Feb 28, 2024

Polarized Views



 There is a tug-of-war happening big time on social media and all mass media platforms. This war is called "polarized views". If you aren't strong enough, any side can easily pull you and convince you to accept and follow their polarized viewpoints.

I see this happening virtually in all aspects of life. A few examples from the domains I keep track of:

Vegan OR Keto

Naturopathy OR modern medicine

V@ccine OR No V@ccine

Homeschooling OR International School + All possible extracurricular classes

Home-made foods from scratch OR Eat packaged foods

Traditional OR Modern Values

No Fridge OR Frozen meals for months

No Screen time for kids OR Full-on screen mode filled with educational apps and games

Completely organic food OR food from a factory/large-scale manufacturing unit

Is it because we spend too much time with devices and gadgets that there is now an alarming trend of viewing the world in binaries? Computers can understand only 1s and 0s, whereas we humans are smarter than that, aren't we? We can decipher the grey shades in between. 

We are blessed with Viveka, the discriminatory ability to analyze the options in front of us. In Kali Yuga, the good and bad are so strongly intertwined into one that it is hard to decipher the real nature.

Instead of viewing the world in binaries, let's look at it as a range or a spectrum.

Every option on either side has pros and cons. It also heavily depends on one's situation, environment, family beliefs, and availability of resources (time, money, effort, energy). 

Please note, that the fear and guilt of having chosen one side (in the past) OR the anxiety of choosing a side (without comprehending the repercussions in the future) creates more mental agony and distress than the actual choice itself.

Let's understand both ends of the spectrum and choose a point on it that works for us (as an individual and as a family). Accept the choice and trust in the Universe that things will work out well.

The unnecessary fear, panic, or lackadaisical attitude that are being perpetuated by these extreme influencers on both sides will only end up adding to the mental health-related issues that are already on the rise. These also contribute to relationship issues because of conflicting ideas within the family.

Feb 25, 2024

Are we allowing our intellect to override our innate intelligence?



We visited a petting park in Yelagiri last weekend. There was a fenced area, inside which were two big goats lying down relaxed. As we walked towards this place, we noticed two cute baby goats happily grazing outside. The mommy goat noticed us (Me and D) walking towards her babies. She lifted her neck and started making loud sounds. Soon she noticed K who was behind us. She got even more cautious. She stood firmly and made warning sounds that we interpreted as "Hey you! Don't you dare come near my babies!!". 

We didn't touch her babies or try to hold them but the fact that we were coming near them made the mommy instinctively become very alert. The babies found a small gap in the fence and they went back to their mommy. She then gave them an earful for roaming freely (or that's what we understood seeing her reaction!! ) 😁😁😁


We have observed the same behavior with the mommy of our kitty babies 3 years back. She would let us lift her infants but she would be restless and ask us to put them back in the cardboard box. The instinctive nature of caring for and protecting their babies is deeply rooted in all parents, especially mothers.


But in the past few decades, it seems like many of us (humans) have lost touch with this instinctive nature. As I reflected on why this has happened, multiple thoughts surfaced.

  1. Lack of awareness or knowledge in raising a child which leads to a lot of self-doubt
  2. Lack of support from extended family
  3. Even if help is available, it becomes more of an ego battle to prove who is right
  4. Circumstances and situations in the initial years are being used to put down or find fault in the new mother's abilities - be it mom, dad, FIL, or MIL
  5. A lot of distractions that mask the intuitive ability
  6. Too many responsibilities on a mom's shoulders
  7. The new mom wants to prove herself as a "super-mom" capable of doing everything and taking undue stress
  8. Traditional wisdom is either being diluted or ignored
  9. Too many conflicting ideas from social media and parenting influencers cause even more confusion, leading to insecurity

In Panchakosha Viveka as part of Taittiriya Upanishad, it is mentioned that our body is made up of five sheaths or layers. Do google it if you are interested in learning in detail. It is such a fascinating topic.


The layers of Manomaya (mind), Pranamaya (energy), and Annamaya (physical body) primarily operate through our innate intelligence (intuition, instinct, gut feel)


The layer "Vijnanamaya" is the intellectual intelligence that gives us the discerning ability and the nature to be self-aware.


As we start relying more and more on our Vijnanamaya, we are losing touch with our innate intelligence. How else could we explain the trend of asking a random health influencer - 

How much water should I drink?

How many calories should I need to consume?

Should I eat food when I'm hungry or when it is time to eat?


Our Manomaya is being subjected to so many thoughts and stressors day in and day out. This also has an impact on our Vijnanamaya. Our discerning ability and decision-making get impacted as Vijnanamaya gets weakened. When our Vijnanamaya is weak, we end up relying on the intellect of the self-declared experts.


Be it parenting, physical health, mental health, or our life choices, both Vijnanamaya and Manomaya play such a vital role. 

They are connected in a vicious cycle - if one gets impaired, the other gets impaired too.

They are also connected in a virtuous cycle - if one gets strengthened, the other gets strengthened too.


Will share more on the practices that would help strengthen each of these layers.

Feb 24, 2024

Stepping out of our comfort zones



This conversation happened a few weeks back.

D: Why don't you read fiction books, mummy? You are always reading serious books.

Me: I generally don't like to read fiction.

D: Whyyyy?

Me: My mom told me many times when I was a child that reading story books is a waste of time. She would only buy me General knowledge books. I never read any storybooks during childhood, except for a few Tinkle comics that I would buy at the railway station while going on trips. 

D: If she was alive, I could have explained to her why reading story books is so good. You can connect with the characters, you can feel happy or sad with them. There is suspense. You will also laugh at the jokes.

Me: I experienced it when I read Harry Potter, Ruskin Bond books, and a few others in my 20s. But my mind automatically gravitates towards non-fiction.

She came back after a few hours, holding the Kindle in her hands.

D: Let us do one thing. You always tell me to try reading more text-based books instead of comics or picture books. I'll read a text-based book of your choice and you read a fiction book that I choose. Let's call it our book reading session and we will read together every night for half an hour.

Me: Okay, let's try it!

We do these book reading sessions 3-4 times a week. We both tried new genres in these sessions.

She gave me Tiffany Nicole Smith's story books to read - The Bex Carter Dramedies series and Ava G Chronicles. I did enjoy reading them - quite a bit of teen drama on friendships and high school stuff. They remind me of the series "Never Have I Ever" on Netflix which I liked.

I gave her "Gita for Children" by Roopa Pai. After finishing it, she picked up "Ayurveda" by Vasant Lad (she is very much interested in the tridosha concept) and followed it up with "Gut" by Giulia Enders (some of the illustrations and diagrams in this book are quite hilarious!). 

During these book reading sessions, I don't ask any questions on whether she can understand or comprehend the topic of the book and the concepts being discussed. If she has doubts regarding certain words that are new to her, I explain the meaning. Interest and curiosity are all that matter. Whatever she can grasp for her age, vocabulary, and comprehension abilities are more than sufficient for now.

What's important is that I stepped out of my comfort zone to read fiction, while she stepped out of her comfort zone to read non-fiction.

Three observations from this experience:

(1) A deep-rooted conditioning from our parents can be reset by our kids if we allow ourselves to say "Yes" to new experiences.

(2) Parents may have strong opinions on certain aspects that influence the behavior and choices of a child, even after he/she turns into an adult.

(3) As parents, we are making important decisions on behalf of a young child. Though our intentions might be good, it is worth contemplating the impact we end up creating if we view the world in binaries (eg: GK books are good/story books are bad). It is better to seek a middle ground that allows scope for exploration. 

Feb 23, 2024

Why I don't create Vision Boards

 Have you ever prepared a vision board - the one where we paste colorful pictures, motivational quotes, and stickers that represent your wishes, desires, and goals for the future?

I have made a couple of them in the past but not with conviction. I don't believe in the idea of creating vision boards.  When I researched the origins of vision boards, I learned that they became popular around the time the book "The Secret" was released in 2006.

I see 3 problems with vision boards.

1. As we prepare a vision board, the focus is exclusively on the material desires and goals. There is no thought (or a placeholder on the vision board) being given to the principles, ethics, and values that we would uphold as we pursue these goals.

2. Creating the board indicates a target towards the end goal but what about the journey to get to the goal? How do we enjoy the journey? How do we overcome the obstacles on the way? None of that is being documented on the board. A few motivational quotes and stickers added aren't going to make much of a difference.

3. When you add a self-improvement goal to the vision board, say if your goal is weight loss, you would most likely end up adding a picture of a healthy and fit person on your vision board. The intention is that this picture would motivate you to work out, eat mindfully, etc but there is a flip side. Every time, you look at the picture of this fit person, there is a lack of self-acceptance and guilt. There is a lack of acceptance of the Now - the present moment with a certain functioning body. This lack of acceptance creates a sense of guilt and shame. It is like a mirror someone holds in front of you, that always shows the gap between who you are and where you ought to be.

Instead of end goals, I prefer to focus on my daily habits and schedules and I keep tweaking and modifying them in a way such that they help me to make the best out of every day.

What are your experiences or perspectives on vision boards? How have they helped you? Do share in the comments.


Feb 13, 2024

Book Review: Timeless Gita, Endless Bliss - Volume 1 by B Mahadevan



 In Dec 2023, I was blessed with the opportunity to attend the Gita Parayanam event organized by my IIMB Professor Shri. B Mahadevan as part of the Gita Jayanti event. Though I knew only a few Gita shlokas, I participated along with the crowd and chanted the entire Gita. The energy of the event felt so divine and blissful. As a Yajna Prasada, all participants got a copy of his book that was launched on the very same day - "Timeless Gita, Endless Bliss - Vol 2".

K had bought and read the first volume many years back. It was now my turn to pick it up.

Having read many self-help and philosophy books written by new-age authors in the past few years, the realization dawned on me that this one single book called Shrimad Bhagavad Gita is enough as a life manual to answer all our questions on life and how to approach various challenges and obstacles that we might encounter.

Professor Mahadevan's book - Timeless Gita, Endless Bliss is an interesting teaser that provides a captivating glimpse of what one can receive from the sacred text. Volume 1 is all about the individual and one's approach to work and life.

It is divided into four logical sections - Managing oneself, Building Life Skills, Our approach to work, and Larger Meaning of Life. Most of the Shlokas that are used as the foundation to explain the different aspects of these four sections are drawn from the 2nd and 3rd chapters.

For each topic, he first sets the relevance and the present-day context. He then brings up the relevant Shloka in Sanskrit (along with English text) and breaks it down to give a layman's understanding.

The section on Life Skills has valuable takeaways on sustained commitment, coping with changes, reacting to outcomes, and developing a steady mind.

There are quite a few management and organization-related challenges that are addressed in the context of the workplace. This is very much needed to look for time-tested solutions on the topics of change management, organizational excellence, sustainability, and a dharmic way of living.

Anyone who reads the book will feel motivated to go deeper into the wisdom shared by Bhagavan Krishna through Gita. It is a life-long pursuit and this book can give that initial impetus to undertake this pursuit.


Feb 12, 2024

Objective of Human Existence



 What's the objective of human existence? Many of us ponder over this question when we get some quiet time in the mornings, when we go for a solitary walk without any distractions, or when we are stuck in traffic after a long day at workπŸ™‚

Whether we realize it or not, the objective that we all aspire towards is spiritual evolution. Being blessed with a life where we are born as a human gives us the special privilege of striving towards this objective. An important caveat here is that one may not get the mental bandwidth to even think about such an objective if one is struggling with his/her basic needs (food, clothing, shelter) or one doesn't feel a sense of security.

Having thoughts or questions on the purpose of human existence implies that there is a seeking beyond the mundane.

This journey from being a human to a spiritually evolved human (point A to point B) is a long journey and it has to be undertaken by the individual alone. It is not a group yatra. It is solely an individual's effort which is dependent on his/her tendencies, past karmas, present life conditioning, and the willingness to invest and commit to this purpose.

As we embark on this journey from A->B, the starting point varies from individual to individual. The preferred path varies from individual to individual. The baggage that we carry varies from individual to individual.

If that's the case, then how can we expect to make progress by blindly following a path/ideology being pursued by other people who are also on that same journey, but creating a perception that they are a few steps ahead?

How do we expect such people to show us the right path, when they are still experimenting and figuring it out for themselves?

Communities that promise spiritual progress and self-growth are on the rise, thanks to social media as well as the need of the hour being mental wellbeing-related challenges.

Such communities are run by people with business-oriented mindsets, though they might preach concepts like minimalism. Minimalism applies not just to physical things one possesses, but also to the greedy mindset and money-minting tactics.

"Are such communities and groups harmful?" - someone posed this question yesterday.

Let's look out for knowledge from sources, coming from a place of experience and wisdom. Not from those who think they have figured out life through their limited experiences in privileged environments and launch workshops the next day.

Let's take inspiration from varied sources. We live in an information age where there are plenty of resources from which we can learn. It is up to us to continue to be ignorant or take charge.

Let's not get confused or troubled by the overload of information. It is up to us to "filter the wheat from the chaff". Trust your intellect and intuition. Trust the Universe to get the right information in front of your eyes.

Let's introspect, analyze, and experiment for ourselves before we absorb a perspective as the ultimate Truth.

Be part of communities where you have a place for your voice and where you can ask questions.

Be part of communities where there is a productive discussion happening and not just doing "mukha-sthuthi" (overly praising or flattery) of the person who is being considered the head of the community.

Be part of communities where you consider yourself as an equal rather than being in a hierarchical structure where one person considers himself/herself as an evolved soul.

Most importantly, be part of communities without having any expectation to be spoon-fed or hand-held by someone to lead you in the journey of spiritual evolution.

It is your journey and you need to undertake it with your individual effort.


Feb 9, 2024

Let's be mindful about what we feed our eyes



This happened during the ICC Men's World Cup 2023. K and I used to watch the matches with Tamil commentary in our home. This telecast didn't show any product ads, except for Disney Hotstar movies/series-specific ads.


The semi-final matches were telecasted on a big screen in the community hall. We went there one afternoon and watched a few overs with English commentary. There were way too many ads though we weren't paying much attention to them. After spending some time there, we decided to go back to our apartment. 


As we were walking back, we both uttered this sentence at the same time, "How about we order some samosas? It's been a long time!". There was an ad for a paint brand (I guess) that showed a plate of samosas. Our minds didn't register the product or the brand name, but were more focused on the samosas that looked so delicious!πŸ˜‰ We ended up ordering samosas and enjoyed them that evening.


I remember when we used to watch Masterchef Australia episodes regularly, we would end up drooling, seeing those perfectly plated plates. We would be tempted to binge on snacks (if available at home) or place an order.


What we feed our senses creates an impact, consciously or subconsciously, with or without our awareness.

Vision is one of the most powerful senses and the most overused one in today's time of gadgets and devices.


Being mindful of what our eyes see is vital for our mental and emotional well-being. A few ways to bring in this mindfulness:


  • When we use social media, try to give more priority to your curated feeds - posts of people whom you follow. There is no guarantee that the feed of reels/shorts from strangers or random accounts will be pleasing to the eyes. We might inadvertently end up consuming content that can be disturbing or inappropriate.

  • If a certain person's content disturbs you or makes you angry/anxious/fearful, stop following their content.

  • Avoid using your phone just before bed. Stay away from your smartphone/TV/laptop at least an hour before bedtime. The content that we watch just before sleep continues to play in our subconscious and disturbs our deep sleep.

  • Avoid watching food-related content when you are hungry!πŸ™‚ It increases the odds of ordering high-calorie, processed foods from food delivery apps.

  • Before you decide on a movie/OTT series to watch, look at the certification granted by the censor board. These days, even a movie with U/A certification has disturbing scenes. Look at the content adjectives given to the movie/series in the Description section and if you see words like gore, violence, sensitive, for a mature audience only, sexual content, substance use, etc, avoid such content even if the IMDB rating is high or you hear good reviews.

  • If you stop eating processed/junk foods for some time and you taste them after a break, your taste buds will reject them and find them unappealing. You might feel "This is too sweet / too salty / artificial tasting". Similarly, when you stop watching disturbing content for a while and you watch it after a break, you will feel more sensitive to such gore, violence, or explicit scenes and your mind will automatically start rejecting such type of content. Let's bring back that sensitivity not only to our tastebuds but to our minds as well.

Feb 7, 2024

Learning Indian languages



 I never studied Hindi as a subject during school as Hindi wasn't included in my state board syllabus. I used to go to a small matriculation school during my initial primary school years where I got exposure to the basics of the Hindi alphabets.

In 9th grade, I had shifted to a new school and one of my new friends there mentioned that she was going to give her Visharad exam. After enquiring with her, I understood that there is something called Hindi Prachar Sabha and they have these 8 levels of exams. This has nothing to do with the school curriculum and she was pursuing it out of her interest.

My dad or anyone else never pushed me to learn Hindi. But I wanted to learn, as I was inspired by my friend (who I had considered my competition too!). I don't remember how, but I stumbled upon a Hindi class conducted in the morning hours on the veranda of a nearby school.

An elderly person whom we used to address as "Ram Ram Sir" was our teacher. Classes would happen between 7-8 AM on weekdays. He didn't charge a penny for his classes except for a small exam fee. I went to his classes regularly during my 9th grade and completed two levels - Prathamic and Madhyama.

As I look back, I'm so grateful for that one year of learning Hindi from "Ram Ram sir", which helped me understand, speak (a little bit), read, and write Hindi. Though I had lost touch completely with reading/writing Hindi after that one year, somehow the basics stayed with me. I was able to help my daughter with her Hindi HW until around 4th grade. The advanced level of grammar and comprehension is beyond my understanding!πŸ™‚

As I'm now stepping into the world of Samskritam, the prior knowledge of Devanagari script has given me the confidence that I will be able to learn the language on my own with consistent effort.

Thank you "Ram Ram sir". Because of teachers like you, we (TN state board kids) were able to get at least some exposure to Hindi.

It is high time we learn as many Indian languages as possible, along with our mother tongue.

If not, we lose access to the valuable treasure trove of wisdom and literature written in native languages and we end up relying solely on English translations and commentaries.


Feb 2, 2024

Priorities



 The last few weeks were a little overwhelming as I had back-to-back offline and online classes. Lots of new information to digest, absorb, and assimilate.

Though I was convincing myself that I didn't need to take any pressure, there were times when my mind was racing with too much to do and process with the overload of information coming my way.

Even if we try and calm ourselves down, we somehow end up absorbing the pressure of a group without our awareness. During the times before WhatsApp, we don't get to see/feel/experience the thoughts of a large group, especially if everyone has different expectations towards a course/degree.

When we add something new - a new project, a new pursuit, a new initiative, etc, it is required that we reassess all the existing priorities and analyze how to fit in the new. This might require deprioritizing certain efforts, reallocating resources, or dropping certain pursuits.

In today's times when there are so many new opportunities and ideas to pursue OR if you are someone who dabbles with multiple interests, saying NO or deprioritizing certain initiatives is quite a challenging task. We somehow feel that we can keep adding more and more to our never-ending long to-do lists, even when we feel overwhelmed.

On 31st Jan, I sat down and jotted down all the ideas/initiatives/projects that have occupied my mind in a spreadsheet. I then added a Priority column and as a typical Product Manager would do, I prioritized them into P1/P2/P3/P4. Once the prioritization is done, clarity emerged. I felt a sigh of relief and decided to focus ONLY on P1 and P2 items in Feb.

For eg, in the whole of Jan, I had completed reading only one book "Stolen Focus" and am halfway through another book. I'm fulfilling my need for learning new information in the form of classes and study material and I don't need to overwhelm myself with reading other new books.

We don't need to sign up for every new workshop that seems useful, every new class that intrigues us, and every new opportunity that comes our way. Doing a few things really well is more effective than doing 100 things haphazardly.


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