Sep 16, 2021

How I manage my sweet tooth - 7 Tips


Most of us have this tendency to prefer sweet foods. This is partly due to evolution, partly due to conditioning and our exposure to sweet foods during our childhood.

I'm a person with a sweet tooth as well๐Ÿ™‚ Please note that I'm referring to "sweet tooth" in this post and not "sweet cravings". Both these terms are used interchangeably but they are different. I'll talk about the latter in a separate post.

Let me share with you 7 strategies/tips that have helped me manage my sweet tooth.

(1) First and foremost, it is better to acknowledge and accept our preferred tastes. There is nothing wrong or shameful about being a sweet-toothed person.

(2) Once I understood my taste buds, I asked myself, "What are my most preferred sweet foods?". I prefer Indian sweets and desserts the most. So I decided to indulge in my most favorite sweet foods and avoid eating other forms of sweets that I'm not too fond of. I can easily say NO to chocolates, icecreams, pastries, cupcakes, brownies, etc. Whenever we go to an ice cream parlor, I wouldn't order anything for myself while K and D relish their favorite scoops of ice cream. I'd then go to an Indian sweets shop and enjoy a bowl of gulab jamun / rasmalai / jalebi. The strategy is to identify and indulge in your absolute favorites.

(3) Given the easy availability of sweets shop in every nook and corner, it is easy to buy and stock them up at home. I intentionally avoid stocking up boxes of sweets as the temptation will be high when they are visible. The "Out of sight, out of mind" strategy works to control the quantity of sweets intake.

(4) As I'm quite wary about the quality of store-bought sweets, I indulge in them occasionally. I prefer to make most of my favorite sweets at home - kesari, chakkarapongal, payasam, laddoos, etc. Since there is effort involved, I would end up not making them very frequently.

(5) When made at home, I prefer to make small batches and finish them in a day or two. No stocking up big batches. 

(6) I believe in this principle strongly - when we eat matters as much as what we eat. I prefer to eat sweet dishes either in the morning or afternoon. I avoid eating them post 6 PM.

(7) Last but not least, I enjoy my favorite sweets without any guilt. Only when we deny our true preferences, we end up with cravings, cheat days, and binge-eating.


Sep 13, 2021

Thought Dump

I love to jot down thoughts and ideas. Earlier, I used to write them down in a digital note-taking product (Evernote to be precise). I then switched to a paper-based planner/journal sometime in June 2019.


In this post, I want to share a particular journaling technique that I love. The inspiration for this technique came from two sources

  • the amazing productivity bible - David Allen's Getting Things Done book - that I read sometime in 2006, but still relevant in today's digital times
  • from Harry Potter series, Dumbledore's thought bowl - Pensieve


This technique helps if you are someone who feels overwhelmed and being dragged by multiple responsibilities, inspired by new projects, initiatives and ideas, and whose thoughts jump across various spectrums/genres.


Process:

I prefer to follow this technique on most mornings (not every day though). Here's what I do:

I sit with my journal and a pen. And I just jot down all thoughts that come one by one in a bullet format - no judgments, no analysis, no going deeper into each thought. The intention is to become aware of each thought and collect all of them into what I call a "thought dump". Meditating with a pen and a paper, if I may call so.


For example, here's a snippet of my "thought dump" from a few days back:

  • Brian Greene books
  • Resilience and research work on this topic in psychology
  • call P and check for opportunities
  • finish making breakfast and lunch before 10 AM
  • Taichi
  • Why am I uncomfortable with uncertainty?
  • What is marketing's responsibility?
  • Vagus nerve - read more about it
  • Filling your cup before you pour to others - what are my needs?


How does this help?

As thoughts get transferred from our minds to a notebook, our minds become free and relaxed.

If we don't address a particular thought/idea, it keeps repeating itself in a loop.

Our minds are not meant for storage.

Thought awareness becomes a conscious practice.


Taking action on those thoughts is the obvious next step. Before we get to that stage, this simple step of collecting our thoughts gives the much-needed freeing up of our minds, especially on days when we feel overwhelmed.

Sep 9, 2021

Mental Wellbeing

 There's a beautiful scene in the movie #Home where the psychologist talks to Oliver about how Antony is influenced by social media. Though some popular reviewers critiqued that scene to be lecture-ish, I just loved it. 

We experience stress when our thoughts, words, and actions are not aligned. Social media influences our thoughts quite a bit. The more people we follow, the greater the effect of that influence. We follow several people, primarily for the sake of inspiration. We get newer ideas and inspirations almost daily. We bookmark some of the ideas for future reference. We try to implement some of the ideas right away - while we might be successful at a few of them, we might also end up not being able to incorporate some of those ideas in our daily lives.

Irrespective of our actions (or inactions), a simple scroll-through of our feed impacts our thoughts in subconscious ways. 

I've always been a strong advocate of this idea - "Don't follow any universal rule when it comes to food. Choose foods according to your body type. Listen to your body". Off late, I've also started emphasizing life situations as a criterion, along with body type. 

For any change we try to incorporate (not just concerning food), our life situations play a critical role. Before we embark on a change, these questions will help us become more aware of our present situation:

- Do I have the right resources?

- Do I have the right mindset?

- Do I need my family support?

- Are they in a position right now to give me the support needed?

- Do I have the mental and physical energies to incorporate this change right now?

Sometimes, though we might have the motivation and inspiration, our life situations may not be favorable towards taking the required action. And when we see people who are talking about the same idea on social media, we feel stressed, sometimes self-critical on why we aren't able to implement the same. Our thoughts and actions are not in sync, which leads to stress.

We get triggered, not only from a space of criticism/negative news/fear/anger, etc. Triggers can also arise from a space of comparisons/aspirations/achievements/gloating etc.

The more I dive deeper into understanding what contributes to my wellness, the more I discover the role of mental wellbeing. Our mind deeply influences our body. So it is up to us to fiercely protect our mind - our thoughts, sources that influence our thoughts, muting/unfollowing such sources that aren't applicable or relevant to our current life situation.

Aug 20, 2021

Expense or Investment?

 A few days back, K and I went for our weekly fruits and vegetable shopping. The bill is usually around Rs.1000. It has increased slightly in the past few weeks, given that more people are at home, but this is the average amount we incur every week. 

Anyway, this post got triggered by two comments. 

"You are buying too many fruits and vegetables for a week", a casual comment by a loved one.

"Junk food is so cheap but fruits, vegetables, cold pressed oils and millets cost yaanai vilai", a comment from a dear reader.

This is how I see it - "choose quality ingredients and invest towards your health NOW" or "save money by buying cheap, junk food and pay with a hefty interest towards medical expenses LATER".

Having spent the last 3 months with multiple hospital visits for Appa, I got to experience the sheer magnitude of medical expenses, running in lakhs. To give you a rough idea,

Doctor consultation - Rs.900 . This is for outpatients. If the same doctor steps into your room if you get admitted (for an inpatient consultation), it is Rs.1100.

CT Scan - ranges from Rs.10000 - Rs.16000

Blood tests - ranges from Rs.1000 - Rs.6000

Admission Charges - Rs.10,000 per room per night (non-sharing), Rs.5000 per room per night (twin sharing)

Nursing charges and Doctor Visit charges proportionately increase depending on the room type you choose. 

Adult diapers cost around Rs.600-700 per pack of 10 in Amazon, whereas the hospital charges Rs.700 per diaper.

All medical supplies used by nurses and doctors are charged to the patient's bill - right from disposable syringes, gloves, swabs, face masks etc. These add up to a sizeable amount if the stay is for 3-4 days.

A pack of protein drink that is given through a food pipe (for patients who are not able to eat/drink) costs Rs.1310 per kg. Lasts for 3-4 days, depending on the frequency of the feeds.

We had to go to a multispecialty hospital, given the health situation as well as the prevailing pandemic. So the costs might be on the higher side. The place of living matters too. These ranges will be similar in cities like Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai, etc. They may be slightly lower in tier 2 cities.

The intention of this post is not to spread fear but to share the current reality of the costs that we are expected to incur in hospital/medical bills.

Apart from financial stress, medical conditions pose a lot of physical, mental, and emotional stress both for the patient as well as for their family members. 

Let's take charge of our health right NOW. Let's make the right investments towards it NOW. 

Aug 12, 2021

My latest interest

Guess the topic I have become extremely curious about.

Astrology. Yes, you heard that right.

Over the past three months, my interest in astrology has increased quite a bit. I was looking for answers related to events that have been unfolding in my life in the past one year or so - multiple challenges, unexpected turns of events, situations beyond my control, and so on.

I wouldn't claim that I have got the answers I was looking for through astrology. But I could see a larger connection and correlation, something which helps me feel a sense of calm and acceptance.

Since childhood, I have always been interested in reading Sun signs and the daily predictions - be it in a random newspaper or a magazine. But I never paid closer attention to them. But in the last few months, I have been listening to monthly predictions and watching multiple videos to understand astrology better.

Instead of bluntly dismissing astrology as superstition/pseudoscience, I want to go deeper and learn the nuances of it, before judging or making a conclusion.

As though the Universe wanted to concur with my thought, I was pleasantly surprised to notice a mention of astrology in "Project Agni" in the Navarasa anthology series. That was my most favorite story, btw. It was brilliant and mind-blowing.

Are there any astrology enthusiasts reading this? Do share your thoughts and resources on how I can explore astrology in detail, preferably Tamil stars and signs.

Aug 9, 2021

Interconnectedness of the human body

 I vividly remember the chapters of my 12th grade Biology textbook. There were individual chapters on the various systems of our human body - digestive system, respiratory system, circulatory system, endocrine system etc. The chapters covered each system in detail and explained the various organs involved. But there weren't any mention of how each of these systems are interconnected and how they influence each other.


To elaborate on this interconnectedness, let's take the example of digestive system. School textbooks talk about the different organs involved in digestion - esophagus, stomach, liver, pancreas, small intestine, large intestine and colon. They also talk about how carbohydrates, proteins and fats are broken down in various stages through the digestive enzymes present in saliva, stomach acids, role of bile etc. 

From what I have observed and learned is that digestion is influenced by factors, apart from the organs of digestive system. 
  • Good dental structure is extremely important in breaking down the food through chewing (DENTAL HEALTH)
  • Taste buds get activated through our eye sight, implying that our eyes play a vital role in signalling our brain to secrete the right digestive enzymes (OPTHALMOLOGY)
  • Our mindset at the time of eating food plays a vital role. Eating while we are emotionally distressed impacts our digestion big time (PSYCHIATRY)
  • Lack of movement or physical activity leads to poor blood circulation and less oxygen availability, which leads to poor availability of nutrients to our cells (CARDIOLOGY / PULMONOLOGY)
  • Poor thyroid health slows down the metabolism, thereby impacting appetite levels (ENDOCRINOLOGY)
These are just a few factors that came to my mind right now. I'm sure there are much more. 

With multiple doctor visits for Appa in the past 3 months, with each specialist "referring" to another specialist, how a particular medicine/treatment/diagnosis impacts another parameter/organ/system, I can't help but wonder why there isn't a holistic approach in addressing health issues. Why is it that a diagnosis in itself requires the consultation of 5-6 specialist doctors?

P.S. No offense to anyone in the medical fraternity. Just voicing out my frustrations with the system.

Jul 31, 2021

Book Review: Living with the Himalayan masters by Swami Rama


Many years back, I came across an interview by Superstar Rajnikanth in a Tamil magazine. He had recommended a couple of his favorite spiritual books - Autobiography of a Yogi (I'm yet to read it) and Living with the Himalayan masters. Being an ardent fan of Superstar, especially for his spiritual angle, I promptly bought these books and added them to my bookshelf.

A book comes to you at the right time when you need it. Since this year, I have been picking up more books from the spiritual genre and Swami Rama's "Living with the Himalayan masters" caught my attention. 

It is an interesting collection of anecdotes and life stories that Swami Rama experienced in his spiritual life in the Himalayas. A fascinating read, that covers a wide range of topics ranging from Karma, spiritual path, enlightenment, power of the mind, Yoga, universal connections, etc. Each chapter is dealt with independently and this helped me to read and absorb the book slowly. Though the underlying messages are profound, Swami Rama has explained them in simple terms using his experiences, stories, and relatable characters.

I loved the chapters that emphasize how fear, attachment, ego, and desire come in the way of our spiritual journey. The examples were just brilliant.

A few of my favorite passages below

"Learn to perform your duties skillfully without aversion or attachment, and do not believe that anything can wash off your bad karma"

"It is important to make one's life creative and helpful, but before doing so one should make contact with own potentials deep within by disciplining himself and gaining control over his mind, speech and action"

"The whole search for enlightenment is to seek within, to become aware that you are complete in yourself. You are perfect. You don't need any externals"

"When we are inadequate ourselves but our ego is strong, we tend to blame others"

"The shortest cut to self-enlightenment is to cut through the ego; surrender before the Highest One"

"Meditation will become your very nature when you give up attachment, anger, and pride"

"Death is not painful but fear of death is very painful.......Death is a habit of the body, a necessary change"

I found answers to many questions that were lingering on my mind. I'm sure this book would appeal to people who are on the quest to understand the meaning of life, death, and our experiences. And the takeaways are completely dependent on the reader's search.

P.S. This book is available on Kindle Unlimited.

Habits for Life



The lifestyle choices we make in our 30s and 40s not only impact our health in our 60s and 70s but also the quality of lives of our children and grandchildren. Not only do we pay a price but our children and grandchildren pay a hefty price too. 

Let's think about those lifestyle habits we practice for days, months and years.
Smoking, drinking alcohol, chewing tobacco, excessive intake of processed/junk foods, excess intake of sugar, more caffeine, sedentary lifestyle, erratic sleep cycles, excess screen times etc etc.

If you believe there are habits you need to quit/ reduce/manage, take action now before it is too late. 

The intention of this post is not to scare anyone but only to give a gentle nudge.

Appa is only able to take liquid foods these days. Except for coffee, tea, milk, buttermilk and packaged fruit juices, he has never had any other liquid foods earlier. Now at 72 years, it is hard for him to accept new foods like sathumaavu kanji, ragi kanji, rice kanji etc. The moment I say this is a cup of kanji, his expression changes to complete resistance.

Trying home made fruit juices, milkshakes, soups etc, but all these are new to him as well. 

The biggest lesson/observation for me in the last few weeks is that the older we get, the higher the resistance to change. Sticking to same old habits and expecting a health improvement isn't gonna happen. Habits get hard-wired - especially our food preferences.

I know I keep repeating this often. If you are in your 20s, 30s or 40s, please do take charge of your food habits now.

Foods that you would like to introduce in your diet - be it millets, traditional rice varieties, vegetables especially native and gourds, fruits etc, start including them now and not wait until a certain age or wait until a lifestyle ailment strikes.

Foods that you would like to cut back or stop - be it processed and junk foods, deep fried snacks, sugar, sweets, caffeine etc, make the change right away and don't postpone for a later date.

May 22, 2021

How to increase attention span?

In my previous post, we discussed the need to measure our attention span instead of relying on averages concluded by popular media. Do try out the proposed exercise in that post for a week and gather your observations.

In this post, let me share with you 5 strategies by which you can increase your attention span. Tried and tested by yours truly๐Ÿ™‚


(1) Avoid multitasking - yes. Stop doing more than one task at once. Going for a walk? Enjoy the walk. Don't try to optimize that time by listening to an audiobook/podcast. When we stop multitasking, we are focused on that single task we are engaged in. This increases our ability to stay mindful for a longer duration.


(2) Avoid frequent context switching - this is an extension to the first strategy, but deserves a separate point, given the amount of information we consume across multiple sources. Reduce the number of people whom you follow on social media. Identify 2-3 topics you are interested in and follow people who share content on these categories. For eg, I have fixed the max number of people whom I follow on Instagram to be 60. The topics I focus on are food/nutrition, Ayurveda and lifestyle that inspires me.


(3) Invest time in activities that put you in a state of FLOW - a state where you are so engaged in an activity that you don't feel the need to reach for distractions. For me, reading, writing, cooking, and public speaking are activities that give me the experience of being in FLOW. I make sure that I invest enough time every week in these activities.


(4) Consciously engage in activities that require more time and focus. A few examples 

    • Read long-form articles - Do you easily get put off when an article is lengthy? Do you bookmark it for later reference but don't come back to it? If yes, then I'd highly recommend you invest time every week in reading articles that require at least 10 minutes of dedicated time.
    • Watch videos at normal speed - This might be a counter-intuitive idea, but hear me out. Many of us like to watch videos at 1.5x speed to grab more information in less time. Some even watch at 2X speed where one could hardly hear the words being spoken, let alone understand the content. Our attention becomes jittery to the point where we might even experience anxiety. By watching at normal speed, we end up seeing fewer videos. We also signal to our mind that the information is important and it requires focus.
    • Practice active listening - When someone is having a conversation with you, give your complete attention and listen without interrupting or fidgeting with your phone. I had written a detailed article a few years back on the benefits of listening. 

(5) Incorporate "Do Nothing" moments - Our attention gets fragmented when we are busy throughout the day. Consciously taking the time to do nothing, even if it is just for a few minutes in a day is so helpful to realign and focus on fewer priorities. A few minutes of stillness can give us momentum for the rest of the day.


A bonus strategy from the point of distractions - remove apps from your phone that give variable rewards. I had written about this earlier. This strategy converts distraction-inducing smartphones to just another tool we use to get things done. 


I hope you found these pointers helpful. As I had mentioned earlier, attention is our MOST VALUABLE asset. Let's protect it with utmost care.


May 20, 2021

Measure your attention span

 We often keep hearing about how the attention span of humans is dwindling. Popular research articles declare that the average attention span of humans is now 8 seconds and we are lagging behind the goldfish (9 seconds apparently). 

Instead of arguing over whether such studies and conclusions are valid and accurate, let's do a personal exercise.

On a normal day, how long are you able to sit with a task at hand? 

Let's say, you are reading a book. How long can you read without getting distracted by your phone or other temptations?

You are cooking lunch. How long can you focus on this task without picking up your phone?

When you are engaged at work, putting together a presentation/document, how long can you focus on this task without checking email/Slack/instant messaging/social media, etc?

I'd highly encourage you to do this experiment for a week and note down the times you have been able to focus on various tasks. 

You could refer to this sample template to track:

Let's not judge or criticize ourselves if the results aren't what we wanted them to be. The first step to change is becoming aware. 

All of us have experienced a state of distractions and an inability to focus from time to time. But is this becoming a norm rather than an exception? The above exercise will help us understand our patterns.

It is also interesting that once we start becoming conscious and self-aware, we tend to focus better.

In my next post, I'll be sharing 5 strategies that have helped me increase my attention span.

Related articles:

Win back your attention and focus

May 19, 2021

How to navigate the content maze?



 Thanks to the Information age we are currently living in, we consume humongous amounts of content every single day through multiple sources - books, social media posts, podcasts, videos, webinars, conferences, workshops, courses, and much more.

Irrespective of the source, we can group the content (across various topics/genres) into 3 broad categories. Since I create a lot of food-related content, let me elaborate on these 3 categories using examples from food.


  1. Information - Mostly facts, either verified or unverified. For eg, nutrition profile of millets, recipes using millets, where to procure them => a few examples of content that fall under this category
  2. Perspectives - An individual's analysis / understanding / experience / interpretation of a concept / topic. For eg, I write about how consuming millets have helped me in reversing my PCOD. This is my perspective and may / may not apply to everyone. 
  3. Implementation - An individual's approach / action / next steps towards a particular problem / objective / challenge. For eg, I share about how I have incorporated millets in my weekly meal plan - I plan and consume millets 3-4 times a week in the form of idli, dosa, pongal, etc. This may or may not apply to everyone.


My general observation is that Information focused content doesn't motivate us to take action as we don't connect to such content at a deeper level. We might save or bookmark them for future reference.


More than Information, we tend to connect with content that belongs to either Perspectives or Implementation. 


Perspectives help us learn from other's experiences and interpretations. Some perspectives can be inspiring and elevating. Sometimes, they help us see a situation through a different lens. When our perspectives match with that of the content creator, we feel a good vibe and we want to hear more from him/her. But let's also keep the caveat in mind - perspectives are influenced by multiple factors, sometimes these could be biased by his/her past experiences and conditioning. A perspective may be the TRUTH for him/her, but it isn't the TRUTH for everyone else. 


Implementation-focused content gives us nice little tips, tricks, and ideas to work on an idea. They can motivate us to take action and proceed in a certain direction. It also gives us the confidence that a certain way of implementation works for this person and so it should work for us as well. But, there is a caveat here as well. The implementation approach is completely dependent on the individual's situation - family, environment, context, his/her strengths, support system, etc. What works for someone may or may not work for everyone else. 


The next time when you consume a piece of content (from any source), ask yourself - "Which of the 3 categories does this content belong to?"


If it belongs to either Perspectives or Implementation, do your due diligence, analyze if it makes sense for you, your family, and your current situation before adopting it right away.


Many times, we take someone's perspectives and implementation as the ultimate truth, try to incorporate it into our lives, fail miserably, and feel disappointed. 


Perspectives are abundant in the content maze we live in today. What will change your life is YOUR perspective of looking at life. 


P.S. Take a guess which category this particular post belongs to :-)


May 18, 2021

The Most Valuable Resource


What's the most valuable resource that all of us have been bestowed with? 

For many years, I had thought of TIME to be the most valuable resource. All of us have the same 24 hours in a day. How we use this time determines the quality of our life.


As I pondered more on this question, I have concluded that more than time, our attention is the most valuable resource.


Attention implies all that is within our awareness at this very moment. 


Our attention can be captured by our thoughts, taking us on a time machine ride

  • to the past - triggering nostalgia, good memories, regrets, bad decisions, remorse
  • to the future - triggering worries, anxiety, uncertainty


Attention can also be captured by external factors

  • through the content we consume - social media, OTT, Youtube, news channels, etc
  • through people whom we interact with
  • through objects in our vicinity


Let's consider this situation - It is a beautiful morning. You have woken up early and have gone for a walk. 

What are the things do you notice around? 

What do you pay attention to?

Where do you pay attention to?

Whom do you pay attention to?

Do you go on a time machine ride through the vehicle of thoughts?

If so, are you traveling more to the past or the future?


What we pay attention to influences our thoughts and actions in the short run. Over time, what we pay attention to influences our behaviors and our beliefs as well. 


If attention plays such a vital role in our lives, shouldn't we protect it with utmost care? 


We spend a hefty annual fee on our bank locker to keep our valuables like jewelry and documents safe. Would we hand over the key to this locker to anyone so casually?


But we do tend to hand over the keys to our attention to so many factors every day without giving much a thought - every time we pick up our phone, every time we scroll through social media without any intent, every clickbaity video link we open, etc.


Let's give our ATTENTION at least the same respect and care (deserves even more) we give towards our bank locker. 


Let's give authorized access to our attention to anyone and anything that demands access. It just takes a second of awareness to ask ourselves this question - is it worthy of my attention?


May 14, 2021

In defense of reading



 This post has been lying in my drafts for over a year now. Finally wrapped it up as this is something I want to convey.

Do you love reading? Does your child love to read? 

If yes, continue this powerful habit, even if you hear otherwise.

If no, that is perfectly okay too. There are various other ways by which we can learn and understand the world.

I belong to the first category. I love to read, so is my 9-year old daughter. Our conversations at home are mostly triggered by books. 

There are multiple reasons why people read.

Some enjoy reading as an activity per se. They read for pleasure - just the process of reading a moving prose or poetry that paints a beautiful picture is such an elevating experience in itself. From the magical world of Harry Potter, certain lines of Dumbledore are stuck to my mind for eternity.

"Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic, capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it."

Reading helps you visualize and create mental images. I agree with the argument that real-life experiences are more valuable but not everyone has the resources (time, money, effort) to experience all that there is to experience in a single lifetime. For eg, I'd love to visit Mussoorie to experience the pine forests that Ruskin Bond so beautifully explains in his books, but I'm more than content, for now, reading his prose that paints vivid imagery of the flora and fauna of the hills.

Books can be a perfect companion, especially in the present lockdown times where you can be transported to a different place in minutes. Books take us down on a journey through various cultures, timelines, and situations. 

Reading puts you in a state of flow and helps to increase focus and concentration. Reading by itself can be a meditative activity. 

As you can see, the purpose of reading is not only about gathering information. 

I came across another argument that reading increases our EGO and that people who read a lot have more EGO. I respectfully disagree with this generalization. I know many people who read a lot and are so down-to-earth. I also know people who don't read books but have quite a big ego. 

Being an avid reader, what I have experienced is that books have made me more humble. Every time I read an inspiring book with thought-provoking ideas, it just makes me feel awed and reinforces the idea "katradhu kaimann alavu, kallaadhadhu ulagalavu" (What I know is a drop, what I don't know is an ocean).

Any action we do can boost our ego if we allow it to do so. Reading, writing, teaching, sharing, learning, content creation on social media - any action for that matter. 

Our ego can also be boosted by the information we receive, regardless of the source of the information - books being one of the sources. Getting a lot of information from people can also boost our ego. It isn't dependent on the source, but rather how WE perceive ourselves based on the information gathered.

The other argument often heard is that the application/implementation of what we have learned is more important than gathering knowledge. Yes, there is a lot of merit to this argument. But I see it from a different angle. When you read a book with a lot of ideas, it isn't possible to implement all that's been shared. From the 100 odd ideas, picking the 10 key takeaways that are relevant to your situation and life is in itself a skill. This cannot happen if we just skim through a book. Deep reading is essential to distill those crucial ideas relevant to us. 

Another argument against reading is that books are written from an author's perspective, his/her context based on his/her problems and the solutions he/she has figured out. I don't see this as an issue at all. When we have conversations with people, aren't they too sharing their perspectives, their context, their problems, and solutions? Yes, the body language, voice modulation and tones used do make a difference and we can learn more from such cues.

But not many of us have one-on-one direct access to people from whom we can learn from. Access to people might seem easy in the current social media age but not applicable for all. Opening up to people and strangers doesn't come naturally to everyone. Suppose, a person whom we admire sits in front of us. The ensuing conversation completely depends on the kind of questions we ask this person. If we feel shy or too conscious, we may not be forthcoming with our questions. If their body language isn't friendly enough, we might not want to intrude on them with our "silly" questions. But when it comes to books, the author anticipates the questions a reader might have while reading a particular chapter or concept. The author might be willing to elaborate the concept with his/her personal experiences that one can resonate with. Many times, I have felt an author talking directly to me, the questions that came to my mind getting addressed in the subsequent chapters. 

There are multiple sources of learning - books, podcasts, articles, videos, courses, in-person conversations. Choose the ones that work for you based on your personality and convenience. No one source is superior or inferior to another.

May 13, 2021

The space crunch

 A particular situation comes to our life to teach us a lesson. If we don't reflect on the situation and learn the lesson it intends to teach us the first time, the situation repeats in 2X magnitude to make sure we learn the lesson. 

In the past year or so, this is what I have observed from my life. A situation literally increased in magnitude from 1X to 2X to now 4X. I don't want to get into the specifics but I'm glad to share that I have indeed learned my lesson. And that is what I wanted to talk about in this post.

I had been desiring for a perfect space for myself in my home - a room or even a cozy nook which is accessible to me 24*7, where I can keep my things, where I can focus and do deep work, where I can practice Yoga, meditate or journal without getting disturbed. 

Ever since Mar 2020, this desire has been eluding me so much. The harder I tried, the more difficult it kept getting. 

I realized that I have been using this "lack of space" as an excuse. As I complained about situations beyond my control, more and more such situations kept on coming. 

I'm presently writing this article sitting on my bed, while D is loudly singing "Do you wanna build a snowman" next to me, a pile of washed clothes waiting to be folded, a stash of books waiting to be put back in their respective places and the sound of drums practiced by a neighbour's son.

Yes, it would be ideal to sit in a quiet, locked room and jot down my thoughts. But I need to accept that such ideal scenarios aren't gonna come by so easily, given the current situation. And that shouldn't stop me from doing the things I want to do. 

"Where there is a will, there is a way" - if the willingness to do what I want to do is strong enough, then space (or lack of) shouldn't be of much concern. If I'm finding excuses to avoid the work I want to do, then I need to question the intent behind the work and the lack of willingness to make progress.

Apr 27, 2021

When life answers your question

 It was 5:40 PM. I just freshened up and was about to step into the kitchen. I noticed D playing with her dolls and Lego blocks. Instead of heading to the kitchen, I sat down with her. She then asked me, "Can you play with me for some time?". I replied, "Sure, I can play for 15 minutes". She immediately looked at the clock and then asked me, "Can you sit with me till 6 o'clock?". I responded with a Yes. While playing the pretend play game, she kept on checking the clock every few minutes. I asked her why. What she said gave me the answer I needed to hear. Her answer was "I want some human to play with me". It just broke my heart. For the past few days, I had been busy, stocking up groceries, cooking, doing dishes, laundry, cleaning, etc. Though I have conversations with D throughout the day, I wasn't dedicating my complete time and attention to her. During her playtime, she reads books, plays with her dolls or our kittens/cats (we now have 6 of them at home). We played together till 6:15 pm and both of us felt so happy.

Now you might wonder what my question was. I had been pondering over how I can contribute to the current lockdown situation. I had been seeing so many posts on Instagram related to providing home-cooked food and I was thinking whether I should sign up. My bandwidth is very limited, given the other home responsibilities. Cooking a few extra meals, ordering extra groceries/vegetables, packaging, and coordinating the delivery require time and effort. I wasn't sure whether I'm ready for it. I had been grappling with these thoughts the whole day and then the above conversation with D happened.

I uninstalled Instagram and decided to take a break for a few days. I don't want to feel overwhelmed. Though I enjoy cooking and love to cook for others, I realized this is NOT the right time.

My 9-year-old daughter needs me. Spending time with her and helping her cope with the current situation is more important. Contributing to others doesn't necessarily have to be through home-cooked food. 

Respecting the norms (wearing masks, not stepping out unnecessarily, maintaining social distancing), 

Being mindful about not sharing unverified/fake news on social media, 

Taking care of my physical and mental health,

Taking care of my family members' needs,

Praying and sending good vibes to the world

These are also valid contributions amidst the current situation. 

If you are feeling overwhelmed about how to contribute, take care of yourself and your family. Charity begins at home. 

This post is in no way undermining the contribution of so many kind souls who have taken up the responsibility of providing home-cooked meals to the affected families. Huge respect to every one of you! 

Apr 23, 2021

Celebrating books


 

A day to celebrate books. World Book Day is celebrated on April 23rd every year. 

In this age where information comes to us in various forms (audiobooks, podcasts, courses, videos, online workshops, etc), my preferred source is through books, especially physical ones. I love to read on my Kindle as well, but I find that I retain the information much better when I read from a physical book.

I prefer to read non-fiction books on topics related to psychology, nutrition, wellness, health, self-development, productivity, philosophy, marketing, etc. I do read fiction books/novels but I don't tend to gravitate towards them naturally. Childhood conditioning played a major role in shaping my book preferences. 

A couple of years back, I had made a list of my favorite books. I'm sure there are a few more that I'd like to add to this list. "Biology of belief", "The Heartfulness Way", "Many lives, many masters", "Atomic habits" to name a few.

I used to buy a lot more books 3-4 years ago, but these days, I have been reading what's already piled up on my bookshelves. I have also come to believe that a book arrives in your attention space at the right time. For eg, I had bought "Living with the Himalayan masters" a decade back but never read a single page. I picked it up a few days back and am awestruck with how it answers all my questions.

Though I have stopped buying new books, it is hard for me to let go of the old - both the read as well as the unread ones. This is one of the points of conflict between K and me๐Ÿ™‚

While reading a book, I always have a pencil/highlighter with me. Yes, even while reading a fiction novel ๐Ÿ™‚ Lines that made me go wow, phrases/passages that I'd like to reflect upon or jot down, inspiring anecdotes/incidents - I tend to grab all of them by underlining. D has also picked up this habit from me.

This is my journey with books so far. Share yours too. In these uncertain times, let's hold onto books that inspire us, provide solace and reprieve. 

Apr 22, 2021

Accept and surrender

 I'm a continuous learner. I seek information and knowledge from various sources. But over the past few months, I have experienced this realization -

Some life lessons are best learned through experience.


Let me give you an example -

I'm the kind of person who loves to be in control of various aspects of my life - be it food, lifestyle, productivity, time management, interests, etc. 


When things went out of my control, I got quite stressed. I tried researching more about why certain issues were happening, watched a ton of youtube videos, discussed a lot with my husband, and tried to gather a logical explanation. 


The time spent in these activities didn't alleviate my stress levels but rather increased them even more.


I couldn't understand the deeper meaning behind these phrases "Surrender to the situation", "Accept it wholeheartedly" and "Let go" when I heard them from multiple people whom I respect and adore.


Once I started to apply these phrases in their truest sense in my life, I felt a huge sense of relief. Things that are beyond my control didn't hurt me as much as they did earlier.


Situations come to our life at the right time when we *can* handle them. They also come to us to teach important lessons. When we accept and surrender, we will be able to sail through that particular phase without much pain (both physical and mental). And, as we introspect more on the situation without distracting ourselves, the lessons become more evident in front of our eyes.


When life pulls you in different directions, sometimes it is better to quieten our logical reasoning that seeks answers to "Why" or "Why me?" The experiences themselves will give us the answers as we accept and surrender to them.


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. 

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