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Category: mind

PeaZzzz

Saw the craziest thing today.

Was stuck in a traffic jam for what seemed like ages.

Everyone there was frustrated, irritated, angry, and likely hungry too.

The tension in the air was translating into louder and louder horns.

Much like a glass filled with stones still has space for sand, the road too with large trucks and buses was choc a block full with bikes, cycles and pedestrians.

There was literally nowhere to go. It was completely maddening, with nary a second of silence.

But to my amazement, in the corner on the pavement, was a hairy homeless man. He was fast asleep, totally unbothered by the din around him. A peaceful smile covered his face, and if he didn’t awaken with all that hullabaloo, he might as well have been deaf.

There is chaos in our lives all the time. But to drown it out is what could differentiate the happy from the rest.

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VVP

This is how the world is deconstructed in the spiritual context.

Vyakti. Vastu. Paristhithi.

Person. Object. Situation.

According to the Gita and other Vedic texts, all of life revolves around these three and the interplay between them.

Why does this matter?

Because it tells us what is important. Or rather what is not.

Can any of these 3 – whether in isolation or in combination – bring us permanent happiness?

The answer is an emphatic No. Hence VVP helps us contextualise what is truly valuable.

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Negative to positive

Many people think that visualization is a farce. That positive reaffirmations do not work. That our minds are not really that powerful.

But just look on the flip side. If someone says something mean to us, we feel so angry. If we don’t clear an interview, we feel like the world has come to an end. That we are not even worth a job. If we have to present something in front of a group, we start feeling nervous, maybe the tummy goes for a toss too. These are all absolutely normal.

But these are all also linked to the mind only. The same mean comment, interview and presentation would mean nothing a few months or years down the line, even if they do not go in our favor. But today they do matter, and the mind getting so restless due to the uncertainty can itself cause bad results.

If this is the case for negative outcomes, why can’t the reverse be true for positive outcomes?

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Key, da!

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”, is what French philosopher Pascal once said. Bang on he was of course.

In Hindi, this is also known as ‘keeda’. Well not literally, because keeda only means insect. However, do imagine a small insect running around in your mind, with the latter unable to sit still.

That’s a keeda for you. Everything is perfect, life is great, the job is great, the pay is great, and yet, you want something more. You feel like something is missing, even though to an outsider, your life would look absolutely perfect. That’s a keeda in action.

How to get out of this feeling? Because everyone’s experiencing it most of the time. What’s the solution – the key, da? (to use some Tamil slang as well).

As my Guru keeps saying, the only way, is “to realize the futility of it all”. So many greats have come and gone. Where are all their worries and troubles now? Where will ours be in a 100 years?

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Emoshunned – part 4 of 4

Why the jealousy versus envy example? Because as humans, we are naturally wired to compare.

Naming the emotion here helps. Because we get to identify the inflection point. If we are envious about something someone else has, we can consciously choose what we want to do with that comparison. As someone nicely summarized – if we compare against others, we become bitter. But if we compare against ourselves, we become better!

Brene dropped this cool line on the podcast – “To compare, is human, but to let go is divine.”

She also talks of the 4 Bs. Biology, Biography, Behaviour and Backstory. These help in further dissecting one’s emotions.

Biology is what we naturally have a tendency for. Biography is how we were raised (in a very strict upbringing versus easy going, or rich versus poor). Behaviour refers to my reactions today – do I just control my anger, or do I turn red and punch a wall, or worse. Backstory – this really helps find an answer, such as if someone tears up, is that anger? Grief? Sadness? Disappointment?

A backstory helps us do better. For instance, if we have an interview lined up, it is but natural to have a few butterflies in the tummy. For some, this can even lead to anxiety. But instead of feeling desperate for the job and just making things worse, it would help to have backstory that emphasizes how it would be such an exciting challenge to speak with 4 interviewers and clinch the job.

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Repetition

My Guru in his Amazing Simple Gita has encapsulated many outstanding truths of life. One such truth comes in chapter 1 itself.

He has written it for all the utopians amongst us. Those who yearn for perfect harmony. For a world filled with peace and laughter.

We have everything already don’t we? Incredible changes in technology mean even some of today’s poor people might have luxuries unbeknownst to the kings and queens of yesteryear.

But still, the kings and queens and rulers of today are themselves discontent. Ever eyeing nearby lands and their resources, with not a care for its people, on they go with their plunder and loot.

Oh why can’t this change? Because of the mind. The mind is one’s own best friend and one’s own worst enemy. Consumed by greed, lust, jealousy and anger, how can this mind think of harmony and peace? No matter the reward, the mind is continuously dissatisfied. As my Guru notes, as long as the mind exists, there exists no respite.

Spirituality teaches us how to subdue the mind, and surrender the ego. When this is achieved, there is nothing but peace.

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Pecking order

We never say “Oh look, his leg has gone for a walk”, or “hey her hand is making food in the kitchen”, do we? No we don’t, because we always consider everything about a person to be one singular entity.

In the Gita, Lord Krishna breaks it up, and for good reason. He says there is a clear pecking order:

Gross body < sense organs < mind < intellect < HE

This is to say, that it is our body and sense organs that get attracted to sense objects, because they give in to desires.

If we are able to use our intellect to focus the (monkey) mind on to HE, then that would be cool wouldn’t it? No need to worry about desires much then. But how to do it? Through karma yoga, aka the principle that work is worship (remember The secret to success at work?).

Also, this is a step by step process. When we know we are doing something bad, and we want to change it, we immediately try to jettison it, throw it out – and then we struggle with withdrawal symptoms. Whereas My Guru’s approach is always more measured, calibrated and sustainable. How? By aiming for something higher, so that whatever is lower and weaker, will automatically drop off. Work is good, but working selflessly as worship is the highest good.

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Memory power

As a kid, my memorization skills were terrible. We used to have those competitions in school where we’d be blindfolded, taken into a room, showed a number of objects, and then brought back into our classroom to write within two minutes everything that we could remember from that visit.

I would hardly get 7 or 8 right, while kids around me easily did 30 or more.

Even to today, I struggle with names, places, birthdays (shhh, don’t tell my wife!), faces, events and everything else. How I cleared exams, especially engineering, where I didn’t understand so many of the most basic concepts, really befuddles me to this date.

But you know the best part of having a poor memory? It extends to all walks of life. If someone tells me something rude or hurtful, I forget that as well. If someone passed some nasty comment – poof, a few weeks later I often have no recall of the event. It sucks when there are fights, if I need to prove a point, then I can barely connect past events to make my case.

But in the long run, does it really matter? Once the ego clash is taken out of the equation, is there really a winner or loser? There likely isn’t, and which is why to me personally, a bad memory isn’t a problem, it is a divine gift!

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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 😅

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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Divine eyes – part 2 of 3

There is another side to this. The ‘divine eyes’ are not some cool sunglasses, but rather a change in perspective of the Lord.

No different from when we expect a Guru to perform miracles like levitation and telepathy, only to realize the real miracle was in his changing our minds!

It is easy to change anything in today’s world if you throw some money at it, but to really deeply change someone’s mind? Ask a parent about their adolescent kids. Or a husband/wife about their better half. “Impossible”, they will say.

And it’s not as though Lord Krishna had been hiding anything from Arjuna. He told him he was the Creator, Sustainer and Destroyer, and heck, even the substratum of all Creation!

But Arjuna didn’t really get it. It’s like meeting your childhood gully friend (the one you use to play with in all the dirt and dust, wearing only undies) after 3 decades only to realize he is now one of the richest people in the world. To you, that person is still the same old playmate from your childhood. Only when you see his face in a few magazines do you realize the truth.

And so he requests Krishna for a true-blue view.

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To do…

To do lists are awesome. They really help me get my work done, and ensure that I don’t miss anything critical.

So to do lists are great, and we’ve established that.

But you know the problem with to do lists? They are never ending. My to do lists just keep getting longer and longer. And this builds up a lot of stress and anxiety.

Therefore, here’s another kind of useful list… The ‘to-don’t’ list!

Many times, what I’m unable to do or accomplish is a direct outcome of other things I should be giving up. Like?

Here’s some to-don’ts for me. Don’t check your emails for at least an hour (did you know we check our emails on average 80 times a day?!). Don’t procrastinate. Don’t worry about the future. Don’t focus on the result. Don’t think about missing one day of your 7-days-a-week workout. Don’t worry about one cheat meal. And so it goes.

Even a short but effective to-don’t list can make a to do list really effective!

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Problematic

Verse 2.55 in the Gita is an interesting one.

But before that, do we have any problems in life? If no, then you are a jivanmukta. If yes, which should be the case for most of us, then the next questions should be – where do our problems come from?

For everyone who is working, we might unanimously think “Oh all my life’s problems come from my boss”. For those of us who are studying, we might think “Oh these darned exams. I love to study and read, but I so hate giving exams and having to compete in the mindless rat race”. For others, problems come from maybe an irritating sibling, or a friend, or a colleague, or even from certain things not going our way.

So the sources of problems can be multifarious.

But Krishna has a different take. He is saying “Hang on, all your problems, my problems, the world’s problems have only one source. And that source, is an unstable mind”.

And hence verse 2.55 says, “When one thoroughly casts off all cravings of the mind, is satisfied in the Self, through the joy of the Self, he is called one of stable mind.”

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Superior inferior

In the workplace, a common complaint I’ve heard across industries and sectors is that it appears the seniors / superiors / bosses / managers don’t really do much. They also don’t know much. But by virtue of their legacy, having warmed their chairs for many years, they get to be where they are.

How to tackle this? Here are some ways to look at this:

  1. If we are junior to someone else, we cannot control the other person’s current position or future career trajectory.
  2. We can control what we do with our hours put in at work though.
  3. In many cases, a person’s authority in a particular position comes solely because of the title. If an incompetent person is made head of the team, it is still the head only who can take certain decisions, whether bad or good.
  4. If a superior doesn’t ‘deserve’ a role, s/he may hold the position for a very long time, but the impact they will create will be negligible.
  5. If we get a chance to go into that role in say 3 years or 5 years, what would our impact be then? What would we want it to be?
  6. If the impact has to be much better, then we need to start putting in substantial efforts – from today itself.
  7. We cannot control the outcome of tomorrow, but we can control what we learn today, what skills we develop today and what networks we build today. This is most important. And it has never been easier to learn new things and add to ones repertoire – whether via Udemy, or YouTube or Coursera or any other.

As Swami Vivekananda has said, “We find ourselves in the position for which we are fit, and if one has some capacity above another, the world will find that out too.”

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Young dung

Often times, new comers, especially youngsters, come to the satsang seemingly in bliss. No, no, not that they’re high or anything, but they can often not see the point of having a satsang or being in one.

“Life is good. I’m working in a good company. I get recognized for my work. I get a monthly salary. I’m interacting with my friends and colleagues and having fun. Everything is fine and dandy. Then why do I need satsang at all? Meditation, liberation, sanskrit verses, detachment, no desires and blah blah blah, my problems aren’t really so big that I need to do all these boring things”, all the youth seem to say.

There can be two ways to think about this.

1. Yes, forget satsang and spirituality and all that. If really someone is in nirvana with the life around them, then so be it! No stress, no anxiety, no peer pressure, no comparison right? Life’s good, and everyone believes you.

2. Maybe one day, some day, hopefully never, there is the off-chance that something in that “perfect life” may not go according to plan. And when that happens, opening up a chapter of the Gita will be too little, too late, and meaningless. Because spirituality is not about knowledge, but about action. And no artist perfected his craft with just the first stroke. That’s why years of practice are necessary, and no different for spiritual success either.

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Control centre

Here’s a cool story I heard on an investment-Guru Howard Marks’ interview podcast. It was apparently narrated to him by his father.

A man loved gambling. He used to spend whatever money he’d make on horse racing.

But he wasn’t very good at it. So he ended up losing money.

A lot of it.

One day, he decided that he would win for sure. So he went and bet on a race where there was only one horse.

A cinch, right?

No, because halfway through the race, the lone horse jumped over the fence and bolted off to freedom.

Life is like that. So unpredictable, even when we think we have it all under control.

Pretty much nothing is in our control, externally.

But if we control our minds, then we do not need to control anything external.

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Paralimping

Of the various disabilities that exist, a physical one is very hard to live with. Not that mental disabilities aren’t hard – they certainly are. But given weaker cognition as it is, it may have a lesser impact on one’s own self worth. But a physical disability coupled with perfect mental machinery? Surmounting those odds requires gargantuan effort. The various incidences of kids poking fun at undeveloped limbs, or the inability to run around like most kids would – not easy. Even those that are physically (fully) well endowed struggle with their self-images and self-worth. How many times have we not wished to be slightly thinner, more muscular, taller, fairer? Even A-list celebrities, yes the same ones whose chiselled bodies adorn cover pages of leading fashion magazines, too succumb to such mental competitiveness.

So awesome it is then, to read the inspiring stories behind various Paralympic athletes from India and other countries who won golds, silvers and bronzes. Here are some outstandingly fine men and women, who were either born with physical disabilities, or picked them up along the way – through some unnerving quirks of fate. But the power of their resolve, hard work and persistence in the face of seemingly insurmountable physical loss – teaches lessons to those of us who have everything, yet live in our own made-up worlds of mental distress. Money never enough, job not good enough, things not going according to plan, small molehills repeatedly made out to be mountains, giving up on smiling altogether, taking tensions for the smallest things – and on and on. All this begs the question – who really is the one with the disability?

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Heavenly hell

Since time immemorial, man has wanted to live an enjoyable afterlife. Avoid hell at any cost, and make sure to get into heaven.

Why heaven? Because everything there is awesome – a cornucopia of food, women, money, opulence and grandeur. Who wouldn’t want to go to such a place no?

The question to ask is, even if we had all this, would we still be happy? Is happiness guaranteed? Surely some celestial beings in heaven would be having more comforts than others. And the comparison game would begin playing on their minds. Or if everything was always available equally and status quo for everyone, then surely life would become very boring, and that would lead to its own problems.

So a promised heaven in the afterlife really is not an answer at all.

Then what about in this life? I really like how Sadhguru puts it. “If you are doing something unwillingly, that is your Hell. If you are doing something willingly, that is your Heaven.”

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Randomly random

Karma. That is what we are constantly accruing. But it is also the name of a newly released book by Acharya Prashant. He’s an IIT-IIM-grad-turned-spiritual-Guru and so I was quite keen to read what he has to say on this topic.

There are many interesting things he covers. One for today’s post, is on randomness. He says that the happenings in the material world around us are truly random. That it is impossible to predict the future with any certainty.

There are so many people and creatures in the world and each has its own free will. When all of these interact, in real time, dynamically, how is it possible to ‘setup’ a specific karmic event for any single individual that is supposed to experience the fruits of their past actions?

The thought is sobering, and indeed seems to make sense from the perspective of our limited and miniscule intellect. But for the Creator of everything around us, maybe it is not such a big deal? The author agrees that karmic law exists. However, this is applicable at the level of an individual, by way of his/her reaction to an external stimulus, i.e. two people could react very differently to the same news, for instance.

So is this what the birth chart of a native predicts in vedic astrology? That s/he will be successful during this period, or will get married during this period, and so is perhaps referring to internal emotions likely to be felt by the native? The word ‘likely’ is important, because free will can be exercised in a counterfactual manner.

There are also many great saints who have tweaked the karma of their disciples. Some say that mass fatalities like plane crashes and terrorism are part of ‘community karma’, perhaps engineered to perfection by Nature Herself. How does that fit in here, in a world ruled by free will and chaos? I guess there will always be some things we just cannot understand…

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Tough life

When life gets tough, we often just want to kick it all off and take a break. But few have this luxury. Here are some things we can do irrespective of whether life has gotten tough or not. It’s hard to practise, but this is what great and successful people have advised and continue to advise.

  1. Smile. That’s it. Easy peasy. But can we smile when we know the world around us seems to be falling apart? And “falling apart” is really taking things to the extreme. Often times it is just one of our life-long dreams hitting a minor speedbump. Many times even smaller and more inconsequential, but which we love to focus on and exaggerate.
  2. Don’t complain. As they say, “Don’t tell people about your problems, because 80% of the people don’t care and the rest 20% are happy you have them!”
  3. Learn. All of life is about growing and becoming better. One day at a time. If we can’t learn from our or other people’s experiences aka failures, then those would only be wasted opportunities.
  4. Give back. Living life for ourselves alone is a huge huge huge burden. But living for improving the life of others, for the country, for the world? While the tasks may be harder, the selfless nature of the assignment will make the burden feel weightless.
  5. ABCs. Attitude, Behaviour, Character – this is what differentiates the best from the also-rans.

Finally, as Guruji always says, modern education and material comparisons can only help us in the material world. But the material world is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Our ultimate goal as human beings should be moksha, i.e. realizing our true nature is not of the body but of the Soul.

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Working remotely

There’s a lot of people who want to work remotely these days. Work from the mountains. Work from the snow. Work from the riverside. Work from the beaches. Work from anywhere but home. All you need is a strong internet connection and some good homecooked food.

I know many people who’ve made this journey as well. From a few weeks to a few months, they’ve tried different combinations. And technology has certainly made things easier. No denying that. However, the feedback I’ve got (and it’s expected of course!) is that the work doesn’t magically become lighter. The sweet aroma of the flowers from the mountain top does little to change the deadline of an irate client.

Said differently, all that matters is what’s in our minds. If we train it to seek a rumbling waterfall or gurgling creek in order to do our work well, then that’s what it will keep demanding, regardless of whether it actually works well in that landscape.

Also, we hardly know what is good for us – but we always think we do. A recent tragedy is a case in point. So many wanted to work remotely from this idyllic place. But said place saw unexpected rains and subsequent landslides that resulted in quite a bit of destruction and loss of lives. Sometimes, if life doesn’t go the way we dream it too, maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Does that mean we should never wish for anything? Not at all, but if it doesn’t go our way, then best to just take it in our stride.

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