Dec 30, 2022

2022 - Review

 The year-end ritual of reflecting continues this year as well.

When 2022 started, I had taken up a job in a startup and was looking for some stability in my personal life, after the series of challenges in 2020 and 2021. Little did I know, that in a couple of weeks, things would turn even more challenging. Covid wave 3 struck in Jan. K had a severe cough and fever for a week. While he isolated himself and was recovering, my MIL (in Chennai) had a similar episode of persistent cough and fever. The test results came out positive one evening and the very next morning, we received a call from FIL that she passed away. This was just too shocking and too sudden for all of us.


K rushed to Chennai and within a few days, FIL also tested positive. After a couple of weeks, he recovered and we shifted him to Bangalore. The challenges of elderly care and coping with grief took a toll on all of us.


My workload both at the office and at home was too overwhelming and so I decided to quit and take a break in May.


My dad has recovered from the illness he was diagnosed with in 2021, after a year-long medication process. But he hasn't regained the strength he lost during this phase and there are other health challenges as well.


My Yoga routine went for a toss and with all the stress, I felt quite exhausted on all levels. Regular walking and home-cooked food helped me to some extent.


Until 2021, I used to get a viral infection (light fever with cold), maybe once a year or so with a quick recovery. But in 2022, I had 3 episodes of fever, body aches and severe cough, with recovery times longer than expected. Is it due to low immunity, stress levels or side effects of something else? No idea.


The break from work helped me prioritize self-care.


In June, I enrolled in the 21-day Beginner Yoga programme organized by Satvic Yoga. It brought back my enthusiasm and interest in regular Yoga practice. I followed it up with the intermediate Yoga programme in Jul. From Jun till Nov, I had been consistent with self-practice. The routine got messed up again in Dec, due to fever and cold episodes one after another for everyone in the family.


Though I wasn't planning to get back to work immediately, an exciting opportunity in the space of well-being came my way and I decided to go for it. The last 4 months have been quite interesting, working for Bigyellowfish and understanding the workings of the maritime industry, which I had no clue about.


One habit that helped me manage the various challenges was Reading, which I have been consistent with throughout the year. Grateful to all the books that came my way in 2022 

- they answered the questions I was grappling with, 

- they provided fresh perspectives,

- they helped me embrace new ways of thinking - from control to Surrender, from logic to trust.


This year, I managed to complete 35 books (with a few more in progress).

  1. The Brain by David Eagleman
  2. Happiness is your creation by Swami Rama
  3. Obviously awesome by April Dunford
  4. What are you doing with your life? by J.Krishnamurti
  5. Finding awareness by Amit Pagedar
  6. The courage to be disliked by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga
  7. Freedom from the known by J.Krishnamurti
  8. Essentialism by Greg Mckeown
  9. The four agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
  10. Everything is f*cked by Mark Manson
  11. For One more day by Mitch Albom
  12. Mind full to mindful by Om Swami
  13. Flowers on the path by Sadhguru
  14. Yoga on Hypertension by Swami Shankardevananda
  15. Choosing a path by Swami Rama
  16. Myth = Mithya by Devdutt Pattanaik
  17. Rtu Vidya by Sinu Joseph
  18. Dopamine detox by Thibaut Meurisse
  19. You are too good to feel this bad by Dr.Nate Dallas
  20. Master your emotions by Thibaut Meurisse
  21. Women and Sabarimala by Sinu Joseph
  22. Hyperfocus by Chris Bailey
  23. Death by Sadhguru
  24. The Almanack of Naval Ravikanth by Eric Jorgenson
  25. Suryanamaskara by Swami Satyananda Saraswati
  26. My Hanuman Chalisa by Devdutt Pattanaik
  27. The five dysfunctions of a team by Patrick Lencioni
  28. The Universe has your back by Gabrielle Bernstein
  29. Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman
  30. The Book of Kindness by Om Swami
  31. Inward by Yuan Puablo
  32. Udalin Mozhi by Dr. Umar Farooq
  33. Atmamun by Kapil Gupta
  34. When all is not well by Om Swami
  35. Being Mortal by Atul Gawande


The more I read, the more I feel inspired to write. Wrote around 90+ posts this year. My Top-5 pick of articles are:

9 steps to simplify life in 40s

When does a person become responsible?

Labels on your bottle

Daily Charging

The power of Surrender


2022 had quite a few memorable events as well.

- Meeting my soul friend in person for the first time. The weekend with Sakthi and her family in Coimbatore felt super special.

- I've been a huge fan of standup comedian Praveen Kumar (so is my daughter). Watching his standup show "Kanchipuram Mapplai" in person and meeting him after the show was so much fun.

- Our trip to Hampi was a memorable one. Loved the vibes of this place and got to experience its historical significance.

- I co-presented a session on mental well-being at a client conference, which was a wonderful opportunity from a professional point of view.

- The annual lecture on packaged foods for Bhoomi college continued this year as well. And I felt glad to do the same as part of their Yugaantar festival last week.


As always, it isn't the goals/resolutions for the New Year, but the daily habits and routines that I want to focus on. 


Here's wishing everyone a very happy, joyful and peaceful 2023!


Dec 29, 2022

Book Review: Being Mortal by Atul Gawande



 Wrapping up 2022 with this powerful, hard-hitting book that talks about modern medicine's approach toward mortality, sickness, aging and terminal illness.

Last year, when my dad's health was in a critical state, I was talking to a neighbor. He recommended that I should read this book. After almost 1.5 years, I picked it up on a casual visit to a bookstore.


This book is NOT for everyone.

However, it will resonate strongly

  • if you are a caregiver,
  • if you have parents or family members with multiple ailments,
  • if you have been running around for treatments and medical procedures for loved ones with critical stages of life-threatening diseases like cancer


I was pleasantly surprised to read such a different perspective coming from a doctor/surgeon. I could relate so much to the many conundrums that the author has brought up.


Each of us is forced to deal with the realities of decline and mortality of ourselves and our family members. It is painstakingly hard, takes a toll on our emotions and makes us doubt the choices and decisions that we end up making on behalf of others.


The author, in such beautiful and powerful words, brings up this point:

"The waning days of our lives are given over to treatments that addle our brains and sap our bodies for a sliver's chance of benefit."


He takes us on a journey, first by recognizing our need for the independent Self and how our systems start to fall apart and crumble. The medical cases and examples he shared throughout this book are so relatable, some make you teary-eyed and some give you hope amidst the crisis they end up going through. His own father's experience, the decisions and the tough conversations that followed - gave a whole new dimension to his perspectives on the importance of autonomy and control.


In the quest for safety and security, we end up losing our quality of life and our preferences on how our end lives ought to be. This loss is more profound when someone ends up in long treatment procedures in a hospital, the rigid schedules in a nursing home or even when there is huge uncertainty in the next steps of treatments that could lead to multiple complications.


The author gives examples of alternative solutions in the form of assisted living homes, independent homes suited for the elderly, and hospice support that lets terminally ill patients lead the last few days/weeks in ways that are fulfilling and peaceful.


The three types of the doctor-patient relationship - paternalistic, informative and interpretive - were super relevant.

His perspectives on the perils of the medical mindset to "do something, fix something" are something that every practitioner needs to ponder upon.


A few powerful quotes

"Once aging led to debility, it was impossible for anyone to be happy".

"How we seek to spend our time may depend on how much time we perceive ourselves to have."

"We want autonomy for ourselves and safety for those we love"

"Medical professionals concentrate on repair of health, not sustenance of the soul. Yet--and this is the painful paradox--we have decided that they should be the ones who largely define how we live in our waning days."

"The betrayals of body and mind that threaten to erase our character and memory remain among our most awful tortures."

"Over and over, we in medicine inflict deep gouges at the end of people's lives and then stand oblivious to the harm done."

"Endings matter, not just for the person but, perhaps even more, for the ones left behind."


Super impactful book and it answered many of my dilemmas. Must read if you fall into the category of people that I listed above, with whom this book would resonate.


Dec 23, 2022

Book Review: When all is not well by Om Swami


 

A couple of months back, I went on a shopping spree at Blossoms bookstore. Most of the titles I picked up were from the Yoga/philosophy/spirituality genre. Having read a few of Om Swami's books earlier, I picked up "When all is not well" with the intent to hear his thoughts on depression. Mental well-being is a topic that I'm interested to go deeper into, both for personal and professional reasons.

Depression is not a word imported from the West. Ayurveda and Yogic scriptures call depression "Vishada", a toxic state of the mind. Through this book, the author shares a Yogic perspective on the different states of depression and healing across various levels - physical, mental, and emotional.

He helps the reader in understanding what depression is and how it is different from momentary feelings of sadness.

"Depression is disconnection. You have lost all strength to react, fight or resist.....It is not absence of happiness. It is absence of life and of will."

He narrates many real-life experiences of people who faced depression and came out of it.

Many of us have faced mild depression symptoms during multiple phases - seasonal affective disorder, PMS, PPD etc. 

This point struck a chord - "When you don't allow time for yourself, you can't receive the light in your life".

The author recommends regular practice of Surya Namaskar, Trataka, Pranayama, bumblebee breathing (Bhramari) and witness meditation as solutions to address the root causes of depression.

The most impactful chapters for me were the ones on erasing psychic imprints and emotional healing.

Key takeaways

"If you can just be open and willing to see what purpose life might have the way it's unfolding for you, rather than resist and oppose it vehemently, you may find there's no struggle. Floating with the current is effortless; it's when you swim against it that you have to gather all your might."

"Peace doesn't mean a life devoid of adversities, troubles and challenges. Instead, it means to be surrounded by all of these and yet maintain faith and calm."

"Gratitude is the antidote to intense sadness".

Loved this book for its simple writing on a topic that's gaining importance these days.

Dec 22, 2022

Experiences

 Every experience is significant. It happens for a reason. 

We may not understand the reason at the exact moment a particular experience happens in our lives. But it always makes sense when you connect the dots backward.


An experience that happened in 2021 helped me manage a situation in 2022.

I don't know why a certain series of events happened this year, but am sure it will reveal itself at the right time.


Earlier, my over-analyzing nature would ponder, "Why? Why now? Why me?" and keep thinking about all the possibilities. But now, I just quietly accept without overthinking and believe that the understanding will dawn naturally one fine day.


Every experience teaches us something new:

  • something about ourselves
  • something about others
  • something about the society we live in


The experiences of the past two weeks taught me something about myself. It made me question something deeper about my personality:

"I'm a flexible and accommodating person by nature, but sometimes, am I taking this nature of mine a bit too far?".


Every experience opens up new doors, that we wouldn't otherwise know existed.

A random post in 2017 by someone on Instagram opened up a new area of interest. 5 years later, I'm still being associated with the same.

A presentation I made in 2010 struck a chord with someone and he referred me to an earlier work opportunity.

A random connection from an earlier work project played a role in connecting me to my current work opportunity.


These coincidences and experiences feel like a maze of events, seemingly so random, but there is an inherent meaning and purpose behind them.


Dec has been such a weird and challenging month in multiple ways. There were times when I felt, "When will this 2022 get over? I've had enough of it". But I believe these experiences have significance, which will unravel as time passes.

Dec 14, 2022

She isn't a candle

Disclaimer: The story, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this post are fictitious. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased) is intended or should be inferred. 

A mother can fulfill her dreams, support her children in their formative years and spend time with her grandchildren in her later years ONLY IF the father (her husband) grows up to be an adult.

In many families, especially in the previous generations, the husband continues to be a man-child, expecting that his wife hands him every little thing that he needs - be it his morning cup of coffee, stapler, electricity bill file, dinner plate, a glass of Horlicks, etc.


Initially, out of love, the wife might be happy to play this role, but over time, as her responsibilities increase, the sense of resentment and anger creeps in when she notices an unequal labor divide at home.


The husband comes home after work at 5 PM, plonks himself in front of the TV, and orders coffee and snacks.

The husband retires at the age of 60, plonks himself in front of the TV, and expects that dinner to be served on time.


Being a homemaker, the wife (She) continues the same routine day in and day out without any break.

During her 30s and 40s, She might still have the energy to sustain the demands of managing a home with a man-child and growing teen kids.

She might grudgingly continue the routine, of living with a man-child for nearly 2 decades.


As She enters her 50s and 60s, She realizes that many health issues have started to knock on her door, due to a lack of self-care.

The husband influences the food preferences at home and She has no say in it.

His post-retirement plans take precedence and She has no say in it.


As her husband gets diagnosed with health issues, managing his ailments becomes her #1 priority.

He becomes even more of a man-child, seeking constant attention.

In the list of things she hands over to him, she now adds a set of pills too, for managing his diabetes, BP, and more.

It is of least concern to him when She also gets diagnosed with the same ailments.


Grandchildren arrive amidst this saga. Though her heart yearns to spend time with them, the man-child doesn't give her the time and space. He becomes even more clingy.


Out of the blue, comes a virus that takes her life all of a sudden. Perhaps, it isn't the virus that caused her lungs to collapse. Rather it is the suffocation she faced for years.


The man-child mourns for a few days but returns to his normal, post-retirement regimen. Life has now given him three choices:

  • Start to grow up at least now in your mid-70s and brew yourself that cup of coffee
  • Expect your family members (DIL or Daughter) to continue to "hand-over-things" to you
  • Hire a 24*7 help who would continue to do the same "handing-over-things" duty as your wife


A story that I felt like sharing today.

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