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Category: gratitude

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 šŸ˜„

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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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Habitual

There is always a lot of discussion about gratitude. People try to ‘do gratitude’, ‘show gratitude’ or temporarily ‘have gratitude’ for some specific person or event or thing. That’s a good start. But gratitude is not something that comes today and goes tomorrow.

Gratitude is a habit, and a way of life. If we can practise gratitude 24×7, that effectively means we are happy all the time. Happy about what? It doesn’t matter, but every second every instant we are able to find something or the other to be grateful about, and hence happy about.

Imagine how powerful that could make our minds? All negative thoughts would be banished forever.

Gratitude is important for both good and bad happenings in life. Why? For whatever good happens in our lives, we of course know how to be grateful. But if we practise gratitude in such good times, then our ego will always be kept in check. Whatever bad happens in our lives, we can be grateful that it wasn’t much worse than it could have been. Also, all bad experiences in life offer us a chance to learn and grow. Sometimes that is better that outright success.

The easiest way to start is by writing a gratitude diary or a miracle journal. Over time, writing will not be required anymore, and being grateful will become an integral part of every waking moment.

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Gateway to serve

There is no dearth of rich people in the world. But the number of poor, far outweigh the rich. If you are one of the lucky ones to be in the ‘rich’ group (or at least in the group where you do not need to struggle to make ends meet), then what can you do with your money? Our scriptures say that the only thing one must do is to serve others selflessly. As my Guru notes often, it is easy to find rich people – but very hard to find rich people who are also noble. Money is such a thing, that the more we have, the more it can control and corrupt us. Even the noblest of people can unravel in the clutches of money. The only way to remain noble then is to stay steeped in our scriptures, and consciously apply everything we learn in them and in satsang.

There are of course many rich people who are doing great work for society. One example is Bill Gates. Indeed there may be naysayers or those who feel he is doing this to benefit himself in some way – there is no way for me to know. However, his work has surely impacted poor people’s lives for the better, and he talks about this in his new book “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster”. He and his wife Melinda began working on global health many years ago, and experts would tell them often about how many kids were dying of diarrhoea. But they didn’t know the source of this diarrhoea. The couple were unable to figure out how to save these kids without knowing the underlying cause. Being rich, and having the ability to spend money as necessary, they were able to fund a variety of global studies to figure out the exact cause of this diarrhoea – which was then identified as pneumonia. And then Mr. Gates was able to further fund a much cheaper pneumonia vaccine than one that already existed and used only by developed countries, which in turn led to saving the lives of millions of kids.

Many times, those who get onto the spiritual path feel that they should not bother about earning money anymore. But money is one of the best ways to help people at scale. Hence a noble person shouldn’t shy away from becoming rich. But one must become rich and not hoard the money, but selflessly help those around in need.

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Luckiest

There’s a Sanskrit word for liberation called moksha. There’s also a Sanskrit word for wanting liberation called mumukshatwam.

Mumukshatwam signifies an intense burning desire for moksha. But even this has classifications – some have a really intense desire while others are more curious than desperate.

It is said that the Guru and the disciple meet when the disciple has a burning desire for moksha.

Many of us are indeed blessed to have a Guru in our lives. But how much mumukshatwam do we have? From my own experience I can say very very little, if any at all. Sad, but true – as I continuously struggle to keep materialism at bay, what with the vagaries of daily life.

But life happens, to each one of us. Despite that, despite not having an intense yearning for liberation, if we still have got a Guru in our lives, what did we do to deserve it? It will remain one of the biggest mysteries to me. It would also be foolish to look such a gift horse in the mouth. And such luck, like any luck, should not be wasted.

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Disastittude

  1. She had worked really hard on her presentation. All of last week. Little sleep and plenty of sweat, and tears.
  2. Now it was ready. All external dependencies, and myriad coordinations, checked and resolved, approvals sought.
  3. Mail drafted, and ready to send. This would put her in the upper leagues. People would take notice.
  4. And then came the phone call. Some of her data points in chapter 3 were incorrect. Taken innocuously from a defunct source.
  5. The correction would take time. Maybe a couple of weeks if not more.
  6. Oh what a bummer. She felt like the world came crashing down.
  7. Irritated. Frustrated. She hated delays. She also hated going back to the drawing board.
  8. Then she realized. This was not a disaster, rather, she was saved from one.
  9. Imagine if her email with the wrong presentation and data had gone out. What a mess that would have been!
  10. It was just a week from annual appraisal day too. Her bonus could have been slashed, and promotion rescinded.
  11. Her frustration abated momentarily, and her gratitude for Divinity’s mysterious ways gushed to the fore.
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How to be equanimous

One of the mainstays for a liberated life according to the Bhagavad Gita, is samatvam or equanimity. This is also called having sama darshanam or equity in vision, i.e. looking at everything as inherently the same, irrespective of whether it is good or bad, pleasure or pain, joy or sorrow and so on.

To live comfortably and mentally unblemished in the face of criticism, one must begin by eschewing praise. We cannot have the proverbial cake and eat it too. We want equanimity in hardship, but our pleasure receptors shoot through the roof in the slightest hint of praise and recognition.

How can we then practically be equanimous? When the boss says “Wow you’ve done amazing work here, you deserve this promotion!”, do we just scowl at him and walk away? Or do we say “No sir, it wasn’t me.” The boss is then likely to keep the promotion/bonus for himself šŸ™‚

The way prescribed in the scriptures, is ‘surrender’. Surrender with faith, to the divine, or if that’s too abstract, then to the Guru. In Hindi, sur means head. So putting your head under the Guru or ishta devata, offering everything to him or her. Everything means all good and all bad without distinction. So grab that promotion by all means, but mentally prostrate and offer it to your deity of choice. This will keep us grounded, always. Difficult, but worth it.

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Ritualistic

There is only one true reason to perform rituals, as my Guru says. And that is, to purify the mind.

What does purification of the mind mean? At one level, it involves destroying the mind altogether. In a non-violent manner of course. We all know our monkey-minds are always going off on tangents, ever seeking more and more. What if this mind could come under control? Very difficult? I agree!

At another (and maybe more easier, and more tangible) level, purifying the mind involves broadening its scope. For most of us, our lives revolve only around ourselves – our wants, needs, desires. But what if we could include others, friends, family, acquaintances, strangers – eventually the whole world, especially all the good people – into our vision of goodness? What if we could desire good for all?

Herein lies the beauty of my Guru’s recommendations. Do the rituals you like, but perform them for the larger benefit of society. Chanting some shlokas? Excellent, chant for mother earth. Doing charity? Wonderful. Keep aside 10% of your income, no matter how small. Use the remaining 90% – invest it, let it compound – have it your way. But the 10% that you’ve decided to give away – that will begin to purify your mind. Because the human mind has been trained for countless generations to simply do everything it can to survive and sustain. There is more to life than that though. As the ancients tell us, the real magic happens when the ego melts away. That will happen when we truly believe that nothing belongs to ‘us’, and the mind merges with the universal mind.

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True greatness

Traditionally, we equate greatness to money, wealth, fame, riches, cars, bungalows, yachts, CEOs, Chairmen, senior management, foreign travel, foreign vacations, first and business class, limousines and a variety of other things.

But Martin Luther King Jr. had the final word on this.

Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.

He understood that greatness wasn’t about oneself, but how much one could use themselves for others.

No different from what Lord Krishna states in the Gita. As my Guru observes in the purport after chapter 13 verse 26 in his Amazing Simple Gita, “Many missions have realized that if we keep only the goal of realising the Lord we will tend towards laziness with only arguments and discussions. Prabhupad for example made it very clear that devotion means devotional service, chanting sixteen malas, trikala pooja etc is important but afterwards what will we be doing – we should be doing seva (service), spreading this knowledge, making more and more people noble and good.”

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