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Month: April 2024

Barless prison

A movie that was playing recently had the dialogue “this is a prison without bars”.

And it immediately reminded me of Hotel California, where “you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave…”!

But such prisons are not uncommon.

Maybe our daily workplaces are one such example. We might despise the boss and the colleagues and can easily walk out, except for the monthly salary which acts like a drug.

Social media platforms can also feel like a prison without bars. We scroll endlessly, craving connection and validation, yet often feel more isolated and trapped in the cycle of comparison and competition.

Our own minds can become a similar prison too, especially for those battling anxiety or depression. Thoughts become a maze we can’t escape, despite the absence of physical restraints.

The real escape? Satsang and scriptures, with the guidance of a Guru.

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Sticky efforts

Sri Sri Ravishankar defines attachment in a very nice way.

He says that anything that requires efforts, is attachment.

Like if you are asked to smile. Then the smile is forced. Compared to if you are happy within and smiling naturally.

Or if you don’t know how to cook and are asked to prepare a meal. It’ll be a lot of effort. And that is attachment.

But he says that anything that comes naturally, peacefully, easily, that is nirasakti, or detachment.

Worth pondering over!

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Way back home

Imagine Buddha, in his later years, deciding it’s time to share a key piece of insight with his followers. This is what he did. He gently introduced a simple, yet profound concept: finding your way back to your true self.

Here’s the core of his message: Being at ease with who you are involves a subtle inner alignment. The first step is to guide your wandering thoughts back to the present. Avoid getting lost in past memories or future worries, as they can mire you like quicksand.

Instead, engage in mindful breathing. This practice helps synchronize our mind and body, fostering a peaceful state right in the current moment.

Think of it as drawing the curtains to shield yourself from life’s chaos. Close off your senses—sight, hearing, smell—and focus inward. Relax with your breathing, and you’ll discover a peaceful retreat within yourself.

Whenever life feels overwhelming, remember this advice from Buddha: center yourself, breathe deeply, and find your calm. This is the essence of tranquility.

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The whole world is going crazy over startups and their insane valuations.

From the 100s of millions to the many billions.

Wowza. Many founding teams are raking in moolah, and becoming wildly rich, seemingly overnight.

Valuation is great. But what about value creation?

Would we take only the cherry and not the cake?

Forget the startup, and look at our lives.

Are we creating value for others?

Or simply running after the glitter and gold?

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Hornida – part 2 of 2

Do the horns matter at all?

It’s perhaps the thorns inside that are more relevant, than the horns outside.

As Krishna explains in chapter 16 of the Gita, an asura would be a person who does not live by dharma. And that an asura’s sole aim in life is to enjoy sense pleasures. That’s it, as simple as that!

We each perhaps intuitively feel and believe that we live by dharma. But do we really? Are there never any transgressions?

The reality is that we each have a mix of daivic and asuric qualities, a bit of good and a bit of bad. The effort has to be, constantly, to introspect, and force out the bad, while growing the good.

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Hornida – part 1 of 2

There used to be an ad for a brand called Onida TV back in the day. It would feature a friendly looking devil, with his 2 horns and 2 fangs sticking out prominently.

“Neighbor’s envy, owner’s pride”, went the tagline, causing sales to absolutely go through the roof.

While TV ads are generally positive messages, here was a case when words like ‘envy’ and ‘pride’ actually resulted in success extraordinaire.

This is not about the devil being in the details, but a thought towards the devilish details itself.

The devil would be no different than what out texts calls asuras perhaps. People with horns, right? More tomorrow!

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Here’s the great Jiddu Krishnamurthy on “beliefs”, because his thought process was truly unique:

Belief is corruption because behind belief and morality lurks the mind, the self growing big, powerful and strong. We consider belief in God, the belief in some thing, as religion. We consider that to believe is to be religious. You understand? If you do not believe, you will be considered an atheist, you will be condemned by society. One society will condemn those who believe in God, and another society will condemn those who do not. They are the same.
So, religion becomes a matter of belief-and belief acts and has a corresponding influence on the mind that then can never be free. But it is only in freedom that you can find out what is true, what is God, not through any belief, because your very belief projects what you think ought to be God, what you think ought to be true.
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Real imposter

Imposter syndrome is truly a real thing. Even the most successful suffer from it.

Could be because of educational background, or comparisons with others and more recently, the fear of obsolescence (like by AI).

Youngsters that can’t cope sometimes end up doing the unthinkable, like a 25 year old super smart kid that launched himself to his end from a 9th floor balcony.

Why do we struggle like this?

Perhaps because we believe that we are only as good as the work we do. That we are only as good as the job titles we carry.

Is that all there is to life? In this material world where we are taught to self-aggrandize above all, maybe that is the sad reality.

But such life has no purpose. Spiritual purpose is the only way out of this nasty cycle.

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3 gateways

What are the 3 gateways to ruin?

According to the Gita, these are kaama (desire), lobha (greed) and krodha (anger).

Why these?

Because when we are full of desires, then our ego (aham) becomes prominent.

When one does anything to fulfil one’s desires, then it’s never enough, and lobha or greed dominates.

No one can have everything they desire, no matter how rich, because there are many things that money cannot buy. And unfulfilled desires when excessive can lead one to cross the line of dharma, and stem from or result in krodha.

How to stay away from this? Just lead a simple life. Earn more, own less, and be ever helpful.

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Targeted hiring

What is important for a hiring manager, especially over the longer term? Is it good grades? Or the stamp of the Ivy Leagues?

Or maybe something harder to measure, like soft skills?

From a very interesting write-up (link) by the amazing Collab Fund, here’s an excerpt:

The analysts from the “non-target” schools ranked something like #1, #2, #4, #5, and #7, while the analysts from the traditional “target” schools claimed the #3, #6, and #’s 8-11 spots.
The results were so stark that the firm’s CEO approached Rick to see what drove them. Rick’s response was direct and clear — The analysts from “non-target” schools simply wanted it more. They were humble and wanted to learn. They were willing to go above and beyond what had been asked of them. Much like how I felt just talking to this guy, these kids wanted to run through a brick wall for him.

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Shun shun shun

Okay not shun, but tion.

But that won’t make sense unless it’s merged with a word. That’s English!

Read this nice life tip today.

Vocation. Location. Relation. Don’t change more than one at a time.

Vocation as in job.

Location as in maybe moving from one city to another, or maybe even across countries.

Relation as in getting married, or expanding the family and such.

Only one at a time. Nice to know for sure. But as we well know also, life has its own plans…

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Jai Shri Ram?

Saw an ad in the newspaper for a play on Lord Ram’s life, aka Ramayana (but it wasn’t called that!).

What was odd and disconcerting, was how big the photo of Ravana was in the ad.

As though Ram was somehow relegated to being his sidekick, with a tiny image in comparison to the villain.

The ad also proudly announced, “XYZ person playing Ravan”.

But no mention of who was playing Ram.

Reminded me of this wooden doll story we discussed 4 years ago!

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Camera shy entities

In an interesting podcast with a tantric practitioner, the interviewer posed an interesting question which got an interesting answer (which is what made the podcast interesting, you see!).

He asked, “So many people claim siddhis and powers and stuff, but why are they not being captured on video then for proof? Is it that once cameras became mainstream, then such ethereal beings and divine powers stopped being shown?”

The tantric practitioner laughed and acknowledged that this was a very nice question. And then said that it’s not because cameras had come onto the scene, but simply that very few people actually possess any powers or even the intent and discipline required nowadays. Distractions abound, and siddhis don’t come by without extreme penance and effort.

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Cursery glance

What is life, if not just a cursory glance of the Divine. A few moments of His time line, and we are created, preserved and destroyed.

And yet we have egos that are larger than time itself!

Funny it was then, that I came across a silly situation.

A group of priests had gathered to perform some rituals. They were to collect some money (about 3$ each) from the participants as part of the ritual. Everyone paid up, or so they thought, because the money wouldn’t add up. Someone didn’t pay. Or the money was pocketed. Or something else. Does such a small amount even matter?!

But a huge fight ensued. Almost for an hour. And one of the priests in his anger, even cursed the whole group, and included all their 7 generations-to-come as well. And then another priest gave his curses too.

What is this, a movie script?

When anger and ego take over, everything perishes.

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Quaker notes

In a recent Zoom meeting l attended, eveything was going well.

One side was presenting their product, which was fantastic.

The other side, the client, was listening with rapt attention, and also keeping relevant questions coming from time to time.

About 45 minutes in, the folks on the client side suddenly began to look around.

What happened? Apparently an earthquake struck, not a deadly one, but still enough to feel their building quake.

The presenter, despite being fully incentivized to continue his sales pitch, very empathetically said, “My suggestion is that we reschedule and continue this call in the future. Follow-on tremors of earthquakes often come in gaps of 3 to 5 minutes. So please find yourselves a safe place.”

Lovely presence of mind and empathy, don’t you think?

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Mister Queen? Part 2 of 2

In an episode of the Netflix series Mr. Queen, a significant moral dilemma is presented, demonstrating the timeless struggle between the greater good and individual welfare.

The king is faced with a decision that challenges the very essence of his reign: whether to sacrifice a young child for the supposed benefit of the many.

This situation illuminates the depth of his character and the principles upon which his rule stands.

Contrary to the expectations of a hierarchical society that often prioritized the collective over the individual, the king’s response is both profound and telling. He asserts that his power and position hold no value if he cannot protect even the weakest among his subjects.

This moment in Mr. Queen not only highlights the inherent value of each life but also serves as a reminder that leadership, at its core, is about safeguarding the vulnerable.

Through this narrative, Mr. Queen subtly critiques historical and contemporary notions of power, suggesting that true strength lies in compassion and moral integrity, rather than the cold calculus of sacrifice for the greater good.

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Mister Queen? Part 1 of 2

Oh, to be royalty!

Lounging in palaces, donning the fanciest robes, and feasting on… well, whatever was considered a delicacy back then (pigeon pie, anyone?).

But let’s face it, even the regal life of yesteryears pales in comparison to the simple pleasures of today.

Take, for instance, the hit Netflix TV show Mr. Queen.

Imagine the hilarity of a modern soul trapped in the body of a queen from the Joseon Dynasty.

Sure, you’ve got the whole kingdom at your beck and call, but what good is that when you’re craving some late-night ramen or dying to binge-watch your favorite show?

Suddenly, being able to order pizza at 2 AM or streaming endless hours of TV feels like a luxury fit for a king… or queen!

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Words matter! – part 2 of 2

When the researchers used the word “because”, the outcome changed materially! Like, “Hey, can I jump the queue and get 5 copies please, because I’m in a rush?”.

The number of people who would now agree to let the researchers skip the queue increased by 50 percent!

But was it because of the reason? Or was it because of the word “because”?

So then the researchers added some frivolous reason. Like, “Hey, can I jump the queue and get 5 copies please, because I have to make copies?”.

And lo and behold, despite the reason itself being silly and adding no new information, about the same increase in queue-skipping permission was seen.

Incredible no? It shows how important it is, that we use the right words!

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Words matter! – part 1 of 2

There used to be this silly English sentence when I was young, that the kids would discuss in school. About how it’s not possible to have 3 “because”s in a sentence. And then some other kid would say nope, it is possible, such as: “Because cannot be used to begin a sentence because because is a preposition.”

In a book called Magic Words (by Jonah Berger) that I just began reading, the author speaks of an interesting New York Copy experiment. Everyone knows that New Yorkers are always busy, have little time to speak, and are keen to finish their wok quickly and move to the next thing.

So the researchers went to a photocopy shop where a long queue was outside. They’d go up to the front of the queue and ask “Hey, can I jump the queue and get 5 copies please?”. Obviously no one wants to give in especially when they’re all waiting for the same thing.

But when the researchers used the word “because”?

Super insight…tomorrow!

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Experiential experiences

Swami Sukhabodananda speaks about “experiencing an experience”.

He says that this is the only real way to “true” happiness.

What does he mean by this? He himself gives an example:

"Experience an experience?" a student asked the master, "What was your experience before and after enlightenment?" The master replied, "Before enlightenment, I used to wake up, bathe, eat, chop wood, and sleep at night. After enlightenment, I did the same," he continued. "The only difference being, previously when I was doing similar chores, my mind used to be in the past or future. After enlightenment, when I eat—I eat, when I bathe—I bathe, and hence I live in the present. To experience an experience is to be present in that experience."
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Best for worst swap

Would you trade your best day for someone else’s worst? Seems like such a stupid question isn’t it. Of course you wouldn’t. And it would be senseless to expect anyone else too either, right?

Picture this.

Here are your worst days. Followed by someone else’s best days. [But they will trade their best days for your worst!]

  1. When you made a bonus of only 100 in a year. The other person added 1 to bring their net worth to 10.
  2. When you didn’t get the promotion you thought you deserved. The other person got a clerk job 3 years after being laid off with no work.
  3. When you couldn’t travel to the country of your dreams for vacation. The other person got a chance to visit her family back home after 3 consecutive years of work as a maid in a foreign land.

When someone is willing to take our worst days and give us their best, what does that say about one’s attitude to life?!

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Happiest day of my life

Sometimes I wonder if there aren’t already too many self help and self development books in the world. Hundreds if not thousands. And so many are bestsellers. Amazon is full of them. Many 5-star rated ones too.

All of these push and propel the readers towards hitherto unprecedented economic success.

“Happiest day of my life. I finally bought a Toyota Innova Crysta.”

This was what popped up on my Twitter feed, with the picture of a middle-aged man and his wife, standing next to a brown Toyota, holding on to an enlarged key, beaten in length only by the smile on his face.

Surely he cannot think that his happiness is linked to the car? We know this to be spirituality 101. But our man has probably not read any of the self development books. So he is forgiven.

But what about me? While I’m just a lurker in Twitter shadowland, in my mind, I’m getting super excited and super depressed, alternately, all day long. Some good news – wow super happy, some bad news, wow super sad.

As the wise ancients say, it is important to control one’s reactions in happiness, so that one can control one’s reaction in pain.

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The Adult Play Paradox – part 4 of 4

Whether it’s exploring new hobbies, engaging in spontaneous adventures, or simply embracing moments of silliness, there are countless ways to infuse play into our daily lives.

Consider the story of Jack (again from NatGeo), a middle-aged accountant who rediscovered the joy of play through improv comedy. Despite initial apprehension, Jack found liberation in letting go of his inhibitions and embracing the spontaneity of the moment.

By prioritizing play in our lives, we not only nurture our own well-being but also contribute to a more vibrant and connected community. Whether it’s organizing a neighborhood game night or volunteering with local youth programs, finding opportunities to play and connect with others fosters a sense of belonging and purpose.

Ultimately, embracing playfulness in adulthood is a choice—a choice to approach life with curiosity, creativity, and an open heart. By infusing our daily routines with moments of joy and laughter, we can unlock the full potential of our inner child and lead lives filled with meaning and fulfillment.

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The Adult Play Paradox – part 3 of 4

From the earliest stages of life, play served as a crucial tool for learning, socialization, and adaptation. Across species, playful behaviors are observed in both young and adult animals, highlighting its evolutionary significance in survival and development.

Take, for instance, the playful antics of dolphins, who engage in elaborate games of chase and tag. While these activities may seem lighthearted, they play a vital role in honing essential skills such as hunting, communication, and social bonding.

Similarly, scientists observed tadpoles hitching rides on bubbles from aquarium aeration stones, demonstrating playful behavior even in the earliest stages of development. This playful exploration likely serves to enhance their understanding of their environment and develop essential skills for survival.

Even in humans, play has been integral to our evolution, driving innovation, creativity, and problem-solving. Consider the story of Albert Einstein, who famously remarked, “Play is the highest form of research.” By embracing his playful curiosity, Einstein revolutionized our understanding of the universe.

Concluded tomorrow!

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The Adult Play Paradox – part 2 of 4

In the midst of adulthood’s responsibilities, play often takes a backseat. However, play serves as more than just a pastime; it’s a vital component of adult life that promotes creativity, problem-solving, and social connection.

Consider the story of Sarah as per the NatGeo article, a busy professional who rediscovered the joy of play through painting. Initially hesitant to indulge in such a seemingly frivolous activity, Sarah found solace and fulfillment in expressing herself creatively.

Engaging in playful activities not only reduces stress but also fosters deeper connections with others. Whether it’s a game night with friends or a spontaneous dance party, these moments of shared joy strengthen bonds and create lasting memories.

Moreover, play encourages us to approach challenges with a fresh perspective and a sense of curiosity. By embracing a playful mindset, we can navigate life’s complexities with resilience, adaptability, and a healthy dose of humor.

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The Adult Play Paradox – part 1 of 4

In the midst of a rare snowstorm in Washington, D.C., the cityscape became a playground for the imagination.
A group of adults was attempting to build a snowman. Despite initial awkwardness, laughter soon filled the air as they embraced their inner child, demonstrating the joy and camaraderie that play can foster.

Yet, amidst the enchanting scenery, the notion of adult play faced skepticism, echoing societal norms that often dismiss playfulness as childish. But beneath the surface, play holds profound significance beyond mere amusement, as explored in the January 2024 edition of National Geographic.

Renowned psychiatrist Stuart Brown coined the term “adult-play deficit” to describe the alarming decline in adult playfulness, as discussed in said NatGeo article. He warns that this deficit may contribute to rising rates of depression and other mental health issues, highlighting the serious consequences of overlooking the importance of play in adulthood.

Recent scientific findings support the evolutionary roots of play, suggesting it’s as essential as sleep for mammals, including humans. From enhancing cognitive function to strengthening social bonds, play enriches our lives in multifaceted ways, challenging the notion that it’s solely reserved for children. More findings tomorrow!

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Winners and workers

Although “Everyone loves Raymond” (that hit TV show from yesteryear), everyone loves winning, even more!

Everyone also knows the ingredients needed to win.

Most people have the ingredients too.

But are they used properly?


Here’s a lovely quote that sums this up:

It’s not the will to win that matters – everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters

Paul “Bear” Bryant
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Power laws

We know the power of words. Say something appreciative, and you might capture the recipient for life. Say something nasty, and you might lose a relationship forever.

Likewise, the power of our thoughts. Would we just think bad stuff, if we knew that our thoughts come to fruition? If we are constantly fed the negative, now can we expect the outcome to be positive?

Ditto for our presence. We can’t be omnipresent, thankfully! And yet, we mentally try to be everywhere at once. If that doesn’t give us anxiety, then what were we expecting?

Our words, thoughts and presence matter. More than we can imagine.

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Clowny day

Step into the emotional landscape of ‘Vesti la Giubba,’ an aria from Ruggero Leoncavallo’s 1892 opera ‘Pagliacci.’ Here, a grieving clown, informed of his beloved’s demise, must bravely don his costume, take the stage, and uplift the audience.

This powerful scene encapsulates the resilience to confront life’s trials without succumbing to self-pity.

Delving into Hinduism and spirituality, the perspective on death transcends conventional understanding. Unlike a mere transition, it posits that there is no true end.

Life, according to this philosophy, perpetuates through various forms, urging us to embrace the cyclicality of existence. This spiritual viewpoint challenges the fear of mortality, offering solace in the belief that life transcends boundaries, echoing the powerful resilience symbolized by ‘Vesti la Giubba.’

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Failed but what?

We discussed the amazingly motivational move “12th fail” here recently.

One of the best takeaways from the movie is the word “Restart”. It’s also the mantra of the movie, that’s is applicable to each one of us maybe, and even more, to me.

When the protagonist fails repeatedly, his coach too repeatedly tells him the same thing. To restart. Because failure only crystallizes when we don’t restart.

And as any user of a Windows laptop knows, the solution to every problem is nothing but a restart!

So here I was, restarting my PC for some simple issue that of course I failed to troubleshoot. And I loved what the message said:

You’re 28% there. But you need to keep the computer on. Nothing good can happen if we switch off at the very point that we need to be switched on!

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