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Category: transformation

Conversion test

We know that we must curb our desires. Because desires are like itches. The more we scratch them, the more they itch.

So we must then reduce our desires. But can we really reduce them all the way to zero?

How can we live our lives if we have no desires at all? There are two ways, one advanced, and the other super-advanced πŸ™‚

  1. Here’s the advanced way – shubhecha = shubh + iccha = good desires. Desiring good for the country, for society, for others, for family, for the greater good.
  2. And here’s the super advanced way – Leaving all desires to the will of the Guru / God.

However, for most of us, desires will still be part and parcel of our daily lives. Here’s a quick tip. Try and see if the desire can be converted into a duty. If it can, then it is probably a good desire, and worth keeping.

Examples? Wanting to shop every weekend at a mall for luxury items. Desire? Indeed. Can it be converted into a duty? Not really. However, wanting to ensure the kids in your neighbourhood get a good education, and so you desire to organize weekly classes for them. Desire? Yes. Can it be converted into a duty? Most certainly, and your society will thank you for it.

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Single-tasking

Have you ever seen a job description that asks you to work only on a single task? If you have, then please forward it to me so that I can apply πŸ˜‚.

In this book I’m reading called Beyond the Alphas, the author mentions that the average worker makes between 10,000 and 40,000 decisions – every day!

This is just insane. Apparently we also switch between tasks no less than 300 times a day. For all this talk and requirement for multitasking – is this something that is really even possible? Can I read a book and play a video game, at the very same time? Or can I have a deep conversation with my spouse while also watching TV? That second one I don’t even want to attempt!

Multitasking is only done by computers, that can really run multiple processes in parallel. And when we have computers doing all that work, why should we? Computers don’t get tensed or anxious or stressed, but we certainly do.

That’s why it might be a good idea, to get back to single-tasking, at least on the weekends. To spend 3 hours reading a book, and nothing else. Or an hour of deep conversation, and nothing else. A few hours playing with the kids, and nothing else. Including no phones, tablets or other screens for distraction. Let’s try it out!

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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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Score backwards

Think of everything you already have in your life. EVERYTHING.

What would you value it at?

Of course you’ve read this blog and many scriptures and the like, so the answer would be 100… out of 10. Well done!

Now think of everything you don’t have, but want.

That promotion, that net worth, that designation, that house, that car, that international vacation, that recognition from others…

What would you value it at? 1,000? 10,000? Maybe more? Isn’t that what we spend our entire days and nights working towards / stressing for?

So everything we have is 100, and everything we want is 10,000. Surely we’ve got this backwards? Why else would anything we obtain incrementally, not add to lasting happiness? Why are we still unhappy? To be pondered over…

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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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Hearty speech

Many satsangis under the guidance of my Guru have conducted amazing personal empowerment workshops. Mainly for students, but also for teachers, principals, army officers, corporates and so on.

The experience for conductors has been exhilarating, to put it mildly. The experience for the attendees, specifically the students, has been life changing.

What is critical for conducting a workshop well? We would think the most essential ingredients are a good grasp over the content, excellent communication skills, top presentation style, stage presence, presence of mind, a good voice and other such attributes.

The Guru obviously has a unique viewpoint. He says, yes these are important, but there is one thing far more essential. And that is to harbour great a great and selfless love for the students. He asks conductors to feel the love and nobility – to imagine the poor undernourished students, who have had no opportunities in their lives thus far, and how this program could transform their lives.

It is not oratorical skill from the brain that matters, but genuinely felt love from the heart.

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Sightful

Here’s an awesome story narrated by Morgan Housel who writes for the Collaborative Fund blog.

Dr. Dan Goodman once performed surgery on a middle-aged woman whose cataract had left her blind since childhood. The cataract was removed, leaving the woman with near-perfect vision. A miraculous success.

The patient returned for a checkup a few weeks later. The book Crashing Through writes:

Her reaction startled Goodman. She had been happy and content as a blind person. Now sighted, she became anxious and depressed. She told him that she had spent her adult life on welfare and had never worked, married, or ventured far from home – a small existence to which she had become comfortably accustomed. Now, however, government officials told her that she no longer qualified for disability, and they expected her to get a job. Society wanted her to function normally. It was, she told Goodman, too much to handle.

Wow, you did not expect that ending to the story did you? It is no surprise that humans are the worst predictors of their own future. Our superpower, nay super-weakness is the ability to isolate exactly one outcome of the future (like more money, fame, here eyesight etc.) that we want, to the exclusion of everything else – often risks – that would automatically accompany that outcome.

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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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Visual creatures

One of my Guru’s most favourite topics is the power of visualization. He loves to help others (young and old) visualize their future dreams and goals. He is of the strongest opinion that it has an undeniable and incredible influence on the final outcome. And through this power of visualization, he has made so many miracles happen – things that otherwise seemed impossible, but happened nonetheless.

This visualization principle is not different from what other sources might teach us. Rhonda Byrne’s book The Secret, which became a worldwide phenomenon when it was released, essentially said “The universe will give you whatever you ask it.”

And we know that if we set our minds to something and go after it with single-pointed focus, then rarely can something stop us along the way.

“But how is it possible Guruji, how can we create the future by simply visualizing?” I once naively asked him.

His response was golden. “Deep down, we are all Brahman. All Creation has come from the same Brahman. Why can’t the Brahman inside you create the future that you want then?”

Point taken.

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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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P & C

In a recent Netflix comedy show called Derry Girls, there’s an interesting scene. A bunch of high school students from two different schools gets together. Not just two schools, but they are also divided by religion – one being Protestants (P) and the other Catholic (C).

The priest ‘Peter’ wants to bring them to all realize that P & C are just terms or outward labels, and that deep down we are all one and the same. He has two girls on either side of two blackboards, one blackboard titled ‘Differences’ and other ‘Similarities’.

Peter then goes on to ask the combined class what any one similarity could be between them P & C. The first answer is that P are richer while C are poorer. The next one says P are taller. The third one says P sing better, and so on. Soon enough, and much to the despair of the poor priest, the Differences board has completely filled up, with not a single word written on the Similarities one. He tries his best to hint (and then discuss openly) that everyone laughs, loves, lives, cries the same, no matter P or C or otherwise.

But his audience couldn’t care less – because they are completely usurped by their past experiences, having interacted with the other type. Of course the scene is mainly for comedic effect, but it is not too divorced from reality. It is hard to view people as human beings, and far easier to label them. The real magic happens when we tear off those labels though.

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Quick not hasty

Google Pay has a nice ad. It shows people engaged in a variety of transactions, and then using the app to make their payments. The tagline that goes alongside is “Jaldi, lekin jaldbaazi nahin”, which means quick but not hasty. This is an important but often overlooked mode of action.

Just a few days ago, a friend of mine who had come back to his hometown for a break, was telling me that his marriage got fixed. But he had given an ultimatum to his fiancee, that they needed to be married in the following 3 weeks, before he headed back to his place of work. The girl’s side wasn’t so keen on this alacrity. Marriage is one of those things where it is not possible to momentarily reverse one’s decision – it is not a hop-on hop-off bus. While one can understand my friend’s urgency, in the long run, what is a few months here and there?

But we’ve now got used to doing everything at great speed. Instant gratification and all that. And we naturally come to expect this in spiritual progress as well. But as is very nicely described in Tattvabodha, there are four things simultaneously needed for moksha or liberation = a Guru + satsang + scriptures + X. Three of these we can all have. But what is X? It is time. No matter how much of a hurry we may be in, we cannot sidestep the learnings that time and experience unveil to us.

For large important life-changing decisions, quality trumps speed any day, especially if we want to minimize regrets in the future.

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Hair scare

One of the satsangis in a recent youth session narrated a nice short incident.

A Jain monk had shaved his head completely. Nothing out of the ordinary. Someone still asked him why he did it. The monk replied that he too previously had tried everything – oils, shampoos, conditioners, balms – you name it.

The he realized something profound, and said “Shareeri se a-shareeri hone tak sab kuch chutega”, which means – by the time we go from birth to death, everything will have been forgone. That is just the way of life. Youthfulness, energy, black hair, white hair, any hair – everyone will have to leave all these things behind at the end.

If one is on the spiritual path, one would do well to make peace with the end – well before the end. If despite having all the knowledge in the world, one is still worried about the hair on the head, then of what use is spirituality? We need to leave these things well before they leave us.

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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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A tale of two-is-one

The famous opening line of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities goes “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”

  • This is applicable to investing today – because the market is up, but the economy is down.
    There are many other examples too.
  • Within the same industry, during the same business cycle, one company gains market share, while another goes bankrupt.
  • The economy may be in the doldrums and companies downsizing, but some people still manage to find new jobs.
  • Within the same company, during the same appraisal cycle, one person gets promoted, another gets fired.
  • This is also true for those who are able to work-from-home, because they get more family-time. But it simultaneously also hard for those who need to compulsorily travel for work due to Covid, frontline workers and the like.
  • Speaking of family, one wants to get married but is unable to find the wife. Another is desperate to get divorced, but can’t get rid of the wife.
  • One person is blessed with kids, while another from the same family has struggled to conceive for years. Better still, the one with kids may find him/herself more stressed out than the one without.
  • One person with a lot of money is unhappy, but another having far lesser – yet living a simple contented life – is happy.
  • There may be the worst of riots, but also some kind souls who throw open their doors and hearts for help.

The world is a good place. But it is also a bad place.
Most people prefer to wallow in their misery – wallowing can bring pity but not success.
We find what we look for.
That’s how it’s always been, and always will be.

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Twit quot 2

Here are some more simple yet profound quotes I came across on Twitter:

The way to forget insults is to not take compliments in the first place.
When in doubt, go for a walk.
Don't worry about being qualified. Everyone is learning as they go.
Reading 1-2 hours a day puts me in the top 0.00001%.
In the short term you are as good as your intensity. In the long term, you are as good as your consistency.

Link to Twit quot 1

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Penance

In one of our recent youth satsangs, we had a very engaging discussion on ‘thawam’ from the Kural, which in Tamil means penance / austerity. Is penance only for the likes of Ravana or others who sat and meditated for years together? Or is there some penance possible in our daily lives as well?

Maybe waiting in a line for 14 hours to get one’s hand on the next latest and greatest iPhone could be considered penance. But that would only be scratching the surface. To some, penance is minimalism, such as getting rid of all gadgets (including aforementioned iPhone) and spending time with nature instead. They may also spend much lesser money than others – never eating out, never traveling – being extremely frugal. But where does one draw the line? Does one also stop wearing clothes, taking bath, not sending the kids to school, not visiting a doctor for a medical emergency? Surely penance is about frugality, not miserliness.

Great men and women have said (and experienced) that nothing worth having comes easy. Which means penance is a part of all success worth having. It also begs the question, why is penance so hard? The answer is that it’s not hard. It’s very easy in fact, if one TRULY wants something. Most struggle with this, because they want something (like success), but do not want to work for it.

It’s one thing to do penance for our own benefit. But the truly great people – like my Guru, they observe penances solely for the benefit of others. He observes fasts or chants 21,000 ashotrams for other people’s health – sometimes people who he has not even met! As Thiruvalluvar says, “How fire refines the gold, the pain of penance refines the person.” What more can one ask for?

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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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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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PR / FAQ

PR / FAQ. It stands for Press Release / Frequently Asked Questions.

Surely we’ve all seen these before. When a new service or product is launched, it comes along with a PR / FAQ. The former announces the launch to some detail, while the latter explains some of the nuances that are not immediately obvious.

What is awesome, is that any new product in Amazon (world’s largest company by market-cap ~US$ 1.6 Trn at the time of this writing) begins with PR/FAQ. Begins, not ends. They call it ‘working backwards’. So this is the first step in the creation process instead of typically being the last! They do this because they begin with customer delight and customer experience as the focus. Writing a PR/FAQ upfront highlights to them everything they want the end product or service to feel like, the features it should have, the final look and feel etc. It also gives them full clarity on what the final product should be – right at the start.

This is completely the opposite of what many people set out to do, and I would be the first on that list. When given a task, I prefer to jump right in and begin ‘working’, than pause to think and reflect. This means I might go into several loops of making mistakes, and wasting much time correcting them – mainly because the roadmap isn’t clear.

Starting with PR/FAQ can be applied in many other ways too. For instance, it can help visualize a goal (whether work-oriented, or otherwise) and prepare one’s schedule or timetable and flesh out the details. It can also help with relationships because it gives clarity upfront, rather than postponing important discussions and conversations. The important thing is to begin with customer delight / partner delight / other-person delight, the rest will follow. I also like that when said quickly, it sounds like ‘perfect’ – i.e. “pr/faq” πŸ™‚

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