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Category: gratitude

6 months to… part 1 of 3

There’s an outstanding short-book that I just finished reading.

It’s called 6 Months To Live, and written by Dr. Sangeeta Raman Girdhar.

The book is only about 70-odd pages long, and can easily be finished in one sitting, and within the hour.

But the convenient length of the book not the reason everyone should read it.

What the book captures so beautifully, is a combination of 4 things:

  1. What all a loved one goes through when faced with a terminal disease
  2. What the immediate family of this person goes through
  3. What life lessons and spiritual lessons we can each take away, especially if (God-forbid) put in such circumstances
  4. How to deal with cancer, and even make micro lifestyle changes to prevent it

I’m going to share a few powerful takeaways from the book over the next couple of days, but the book has much more than just these, so do consider reading it. The author is my cousin sister, who is an amazing human being. The least I can do is feature her work on FHN! The book is available here.

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Can we give up desires?

A tough aspect of spirituality is not in reading what is said, but in actually understanding and implementing it.

For instance, Lord Krishna in the Gita often asks Arjuna to give up desires.

Is this practical? If I give up all my desires, I wouldn’t even be able to get up from my bed on a Sunday, let alone on a Monday morning!

Maybe there is something deeper and subtler. This is my Guru’s amazing interpretation.

When Krishna says ‘give up desires’, he actually means ‘give up the cravings in your mind’. Having dharmic desires is fine, but it is critical to cut the umbilical cord between desire and happiness.

Our happiness is always linked to the fulfilment of desires. “Think of a time when you were happy” tends to be accomplishments like “when I won the game, or topped the class, or got married, or had kids, or got promoted”.

But what if everything we did, could start from happiness, rather than end in it? This is possible, and it (too) starts with gratitude.

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Thirsty fish

The poet Kabir has an outstanding line:

The fish in the water is thirsty, and every time I see that, it makes me laugh!

What does this mean?

Well, we are the fish!

Aren’t we always wanting something or the other? What we have, never seems to be enough. There are people who would do 2x our work at 1/10th the salary. And still we are unhappy and want more. Compared to the poor and destitute, we are nothing but kings and queens!

Yet we are thirsty for more. We have all the water around us, yet not a drop to drink will quench this thirst πŸ˜…

Is there anything that can quench this thirst? Yes there is, and you know all about it already. It is called gratitude.

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Fool

A lovely point was expressed in a recent satsang by a satsangi who had watched a sermon on the Gita.

We are always hankering after the ‘results’ – we want more and more, and often for not even doing much.

The speaker said, that we should never consider ourselves as the ‘doers’. Are we really the doers? What are we really doing? We are at best only facilitating a grand plan that is already in motion. Even the CEO of a company isn’t really doing much – his outstanding vision itself might be borrowed and stitched together from many others. In any case, he is also dependent on all his employees, vendors, stakeholders, all those who invented things till this point, and so on. No one is truly indispensable. So are we really ‘doing’ as much as we think?

If we do not consider ourselves the doers, the benefit of this approach is that we will not demand results either. To be clear, this is for our own peace of mind and spiritual evolution, and not for use on the day of ‘annual performance evaluation’ at work.

The other statement made was that we need to be grateful for whatever we receive. Always. Otherwise, we would each be a great fool!

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Mentorship

Ah what would we do without mentors? I have lost count of the number of times a mentor has benefitted me – be it my parents, my wife, my brother, my friends, my teachers, well-meaning colleagues, ill-meaning colleagues, good bosses, bad bosses, friends… you name it. Even though some learning experiences were brutal and demeaning at the time, looking back, those feedback loops are what helped into shaping the person I am today. Of course I’m not a successful billionaire, so this probably doesn’t count for much from a materialistic point of view.

But mentors are super important in life, and especially the specialist mentors, the 1-2 people you can rely on for non-technical guidance in your specialist domain. If you are lucky, such a person can double up as your boss too.

The logical next question is, what if I need to move (presumably to a better workplace), and if I consequently need to leave my mentor / boss as well?

This is summarized beautifully in a dialogue in the hit TV series called Ted Lasso:

A good mentor hopes you will leave.
A great mentor knows you will leave!

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Nimittas – part 3 of 3

Knowing now that being the nimitta of the Lord is the easy way to moksha, how exactly does one go about this?

Krishna himself gives a clue in verse 11.54, specifying a particular type of devotion or bhakti. Not any bhakti, but ananya bhakti.

Ananya, refers to no ‘anya’, i.e. no other. There is no other, apart from the Lord. This is not of some specific deity necessarily, but could also be of faith in the Creator. If there is such unconditional, indelible love towards the Lord, thinking of only Him 24×7, then that would be ananya bhakti.

Is this practical? Some research suggests we have nearly 40,000 thoughts a day. Where is the space for 24×7 ananya bhakti then!

My Guru says we can start small (remember ‘microsteps‘?). Offer gratitude to the Lord before sleeping, after waking up, before eating, after eating, before working, after working, before leaving the house, after coming back, after sneezing, after coughing, while yawning and so on.

Eventually, everything we do will automatically become associated with the Lord.

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Delightful

Have you come across people who are always happy no matter what? Like if you just see them, you feel like smiling too?

Yes, I know, hardly anyone like that nowadays. Not all the time anyway.

One guy though is always happy. His name in fact has happiness inbuilt – one Mr. Ross Gay.

He did something called a Delight project, which was his own idea.

He made it his life’s objective to look for and document, daily moments of delight. He later wrote a book chronicling his experiences called The Book of Delights. You hear him on a podcast like I did here, you’ll immediately see how happy and delighted he sounds!

So where does delight come from? You go looking for it, and it appears in the most mundane of areas. Like our bodies functioning normally; seeing those around us happy; participating in social activities; spending time with loved ones; playing with pets, or babies; just breathing-in the cool morning air; feeling the breeze on our faces… and you get the drift.

It could be anything. One thing for each day. Just soaking in the delight. Feeling it for every single second of that experience. Feeling alive. And feeling deep amounts of gratitude, for even just having the ability to feel that delight. Wow!

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Measuring excellence

Jim Collins is an author who needs no introduction. In one of his defining studies, he has distilled down the excellence factors for any company, to 3 core elements. These are:

  1. Superior results (the company can be amazing on paper, but it needs to win in the real world)
  2. Distinctive impact (if the company disappeared, would it matter?)
  3. Lasting endurance (not just a one-hit wonder)

While these are amazing insights for companies, I also couldn’t help but realize these are amazing ideals for anyone striving for excellence to try living up to.

  1. Superior results – irrespective of the profession, can our clients feel they always get the best only with us?
  2. Distinctive impact – of course no one is indispensable and all that; but even so, if we disappeared from the earth tomorrow, how many people would miss us? Would we have left behind a legacy? Not for the money we provide others, but the compassion, listening ear, love and warmth?
  3. Lasting endurance – it’s easy to be good to people once or twice, but to do that lifelong? That would be most beneficial, not just to those being helped, but to the doer. A non-stop selfless attitude is no different from the pinnacle of spirituality.
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TT extraordinaire

This past weekend, a few of us from the extended family had a quick and wonderful outing. One of the cool things about technology is that it makes it easy to find independent bungalows for rent, which are financially pretty reasonable, because we can apportion the larger cost across more people.

The other advantage of having an independent house? An awesome games room! So we played a lot of table tennis, and of course it was fun blaming the table, the racket, the ball, the net and everything else!

The most important thing for table tennis though, is one’s arms / hands. That’s what we’ve to really be thankful for. No hands, no table tennis, right?

Nope! Meet Ibrahim Ahmadtou, who lost both his arms when he was just 10 years old in a train accident. He didn’t step out of his house for an entire year as he couldn’t bear the ignominy of his disability. But today at the age of 48, he is no less a world champion, representing Egypt in the Paralympics.

How can he play table tennis without hands? He uses his mouth of course! And he tosses the ball up with his feet. Do have a look at some YouTube videos. The technique is simply extraordinary, but what is even more so, is his iron will power.

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Rejection notice

Here’s something I came across on my LinkedIn feed recently. A man who was in need of a job was giving some interviews.

During one such interview, the HR told him about the great practices followed in the company, the compassion, the empathy, the work life balance, the amazing culture, the camaraderie and so on. A wonderful HR marketing pitch if there was one.

A few days later, he got an email from the same HR. The email had no greeting, no salutation, no niceties, no ‘thank you for attending the interview’, no template-response either (‘thank you for interviewing with us, we appreciate your candidacy but regret to inform you…’).

Instead, the email from the HR had just one word. “Rejected”. Yes just this one word. Nothing else.

Maybe that HR didn’t have time, or was genuinely irritated by this applicant – who can say for sure. But it’s still basic courtesy isn’t it?

The learning for me was, that even though I don’t write ‘rejected’ emails, maybe I speak similarly – harshly and curtly at times. I may not even realize it, and I wouldn’t know the impact on the other person, but the other party might feel deeply hurt. Much care must be taken. Words once uttered, can seldom be taken back.

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Empavert

The world loves extroverts. These people are chatty, gregarious, always have stories to tell, and seem to get along so easily.

Introverts on the other hand, seem to struggle to get along with most, and prefer to be curled up with a book rather than the centre of attention in a pub.

A book called Quiet by Susain Cain explores how introverts are actually very powerful, can think deeply and make massive contributions to the world in their own ways.

But maybe extroverts and introverts as defined by outward behaviour is irrelevant, even though that is what catches the eye. Dig a little deeper, and what may really matter is empathy.

One can make quick and superficial judgements about people looking at how they behave in public (intro or extro). But when someone goes the extra mile, out of the way to do something for someone else, that is the true basis for a sustainable relationship. In this respect, even an introvert could be an extrovert, by thinking about the other person selflessly.

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Angrrr – part 5

Why so much anger? Part 1 2 3 4 and now 5! Maybe because it’s a question that gets asked and discussed so much. And the solutions all require hard work, effort and patience.

But once managed, it can be the most amazing experience.

And lessening of anger is probably one of those sure-fire ways to tell yourself that you are making progress on the spiritual path.

There are two very important points when it comes to anger that I always try to keep in mind.

  1. The trigger for anger might be outside, but the emotion is entirely within us, on the inside. For the same situation, different people elicit different responses, and that means a very angry person can also learn to become less angry and eventually never angry.
  2. The quickest fix for anger is gratitude, even though it might seem unrelated. If you get angry at your parent or child or sibling for something they did, turn that around, i.e. be grateful for the fact that you even have a parent, child or sibling. So many people would give an arm and a leg to be in that position!

Concluded tomorrow…

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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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Deconstruction

We hear the labourers chattering all day. The flyover near our house. It is getting constructed. It has been like this for two years now.

The daily noise – massive thuds, drilling machines ramming deep into the earth, the sounds of cranes and bulldozers, not to mention – the bright lights and sirens that flash even at 2 am. No matter the day – whether we have an important client call, or a Sunday morning off, or wish to sneak in a meditation session – the din sometimes is unbearable, chaotic and equally unloved by one and all.

But flip this over. These are men and women on a mission. Not to just construct a bridge, but to also construct their lives. Or rather to prevent it from deconstruction. How much can these daily wagers really earn? Hardly enough to make ends meet. And they need to send money back to their families in their villages too?

While we sleep in double glassed sound-proofed air-conditioned high-rises, these folks melt in the sun, puff in the dust, and sleep huddled in reprehensible accommodations. We can only think “When will this bridge get completed, so that my travel time in my luxury car can get cut in half.” They on the other hand, may never get a chance to use this bridge, or maybe only in an overcrowded bus in the sweltering heat. Soon after they are done here, they will be transported to yet another construction site, nearby, far away, who knows. It is always one day at a time.

Why could we not have been born into their place? We very well could have. We just got really lucky. Let us begin our day with gratitude for this fact.

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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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Tough times

There are times when it might seem like everything is going against us. It is good to take on any adversity head-on though with this one thought that occurs to only the most spiritual of beings – “Thank you God/Universe for putting me in this position rather than anyone else. Because at least I will be able to bear this situation and it’s consequences, while those around me if subjected to the very same thing, may not survive.”

At other times, those close to you might be going through a tough time. This could be deep rooted karmic retribution at play. Who can really tell, except perhaps those who have truly Realized? In any case, it might seem like there is nothing we can do to help alleviate the pain. At least physically, yes.

But mentally, and emotionally? We can do many things. One, paramount, is prayer. A wonderful opportunity to not just pray, but pray for someone other than always selfishly for ourselves!

There’s a brilliant video I came across recently. A barber got to know that his client was diagnosed with cancer. The client’s hair had begun falling, thanks to chemotherapy. As the client begins to get his head shaved, the barber intermittently shaves his own head too. What a lovely way to show that he cares! The client is moved to tears.

The tag at the end of the video sums it up beautifully. “That’s not your barber anymore, that’s your brother.”

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ig to IG

Here’s something that struck me and which I’ve been thinking about and trying to practice off-late.

I’m trying to consciously move from ig to IG. From instant gratification (which is everywhere in this digital age) to Instant Gratitude.

A few examples:

  1. When I feel like insta-ordering home delivery on Swiggy / Zomato, I try to replace the craving with a thought of gratitude for having a kitchen at home with loving family members who would happily cook a meal for me. Or even just having a kitchen, where I can cook for myself (rare, I know)
  2. When there’s a wish to get promoted quickly or to make a big bonus pronto followed by an inevitable loss of enthusiasm, one way is to be grateful for even having a job
  3. When wanting to desperately travel someplace just because I’m bored of home, I try to be extra grateful that I even have a home in the first place

Everything in life is about enjoying the process, unworried about the outcome. After all, the outcome of life itself is clear yet inescapable. Enjoying the process will happen automatically once we are grateful for what we have.

If I could have my own app, I’d call it Instagrat πŸ˜„

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Ritualistic pride

When doing a puja, homa (havan) or other ritual, the doers often become conceited. “Oh look I just performed a huge yagna and see how many people attended, and see what amazing catering I arranged” etc. Even if the havan was done on a small scale, ego can creep in. But it’s helpful to really think what aspects of the homa or puja were done by “the doer”.

How about these?

  1. The deity we are praying to has to make him/herself available
  2. Agni, the fire God, has to function as the medium and carry one’s prayers to the deity
  3. The various ingredients – coconuts, walnuts, other inflammable items, flowers, ghee, water and everything else – does the yagna doer create these items?
  4. The priest who conducts the ceremony – is the organizer the priest? Soes s/he know every single mantra, shloka, chant – not just to recite, but to understand and to feel? Did s/he create those incantations?
  5. Or maybe if it’s a self-chanted self-conducted ritual, then gratitude to our own memory, vocal chords, the guru who taught us the mantras…
  6. How about the free time we were allowed by our family members to devote to the puja
  7. Also the attendees who showed up, and the cooks who prepared all the dishes
  8. A few other things I would have missed here for sure

Without any of these, how would the havan have been a success? Really is there much for us to be proud of then?

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Bharatha 600BC

There is an awesome board game called Bharatha 600BC, created and released by a company called GoIndia Games. It’s quite unique because such games that are made in India are rare. The map of the game itself is beautiful – featuring ancient India from – you guessed it – 600 BC!

The game makes for fun family bonding time – especially offering a clean hour or three. ‘Clean’ meaning no screen diversions (mobiles, tablets, TVs etc) – wow is that even possible these days?

The board game has plenty of paths to victory – and one can use tact, strategy, battle, speed, rationing (i.e. hoarding) of resources, using special cards – you name it.

One interesting thing that happens when we play with my mother, is that she will never battle, and she will also always ‘give up’ resources for the rest of the family to win. “Oh, how can I battle my own son!”, or “You want resources, here take mine” – much to the groans of others “come on ma, this is supposed to be a competitive game – leave your familial bonds aside!”

While there are groans during the game, one must look behind the curtain. The motherly love kicks in with feelings of compassion overruling everything else – and not just during board games but even otherwise. What if we too can apply such compassion/empathy all the time. Just like the Guru does. Wouldn’t that be the true application of everything we learn in our scriptures?

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Miraculous (escape)!

We were sound asleep. Blissfully unaware of the goings on of the night. A sudden loud crash jolted us awake. What was that?

A slab of granite making up the top of the window sill had just crashed to the floor. No announcement, no warning. Through the darkness, we could see some more slab, hanging precariously.

We tried to go back to sleep. Hardly a few minutes passed, or was it an hour? Another deafening crash, a bigger slab fell this time.

This was a place where we would normally be sitting under in the daytime? Or certainly walking past at least – many times a day. But the slabs never caved in then. How infinitely lucky were we?

A sheer miracle, if there ever was one. Not just tonight, but every night and every day till today. Who knows what all unspeakable things could have happened, but by some divine grace, didn’t?

Life certainly seems to be crumbling around us from time to time, all the time. But if it doesn’t knock us out, and allows us to keep moving ahead, that is nothing less than a blessing and a miraculous escape.

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