Dec 30, 2023

2023 - Review

As I reflect on the year gone by, I feel a lot of gratitude for a relatively peaceful and purposeful 2023 as compared to the challenging period between 2020-22.

Jan 2023 - the label I was associated with was VP Product Management for a B2B startup focused primarily on employee wellbeing.

Dec 2023 - the label I'm now associated with is Yoga instructor and Shloka class aunty!

The labels have changed but the underlying motivation and objective remain the same.

To empower myself and others to practice and experience holistic well-being and lead a life of balance and harmony.

As I look back, this has been the objective I had set for myself since 2015, though I wasn't able to articulate it clearly. The steps taken in these past 9 years are all aimed towards this objective.

The clarity and conviction emerged in 2023. The path to reach this objective (the right knowledge and insights) also presented itself clearly - health, wellness, and psychology from Indian Knowledge Systems point of view. In 2024 and beyond, I intend to explore our scriptures and Shastras to gain a deeper understanding of these aspects.

I also have finally come to terms with the fact that one can make a real impact through software product management only if multiple factors are aligned - team, vision, values, priorities, mindset, approach, attitude, and execution.

Since many of these were misaligned and added to that, came the unexpected health issues in the first half of this year, I decided that it is best to pause and evaluate.

When situations repeat themselves, it is time one learns the lessons they are trying to teach.

I learned that a full-time job as the Head of Products doesn't align with my present life stage or my priorities.

Given that Yoga has been one of my core interests in the past few years, I decided to take it one step further in 2023. I completed my Yoga Instructor Course (YIC) from SVYASA, Bangalore. The 2-month course was an enriching learning experience, as it provided a wholesome perspective on Yoga (not only asanas). I also completed the advanced-level Yoga program conducted by Satvic Yoga where I got the opportunity to learn the adapted version of the Ashtanga primary series.

As part of YIC, I started learning Bhajans, Bhagavad Gita shlokas, and other chants. This interest pushed me to complete the Nitya Prarthana chanting workshop conducted by Nirvana Academy. It was a lovely experience, learning many shlokas, their right pronunciations along with their meanings. Around the same time, I started a Shloka chanting class for kids in my apartment. It has been so satisfying, teaching these powerful shlokas to children. Their curiosity, interest, and their sharp questions make me look forward to the weekly classes.

Thanks to the seeds planted through YIC, I got motivated to learn more about Sanatana Dharma. Completed the 12-week course "Foundations of Sanatana Dharma" conducted by Prof. Mahadevan. It was truly an eye-opener in multiple aspects.

I'm glad that the habit of reading books continued rigorously this year as well. Managed to complete 39 books and there are quite a few books that are in progress. Here's the list of books completed along with their respective reviews:

  1. Living Spirituality by Meetu Bisht
  2. Yoga for Women by Swami Muktananda
  3. Karma Sannyasa by Swami Satyasangananda Saraswati
  4. A fistful of wisdom by Om Swami
  5. Happiness Unlimited by Sister Shivani
  6. Yoga practices for the digestive system by Swami Shankardevananda
  7. Karma and Karma Yoga by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati (BL)
  8. Yoga in daily life by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati (BL)
  9. Head, Heart & Hands by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati (BL)
  10. Yoga: Philosophy to Realization by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati (BL)
  11. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (Re-read)
  12. The Courage to be Happy by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga
  13. The subtle art of not giving a f**k by Mark Manson (Re-read)
  14. Raja Yoga Yatra 1 by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati (BL)
  15. The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel (Re-read)
  16. Yoga Chakra by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati (BL)
  17. Prana and Pranayama by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati (Re-read)
  18. The children of tomorrow by Om Swami
  19. Mind, Mind Management and Raja Yoga by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati (read twice)
  20. Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport (Re-read)
  21. Yoga Chakra Vol 2 by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati (BL)
  22. Why We Sleep by Mathew Walker
  23. You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay
  24. The Wisdom Bridge by Daaji Kamlesh Patel
  25. Inner Engineering by Sadhguru (Re-read)
  26. Yoga Sutras for Children by Roopa Pai
  27. The Courage to be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga (Re-read)
  28. Why We Are Who We Are by Meetu Bisht
  29. Messages from the Masters by Dr Brian Weiss
  30. Finding Awareness by Amit Pagedar (Re-read)
  31. The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein (Re-read)
  32. The power of one thought by BK Shivani
  33. Value of Values by Swami Dayananda Saraswati
  34. Yoga Chakra Vol 4 by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati (BL)
  35. Jeevani - Ayurveda for Women by Dr. PLT Girija
  36. Love and Family Life by Swami Rama
  37. Naam Edhai Nokki Odugirom by Azhagar (Tamil) (BL)
  38. Sanatana Dharma in a nutshell by B Mahadevan (Tamil) (BL)
  39. Scattered Minds by Gabor Mate

*BL - booklet (less than 100 pages)

It has always been my dream to start a book club focused on non-fiction books and connect with like-minded readers. This dream came true in 2023. "Sparks & Nuggets", our book club was formed in May. We have discussed 19 books so far. I thoroughly enjoy the whole process of reading, summarizing, and presenting the book summary with my group. Though the logistics might change in 2024, the intent of this book club will remain the same.

When you read more, you automatically tend to write more as well.

This has been my best blogging year so far - have written 121 blog posts. My favorite posts are

Ladder of Wellness 

Least resistance mindset 

The Lamp 

Indigestion of life experiences 

Prioritizing flexibility

Having an open mind

Early this year, Ms.Krishna invited me to her podcast "New Indian Woman". In the 3-part series, we discussed about packaged foods, my thoughts on homecooked food, alternatives, time management, and more. It was an enjoyable conversation with her.

2023 blessed me with multiple temple visits.

Visited Shrungagiri Shanmuga Temple, Ashamata Temple, Antaragange, Koti Lingeswara temple, Avani Betta temples, and Ratnagiri Balamurugan temple.

Also went to Pillayarpatti, Kundrakudi, and Thirumayam temples for the first time during our trip to Karaikudi on a long weekend.

Visited Sriperumbudur Ramanuja temple after so many years.

Along with temple visits, there were a few leisure outings as well.

During D's summer vacation, we went to Wild Planet Resort in Devala, Kerala. Staying amidst tea plantations, rainforest walks, playing basketball and badminton with a view of the mountains all around, and the yummy outdoor evening chai amidst nature and monkeys - such memorable times.

We also did a short trip to Mahabalipuram - visiting the beach, Shore temple, and the popular touristy places. Took me back in time to my 6th-grade field trip!

Celebrated all the festivals with more involvement and effort this year since we didn't have any festivities last year. Cooking a mini Onam Sadya was special!

Other memorable events this year were

- Meeting my little niece for the first time! She reminds me so much of D when she was an infant.

- Met my college friend and her sister after almost 20 years. How can I forget those happy tears and hugs as soon as we met? Very special!

- Had a laughter riot at the Standup comedy show - "Family Man Returns" by Praveen Kumar. Both K and I love his family-friendly comedy with his 80s/90s references.

- Cleared my dumping wardrobe (aka Monica's secret closet!) after years of stuff dumped in it for various reasons.

- Finally got the courage to give away my MBA books after 14 years.

- Started to give a little more importance to my YouTube channel. Kickstarted the One Insight Series to share one insight from a book in 7-9 minutes.

- Chanted the 700 shlokas from the Bhagavad Gita during a Gita Parayanam event organized as part of Gita Jayanti celebrations. Though I'm yet to learn all the shlokas, being part of a group event felt truly blessed.

- Arrival of my new bookshelf. The whole process of cleaning, organizing, and rearranging all my books was fun.

None of the major changes or new initiatives of 2023 were pre-planned. Everything happens for a reason and it is best to accept, embrace the flow, and proceed forward.

Wishing everyone a very happy, healthy, and joyful New Year 2024!

Dec 15, 2023

The Power of Reading

 I read 36 books in 2023 so far.

36 or 76 books - doesn't matter.

36 or 6 books - doesn't matter.

What matters is that we embrace the habit of reading every single day. Reading has helped me in multiple ways. Let me share some of the benefits I have experienced:

The 36 books I read this year were written by 23 different authors. Seeking different perspectives from multiple people reduces the chances of biased viewpoints and prevents being misguided by just 1-2 people's ideological views. 

It takes time and effort to structure and pen down thoughts in a larger content format like a book. The output of such efforts creates way more impact than someone sharing their perspectives in a 1-hour workshop, 2200 character-limited Insta post, or a 30-second reel.

Among the 36 books, 10 of them are repeat reads. Re-reading the same book after a while reinforced the learning and surprised me with new insights I might have overlooked the first time.

We discussed 17 of these 36 books in Sparks & Nuggets book club. Summarizing these books in a mindmap format has helped me identify and condense the key takeaways to share with the group, along with examples and experiences from life to reinforce the insights.

These 36 books are predominantly from the genres of Yoga, Ayurveda, philosophy, spirituality, wellness, and mind management. Thanks to these books and authors, I have made progress in these areas in 2023 - from the point of view of knowledge, clarity of thought, perspectives, and application.

People who propagate the idea - "Don't read books. Reading books is a productive waste of time" - do so because of either of these two factors:

1. They haven't explored or experienced reading enough and have reached a premature conclusion

2. They are aware of the benefits of reading but don't want their "followers" to read. This way, they can make people dependent on them for life advice and monetize them with expensive workshops one after another, thereby building a lucrative business.

Many of our modern-age problems are due to ignorance or lack of right knowledge.

As long as we remain ignorant, there will be businesses and influencers who will keep minting money by exploiting our ignorance and promising a utopian world.

I highly urge everyone reading this post to inculcate this 4-step process(CSQE) in 2024

  1. Cultivate an insatiable thirst for learning and wisdom.
  2. Seek inputs from multiple people and sources.
  3. Question the learnings and insights that come your way.
  4. Evaluate and experiment before blindly accepting an idea/insight.

Dec 14, 2023

How I do yearly review?

 "We overestimate what we can achieve in a day and we underestimate what we can achieve in a year" - I heard this quote many years back and I agree with it completely.

As another year draws to a close, our minds might throw a lot of questions - "How did the time pass by so quickly? What did I even do this year? Did I achieve anything significant?", etc. 

I used to get a lot of such questions, but the yearly reflection and review exercise helped me find answers. I find this exercise very helpful as it helps me introspect on various key moments of the year. I strongly vouch for taking the time to reflect upon the year gone by. I've been following it since 2005 and the process has gone through multiple iterations. Here's the one that I've been sticking to for the past few years.

My review of a year begins on the 1st day of the same year. I'm not kidding! On Jan 1st of every year, I start a Note (on the Evernote app) with the title "Year in review". This is a work-in-progress note with the following categories:

  • Books finished
  • Books in progress
  • Courses finished
  • Courses in progress
  • Milestones reached
  • Places visited
  • New experiences
  • Key decisions made
  • Projects/Initiatives Started
  • Progress on certain life priorities
  • Surprises/small wins/challenges/disasters
  • Lessons learned
  • Anything else that I'd like to capture

I update this Note every week without fail. At the end of the year, typically in the last week of Dec, I write a detailed review post on my blog based on this Note. I just love the whole process as it helps me reflect and capture the finer details of the previous year!

If this sounds tedious, the other possible ways to reflect:

- glance through your weekly to-do lists

- go over your photos and videos that were taken during that year

- go over the posts you created on social media

- go through your daily planner/journal if you write one

Take the time to reflect, whichever means work for you.

Without reflection, there is no awareness.

Without awareness, there is no change.

Without change, there is no self-growth.

Without self-growth, there is no meaning.

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