Jul 31, 2023

On Daily Routines

 There were a few questions related to my daily routine in the Q&A session on Insta. 

On Youtube and Insta reels, there are quite a many daily routines, morning routines, evening routines, and night routine vlogs. I have watched a few of them and they motivate us to plan our days better. But at the same time, it could also lead to a sense of comparison and guilt, if we are unable to do the 1001 things that people portray from their lives.

Very few portray the real days when we feel lazy and uninspired, or when we rush to get things done in the mornings. Most routines are carefully curated and presented in such a manner that it gives the viewer a "wow! I wish I was like him/her!" feeling.

Our routine is dependent on multiple factors:

  • What time do you prefer to wake up? What time do you prefer to go to bed?
  • What time do your kids go to school? What time do they come back?
  • What time do you need to leave for work IF you are working from the office?
  • What time do you need to connect to your work IF you are working from home?
  • What time do you wind up your work?
  • What about the schedule of others? Spouse? Family elders? Househelp?
  • What's the traffic situation in your city/locality?
  • Are you a man or a woman? (Morning routine is completely different depending on your gender!)
  • Do you prefer home-cooked food or comfortable ordering through Swiggy?
  • What are your absolute priorities and non-negotiables for the day?
  • What are your hobbies and other interests you like to plan in a given day/week?

Based on these factors, my routine from Jan-Mar was different from Apr-Jun. My routine from Aug is going to be different. Earlier, I used to plan my day through timeboxing technique. But I realized it became too rigid to accommodate varied energy levels and inspirations.

Instead of a fixed routine, I have prioritized a few non-negotiable habits for the day. These habits are stacked with repeating activities for the day.

For eg, D leaves for school around 7:45 AM. As soon as she leaves for school, I start my Yoga+Pranayama practice which would be for around 45 minutes.

My reading timeslots are tied to my 20-min chai routine in the mornings and evenings. I also read for 20 min before going to bed.

I help D with her HW from 5-5:45 PM. As soon as she wraps up her HW, I go for my evening walk for around 30 min. And after I come back, I do my evening prayers, followed by cooking dinner.

I don't have a fixed time slot for writing/blogging. As and when inspiration strikes, I jot down quickly and then elaborate/edit/publish articles when there is focused time.

Our schedule is unique and dependent on our life's responsibilities, commitments, and priorities. Though we can seek inspiration from others, it is ONLY up to us to design our schedule that fits our lives.

Jul 29, 2023

Book Review: Inner Engineering by Sadhguru

 I first started to read this book in 2017 and managed to finish around 70%. The second half of this book is divided into 3 sections - Body, Mind, and Energy. I got stuck in the "Mind" section as the concepts presented went way over my head. I didn't get back to this book for 6 years. As I re-read this book last week, the "Mind" section made a lot more sense this time, but the "Energy" section had quite a few hard-to-grasp topics. The experience with this book is a fascinating example of how books reveal the areas where we need more understanding.

Sadhguru's books have always been super insightful. Loved his other books - Karma and Death. He has a knack for conveying complex topics in a relatable manner - be it his tech/software-related examples, his little anecdotes of Shankaran Pillai, or his hard-hitting phrases with wordplay. Inner Engineering has all of it.

The book starts by laying out the foundational aspects of well-being in the first section. Though I found it a little challenging to structure the information presented, the context of "Why" was well laid for the reader to get to the "How".

To face the challenges of the external world, Sadhguru recommends that the only way OUT is going IN. The experiences of life are self-created and we have the responsibility to take complete ownership. Responsibility implies our ability to respond to a given situation. Taking responsibility creates freedom, whereas our compulsive reactions put us in a state of enslavement. Taking responsibility also leads to designing our destiny.

Well-being is a state of pleasantness that we feel from within. The Science of Yoga helps us to experience well-being through the perfect alignment of our body, mind, and energy.

The second section of the book dives into specific practices for each of these three dimensions.

The example of how body alignment puts us in a certain state of perception and receptivity was eye-opening.

In the "Mind" chapter, Sadhguru compares the intellect to a scalpel and how it discerns information and gets stuck to certain identities during this process. It was mind-blowing and so relatable. He also recommends not to succumb to our intellectual analysis and instead embrace the mystery of consciousness around us.

There were so many key takeaways from this book. Sharing a few below:

"The quality of your life is always decided by how you experience life, not by what life offers you"

"If you can joyfully do whatever is needed in a given situation, this is freedom. If you limit yourself to doing ONLY what you like, it is a horribly compulsive way to live."

"Yoga is not about being superhuman; it is about realizing that being human is super."

"Everything that ever happened to you, you experienced right within you"

"We are the most comfortable generation to have ever lived on this planet. The rub is that we are definitely not the joyful, or the most loving, or the most peaceful"

Jul 27, 2023

Purpose Verbs and Strength Verbs

In 2016, I decided to move from anura.blogspot.com to my own domain. While creating the page templates, I started putting together an "About Me" page. The content I wrote back then pretty much remains the same to date. I had listed 5 verbs that describe my interests. My annual review posts are mostly based on these 5 verbs as well.

As I pondered over these verbs, I realized that these are not just my interests, but these can be attributed to my purpose.

Our Purpose isn't really that ONE large goal that we strive to achieve in the end. Rather, purpose is found in actions that put us into a state of flow, where we immerse ourselves in the process.

From an "Ikigai" perspective, purpose verbs help us answer the question - "What do you love to do?"

Here are my 5 Purpose verbs






Other possible "purpose verbs" - draw, paint, create, sing, dance, play, clean, organize, etc.

There is another category of verbs that I'd like to call "Strength verbs". These verbs represent our innate strengths. We may or may not be aware of them, but others (our family, friends, and colleagues) certainly would notice and value those qualities that we bring to the table. What do others associate you with?

From an "Ikigai" perspective, strength verbs help us answer the question - "What are you good at?"

Here are my 5 Strength verbs






Other possible "strength verbs" - inspire, empathize, care, build, connect, share, etc.

We usually associate ourselves (or someone) with certain qualities using adjectives.

Verbs provide a different dimension of self-awareness, as we spend the majority of our time "doing" various actions.

Actions eventually lead to our personality.

Jul 25, 2023

The folly of Comparisons

 I remember this incident vividly. I think I was around 13-14 years old. My dad casually remarked, "Look at your cousin. She already has learned to cook and contributes to household work. When will you start learning this stuff? You are always playing outside".

Though his intention wasn't to hurt me, that comment did hurt deeply.

From childhood, I don't like to be compared with anyone. Since I was doing well in my studies, the comparison was always on other aspects - dressing up, cooking, contributing to household chores, etc.

Since I knew the hurtful capacity of comparisons, I have been very careful not to compare D with anyone - either in my words or in my thoughts.

In our parents' generation, comparisons were limited to our classmates, neighbors, cousins, or siblings. But in today's social media age, we are comparing our children to kids of parenting influencers and random strangers.

Even if we don't verbalize it in front of our kids, we make comparisons in our thoughts.

Have you had thoughts like these?

"I saw pics of a child eating salads happily. But my child hates salads. Why can't my child be like that?"

"This child seems so mature and disciplined. Why is my boy so lazy?"

"She is narrating shlokas and chants so beautifully. Why aren't my kids showing any interest?"

Children emulate their parents. So if we want our kids to pick up certain skills or habits, we pursue them first. We are their role models. So let's focus on understanding our values, habits, patterns, and behaviors and modifying them as needed.

Every child is unique. Let us allow them to pick up skills and interests of their choice at their own pace and time. There is no deadline/milestone to catch up. Some might learn cycling at the age of 5, while some might learn when they turn 17 (ahem! That's meπŸ™‚ ).

What is most needed in today's times -

Accept our children as they are

Trust that they will pursue their intended journey with our support

Believe that things will work out well for them, irrespective of where they are - be it their habits, studies, or skills

Character building is the key, which starts with working on ourselves first and going the extra mile ("menakkedal") in fulfilling their nutritional requirements, spending quality time, giving full attention, listening to them, and having conversations.

Comparisons demoralize and lower the self-esteem of kids. Comparisons aren't inspiring or motivating in any way.

Do make sure to assess the inputs going into your minds through various channels. Take conscious steps to avoid comparisons or eliminate those sources of inputs that can lead to comparisons. I don't follow any parenting influencers on social media as their content seems so polished and refined, and doesn't portray reality.

Jul 23, 2023

Book Review: You can heal your life by Louise Hay

 This book has been recommended to me by multiple people over the past few years. Though I had purchased it last year, it was only around 3 weeks back that I did start reading. The trigger was a video clip from a podcast where actress Vidya Balan spoke about how she faced hormonal imbalances and PCOD. One point she mentioned was that all hormonal imbalances (including PCOD) faced by women stem from thought patterns of rejection of the feminine nature. That's when she linked the concept of mind-body connection to this book.

As I flipped through the pages of this book, I came across a 60-page table that listed various physical ailments, the probable cause linked to our mind, thought or behavior, and affirmations for new thought patterns. I looked up some of the ailments and the causes that either I or my family members have faced in the past and it was such an eye-opener. And it made so much sense.

The philosophy behind this book can be summed up in these two lines:

"We are each responsible for all our experiences".

"Every thought we think is creating our future".

The author talks about how our thoughts are linked to our beliefs and how our beliefs are shaped by parents and childhood experiences. She emphasizes that the point of power is ALWAYS in the present moment and we can take charge of the thoughts we are thinking now that would shape our future.

She then provides a comprehensive process to unravel our thoughts, identify the source of our beliefs, understand our resistance, and then make the required change in our thinking patterns through affirmations, journaling, meditations, and mirror exercises.

There were a lot of interesting observations while I read the first section. For eg,

When we affirm "I approve of myself" in front of a mirror, those aspects that we don't approve of ourselves yet arise from our subconscious.

This line felt so relevant to me - "The more you dwell on what you don't want, the more of it you create". Louise states that affirmations are meant to focus on "What I want" in a positive tone and present tense, as they plant a seed in our subconscious to manifest.

The second section focuses on taking these ideas to practice in different areas of life - work, relationships, wealth, and body.

As I finished reading, 3 questions came up:

  1. If we are responsible for every experience, what about situations like childhood trauma, abuse, or loss of loved ones? Past-life actions(Karma) can be a possible explanation for the same but this isn't talked about in this book
  2. As we start to explore and work on each and every thought, we might end up in an analysis-paralysis state that could lead us to self-blame. There is a very fine line between self-acceptance and self-blame and too much analysis can make that line blurred.
  3. The correlation of physical ailment with the probable thought pattern can also be interpreted in reverse logic. What if I experience a certain negative thought now? If I know that this thought might lead to a certain ailment in the future, won't that cause fear? Won't that fear itself lead to planting the seed in the subconscious?

This book has some powerful ideas and practices that will help us understand our repeated patterns and behaviors. But I also feel that some part of it has to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Jul 21, 2023

Book Review: The Wisdom Bridge by Daaji Kamlesh Patel

 A few years back, I read "The Heartfulness Way" and "Designing Destiny" by Daaji. Both were so insightful, especially the former. When I stumbled upon "The Wisdom Bridge", a book on parenting written by the same author, I was intrigued.

It has been a fabulous read and didn't feel heavy for a 290-page book. It is written with such heart-felt experiences and insights that are extremely relatable. There are no SHOULDs and SHOULD-NOTs in a heavy, preachy tone. Rather, the tone of the book is a gentle nudge for parents to introspect various aspects of raising a child.

Books that have a well-defined structure and flow are always pleasant to read. This book is organized into nine principles that are relevant to parenting in today's times.

Whether you are a parent-to-be, new parent, or parents of teens, you'll find topics of relevance. I wish I had got hold of this book a decade ago, as many challenges I was grappling with could have been handled with ease. Nevertheless, I'll pass on the learnings from this book through my book club, so other new parents can be benefitted.

The first two principles are all about why raising a child requires a village. The difference between generation gap and generation chasm is something to ponder for all of us. But at the same time, I don't quite agree with the general assumption that all present-day grandparents have the right knowledge and wisdom to be passed on to grandkids. The wisdom had already been tampered with, thanks to media and changing societal norms.

In my experience, I realized that the lack of wisdom is what caused many misunderstandings in my family (advocating packaged foods, nagging to start solid foods and packet cow's milk from 4 months, mismatched vibrations due to excess worry/fear etc).

As a child, I experienced the value and wisdom of my grandparents but I think the process of wisdom transfer didn't quite happen seamlessly to the next generation. These are biased conclusions based on my experience, which could be an exception and not the norm (I sincerely hope so!).

The 3rd and 4th principles are focused on the state of the mind of the couple before they even start planning for a child and the importance of happiness and well-being of the mothers-to-be and new mothers. The author has brought out examples of caring and nurturing rituals from different parts of the world. He also emphasizes the importance of a mother's well-being from scientific and spiritual perspectives.

Principles 5 and 6 are all about early childhood and how to build the right foundation through the senses of the child. The author talks about the importance of being present for the child, stimulating the senses in the right amount and through the right sources, shaping the character of the child, and being a role model. The way he linked the concept of mirror neurons and how a child imitates her parents was so fascinating.

Principles 7,8 and 9 are about youth/teen years where establishing routines, sleep and eating habits, and setting discipline becomes crucial.

So many takeaways and insights from this book. Sharing just a few here:

"A parent can be friendly, but a parent is not a friend"

"Discipline with love is caring. Discipline without love is enforcing. Love without discipline is pampering"

"Trust is the currency to build responsibility"

"Presence is the real challenge in parenting"

"The fruit of self-discipline is moderation"

"Character is the cause and personality is the effect"

I haven't read many books on parenting. Among the ones I have read, this one is THE BEST so far. Highly recommend it. This would also be a perfect gift for parents-to-be.

Jul 20, 2023

Why do I buy so many books?

 I have got this question a few times - "Why do you buy so many books? Aren't they expensive? How can you spend so much on books?"

Firstly, when you look at the pics of my home library, you would see a lot of books, but these are carefully picked and collected over the last 21 years.

Secondly, it is all about what we value and what our priorities are. Continuous learning and seeking knowledge is one of my core values. I consider books as an investment. I have loved reading since childhood, but we couldn't afford to buy books apart from school textbooks. So when I started earning, I wished to have my own home library. Wrote about this earlier in my World Book Day post.

Also, when we wish to prioritize certain categories of discretionary expenses (investment for me, but let's consider "books" as an expense category here), the other categories get deprioritized.

Below is the list of personal expenses I avoid:

  • Branded clothes
  • Branded accessories (bags, footwear)
  • Makeup products
  • Salon services
  • Jewellery (gold, diamond, silver)
  • Silk sarees and other expensive designer wear
  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Nonveg food
  • Packaged foods
  • Imported fruits/veggies/salad greens
  • Eating out in fancy restaurants
  • Gym memberships/Personal Trainer services
  • Movie theatres and expensive popcorn (I go to the movie theatre max 1-2 times a year, depending on the movie release. I avoid buying any snacks in multiplex)
  • International vacations
  • Home Decor
  • Expensive Stationery
  • Gadgets and devices (smartwatch, AirPods, iPad/tablet)

It isn't my intention to label these categories of expenses as right/wrong. It is just that these categories neither bring me joy nor feature as a priority. Also, these are the expenses that I avoid and my family members may or may not.

I remember reading an article by Ryan Holiday where he says that if you are reading non-fiction, it is better to own the books instead of borrowing them from the library and returning them after a few days. A non-fiction book becomes your individual expression with the points you highlight, the thoughts you jot down in the margins, and the bookmarks you add on specific pages. Moreover, there is a high probability that you might end up re-reading a good non-fiction book after some time or referring to it when a sudden question pops up.

Every decision we make - be it finances, health, energy, lifestyle, parenting, and career - is tied to our values, our priorities, and how we balance them.

P.S. I have a monthly budget for books purchase. Also, I prefer to pick up books in the price range of around Rs.200-300. 

Books that cost more than Rs.300-400 are usually parked for later to evaluate if there is real value in them.

Jul 18, 2023

Generation gap and Generation chasm

 When we visited a temple recently, we were about to walk around the "navagrahas" and D asked this question:

D: "Shouldn't we do 8 rounds since Pluto is no longer a planet?"

Me: "No, we will do 9 rounds. I'll explain why"

After our temple visit, while driving back home, I explained to her how the "navagrahas" are not 9 planets, how they correlate with the days of the week, why there is no Neptune/Uranus equivalent in "navagrahas", what is Rahu/Ketu, etc. K then told her the story behind Rahu and Ketu.

After a few minutes, D said, "I think you both are also my grandparents as you are the ones telling me all these stories. I never heard them from my grandparents. I read in a book that grandparents tell such mythological stories".

I was a bit taken aback since those were the thoughts running through my mind for the past many years.

I'm currently reading Daaji's "The wisdom bridge". Fabulous read so far, with beautiful perspectives on parenting, coming from a grandfather with such wisdom and simplicity.

While reading this book, I felt quite emotional about how the Universe has given us the combined responsibilities of playing both parents and grandparents.

Daaji talks about the difference between the generation gap and the generation chasm. 

"In a generation gap, the young ones think about life differently from the elders. But in a generational chasm, the elders and the young ones share no common ground, even in the food they eat or the shows they watch."

This chasm is wider in some families. If the generation gap between our grandparents and our parents was wide, then it ends up in a wider chasm for our children.

Daaji elaborates on the idea of a wisdom bridge:

"Generational wisdom flows from one generation to another......In a family, the elders, mainly the grandparents, carry the mantle of transferring generational wisdom. For this reason, I refer to our elders as living wisdom bridges."

If our parents were raised in a nuclear setup, then the generation gap is more widened and the wisdom bridge is already broken.

Thanks to the Information Age, we are now able to fix the pieces of wisdom bridge, provided we (parents) take this as a priority.

Be it - rituals, traditions, customs, values, habits, or routines, we take the time to communicate with our children and answer their questions of "Why should we do this", "Why not", and "What happens if we don't?" etc. We provide them with experiences that will trigger their curiosity - visit to monuments and places of historical significance, places of worship, talk about stories and characters, and involve them in festivals and rituals.

Parents of the current generation have a greater responsibility, especially if there is a generation chasm and a lack of access to the wisdom bridge.

"With great responsibility comes great power" - We have the potential to mold the minds of a young generation that not only has access to the wisdom bridge but can also make it stronger.

Jul 12, 2023

Balance - my guiding principle

 One factor that has always been a guiding principle in my decisions and actions is whether it is a balanced approach or an extremist approach.

A few years back, I had attended a workshop. The main reason why I couldn't resonate with many of the points of the speaker was that they all originated from an extremist mindset. They neither were practical to implement nor they came from a place of self-love and self-acceptance. While doing the workshop, I had inadvertently caught up on some of the ideas but I'm glad I didn't take them forward. No regrets about doing that workshop. I consider it as a way by which life showed me what I don't want and what is my preferred principle to evaluate life choices.

Balance has always been that guiding light ever since childhood.

As I reflected, I'm not the kind of person who would push myself hard during exams. I never pulled all-nighters. I would do late-night studying only until around 11:30PM during exams. I wouldn't sift through pages till 9:59AM before the bell strikes for the exam. Of course, planning and studying used to happen way before the exams, so that helped me cruise through without taking too much pressure toward the end.

As I started to relook at my food habits, I never aimed for hitting 100% perfection. I'm a vegetarian all these years and I don't have plans to convert to veganism. I still enjoy my morning cup of chai (on an empty stomach) though it is considered an unhealthy habit. I enjoy Indian sweets but in moderation. A few weeks back, I relished a plate of hot jalebi dunked in a mud pot of chilled rabdi !! Heaven, it was!!πŸ™‚ Food is not only a source of energy with the right combination of nutrients, but it is also a source of pleasure. All we need is to hit the right balance between functional and hedonic use.

Balance helps us to lead our lives without getting caught in the trap of comparison, guilt, shame, and self-criticism. Be it simple choices related to food, content consumption, or social media, and to complex ones like careers, parenting decisions, homeschooling vs traditional school education, balance has been my guiding light.

Social media is filled with extreme advocacy. Extreme ideas grab our attention because they make us feel curious to know how the other person is managing to lead such a lifestyle. When we look deeper, extreme ideologies cause more harm than good.

Jul 8, 2023

Book Review: Why we sleep by Matthew Walker

 I have raved a lot about this book in the past two weeks. It made a deep impact, both from the information learned as well as how it was conveyed so effectively by the author.

Though I knew the importance of sleep, the knowledge gained from this book made me understand why sleep is a non-negotiable factor in our well-being.

The author has made such convincing arguments backed by science and research, without any complex lingo. Sleep rhythm is governed by two factors - the internal 24-hour clock governed by the suprachiasmatic nucleus and the sleep pressure built up by the accumulation of adenosine. It was interesting to note how melatonin plays a role in signaling the sleep start time and doesn't help much in sustaining sleep.

The sleep cycle consists of multiple stages and the author has elaborated the role of each stage. The key takeaway for me was from the chapters related to REM sleep and how emotions are being processed. The recommended sleep for an adult, according to the author, is 7-9 hours of sleep every night.

Sleep deprivation affects our brains in multiple ways. The role of sleep in learning, memory, skill-building, and problem-solving is brilliantly explained. Sleep also impacts our body and the various systems. It was interesting to read about how sleep plays an important role in metabolism and immunity.

The author lists alcohol, caffeine, modern artificial lighting, blue screens, temperature control, and alarm clocks as the factors that affect our sleep. Very informative, especially how alarm clocks interrupt our REM sleep and jolt our cardiovascular and nervous systems.

Highly recommend this book to everyone. Impactful and eye-opening.

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