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Tag: gratitude

Good politics / bad politics

We all know folks who get so disgruntled with office politics and say “I will never drop to that level. I hate all this backbiting.”

For sure, dealing with office politics can be tricky. For a superior, even acknowledging that it exists can be tricky.

But the word ‘politics’ is most likely a misnomer in office situations. Or at least not completely representative of the truth.

For instance, politics is a concern for those who struggle to build and maintain relationships. On the contrary, for those with the increased ability to get along with people, politics is rarely an issue. Is there something wrong with having the increased ability to deal with people? Most work is all about dealing with people only! When most people are running to master Photoshop, Excel, Python, Matlab, Web Development and myriad other skills, the one that probably matters the most is being left out.

From our point of view, we can always try to benefit the maximum number of people with our actions. This will ensure a positive rub off from any ‘politics’. And it goes without saying, that politics of the bad kind, where the focus is one-upmanship at the expense of others, is avoidable. However, there is nothing wrong with asking for a promotion or a raise, as the effort is one’s own, and by the book. Right?

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Inheritense

Had a client meeting recently after ages. It was an in-person meeting, at a café. And my word was the café full! Absolutely jam packed, teeming with people. Open air, yes, but still, hard to believe that just a few months ago, people were scared to so much as just get out of their homes, for fear of an invisible killer. Such is human memory. So short, not necessarily so sweet.

Another thing that we don’t remember too well? The price paid for luxury. The price paid for money. “For”, not “with”.

My client had this to say. He has 2 brothers. And his dad died some time back. Did the 3 brothers get an inheritance? Not even a dollar. Instead, it was the other way around. He had left some overdrafts and other dues which the 3 men only discovered after the man’s passing. They got together and paid off the balances.

Here’s my client’s thoughts after he recounted this. “I’m really thankful that my dad did not leave us any inheritance. Because if he did, then we brothers would have squabbled over who gets what. And no matter how fairly we tried to divide it, we’d still have ended up unhappy, and this would have broken the family. I’ve seen this in the case of so many families it’s not funny. I’m really glad we got nothing, because having money is a curse.”

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Fleeting

Here’s a Chinese proverb I came across:

1. If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.
2. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing.
3. If you want happiness for a month, get married.
4. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune.
5. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody else. 

All of these are true. Point 3 is funny even. And these must be taken in the right spirit. It is not about the activities, but rather about the fleeting nature of happiness. This has even been studied by scientists, including the various chemicals released by the brain (endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin etc.).

The winner is always the last one. Point 5. Do more for others. In fact, do everything for others only. Because there is no difference deep down, from a spiritual point of view. Our scriptures say that if we do for ourselves only, we are only adding fuel to the fire which is our ego.

The challenge is, that even doing point 5 well is hard, because we look for some signs of acknowledgement from the people who have just benefitted from our help. When they don’t even say a thank you, that can get us really riled up. The real test of spiritual progress is how little such feelings impact us.

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Astral planes – part 2

  1. How can we understand the sookshma sharira? If we are pinched, we feel pain physically. But is all pain only physical? How about emotional pain? This happens in the mind. And so perhaps doesn’t require a physical body at all, and so the astral body aka sookshma sharira is sufficient.
  2. Is there any use of an astral body? When we perform homas / havans / sacrificial fire offerings, it is believed that the prayers and offerings are carried via the fire to deities who each are astral beings. Said astral beings may also be a part of the same environment / room where the homam is being performed. This is why menstruating women for instance are advised to stay away, as the smell of blood may displease said astral beings. On the flip side though, there are certain temples where only women or rather menstruating women are allowed to visit, so there’s that too. Hollywood movies like Marvel’s Dr. Strange speak of the ability to control one’s astral body at will – and even make it a superhero’s main powers. Perhaps this is really possible? Or maybe only in heaven?
  3. We often expect astral beings and fairies and what not to only be found in heaven. And thus has ensued man’s never ending search for such a hallowed land – the ultimate paradise. But Sadhguru has a nice take. He says that living here and now, when we are doing something willingly, that is only heaven. And if instead we are forced into doing something unwillingly, then that becomes hell! As the saying goes, “A religious person is one who believes in and is afraid of going to hell and a spiritual person is one who has been to hell and back”

Concluded tomorrow…

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On priority

How does one who is completely devoted to and lost in the Lord behave? Maybe there’s more than one way – surely. But here’s what’s on the cover page of the Mukunda-mala-stotra book originally composed by King Kulasekhara and then of course expounded upon by various greats. This specific excerpt is from Srila Prabhupada’s commentaries:

When King Kulasekhara saw the breath-taking beauty of Lord Krishna in ecstatic trance, he lost all the desire to rule his vast kingdom. Later he wrote, "My mind cannot turn from Sri Krishna's lotus feet even for a moment. So let my dear ones and other relatives criticize me, my superiors accept me or reject me as they like, the common people spread evil gossip about me, and my family's reputation be sullied. For a madman like me, it is honour enough to feel this flood of love for Godhead, which brings such sweet emotions of attraction for my Lord"

The very things that we each are craving for – societal approval, name, fame, wealth, status – are being given up in an instant by a great King, simply because he tasted the true nectar of being one with the Lord. We are no kings, so it is all the more important that we have our priorities straight. But is that the case?

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Advanced beginner

As a kid, going to amusement parks meant having to size oneself up against a ‘bar’. If I was shorter than the bar, then sorry, that ride wasn’t for me, no matter how adventurous it looked.

We always want to be permitted to do what we want. To be what we want to be. No shackles, no limitations.

I came across a spiritual book recently, which needed some permissions to be read. To read a book? Really?

Here’s what the book cover said. “Only for advanced seekers or absolute beginners.”

What an amazing requirement. I don’t know what was in the book, but it certainly makes me want to read it (even though I don’t fulfil the requirements). I’m certainly not an advanced spiritual seeker. And unfortunately, I’m not an absolute beginner either. I’ve read some spiritual books and listened to some YouTube talks, and that means my ego has only risen, rather than crumbled, as would be ideal.

Krishna makes it explicitly clear in the Gita. He needs no status, wealth, name, education or credentials for granting a spiritual revolution unto Him. All he needs is a clean heart dedicated only to Him.

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First who, then what

Much of the work in the world is focused on answering the “what”s. What is the solution to this problem? What is the workaround here? What should be my position on this issue? What should I tell him or her? What should I expect from this project? What is our vision? What is the outcome of this strategy? What, what, what, what … that is what is everywhere.

However, the really successful people (think billionaires), they don’t care much about the ‘what’. They only care about the ‘who’. They know there’s a problem. But they also know they cannot solve all the problems in the world on their own. They know that the most optimal use of their time is to get the best person to solve that problem. Who do they want to work with? Who do they like? Who knows this job the best? Who is the one who’ll do this with the least fuss? That’s the important question – it’s always about the who. If the ‘who’ is taken care of, the ‘what’ will sort itself out. If the driver is good, then one needn’t worry about the car heading in the wrong direction.

Similar for spirituality as well. We are often focused on the what. What shlokas should I chant? What mantras work best? What meditation mat should I buy? What scriptures should I read? What seva should I do? What satsang should I join? So many whats.

But all we need, is one who. Who is the right person to answer all these questions? The answer is only one. The Guru. Once that answer is fixed, then all we need to do is to follow his advice. All problems solved.

500th post today by the way. Thank you for reading, and being part of this journey of joint transformation! 🙂

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Sadd happiness

There was an awesome lecture given by Swami Swaroopananda that I had the chance to attend a few years ago. I don’t remember much, except that he spoke about another session he once lectured at.

His recounted his question to his audience in that, “Is there anyone here who wants to be happy?” Obviously all the hands had gone up, All except one. Swamiji of course was perplexed. So he turned the question around, thinking maybe the man may have misunderstood. “Is there anyone here who wants to be sad?” The man was the only one to raise his hand. Swamiji asked him “Why do you want to be sad?”. The man replied, “Because being sad makes me happy.”

Isn’t this hilarious? Even the ones apparently seeking destruction and mayhem and chaos and sadness actually want happiness only.

That’s why I like the ‘SADD’ acronym that I concocted from the 2nd chapter of the Gita. Yes, yes, it is indeed a terribly un-innovative acronym and hence I’m totally happy to take the credit :D. Terrible jokes aside, SADD stands for Sense control, Attachments gone, Desires gone, and Dwandvas gone. The first 3 are self-explanatory. The Dwandvas are all around us – pairs of opposites – good/bad, night/day, joy/pain etc. All of spiritual progress is about remaining equanimous in the face of these. We need to be really SADD to be really happy.

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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 😄

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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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Lessons from a wildebeest

Human babies are pretty much useless at fending for themselves. They can do nothing more than suckle and cry at a really loud volume.

But wildebeest babies? Man do they have it tough!

A new born wildebeest’s mother – for many hours after the calf is born – doesn’t even let it suckle. The reason? Safety from predators who abound.

The wildebeest calf must first stand up on its own. It’s mother keeps moving further and further away from her calf, forcing the latter to start following her – first by walking, and then by running. Only when the calf is able to run properly after a few hours, does the mother allow her baby to have her first milk.

Three things struck me, as I watched this on a BBC Earth show.

  1. How lucky we are – despite having no ability to run or walk at birth, we are kept safe.
  2. There is no room for crying or cribbing – run, or die.
  3. If we struggle at the start itself, in anything we do in life, this would form the foundation for future success.
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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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Luckuidity

Here’s a short story that I came across (surprisingly!) in two different books within just the past week. The first book is called The Great Mental Models by Shane Parrish, while the other is the recently released How to Prevent a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates.

The story goes thus. There are two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”

There could be different takeaways for different people from this. To me, it is a simple yet profound reminder of all the good stuff that I’ve got in my life that I’m constantly and almost unknowningly taking for granted. If I would only stop to smell the roses along the way…

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Wake up

In their 2001 hit song Chop Suey, American band System of a Down crooned “Wake up wake up, grab a brush and put a little make up. Hide the scars to fade away the shake-up”. The song was intense to say the least, and while the rest of it is irrelevant, this portion well summarizes how many begin their day – stressed, anxious, shaken-up and somewhat empty inside.

“How do I get rid of stress and anxiety?” is the title of a YouTube video I recently watched. The question was asked by Indian Bollywood celebrity Suresh Oberoi to Shivani didi of the global Brahmakumaris movement.

Her response was crisp, simple, practical and immediately actionable.

  1. Our thoughts and words manifest into the reality around us, albeit with a time lag.
  2. Therefore, we must think and speak positive, not negative.
  3. This positivity can only be generated from within, as we do not have control over what goes on outside.
  4. Do not look at your phone for the first 30 to 60 minutes after waking up. This prevents us from falling into the clutches of the world, which tends to send all sorts of negative ideas and emotions.
  5. Start with gratitude. Before even opening your eyes, feel grateful for your life, healthy body, family, money, opportunities etc. This will over the course of a few days significantly reduce our complaining / criticising behaviour.
  6. Choose and repeat a few affirmations relevant to you. Like “I am enjoying my work, and am very successful”, or “I am very healthy and healed” or “I have amazing relationships” etc.

That’s it. Easy to practise? Found it useful?

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Green and brown

Since time immemorial, man has searched high and low, for the promised land, also known as heaven, paradise, swarga or elysium.

This search is no different from that suggested by the proverb “the grass seems greener elsewhere”. We are all looking for a heaven to go to, where our problems will be magically transformed into soft fragrant rose petals. But what if the grass were not green, but actually brown and dying weeds.

What if we were born in a country with no freedom, no rights and no voice? Or born in a concentration camp or a prison? What if we were age 1 and the only survivor in a plane crash that decimates an extended family of 12, all returning from an overseas vacation? What if we were age 4 and told that a rare medial condition would give us just 1 year to live? There are millions of kids with such conditions! What if we had no limbs, or had no eyesight? What if we were not born a human, but as an animal? No, not the pampered pets on Instagram – but those that have to be culled after suspected exposure to a virus?

We could have easily been any of the above, but by some quirk of fate, we are not. Is that not something to rejoice over and over? Even living beings put through the hardest and harshest of conditions, find a way to be happy. So why are we sad? Why are we constantly looking for a mythical land of magic and perfection?

We are already in heaven. We have the power to make our own heaven. Right here right now. We must open our minds and embrace it.

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MJ can change your life!

No MJ is not Michael Jackson, or Michael Jordan, or even Mary Jane.

MJ stands for Miracle Journal. And MJ can indeed change your life – because it certainly did mine!

The concept is simple, but the magic is in the doing.

Pull out a notebook, either a physical one, or an online note-taking app, like Evernote.

Start listing down all the miracles that have happened in your life. Just one line each.

Irrespective of how tough our lives may have been, we have each had those magical moments. Like the time a friend saved you when you were in trouble. The time when you went on your first date with your partner. The time when ate your most favourite food. Or when the delivery guy came just in time as you were leaving on vacation. The vacation itself. The visa for the journey, that came through despite you not meeting all the criteria. Or the job you got when you needed one so badly. Or the promotion. When a stranger helped you with directions in an unfamiliar city. That one teacher in kindergarten who was extra kind to you. Getting a taxi just when you need it.

Yes, these are tiny almost unnoticeable events in our lives. But taken together, they are a gargantuan force that has shaped who we are today. On any day when things aren’t going that well for us, all we need to do, is to open up MJ, and relive what life has given us, and how gracious it has been.

Trust me, we will feel lucky instantly, and the rest of the day will be fantastic. Try it – MJ will not disappoint!

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Just starting to pray

When we just start to pray to get time off for our fourth vacation of the year
Let us pray instead for the front-line healthcare workers that get no time off in a pandemic

When we just start to pray for more time to spend with a loved one
Let us pray instead for the soldiers that keep us safe with no guarantee of a return to their own families

When we just start to pray for a bigger and better house for ourselves
Let us pray instead for the destitute living on the pavement

When we just start to pray for a better education or degree
Let us pray instead for that underpaid teacher in primary school to whom we owe much of our success

When we just start to pray for a promotion or bonus at work
Let us pray instead for the family that lost its sole breadwinner

When we get through all these prayers
We will have forgotten everything we wanted
All our troubles will melt away
And we will be left only with gratitude for everything we have

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The Happiness Toggle

No better way for me to start, than by being grateful to everyone and everything that has brought me to this point. If you are reading this, you too need to be grateful. Why? Because we are lucky to even be alive! So many babies didn’t make it past the fourth month in the womb. But here we are. Our organs are working, and limbs are fine, and we can see and hear and talk and laugh.

Sure, this is common across most other human beings you say – so what? So this, that the more we crave for something we don’t have, the more the anxiety and unhappiness.

Flip that around. Where does the happiness lie. In the object? Or inside us? If chocolate (the object) makes us happy, then why does that happiness not linger?

We do not need anything else. We are already complete. Let us strive to help others, instead of focusing on ourselves all the time. This happiness toggle is in our minds.

As the Buddha said, we don’t need money, to give. We can give compassion with our eyes, sweet words with our mouths, warmth from our touch, a listening companion with our ears and serve with our bodies.

Forget what society wants us to be. Let us be ourselves. If we want to be great, let us start by being grateful – let us be forever happy now!

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