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Category: appreciation

Temple twitter

Before the pandemic and the lockdowns and all that, going to a temple would be a normal affair. Either once a week, or a fortnight or a month, or whenever.

Stand in serpentine queues for hours, get a darshan for a couple of seconds, and then get jostled away by the guards.

My Guru used to suggest (and still does!) praying to Lord Siddhivinayak, chief of the problem solvers and obstacle crushers.

While I’ve been to Siddhivinayak temple many times, I hardly had the time to note the specifics.

But that’s all changed now. Technology has brought Siddhivinayak home, into our hands through our screens.

Check out his outstandingly beautiful Twitter page right here. Available 24×7, and in unbelievable high-res beauty. Similar pages exist for many/most temples now. What more could any devotee ask for?

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Showerma – part 2 of 2

A good friend narrated this incident to me.

He had travelled for an educational workshop to some remote villages in the northern most tip of the country.

Suffice it to say, that it got very very cold there.

Most folks didn’t take bath there for days, he told me.

But he came across one child, enjoying his bath, out in the open, wearing just a small half-pant, and singing bhajans of the Lord.

My friend asked him how he could be so happy when the climate and the water are so cold.

The child’s reply? “Arre sir, kam se kam, yahaan paani toh hai na!” (at the very least, water is available here!)

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Showerma – part 1 of 2

When my house was being renovated recently, I had to move out to another temporary accommodation.

The shower at my home was good. The nice, warm and powerful type, rather than just a cold trickle.

In this new temp place, the shower didn’t work. So back to old style bucket and mug it was. So be it.

A few days later, I had to travel up north. The temperature was -5. The hotel I was staying at, didn’t just have a shower, but their water heater was also broken. Brrrrr. That was a terrible experience.

And then a few days later, I was back to my temp accommodation. I couldn’t care less about the shower, as long as there was some hot water.

What a quick change in perspective!

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Pretrust

A friend of mine who runs a very successful start-up said something very nice recently.

It was about tipping.

Most people tip, like at the salon, or a restaurant or such. If the service was great, we may tip more, and if not that great, then we may tip less.

But he was talking about the brilliant effect of tipping before the service even starts.

His thought process was, that the service providers are often expectant of a tip, but unsure of whether they will get one or not. Because not everyone tips. Hence giving the tip upfront puts the receiver at ease.

But no. In a conversation with his own barber, who he tipped beforehand, he got a different reason. The guy told him that it was not about the surety of money, but the surety of trust. The trust placed on the service provider of superlative service, even before the service began. Such a nice way to think about this isn’t it?

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Shiva cafe

On a recent trip to a Shiva temple, we had the opportunity to trek up a little hill. Why? Because there was a nearby waterfall, which the locals swore by.

We quickly fished out our phones to check the exact location (thanks GoogleMaps!).

Not only did we spot a waterfall on the map, but we also saw ‘Shiva Cafe’, located right in the middle of the water (on the map, not in real!).

Curiosity piqued and all, we quickly read up. It was a 1.5km hike to the top – not the easiest. But the cafe had amazing reviews – the views, the food, the ambience.

As we started our ascent, we realized it was definitely not an easy climb. However, we were also surprised by the fact that a number of others (old and young) were also trekking up to Shiva Cafe – the difficulty of the climb notwithstanding.

Of course the view was super from the top, but it also reminded me that quality of work trumps everything else. To receive good food and be treated well, people will climb mountains. Said differently, if we work as worship (karma yoga) and add value to others, there is no reason why others will not flock to acknowledge us.

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No pain no…

We all hate pain. Even the thought of having to give some blood makes us squeamish. Needle? No thank you ma’am.

But as doctors will tell you, pain has a very important function.

Consider the real life story of Gabby Gingras. She was unable to feel any pain – because of a rare genetic condition.

She could feel touch, but not pain.

Might seem cool almost? Not in the least.

Think of it this way. You kept your hand over the flame, and the pain makes you take your hand away instinctively.

But Gabby? She would just watch her hand go up in flames, and have no instinct to move her hand away. Imagine how many other issues – biting the tongue, biting the fingers, twisting a body part etc etc. Unimaginable no?

Pain is good. It helps us not just prevent the worst, but also constantly improve. Let’s be thankful for it.

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6 months to… part 2 of 3

As mentioned yesterday, today’s and tomorrow’s posts will contain some gems from the amazing book 6 Months to Live (available here).

  1. When some people are faced with a life-threatening illness, they lose all hope and wither away. True strength of character is seen when death is faced eye to eye without blinking, without questioning, without self-pity.
  2. “Not everything that is faced, can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
  3. We talk about angels in disguise…. What disguise? Here was an angel incarnate, whom God had sent to look after us in those trying times.
  4. The above vacations and participation in various family events just proves that cancer is not THE END of everything. You can almost go about your routine life with positivity and enthusiasm.
  5. Moving on is the best tribute you can give your most loved one who is no longer with you in person.

Concluded tomorrow, with some more gems!

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Religious matters

World over, people are fighting over religious issues.

Theists fights atheists. But also atheists fight atheists, and theists fight theists!

Followers of one religion fight, abuse and slaughter those of another religion.

But equally, followers within the same religion might fight, abuse and slaughter one another due to perceived ideological differences.

It seems as though one just needs a reason to fight, abuse and slaughter.

Here’s another perspective. What if religion is not about God, but about work. Not any work, but about the work each one of us does.

If we can do our work selflessly, and without expectation of the result, wouldn’t that be the pinnacle of all work? Maybe that’s why work is called worship.

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Avoidable inconvenience

‘Do it right the first time’ is a phrase my Guru keeps using often. Which is to say, don’t compound your mistakes. Make one, and the domino effect begins. We saw this previously here, called DIRFTI.

A few days ago, I had to catch a flight. The website of this flight carrier said passengers needed to carry an RTPCR test.

This is quite a hassle, and quite expensive too.

Speaking with a few friends, it was quickly evident that this is just a rule on paper, and that no one at either the source airport or the destination airport, were checking. Besides, most folks were telling me that Covid cases have reduced substantially, and questioning if this was really necessary.

Luckily, better sense prevailed, and I did take the RTPCR test before leaving.

Not only did they check it at the source airport, they were also disallowing passengers to board the flight, if they didn’t possess the test report. Further, at the destination airport too, the authorities picked out those who didn’t have their reports to do tests right there (another long queue for that).

Either scenario – while not the end of the world – was unnecessary, and would have led to avoidable inconveniences. DIRFTI indeed.

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Improv your life

A friend of mine from college used to be fantastic at improv acting.

How he’d get ideas on the spot, how’d he string his thoughts together, how he’d act on the spot, and yet make it all comedic, I have no clue.

In a recent TV series I was watching, I came across a fundamental principle in improv.

It’s called “Yes, and?”

This is a way of continuing the dialogue. Accepting whatever the other person on stage just said, with a “Yes”, even if it is completely nonsensical.

The “And” after the “Yes” helps with continuing the conversation. Like a nonchalant ‘okay, what next?’

Even outside of improv, this struck me as an amazing way to look at life. We’re each beset by so many unexpected troubles and issues. Instead of getting smacked in the face and falling down, we can stay rooted and ask the question “Yes, and?”, then put on a smile, keep calm, and carry on.

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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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