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Month: June 2023

Shadow monster

A man once achieved success. But he soon felt his sense of achievement dwindling away. And felt that he had to achieve more.

So he ran and ran, faster and faster. But he didn’t like that his shadow was catching up to him all the time.

So what did he do? He ran faster of course! No matter what he did, he couldn’t shake it off.

Of course, he could have just stepped into the shade.

But the man dropped dead soon enough, having tired himself out in the constant search for external perfection.

Life isn’t about that. Life is about finding internal perfection.

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Ness

The ultimate spiritual teaching seems to focus on Nothingness. That nothing we see around us is real. Nothing is truly relevant, because in the long run, we are all reduced to nothing. The 3 gunas sattva rajas and tamas are great, but if you want to attain God you have to go beyond, to nothing. Ego is the root cause of all problems, so give up ego, and become one with nothing.

But is this practical? Not for me at least, nope. The flip side to nothing is everything. Instead of constantly being focused only on ourselves, we can focus on others around us, which will automatically drive down the ego. The Lord might be in nothing, but He sure is in everything as well. Gratitude for everything we have in life is much easier than gratitude in nothing. While creation might seem unreal in a spirituality textbook, everything is real enough to us inside this body.

So its perhaps not Nothingness, but Everythingness that is an easier answer.

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35 and above

Is 35 a good number? If it’s age, then not so much, because 25 is better.

But if it’s marks on an exam? In a world where even high-scoring 99s aren’t enough, what is a mere 35?

So I was pleasantly surprised to see a newspaper article about a family celebrating the graduation of the son from grade 10.

What did he score? Yes you guessed it, 35! Not just in one subject, but in all the subjects!

35 is pass mark. 35 and your good. 34 you’ve to repeat the year.

For a family that was surving hand to mouth, with limited education facilties, this boy cleared his exams, even if just barely, and it was enough for a whole lot rejoicing.

Surely the little things in life count (upto 35 at least)!

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Questioning the basics

In pretty much every field that we begin to learn, we do not question the end.

Take biology. Even today, we don’t understand it fully. And yet, we have biologists and zoologists and all types of medical professionals, who never questioned whether biology exists, but simply began working towards their goal, studying and researching day after day.

Ditto for physics and chemistry and every other field out there.

When changes occur in the understanding, then the learning process is quickly re-adapted.

But in spirituality alone, most non-believers first want to establish the presence of God (ie the end point) and understand Him in entirety. Just as any saint or realized soul would tell us, God is unknowable and unfathomable to the human mind and intellect.

So what’s the way out? Simply going back to the basics, and living a spiritual life, in service of others, not day by day, but second by second.

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Titaning the noose

Some people love to live on the precipice of danger. The thrill of adrenaline. I’ve never understood it.

Why would one stuff oneself into a small tube and go down the depths of the ocean to see a sunken ship? There must be some good reason that my tiny brain is unable to process.

And it’s not like the ride was free. It was a cool quarter of a million dollars per head. Phew! It’s like a 1000x magnified version of paying crazy ticket prices to go see a horror movie – as if the horrors of daily life aren’t enough!

Many people routinely do this – climbing mountain peaks that are overly crowded, or parkour on top of skyscrapers with no safety harnesses, or surf in shark infested waters. Why voluntarily increase the probability of throwing away one’s life?

As our scriptures tell us, this human birth is incredibly rare. Why do we want to throw it away? But as my Guru points out, if we are not on the spiritual path and constantly focused on the Lord, then we are anyway throwing our lives away!

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Sinless

Here’s a lovely take from Osho on what it means to be sinful and sinless:

Anything that stops your evolution in consciousness is evil. It is a sin. 
And anything that helps you to move toward more consciousness is a virtue. 
That's the only definition that I can give to you. 
Be more aesthetic, be more sensitive, be more respectful of life, because you are part of it. 
Whoever you are killing, you are killing yourself. Your destructiveness is suicidal.
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AAAA

Came across an interesting speech today. The gentleman was speaking about “How to be a good subordinate”.

I said, what?

The whole world is running after how to be a CEO and a leader and a master and a winner. And here this fellow is giving a talk on how to be a good subordinate?

Yep, because he has a good point. As he notes, one cannot attain the corner office at the age of 25 or 30. Good things, like the wisdom of experience, take time.

So how to be a good subordinate? Follow the 4As.

A for Accomplishment, as one needs to deliver. A for Affability, as one needs to be able to get along with one’s boss. A for Advocacy, of ourselves, because we are all salesmen, even if we aren’t in sales. A for Authenticity, because that’s we always need to be.

If I had to add one more A, it would be A for the Almighty, because without Him, nothing is possible!

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Inferior knowledge

It’s always good to know more about everything. Being a voracious reader and consumer of information is great. It can certainly help one make a mark in relationships. If the group you’re with is talking about sports or art or literature or finance or movies or science – doesn’t matter – because you’re still going to be able to contribute to the conversation and sound intelligent!

This is fantastic. But what if you don’t read much. Maybe you don’t have the time. Or maybe you aren’t interested, just aren’t able to read a book cover to cover, or watch educational videos much. Or maybe you do some or all of these, but still are blessed with a terrible memory (like yours truly!) that nothing sticks. Does it mean such people will never be able to build relationships?

Not quite. It’s a fallacy to think that the smartest and most talkative guy in the room is the winner. Sure such persons will have the spotlight on them. But more than anything, what people like, is to talk. And if you give them that opportunity, and listen to them really well, you can build far better relationships than you ever would simply by consuming a lot of knowledge.

This is fabulous, because it is easy. Doesn’t require preparation or complexes of inferiority. All it needs is to be aware and present in the moment. And as long as you get the other person speaking, and you are listening, you will be fine.

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Dealing with change

In a recent satsang, there was a query on how one should deal with change. The 3-step answer given by the speaker was brilliant.

  1. Accept that change will happen. We cannot slow ageing for instance. Or that many circumstances are beyond our control, and will naturally look different and evolve in different ways tomorrow. Not resisting change will solve half the problem.
  2. Dealing with change positively requires a purpose in life. While a professional and personal purpose is good, a spiritual purpose is a game changer and life changer.
  3. Eventually, we will realise, that the true purpose is not to run away from change, but to seek the truly changeless, that is there deep inside each one of us, who we may call God or Consciousness or Brahman etc.

So nice, isn’t it?

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The perils of numero uno

In a world consumed by the race for being the best,

We frequently forget the perils of this relentless quest.

Seeking validation, we sacrifice our peace of mind,

Leaving the true joy life holds far behind.

But the race to number one is an elusive game,

A mirage that flickers like a flame.

Happiness lies not in the laurels we achieve,

But in embracing nature and the lessons we receive.

So give up the pressure to always be at the peak,

Solace is in the journey, the joy that’s truly unique.

In being true to ourselves, we find our inner peace,

And be foreverhappynow, as our own masterpiece.

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Angry fellwoo

There’s a lovely heartwarming Korean TV series called Extraordinary Attorney Woo.

It focuses on autism and how anyone with such a disorder needs to be encouraged as they too can contribute to society. What we call normal, is perhaps just our own condescending and deluded version of how we see the world and expect it to function.

One scene I loved was when Attorney Woo-Young-Woo is shouted at by her superior at work.

If it was me in her place, it would have shaken me to the core. And I’d have been thinking about the incident for months thereafter.

But Attorney Woo? Being autistic, she doesn’t grasp emotions like anger instinctively. Instead she says, “Oh, your cheeks are getting red, your voice is rising, your ears are flexing, your nostrils are enlarging, your eyebrows are pointing upwards, oh – that means you must be getting angry!”

Deconstructed this way, that’s all anger really is, isn’t it? Why should we take the actions of someone else to our hearts?

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4 legged furore

There is a furore around practically everything nowadays, whether mundane or regal. When the PM of India inaugurated the new parliament building, there were all sorts of comments that were passed.

But as we well know, FHN is never political, and so we’ll steer clear of those things. But what I found intriguing is the staff / sceptre called sengol that was used in the ceremony.

It has a golden bull on the top, Nandi, the divine vehicle of Lord Shiva.

And what does it signify?

The 4 legs of the bull are symbolic of satyam (truth), shaucham (purity or cleanliness), daya (compassion) and tapas (austerity).

What it means, is that any king holding the sengol must abide by these 4 virtues. These are not virtues to be forced upon people, rather this is what the king himself must imbibe.

Any leader in the workplace today too can benefit by following these.

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Dematerialized

On a recent long flight for work, I was happy to just head back home after all the insane travel and hectic schedule. After the bags were checked-in, and my immigration cleared, it was time to just unwind and sleep on the plane.

We sat on the plane, and the plane sat on the tarmac, for the entirety of 6 hours. And then we were de-planed – back to square one as it were.

With no substitute flight in sight, the only option was to book another carrier. So take my luggage, and re-check-in and repeat the entire process. But the luggage didn’t come. The first plane’s cargo hold wouldn’t be opened because of a lack of manpower (impossible to fathom for those hailing from a country of 1.4 billion!).

Filing a complaint with the airport baggage services team resulted in an arrangement where the bags could / should be delivered directly to my home… within 22 days, or monetary compensation if undelivered!

Money cannot compensate for some of the things in the bag – gifts purchased for those back home for instance. Nor can it compensate for the lost time and energy. But such is life, providing first-hand practical lessons on the importance of de-materialism and its mental acceptance.

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Automatic waste

Came across an interesting thought today. Evolution has made it such that we have been constantly discarding things from time to time. Adapting to the cycle of change, as if it were.

The human appendix was important to digest tough food. Ear muscles would help point one’s ears to listen for predators. Sinuses once helped us with a keen sense of smell. The tailbone was once a tail.

All these body parts were useful at some point. But are no more so.

The same is true of our material possessions. But often times people continue to hoard more than ever necessary. Sometimes even unnecessary things are hoarded. We should perhaps take a cue from our bodies.

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Dear intern

In one of the largest tech companies in the world, a recently-joined intern messed up. The intern sent out a blank test email to thousands of the company’s customers.

A major faux-pas, if there was one.

The company immediately tried to fix the situation, apologizing on social media that it was a fat finger type error by an intern.

“Yes by an intern, so don’t blame the company.”

What I loved was seeing how the internet reacted to that. Truckloads of messages poured in of examples of people’s own mistakes, and more importantly, how they have still managed to survive and thrive till today!

Mistakes are a part and parcel of life, as long as learning from them is how we use them.

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Don’t believe everything you think – part 4

A final few excerpts from the brilliant book:

It’s not possible to just entirely stop thinking, but what we can do is reduce the time we spend thinking so that it gets smaller and smaller each day that passes. Eventually we can get to the point where we spend most of our day not caught up in our thinking and live in a blissful state most of the time. When we say that we want to stop thinking, many people assume that we are trying to stop all thoughts in general. This isn’t what we’re trying to do. Now that you know the difference between thoughts and thinking, we are working on allowing thoughts to come and flow through us while we minimize the thinking about those thoughts that emerge.
The most interesting and almost paradoxical thing about stopping our thinking is that we don’t have to do anything to minimize it other than to be aware of it. By us becoming aware that we are thinking and that it is the root cause of all our suffering, it automatically makes us conscious to that fact and we become detached to it, allowing it to settle and pass. This takes almost no effort and is done through pure presence in the moment.

Highly recommend reading the entire book!

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Don’t believe everything you think – part 3

A few more superb excerpts from the book:

What’s crazy is that most people didn’t have any thoughts going through their mind when they felt the happiest and the most amount of love in their lives. For those that had the thought that they were grateful, they felt that way before having that thought. If they had that thought, it happened after they felt the feelings, so the thought could not have produced the feeling. This brings us to another truth: you do not have to have thoughts or think to feel positive emotions.
It is not the content of our thinking that causes us stress, but that we are thinking, period. The amount of thinking we have going on is directly correlated to the magnitude of stress and negative emotions we are experiencing at any given moment. When you’re experiencing a lot of frustration, stress, anxiety, or any negative emotions, just know that it is because you’re thinking, and the intensity of those emotions is directly correlated to how much thinking is going on. Therefore, it’s not WHAT we’re thinking about that is causing us suffering, but THAT we are thinking. To summarize, we do not have to try to “think positive” to experience love, joy, bliss, and any positive emotions we want because it is our natural state to feel those emotions.
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Don’t believe everything you think – part 2

Continued today again, a few excerpts from the lovely book…

Our minds do an incredible job to keep us alive, but it does not help us thrive. It is concerned solely with our safety and survival, but not our fulfillment or joy. The mind’s job is to alert us of potential dangers in our environment that may threaten our lives. It does its job so well that not only will it scan our immediate surroundings for threats, but it will even reference our backlog of past experiences to create hypothetical scenarios and predict what it thinks could be future potential dangers based on our memories.
Thoughts are the energetic, mental raw materials which we use to create everything in the world. We can’t experience anything without thought. It’s important to know that thoughts are a noun and aren’t something that we do, but something we have. A thought takes no effort or force on our end, and it is something that just happens. We also cannot control what thoughts pop into our minds. The source of thoughts comes from something that is beyond our minds —the Universe, if you will. Thinking, on the other hand, is the act of thinking about our thoughts. This takes a significant amount of energy, effort, and willpower (which is a finite resource). Thinking is actively engaging with the thoughts in your mind. You don’t have to engage with each thought in your mind, but when you do, that is thinking. Thinking is the root cause of all our psychological suffering.
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Don’t believe everything you think – part 1

Just finished reading a very nice book called “Don’t believe everything you think”, by Joseph Nguyen. Some very interesting snippets:

It’s not about the events that happen in our lives, but our interpretation of them, which causes us to feel good or bad about something. This is how people in third world countries can be happier than people in first world countries and people in first world countries can be more miserable than people in third world countries. Our feelings do not come from external events, but from our own thinking about the events. Therefore, we can only ever feel what we are thinking.
The root cause of our suffering is our own thinking. Now before you throw this book across the room and light it on fire, I’m not saying that this is all in our heads and that it isn’t real. Our perception of reality is very real. We will feel what we think, and our feelings are real. That is completely undeniable . However, our thinking will look like an inevitable, unchangeable reality to us until we begin seeing how our reality is created. If we know that we can only ever feel what we are thinking, then we know that we can change our feelings by changing our thinking.

Superb no? More tomorrow…

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Cloying

You know that feeling when you’ve had way too many chocolates? And then you have just one more. And it then gets too darn sweet. An excessive level of sweetness that suddenly becomes unbearable? The big English word for this is cloying.

It’s an interesting word, and is reflective of society in some ways today. Folks can be sugary and sweet on the outside, but deep inside, almost everyone is boiling with anger or fear or jealousy. Sweetness that’s so sweet that it’s repulsive.

Often times, like the first many chocolates, all the problems of the world remain bottled up. Until one fine day, the proverbial last straw breaks the camel’s back.

How to tackle this? Perhaps by being more reflective. Not waiting to eat the last chocolate. And realizing that life will have its ups and downs. And in the midst of this all, if we can truly be sweet to others, that’s a winning proposition.

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