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Month: January 2021

Pin prick pinch push – 1

Here are some gems from the Acupuncture healing approach.

  1. The body can heal itself from any disease, if we let it.
  2. It is all about resolving the root cause (like poor gut health), and not the symptom (cold, cough, headaches, skin issues or worse).
  3. Everything can be cured. Except death.
  4. There is no need for needles. The earliest Acupuncture healers never had needles, only fingertips, and that’s enough.
  5. No medicines. At all. Just some dietary restrictions.
  6. The healing works on the principle of energy flow (nadi/meridian) becoming unobstructed.

My recommendation to anyone with any health problems, especially those nagging unsolvable ones, is to consider this healing technique and visit an acupuncture healer.

It will change your life, as it has mine and many others around me.

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Yes or no

FOMO seems to be a relatively new age term. It stands for Fear Of Missing Out. If your neighbour has taken a mortgage for 5% and he tells you that interest rates are really low, you too jump onto the bandwagon and take a mortgage for 5%. This is irrespective of whether you need the mortgage, or whether you really have a clue as to whether rates are low.

FOMO could also kick in when your friend goes to a noisy party, and you go too, even though you hate parties. But you do not want to miss the opportunity of being in the limelight, especially because your friend surely would be. Or FOMO-ing a Beyonce concert and giving up the bragging rights, even though you need to cram for the exam tomorrow.

Some of these may just be silly things. But FOMO is very common nowadays, with social media rife with pictures and statuses of friends or acquaintances who are constantly sharing their lives and experiences (often only selective good parts). Just constantly checking one’s phone for social media updates itself could be a FOMO response.

Anyway, FOMO can come in myriad ways. A little bit of insecurity, and FOMO will come right through the door. What’s the way out then? POMO of course – i.e. Pleasure Of Missing Out! Before saying yes to anything or making up our minds on anything, we can first introspect as to whether we really need to be at that party, or need that extra loan, or new car, or even vacation at that unaffordable resort advertised on social media. This is not a blanket ‘No’. Rather, it is just applying a layer of thought before saying ‘Yes’.

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Fear to become

Have we not feared, every step of our way to today? Those terrible kindergarten days, where we hated being separated from our parents. Moving to a new place, not knowing if we would be accepted in the school there. Joining a sports class, only to be bullied by some of the seniors. Entering the workplace – our very first day at work – the butterflies, the discomfort – is always there. When we are on the cusp of progress, we always have a tendency to look back. Seeing all the obstacles we overcame, we must ideally feel a great deal of strength, knowing that if we go through all this all these years, we can get through anything.

All of this reminds me of Khalil Gibran’s outstanding poem titled Fear. The premise is beautiful. It speaks of a river that has meandered its way through mountains, winding roads, plains, forests, villages and what not. Now the river is in front of the ocean, about to enter it. That’s when it looks back at its journey, and trembles. Seeing such a vast ocean, the river is worried about disappearing into it forever. The rest is too good to paraphrase, so here is the original:

But there is no other way.
The river can not go back.

Nobody can go back.
To go back is impossible in existence.

The river needs to take the risk
of entering the ocean
because only then will fear disappear,
because that’s where the river will know
it’s not about disappearing into the ocean,
but of becoming the ocean.

I get goose bumps each time I read this.

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Take less stress

A simple principle to follow could be one of inversion. Continuing on from yesterday’s post titled ‘Take more stress’, here are some examples of useful inversion.

The things we are stressed about, and (how to invert them):

  1. landing a better job, (enjoying our current job to the fullest)
  2. earning more money, (living in contentment)
  3. finding a good spouse / partner, (being a good spouse/partner/person)
  4. having a good family, (loving the family you have, and being a dependable family person)
  5. going on a quality vacation, (living every moment like it’s a vacation)
  6. being recognized in society, (working for society)
  7. working to fulfil our kids desires, even if they don’t reciprocate, (allowing the kids to live their own lives, and taking care of your loved ones with no expectations)

On doing these, we will perhaps come to realize what Gandhi ji said, that peace is not a destination, but a path. Moksha is no different, and as my Guru says, available here and now to one and all.

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Take more stress

The things we are stressed about:

  1. landing a better job
  2. earning more money
  3. finding a good spouse / partner
  4. having a good family
  5. going on a quality vacation
  6. being recognized in society
  7. working to fulfil our kids desires, even if they don’t reciprocate

Nothing wrong with these. Except that we usually spend our entire life, nay lives, trying to fix these.

The only thing the Guru asks us to stress about? Getting moksha or liberation. To keep that as a single pointed focus. And to act with urgency. Why? Because moksha is only possible with human life. And we are supremely lucky to have received a human birth, and that too one conducive to spirituality. Who knows if we will get this chance the next time around?

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Compounding experience

Here are some simple truths my Guru keeps mentioning. They are so easy to apply but we (or I) still do not.

  1. In Hindi, “Viveki ko anadar mat karna, warna zindagi bhar dukhi rahoge“. This means, if you disrespect a wise person, you will be sorrowful throughout your life. Is this easy to understand? Yes it is. His own example is, between a 2 year old and a 6 year old, who is better for life advice? The parent will always tell the 2yo to learn from the 6yo. But introduce a 10 yo, and automatically the 6yo will learn from the 10yo. Life experiences have a compounding effect, and hence an 80yo (especially a wise person like a Guru) will have a better world view than a 40yo.
  2. Benjamin Franklin’s statement on the same point, but just said differently. “Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other

My Guru was no doubt referring to me when he said these things. He continues to say them, which also tells me I have a long way to go. As Robert Frost would say, miles to go before I sleep.

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Kids say the darndest things

There’s a lot to learn from playing with kids. Their innocence is just stunning. The younger ones are a treat to play with. They can either cry or laugh or poopoo or make baby gurgles, and two of these are good fun.

If brought up and trained well, those who are just beginning to converse, may give some of the cutest answers stemming from the simplest of observations.

The slightly older ones can be a revelation, with their quick acumen. But they can also be a slap in the face. They will speak unabashedly, reflective of not just what they learn at home, but also what they see on TV and elsewhere. Many parents give up, afraid to discipline their kids, thinking they will take care when the time is ‘appropriate’. But more often than not, it becomes too late for any corrective action.

This post is not about that though. A recent experience with a naughty-but-well-intentioned fellow taught me a few things. Statements like “Hey, your hair is so white”, or “You are only pretending to listen to me”. were true, and funny. But the potty-mouthed kid let out some ego-stompers too. “You don’t know anything. My father is a better player than you.”, or “Get up I said – get up and play with me right now you idiot”. Hearing these, and having to still smile and play with the kid – was a supreme test of grit, patience and humility. Anger management 101 in action – because – can’t reprimand thy neighbour’s kid.

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We had an interesting discussion during satsang a few days ago. It was on a topic called Unlawful Love, authored by Thiruvalluvar in the Kural. The author has written with such emphasis, “It may seem all too easy to err with another’s wife, but the disgrace will be irredeemable for all time”.

There are so many examples of people ruining themselves and their images, simply because they couldn’t control themselves. Ravana lusting after Sita, Shantanu (nearly on his death-bed) lusting for the fisherwoman Satyavati, the Bill Clinton – Monica Lewinsky affair, Tiger Woods and his extra maritals – the list goes on.

This is perhaps not so different from discontentment with our money, gadgets, cars, houses etc. We just want more and more. And quickly get bored. We can probably replace a car or gadget with a newer model, but doing that with a wife / husband? Treacherous!

The challenge lies in the motive behind marriage. For most, it is purely physical, maybe a little emotional. To find someone who can act as a bottomless pit for their partner’s worries and troubles of life. But the wisdom of the ancients suggest that marriage primarily had a deeply spiritual component. The word vivaah in Sanskrit I’ve read means ‘to flow together’. Flow where? Towards liberation, which is the dharma of each individual. Interesting also then is that the sanskrit word for wife is dharmapatni.

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Shock and awe 4

Here’s another shock and awe post. You know the drill by now. So let’s get right into them jaw-droppers.

  1. The soul is permanent, body is not. All our problems belong to the body. You are the soul, not the body. So why worry?
  2. When the child is born, do not worry about how to enrol her in Harvard. Worrying about end results drain you.
  3. Rituals are necessary and serve a lot of purpose. But merely performing them with no understanding of purpose or having the knowledge of Reality, cleanliness of mind doesn’t take place.
  4. World is dukhaalayam and ashaashvatam – sorrowful and impermanent.
  5. An exalted focus on life gives you dedication and cuts off all distractions.

What incredible thoughts for self-improvement!

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Last resort

Resort 1: Brand new property. Glistening fixtures and fittings. 2500 sqft room – almost palatial. King-plus size plush bed, with bed warmers. Toiletries from a 5 star brand. Food plated in true 7-star style.

You spend a day here and then need to head back. As you have breakfast, a thought occurs to you. You have a long drive back home. So you request the resort to pack a few slices of bread from the breakfast buffet. “Certainly sir, and may we add some potato fries as well?”. Sure you think. And then ten minutes later, they hand over a small parcel with the food, and also slap a 1500 rupee bill. How do you feel?

Resort 2: Decent property, definitely not new. Fittings have worn out, and the paint is chipping away. 500 sqft room – as much as any other normal hotel room. Queen size bed, with no bells or whistles. Unbranded toiletries. Food is homely and tasty.

You spend a day here and then need to head back. As you have breakfast, a thought occurs to you. You have a long drive back home. So you request the resort to pack a few slices of bread from the breakfast buffet. “Certainly sir”. And then ten minutes later, they hand over a simple parcel with not just bread, but also butter, some fresh juice and a few fruits. “This is on the house sir, thank you for your stay, hope you enjoyed it”. How do you feel?

Which would you prefer – resort 1 or resort 2? Is it about money, or attitude? Do we treat others the same way we want to be treated?

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Lessons from letter writing

We would have all learnt to write formal letters in school. We would start with the date up top, then put a to address, then subject, then body of the letter and then finally sign off.

This last bit is where we were taught to end with “Thanking you; Yours Sincerely”, and that got me thinking. These two together summed up how to live life – peaceful and happy, with no place for stress or anxiety!

How? The first one is easy. ‘Thanking you’ is symbolic of gratitude. Just being grateful is enough to move our mind from a constant state of worry about the future, into happiness for the present.

The second one ‘Yours sincerely’, represents how we must carry out our work / duties. What I’m guilty of though, is being too serious instead of sincere, i.e. ‘Yours Seriously’. How can I enjoy my work then? Of course I will feel anxious. Replacing seriousness with sincerity is the answer, focusing on enjoying the process without worrying about the result.

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Wake up

In their 2001 hit song Chop Suey, American band System of a Down crooned “Wake up wake up, grab a brush and put a little make up. Hide the scars to fade away the shake-up”. The song was intense to say the least, and while the rest of it is irrelevant, this portion well summarizes how many begin their day – stressed, anxious, shaken-up and somewhat empty inside.

“How do I get rid of stress and anxiety?” is the title of a YouTube video I recently watched. The question was asked by Indian Bollywood celebrity Suresh Oberoi to Shivani didi of the global Brahmakumaris movement.

Her response was crisp, simple, practical and immediately actionable.

  1. Our thoughts and words manifest into the reality around us, albeit with a time lag.
  2. Therefore, we must think and speak positive, not negative.
  3. This positivity can only be generated from within, as we do not have control over what goes on outside.
  4. Do not look at your phone for the first 30 to 60 minutes after waking up. This prevents us from falling into the clutches of the world, which tends to send all sorts of negative ideas and emotions.
  5. Start with gratitude. Before even opening your eyes, feel grateful for your life, healthy body, family, money, opportunities etc. This will over the course of a few days significantly reduce our complaining / criticising behaviour.
  6. Choose and repeat a few affirmations relevant to you. Like “I am enjoying my work, and am very successful”, or “I am very healthy and healed” or “I have amazing relationships” etc.

That’s it. Easy to practise? Found it useful?

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By the second

On social media, there seem to be an increase in ‘social’ advertisements. Many pubs and bars seem to have opened up, having being closed many months due to the pandemic. People have been thronging them. Many such establishments have apparently been flouting government norms too – admitting more people and operating longer hours than they should.

While on one side of the world, the devastating coronavirus rages on, on the other side, said nightclubs are teeming with people. Photos show groups of intoxicated half-clothed youngsters, huddled close together, oblivious to the blaring music, high on drink and low on perception.

Sure, the business owners need to run their shops, and this may be a means of advertisement. And of course everyone is free to do as they choose – get high, and leave them problems of the world behind.

But I can’t help but wonder – if there hasn’t been a lifestyle shift. Most of the middle class folks spend everything they earn, just to keep up their ‘image’. Not only are more and more people living paycheck to paycheck, they are also living weekend to weekend. Despising everything related to ‘work’ and ‘office’ on weekdays, all Mon-Fri waking hours are spent waiting for Sat-Sun. And when these do come, they disappear in a flash, feeling like a haze, left in a daze.

What if we lived – not weekend to weekend – but second to second. Giving our fullest to every moment. Enjoying the now. Embracing it. With no care of the past that was or a future to come. How infinitely more productive and yet relaxed, would we be?

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Small tiny atomic

Atomic Habits. Surely you’ve heard of this book, or seen it on some Amazon ad or maybe at a bookstore somewhere. I haven’t read it yet. But judging by the reviews it has got, it must be quite a read.

But the title is what got me reflecting. We tend to chase after all the big things in life. A big bonus, a big promotion, a big house, a big vacation, a big celebration. We want everything king size. Nothing wrong with this as such. But do we have much control over them? Hardly.

But the smaller things? These are the things we do daily, maybe multiple times a day. Repeated execution has brought perfection to these actions, leading to habits. And these are the things that really really matter. Especially if the habits in question are bad ones, and changing them can result in amazing positive impact. Here are 2 that come to my mind, which I’m trying to change – step by step.

  1. My speed and frequency of chewing. Yup, as simple as that. But it’s importance is underappreciated. Ayurveda estimates over 80-90% of all disease is caused by poor gut health. Given our hectic lifestyles and limited attention spans, we eat way too fast. Indigestion and other stomach troubles eventually manifest in all sorts of problems – even those seemingly nowhere connected to the stomach.
  2. Being mindful and living in each moment. Even on a holiday, I’m scarcely able to sit and take in the beautiful scenery and lovely breeze hitting my face. Instead I’m swamped with thoughts about returning to work, what to read, how to progress and what not. Each time this happens, I try to consciously bring myself back to the present. No rocket science.

Small is indeed beautiful. One step at a time. What are your top tiny habits you are trying to change? Do share your thoughts in the comments below please!

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Flag off

On a recent road trip, we stopped a couple of times to use the restroom or pick up some snacks / tea. These are in small dhabas that are strewn across national and state highways across the country. More often than not, vast stretches of road are peppered by several such food joints. Some dhabas, the ones with slightly better amenities / food / toilets tend to have more visitors. In some others, a unique sight greets you.

There is a man, typically a very old one, posted on the road side. He has a flag in hand – painted green on one side, and red on the other. His job? To green-flag and coerce oncoming vehicles to stop at the dhaba that he works for. The red flag? To get other vehicles to slow down as his patrons reverse their cars and and prepare to join the highway.

What do you think of such a job? Would you like to do it? Flagging vehicles all day long, often in the scorching heat – typically in the middle of nowhere, with no chance of seeing your family, let alone living with them? And how much do you think the job pays? Likely nothing. Perhaps just the assurance of having 3 square meals by virtue of association to the dhaba is enough for the person.

We are all super lucky when compared to such people are we not? How much of our gratitude to the universe is enough for this? No amount? And right place right time does matter. The waiter inside will get his tip. But who will tip the flag man?

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Taking a break

At least in India, the concept of a sabbatical is practically unknown. The workhorses that most people here tend to be, coupled with the social stigma of being jobless, ensures neither employer nor employee ever considers it. But as is we well know, workplace stress is rampant.

Refreshing then, was to know about Swanand Kelkar, Managing Director at Morgan Stanley, who decided to take 2020 off (yes the whole year!) to pursue his interests. In an interview, he explains how he was enamoured by a concept called time billionaire. We all want to be money-billionaires, but the scarcest resource any of us has is time. If we had enough time to do anything we wanted (i.e. no office, no deadlines, no 7 am Monday morning blues) then what would we do? He decided to use the one year to attempt 10 different interest areas like professional cooking, yoga certification in Sivananda Ashram in Madurai, book writing, dancing and other things that he would have otherwise never ventured into. Engaging the expertise of stalwarts in these respective fields, he set about using a month each pursuing his interests. He says he also benefitted from interacting with people in such diverse fields bringing myriad viewpoints compared to meeting the same people daily at work.

My own experience of a short break – to dabble in gaining a few new skills – some years ago in between jobs was fruitful, but perhaps not as well structured. I can however vouch for how much the gains can be – far outweighing the benefit of just staying stuck in the same job for those 12 months.

Of course not everyone can take a sabbatical at will. Some may have just joined a new organization, or their employer may not be sabbatical-friendly, or one may not have money saved up to ride out the non-earning period. In these cases, some planning will be necessary. However, at the end of the day, sabbatical / vacation / break etc. are all just ways to gain some mental peace (maybe using up-skilling as a means). The Prime Minister of India has not taken a holiday in 30 years at least, and neither has my Guru. They are both working at peak efficiency, the former in his 70s and the latter in his 80s. I have much to learn from them.

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Shock and awe 3

You know the shock and awe series well by now. Here are the two previous ones – Link1 and Link2. These are such outstanding learning points that since our jaws hit the floor, it becomes impossible to forget. More than remembering though, what is most important is to apply these learnings. Without further ado, from my Guru’s Amazing Simple Gita, available here for free:

  1. Skill in action lies in the practise of karma yoga. The expertise is in somehow getting connected to the Lord, as much as possible, in all works of the day.
  2. Liberation is possible only when one (householders, saints working in society, anyone forced to act in the this world) practises karma yoga
  3. What is moha / delusion? Being blind to a person’s defects because we are in love with them.
  4. Are you interested in worldly objects? Do you want to enjoy them? Dwelling on those objects starts all problems.

What powerful lines! Time to apply these learnings, to bring out the best versions of ourselves.

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Running for your life

Life is like a treadmill. We just keep running all the time. But we never get anywhere, in the ‘real’ and ‘long-term’ sense. And what if we stop? Try stopping on a treadmill that is rolling fast!

There is a concept called hedonistic adaptation. It too looks at life like a treadmill, and is in fact also called the hedonic treadmill. But not just life, but rather more the mind. That the mind is non-stop running after something or the other. Hedonistic refers to sense pleasures. ‘Adaptation‘ captures the fact that our happiness spikes when something we have been craving for is achieved or presented to us. This happy-spike though, is not permanent. It quickly begins to reduce, and soon disappears, i.e. the mind has already adapted to this new achievement/pleasure and that has suddenly become the new normal.

A key reason why this happens is because our desires are not absolute, but relative. I know a recent billionaire-club entrant, who has now started worrying about how her peers are in the multi-billions.

The ancients tell us that if we want to be happy, we just need to seek refuge in the consciousness seated deep within each of us. But that’s not what appeals to us. We don’t know to be happy, as we only seek to be happier than yesterday. That’s why despite having all the luxuries of life that even kings of yore couldn’t dream of, we are still left wanting.

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Goal setting 2

In his book Principles: Life and Work, hedge fund billionaire Ray Dalio says, “I learned that if you work hard and creatively, you can have just about anything you want, but not everything you want. Maturity is the ability to reject good alternatives in order to pursue even better ones.”

Like we discussed yesterday, it is important to know what we really want. Not what the neighbour’s son wants. Unfortunately, comparisons never stop these days – neither in real life, nor on social media.

But is knowing ourselves easy? It is probably the hardest question to answer. I didn’t say it. Thales of Miletus, one of the Seven Sages of Greece did – “The most difficult thing in life is to know yourself.” Aristotle wasn’t far behind when he said “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”

One method mentioned in the previously referenced book Your Next Five Moves is to use 4 categories – Advancement, Individuality, Madness and Purpose. You can try out the Personality Assessment Quiz here and see what bucket you fall under.

More than anything, once a goal has been set, it is important to be mentally free from it. Goals are for working, not for worrying. If we enjoy the work, the goal will be achieved automatically – sooner than later.

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Goal setting 1

Goal-setting is an important aspect of success. “Hitch your wagon to the stars” as my Guru would say. It is essential to have lofty goals, otherwise we will remain as we are, with all our potential remaining just that, never seeing the light of day.

Then there are some who argue against having goals. Because these serve as limits to your brain, they say. “Why have the goal of founding a billion dollar company when you are perhaps capable of founding a trillion dollar company?” Well, even a trillion must pass through a billion first, so it’d be better to start with the billion goal and then recalibrate as necessary.

The challenge many of us face with goal setting is that we do not know where to start. We try to focus on questions such as “How much money should I have by the time I’m 40”, or “How many Boards should I be on before I’m 60” and so on. These aren’t bad ways to come up with goals. But as I’ve been reading in an interesting book called Your Next Five Moves by Patrick Bet-David, he suggests that we need to address ourselves first.

What do we want? No, not even we. More like you, or me, each one of us individually. What is most important to you? Do you want a stable job with a US$ 150,000 pay check? Or do you want a million dollar salary with a big fat bonus? Or do you want to own 25% of a unicorn start-up? Do you want to spend time with your wife and kids every day? Or do you want to consistently clock 120-hour weeks? Or maybe you want to balance work and your social service activities?

Each one of us is built differently, with unique potential. So broad-brushing goals will not work. It is hence important to honestly arrive at our own goals based on a) what we truly want, and b) how much we are prepared to work for it (and not what the neighbour wants or his son has achieved). More tomorrow!

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