Apr 12, 2021

Book Review: The Search that seeks you


 A question that had been lingering in my mind for decades is finally getting answered in the past one year through various sources. When I heard this answer for the first time, I couldn't accept it. I faced a lot of internal resistance. The answer then explained itself through deeper questioning and serendipitous interactions. The answer became even more convincing through multiple workshops (Durgesh Nandhini's OMW, Tushita's meditation sessions and Anbe Yogam's 4 Gates 1 Home). 

As if these weren't enough, I accidentally stumbled upon this book in my community library and it simplified the answer even further. 

Yes, I'm now a firm believer of karma, the universal cause-and-effect law applicable for everyone. I now understand the deeper meaning of it and it has helped me connect many loose ends.

The main protagonist of this book "The Search that seeks you" written by Sangamithra Amudha is named Karma. It is a simple story of Karma's self discovery through his life experiences and spiritual encounters. 

From the author's words, 
"We create karma through our actions and thoughts. The good and bad things that we experience are all due to karma."

Karma's story is easy to relate to - the incidents, people in his life and their influences. I particularly loved the writing of the first half of the book. The conversations that Karma have with the spiritual gurus are so deep and profound, yet written in simple language. 

The latter half felt a little forced, where situations and conversations were disconnected to the story and didn't sync with the main plot. Nevertheless, there were many interesting insights that I had jotted down to reflect upon further.

A few such points listed below:
"A mind without thoughts is a valuable treasure. In the absence of thought processes, the mind can experience contentment"
"Only when unnecessary thoughts and bad intentions are removed, we can get to the temple's treasures, that is, true happiness in our lives"
"The mind is a driving force that can help you to keep re-emphasizing goals. When you keep re-emphasizing your goal, it tries to find a path to achieve it"
"It is our responsibility to manage our tough times rather than lose our mental strength by thinking about why we have to suffer"
"If it is in your karma that you have to help others, the same manifests as the desire to do so"

Spirituality explained through simplified writing and an easy-to-relate story. Loved reading it.

Apr 10, 2021

Importance of planning on challenging days



 As I shared yesterday, I was going through a couple of unexpected health issues in the past few weeks. Sleep-deprived and at the same time, not enough food intake made me feel quite drained.

Days just went by without much focus. Many good habits that I had incorporated had fallen off the track. After a few dull days, I picked myself up, restarted a few good habits (not all of them) and I could see a clear shift in my energy levels. 

I had a different set of responsibilities (and its challenges) from Oct-Feb. I had presumed that March will be a time when I could focus on a few personal projects, but then these health issues cropped up all of a sudden. This experience made me realize that there will never be a perfect time when everything falls in place the way we wanted.

Our responsibilities and life situations keep changing. We need to adapt our schedules with clear intentions along with a "Terms and Conditions Apply" mindset. That's where planning comes in handy.

We may not be able to accomplish the 100 things we want to get done, but with proper planning, we can accomplish at least 2-3 things on days when we don't have much control over situations. 

"Plan your days even when your days aren't going as planned" - this is the thought I wrote down in my journal a few days back. 

The purpose of planning on such challenging days is not to feel overwhelmed, but to have intentions/hope towards progress. 

No hustle, no busyness. Slow, steady progress. 

Apr 9, 2021

2 life lessons related to Health



 You might have heard of instances like "I bit a murukku and my tooth broke", "I bit a seedai and my tooth fell off". Have you ever heard this statement - "I bit into a samosa and my teeth came out". Well, that's what happened to me 3 Sundays back. After a long long time, I was tempted to eat a samosa. I bought home a piece from my favorite sweet shop, poured the chutneys on top of it, and took ONE bite from my front teeth. My next reaction was OMG! My 4 front teeth dropped off on my plate.

If you are shocked at this point, let me admit - the teeth that broke were my 10-year old ceramic bridge. From my teens, I had many tooth cavities, got many root canal treatments done in my 20s, and had to get a ceramic bridge in 2010. 

I shouldn't be blaming the samosa or the fact that I was tempted to eat it. The incident happened, which was beyond my control and I had to fix the issue. Over the past 3 weeks, after multiple trips to my dentist and various procedures, I got a new ceramic bridge fixed. Thankfully, since wearing masks being the norm, I could manage conversations with people, without feeling awkward.

Because of the dental procedures and lack of front teeth, I could hardly eat much, mostly semi-solid food like kanji, kichdi, or rice-based meals. Around the same 3 week period, I also experienced severe pain in my feet and legs during the nights. Checked with a couple of doctors and seems like the pain was due to Vitamin B12 deficiency. I'm currently on supplements and slowly recovering from the pain. 

These 3 weeks have taught me two valuable lessons. 

(1) Health is NOT only influenced by these factors - nutrition, activity, exercise, sleep, meditation, sun exposure, self-reflection, etc. There will be circumstances beyond your control, which might end up affecting your health. In such situations, surrendering to the discomfort without resisting too much is the key. 

(2) When the factors (that are under your control) are taken care of, the unexpected circumstances become more manageable. The recovery is faster. Though these circumstances might make you uncomfortable, you will have the inner strength to sail through.

As I'm "chewing" a plate of kambu idlis along with tiffin sambhar for breakfast this morning, I feel so much gratitude for my teeth (both the natural and the ceramic ones). 

Apr 6, 2021

7 tips to fix your sleep routine


 I recently stumbled upon this term called "Revenge bedtime procrastination". This implies that we delay sleep on purpose to gain some me-time. 

As I was reading more articles on this topic, this one by BBC had elaborated it very well

"people who don’t have much control over their daytime life refuse to sleep early in order to regain some sense of freedom during late-night hours”.


I remember many years back (2012-13) when D was a toddler, I would put her to sleep by 10 PM, make myself a nice cup of hot chocolate and watch an episode of "Castle" on Star World from 11-12. Though I knew I had to catch up on my sleep, I would delay it, just so that I can grab an hour for myself. Fortunately, there wasn't any Netflix/Prime during that time as I might have ended up binge-watching one episode after another.


Off late, I have been observing this sleep procrastination happening among my friends and family. During this past year of work-from-home, it is becoming a much more prevalent practice.


Though most of us understand the importance of sleep in our overall well-being, we succumb to the temptations of social media, Youtube, and streaming apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime.


Sharing with you 7 tips on how you can fix your sleep routine.


(1) Maintain a sleep log

Track the number of hours you sleep. Most of us aren't even aware that we are sleeping less than 6 hours a night. Also, keep a note of the following aspects - how do you feel after waking up - do you feel energetic, do you reach for more cups of coffee/tea to get through the day, do you feel sleepy after lunch, do you have sustained energy throughout the day? These questions will help us become aware of how poor sleep affects our energy levels.


(2) Prioritize your sleep schedule

Fix a time to go to bed. Turn off all your gadgets/devices an hour before your bedtime. Follow this habit at least during weekdays. You might have heard this multiple times but if you are finding it difficult to implement, start slow. If you are used to sleeping by midnight, shift it to 11:30 PM (the gadgets to be turned off by 10:30 PM). Only through conscious habits, we can make a permanent change.


(3) Plan your calming hour

During this one hour before bedtime,

  • go for a short stroll
  • meditate
  • read a book (preferably a physical one)
  • journal about the day
  • write down a plan - tasks/to-dos for the next day

(4) Plan your work schedule

I often hear from many people that in the past year, they have been working longer hours. The commute time, lunchtime, and casual conversations at work with colleagues are now replaced with more and more meetings and work commitments. 

Time-box your day and fix up a clear schedule for various activities (meetings, email, work, research etc). Block a few hours to do deep work without any interruptions.


(5) Set clear boundaries at workplace

Work-from-home doesn't mean that you can be reached at any time of the day. Communicate your availability to your peers/co-workers. Having a fixed work schedule doesn't undermine your commitment to work. 


(6) Block time in the evenings to relax and unwind, so that you don't compromise on your sleep. Allocate an hour to catch up on your favorite series/youtube channels/social media.


(7) Identify *offline* activities that you enjoy and at the same time, give you a break from your gadgets. Me-time doesn't necessarily have to be scrolling through social media feeds. 


Good quality sleep is as much important as eating a nutritious meal / getting an hour of workout every day. Let's not compromise on our sleep for anything else - be it work commitments, catching up on favorite TV shows, etc. So not worth it!

Mar 29, 2021

Nestle Koko Krunch Breakfast cereal review



 For the past few days, whenever I open a Youtube video, the default ad that's being shown is the Nestle Koko Krunch breakfast cereal. Given the success of Kelloggs Chocos and Soulfull ragi bites in the urban markets of India, many brands are vying for a slice of the growing pie.

When a brand claims that it is tasty, delicious, kid-favorite, yummy etc, I have no qualms whatsoever. But the moment a processed "breakfast cereal" brand talks about health and nutrition, we need to be a little more vigilant. 

Let's first look at the messages being conveyed in these short 20-sec ads:
  • Is your child eager to grow? Highlights that the product contains Calcium + Vitamin D
  • Why are whole grains good for your kids? Highlights that tproduct contains Wheat, rice, jowar and oats, which help fill your child's tummy
  • Is your child low on energy in the morning? Highlights that the product has Vitamins B2, B3 and B6 that help release energy from food

The ad also indicates the presence of the following:
4 grains
Vitamin D and B
Fibre
Iron and Calcium

As always, let's not blindly trust these claims. Let's understand the nutrition labels.




  • Whole wheat atta and rice flour contributes to 36% whereas jowar flour and oat flour contributes to only 11.4%
  • For a 30gm serving size, the Total Sugars value is mentioned as 7.2 gm (close to 2 tsp of sugar)
  • For a brand that highlights "whole grain" so much in their promotions, there is hardly any fibre present - 1.2 gm in a 30 gm serving size
  • Presence of maltodextrin (mentioned twice) is a concern. It is a cheap carrier ingredient with an extremely high glycemic index.

Regarding synthetic vitamins and minerals, I'd rather prefer to consume real, natural food sources and let my digestive system extract the required vitamins and minerals. 

As parents, let's take the time to research about packaged foods we buy for our kids. Let's give atleast the same priority (if not more) towards their foods intake as much as we give towards their education and extracurricular activities.

P.S.
The brand promises on retaining the crunch after adding milk and doesn't tend to get soggy (In fine print, it says crunchiness lasts approx 4 minutes after warm milk is poured on the product). Seriously, is this the product differentiator? Did their market study suggest that parents expect crunchy breakfast cereal for their kids rather than soggy ones? 

Our kids don't need packaged, processed, sugar-laden breakfast cereals - crunchy or soggy .

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