mind is not unconscious – in fact it keeps reacting all the time. Reacting to what? Whenever the outside world comes in contact with one of our sense doors (eyes/ears/nose/tongue/skin/mind) then a part of our mind evaluates the sensation and passes judgement [I like it or I don’t like it] and then the subconscious mind reacts accordingly with attachment or aversion. For example, you see a successful person and you have feelings of aversion because your past experiences recall unpleasant sensations when interacting with such people or if you see a cheesecake you desire it because your past experiences recall pleasant sensations on eating it.

At the intellectual level we all know very well – that the problem is not in the successful person or in the cheesecake, it is within me. And you work at the intellectual level and it calms down and it’s good – no doubt about it. It’s good to cut down the tree atleast if you cannot reach the roots yet. But working at the intellectual level does not solve the problem.

We have to bring awareness to our subconscious mind that the sensations are neither pleasant or unpleasant – it’s only judgement that is passed when we have a contact at our sense doors. And another aspect of it that the sensations are temporary – the desire to eat cheesecake is not eternal, it comes and goes.

Vipassana Meditation teaches us how to get to the root level and work at that level bringing profound and long lasting changes. I am very grateful to Buddha who discovered the technique, Webu Saydaw-U Ba Kin for continuing it and Goenka ji to bringing it to India.

Space you come from

My parents were visiting me in London while I was working for British Telecom. It was around that time when I had told my parents that Adam and I wanted to get married. We were discussing the details and we had an disagreement. I remember my mom walked off and I was so angry that I was pacing back and forth in the living room in St.Johnswood flat. I was talking non-stop and what I remember is that my dad just stayed there quietly holding the space. He didn’t say anything but it was very obvious to me that he knew that I was going through a phase and that’s not who I am. And I remember being aware of it so clearly and I calmed down.

The space where my dad was coming from was the key here – he didn’t say anything but it was very clear to me that he knew that angry person was not me and it was a phase. There have been many other instances where my dad has just listened to me and not been judgemental about anything. He never told me what to do (mostly) and maybe that’s why I would tell him everything and value is opinion a little bit more than others.

The space you come from can have an profound impact. And its very hard as it feels as if you are not doing anything. One of the hardest things to do is to watch the ones you care about make mistakes and knowing that all you can do is to be there to support them – they have to go through that path for them to grow. It is hard not jumping in and telling them to stop.You can try but it won’t stop them from doing it in fact they might move away from you. In fact you might even slow down their path to growth.

In order for you to be holding the space you need to be in a position where you are not thinking about yourself because if you do then the space becomes polluted – its hard as we are all selfish at out core. The difference here is that the selfishness goes beyond just the I – the other person is included in your I. It is also grounded in the belief that we are all one at the core and all this dramas that we have are just passing phases for some these phases last really long,for some they last only an instant and for some they don’t exist.

It’s like we are all part of the ocean but when we become waves we forget that we are part of the ocean. It’s the recognition that we are all one – there is no difference.

So, lots of themes in this blog
1. Space you are coming from.
2. Reserving judgement on others as you know this is just a phase
3. We are one at the core where we are beyond all the dramas we create.