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Category: appreciation

Reasonable

Here’s an interesting interview experience I came across recently. It was one of the early rejects of a person who is very successful today. Not everyone starts off with a golden spoon right?

His interview was with one of the best airlines in the world. He wanted to travel the world, and given he was young, what better way than to get the job of an air steward.

After a few initial group activity rounds that this gentleman breezed through, there was a personal interview round with just one question.

“What would you choose – food, or… service?”

Now this seems like the most obvious question and the most obvious answer for what is a business that thrives on providing the best service to all its fliers. Oops did I just drop a hint?

But this young man all of 18 years blurted out “food”, and was immediately shown the door. While it might seem like an idiotic answer, he came from a very poor background, with uneducated parents who struggled every single day to put food on the table. He had never even eaten at a restaurant till then. Of course “food” would be the first thing on his mind.

This is not about whether he should have been selected or not. Even this gentleman has no grudges. However for our own mental peace, it would help to cut people some slack for their weird ways. They may say or do crazy things, but there could be a good reason for it.

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Double role

Chapter 2 in the Gita, towards the end, talks of dwandvas, which refers to duality, like two sides of the same coin. This duality is such, that no matter what the situation, the other side will occur as well – whether we like it or not. Life is full of such dwandvas. Night is always followed by day, and day by night. This can never be changed. Pain is followed by pleasure, and pleasure by pain. There is no escaping it. Success is followed by failure, and that failure in turn can lead to great success. Where great joy exists, great pain will follow too.

There are literally countless examples – pretty much everything we see and feel around us. Get too close to somebody? Then the pain of separation will eventually become too much. Love your child too much? One day s/he will have to go away for higher education or marry someone elsewhere. Love your job or role or credentials? One day you will have to retire and all these will become meaningless. Desperately waiting to go on a vacation? Soon the vacation will come to an end and you will be back at work. And thus the cycle continues, on and on and on.

What’s the point of thinking this way? Only to understand and appreciate that this duality is the nature of the world around us. We keep praying to God for many things. Each of those things also comes with the same duality only. We pray for good things to happen to us. But we forget that these good things will by design come with some not-so-good stuff attached. That is the law of life and creation. So if a prayer isn’t answered, maybe we shouldn’t be depressed about it after all?

In any case, there is only one thing that is non-dual. And that singular omnipotent omnipresent omniscient being can be found deep within each one of us.

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How to attain spiritual perfection

Here are three most important requirements which were discussed in a recent satsang.

  1. Humility
  2. Compassion
  3. Ananya bhakti (i.e. constant devotion to the Lord / God / Oneness / Consciousness / Paramatman / Supreme Being etc.)

If we attempt to analyse these a bit more:

Humility comes from accepting that neither do we know everything, nor are we the best at anything.

Compassion comes from accepting that there others more needy than us (usually we are the only centre of our attention).

Ananya Bhakti is harder to grasp and practise. It requires more alertness than the other two. It requires the spiritual seeker to bring God into every aspect of one’s life, into every waking moment, into every voluntary thought and action. A good way to begin, is with gratitude for everything that has already taken place and is currently taking place.

Seen differently, 1 and 2 chop away constantly at the seemingly infallible tree that is the ego. And point 3 replaces it with the only Truth that exists.

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Down to earth

One of the biggest challenges facing humanity today is climate change. We’ve discussed this in previous posts. But suffice it to say that we are taking from mother earth far more than we are giving back.

A famous Hollywood actor named Zac Efron has a TV documentary series called Down to Earth where he travels the world trying to find sustainable solutions for humanity’s problems.

One of the studies being done in Sardinia is interesting. There are a bunch of ‘blue zones’, where the locals all seem to live easily beyond a 100 years.

Zac himself has six-pack abs and admits to eating his bodyweight in protein every single day, and having gone months and even years together without touching carbs at all. And these cute centenarian Sardinian aunties and uncles? They barely have much protein – and certainly no whey powder or creatine powder or other supplements. What they do have though, is a really chilled out, but active lifestyle. Lots of walking and very less of stress.

Zac summarizes by saying thus, “I gotta get out of Hollywood man. That place, with all the stress and tension, it’s just not conducive for living. I just gotta get out.”

But we all want more fame and more money and more status even at the cost of a terrible lifestyle right?

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Attitude platitude – part 3

Continuing again, my Guru’s typewritten message on the importance of the right attitude.

3. Read something informational or inspirational every day. Reading for 20 minutes at just 240 words per minute will enable you to read twenty 200-page books each year. That is 18 more than what the average person reads! What an enormous competitive advantage ... if you'll just read for 20 minutes a day.

4. The University of Southern California reveals that you can acquire the equivalent of two years of a college education in three years just by listening to motivating and educational cassettes on your way to your job, and again on the way home. What could be easier?

A 2021 reference for point 4 above – we can replace ‘cassettes’ with ‘podcasts’. Many are yet to discover the amazing power of podcasts – but all you need to do is download any podcast player app from your app-store, and then search for and add your favourite channels / topics. It is like having the most successful people on earth talking to you in your ear, as you go about doing your housework or other activities.

Sorry for the digression. Continued (and concluded) tomorrow…

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Critiques

Author Dale Carnegie of the bestseller How to Win Friends and Influence People says “Criticize in private, but praise in public.” We saw this nearly a year ago here.

It might seem like obvious advice, but do not be fooled by its simplicity. Just recently, I was part of a call, which had one senior person pulling up several others for something not done by them. The big boss of many of those being picked on was also present on the call.

To be sure, the person pointing the finger was by no means wrong – he had his facts straight – the accused had been tardy, they had not done their work well, they had not informed their superiors about gaps in the information and so on.

But did any of that matter? Not one bit. The call quickly morphed into a verbal brawl, with people supporting themselves, and proving why they were right and then heaping accusations back and forth. Could have just had some nice popcorn on the side and …

But really, it is so hard to put this advice into practise I suppose. It might seem like it takes longer to have 1-on-1 calls with five people rather than just lambaste 5 people on one call. But the negative effects of that one badly organized call can be far worse, as was the case. Preferably, never criticize at all, but if it must be done, then it can be done with empathy, in private, with examples from one’s own life as well, and also leading by example. That would be true leadership.

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Bed on it

There are some that don’t get sleep until their bodies hit the plush pillows and comfy quilts of a 5-star hotel.

But some have to make do with 3-star hotel arrangements.

Some sleep under the moonlight, on bamboo cots, maybe with mosquito nets.

Many sleep on the floor in their homes, on just a thin bedsheet.

Those in poverty, sleep under flyovers, with no one to care for them.

Some share beds with two others, oxygen cylinders supplementing their breathing efforts.

Some don’t get ICU beds, despite the criticality.

If we just have a bed at home to sleep peacefully – how unbelievable lucky are we?

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Lockdown

“Isolation” and “Quarantine” and “Lockdown”. Three words that have suddenly become commonplace, all thanks to the Covid situation. Most people everywhere seem to be cribbing big time. “I’m so sick of staying at home. Just can’t wait for things to open up. I hate this lockdown business. Can’t even go anywhere. I really miss my vacations and international trips.”

But a change in mindset is necessary. An entitled person may think sitting at home unable to travel for pleasure is bad. But how about those people who are isolated in hospital wards, separated from their loved ones, stuck on a hospital bed amongst hundreds of others, breathing into tubes attached to cylinders, with no indication of when their ordeal would end. Isn’t that infinitely worse? And then there are those that desperately need hospitals / ICUs / beds but these are all full. What of them?

As an Indian army jawan noted on his Linkedin post – “Don’t be scared of isolation. My longest spell was on Siachen glacier, lasting 138 days, with 98 days of intense firing. All 19 of us survived 100s of kilos of TNT. I lost 19 kilos of weight, and took bath after 138 days. The minimum temperature was -50-degrees Celcius.”

What are the rest of us cribbing about? We must be deeply cognizant that anyone stepping out for any reason could be the cause for someone else falling sick or losing a loved one. It is our duty to stay indoors and safe, until all this bad news passes.

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Free delivery

We are all getting more and more accustomed to food delivery – either on Swiggy or Zomato or Uber Eats and other similar services. We may have even seen many delivery executives zoom past on bikes or mopeds, as they hurry to fulfil their orders on time.

Usually, deliveries are well on time. A few days ago, there was a delivery guy who was about 10 minutes late. So I called him up and checked to see what he was up to, as his geolocation marker on the app had gone stationary. He immediately picked up, and apologized, and said that he got lost a bit and was coming soon. He enquired some directions with me, and then he was on his way he said. Another 8-10 minutes went by, and I was wondering why he would take so long given where his map was showing him.

He arrived a few minutes later at top speed and screeched to a halt, all sweaty. The reason? He was on a tiny bicycle, not a flashy bike or moped. No electricity / petrol to power him up. His legs probably got tired too, with multiple cycling trips this way. But he apologized again, and handed the parcel over with a big smile. Surely this is not his passion or calling – but he is doing this job to earn some side income – likely to make ends meet. But such a person is often at the receiving end of all sorts of abuses – with hungry and angry callers lambasting him.

We can all help such people by not just being nice to them, but also tipping them. And by more than just tiny amounts. One way, is to pay forward to them any discounts we would have received. At least in India, every payment option (credit card, pay later, netbanking etc.) offers plenty of discounts, free deliveries and cashbacks. I try to transfer all such savings/discounts as a tip to the delivery person. It’s the least we can do for their efforts in such trying circumstances (lockdowns).

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Twit quot 2

Here are some more simple yet profound quotes I came across on Twitter:

The way to forget insults is to not take compliments in the first place.
When in doubt, go for a walk.
Don't worry about being qualified. Everyone is learning as they go.
Reading 1-2 hours a day puts me in the top 0.00001%.
In the short term you are as good as your intensity. In the long term, you are as good as your consistency.

Link to Twit quot 1

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Open mouth please

Here is a common two-threaded problem we each face at some point. We just had a really rough week at work and want nothing more than to plunge into a soft bed with head hitting a even softer pillow. But your spouse or significant other has just told you that they plan to take you out for a romantic candle-lit dinner. Normally this would be an awesome plan, but not today – all you want is to bury your face in that feathery pillow!

What to do then? Maybe you could go along with the spouse to dinner. But that could leave you totally exhausted. Or else, you could take a rain check. And that could have consequences – partner dejected, you feeling guilty etc. It seems like there are only two choices, and that both are suboptimal.

But are there really only two choices?

No, there is a third. This is called Hamlet’s quandary, i.e. to share or not to share. We often get stuck in this quandary. Instead of trying to resolve this problem on our own, the third option would be to name the dilemma. “Darling I really want to go with you for dinner and I really appreciate you planning this for me on the back of my really rough week, but I’m super exhausted today. Could we figure out something that will work for both of us?”

This third more communicative choice, is likely to open up a new range of possibilities and outcomes. This is useful not just at home, but even in the workplace. Like when we have too much work already, but the boss wants us to work on the weekend. Or a client has asked for some important information, but we do not have the resources yet. The bottom-line is this, sharing more with people can increase our vulnerability, but that could potentially result in a much deeper connection with the other person. And this third choice is often overlooked.

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Luckuidity

Here’s a short story that I came across (surprisingly!) in two different books within just the past week. The first book is called The Great Mental Models by Shane Parrish, while the other is the recently released How to Prevent a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates.

The story goes thus. There are two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”

There could be different takeaways for different people from this. To me, it is a simple yet profound reminder of all the good stuff that I’ve got in my life that I’m constantly and almost unknowningly taking for granted. If I would only stop to smell the roses along the way…

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Rich is poor

Know what 80% of the people chose in a research study? See the two options. a) Make US$ 36,000 in a firm where the starting salary was US$ 40,000. or b) Make US$ 34,000 in a firm where the average salary was US$ 30,000. 80% chose the latter. That’s what would make them happy. Can you imagine that? We all want to be happy, but that happiness it seems, is governed not just by our own possessions, but also those of the others around us. i.e. Wealth is relative, not absolute.

I saw that it was the artificial needs of life that made me a slave; the real needs of life were few

William James Dawson

We’ve explored here previously the concept of the hedonic treadmill. We are running on one, where no matter how fast we go, we never seem to reach our destination. And we are often running not even for ourselves, but for others. No wonder then, that happiness is but fleeting.

As Benjamin Franklin wisely observed, “It is the eyes of others and not our own eyes that ruin us. If all the world were blind except myself I should not care for fine clothes or furniture.”

Epicurus said beautifully, “Contented poverty is an honourable estate. Indeed, if it be contented, it is not poverty at all. It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.”

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Animal king

We know who the king of the jungle is, right? He’s the strongest, fastest, largest and cleverest animal of them all.

Wait, I thought ‘strongest’ was the elephant. And ‘largest’ animal should be the blue whale? And ‘cleverest’, the fox? The fastest surely is the cheetah. But none of these guys are the kings!

The king is one who may not be the best at everything, but is able to keep it all together, and exude a level of confidence that no other member of the kingdom is able to.

We think lions and tigers have a chilled out life, sitting cushy at the top of the food chain. But no, they struggle too. The males have to constantly guard their territory and females from other usurper males. The females have to constantly look out for the safety of their kids, not just from said usurpers, but also from the father lion who might kill the babies seeing them as a threat to his status. When it comes to food, most hunts end in failure, with mom and babies having to go to bed hungry for days together – and so it is not as easy as it seems.

Nature never has it easy on anyone. That’s the cycle of life. One has to work hard to earn their living, or at least to sustain their lifestyle. This is a universal truth, applicable in past lives, this life, and the next.

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536 AD

Did you just have the worst day, week or month ever? Yes, we’ve all had it bad – a terrible pandemic is wreaking havoc. And unfortunately, so many people have suffered immensely, many are dead too. But if you’re reading this, you’re at least alive. For many people, this year has been more of an inconvenience than anything worse. Still, there is no dearth of people cribbing despite the various conveniences they have got – including more time with family, more time with nature, lesser time spent commuting etc.

One way to remain mentally balanced, is to remember that things could have been much worse. How much worse, you ask? We need only look back to historian accounts of the year 536 AD. That is the year when a volcano in Iceland erupted. It sent such large volumes of ash into the atmosphere, that the whole earth was blanketed in smog – so much so that the sun could not be seen. Many parts of the world remained in darkness for two full years! Other consequences? The earth’s climate went for a toss resulting in droughts and starvation. The world economy went into depression. Enough already? This was then followed by a bubonic plague, wiping out 100 million people, nearly 50% of the world’s population at the time.

All this while not having TVs, computers, smartphones, internet and pretty much any technology. Today, we literally have everything, and have many many reasons to be happy. Yet many choose to isolate and focus only on the negatives. Let 536 AD be our wake up call.

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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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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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Talk the walk

Many many years ago, a man and his mentor were at a railway station. They came across an elderly couple, probably in their eighties, their frail bodies clothed in rags and their arms outstretched, begging for alms. The mentor handed his man a crisp 100 rupee note. “Please go and get this changed into smaller denominations.” When the man came back with smaller notes and coins, his mentor told him, “Now please put all of the notes and coins into their begging bowls.”

The mentee did as he was instructed. He then had a follow up question for his mentor. “Sir, I thought you asked me to get the smaller denominations so that you could maybe put 10 rupees into the bowl, and not the full 100. If you anyway wanted to put the 100, then why did you not use the 100 rupee note directly?”

The mentor said, “Two reasons, my dear. First, they are an old couple, and their safety is paramount. If we leave a larger note out there, it is possible or even likely others might thrash them and steal it. Or a policeman might bully them, querying where they found (stole) such a large note. Secondly, it’s a mind trick, in favour of the couple. If their bowl has just one 100 rupee note, it is unlikely they will get more. But if they have several smaller notes and coins, more people might come up and donate. This is because people do not like to be the first and only, but most are happy to follow suit once someone has already raised their hands first.”

The man was elated by the outstanding lesson on empathy he had just learned. Not just in talk, but in walk as well. All glories to such realized souls.

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Carma

At the valet parking area of a renowned 5 star hotel, the owner of an old and tiny Hyundai i10 was waiting for his car to be brought to him.

He watched, as the valets buzzed about, servicing their guests and deftly moving from car to car. One valet drove up in great style in a brand new Mercedes Benz AMG GLE Coupe. The Coupe owner took the keys and handed the valet a crisp couple of notes. The smile on the valet’s face was telling of his satisfaction.

The compact car owner thought to himself, “Wow these valets have it so good. I can’t even dream of driving these sporty beauties. That Mercedes GLE is a special edition model – just 10 of them in the whole world!”

Little did he know the thoughts running in the valet’s mind. “Oh these rich folks – such show-offs. And having to drive their cars? Back and forth, back and forth, from the reception area to the parking lot, a 100 times a day. Can there be anything more repetitive and boring? With the money I make, I barely make ends meet. My school going son would love it so much if I could own even just a simple car. Even an old dilapidated Hyundai i10 would be perfect.”

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2021

A simple but important blog post to ring in the new year. Here are five things for me to work on, so as to get the best from 2021.

  1. Every day, all day, be happy and grateful for everything we already have. Success, money, fame will come automatically.
  2. Zero compromise on health (i.e. proper nutrition and exercise) – for if there’s one thing an invisible virus from 2020 has taught us, it is that without a fit body and mind, everything else is pointless.
  3. Give / donate / help generously and selflessly. This is the only way to purify the mind and intellect. (Why? Because it removes the notion of ego / i-i-i)
  4. Join a satsang and / or actively participate in one. Repeatedly dunking the mind in scriptural knowledge as guided by the Guru and applying it in our lives will fast track our spiritual transformation.
  5. Enjoy every single moment, and look at every stumbling block as an opportunity to improve. As they say, there are no failures, only lessons.

Are these easy to follow? Do you have other things you would like to focus on? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. All the best for 2021!

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