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Category: enjoyment

Lights out

Today morning, the electricity went off. Poof, kaput, gone. Some maintenance work yada yada will be back in 12 hours yada yada said one whatsapp message.

I quickly switched from wifi to mobile hotspot and continued to work. A couple of video calls, and a few other normal calls, plenty of emails, several powerpoint slides, some excel sheets and a few more emails later, my laptop battery started to give way.

A few hours later, and my phone was dying too. Dusk had set in. Darkness all around, except my phone screen. And then that was gone as well. No this is not a horror story.

No screens, no calls from work, no deadlines, no TV, no music, no noises, only darkness. But it was beautiful. We sat together and talked – with zero distractions. It was free flowing, and chilled out. Not a care in that moment. Such simple pleasures of life. Going with the flow.

And the lights momentarily came on as the fan whirred back to life. Deadlines, phone calls, work, screens, distractions – everything was back. Back to normal. But our normal is quite abnormal, isn’t it?

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Securing the crown – part 4

There’s an amazing episode surrounding the moon landing of 1969. His Royal Highness Prince Phillip the Duke of Edinburg was lost in his life – directionless as it were. The outside world it seemed was doing great things, making great strides – while all he did, was go from place to place – making speech after speech, which no one could care less about.

Just as the moon landing caught the world’s imagination at the time, so too it did of Prince Phillip. He not only watched and read countless times the footage and reports of the astronauts and their mission, but he also sought out a 15 minute audience with Neil Armstrong and his two co-pilots. His quest – to understand how they truly felt, as they carried out what was probably the most ambitious and significant journey in human history.

On meeting the 3 young men, he is filled with awe, and eagerly asks them about what their thoughts were as they descended on the surface of the moon, and how they felt when they looked at their blue home 380,000 km away. Their response?

They were just process driven. Men on a mission. Hundreds of checklists to ensure everything was working to perfection. No time to smell the proverbial roses, or maybe moon dust. No time to think even. They don’t even begin to understand the essence of the Prince’s questions. They in fact counter-question him thus, “Sir you are so lucky, how does it feel to live in a palace of a 1000 rooms, live with the queen, have so many royal dinners and meetings, and live such a meaningful life?”

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Know-it-alls

We think we know what’s best for us and what’s worst for us.

A few years ago, some colleagues along with a very senior leader moved to another firm. It was the most awesome move. Probably excellent pay hikes. Certainly improved designations and functional titles. Wonderful, inspiring stuff. To say people were jealous, would be an understatement. People were even wondering why the senior leader took only certain people with him, and why other “better” candidates were left behind.

Cut to today, that firm has shut down. The team, completely disbanded. What seemed like awesomeness at the time, in a few years has completely unravelled. Certain practices at the firm were questionable, which might even leave a blot on the resumes of those who worked there.

Seems like the tables have turned, and this could be the end of the world? It depends. Karma is an endless cycle of ups and downs. Today’s slap on the face is tomorrow’s opportunity. There is rarely a greater teacher than failure.

We think we know what’s best and worst for us. But we be would best off just going through the motions, enjoying the time in it. Everything else is just a perspective – and often not even our own.

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So passionate

The whole world seems to be trying to find it’s passion. Everyone going to office to work is unhappy about something or the other. “Why am I even doing this? I wish I could be passionate about my job. I wish I could find my real calling in life.”

Most of the stories of people suddenly chancing upon their ‘passion’, and then becoming overnight stars are all horsecrap. The janitor who became a singing sensation on Somebody’s Got Talent? He practised his vocal chords off to the point of tearing them for only the past 30 years – and also kept his janitor job to boot. One day, as it would seem, his passion came calling.

We’ve to be clear about what passion is, and what inspiration is or excitement is. If looking at an artist do his work, or Steve Jobs or Elon Musk do theirs makes us want where they are, then we are only wanting the end result. It is unlikely we will have the perseverance and grit to even withstand their naysayers, let alone send rockets to distant planets. Everyone’s life is hard – to varying degrees of course, but the easiest way to make it easy, is to love thy work.

Whatever the work may be, if we can do it with 100% focus on the work, this very moment, without thinking of anything else, then the kind of quality we will give to our work will be unmatched. Also, if we give this kind of quality to our work for long periods of time, the same work will automatically be seen by others to be our passion. Finally, if we can add compassion to passion, that will take it to the next level.

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Cat-ch me if you can

We’ve got two cats in our building. And their personalities couldn’t be more different.

One guy seems really affectionate. He’ll come up slowly, and try to snuggle. Once he knows you’re in the vicinity, he’ll find his way to you. If you’re sitting somewhere, he’ll try his best to come and sit on your lap as well. You’re already familiar with him, and have seen him do this before here.

But he’s also the jumpy kind. He’ll take a few back scratches, but the moment he hears a sound, he’ll get super alert. If we’re walking and he’s strolling too, and if we crack a leaf or something, he’ll literally jump and run away. It’s in his nature of course, that’s who he is.

Then there’s the other one – “mommy cat” as well call her – given she’s given birth multiple times, and most recently a few weeks ago. This one is not as affectionate, although she will come running once she knows you’re around. She’s quite the talkative one – you just say anything and she will keep meaow-ing like she’s a part of the conversation.

One thing is for sure – is that she’s always living in the moment. Start to give her a bum scratch, and oh can you make out how much she loves it. She doesn’t care one hoot about any sound around her. Some face rubs and under-the-chin rubs – you can make out she goes to paradise, with her eyes closing down quicker than I’d shut my work laptop on a Friday evening.

Lots for me to learn from them – on being affectionate, and happily living in the present.

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Chilled out

There’s a simple lesson my Guru taught me once. It’s hard for someone like me to apply – given I prefer to be the silent observer, and rein my emotions in tightly.

One satsang had got over, and there were a few of us standing and talking. I was doing more of the listening, not the talking. There were a couple of people in the group who were cracking jokes one after the other, following up with roaring laughter and in general keeping the spirits of the group high.

Guruji pointed at those happy fellows and told me, “These guys are great conversationalists. These are the people who can strike up conversations anywhere, and build outstanding relationships with the maximum number of people. You need to be like this too. You know why they are able to do it? Because these guys are living in the moment. How can you joke about something in-the-moment, if you are constantly thinking about something that happened in the past, or is likely to happen (or not) in the future?”

Apt lesson for me indeed.

And it is no surprise that “Laugh and the world laughs with you. Weep and you weep alone.”

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Writers talk

Today is post number 365. It’s been a full year since I started daily-blogging here – and how time has flown! My deepest gratitude to each one of you who has been on this journey with me. As mentioned previously as well, while it might seem like I’m writing for others, the biggest learnings / takeaways / beneficiary have all been very selfishly (for) me. Writing this blog has been fun, but also an eye-opener. Here are some of the reasons I’m realizing why writing is a great way to de-stress:

  1. It helps clear the mind, because things previously in the mind are now moved to paper
  2. It takes effort, and that brings satisfaction
  3. However, despite said efforts, it may not attract a large (or even small!) readership, and that keeps the author grounded and humble
  4. Writing requires reading / listening / being open to new ideas, all of which build confidence and bring internal growth
  5. Many amazing thoughts are forgotten if left to the mind. Re-reading old posts can surprise – nay shock – the writer, leaving them wondering if they really wrote it (in a good way!)
  6. Brings phenomenal discipline. Especially if you write every day
  7. If you have to speak sometime somewhere, then the words come out much better if it is written down previously.
  8. Like I’d noted once here before there can scarcely be a better way for introspection
  9. A side benefit of course, is better linguistics + grammar + vocabulary

Anything I missed out? Feel free to comment…

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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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Best friend, worst friend

Remember when as kids, we used to have things like katti and bacchi? Stick your thumb out and that would mean good friend. And stick your pinky finger out and that would become sworn enemy. And a friend of a friend is a friend, and enemy of an enemy is an enemy. But of course, we were kids, so allegiances would change mighty quickly! You want to play soccer and there is only one kid who owns the ball? Everyone wants to be bacchi with him. Kids also are very quick to say (often to the face) “That girl – she’s my friend, but this girl? She’s my best friend” much to the embarrassment of the parents!

Those days are past, and we have outgrown these best friend worst friend monikers. There is still one best/worst friend though for each one of us. And it is not only simultaneously both best and worst friend, but also the same for all of us! Guessed it? The mind!

As verse 6.5 in the Gita says, ‘Elevate yourself through the power of your mind, and not degrade yourself, for the mind can be the friend and also the enemy of the self.

How can we make sure that the mind remains our friend, and not enemy? By eventually replacing all desires and attachments with gratitude. If desire comes in between mind and intellect, then they squabble. If there are no desires, and work is done as a service to benefit mankind or at the instruction of the Guru, then the mind and intellect on the spiritual path are best friends!

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Oh stress

Everyone is stressed today. Even toddlers, in the face of gargantuan expectations of success from their parents.

The sheer number of kids competing in junior Olympiads, reality TV shows for best dancer, best singer, best chef and what not. Many more categories have been added by the hour, surely.

If these are done with love, fun and enjoyment, then absolutely no problem. But in reality (pun intended), these are for quick fame, and quicker moolah.

If childhood itself begins with stress, little chance of youth or young adulthood and beyond not going down the same path. If childhood itself begins with fierce competition – and not everyone wins every single time – then what is to say of later life?

As noted previously here, it is important to take life sincerely, but not seriously.

Bertrand Russell had the last say on this, ‘If you’re beginning to think that what you’re doing is very important, you need to take a holiday.’

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Lessons from letter writing

We would have all learnt to write formal letters in school. We would start with the date up top, then put a to address, then subject, then body of the letter and then finally sign off.

This last bit is where we were taught to end with “Thanking you; Yours Sincerely”, and that got me thinking. These two together summed up how to live life – peaceful and happy, with no place for stress or anxiety!

How? The first one is easy. ‘Thanking you’ is symbolic of gratitude. Just being grateful is enough to move our mind from a constant state of worry about the future, into happiness for the present.

The second one ‘Yours sincerely’, represents how we must carry out our work / duties. What I’m guilty of though, is being too serious instead of sincere, i.e. ‘Yours Seriously’. How can I enjoy my work then? Of course I will feel anxious. Replacing seriousness with sincerity is the answer, focusing on enjoying the process without worrying about the result.

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By the second

On social media, there seem to be an increase in ‘social’ advertisements. Many pubs and bars seem to have opened up, having being closed many months due to the pandemic. People have been thronging them. Many such establishments have apparently been flouting government norms too – admitting more people and operating longer hours than they should.

While on one side of the world, the devastating coronavirus rages on, on the other side, said nightclubs are teeming with people. Photos show groups of intoxicated half-clothed youngsters, huddled close together, oblivious to the blaring music, high on drink and low on perception.

Sure, the business owners need to run their shops, and this may be a means of advertisement. And of course everyone is free to do as they choose – get high, and leave them problems of the world behind.

But I can’t help but wonder – if there hasn’t been a lifestyle shift. Most of the middle class folks spend everything they earn, just to keep up their ‘image’. Not only are more and more people living paycheck to paycheck, they are also living weekend to weekend. Despising everything related to ‘work’ and ‘office’ on weekdays, all Mon-Fri waking hours are spent waiting for Sat-Sun. And when these do come, they disappear in a flash, feeling like a haze, left in a daze.

What if we lived – not weekend to weekend – but second to second. Giving our fullest to every moment. Enjoying the now. Embracing it. With no care of the past that was or a future to come. How infinitely more productive and yet relaxed, would we be?

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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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‘Car’pe diem

It comes naturally to people with a finance / accounting background to try and compute an ‘intrinsic value’ for everything.

When I was looking to buy a car a few years ago, I was trying to understand how much of the car value would get struck off right out the showroom. This is why some people only buy used cars. A subsequent survey revealed to me that about 20% of the value of the car would get depreciated at the end of year 1 itself. As I was trying to get my hands around these numbers, I reached out to a very good friend for advice.

“Hey, I’m trying to figure this car purchase out. Seems like a sunk cost this thing. I put in money, and then a fifth gets wiped out in 1 year. This depreciation of the asset seems too high. What should I do?”

My friend said, “Dude, chill, you yourself are a depreciating asset. We all are! Do you realize that? Just do what you want, but enjoy the moment!”

It’s not like we do not know it. But the way he put it – it really opened my eyes. Why was I worrying about depreciating assets, while I myself was/am depreciating? This is not to say one must not be savvy about personal finances. Much the opposite in fact. But trying to save every last penny is likely to result in anxiety that negates the benefit from the savings.

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Is money important?

We are all scrambling mindlessly to make money. Or to make more money. Money is such an interesting invention.

For all the bad things in the world, the more the money, the worse it gets. If you are loaded, how does one say “No”, to all the friends that come to borrow and never repay. How does one keep away all the ‘eyes’ on your money. And the potential family feuds, and the rivalries, and even one’s own ego?

For all the good things however, there is quite nothing like money. It can buy time – a good amount of money means one doesn’t need to work as many hours in a typical job. It can also buy health to some extent, quality of life, maybe even a good life-partner! If one is inclined, it also helps in the service of others. Said differently, we cannot donate any money if we do not have any money in the first place.

There is nothing inherently wrong with money. But only as long as we treat it as the means, and not the end. Therefore money has to be a very personalised and calibrated metric. An exercise each one of us must embark on is to figure out for ourselves – how much is enough. This must be personalised, because it will depend on our own personal needs and expenses, without comparative inputs on the size of the neighbour’s car/house/yacht (because that will feature in their own calculation!). We can, however, consider those who live on 1/100th of what we have, but still lead happy lives. Our own ancestors for instance – would have had much lower take-homes, but they managed to raise significantly larger families!

Here is what we must always bear in mind. Money is very very very important. But it is not the most important thing.

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Enjoy the Unjoy

Maybe you’re stuck in the worst job, with the worst boss. Or maybe you’re stuck in the worst relationship, with the worst partner. Or stuck with the worst degree, in the worst college.

The circumstances we find ourselves in right now may be hard to change immediately.

The tools we are given must be accepted. But the design we create with those tools is on us. And in the process, we may chance upon better tools as well.

How can we do this? Only by loving and enjoying what we are already doing, irrespective of what we are doing. We must find the positives, even if only temporary. There is no other way.

But I don’t enjoy my job, you say? No one does. Given a choice, most people would prefer to become a couch potato, or maybe ‘find their passion’. Whatever that goose chase is about!

Interestingly, the entire of the Bhagavad Gita never once mentions whether one should be in this profession or that. But only about how to do the work associated with any profession.

It helps if we accept that the circumstances in a way stem from our own past karmic doing, from this life or before. It helps because we can begin to sow the seeds for better future circumstances.

If we anyway have to do our jobs, deal with our partners, study what we are studying – we might as well do it happily. Because being unhappy about it will only increase anxiety. Our positive energies will dissipate. This will prevent us from spending time on finding and building toward new circumstances quickly – that dream job at Google, that dream partner from Hollywood, that dream Harvard MBA.

The future can certainly be changed. Dreams can surely materialise. But only if we begin to enjoy the now, now.

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