Oct 17, 2020

Money Talk


 

For the past few weeks in the Online Minimalism Workshop (OMW) that I'm attending, the topic of discussion is Money. One of the questions that I'm asking myself is "What is my relationship with money?". I'm grateful that this question was triggered, thanks to OMW.


Each individual's relationship with money is influenced by multiple factors - upbringing, childhood experiences, personal values and beliefs, the influence of family, relatives, neighbors and many more.

Even when two people, for example, siblings who have experienced similar upbringing and childhood can have different perspectives and a different approach towards money. If they are brought up in an environment where money was less, they can either feel deprived or feel more responsible. The attitude they adopt will decide their relationship with money in their 20s and 30s.


For me, my attitude with money is more on the lines of RESPECT and RESPONSIBILITY. Having grown up in a middle-class household, there were times when Appa was struggling to make ends meet. This has taught me to be more responsible and not spend on impulse purchases or unnecessary/fancy items.


In one of the sessions, I came across this statement - "Help will come when needed". It wasn't easy for me to understand this phrase but as I pondered over, two examples from my life helped me get a deeper meaning.


I worked hard during my 12th grade (wrote detailed posts on this many years back), especially on the main subjects - Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. I did study well for my language papers but not as much as the main subjects. Govt of Tamilnadu had a merit scholarship offered at that point, based on the total score.

 

When the results came, I got a good score in all the subjects, including language papers. I got a district rank, which helped me secure the scholarship. This merit scholarship took away so much of the burden off Appa to pay for my Engineering tuition fees. And the irony is that this scholarship was announced only during that particular 5-year DMK tenure, after which it was discontinued.


The scholarship covered the tuition fees and exam/semester fees. BUT there was another major expense involved - books. Engineering textbooks were way too expensive and we couldn't afford to buy new textbooks every semester. Appa enrolled me in a book bank but they didn't have the prescribed textbooks that I needed. This problem got resolved by someone's generosity.

 

Shanthi akka, my senior used to stay very close to my home and our college bus pick up/drop points were the same. As I started my 2nd year, I remember chatting with her one day and requesting her to lend her books to me. Shanthi akka's response was this - "My father is buying me new books because my younger brother will start Engineering next year. So I need to retain these books for him. If I lent them to you, will you maintain them in good condition?". I promised Akka that I would keep the books safe and return them as soon as the semester exams were over. At the beginning of every semester, I would go to her apartment and pick up the books and as soon as the semester got over, I would return the books the very next day. I ensured I didn't underline or write anything on the books. I had wrapped the books in a newspaper and ensured there was no damage or smudges. As Akka saw me maintaining them in good condition, her trust in me increased and her initial hesitation vanished over some time. 


Based on my life experiences, I would rephrase the original statement this way - "Help will come to those who have a genuine need and are responsible". 


Going one step further, I also believe - "Repeated help will come to those who accept the help received from a place of gratitude than from a place of entitlement."


Another statement that I had been thinking over a lot this past week - "Money is like air. It will come and go as needed". I had a lot of doubts about this statement. One fine morning, as I was mulling over this statement and taking a brisk walk on my terrace, this explanation came to me from the universe - 

 

"If money is like air, then similar to those who take intentional, mindful, deep breaths inhale more air and improve their lung capacity, those who are conscious, respectful and responsible about their money will improve their earning and saving capacity."


One more statement that bothered me to the core - "Spendthrifts are fearless about the future". I just couldn't accept this statement. As I questioned why this statement made me so uncomfortable, I realized I had assumed the corollary to be true - "Frugal people are fearful about the future". I have always been a very frugal person when it comes to my resources - not just money. There have been times when Appa himself had mocked me saying I'm "kanjam" (miserly). Though it used to upset me in my 20s, I'm now glad that I have this frugal quality in me as it has helped me lead a contented lifestyle without chasing luxury.


Is the corollary true? Am I being frugal because I'm fearful about the future? Definitely not. I'm frugal because I'm responsible for the present and clear about my choices without getting influenced by society. The actions of people with frugal qualities come from a place of responsibility and not fear. 


As part of all these questioning and thinking, I also realized one fundamental principle behind questioning - "Get more clarity on your questions first. Stay with your questions for longer. Do not be tempted to ask for answers. Do not ask half-baked questions to others, as it will only lead to more confusion".


I have used the word "Responsibility / Responsible" multiple times in this post. My relationship with money is indeed from a place of responsibility.


Oct 13, 2020

Why do we fail at being consistent with a habit?

 


  A few weeks back, I ran a Q&A on Insta Stories - "What are the challenges/obstacles you face in achieving your health goals?".  One of the common challenges mentioned was laziness. I had written a detailed post on 20 ways to overcome laziness.

The other important challenge that many had mentioned was "Lack of consistency".

Whenever we fail at being consistent with a habit, we perceive it to be a lack of motivation at a surface level.

Yes, motivation is extremely important, especially the intrinsic one, where you feel a strong urge/desire from within to pursue the habit.

Apart from intrinsic motivation, there are deeper factors to think about.

(1) Not enough clarity on the Why
Why do we want to wake up early?
Why do we want to work out in the morning hours?
Why do we want to quit junk food?
Why do we want to sleep on time?

The answer is not simply about staying fit and healthy. Go deeper and figure out your reasons. I wrote about my reasons on why I want to wake up early in this post.

(2) Higher opportunity cost
We place a higher value on the alternate activities that we would typically end up doing in place of the habits we want to do.

Some of us might feel that morning sleep hours are so blissful, it feels nice to snuggle inside a warm blanket and continue our sleep.
Some of us might feel that after a long day of work, it feels more relaxing to binge-watch a few episodes of our favorite series than to hit the bed on time.

Are you placing a higher value on such activities that compete with your habits? Be honest and figure out the answer.

(3) Expecting immediate results
Instant gratification is on the rise in every aspect of our lives. Our patience levels have reduced drastically. We no longer wait for the results that require prolonged effort. Our attention spans are dwindling.

In your journey of weight loss, do you weigh yourself every single day? Do you measure your waist and hip circumference once every few days?

(4) Not enjoying the process
Whatever be our goal, enjoying the process or journey towards reaching the goal is essential. If our minds are only focused on the goal, the process would feel like torture.

Do you enjoy the brisk walk or do you keep checking your step counter often to see whether you have reached the target number of steps?
Do you enjoy eating healthy meals or do you force yourself to eat healthy, so that you can shed a few kilos?

(5) Comparison with others' progress
Comparison with others might give a perception that it is motivating us to perform better. But it can easily grow into a sequence of obsession and disappointments. Whatever parameters you use to evaluate your performance, use them to compare with yourself.

Are you able to brisk walk comfortably for more time now than it was, say 2 months earlier?
Are you able to hold your Vrikshasana pose for more counts now than say 3 months earlier?

(6) Challenging either too much or too little
The new habits we adopt and the goals we set for ourselves might end up either too challenging or too comfortable. After a few days, we don't feel like continuing the activity.

If you are someone who wakes up every day at 8 AM, expecting yourself to wake up at 5 AM all of a sudden will only end up with disappointment.

(7) When the alternative is more attractive
This is more of a mindset we have acquired after many years of conditioning and habits.

Many of us find eating simple and healthy foods as boring and junk and packaged foods as more tasty and attractive.
Many of us find scrolling mindlessly through social media or binge-watching Netflix to be more relaxing as compared to doing nothing.

This mindset can self-sabotage our efforts of adopting a new habit. The classic example is the idea of a "cheat day" when we are super strict about our eating habits 5 days a week and then binge eat anything we like during weekends.

If this applies to you, ponder more on why you find the alternatives more attractive. What does this attraction mean to you? What do you value in them? You might be able to figure out the root cause.

For any new habit that you fail to be consistent at, think of these 7 reasons and see if one or more of them resonates with you.

Oct 6, 2020

10 Tips for effective Time-Boxing

 

10 tips for effective time-boxing

Around a month back, I shared in this post that I plan my day in 15-min time slots. I have received a couple of DMs on how to go about doing it. I spoke with someone in detail last evening on the same topic and I felt it would be useful to share my strategy and a few tips for those who would like to follow a similar time-boxing strategy to manage their time.

Disclaimer - Nothing listed below is carved in stone. I'm a human and I do tend to deviate at times from whatever I had planned. 
 
I don't follow any rigid schedule during weekends and festival days. This helps me to demarcate weekends and weekdays more clearly, given the current pandemic situation.
  
(1) Identify the days and timings to plan depending on your working days/sleep schedule etc. I plan my regular weekdays (Mon-Fri) in 15-min time slots from 6 AM to 10 PM.  
  
(2) Take a paper (or a digital calendar) and split the time into time slots that would work for you - 15-min or 30-min. I don't plan for every single 15-min time slot in this 16-hour window. I have deliberately left a few time-slots open, so that the schedule doesn't become too rigid.
     
(3) The primary purpose of this time-boxing strategy is to allocate time for activities that are important to me - self-care, cooking, learning, writing etc. Identify those activities that are non-negotiable and first add them to your time-boxing day calendar - exercise, meditation, learning, deep breathing etc. Block your time out for these activities before the other priorities take over.
     
(4) How you start your day determines how the rest of the day will progress. So take the time to plan your morning routine.
  1. As I mentioned earlier, I love the quiet, peaceful morning time where I get a couple of hours for myself. This is a strong motivator for me to wake up by 6 AM. 
  2. I usually sip my morning chai slowly while reading a newsletter from my favorite writer. For eg, today being a Tuesday, I ended up reading Mark Manson's newsletter. It arrives in my inbox on Monday evening but I would only read it during my allocated newsletter reading time. No precrastination. 
  3. If I have some topics/writing inspirations/brain waves in the morning hours, I quickly jot them down on Evernote on my laptop but I don't work on them in detail 
  4. I do a 30-40 minute basic Yoga practice in the morning. If the sun shines brightly, I go for a 20 min brisk walk in the terrace after Yoga 
  5. By 8:30AM, I'm done with a relaxed start, done my Yoga practice and got sun exposure
(5) I don't work for any employer at this point in time but I work on areas that I'm passionate about. From 9:30AM-11AM, I call it my laptop time.
  1. I work on either elaborating a blog post idea, wrapping up an almost-complete article or investing time in learning through online courses.  
  2. I use Instagram app on my Windows laptop and answer all DMs/replies to comments from my laptop. Only when I want to post a Post/Story, I install Instagram app and uninstall it immediately. Since I mostly share my lunch plate pics on Instagram, this install/uninstall time is typically between 2-2:30PM.    
(6) In the book "Digital Minimalism", Cal Newport talks about office hours where he consciously allocates time to connect with others. I got so inspired by this idea that I have adopted a similar strategy for myself. I call my 4:30-5:30PM window as my "Connection hours". I make myself available during this time for conversations with family, friends, colleagues from the industry, others in my network etc.
     
(7) I finish eating my dinner between 6:45-7:15PM. I don't wait for anyone. In my family, everyone eats when they are hungry. Dinner time is a key factor that influences multiple events - when we sleep, the quality of our sleep, when we wake up etc.
     
(8) I put my phone in "Do Not Disturb" mode around 8:30PM and I avoid using it after this time (on most days).
     
(9) My reading time (books) is typically between 9-10PM.
     
 (10) No binge-watching Netflix/Amazon Prime late in the nights, no social media on my phone. This helps me to fall asleep automatically by 10PM.
 
Time-boxing is super helpful as it gives us control over how we invest/spend our time. It is perfectly okay to watch Netflix, browse social media or Youtube but once we allocate a fixed time for these activities, then we are in control of the time spent. Hope these pointers were helpful. If there are any other questions related to time-boxing, do let me know.

Oct 2, 2020

My Master Menu List - How I track recipes?

 

Ever since the lockdown started in March, I haven't really been doing my weekly meal planning or sticking to a meal template as I had shared earlier. I plan only for the very next day's breakfast and lunch. Dinner would mostly be leftovers (from the same day's breakfast or lunch) or a simple khichdi/dosa.

Since March, I have been keeping track of the dishes I have cooked in a Google Keep note on my phone. Over the past few days, I have converted it into a Master Menu List. The spreadsheet lover that I am, I have been meaning to make this comprehensive list for quite some time.

This master menu list is helpful in multiple ways:
  1. Helps me to track the recipes I have tried recently and their respective sources (blogs, videos etc)
  2. Gives me a quick inspiration when I run out of ideas
  3. Helps me to identify dishes that I can cook with less effort
  4. Gives me clarity on what my family members like to eat
The spreadsheet by itself may not be of much use to you, as this depends on your eating preferences, cuisines and your family members. Instead of sharing the entire spreadsheet, let me share the template and the thought behind it, so you can make one for yourself.
 
Master Menu List Template

 
Create a Google spreadsheet. This sheet needs to be easily accessible over phone and editable too. So an Excel sheet on your laptop may not be very helpful.
 
Create various sheets as per your need - I have created 5 sheets
    1. Breakfast
    2. Side dishes (North Indian)
    3. Side dishes (South Indian)
    4. Other cuisines
    5. Sweets/desserts/snacks
Under each sheet, I have created the following columns
    1. Category
    2. Dish Name
    3. Effort required (Low/Medium/High)
    4. Pre-preparation needed (Yes/No)
    5. Family member's preferences (If a family member likes the dish, then add an Yes. Else, add a No)
    6. Recipe source (URL / Blog name / Youtube channel name)
Once you have this template ready, 
  1. Add all the dishes you usually make. This shouldn't take more than an hour, unless you cook a LOT of variety 🙂
  2. Every time, you try a new recipe and it comes out well, add a row in the respective sheet, with all the details. The most important, being the recipe source
  3. Create filters for effort and pre-preparation. When you want to plan your daily/weekly menu, quickly glance through the list, filter out based on the required criteria
Optional columns to add - last made date, variations from the recipe, dependency on ingredients that are usually not available in your kitchen etc. Customize it as per your need.

This is a work-in-progress tracker and it may not be a complete, exhaustive list, which is perfectly okay. The idea is to get started and stay inspired.

Hope this template is helpful. Do you use any other methods to track the recipes you cook? Share in the comments below.

Oct 1, 2020

Book Review: Many Lives, Many Masters by Brian Weiss

 

 

 Information comes to you at the right time. There is no need to have FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Over the past couple of years, I have come to believe in this statement strongly. And my experiences are reinforcing the truth behind this statement.

Sometime around 2004-05, one of my senior colleagues and I were discussing past lives, life after death, etc. She said to me, "I'm gonna give you a book, which I found to be very interesting. Give it a read over the weekend. But I want you to return it on Monday". I obliged and borrowed the book from her on a Friday evening. For some reason, I couldn't connect with the material and I was prioritizing other activities that weekend. I didn't go past the first two chapters and I returned the book to her on Monday, saying it was too heavy for me to absorb.

A few days back, a friend and I were having a conversation on a similar topic. She didn't mention this book though. The title of this book came up in another WhatsApp group conversation. I randomly checked my home library and I was pleasantly surprised to find this book. Seems my husband had bought it a few years back and he hasn't read it either.

For the past two days, I was completely hooked onto "Many Lives Many Masters" by
Dr Brian Weiss and found it to be such a fascinating read. At many times, I paused, underlined a few sentences, bracketed a few passages, and felt so impacted by the underlying message.

The book talks about the conversations between a psychiatrist and his patient, the hypnotherapy sessions, and the messages revealed during these sessions on past births and time between births. Reading without any expectations and keeping an open mind helps to absorb and appreciate the message shared. Whether you are a believer or not of rebirths/reincarnations, there are quite a few lessons that talk about leading a complete and contented life.

A few passages that I loved

The very first paragraph

"There is a reason for everything. Perhaps at the moment that an event occurs we have neither the insight nor the foresight to comprehend the reason, but with time and patience it will come to light"
"People are born with talents, abilities and powers accrued from other lifetimes" => Does this remind you of the movie Ezhaam Arivu? 🙂
"What is revealed to me is what is important to me, what concerns me"
"We choose when we will come into our physical state and when we will leave. We know when we have accomplished what we were sent down here to accomplish. We know when the time is up and you will accept your death"
"Our body is just a vehicle for us while we are here. It is our soul and our spirit that last forever"
"There is too much black or white thinking. All or none. This is not the way of nature."
If this information is important to you, I'm sure this book would come to you in some way or the other :-)

Sep 27, 2020

My Top 50 favorite SPB Tamil Songs

 


 
I'm still trying to come to terms with the demise of SPB. His voice has been with me since childhood and I'm sure it will continue for the rest of my life. His songs evoke so many memories from childhood and growing up years, the long drives in the late 2000s when the first song from my iPod would always be Sangeetha Megam. 

RIP, Sir. Your music lives with all of us born in the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Over the past two days, I have been thinking to make a list of my top 10 favorite SPB songs but top 10 is just too hard to pick from his vast repertoire of work. Even the top 50 that I managed to compile below (in no particular order) only scratches the surface of his brilliance and I'm sure I would add more to this list in the days to come.
  1. Pennalla pennalla from Uzhavan
  2. Kangalil enna eeramo from Uzhavan
  3. Minnale nee vandhadhenadi from May Maadham
  4. July maadham vandhal from Pudhiya Mugam
  5. En kaadhale from Duet
  6. Thoda thoda from Indira
  7. Kaadhal rojave from Roja
  8. Kaadhalikkum pennin kaigal from Kaadhalan
  9. Yenthan vaanin from Kaadhal Virus
  10. Ennai kaanavillaye from Kaadhal Desam
  11. Oruvan oruvan mudhalaali from Muthu
  12. Swasame from Thenali
  13. Manasukkul oru puyal from Star
  14. Mannil indha kaadhal from Keladi Kanmani
  15. Kaadhalin deepam ondru from Thambikku endha ooru
  16. Sangeetha megam from Udhaya Geetham
  17. Keladi kanmani from pudhu pudhu arthangal
  18. O butterfly from Meera
  19. Nivedha from Nee paadhi naan paadhi
  20. Ennavendru solvadhamma from Rajakumaran
  21. Malare mounama from Karna
  22. Valaiyosai from Satya
  23. Poongatru un per solla from Vetri vizha
  24. Mun paniya from Nandha
  25. Saathi malli poocharame from Azhagan
  26. Pacha mala poovu from Kizhakku vaasal
  27. Sundari from Thalapathi
  28. Mandram vandha thendralukku from Mouna raagam
  29. Nilaave vaa from Mouna raagam
  30. Nilavu thoongum neram from Kunguma Chimizh
  31. Thenmadhurai vaigai nadhi from Dharmathin Thalaivan
  32. Medhuvaa medhuvaa oru kaadhal paattu from Anna nagar mudhal theru
  33. Idhayam oru koyil from Idhaya Kovil
  34. Idhu oru pon maalai pozhudhu from Nizhalgal
  35. Naan pogiren mele mele from Naanayam
  36. Adi vaanmathi from Siva
  37. Innum ennai enna seiya from Singaravelan
  38. Nenjukkulle innarendru from Ponnumani
  39. Yaaro from Chennai 28
  40. Konji konji from Veera
  41. Azhagooril poothavale from Thirumalai
  42. Ilaya Nila from Payanangal Mudivadhillai
  43. Oru jeevanthan from Naan adimai illai
  44. Andhi mazhai pozhigiradhu from Raja paarvai
  45. Enna satham indha neram from Punnagai mannan
  46. Singalathu chinna kuyile from Punnagai mannan
  47. Idhazhil kadhai ezhudhum from Unnaal mudiyum thambi
  48. Unna nenachen from Apoorva Sagodharargal
  49. Oru kaadhal devadhai from Idhaya thaamarai
  50. Kaadhal Kavidhaigal from Gopura Vasalile

Sep 26, 2020

Dealing with new normal

 

Over the past few months, we keep hearing this phrase "dealing with new normal" in various contexts - life as we deal with the ongoing pandemic and post that.


As I was ruminating over this phrase, I had an epiphany. The new normal isn't something new to us. We have been facing "new normal"s since the beginning of mankind, with every little change we embrace. 


A decade ago, I didn't have a smartphone, but once I embraced it, it became the new normal.


Until around three months back, I was using a knife with a 3" long blade for chopping vegetables, but then I shifted to a new one with a 4" long blade. The new knife has become the new normal for me and I find it difficult to use my old knife. Mind you, I had been using the old knife for 5+ years.


Every little change we imbibe in our lives sets a new normal. Whether this new normal makes our lives better off or worse off is dependent on multiple factors - some that are under our control, while some that are not.


The current pandemic situation has brought in a lot of changes in our behaviors. There are also many macro-economic and political issues emerging during this situation, which are mostly beyond our control. Instead of worrying or getting anxious about these external issues, let's focus our attention inward - our actions and behaviors that have changed.


List down all the changes you have made (voluntarily or forced upon) in the past six months. 

Against each change, write down whether this has made your life better off or worse off. 

If it is better off, continue to embrace this change more consciously.

If it is worse off, think about the feasible alternatives to make it better.


To give you a few examples from my own life,

  1. Having an early dinner. I finish off my dinner by 7-7:15 PM. This change has made my life so much better. My digestion has improved, I feel light and fresh while I wake up the next day.
  2. No quiet time for myself. There's always so much noise and interruptions, given that all of us are at home. I'm not able to get focused time for myself to do any deep work. I recognized this problem within a few weeks since the lockdown started. From then on, I have been waking up by 6 AM consciously, so that I get a solid 2 hours of quiet time for myself. I have also accepted this situation and don't force or expect myself to do deep work during other times. 
 

Some of the areas to think about, where you might have made a change in the past six months:

  • Sleep routine
  • Eating habits
  • Exercise
  • Social media usage
  • News consumption
  • Binge-watching
  • Family time
  • Shopping patterns
  • Monthly expenses
  • State of mind
  • Productivity
  • Addictions
 

Let's focus on what is in our control - our actions.

Sep 23, 2020

20 ways to overcome laziness

 

A few days back, I had posted a question on Insta Stories - "What are the challenges/obstacles you face in achieving your health goals?"


I received many responses to this question and one of the common challenges that many respondents mentioned is laziness


Laziness is triggered by a lack of enthusiasm or energy to get things done in a day. The word "energy" here implies both physical as well as mental energy. It might be hard to pinpoint whether we are lacking physical energy or mental energy while we introspect, as both feeds off each other. A year ago, I had written this post - 10 factors that impact our energy levels. Do take a look if you haven't seen it.


Given the current pandemic situation, many of us have our "off" days. Let's not beat ourselves too much and push harder to be productive every single waking hour. At the same time, keeping ourselves busy with productive and enjoyable activities take our minds off the uncertain situation.


I have compiled below a list of 20 different ways that have helped me overcome laziness. The intention behind this list is to have sustained energy throughout the day and not have energy spikes for a couple of hours and then come crashing down.


  1. Do not snooze but at the same time, do not wake up with a jerk. Once the alarm rings, take a few minutes to tune your mind that it is time to wake up
  2. Do not scroll through your phone first thing in the morning. A quick check of messages/emails is okay. If you can delay that, it is even better
  3. Get a few minutes of quiet time with yourself
  4. Do not rush into anything as soon as you wake up. Allow yourself to sit down and sip your favorite beverage slowly for 15-20 minutes
  5. Spend a few minutes in the morning, doing an activity you enjoy - for me, it is either reading, writing, or journaling
  6. Get some form of workout done in the morning - a brisk walk, Yoga, jogging- whatever you like
  7. Take a few deep breaths and feel grounded
  8. Make your bed. Do not unfold your cozy blanket anytime during the day
  9. Have a bath before 10 AM
  10. Wear comfortable and presentable clothes. Change from your night pajamas or workout wear.
  11. Expose yourself to morning sunlight for 15-20 minutes
  12. Get connected with nature - plants, flowers, chirping birds, clouds, sky, or pets. A few minutes of conversation with my pet cat gives me so much energy.
  13. Have clear intentions for the day. It needn't be a long to-do list, but 2-3 important goals you want to accomplish for the day. Make this list the night before
  14. Eat a light breakfast. Heavy breakfast usually makes me sluggish and I don't like the feeling, especially when I want to get some work done.
  15. Restrict your cups of tea/coffee as much as possible. The energy fluctuates quite a bit when we get too dependent on caffeine.
  16. Keep moving every hour, especially if you have a desk job.
  17. Finish a few minor activities that don't require much time but helps you to move a bit -putting things in their respective place, a little bit of cleaning or organizing, folding washed clothes, etc 
  18. Avoid lying down on the couch or the bed when you want to catch a break for a few minutes. Sit down on the floor and stretch your legs if need be.
  19. Avoid long afternoon nap. A 15 min power nap is okay but if possible, avoid that as well.
  20. Have dedicated, fixed times for TV, Netflix, social media, or Youtube. The more time we spend on these distractions, the less time and energy we have to get anything done.


Are there any other tips/tactics that have helped you kick laziness out of your lives? Do share in the comments below.


Sep 21, 2020

Book Review: Inna naarpadhu iniyavai naarpadhu by Dr. K. Sivaraman

 


Dr. Sivaraman's writings have had a profound influence on my life these past few years. Ever since I read his Aaraam thinai back in 2014, my approach towards food and health has undergone a positive change. I look forward to reading his books every time they get released. The latest one added to my collection is "Inna naarpadhu iniyavai naarpadhu". As the title suggests, the focus of this book is towards health in our 40s. He looks at health from a much broader, holistic perspective as always - food, physical activity, relationships, mental wellness, acceptance, love and more.

He starts off with this warning - naarpadhu kannasandhaal noyaLiaakum vayadhu. He goes onto elaborate on the struggles and challenges faced by those who are in their 40s presently and how their struggles are far different from the previous generations' 40s.

What I admire about his writing are his language skills that make a strong impact and an easy connect with the reader. Anecdotes, popular phrases, examples from Tamil literature, poetry and movies help convey the message more interestingly. I'm glad I took the time to devour his words slowly by reading just 1-2 chapters a day. It is not a book to brush through.

He has touched upon health ailments that most people in their 40s typically encounter - diabetes, blood pressure, menopause, andropause, high cholesterol, obesity, abdominal fat etc. The recommendations he has shared related to food habits, walk, yoga, pranayama, music, dance etc are easy to understand and follow.

"Anna karandiyil ini yaarukkum soru parimaaradheergal. Sotru karandi tablespoonaaga maarattum" => This was more in the context of weight loss and for people with conditions like diabetes. His stance on millets and indigenous rice varieties still holds true for people who want to maintain their health.

The chapter where he talks about the influence of FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google) on one's health was hard-hitting.

"Indha aiymboothangal seidha mudhal aniyaayam nammai edharkaagavum nadakkavidaamal somberi aakiyadhu dhaan"

I couldn't control my laughter when I read this line in the context of how AI and ML are playing a role in our health these days.
"Artificial intelligence nangu poshaakkaga valara indha big data dhaan sathumaavu kanji"

I have underlined so many such hard-hitting, beautiful lines throughout the book. Not possible to list them all here. Highly recommend you check out this book if you are nearing your 40s or in your 40s. Even if his health perspectives don't resonate with you, his language skills will keep you hooked onto this book.

How to interpret an idea?

 In my previous post on The Seeker's journey, I had made this statement - Never take any idea you hear at plain face value. I wanted to explain this statement with an example.

I recently completed this course on Coursera - "The Science of well-being". Brilliant course with a lot of takeaways. One of the points the instructor mentions in the context of happiness at work is that we feel happy when we experience the state of "flow" more often. 

"Flow" is this state where we are completely immersed in an activity, we lose track of time and we find the activity itself to be rewarding.

Though I'm yet to read the original book - "Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience" by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, I have come across this concept in multiple books and courses in the past few years.

I have experienced this state of "Flow" multiple times while I'm putting together a software product plan, reading a good book, writing a blog post, or cooking an elaborate meal. And yes, I can vouch for the happiness it brings - to be engrossed in an activity for 1-2 hours without getting distracted is such a blissful feeling. I have applied and validated this idea for myself.

A few days back, I came across a different idea in Durgesh Nandhini's Online Minimalism Workshop that I've been attending.

We collect numerous thoughts in our mind every single minute and we carry them in our mind backpack. Journaling and meditation are tools that help release the weight of this backpack we carry. But if we use these tools once a day, say before bedtime, we are still carrying the weight of these thoughts all day long. This weight can make us feel jittery and exhausted. Instead of waiting to empty this backpack once a day, we reflect every one hour to check how we are feeling. A few seconds of awareness and self-reflection can reduce the weight we carry.

When I heard this idea, I was nodding my head as it made so much sense to me. I agree with this idea of frequent self-reflection and the need to be aware of our thoughts more often.

Now, if I were to implement both these ideas, there is a possibility of conflict - when I'm in a state of "flow", I don't want to be interrupted by external distractions or the need to self-reflect every hour. If I had to set an alarm that rings every hour for self-reflection, it might come in the way of my "flow".

Instead of keeping an alarm to become mindful every waking hour, I have consciously planned to incorporate multiple moments in the day for self-reflection - while doing chores, going for a walk, do-nothing times, etc. It may not be 16 times in a day but it is not once a day either.

Understanding the intent of each idea we hear is extremely important. Once we understand it, we will start to implement it consciously, without the need for an external trigger. How we implement it can vary from person to person, depending on various factors.

Sep 19, 2020

The seeker's journey

 

This post is inspired by a conversation I had with a good friend this morning.

In our childhood and our 20s, we search for the "WHAT" to understand how the world works. The education we receive in schools and colleges and the skills we build during this phase satiate our appetite for information to some extent. This knowledge we gather from various sources (school, parents, family, friends, society at large, etc) creates certain perceptions, judgments, and prejudices, that eventually form our beliefs.

As we enter our 30s/40s, this search shifts from "WHAT" to "WHY". We start asking many deep questions about life, our choices, and our behaviors. What we seek gets shifted from Information/knowledge to Wisdom. In this journey of seeking, I have learned four key lessons that I wanted to share here.

(1) As we embark upon this journey, we would come across people who are wisdomous (borrowing this word from Joey's vocabulary).

Their ideas and thoughts would resonate with us strongly. We tend to be attracted to their words - intellectual attraction, if I may say so. We feel a lot inspired by reading their content, listening to their talks or just being in their presence. Sometimes, we can get carried away to such an extent that we may be under a trance (without being aware). When inspiration and admiration turn into a full-blown want of "becoming" like the other person, we start facing a lot of disappointments. It is okay to feel inspired and draw a few ideas from someone's life experiences. BUT, we can never expect ourselves to BECOME the other person. Each of us is unique, our life story is unique, our experiences and context are unique.

(2) Never take any idea you hear at plain face value. If an idea resonates with you, reflect on it, and see if it would make sense to incorporate in your life story. If it doesn't, let the idea go by or park it for later reference when the time is right. If an idea doesn't resonate with you, move on without the need to explain or defend your decision to yourself or someone else.

(3) Take inspiration and ideas from multiple people. Similar to diversifying your financial investments to manage risk, diversify your sources of inspiration to get a balanced perspective.
Instead of a single spiritual "guru", I'd prefer to get my daily dose of inspiration from multiple sources - people, books, podcasts, blogs, etc.

(4) When what is being preached and what is practiced don't match, we sense the contradiction and misalignment. We lose trust in the other person and end up feeling disappointed. This tinge of disappointment will prick harder when we had placed the person on a high pedestal and revered his/her qualities at the level of "Guru"/"God". If we consider the other person as a fellow traveler in the journey of life with certain experiences, we wouldn't even have any expectations in the first place. Just as how we are evolving, the other person is also evolving, his/her environment is also changing.

Have you had similar thoughts in your seeker journey? Do share in the comments below.

Sep 18, 2020

How to slow down?

 


Someone had recently posted this very interesting question in a Whatsapp group that I'm part of

"How can one slow down?"

I responded with this answer - "Becoming clear about my priorities, questioning my ambitions - these have helped me slow down"


Priorities and ambitions influence many of our life choices. Let's dive a little deeper into each of these.


Priorities:

Gaining clarity on this one aspect makes most of our decisions and life choices easier. 


Often, I have come across this phrase of juggling multiple balls, in the context of managing multiple aspects of our life - family, health, career, personal growth, spiritual growth etc. When multiple balls are juggled, there will always be a few in the air and chances of them falling are quite high, unless and until you are an expert juggler.


Multitasking / wearing the super-woman hat / super productive / doing it all => these are multiple manifestations that highlight our juggling capability. I had succumbed to all these manifestations at different points in my 20s and 30s. But I have come to realize that juggling is such an energy-draining activity. I'd rather have sustained energy throughout my life than burn out in my 30s/40s, trying to do it all.


If I need to accomplish this goal of having sustained energy throughout, I need to be clear about my top priorities. There is of course a prerequisite. Such prioritization is ONLY feasible if one's basic needs are met. 


As I pondered over the various aspects of my life, I have now been able to prioritize my top 3 in this order. 

  1. My health and well-being
  2. My family
  3. Meaningful work


Once I have clarified it for myself, many decisions have now become easier. For eg, 

I wouldn't take up work that demands long working hours or come in the way of my family time / my Yoga time.

I would eat my meal when I'm hungry and not feel guilty that I didn't wait for my family members.


Take the time to sit down and understand your priorities and their respective order. The number of balls that you juggle up would reduce. The speed of juggling would reduce. You will automatically experience the bliss of slow life. 


Ambitions:

Goal-oriented living gives us a certain direction. No doubts about that. BUT, are these our genuine goals? Or are we influenced by society and peer pressure to take up these goals?


I was chasing designations and fancy titles in my 20s but they are no longer relevant to me in my 30s. They say nothing about who I am as a person or what my skills are. Meaningful work is important to me, but this can be accomplished without any fancy title. Much of our time and mental energy is expended, chasing these titles - Director, VP, CxO etc. And the industry bigwigs are adding more and more levels to the career ladder, so our pursuit never stops.


I'm no longer interested in reading 40-50 books per year. I used to take up these reading challenges but I no longer want to focus on the quantity. I enjoy reading, I will continue to consume content in the form of books, articles, videos, courses etc. I don't want to set up any measurable goals as my intention is not towards completing many books but imbibing the learnings/take-aways in my life.


Start questioning every single ambition of yours. Journal about it - why did you pick this particular ambition? How would it make you a better person? What would happen if you don't achieve this ambition? What is the OPPORTUNITY COST - when you choose to pursue this ambition, what other areas will be impacted in your life? Is it worth the opportunity cost?


Once you are crystal clear about your priorities and your ambitions, the chances of slowing down are higher. 


Sep 16, 2020

Why I don't want to infinite scroll?

 

 In the book "Hooked", Nir Eyal talks about the "Hook" framework for building habit-forming products. One of the components of the Hook framework is Variable rewards.

When a person gets engaged with a product, variable rewards keep him/her hooked onto the experience, like that of a slot machine. You never know what you might expect. So you continue to engage and get different rewards - new content, new images, new gossip etc.

All our news feeds and social media feeds are classic drivers of this behavior, with the promise of variable rewards.

These variable rewards are enabled by what is called an "infinite scroll" feature, a powerful one that can keep you hooked onto a product/app for more time than you can imagine.

In my journey of mindful content consumption, I have become extremely wary of products that have this infinite scroll feature.

Email - no infinite scroll but there is a variable reward. You never know what email you are gonna get but still relatively okay.

Instagram - keeping my following count to 60, so the number of posts I get in a day is minimal. BUT the Explore option has an Infinite Scroll and I consciously avoid using it. I don't have the Instagram app on my phone, so I don't get into this Explore mode.

FB and Twitter - deactivated and bid goodbye. These are platforms designed for variable rewards and infinite scroll. Not planning to waste any more time and mental energy on them.

Youtube - though I have reduced my channel subscriptions count drastically, I still end up scrolling through the Recommendations section now and then. I need to stop this behavior or figure out a way to disable it on my phone. In the documentary, "The social dilemma", the person who wrote the Youtube recommendations algorithm recommends a browser extension to disable Youtube recommendations. What an irony!

The other often overlooked service, where I end up succumbing to infinite scroll, is Google search. No, I'm not referring to Search as an activity. On Android, there is a Discover option in the Search app where news articles are listed depending on your search patterns. I realized that I do scroll and absorb news content from here, spending a significant amount of time. 

 

I have disabled this option this morning and as I was browsing through Settings, the topics of interest that Google collects about me are displayed. Not surprised or shocked, seeing this list, as I'm quite aware of why personalization is a big value prop in the software world.

I don't want to consume more information than needed, even though it might be personalized to my interests. When I want any info, I'll search and explore it by myself, when I'm ready for it.

Infinite scroll is a vicious loop and a time drain. Let's be aware of products that have infinite scroll enabled and devise ways to be in control of our attention.

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