A Mindful Journey

Human weakness starts with the thought involving our incapacity in changing ourselves. The thought that ‘Nothing is in my hands. I cannot do it’ stops us from even trying.

But if we look into Gita, it states that everything is in our hands. Gita says: uddharet atmana atmanam na atmanam avasadayet.

Only and only we can change our future. If we are incapacitated and unable to make a future then we wouldn’t be allowed to choose our actions.

Bhagavad Gita in chapter 6, shl 26 says:

yato yato niscalati
             manas cancalam asthiram
       tatas tato niyamyaitad
          atmany eva vasam nayet

Suppression isn’t what we are referring. The more we suppress our thoughts, the more strength they gain. Keeping the thoughts to the present is what we have to do. As soon as you watch the thought building up, either to the past or to the future, slowly bring it to the present. Keep it there.

Instead of looking at ways to be mindful, we are breeding the weakness by giving in to our senses. We all know belief structures determine our behaviours. They are formed through repetitions and reinforcements. And, Behaviours become more automatic with repetitions.

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To break that we need to teach ourself to replace an old response with a new response. Let that new response be ‘Mindfulness’. The objective is to change behaviours. Though beliefs are hidden, they will eventually change. Repeatedly practising will turn that to a habit. A habit which will do us good.

So, next time, when the mind takes you on a mindless tour. No matter how nice it feels at times, do not embark that journey. Do not entertain it. Consciously withdraw from that. You may have to do that repeatedly many times till it starts to live in the Here and Now. Being Mindful will only allow us to plan for our future with what we have in the present. It will not allow us to be tangled in those fantasies that are far fetched and loom in the disappointments.

In my last blog entry, I was pointing in to what Bhagavat Gitas’ daivic qualities are. It will be easy to inculcate those with mindfulness. Clearing the clutter will make room for more meaningful ones. Because mindfulness is all about acceptance, appreciation and gratitude towards oneself and life in general.

Remember there is nobody to take responsibility for our actions. The same ONE who has acted has to live the consequences of his actions. Now actions can be through our thoughts, speech or deed ( mano-vak-kaya karma).

We have a choice to live a happy or a hopeless life. The choice is ours. If we succeed to break free from the shackles of our weaknesses, we will LIVE else will just Exist.

 

 

 

 

 

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Let our Life Preach what our Lips can’t

On my train journey to Chennai, I happened to listen in to the conversations of two boys and their fathers. We shared the same compartment. Yeah, I know what you are thinking. I do not enjoy listening in to others conversation, but it was too loud and I couldn’t but be a witness to the drama that unfolded.

In both the parties, one seemed to be quieter than the other. One spoke, spoke and spoke, the other would reply only if he found sensible else nodded and smiled. Nonverbal communication can save our energy and face from many such conversations and people alike, don’t they? The father who wasn’t talking much, his boy was his replica. He was quiet and did not interrupt when the other person spoke. We think kids aren’t noticing but they are and they learn from us.

Interesting thing that I noticed is all the four were talking about what they have and where others stand. Drawing comparisons and critical at judging others. Kids were flaunting and bragging about the toys and looking for faults at what the other had. Men did the same but the discussion surrounded around their jobs and looking down at others who were either doing bad or better.

Walt Whitman once said “This world is big enough for both the talkative and the un-talkative; for both the complainers and the non-complainers.” He is right. Many of us fall under the category of complainers. Men or women, we all do the same. Judging others is an easy exercise and again how do we judge people, on our perceptions. We look down equally upon people who are doing well compared to us or vice versa. What makes us unhappy? Is somebody’s success bringing us unhappiness? Is our happiness dependent upon others success or failures? And, What are we preaching our kids when we exhibit such behavior?

Did your kid ever walk-in to you complaining about something that he didn’t have or how bad he felt when he lost to his friend? Do you remember what you said to your kid? Many of us would have asked our kids to take it easy and be grateful with what they had in life. Even go a step further, and point on to the underprivileged ones who can’t even afford one square meal. Oh, my dad has done that many a times when I was growing up.

I wonder what stops us from applying the same principle in our lives as adults. What we preach and expect our kids to apply in his life doesn’t seem to work for us. Why? Are our problems real than theirs? Are ours more important than theirs? Please think. As kids we felt our problems were as real as our parents. We felt unhappy and dejected when they gave a deaf ear to our problems. For some, it might have shaped their life differently from the happy kids they were.

There is a lot of research around people who have selflessly given themselves to society and to those who have brought the society down. Psychologists have identified root cause of both these to their upbringing. Deep rooted emotions without a vent, suppressed which turned them to criminals that society had to pay a big price for. The same for the ones who were altruists.

Bhagavad Gita in Chapter 16, shl 6 and 7 tells us that men (human beings) are of two types. One who are of Daivah gunam(divine) and others of Asura gunam(demonic). Gita describes those who are of Asura gunam as the ones who do not know what is to be done and what is not to be done. Neither cleanliness nor proper conduct nor Truth is said to be found in them. We have been given a choice to choose between these.

If I may say, we are the role models to our children while growing up. If they do not see us act upon our preachings. They will never inculcate it into their lives. We have to reflect the good things that we want our kids to learn in our lives first. Then we don’t have to even remind them, they will not only learn from us but also spread those good things to whoever they come across.

Fortunately we are in midst of a paradigm shift, parents are now paying more attention than ever. We should focus more in building at least a few from the below Daivah gunams. I mean, instead of ruminating over and over our past and future , that time can be spent in freeing our mind of those Asuric qualities. When you slowly free the mind of those negativity then it will be ready to imbibe those daivic ones(Bhagavad Gita Chapter 15, shl 1,2,3).

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we can live a positive life only with a positive mind. And, let our kids learn from our positive outlook towards life. Truly, then our lives will speak louder than our words.

How to make STRESS your FRIEND – By Kelly McGonigal

Yad bhavam Tad Bhavati..As you think, so you become is what our Scriptures Proclaim. By doing so, we can now befriend our worst enemy, STRESS.

Kelly McGonigal, Health psychologist in her Ted Talk has enough evidences to prove the same. Just by looking at stress as our friend can reverse its adverse effects on our body.

Enjoy the talk!

Kelly McGonigal: How to make stress your friend

Shiva living the life of Shava

Morning walk not only rejuvenates my body and prepares it for the day but also a good time to contemplate on the fugacious nature of life. On the way back home today, I crossed a Shiva Temple with Morning prayers filling the air. An amalgamation of sounds: of Counch shell, temple bells and drums. Chanting do have the power to break us free from thoughts. We have to experience it to understand :))

Did you ever mull over the significance of prayers. Be it any religion, prayers are made indispensable. What do they signify? Do they have any importance in shaping our lives? Have heard a lot of people say that, they are trying to awaken or put God to sleep through prayers. Where is this God? Is the God within or without us?

What are we instructed to do? Are we to awaken the GOD within or the idol at the place of worship? Bhagavad Gita says the body is the Kshetram and kshetrajna, the Jiva is inside this Kshetram.  This is to remind us of the Shiva who is living the life of a Shava. These are to prepare us to face the Shakti, which is the Prakriti. We identify not to the Shiva but unfortunately to Shava that Shiva is in.

While the Mother, Shakti bombards us with sensuous things throughout the day. Only Shiva within this body can face her to retract her energy in developing the wisdom. Shakti without Shiva is nothing but cognitive dissonance. But we are living as Shava and aren’t sentinel to our thoughts. Thereby involving with the thought and becoming the thought itself.

Those who came before us understood this quite well. So, they devised these prayers and taught us to chant. The combination of sound waves of a particular frequency is said to enliven the Intellect. You may ask, when shall we stop. They ask us to continue:

  • Till we delve into the meaning of these prayers.
  • Till we start interacting with the world as Shiva.
  • Till we find a meaning to our lives.

I was reading an article named, ‘Abnormal is the new normal’. We tend to live an abnormal life because we do not have the knowledge of living a normal one. We have to question the necessity to move from the conditioned state that we are in?

Jagadguru Adi Shankaracharyas Bhaja Govindam takes us through the journey of a conditioned mind. Okay, why don’t we list a few drawbacks to our identification with the body/Mind?

  • Our bodies are never perfect. We might learn to live with our imperfections but there is a lot of evidence around that shows that we strive for perfection. Statista claims the revenue of the U.S. cosmetic industry is estimated to go up to 62.46 billion U.S. dollars in 2016, is one such example.
  • Old age will draw us of the energy that we have but the mind will still crave for pleasures.
  • Fear of death, losing power, possessions and people around is something we dread each day.
  • Lack of control over the minds makes us vulnerable to uncertainties.
  • Our endless pursuit to seeking happiness from things which we have no control on.

The wisdom of former generation is incomparable. They are communicating to us through these rituals. Let us not pollute it and rob the spirit. They are trying to awaken our spiritual consciousness and reminding us to disown the body consciousness. Become the Shiva which Shivoham (Shiva Aham) is referring to. Whenever we wake up to the world of stimuli, our real identity should be established. And any such interactions will always be fruitful and selfless. We shall then be a True Altruist.

Children growing up between ‘Shoulds’ and ‘Wants’

Our children who are a part of this complex social environment that we built are fraught with emotional frustration. Constantly battling the conflict of ‘Shoulds’ and ‘Wants’.

Have we not unconsciously jailed them under the unwritten norms built on our stereotyped beliefs? Recent article in a Indian English daily read that the Municipal Corporation received around ten thousand applications from Post Graduates for the position of sweeper. Unemployment is all time high. Many Managers, Doctors and Engineers are on the roads, waiting to make a career.

I wonder are we also responsible for this state. Why only blame the government? Society is made up of individuals like us. Did we force our kids to take up what our friends’ kid is studying for? Worse still, are they not under the pressure of keeping up to our constant demands of excelling in what we chose for them.

You may say they lack experience and are yet immature. Can we answer the below questions with a Certain ‘NO’.

Don’t they have a right on their life?

How can we be sure of our choice?

Are our choices not colored by our personal lenses created by our own perceptions?

However, we pay a blind eye and keep imposing our ideas on them. We are also indirectly teaching our kids to conformity and never to question. Too bad, we are teaching our own kids to treat us the same way when we grow old. IMPOSE and NOT TO QUESTION.

Toxic social environments would not bring out their best.  Imagine how a child would grow up to be in such environment. Let us give a freehand and then guide them. They will put everything in what they believe and our support would only encourage them to reach their highest potential. Have we not heard the saying ‘Truth can be tolerated only if you discover it yourself’. If you want them to believe in your idea, have them identify with it. Lets not force it on them.

We have to guide them but it is incorrect to stop them from making a choice. In fact, we should be able to see what our kids are good at and motivate them to realize their dreams. A Sachin and A Messi would never be born if their parents failed to be their guides.

Children should be taught to make decisions keeping the ‘PRESENT’ in mind. This will allow them to create their reality and react to it better. Self-Awareness is what I am referring to. Quite a number research in this area. Be that be from Gestalt approach or to today’s Ellen Langers research on Mindfulness. All point us to BEING MINDFUL.

Is it not our responsibility in teaching our children to be receptive to stress. Also,Empowering them to make a choice between ‘Should’ and ‘Want’ will only better the relationship that we share with them.

Teach them to Meditate, to quieten the noise in their head. Harvard Research also second that. Please read their article ‘Mindfulness can Literally Change Your Brain. Link attached.

https://hbr.org/2015/01/mindfulness-can-literally-change-your-brain

Lets shoulder the responsibility in raising a moral child. I think this is the best contribution that we could do to build a Sane and a Safe Society for the kids tomorrow.

Be a Goal Getter than a Goal Setter

We have all tasted failure. In spite of having a brilliant goal in mind, there were times when I couldn’t bring it to life. Only upon reflection, understood I lacked some of the very important ingredients to the recipe called Success.

It is a natural instinct to desire success. To succeed we need to take care of the following…

What I lacked primarily is focused thinking. I was more identifying with the final outcome. Alas, Self-fulfilling prophecy would have worked beautifully only had I focused at the journey than the outcome alone.

We could harness all our mental energy towards a desired goal, if we could do focussed thinking. Good example is laser, being a weak source of energy can still drill a hole in a diamond when focused.

Set clear immediate goals to realize the big picture, whether they are weekly, monthly or daily. Plan to reach these within time allotted.

What stops us from achieving our goal is the thought that’ I know it all’. Thereby there would be no learning and we tend to become stagnant. Only an immature mind would make such statement. I feel there is so much to learn here that one life wouldn’t be enough.

A mature mind is always ready to listen. Isn’t there a saying that you learn more when you listen? Everything around, I believe can teach you something good or bad. We just need to be smart to pick the ones we need.

Be sure to spend time in the company of experts .We can end up getting some good insights in our research.

Experimenting always helps. Charles Kettering said’ All human developments, no matter what form it takes, must be outside the rules; otherwise we would never have anything new.’ So do not be afraid to tread the unusual path.

Success or failure both in business and life should be attributed to our Mental Attitudes than to our Mental Capacities. Since we are all blessed with the same mental abilities, we can reach great heights if we believe.

Hard work Hard work and Hard work. Take any success story; you will see huge sacrifices that have lead to their success. Shortcuts will only make us obsolete.

Last but not the least, timely meeting of the milestones set by us will help us see through the journey.

If you look at the workflow below, one leads to another towards your goal.

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Year on Year, I see my 1st year Grad students, all full of energy wanting to get A+ in their subjects. But with each passing semester the determination gets lost somewhere. Self-Determination Theory explains how to overcome this. It is about a healthy way to connecting to both our intrinsic and extrinsic motives towards effectively achieving our goals

Of course, failures do happen. There is nothing to be dejected about. If we haven’t failed we haven’t learnt. It’s good to reflect upon our past mistakes but should abstain from staying there. We might risk the goal itself if we tend to look into the past too much.

Most people often fret over the results, but how you handle it matter just as much. This is where positive thinking would do us good. Every action is bound to have some results. Don’t superimpose your happiness on that. Indentifying self with success or failure will only make you anxious. It’s okay to fail but that should make us more focused to reach that goal in mind.

If we reflect upon our scriptures, they also have the same thing to say.

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We really don’t want to pile up all those negative thoughts. We have enough evidences of go-getters around us. Hard work and perseverance have helped them reach their goals. So, lets stay positive and get what we want in life.

Emotions and their play on the Troubled Minds

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Indriyani Pramathini Haranti Prasabham

Troubled senses snatch away the mind of even a wise man.

We all know what emotions do to our Mind and Body but we don’t do anything about it. From size zero to a happy mind, we crave but we just don’t do what is necessary. Why? Why? If we look at Science for an answer, it tells us that these are habits which are difficult to break. Habits are unconsciously driven to save energy. New ones only form by repetitions, creating a new nerve network in the brain. But when we are agitated, cornered or puzzled we often go back to our old habits. We also need to reason the necessity to shed those old habits. Look at few addicts who abstain from drugs at rehab but end up going back to their old habits as soon as they return. That is why reasoning is very important. This is where Science fails to answer. 21-Day Myth. Even at a professional set-up, few habits often put us in a bad light. If a manager gets really angry; he might be able to make a conscious effort to fake a smile but his body language gives it up. Now that tells us that working on the brim will not get us results.

If we go a little deeper, people are nothing but a mix of emotions, traits and habits. Mixed in certain proportions creates our unique personality.

Let us imagine a society controlled by our instincts alone. Can such a society survive? For obvious reasons, it will fall apart. So, we were conditioned to think in a way which does not challenge the societal norms. Basic emotions are very primitive and not under conscious control. However, few complex emotions like guilt and envy are bred by us into our kids. Every time we compare kids to somebody; putting them down when they open up to us are all shaping these complex emotions in them. And then we tell them they aren’t good emotions to keep. We build them and instruct them not to indulge in. We don’t even tell them how to not be in their company. Maybe we don’t know it ourselves. Accepting the child for what he/she is, will breed confidence in him/her. This will allow them to shape their goals better. I was reading an article in Deccan chronicle about a child named Binney been abandoned as he was suffering from Down’s syndrome. Parents are well off but they are ashamed of the kid. Will it not surprise you when you read about a software engineer having fought to adopt the baby while his own parents have disowned him? We live in a society such.

Even emotions such as joy which is essential or what we work for, also looks far-sighted. Bhagavad Gita says Dukka-Samyoga-Viyogam Yoga-Samjnitam. Severance of ties from sorrow is Yogam. Our ancestors have compared our Mind to a baby. If the baby picks up the phone, our commanding words will not work on the baby. We coax it to calmness by giving it a glittering toy and then the baby would give back the phone. The same way, the mind needs to be engaged in a changeless state to drop those emotions. Bhagavad Gita calls such a person as Sthithapragnya.

Arjuna who has fought several battles fell short of courage to wage the war. Maybe we aren’t engaging in a battle externally but internally our mind is battling conflicts all the time. That is no less than the Kurukshetra itself. My Guru often reminds us of the Kurukshetra within and propels us to destroy the vices before they sprout. Emotional Intelligence should no longer remain as a rare specimen. It is the need of the hour. Bhagavad Gita does the same in a more holistic approach.