Jul 31, 2022

Book Review: Hyperfocus by Chris Bailey

 July has been a good month for me from a reading point of view. Wrapping it up with an insightful book on attention and focus. 

Picking a book to read is always about what I want to improve or learn more about right now. As I started to reprioritize my focus and consciously manage the distractions from my life, it was an obvious choice to pick up this book from my home library.

The first section on "Hyperfocus" mode was easy to relate to and I was glad that I've already been applying many of the principles - taming my distractions, picking up tasks that require hyperfocus, and being mindful of my attention space.

When there is a 2*2 matrix, I know I'm gonna love the chapter🙂 The author talks about the different types of tasks we do in our daily lives based on their productive and attractive nature of them. The whole topic of attentional space and how we should manage this limited resource was fabulous. He then talks about the 4-step process to get into the hyperfocus mode. Lots of valuable insights are provided on setting the right intentions, managing our distractions, and strategies to increase our attentional space. Meditation and mindfulness are the top recommended ways that improve our focus and reduce mind wandering.

The most precious takeaway for me was covered in the latter half - "Scatterfocus" mode - the opposite of hyperfocus and its crucial role in creativity. The chapters on Scatterfocus were super insightful and helped me understand the areas I need to work on. I practice a thought dump meditation using pen and paper (which I had written about earlier). Turns out this activity is one of the styles of scatterfocus.

Doing nothing, doing habitual activities that don't require a lot of attention, going for a nature walk, and just being with our thoughts are some of the activities when our brain goes into scatterfocus mode.

After spending intense efforts in hyperfocus mode, we usually switch over to distractions that are stimulating. Instead, if we intentionally get into scatterfocus mode, disparate ideas start to converge, new insights emerge and dots connect more easily.

A few favorite passages:
"Intention is the bouncer of your attentional space - it lets in the productive objects of attention and keeps the distractions out."
"When our brain is even slightly resisting a task, it hunts for more attractive things it could do instead."
"The smaller the object of attention, the more your mind will wander, but the more you'll expand the size of your attentional space as you focus on it."
"Focus becomes effortless when you're working on a task that's intrinsically motivating."

Highly recommend this book if this topic is of interest to you.

Jul 30, 2022

Conscious Use of OTT platforms

 In the past 5 years, our consumption of entertainment through OTT platforms has increased multifold. 

Ever since I succumbed to the "Good Wife" binge-watching episode back in 2017, I've become conscious of my time spent on OTT platforms.

As I started observing my behavior, I noticed a pattern - I might switch on the TV to watch something interesting for 15-20 minutes when I'm taking a break. As I open any of the platforms, I invariably keep scrolling to figure out what to watch most of the time and end up feeling exhausted, before making a choice. These platforms pave way for infinite scroll behavior, similar to social media.

A few steps taken so far:

  • We have subscribed to Prime and Disney-Hotstar annual plans. For Netflix, we usually subscribe for a month, and then take a break for 3 months. This decision was mainly due to the higher monthly subscription charges. It also avoids the trap of pushing ourselves to watch something instantly, as soon as a new movie is released. For eg, I watched Shyam Singha Roy, Hey Sinamika, and Ante Sundaraniki all during the past month, though they were released in different months.
  • I prefer to watch movies over web series. Movies are a 2-3 hour commitment, whereas web series requires a lot more time, once we start watching them. If a web series is highly recommended or something that I might like, the first thing I check is the number of seasons and episodes in each season. Recently, I watched "Suzhal" which had only 8 episodes.
  • I don't watch every single new movie that gets released. I only choose movies in the genre of my liking - comedy, romance, light-hearted, or drama. Many movies are so violent and gory these days. Not worth our time and mental energy.
  • I prefer to access OTT platforms on our living room TV, and not on my laptop. This way, I don't end up spending time on TV when my daughter is around, as the content might not be appropriate for her age.
  • Be it weekdays or weekends, I feel sleepy by 9:30-10 PM. So I don't prefer to watch movies that stimulate my mind in the late evenings.

We are what we consume, through our senses. Being mindful about the content we take in has a tremendous impact on our wellbeing.

Jul 28, 2022

30 years of AR Rahman


The music of Roja was released on 27th Jul 1992, but I stumbled upon this album a few months later on the most fateful day of my life. My mom moved on to the next world, but on the very same day, the Universe introduced me to ARR's music, playing on the loudspeaker from a tea shop. Listening to "Kaadhal Rojavae, enge nee enge" brings me tears even to this date, reminding me of the flood of emotions I felt that day.

Looking back, I have chosen to believe that the Universe meant to convey this message - "I understand you have lost someone precious today and it's an irreplaceable loss. But I'm bringing something to you that will fill this gap in myriad ways".

His music in the past 30 years has been a constant, though my life has moved on from being a 10-year-old kid to a mother of a 10-year-old.

The rush to buy his albums in the form of cassettes, CDs, and iTunes songs and then listening to them for hours at a stretch, immersing in the tune, orchestration, beats, and vocals - right from Chikku Bukku Raiyile to his latest Cholappenne.

As he started singing, it brought a whole new dimension to his albums. Whenever a new album of his gets released, my first instinct now is to look for the songs that he has sung. I also realized that the songs I unconsciously hum are all sung by him - "Dil se re", "Newyork Nagaram", "Vellai Pookal", "Mazhai kuruvi" and the latest "Uyir Urigudhey".

I watch certain movies multiple times, ONLY to listen to his awesome background track - be it "Swades", "Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya", "Kandukondein Kandukondein" to name a few.

I still can't get over the rush of excitement I felt while attending his concert in Chennai 3 years back. I went by myself without company, knowing that I'll be in the company of 100s of his fans and his rocking performance.

His humility, groundedness, passion, and constant quest for excellence are all traits that I admire in him.

ARR, thank you so much for all these 30 years of blissful and soulful music. Your music is like a dear friend to me always! *Mind voice singing "Mustafa Mustafa" now*🙂

Rahmaniac since 1992!

Jul 27, 2022

Book Review: Master your Emotions by Thibaut Meurisse

 While reading Thibaut Meurisse's "Dopamine Detox", I realized that he has written multiple books, many of which were available on kindle unlimited. "Master your Emotions" caught my attention, as I remembered seeing it as a recommendation by many bookstagrammers.

Over the past week, I devoured this simple and powerful book in "active reading" mode - writing down notes and reflecting on my personal experiences.

The author has dissected the topic of emotions in detail -

the nature of our emotions,

how they are formed,

the elements that impact them,

how emotions can be a great tool for personal growth.

The initial context which establishes the link between our ego and our emotions was so fabulous to read.

Emotions are transient, they come and go. And it is not the emotions per se that create suffering, but rather how we interpret those emotions. The formula showing the components involved in creating strong emotions was such an eye-opener. Beautifully explained with relevant examples.

Interpretation of an event or a thought + Identification with an emotion / thought + Repetition = Strong emotion

Emotions are impacted by many of our daily activities like sleep, food, breathing, environment, physical activity, etc. The author has also provided many introspective questions to ponder whenever we experience a negative emotion. Worth jotting them down and journaling the experience.

Suppressing emotions isn't a good idea, Why?

"E-motions are energy in motion, but what happens when you prevent the energy from moving? It accumulates". The natural flow of energy is blocked.

The section on how emotions can be leveraged as a tool for personal growth was my favorite of all. The author has taken 10 negative emotions that we commonly face (resentment, fear, procrastination, worry, etc) and given a different perspective on how they can be helpful to understanding ourselves and our desires.

Simple writing, well-structured, and lots of examples and reflective questions throughout the book.

Do check out this powerful book if you would like to understand a little deeper about your emotions. 

Jul 26, 2022

My digital wellness journey so far

 I bid goodbye to Facebook and Twitter 2 years ago.

I continue to use Instagram and make sure I use the browser app from my laptop.

I consciously try to stay away from infinite scroll enabling features like Explore / Reels.

In the past 2-3 years, I have made sure that the number of people I follow is restricted to a max of 60. Every time I choose to follow a new person, I need to make the hard decision to unfollow someone.

I continue to use the platform in a way that enables me to express myself through words. Though the whole world has moved (or forced to move) onto short video format, I consciously decided not to pursue this path. Words are my way of expression and I derive happiness and satisfaction through writing. Vanity metrics like engagement, reach and follower count haven't moved up in the past 2 years. Yet, the motivation to stay consistent with content creation hasn't gone down, thanks to the state of "flow" I experience whenever I write and to the handful of people with whom my writing resonates.

Do you scroll for hours on any of the social media platforms? It could be for inspiration, getting rid of boredom, entertainment, or timepass. Research has proven a strong linkage between doomscrolling and anxiety. 

I have observed this pattern in myself. Whenever I scroll through Youtube recommendations (even if it is for a short duration of 15 min), I find myself agitated and restless. I realized that this habitual scrolling with no intent or purpose, just to seek new and interesting content, isn't helping me in any way.

The more time we scroll on social media, the higher the feeling of inadequacy and guilt we experience.

As I slowly changed my digital behavior, I could see tremendous improvement in my focus and attention.

Reading a non-fiction book at a stretch for hours without getting distracted isn't a distant dream anymore.

Meditating for 40 minutes is possible without feeling restless.

The mind feels calm and relaxed.

Conscious, deliberate steps to understand our digital usage patterns and taking control of our precious time and attention is the need of the hour. It is very much in our hands. Let's take charge.

Jul 25, 2022

Flow like the water

 As part of the Satvic Intense Yoga program, we learned about the 5 elements / Panchamahabhootas last week. While on the topic of Jal, the nature of water was discussed - flowing, non-stagnant, transparent, adaptable, flexible, and clear. The Suryanamaskar practice following the discussion was also gentle and flowing in nature, which I absolutely loved.

The rising number of people diagnosed with diabetes and obesity is attributed to an imbalance in Kapha dosha, as per Ayurveda. Kapha dosha is comprised of Earth and Water elements.

Given that our body is comprised of 70% water, it is natural for us to be flowing, moving, and non-stagnant. Our bodies are designed for movement. Because of our sedentary lifestyles and desk jobs, the water component in our body isn't in alignment with its natural state.

This stagnation is fuelled even further in urban lifestyle, thanks to convenience and technology - food ordering, 10-min instant grocery, OTT platforms with never-ending entertainment, social media, Youtube, etc.

The voice command-driven devices have even made taking a few steps inside our home unnecessary (Switch on the TV, Play this song, Set an alarm). Yesterday, while cooking lunch, I suddenly felt like listening to ARR's soulful "Newyork Nagaram" song. Instead of walking a few steps to get my phone, all I needed to do was to ask Google Home to play the song without taking a single step forward🙂

No doubt, technology has made our lives easier in so many ways. It's also worth pondering how much we have deviated from the natural rhythm of our bodies.

Movement isn't only about taking 10K steps a day or working out in the gym for an hour.

Are we moving enough throughout the day?

Are all our body parts flexible and moving freely without any discomfort, ache or pain?

Are we flowing freely like water, not just in our bodies but also in our minds?

Is there stagnation anywhere? What about our curiosity, learning, exploration, new experiences, old thought patterns, and ingrained habits?

Jul 21, 2022

Book Review: Rtu Vidya by Sinu Joseph

 Thanks to a dear reader who recommended me this book. It was such a fabulous and informative read. I'd highly recommend this book to all women (and men too). Keep an open, curious mind and give it a read! You may choose to agree/disagree with the perspectives shared, but it is worthwhile to hear the facts and reasoning before making any conclusions.

Many ancient menstrual practices are blindly dismissed today as superstitious/patriarchal influence/unfriendly to women. In the first section of the book, the author has elaborated in detail, on the context, history, and reasoning behind many practices. And she has substantiated her research with the help of ancient Indian sciences (Ayurveda, Yoga, and Hindu philosophy) to explain the reasoning, which made a lot of sense.

It was fascinating to read about the different systems of medicine being practiced across the world and the similarities in the understanding of physical and subtle energy bodies. As the author dives into the chapter on the first menarche and why it is a celebration in many communities, this point felt like an aha moment.

"The memory of the first period can trigger a similar response in subsequent periods.............If the experience of the first period was negative and stressful, it is likely that every subsequent period throws the body into a subconscious stress response."

Because of oxidative stress during menstruation, antioxidant-rich foods are recommended. In our traditional practices, foods made using sesame seeds, dry coconut, urad dal, jaggery, etc are usually given. The author has explained the nutritive values of these foods and how they are beneficial to a young menstruating girl.

Various menstrual practices are explained through the lens of Ayurveda - the three doshas and the practices to be followed depending on the woman's Prakriti. The following chapter talks about the natural detoxifying process of menstruation - both in terms of body and mind.

While growing up, I used to hate this whole "seclusion" process that I had to follow by remaining in a corner of our 1-BHK apartment. In the past few years, I understood intuitively why this seclusion is necessary for contemplation and looking inward. This book offered a lot more convincing arguments on the reasoning behind seclusion.

The celestial influence on menstruation was so interesting to read, that talks about how moon and sun cycles can impact menstruation. The author has also clearly elaborated on the role of each phase of the cycle - the hormonal changes, the behavior of our body and mind, and the practices to be followed. I could resonate with it so well.

The second section of the book talks about how menstruation is looked at, from a religion point of view. Lots of beautiful connections and references are brought out here.

The few quotes that I'm sharing below do not do complete justice to this amazing book:

"Evidence can also come from within, from direct experience"

"We cannot see ripples on a water surface that is already disturbed"

"The more the ama, the more the menstrual discomfort."

"For too long, we have confused being a feminist with being feminine. The two are vastly different"

"Menstrual cycles are more than an indicator of reproductive ability. Our monthly period dates are our wellness indicators."

"Calling all of it as superstition is actually a new level of superstition since it comes without the curiosity and exploration that religion might have wanted us to cultivate."

Jul 20, 2022

Questions on Time

 You might have heard of this quote - "Time is money". It is usually used in the context when each hour can be converted or measured in monetary terms.

I don't relate to this quote. But I consider "Time" as one of my most important values. Maybe, that's why I get offended when I watch "Dil Chahta Hai" and how Subodh is made fun of, just because he is a stickler for time! :)

I have often thought about these questions:

  • Is Time equivalent to money? Or is it more valuable than money?
  • Why do many of us spend our money carefully, while we lavishly spend our time?
  • Do time and money present a zero-sum problem? While you have one, you cannot have the other - is it true? Or is it a man-made conundrum?
  • Many of us are frugal with our expenses, but are we approaching Time with the same mindset? Can we be frugal with time? 
  • If Time had a monetary value attached to it, will we be wasting it on frivolous activities? "Frivolous" is a subjective word. What one considers frivolous might be a relaxing activity for another person.
  • When we have a few extra rupees at the end of the month, we will end up saving for the future. There is no way to save the free time that suddenly opens up in our daily calendar. Time can't be carried forward.
  • When we experience stressful situations at home or work, are we permitting ourselves to spend our leisure time without much attention given to how we spend it? Do we justify the same by using self-love as an excuse?
  • When our schedules are dictated by external people/situations, we go with the flow and do not prioritize our needs. Whereas, when our schedule is mostly in our control, we prioritize our needs and invest time in what we love to do. How do we reach this state of harmony and balance? Fixed work hours of the previous generation provided a balance, that is lacking in today's hustle work culture.
  • Time affluence/freedom to do what you want - is what most of us are seeking. The common belief is that people work towards gaining financial freedom in their 20s-50s and then hope to enjoy time affluence in their 60s-70s. Can financial freedom and time affluence go hand-in-hand in our 30s and 40s?

Just a bunch of random questions to the Universe🙂

Jul 19, 2022

My experiences with Mantras and Chants

 A year back, when my dad was critically ill, a dear friend shared with me the Mahamrityunjaya mantra. After memorizing the mantra, it has become a part of my daily evening prayer ritual. It gave me strength to sail through the health situation.

Chanting Mantras / chants / shlokas have immense benefits if done with faith and trust in the Supreme. The vibrations each syllable and sound produce have a powerful effect on our thoughts and emotions. Mindful chanting is extremely important to feel the effect.

I'm grateful to my paternal grandmother for teaching me so many beautiful chants/shlokas when I was a kid. I remember she used to have a book of short mantras to chant for everyday situations.

I learned this shloka "Buddhir balam..." which is to be chanted just before we face any exam or challenge. It used to be my ritual to chant this shloka in the exam hall before seeing the question paper.

I used to feel so scared to swallow tablets when I was a kid. This book had a shloka for this situation as well - Chant "Abaamaarjadhu govindo...." before swallowing a pill. The habit continues!

I find a lot of peace in chanting or listening to shlokas. "Kanda Sashti Kavasam" and "Sudharsana Ashtagam" are the regular ones. During the time of Navarathri, I chant "Mahishasura Mardhini stothram", "Ashtalakshmi stothram" and others focused on the Goddess.

Recently, while reading the book "Rtu Vidya", I learned about the reason why Gayatri Mantra in its original text was not recommended for women. It was so fascinating to read about the meaning of the Mantra and its influence on our Chakras.

Hanuman Chalisa is a wonderful shloka that gives a lot of strength. Though I'm yet to master the pronunciation, hearing Unnikrishnan or Hariharan's voice is impactful.

While working for a music edtech startup a few months back, I proposed that we should have short courses on these chants. The idea was shot down, saying that the target audience (18-30 years) would be least interested. I sincerely hope that it isn't the case. Anyone who has interest and faith should be able to learn these chants, irrespective of age.

Do you chant regularly? Which mantras are your favorites?

Jul 18, 2022

Book Review: You're too good to feel this bad by Dr. Nate Dallas

 This book often pops up as a recommendation by bookstagrammers, which made me curious to check it out. And the fact that it was available on Kindle Unlimited made it an easier choice.

It is a self-help book and ideal for those in their late 20s and early 30s. The author has structured the book so well, starting with essential but often neglected physiological aspects such as sleep, breathing, and nutrition. I found it fascinating to read about the role of adenosine in our sleep cycles and how caffeine interrupts this process.

He then moves on to the psychological aspects of our state of mind, our needs, and our emotions. How our state of mind impacts our decisions and actions is beautifully written and so are the triggers that can improve our state of mind - music, body language, smile, gratitude, etc.

There is also enough coverage related to our work routines, financial planning, minimalism, and relationships.

As he talks about these multiple aspects one after another, it gives the reader a glimpse into one's own life and helps identify the areas that need deeper introspection and change. Moreover, the author's personal experiences add more authenticity and relatability.

My favorite chapter was on Human Needs. Though I have read about needs in various books, I liked the simplistic style in which the author has approached this topic, along with a set of reflective questions to ponder. That's also one of the key highlights of the book - more and more questions to reflect upon. As we embark on this journey towards self-understanding, all we need is to ask the right questions. Answers will emerge from within. This book acts as a catalyst in getting those questions in front of us.

A few favorite passages:

"If your body learns that you can’t be trusted to drink enough water, it increases your appetite to ensure the necessary water arrives through food."

"If you run into a jerk in the morning, you ran into one jerk. If you run into them all day, every day, you are the jerk."

"When I’m willing to accept an excuse in place of the goal itself, I should admit that I never wanted it badly enough in the first place."

"It has somehow become socially acceptable to be wound-identified and to have an existence based on that wound."

"The greatest gift we can give ourselves is the ability to forgive. Even if those around you don’t deserve your forgiveness, you deserve it."

"Working all day and night for vanity is a form of bondage that only produces more suffering."

"The real winners in life are those who figure out how to create wealth, not just income. Wealth includes security, freedom, peace, and fulfillment."

"The reason we aren’t moving is that we have not internalized one truth: That the pain of not doing what we need to do is far worse than the pain of doing it."

Whether you are new to the self-awareness journey or have taken a few steps forward, you will find this book helpful because of the sheer simplicity and honesty in its writing. Though there isn't a lot of depth in each topic, it still offers enough value for the reader to understand and identify actionable steps.

Jul 17, 2022

Book Review: Dopamine Detox by Thibaut Meurisse

 While searching for the book "Dopamine Nation" on Amazon, I accidentally stumbled upon Thibaut Meurisse and his book "Dopamine Detox". It's a short read of 50 pages and is available on Kindle Unlimited.

It was an easy, informative read on the role of dopamine and how it is being hijacked. Contrary to common belief, the author states that dopamine is NOT a pleasure chemical. It creates the anticipation of a potential reward after a certain action. The current digital habits and routines we follow have led us to a state of overstimulation, thereby requiring the need for more and more external stimuli for the same amount of dopamine to be released.

When we are in a constant state of overstimulation, we easily get distracted and tend to lose our precious ability to focus. We also tend to become more short-sighted with our ability to set and achieve goals. We also end up expecting super fast results, which leads to a state of inadequacy and loss of PATIENCE. This was my key take-away from this book.

Dopamine is being hijacked through various triggers - social media notifications, checking emails, news feeds, Youtube recommendations, etc. Look out for any source that keeps us in an OPEN SYSTEM - providing us with a never-ending supply of external stimuli. I had earlier written an article on how I consciously try to restrict my use of infinite scroll-based platforms.

The author recommends going on a detox - either complete for 24/48 hours or a partial detox from your biggest sources of stimulation. He has recommended tips and strategies to follow during this detox - what to avoid and what to do.

Do check out this short book if you are getting overstimulated by social media or Youtube.

Jul 14, 2022

Bookstores and reading

 Last weekend, I had been to Forum mall (now renamed Nexus mall) after a long time. The usual routine is to step into Landmark and spend some time in the books section. I felt sad to see that the books section is now moved to a corner of the store.

When Landmark first opened in Forum mall, the lower floor was exclusively allocated to books, while the upper floor used to have DVDs, audio CDs, stationery, and gifts. I remember spending hours, browsing through bookshelves, reading a few pages, and picking a few books to buy, whenever we visited Forum mall.

Crosswords in Residency Road used to be one of my favorite places. It has shut shop, and so is Crosswords in Phoenix Market City. Sapna and Blossoms are still around and continue to remain a hangout spot for bibliophiles like me.

As I wondered why the bookstores are no longer finding it viable to run their business, these are the reasons that came up:
- Customers shifting to online book purchases where they get attractive discounts
- Rising real estate costs
- Reading as a habit/hobby on the decline

I hope I'm wrong on the 3rd reason.
Reading offers tremendous benefits, especially in this hyper-connected digital world. Here are a few:
- Shifts our perception and understanding
- Improves our ability to focus
- Improved attention and concentration
- A deeper understanding of ideas and concepts
- Opening up to newer perspectives
- Increased vocabulary
- Improved confidence to converse on a range of topics

The list goes on.
Do nurture this beautiful and life-changing habit, if you were a reader earlier or if you have a deep down yearning to be a reader.

Jul 13, 2022

Are you being influenced?


The recent news surrounding the Vauld crisis has raised concerns regarding fintech influencers and their credibility. Since the losses are immediate and tangible, the investors are now skeptical about such influencers and their financial advice content shared on social media.

In 2017-18, many food influencers and mom bloggers were promoting many packaged and junk foods, citing health and nutrition-related claims. As far as food is concerned, there is no way to attribute the intake of a single food product to the cause of an ailment. Because of this sole reason, such food influencers got away with irresponsible promotions - they make their money from brands, write books, take fancy vacations, and what not!

In the past couple of years, there is also a new trend of influencers, promoting extreme lifestyles and ideologies on social media, across various aspects of life - parenting, diet, nutrition, fitness, wellness, home organization, etc. They paint a pretty picture - be it their reels/videos/snapshots from their lives or testimonials/interviews that are carefully curated to pique our curiosity. If we want to know more, we are asked to sign up for their heavily priced workshops.

Some of us might end up taking important life decisions after listening to such influencers without doing our due diligence. The consequences might be extremely stressful in such cases. Eg: you listen to someone passionately talk about homeschooling and you end up pulling your child out of school, only to realize later that homeschooling is not working out for your family. I have heard this from a few mothers.

There is a fine line between gathering someone's perspective vs getting influenced. Follow people whom you find inspiring, attend their workshops, and buy their courses/recordings. BUT, make sure that you are not getting influenced blindly. Before taking any important decision concerning yourself or your family, invest that extra effort into deeper research, taking into consideration your life's context, family situation, environment, etc.

Be it any domain, influencers are plenty. The more time we spend on social media, the higher probability our thoughts aren't necessarily ours.

Jul 11, 2022

Marvel and Us

 "I remember his hammer was smashed by his sister Hela. But how did he get the ax?", I posed a serious question to K and D after watching "Thor: Love and Thunder" yesterday. Both of them burst out laughing and responded in chorus, "Already forgot Infinity war? He gets it in that movie".

We had so much fun, laughing and crying while watching together.

Watching Marvel movies is becoming a family activity. Though I was never a fan, I was initiated into it in the 2000s, thanks to K when the initial movies (Iron man, Spider man) were released. Slowly and steadily, I now seemed to have watched most of the movies, though I don't follow them with rigorous detail🙂

D has also started liking these movies and as someone who likes to teach, she brings me up to speed by explaining certain situations🙂 I'm content to observe and listen to her when she explains with so much passion and detail.

Many parenting "gurus" and influencers pass judgments, saying that bonding through movies or series is not exactly bonding with children.

I beg to differ on this point. Not every activity has to be in the "doing" or "creating" category. Consumption is also good and necessary, as long as it is mindful, and dealt with in moderation.

In a family, every individual's tastes are different. There will soon come a time when there will be no concept of a family TV. Each of us will end up watching our favorites on our screens (in different corners of the home).

If we open up our minds to something new that our family members love to watch, it becomes a nice way to bond - talk, share, discuss and connect.

D and I enjoyed watching the "Just add magic" series a year back, and we still talk about the story and the characters.

Screen time / choosing specific movies or series - these are individual choices that we as parents need to make, based on our intuitions, home environment, child's age, and interests.

Let's not blindly follow blanket rules being advocated that seem extreme or impractical.

Jul 7, 2022

Take the time to grow

 Most lifestyle ailments manifest in our bodies when we experience a sudden stressful situation in our lives. The seeds for such ailments might have already been planted, but they start to make themselves visible during periods of stress.

It saddens me every time I hear a 20+ youngster saying, "I'm young. I can eat anything. My body can take it. It's time to enjoy my life".

When you are at ease, 

When things are going normal, 

When you don't have too many responsibilities on your shoulders,

Take the time to work on yourself, 

Take the time to grow your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

The 20s and 30s aren't only about growing in your career and your financial health.

When you invest even a little effort towards your wellbeing, it starts to pay good dividends IF you end up facing certain challenging situations in your late 30s or 40s.

What are those little efforts? A few suggestions.

  • Include fruits in your diet every day. Many of us skip eating fruits like papaya, melons, and pomegranate, just because it is too much effort to cut them. Invest that 10 minutes for yourself to eat a bowl of fresh, local fruit.
  • Get at least 20 min exposure to sunlight (mornings or evenings). If you are at work, take a break and go for a walk. No major catastrophe will happen if you step out of your desk. Block your calendar if required.
  • Learn to cook basic meals. If you live in a PG accommodation, get an induction stove and a few basic vessels. Make one-pot dishes and pack your lunch. Ordering food outside for every single meal is NOT a healthy option, both for your body and for your wallet.
  • Learn to say NO if you are asked to work long hours or night-outs very often. Never, ever compromise on your sleep.
  • Take at least 15 minutes to stretch your body. Sitting for long hours puts a lot of strain on your neck, shoulders, and back.

Jul 6, 2022

Book Review: Myth = Mithya by Devdutt Pattanaik

 While growing up, Amma never allowed me to read story books. She used to say that reading story books is a waste of time. I have never read Tinkle, Amar Chitra Katha, Ruskin Bond, or Enid Blyton books as a child. Even while traveling, she used to buy me a magazine named Wisdom which had mostly GK stuff and quiz/trivia. No regrets, that's her perspective!

The childhood conditioning had set quite strong and I couldn't bring myself to read fiction books with interest. It always felt like a forced effort.

D and K love reading story books, comics, and picture novels. D reads a lot of Amar Chitra Katha, Jataka tales, and many other mythology stories. A few years back, K was so curious about mythology and devoured many books of Devdutt Pattanaik one after another.

I was somehow drawn towards this book "Myth = Mithya" a few days back and was completely engrossed in it. Though I was aware of some of the stories from Hindu mythology (thanks to the epic TV shows in Doordarshan!), this book interweaved so many aspects of philosophy, spirituality, rituals, and stories in such an interesting manner.

The book starts with the context of Myth and Mithya and how mythology carries the idea forward with stories, symbols, and rituals.

"Mithya was truth seen through a frame of reference."

The book is divided into 3 sections and each describes the creation, sustenance, and destruction dimensions in depth. It was an aha moment for me to understand these dimensions from a new angle.

"Awareness leads to discovery. Discovery is creation."

"Shiva represents the hermit way of life. Vishnu represents the householders' way of life."

The section on karma was an interesting read with relevant examples - the boons and curses, equity and debt, desire and destiny.

"Destiny is determined by past deeds. Desire influences future actions."

Many mythological characters and their stories have a deeper meaning and symbolism attached to them. The author has brought out such connections so beautifully. It was so fascinating to read about the different Yugas and how culture and societal rules had shifted significantly.

A few favorite passages:

"Choice of response, and the obligation of facing its consequences, rests solely with the jiiva."

"Culture can exist only when nature is domesticated."

"Domestication of the mind involves balancing desire with duty, instinct with intellect, urges with responsibilities."

"For the stillness of the soul to make sense, there is a need for the restlessness of energy."

Do pick up this book if you are new to mythology or would like a refresher :)

Jul 5, 2022

Daily charging

 Imagine this situation. You have a single charging point at home and a single mobile charger.

Newer phones do not need frequent charging - they charge quickly and retain their charge for long.

Older phones need frequent charging - they take more time to charge and drain their charge faster.

Let's say - your phone is neither new nor old. And your phone is THE most important one at home - it has all the required data, contacts, and apps that are used more frequently.

In such a scenario, what would you do? You will ensure that your phone is fully charged before others get hold of the charger. You will make sure that your phone's battery never goes into the Red zone. 

Our daily lives are very similar to the above situation.

If you are in your 30s/40s with multiple responsibilities (child care, work/career, household work, elderly care, pet care, etc), your energy is THAT most important phone of the household.

The single charger is nothing but your Home. Everyone needs access to this charger called Home. 

Allocate space for charging yourself every single day.

Come what may, don't compromise on that space. It is even more important in critical or emergencies where your energy is drained or depleted. Remember, the more charge gets used, the higher the need to charge more frequently (multiple times a day).

What does this daily charging give you?

  • Self-connection
  • Connection with your body and breath
  • You start to see things more clearly
  • You understand your values and your priorities
  • Resilience to face the stormy days

How to get this daily dose of charge?

  • Connecting with your body through Yogasanas
  • Connecting with your breath through Pranayama
  • Connecting with your thoughts and feelings through journaling or self-reflection
  • Connecting with your mind through meditation
  • Connecting with the external world through books written on topics you are inspired about
  • Connecting with the Divine through chants or mantras

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