Tag Archives: Values

Positive Intent

Have you ever woken up in the morning deciding to make someone’s else life hell? If yes, then it is better that you don’t get out of bed. Jokes aside, earnestly when have we wished to hurt another person. If you are like an average person then your thoughts will be focused more on you – I am already running late, I need to do a zillion things, traffic is going to be worse. Etc etc.

Then why do we assume somebody else would want to wish us to harm intentionally?

For example, you are driving to work, and somebody cuts you off – how often do we jump to the conclusion that he did it on purpose. When in reality the other driver might not even be thinking about you – all he wants to do is get to work like you.

Or, at work, if somebody forgets to do what you asked them to do – the immediate response is a judgment on his ability when in reality the server might be down, and he could not access the work he had done to bring it to you.

You go to a party, and the hostess takes one look at you and does a 180-degree turn. You think she does not like you, but it is possible she realized she just left her purse in the toilet.

Now, in most cases, we will never know what the other party intended but what is in control is our reaction to the situation. This is where you choose to feed the dog and not the wolf within you.

Dalai Lama, said, “Love and Compassion Are Necessities Not Luxuries, Without Them, Humanity Cannot Survive.” Look at the world around us, the circumstance in which we live – we need more of the positive energy, and we can do our bit towards it.

It doesn’t have to stop with us. If you have a friend or a companion, who jumps to negative in everything try and plant a good possibility in their minds. And of course, if somebody has decided to live in a world where everybody assumes harmful intent towards them then wish them well and make sure you protect your well-being when you interact with them.

All significant journeys start with one baby step. The first step here is to become aware of the fact that you are not assuming the positive intent. Most of the times our minds conditioned to see the worst in the people – that mental model needs to be modified. And for it to evolve first we need to know in which situations do we use that mental model – shine a light on it – and the very act of shining the light on it will at the very least decrease the intensity of our response or adverse reaction.

Another way to incorporate into our lives would be when you are preparing for an awkward conversation with a loved one or a colleague – make a conscious decision to assume that they have the best intentions. This would take out 80% of the stress from our lives due to such situations.

And the best way to learn something is to teach it – so if you can spread your light to another person, the light will only get bigger.

Listening – Muscle

I have a hard time listening to others. I am very good at listening… to myself – I am beginning to realize that I love the sound of my own voice. And recently with the change in my role as a people leader I find myself coming back to the listening more and more. Maybe, its because I am realizing that unless I learn to listen I won’t be efficient. And like everything else this is also an ability that can be learnt and it will take time.

I have given this matter – “Why I don’t Listen?” some serious thought.

REASON 1: I believe I know all the answers. I believe I am smarter than others and get to solution quicker. And maybe I can but that’s not the end – is it? I would never do something if somebody told me to do it – unless I realize that’s it something I want to do usually it means I have thought about it. So this applies to other people too. And it depends on the situation – if you know somebody is running towards fire then you will do your best to stop them and not listen to why they are trying to burn themselves. Most situations in life aren’t that dangerous or crucial.

REASON 2: I don’t have the time. I have other things to do and cannot waste my time listening to people talk. Really! That is not true. And irony is if I don’t slow down and listen now, then I will always be hurrying. If I have to make life easier for me then I have to slow down and listen to people.

REASON 3: If I am just listening then what value am I adding? I have to realize that listening to people, truly listening people is the greatest gift I can give them in this world. And it is definitely more valuable than talking.

Or sometimes I wonder if it is the fear of silence, un-comfortable feeling that arises when there is silence – does it mean I have to hold off a little longer. Give people some more time before wrapping it up or filling it in?

Talking takes up a lot of energy and most of what I talk is utter nonsense. Just to fill the space. There is a very little part of what I say during the day that really has to be said. Rest of the time I am just trying to prove how smart and important I am. Now – that has its own place but not all the time. So, even though I know all this then why is it so hard for me to listen? Because I forget, and old habits die hard. But all great journeys begin with one step. And I set the intent to listen every day. Even I fail to do that the intention is there and that is the first step.

Why do I feel it is important to listen? Because I feel it and at this point in my life it is something that I need to learn. Like my dad had said – “I am trying to increase my listening capacity.” He and my husband, Adam would know as they listen to me all the time. I am grateful for that.

I am on a journey and hopefully I am at a different station when we talk about this topic next.

The Capital “I”

I am reading this book called ‘Ego is the enemy.’ One of the speakers at my work mentioned this book and like all things that are on your path call out to you – this book did too. I have been fascinated by ego and always wondered if I have a big ego or not. One of the reasons is that I am very high on an individualistic scale. I love to stand apart, need a high degree of independence and freedom of expression. I also aim high and seem to enjoy power which are the trappings of Ego. And as one progresses on the corporate ladder it becomes even more tricky hence the need to read the book. Now, I haven’t finished the book but that is not a requirement for me to write a blog on ego so here we go.

To begin with Ego is not a bad thing and I don’t think we can be without Ego. Like everything else this is also a tool and we should know how to use it. Like you don’t like being angry but if you see a little kid trying to put his fingers in fire you have to act angry – Ego is a bit like that I believe.

How do you know you have ego problem? Apparently the CEO of one company has very fixed directions on how much cologne his personal steward should apply – now that is definitely an ego problem. To be honest I really don’t know what is that line when it becomes a problem but if we focus on keeping it in balance then we should ok.

What does mean to be in balance then? If something is bothering you then ask yourself is it the Ego in me – do I think I am special enough? Why is something not happening as I want it? All these are in some ways examples of ego. And if some situation in your life is causing you so much pain or suffering that you cannot stop thinking about it- then the best thing to do is to do just the opposite. This is how you will find inner peace. For example if you want your friend to call you because its her turn and now you have spent a week thinking about why she hasn’t called and how great you are etc? Then its about time you give her a call.

The book that I am reading it’s author (Ryan Holiday) says”I hope you will be less invested in the story you tell about your own specialness.” For me that resonated with me deeply and its really hard for me to do. And we all live in a world where the world revolves around us. This whole life is a movie and we are the stars. I am not saying that all of us live our lives with puffed up egos all the time but there are times when admittedly it would make the best sense to not listen to the ego – to lose that argument with a friend even though you know you are right! When you just keep quiet and listen to somebody tell you how much fun they had in London even though you lived in London for years!

This quote sums it all

Bend with the wind

As some of you know I am a big time bookworm – fantasy being my favorite genre.I devour good books like there is no tomorrow. I recently read the Demon Cycle series by Peter V.Brett. Reason I like fantasy books is because they all have a spiritual, self-help base to them. The characters have to be grounded in something for them to do things which are beyond reality. So in this book they talked about the concept of being like a palm tree and bending with the wind. Letting it all go through you and opposed to blocking it. I love the idea.

I knew in the back of my mind that this happened with palm trees but after reading this I read up a bit more on Palm Trees. They are unique because they can bend all the way down to the ground without bending because of the way they are built internally and not only that it makes them stronger as their roots go further and become more stronger.

It sounds very practical too – “wind is coming and it is strong” what is point in standing. Wind doesn’t care and neither does anybody else. And it only makes the palm tree even stronger. But if the palm tree decided that it is going to show the wind how strong it is – it gets a deluded picture in its head that it is THE palm tree and is very important than all other trees and in order to maintain its respect, esteem it has to stand up to the wind – it will break.

We all do the same at some level for the other – we have delusions about our own grandeur, our own importance or sometimes it is very important for us to be right or be smarter than the rest. Keep in mind these are all delusions that we build in our head and hold them as gospels of the truth as time goes by.

There is nothing great about BEING RIGHT – right and wrong have been changing since the beginning of the world. At one point slavery was accepted now it is frowned upon. Our ancestors lived polygamous life and now for most cases it is frowned upon too. So who is to say that what you think is right today will still be right few years down the line. Why put so much energy into proving you are right or sticking up in the wind when you can strengthen yourself by bending.

Let’s say you are at a stop light in your car and it is green for you. But you can see another car coming at you with full speed. Now should you do the right thing and forge ahead – NO! because then you will be dead right. It is very clear in the car example but in our day to day interactions it is hard to notice. It is ok to do what you think is right but it is not the ultimate goal – is your ultimate goal to be right or is it to reach your final destination in a joyous manner.

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.

Role Play

Imagine that a friend of yours has sent you a gift via Fedex. The Fedex guy rings the bell and
SCENE 1: You accept the packet and thank the guy.
SCENE 2: You invite him in, wash his feet, garland him, offer him the best sweets – do whatever he wants so that he will bring you more packets.
You might be laughing at scene 2 but guess what we all do the same.

Imagine your school/university – the students suck up to the professor so that they can better grades – they read the books he recommends, they laugh at all his jokes, they go to all his parties, they tell him how great he is…
Imagine your office – where the associates defer to their manager, assume he is right, don’t push back because he is their boss…

Now all these scenarios are like scene 2 – all of us including the professor/manager are like Fedex guys, they are just here to deliver the message – its the friend aka universe that you need to be concerned with.
This is where the quote “You will get what you deserve or rightfully yours” comes from.

Nobody can stop you from getting the grades/promotion if universe has that planned for you.Sometimes we forget that it is the universe that we are dealing with here and not the messengers.

Let’s look at it from a Fedex guy’s perspective:
SCENE 1: Fedex guy gives you the package – takes your sign and leaves.
SCENE 2: Fedex guy expect you to bow down to him three times/give him rice pudding or millions of dollars to deliver the package.
Again if you think scene 2 is silly – think back on times in your life where you have expected others to behave a certain way with you because you have forgotten that you are just a messenger – like expect your students to address you as Dr/Sir.

Remember the universe will deliver the gift/lesson to you regardless of whether the Fedex guy delivers it to you or not. If we find ourselves in situation where we have mistaken our role as a professor/manager to be more than the messenger then it’s going to be a steep hill for the self-realization goal. All it does is to puff up your ego, nothing else.

It is easy to forget that you are only the messenger when students tells you how great you are as a professor or if your articles get published in the journal of your course gets selected as the best course in the school.

If you are the receiver then remember that everybody around is only a messenger for the message that universe wants you to hear – what is important is the message and not the messenger.
And if you are the messenger then remember you are just a conduit for the universe messages – replace any self-aggrandizing thoughts with gratitude for the role that you can play.

We all play both the roles.

If others give you respect then just let is flow through you, don’t let it get to your head and the best way to do that is to keep in mind that you are a messenger. And if you are treating others like they have power over you then remember its the universe you are dealing with.

Let everything just flow through you – don’t be the blocker, be the passage.

Beginning with a Yes!!!

At a CPM reunions, one of my friends suggested the idea of a improv – one of the first things he said is that you have to start with an Yes. I found that exercise very difficult because it meant I needed to put the BIG “I” behind and go with the flow. It was not easy for me to just accept what the person in front of me was saying and build on it – I wanted to show my smartness by contradicting or trying to prove I was right.. It didn’t come easy to me.

I remember my first course as a server in Vipassana at London. I had sat three courses and the feeling to serve arose in me – as you know Vipassana courses are all volunteer led. Many people had served me when I sat my three course and now it was my time to give back. I showed up at the door and remember saying “I am here to serve.” Those words made a difference to me – I was ready to put the I behind and serve. And I ended up serving as a course manager – someone who is the conduit between students and the staff/teachers etc. And one of the rules of conduct includes that we don’t give advice – we only listen and direct as needed to staff/teachers. And we also served the teachers. I found myself saying yes at the beginning of every sentence – regardless of the what the question/ask from me was – my attitude was “Yes, I am here to serve.” It was very helpful to live in a space where I put others in front of me. I learnt a lot in that course both knowingly and unknowingly.

I came back and found that my daily practice has been established – Dhamma does work.

Coming back to real life there is so much power in saying yes to everything that happens, people asking you difficult questions/emails that need to be answered/swimming classes/dance classes – in short life. How many times have you resisted something and it has still happened? Why lose energy in resisting something when it is what is? Yes- means accepting life as it is regardless of your liking. Your likes/dislikes in essence don’t matter – what matters is what needs to be done and doing it.

In a gamble between life and you – I would place my bet on life and win 100%. Man proposes – God disposes. This does not mean if somebody asks you to harm yourself you say yes – no it means saying yes to the fact that this is what is happening and then reacting to it – but see here is the main difference you won’t be reacting, you will be acting if you have accepted the situation and a much better position to come from.

The more we show up with a Yes- with willingness to serve the more we are putting others in front of I. More we do that more the I flourishes – this is one of the paradoxes of life.

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.

Yoga – musings

Growing up in India words like Gurus/Meditation/Yoga are white noise because a) they are so common- it’s like asking a fish what is water (we might not know what it really means but we know) b) there are a lot of charlatans and you are always wary when these words are mentioned.

I never had anything to do with yoga until I moved to London. It was in the Creativity and Personal Mastery class that one of the students mentioned Bikram Yoga. I was teaching assistant at that time. And in the class prof. had an exercise which was called ‘Public Commitment’ – it meant you made a public comment to share something you like with the class and do it with them like eating at your favorite restaurant, going to salsa class, hiking etc. Basically it was a way to do more of what you like and share it – thus adding emotional energy into it. One of the students said she wants to take interested people to Bikram Yoga.

To be honest I wasn’t that keen but as a teaching assistant I decided to go. I guess it did call to some part of me. As I am not the one for doing things if I don’t want to as my family/friends will confirm. So me, another student and her went to a class. We were in the last row and we did not faint. For those of you who are not familiar with Bikram Yoga – it is a 90 minute class – at 110 F – 13 postures done twice. It’s actually really good.

At that time Adam and I were doing the long distance relationship thing and I had a lot of time in my hand. So I decided to join Bikram Yoga and I got addicted. It definitely accelerated my inner journey. I did it every day for almost two years and I loved it. Infact my criteria for finding an apartment was that it should be walking distance from the studio. We did find one [Lovely place – 8 minutes from oxford street]. Point is I was obsessed and as my dad loves to say I left the golden mean -“the ideal moderate position between two extremes”

But it was too much – I had busted miles away from my mean. So, I remember waking up one day and telling Adam that maybe it’s a little too much , doing it every day. He gave me a look which said “Yeah, obviously.” So, I didn’t do yoga for 6 months. The pendulum has to swing both sides before it can find the center.

Then Adam mentioned about Ashtanga Yoga which is in some ways polar opposite of Bikram. This article describes it really well. For me Bikram was ambitious and competitive – type A, where as Ashtanga is do it at your own pace and there is no comparison – no mirrors in the room. It’s just you. I guess I had changed because we started going to Ashtanga and I have been doing it for 6 years now and don’t think about it twice. It is what it is.

I am not in a hurry to learn poses now – I am happy. The reason I do yoga is I feel happy, my body feels happy. And plan to do it till I die. And I am very grateful for all the teachers who have taught me as Yoga is one valuable gem which has been passed on from one generation to other.

And for inspiration check out the video of the 98-year old doing yoga.

V. Nanammal is a 97-year-old woman from Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu. Even at her advanced age, Nanammal practices the art of yoga, and what’s more, also teaches it to other enthusiasts.

The Need To Know

For a while I was into these quotes thing and I had picked up this greeting card at the yoga studio – it called out to me at that time.
“I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer…” (rainer maria rilke)

Basically he is saying that it doesn’t matter what the question/answer is as someday you will be living it. What matters is the NOW. That’s one take on it.

The reason I bring this quote is – we all have situations in our life where we have tried our best to make things happen and we fight for it with everything we have. And it doesn’t work out and we ask ourselves the question – why did it not happen? Why did he not like me? For me, it was my first love (if I can call it that). Since it has the word “First” in it, it is quite obvious I was really young at that time. And fortunately or unfortunately my parents had been a very good buffer between me and the rest of the world. And in my world I got what I wanted well the reasonable and the logical wants for sure. So when things did not go the way I wanted – it was a tough lesson. A lesson that I needed to learn. And once I got over the initial angst and drama of injustice I wondered why did this not happen?

And one of the lessons I learnt was that sometimes we have to learn it’s ok to live without knowing the answer and I might never know the answer. The answer really doesn’t matter except to our mind which loves creating stories/dramas. And as Steve Jobs said you can connect dots backwards or as the quote above says after a certain time it loses relevance.

I met somebody recently who was going through the same phase I went through at her age. And it got me thinking that at that age I spent countless nights staying up with my girlfriends analyzing every single move or exploring all the angles of the situation and now it’s not even a passing thought. Time does put things in perspective and it is all relative – if you have got a stone crushing your feet a tiny prick on your finger will go unnoticed.

And sometimes we are so intent on looking for the answer we want that we do not see all the different answers/choices we have. It’s like when one door closes we keep staring at it for so long that we do not see all the countless doors that open. The faster we let go faster we will move.

Stay Calm and Keep Moving without Knowing