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Month: August 2022

CWG – part 2

Adversity is a good thing not a bad thing. Problems aren’t bad, they’re good, because they help us grow and evolve into better human beings. We don’t need to actively seek problems out, but if they come our way, we needn’t lose our minds.

In the recent Commonwealth Games, the weightlifting gold winner in one of the categories had faced unbelievable adversity. His father died when he was 10, and the man had been a rickshaw puller – so it’s not like he left his family rich. The boy worked as a farm labourer and a part time embroidery worker, eventually getting to weightlifting gold. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard that journey would have been.

Other medalists had parents who were paan sellers, tea sellers, lorry drivers, landless farmers and the like. Such a hard upbringing.

Having too much can be a bad thing. Check out this tweet.

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CWG part 1

The recently concluded Commonwealth Games saw India put up a good show. I can’t even begin to imagine how much discipline and focus it must need to get to a level where one can win a medal in a competitive sport and that too at an international level.

Years and years of single minded focus on one goal – to be the best at the sport you have chosen.

Quite incredible then, when I found the winning team of a sport I had never heard of before (lawn bowls) was made up of individuals who all began as sports professionals in – wait for it – other sports!

The captain of the team was a kabaddi player. Her teammate was a weightlifter. A third one was a cricketer and the fourth a sprinter.

For one reason or another, they couldn’t push ahead in their original sport-of-choice, but they didn’t let that derail their hopes of a medal. Who cares which sport it comes from? Just like success, who cares which field it comes from?

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Uketamo

This term, Uketamo, is a new one that I came across recently.

It is the core philosophy followed by the Yamabushi, who are mountain dwellers in Japan.

Uketamo means, “I humbly accept with an open heart.”

Was expecting a promotion or bonus or wonderful party at home or kids’ exam topping results or spouse’s career advancement or whatever else – but, that didn’t happen? No problem at all, because, “Uketamo”, which means, I humbly accept with an open heart.

What is Uketamo doing here? It is teaching us to accept that which we cannot change. Doesn’t mean we should try or put in our best efforts. But despite all that, sometimes things don’t work the way we think they should. In such cases, it’s okay. Just take a deep breath and Uketamo!

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God alone knows?

How difficult is it to attain moksha? Very hard. How difficult is it to attain moksha in this very life then? Infinitely more difficult. But as my Guru always says, “Difficult, but possible.”

In the Katha (Story) Upanishad, a young Nachiketas asks Lord Yama about the Secret Divine Knowledge which is the True Purpose of life. Since Yama had granted Nachiketas a boon, he had no option but to give him this Knowledge.

But Yama also tried at first to distract Nachiketas away from his question. He told him, that even the Gods don’t know about this Divine Secret, so why is a small boy asking questions on these lines!? But Nachiketas was adamant.

And so Yama beautifully explains the True Nature of ourselves and how we should choose the path of Shreyas over Preyas.

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The guaranteed setup for success

It’s common knowledge to think that success comes from hard work. But does this make sense, is hard work sufficient, and what does hard work even mean really? Is 10 hours of working every day hard work? Or 12? Or 20?

More than hard work, it’s probably important to have a mindset that is hard. There are two separate but simple and related things I came across while reading something today.

One was on problems, and how we all try our best to run away from them. But if we think back to every single problem we each faced in our lives, then we would realize that every iota of growth and success actually came from surmounting these same problems. So does it make sense to run away from problems?

The other was on what’s being taught to kids. Opulence and cornucopia. Kids born even into middle class families today are pampered with every possible luxury, both tangible and intangible. Success comes from the ability to fight despite all odds. But with all odds in their favor since a very early age, how can they be expected to fend for themselves?

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The essence of Krishna

Krishna tells us to do and follow a lot of things via the Gita. But here’s how Krishna himself followed these (suggested) rules in such a cool manner:

  1. He is always cheerful. His life has been one chock a block full of problems – demons, enemies, asuras, his own people, his birth itself into a poor family etc. But he is ever smiling, even on the Kurukshetra battlefield!
  2. He has zero expectations. Why did the Pandavas fight the war? To get back their kingdom. Why did the Kauravas fight the war? To retain the kingdom they had usurped. Why did Krishna fight the war? Only for dharma, as he would have got no material possession either by winning or losing the war.
  3. He exemplified non-attachment. He was born in Mathura, raised in Vrindavan, lived later in Dwarka. He never kept cribbing that he misses his home town and that he wants to go back. So many people come and go from his life but he was always unattached.
  4. He personifies love. Never once would he not come to the rescue of his devotees.

Krishna led by example. We must only try to follow whatever little we can.

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Advertising

Here’s an advertisement in the newspaper that I came across recently. I honestly had no clue what it was talking about until I turned the page to see the picture of the actual product. Can you guess?

Snowflake hallmark since 1969. Manufacture calibre. 70-hour weekend proof power reserve. Silicon hair spring. COSC certification and Master certification from METAS.

I seriously had no clue! But that’s also how our scriptures are. The same line would with be pregnant with meaning when my Guru reads it, whereas when I read it, I can probably not make out anything more than a few words strung together ?

Okay in case you were wondering, this ad was for some premium wrist watch collection.

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Self discipline

We may know what the right thing to do is, and yet not do it when the time comes.

Elbert Hubbard, the American writer and philosopher who lived in the 1890s had this to say:

Self discipline is the ability to make yourself do what you should do and when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not.

Truer yet harder-to-implement words were perhaps never spoken.

Elbert goes on to say:

There are 999 other success principles I have found in my reading and experience, but without self-discipline, none of them work. And with self-discipline, all of them work!
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How to keep a positive attitude?

We know that “attitude is everything”. There’s even a book with exactly this title. People say you can change your life and your destiny if you change your attitude. But how to do this?

Shivani Didi of the Brahma Kumari group has some tips that she talks about in her videos:

  1. Read something spiritual or read positive books for 30 minutes within the first two hours of your day
  2. Do not read newspapers (or any negative information) at least till lunch time every day
  3. Do not watch any negative or sensational stuff on TV either in the morning or within two hours of bedtime
  4. Associate with those who have a positive attitude, and keep away from habitual grumblers
  5. Stop complaining, and instead appreciate all the positive things around you

So cool isn’t it? And not that tough to follow!

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Taxiing

Heard a real-life experience from a friend who visited Singapore as a tourist with his family. The cabbie who picked them up was super friendly and a genuinely nice person. His only aim? To ensure his just-landed clients have a wonderful and memorable stay. Some of the things he did for this?

  1. Going out of the way to suggest places to shop, visit, eat and sightsee.
  2. Putting Hindi music in his car even though he himself couldn’t understand the language.
  3. Gifting my friend’s daughters barbie dolls on the last day as they headed back to the airport. Why? Because the two girls had been chatting about Barbies a lot the prior few days!

To me, this is karma yoga, doing one’s duty to the best of their ability. It is very easy to be dull and morose and conclude that “I’m only a taxi driver, what can I do?”

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Prayer showers

A lovely Sanskrit couplet I came across recently.

आकाशात् पतितं तोयं यथा गच्छति सागरं।
सर्व देव नमस्कारः केशवं प्रति गच्छति।।

AkAshAt patitam toyam yathA gachchati sAgaram ।
Sarva deva namaskAraH keshavam prati gachchati ।।

It says, that just like all the rain water eventually ends up in the ocean, so too all prayers to various deities eventually end up at the feet of Keshava (i.e. the One Creator, whatever you may choose to call Him).

My Guru says it is very important to have an Ishta Devata, a personal favourite deity. But no matter who you pick and pray to, this? shloka gives clarity on where the message ends up ultimately!

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Forgetting the past

We’ve all faced tough situations in the past.

Some situations are so tough and grim and mentally draining, that even weeks, months or years later, the after effects play (and prey) on us.

And these instances bring down our productivity and efficiency in the current moment.

Which is why I love the story of the two Holocaust survivors. Both had just gone through the worst times in their lives. When they were finally free, one chap was ecstatic, while the other was revengeful (understandably so).

The latter just could not understand the former’s ability to remain peaceful. “You just got out of that prison, and were treated in the worst way possible and yet you are so calm?”

“Yes”, he replied. “We are both apparently free now, but mentally you are still in that prison. Is that what you want?”

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My only interest

One of India’s ace investors, Mr Rakesh Jhunjhunwala (RJ), lovingly called the Big Bull, passed away recently.

While a lot was said about his investing prowess, one exchange between his father and him stood out for me.

When Mr. RJ had setup a foundation in honor of his dad to give back to society, this is what his father told him:

"I have no interest in your wealth. I only want to know how much tax you have paid, and how much charity you have given."

All the focus was on giving back, one way or another. Noble thoughts!

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Positive reinforcement

Imagine you just concluded something important. It’s now time for feedback. Self-feedback.

There are just two questions to ask.

The first is, “What did I do right?”

The second one would obviously be, “What did I do wrong?”

But no, there’s a better second question. Instead of focusing on what went wrong, we could ask “What should I do differently?”

The outcome of the two variations of the second question is the same. But the way it is phrased makes all the difference. The best part? Both question 1 and variation 2 of question 2 will be positive reinforces. Neither doom nor gloom!

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Is there MORE than one type of wealth?

We’ve all heard of the book Atomic Habits. Brilliant book written by a no doubt brilliant author, James Clear.

Given his surname, you’d expect that he has clarity in life – and boy does he not disappoint.

I’ve always equated wealth with money, and never thought about it much beyond that.

But that’s no fun is it? So Mr. Clear has clarified (what a bad pun I know) that there are 4 types of wealth:

  1. Financial wealth (aka money)
  2. Social wealth (aka status)
  3. Time wealth (aka freedom)
  4. Physical wealth (aka health)

It’s good to run after wealth to an extent. But are we running after all 4? Or just the first one, maybe the second?

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Kaun banega crorepotty?

The winner of one of the regional versions of Who Wants to be a Millionaire went from pussycat to lion to starving dog.

After winning the grand prize, our man was hounded by the media. Not for a few days, but for a few years. More like 5. Interview after interview, and ad after ad. He began spending out of pocket too. Plenty of fake stories were published about him. His education took a back seat. He made large donations, and was often taken for a ride on philanthropic reasons. At the end, he was pretty much back on the road. Did I mention his wife left him?

Money money money. We want to have it in the billions. But are we confident we can handle all that comes with it?

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National Sales Stats say THIS!

Came across these insane stats in a book recently. The stats are from the National Sales Executive Association.

  1. 48% of salespeople never follow up with a prospect
  2. 25% of salespeople only make a second contact and then stop
  3. 12% of salespeople make more than three contacts
  4. 89% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact

The first 3 stats taken together, and then seen in the light of the 4th one… Wow, quite the mindblower!

What does it mean? That most people never follow up, and even if they do, they simply take ‘no’ for an answer and move on.

But a salesperson has got to be persistent and consistent, and that’s why nearly 90% of sales happen between the 5th and 12th contact. Isn’t this not just remarkable, but also applicable to all of us, no matter whether we’re in sales or not?

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Smack

SMACS 0723 is the name of one of the galaxies in our universe. This was recently photographed by the much celebrated James Webb telescope.

SMACS 0723 sits a cool 4.6 billion light-years from our Earth. What does this mean? That the the light we see making up the photograph captured by the telescope was emitted shortly before our planet formed.

Think about that for a second. The size and scale of what is going on beyond our blue planet is just unimaginable.

And all this we see from the perspective of our tiny lives, typically just a 100 years end to end, no matter king of the world or pauper on the street.

Despite this, the ego inside has swelled up as though we are the centers of the universe itself. How ironic, isn’t it?

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Directionless or wrong direction?

Many of us feel like we do a lot. Yet all this doing doesn’t seem to give us the mental peace and happiness we expect to find. Why is this?

Maybe it’s because we don’t have our priorities straight?

Despite knowing what is important and what isn’t (like family time needs to be balanced with work time), I’ve often found myself slipping one way or the other.

Much of the slipping probably happens because of the need for external validation. I’m unsure of what my action or decision will lead to, especially if it’s an uncommon one. And so I’d rather look at what others are saying, going to say, thinking, going to think – about me! Really? Is anyone thinking about you/me/us? How much are we thinking of others?

A lovely quote I came across is on Mahatma Gandhi’s suggestion for getting to that happy state.

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.

This alignment, irrespective of what the external world thinks, could be the answer to internal peace.

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Garbage

You know those garbage bags, the black ones that are used to collect trash, and then handed off for disposal the next day when the garbage truck comes around?

Yes, yes, what about it? A blog post on that? Really?

Well imagine carrying a similar looking garbage bag, but slung around your shoulder.

No there won’t be garbage in it (hopefully, because many handbags do look like garbage inside!), but this is no ordinary garbage bag.

It is a designer handbag, costing nothing less than 10,000 dollars, but for some inexplicable reason, designed to look exactly like a garbage bag.

And you know what? It’s apparently selling like hot cakes! Phew, if it’s not enough that such designs even get approved in the first place, there are hundreds or thousands of people queueing up to throw their hard earned money at these things. No wonder it’s so difficult to give up attachments and desires.

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Scandi happy

The northern part of Europe, specifically the Nordic countries aka Scandinavia, are supposed to be one of the happiest parts of the world, if not the happiest.

We must have all come across this information at some point. Know why this is the case? No, it’s not because they are the wealthiest. Or the climate – nope, they have some of the harshest weather to be found anywhere on the planet.

What else could it be then? Apparently it is income equality. A friend of mine (white collar worker) living there used to say that his weekend outings would often be with friends comprising both white and blue collar workers. Surprising? Indeed, but that’s because everyone in these countries has dignity of labour (and decent paycheck), no matter what the work.

Why is this important? Because no income inequality, means no comparison to thy neighbour, and hence better happiness. Interesting isn’t it? Now we can’t all move to the Nordics, but can we do something here itself, wherever we may be? Yes we can, and that involves preferring to spend our money in areas that are uncommon (like choosing experiences over objects) which reduce the chances for comparison. Let’s try!

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Fool who?

In chapter 9 of the Gita, Lord Krishna says that fools think he is just a normal human being (having assumed such a form), whereas he is the all-pervading Supreme Being.

My Guru has an amazing purport that immediately follows this.

“Reading the meaning of this verse, we start looking for fools, Ravana etc. among our relatives or friends. No, He is talking about you and me, because it we who have:
1. Vain hopes (that name, fame, wealth will make us happy, finally!)
2. Futile actions, actions without viveka
3. Futile knowledge – any content that takes us away from the Lord”

What clarity!

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Bye-byes

Goodbyes are always hard. Unless you are leaving a toxic workplace or a terrible boss.

Even then, there’ll always be some people in the organization that were nice to you, and bidding them adieu isn’t easy.

But the beauty of change, is that when one door closes, another opens up, bringing with it several new relationships and possibilities.

Life on a spiritual level is similar too perhaps. Even at the most difficult time of death, which the Gita speaks about in great detail, the give up of these wordly attachments and cling-ons means that one gets to truly know and meet their Creator. Unless one wants to come back to this cycle of births and deaths of course.

As the poet Rumi noted on his deathbed to his weeping disciple, “Don’t weep, I’m parting ways with this world and getting ready to embrace my greater beloved.”

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Why prepping in advance is key – part 2 of 2

We know already why prepping in advance is key. We covered it yesterday. But here’s a nice example. It’s very similar to piloting a hot air balloon ride.

Really? Yes, even though most of us will rarely get the chance to pilot one, apparently these folks need proper training and a pilot’s license – very cool!

And that’s a good thing, which means all their passengers (about 20 of them in a ride) are all safe and happy.

But the way hot air balloons work, is that you have to adjust the hot air (helium etc) that is blown into the balloon in order for the balloon to either ascend or descend.

But the catch? It doesn’t happen instantaneously, unlike much of the digital world we are used to today. Click a button, and boom all done!

Nope, hot air balloons are analog machines, and so if you see a mountain coming up, you have to manage the air in the balloon well before that mountain comes close if you want to scale the peak safely. Whos doing all this? The pilot of course, thinking 10 steps ahead. That’s the importance of prepping in advance!

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Why prepping in advance is key – part 1 of 2

We are often told to read our scriptures, heed the advice of the wise, and attend satsangs regularly. After a while, we come to realize that most of the content is the same – seemingly repetitive and boring.

But you know what? In the repetition is where the magic happens!

Consider the stock markets for example. Everyone knows you need to buy low and sell high. It’s the easiest thing to do, right? Wrong. It’s the hardest thing to do, as any experienced investor will tell you, because when the market falls, your portfolio falls with it, and it paralyses one from taking action, even if that is the best time to buy more! Have a look at this often quoted statement in the market:

During these moments, confidence and clarity evaporates and is replaced by pessimism and doubt.

This exactly summarizes why we need to prepare in advance, read the scriptures in advance, practise in advance, attend satsangs in advance, build our key relationships – you guessed it – in advance. Because mental and physical strength is built during practise, not on the battlefield.

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Yes means No

You know how we struggle sometimes to say “No”?

Especially when we know deep down, that “No” is indeed the right answer.

It might be to a friend or relative asking for your money, or a boss asking you to work every weekend, or a colleague expecting you to always fill in for their gaps.

We may think that by saying “Yes” to such requests, we are actually doing something good, doing something divinely karmic.

However, it is good to remember that every coin has a flip side. By saying “Yes” to everything, we are actually saying implicit “No”s to ourselves and to our loved ones. How?

Because every extra hour or dollar wasted on someone unnecessary, is an equivalent hour or dollar unavailable for us to spend with ourselves or our loved ones. Not that we should not help others, but thinking this way helps us discriminate between who really needs our help, and who is being parasitic.

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Medi-what?

In a recent podcast, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev was asked about meditation.

He clarified, that meditation is not an activity. It is not about sitting in a place and trying to do something specific. Really? It’s not?

He said that meditation is not something that can be done. But rather that it is a quality. How?

Because, he explained, that one of the qualities of a person, is to be meditative. That is the way to truly live one’s life. This is exactly what my Guru also says, and we have covered this extensively here on FHN.

How to build this quality? By reducing attachments and desires. Which we know, don’t we? ?

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Forrest

There’s an Aamir Khan movie coming up (Aug 2022) which is a remake of the classic Tom Hanks Hollywood movie called Forrest Gump.

That original one is on IMDB’s top 10 movies of all time, having got an incredible score of 8.8 on 10.

While most movies extol heroes with IQs of 150 and bulging biceps, here was one that highlighted a “half-wit”, as the protagonist himself would admit.

There is beauty in simplicity, and probably something we would all love to embrace. Check out this brilliant dialogue from the movie:

Jenny (Forrest’s love interest): Do you ever dream Forrest, about who you’re gonna be?

Forrest: Who I’m gonna be?

Jenny: Yeah.

Forrest: Aren’t I gonna be me?

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Turning the tables

In many parts of the Gita, Lord Krishna mentions that he is only the Watcher, not the Doer. He has only created the Nature around us to function based on certain laws (of nature), and whatever happens thereafter is upon creation, not Him.

Some people question this. How?

By asking why the Lord would not step in where required. Seems very easy to just say, “Okay, I’ve created, and so my part here is done.”. Why not interfere when things are going wrong? If crime is being committed, why would the Lord not come in and take charge? Why does he have to say that he has nothing to do with this?

The answer lies in karmic theory of course. That we each are responsible for what we do, and this karmic record spans multiple lifetimes. But there is another way to think of this as well.

What if the Lord questions us thus, “Hey I created this universe and world and have given each of you the most beautiful planet to live on. I’ve ensured everything is perfect, beautiful nature, bountiful resources and every reason for you to be happy forever. And yet, what have you people done? Are you really happy? Are the resources you’ve been given used properly? Sustainably? Are you all living together in love and harmony?”

The tables have been turned.

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One or the other

Having a traveling job is awesome. You get to see so many places, live in nice hotels, and enjoy diverse cuisines. Except, this is the outsider view. Ask anyone working like this, living half their lives on a flight or hotel and they would tell you how much they would rather be in a non-traveling job coming home to family each night. Ask anyone doing a desk job, and they’d be yearning to travel to various countries, always jet setting and globe trotting.

Working in a startup is really amazing. Freedom to choose your own work, style of work, location of work – you name it. But ask someone in a startup and they’d probably like the stability offered by a role in an established company. Ask someone in an established company though, and they’d be yearning for working at a startup.

Ask someone living in a city, and they’d hate it and want to “go live peacefully in the outdoors”. But ask the rural folk, and they’d love to be in the city to “earn more and live better”.

You can see where these comparisons are going. No place is perfect, except if our mind thinks it is.

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