Mar 25, 2023

40s - the decade of reinvention

 D: "1, 2, 3, 4.......Mummy, you have many strands of white hair"

She starts to pluck them one by one.

Me: "It's hurting, don't pluck, ma"

D: "I don't want my mummy to grow old"

Me: "aww, it's not possible, dear!"

Physical changes like greying of hair are the obvious ones D notices. But as I observe myself in the past 1.5 years, I realize that the 40s is the decade of awareness and acceptance.

The slightest mental turbulence immediately manifests in the physical body.

In the 20s and 30s (to a large extent), the body is much more accommodating to the torture it has to put up with - overeating, unhealthy food choices, sedentary life, poor sleep, negative thoughts, and habitual reactions.

In the 40s, the body tends to become a little less forgiving. Awareness about our daily choices becomes even more important in this decade, if not prioritized in our 30s.

The effect of our thoughts and feelings reflects in the physical body so rapidly. Processing, modifying, and realigning them to our nature is only possible with awareness.

To live in a state of awareness, slowing down and being present in the "present" are the only two ways.

A completely slow life, though desirable, isn't practical in today's times. It is even a luxury if one can do so.

But we can certainly bring in pockets of slow living in our daily lives, that make us feel grounded and grateful.

For many of us, including myself, weekdays are quite challenging to find such pockets of slow time.

But I make sure I deliberately plan such "slow" activities that I enjoy during weekends.

My weekend mornings begin with brewing a cup of chai that I slowly sip and enjoy while reading a book, with W sitting on my lap. This ritual is for 30-40 minutes, without any hurry.

I prepare a slightly elaborate lunch at the pace I'm comfortable with (no multitasking, no prior menu planning). Whatever I feel like cooking (provided the ingredients are there), I just go with the flow.

Saturday afternoons are reserved for a post-lunch nap.

If I feel like stepping out of my home, I usually plan to visit either a temple or a bookstore. I find it quite relaxing in either of these places.

In our 40s, it is surprising how our priorities and interests change. It is a ripe time to reinvent ourselves.

Mar 21, 2023

Conflict between mind and heart

 It has been quite an emotional roller-coaster ride last few weeks. Multiple thoughts to process, reflect and act upon.

Last evening, came to know that a colleague of mine with whom I had collaborated back in 2016 passed away suddenly due to an accident. She was in her late 40s, used to lead a large team, and then moved on to do multiple other things. Though the mind tries to reason out through the lens of Karma and destiny, the heart doesn't understand and accept so easily. Sent prayers and healing thoughts to her family last night before going to bed. But couldn't get good sleep.

Woke up around 4 AM (earlier than usual) today and started prepping for lunch. Then joined the Satvic Advanced Yoga session (Day 2 today) at 6 AM and the topic was on energy and imbalances due to the dominance of either Ida or Pingala nadis.

The lesson that I'm carrying forward from today's class:

When there is a constant conflict between the mind (left brain / Buddhi) and heart (right brain / Mann), there is an imbalance, which leads to stagnation in life. Only when the mind and heart are aligned and in sync, do the fluctuating patterns stop and we start to activate the Vigyanmayakosha (intuition / wisdom / higher intelligence).

When we are truly in the "Present", we get to become aware of this misalignment and take corrective actions as needed. If we are on autopilot, the state of fluctuation only gets worse as days progress by.

On the topic of Being Authentic that I shared yesterday, there is a reason why I posted the pic of our pet cat Octi. She has such a unique, demanding personality unlike her sister Georgina. Octi doesn't like to be lifted, cuddled, or even caressed by any of us. She is very particular about her space and doesn't like it when we shower our love on her🙂

She doesn't change her personality, just so that her human family will feel happier.

To understand what being authentic means, we don't have to look anywhere else other than just observe our pets' behavior.

Mar 20, 2023

Be authentically YOU!

 This happened in 2015. I started to mingle with a group of women. One of them had invited all of us for an evening meet-up. A bottle of wine was opened. I had never tasted wine (or any other type of alcohol) before that day. But since everyone was having it and I wanted to become part of the group, I decided to join in. To be honest, it tasted horrible, like unsweetened cough syrup and there was a burning sensation in my throat. After a couple of sips, I couldn't drink it any further.

No one in the meet-up forced me to drink wine, yet I decided to change myself to feel accepted among new friends. Later in that week, I questioned myself, "Why would you want to change yourself? A real friend would accept you for who you are".

That was the first and last time I ever sipped alcoholic beverages.

During my school and college days, there were times when a few classmates mocked me for being "too thin", along with other not-so-kind comments (body shaming happens to thin folks too!). Such comments affected me quite a bit.

When I entered my 20s, I consciously chose to remain authentic and love/accept myself for who I am - be it physical looks, values, and principles. On those few occasions (like the wine example above), when I tried to change myself for approval or validation from others, it immediately didn't feel right.

Staying authentic is only possible through self-love. It offers multiple benefits:

  • Few really deep friends who "get" you for who you are
  • High self-esteem
  • Courage to try out new initiatives
  • No background anxiety about "what others would think of me"
  • Expressing yourself freely without the need to impress anyone

While reading "Happiness Unlimited", this passage highlighted the importance of staying true to ourselves:

"We keep changing our behavior according to everyone else. Because of this, we tend to forget our original qualities.....I colored my personality according to everyone else's personality."

Be authentically YOU!

It is much more needed in today's times when modern society is trying to fit us into standard moulds that can be grouped, classified, and interpreted using data, which then makes it easier for thoughts to be programmed and fed.

Mar 18, 2023

Book Review: Happiness Unlimited by Sister Shivani

About a month back, I came across an interview with Sister Shivani on Ankur Warikoo's youtube channel. I hadn't known about her until then.

I was awestruck by her insights shared in such a crystal clear manner in that interview.

Youtube then recommended me her podcast from The Ranveer show and more of her videos from her channel. Her calming voice, her analytical approach, and the right examples inspired me to listen to her videos whenever I opened Youtube. As I started to read more about her works, I stumbled upon this book "Happiness Unlimited" which is based on the conversations she had with Suresh Oberoi as part of a TV series.

I picked it up from Blossoms last Sun and I was glued to it in the past week. If you have started exploring about mind, thoughts, the role of spirituality, and our responses to situations, then look no further and pick up this ONE book. I'm sure it will answer a lot of your questions. It is a short and easy read (around 170 pages) but filled with valuable nuggets of insights. I plan to revisit this book every few months as it opened up my eyes to multiple aspects.

Sister Shivani says that happiness is a choice, a decision, and an internal creation. When we tie it to external events, situations, or people, it is out of our control and isn't permanent. External objects can provide physical comfort but we misinterpret it as happiness.

The hard-hitting concept she reiterates is the fact that we are the creator of our thoughts. External factors can influence the creation of thoughts, but it is our choice to become aware of every thought and change it to align with our true nature. She explains about three factors - past experiences, the information we feed through our senses, and our belief system - that influence our thoughts.

When we say that certain situations are repeating in life, it is not the situation that repeats but our responses to them. So so true!

She also gives a beautiful perspective on how things like anger and stress are labeled "natural" these days. These aren't our true nature. We can change our feelings once we change our thoughts. When we express anger to someone, it is first created in our mind and the energy affects us more than the person it was intended for.

We always end up attributing our feelings to something external, but it is our very own thoughts that created a certain feeling.

There were so many aha moments while reading the book, that I just can't type all of them in a review.

Few of my favorite quotes:

"It's not only reaching the destination that matters, it's the quality of the journey that counts"

"Relationships are not actions; relationships are the energies we exchange while doing those actions"

"Heal the mind, the body will follow"

"The health of our body reflects the quality of our thoughts"

"The energy that I send out is my karma and the same energy when it comes back in the form of situations or people is destiny"

Also, I'd highly recommend watching a few of her videos and registering her voice in your head before you read this book. While reading, I imagined her voice in my head, which made the whole experience even more impactful.

I'm so grateful that the Universe gave me this book at the right time! Highly recommend this book to everyone!

Prioritize your sleep

 Yesterday (Mar 17th) was World Sleep Day. Though most of us understand how important sleep is to our overall well-being, we somehow deprioritize it for various reasons - be it work, hobbies, entertainment, distraction, socializing, etc. This compromise over time affects both the quality and quantity of sleep.

Many of us have this habit of watching TV or browsing our phones until the last second before we go to sleep. You might have noticed, when you close your eyes after exposure to screens, there is some sort of visual movement or disturbance for a certain duration of time before it settles down. This impacts the time it takes for us to get to deep sleep.

Sleep quality also gets impacted by the quality of information we consume just before going to bed. From my experience, I have noticed that whenever I watch a disturbing or scary movie in the late evening, my sleep cycle gets disturbed. I remember watching the movie "Gargi" a couple of months back and I couldn't sleep well for the next few days.

More than the movies, it is imperative that we become mindful in picking the right series to watch on OTT platforms - they are quite addictive and on top of it, the plot, dialogues, and scenes can get disturbing as well.

OTT platforms keep releasing such addictive series one after another. It is up to us to decide what we want to feed our minds.

So many distractions and disturbances to keep us awake at night and then we see Melatonin supplements getting launched on the sidelines. Reminds me of the Tamil proverb - "kozhandayai killi vittitu thottilayum aatradhu".

Prioritize your sleep, irrespective of what comes your way.

Entertainment is a tricky choice. If not aware, we might end up consuming content that is in no way entertaining but also ends up shaping our thoughts in unexpected ways.

Mar 16, 2023

TO-BE List

 Are you a list maker?

Do you thrive when there are long to-do lists and multiple projects?

Do you feel low when your to-do list has fewer items or none?

Do you diligently maintain and update your to-do lists at the end of each day?

We create these lists to manage our external lives better - home, work, career, studies, parenting, social life, etc.

While reading an enlightening book (review coming up soon), this thought came up. Along with our to-do list, it is valuable deciding on a TO-BE list for the day as well.

TO-BE defines our state of being for the day. It can also be an intention on the tone we want to set for the day.

We could create a sample TO-BE list from this master list as below:

I want to be

  • peaceful
  • aware
  • conscious
  • calm
  • happy
  • energetic
  • strong
  • alive
  • light
  • humble
  • joyful
  • cheerful
  • here-and-now

We can't focus on all the different states in one day. Pick 1-2 states and truly be that way, irrespective of what comes up during the day.

Once the intention for the state of being is set, we start to pay attention to our habitual reactions and consciously realign to our intended state.

I plan to try this technique in the next few weeks and will share my observations in a separate post.

Does this idea of a TO-BE list appeal to you?

Mar 12, 2023

Book Review: A fistful of Wisdom by Om Swami

 In the past couple of years, I've become a fan of Om Swami's writings.

What makes me go pick up his books one after another are his simple words without much jargon, yet profound in the impact they leave behind.

"A fistful of Wisdom" is a collection of articles on varied topics related to life, love, spirituality, death, and more. You could choose any random chapter and finish reading in 10-15 minutes. It doesn't require a particular sequence to be followed, though I read it from the first chapter to the last. Depending on what you seek, some of the chapters will strike a chord, while the rest may not.

The very first story in the Foreword section gave me goosebumps and so were the insights from the first two sections on Life and Love.

On the role of adversities, he gave a fresh perspective - "By giving you everything, life has deprived you of the triumphant feeling of defeating your adversities".

In his typical narration style, he brings up insightful perspectives, with the help of personal anecdotes, popular stories (that you might find in ACK), and epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata. He simplifies many aspects on which we usually have a lot of questions - Karma, the role of a guru, relationships, thoughts, God, etc. 

Two chapters that I just loved were Handling criticism and the Art of Apology. This line made so much sense - "Don't pollute your apology by citing a reason or a justification".

A few of my favorite quotes:

"Compassion and foregiveness are simply synonyms of sacrifice. When you forgive, somewhere you sacrifice a part of your own existence, your respect, your dignity, yourself".

"Contentment is the mother of happiness".

"Those who criticize you are full of their own insecurities. Those in bliss and peace do not criticize".

"When your life has more memories than ambition, consider yourself old".

"Simplicity is spirituality.......any complexity in your life is merely your interpretation of how you see or experience anything".

"Being grateful is the easiest way to be peaceful".

I'm sure what we take away from such books is quite subjective, depending on what we seek in our lives.

Mar 8, 2023

Women's day thoughts

 I boarded the bus after back-to-back meetings kinda day at work (Took a cab in the morning). The conductor walked past me, though I was giving him exact change. A couple of stops later, an elderly lady sat next to me. I called out to the conductor to get my ticket, but the lady said to me, "free today, no ticket". I quickly googled and realized that BMTC had announced free rides for women today on the occasion of Women's day.

For someone who doesn't follow the news (or newspapers), it was a happy surprise🙂

While swiping through Insta Stories, I came across a comic strip of a woman drowning in a water body, quoting these lines:

"Being expected to work like we don't have children

Being expected to parent like we don't have work

You are a super mom"

This struck a chord so deep and I could relate to it so much. As I pondered deeper, I asked myself, "Are these expectations self-driven or by others?".

In my case, it is heavily influenced by self.

The patterns that keep repeating are

  • Setting high expectations for myself on multiple fronts,
  • Striving to be better on every front,
  • Not willing to compromise on one over another at any point in time,
  • Deep guilt if such compromises or lapses had to be allowed,
  • Lack of ability to delegate to others,
  • Lack of willingness to ask for help

I'm sure many women face similar patterns that can be traced back to high self-expectations.

At some point of time in our life, for our mental sanity, deeper clarity about such patterns is required to break them.

It's okay to chill and do nothing.

It's okay to not set high benchmarks for yourself.

It's okay to let go and compromise without guilt.

It's okay to not want that "superwoman" tag.

Let us not be the ones who put ourselves into a pressure cooker!! (there are enough and more people around us who do that anyway!)

Happy Women's day to the lovely ladies reading this post!

Mar 6, 2023

Challenge in finding your Ikigai

 Many times, we mistake "what you are good at" and "what you love" to be the same.

"What you are good at" comes from years of deliberate practice. These years of investment need not necessarily be self-driven. It could be due to parental pressure, peer influence, society's expectations, deep-seated insecurities, or simply due to the sheer amount of time and effort you had invested in the same.

As you invest this time consistently, there are chances that "what you are good at" eventually turns into "what you love". A concept that Cal Newport shared in his book "So good they can't ignore you".

There is also another angle to it.

Though you might be doing what you are good at, there is a sense of emptiness or lack of satisfaction in what you do. After a point of time, putting in the required time feels so draining and exhausting, though it might now take lesser time than what you used to in the initial days.

Another overlooked fact is this unexpected twist - in our life's journey, as a flash of lightning, you stumble upon "what you love" that is totally unrelated to "what you are good at". Once that insight strikes you, you are no longer the same person. You experience sheer joy, satisfaction, and a sense of purpose that is beyond yourself.

As much as you try and convince yourself that you should be pursuing "what you are good at", the more you force yourself, the more that emptiness turns into despair.

Why don't you pursue both?

The analytical and logical minds (ours as well as people whom we seek advice from) might nudge you to keep a foot on both doors. It isn't a "peaceful" option, given the amount of mental load to balance on all fronts.

That's why identifying your "Ikigai" where all 4 criteria are met isn't an easy task. 

2 - possible, 

3 - manageable 

but getting to all 4 - is such a challenge.

Have you found your Ikigai?

Mar 2, 2023

Dent or Crater?

 A silly argument, a rude comment, a mild insult, or an unexpected reaction - from a family member, colleague, friend, or even a stranger on social media - can throw us off track for the rest of the day.

Sometimes, our minds cling to them so much, building a narrative and adding more "masala" (spice) than required. We keep ruminating over them, unable to let go, which in turn disturbs our sleep cycle.

We will be able to sleep ONLY

  • when our body completely relaxes and lets go of any stiffness or tightness
  • when our mind quietens and lets go of unprocessed emotions from the day

A situation had already happened and we might have felt the impact of it. The hurt is real and there is no need to deny it. Most of the time, such situations are beyond our control.

But what's in our control is to not let the impact deepen any further than a tiny dent. Avoiding the dent altogether is a result of years of spiritual practice and it is super challenging. So let's accept that the dent has happened for now.

The more we ruminate, the more it hurts, the more our mind builds the story, and the deeper and more lasting the impact.

How do we let such a situation not affect us deeply?

  1. Go for a walk outside in nature
  2. Laugh and play with your kids
  3. Put on some comfort music
  4. Engage yourself completely in an activity you love, preferably offline activity
  5. Tell yourself - "My mind space is precious. I wouldn't let this reaction of so-and-so person occupy my space rent-free"
  6. Tell yourself - "In the larger scheme of things, such comments don't matter. I decide to let go of it"

Certain events were bothering me off late. 

I stepped out for my evening walk, watched the sunset and enjoyed the fresh breeze, helped my daughter with her Math studies while she created a funny story of how two decimal numbers interact, laughed so much with her, then played my comfort album (ARR's VTV) and cooked dinner. My serious mood changed to light and relaxed at the end of the day.

Stop at the dent level, do not let it deepen further as it might end up creating a crater.

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