Not afraid to be ordinary

I have to admit right at the outset that ever since I was a kid I disliked anything which was ‘normal’, ‘regular’, ‘conventional’.  I would often ask why rituals are done a certain way or why do I have to follow social rules which my brother didn’t have to follow. And you know what the rest of the why’s would look like..

The story began one afternoon when I was sitting in our family’s apartment balcony and looking at what people in the apartments living opposite to us were doing( I know it wasn’t a nice thing to peek but hey..everything was too close not to watch when the curtains are open) . It was yet another sunny day in Mumbai and I had just returned from school. While I was watching,  I noticed one apartment in particular where the kids were playing and the maid was drying the clothes in the balcony. They weren’t doing anything extraordinary and in fact they were doing exactly the same thing as they did the day before and the day prior to that. It was then that I wondered:

  • Will I die one day and no one would know?
  • Will my existence go unnoticed?
  • How can I be different?

Trust me when I tell you that I was all of 10-11 years old thinking about such glum stuff. In that very moment

  • I decided to be different.
  • To not follow the routine, mundane and mechanical life.
  • To create my own rules and
  • To learn everything on my own ( this wasn’t a smart intention to set but I did set it that way)

This existential thought storm also triggered a resistance towards anything normal. If someone had a normal childhood i.e. sans any major struggles or discomfort then that didn’t interest me, two people who got married with ease didn’t give me as much a kick as did an odd couple i.e. Older woman marrying a younger man, if everyone was afraid of the walking alone in the dark then I would surely try and see what the fuss was all about. I wanted to be above the rest but not in the normal competitive manner where you tried to score better than your peer. I got above the rest using some spiritual and philosophical understanding. Being competitive also meant being normal so I wasn’t going to engage in it.

Fast forward some years and some first-hand experiences , I craved normalcy and all I wanted was a normal life. I was at a point where I was tired of ups and downs and desperately wanted the comfort of the plateau, the known. I needed certainty/ stability and thankfully I was able to achieve it after some challenges. The truth is that had I not tasted these challenges where being able to make ends meet in a foreign land was my daily concern, then I wouldn’t have been able to value normalcy. I am stubborn like thatJ

With this new found respect for normalcy and my 10 year old still inside of me, today I have reached a point where I can say that no matter how ordinary you are, there is an inherent uniqueness in each one of us which can never be suppressed (unless you choose to suppress it). You don’t have to try too hard to be extraordinary.

Accepting the beauty of normalcy takes courage. Accepting somewhere that most of life is lined with routine tasks which are not to be fought with but won over. The ‘difference’ lies in the choices we make while leading an otherwise ordinary life. There is an ease in this approach to life. An organic wisdom if you will. It is the beauty of a homemaker who sings while she cooks, the compassion of a man returning from a 9-5 job who helps a wounded animal on the street,  the courage of an otherwise ordinary bystander to stand up for a woman who is being eve teased.

In my opinion, if we can simply learn to be good at being ordinary with an elevated consciousness/humanness then we will never be ‘just another’ person who lived/died. As long as we keep fighting the normalcy, that’s what we stay busy with and staying busy in our own head doesn’t mean that we aren’t ordinary. This constant battle we create for ourselves can induce more fear in us than needed.

I am not suggesting here that you shouldn’t challenge yourself or try to grow or be complacent. If you do any of the above then you are not respecting your inherent uniqueness and not allowing it to express itself. What I am saying here is that not everyone needs to be a Mark Zuckerberg or a Bill Gates to make a difference or to live a life that has created an impact. If you live your life with authenticity then it will indeed be a life well lived. Some of us spend too much time and energy focusing on what we are NOT in this moment. You don’t have to know everything OR be restless at all times because you aren’t doing enough to get somewhere.

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Cruising the skies or waiting in the Hangar?

I do not know what is it about air travel or travel in general and the flow of thoughts combined with the urge to pen them down. It’s almost like an irresistible urge. Something very similar to when you just have to go to the bathroom and can’t control your pee any longerJ Wonder if I could have given a more subtle example but then the relatability factor of natural instincts in unquestionable. Right, and now that we have established that…

Enroute to the airport today I got consumed by the sight of airplanes on the runway waiting for their turn to get the OK signal for flying. Then there are planes which were simply standing by which are even farther away in the process of taking off and nowhere close to the runway. Can you guess what I am getting at? Perhaps it’s too early to have you guess. All those airplanes standing over there and also the ones closer to the runway have their routes planned and their times of flying set. The mere act of ‘waiting’ close to the runway or being farther away in the hangar does not negate the fact that they will indeed fly. They will fly but only at a certain time and on a certain route.

I have often wondered…

What’s the need for yet another life coach, doctor, healer, teacher, dancer when so many already exist and what could this yet another person could even dream of contributing that hasn’t already been done.

What’s the point in starting yet another company if you are not the pioneer in the industry?

What’s the point of doing anything if I am only going to be lost in the crowd of me toos??

The starting point here is the thought that knowingly or unknowingly we all strive to contribute/make a difference. Even if you think are you are not the ‘helper’ or ‘social worker’ or ‘activist’ type, no matter what you are doing, you chose it to make a difference and to contribute. Some of us who work a job simply to meet ends and take care of a family are making a difference in that exact manner- providing to the family. If you are driven by intellectual kung-fu and have chosen to be a business analyst or forensic psychologist , you are making a difference. If you have chosen to be a full time home maker then you are making a huge difference in several lives at once. No matter what hat you are wearing, you are making a difference.

The second point is discovering our own uniqueness (I know that’s such a clichéd term but please bear with me) that lies within us. What is your USP? It’s everything about YOU. The type of family you were born in, the school you went to , the religion you follow or chose not to, major life events that have occurred and shaped you, are all factors that are unique to you and you alone. These experiences impact our thinking in unique ways, the way we make decisions, the way we interact with the world etc. You are a me too only until you see yourself through a different lens. And yes another important factor is that you need to honor your unique gifts yourself i.e. be authentic and embrace all the crap you have been through.

Much like the different routes for airplanes and a different timing to fly, each one of us has followed a unique route and will continue to do so. Even if you are doing the same job with the same set of tasks, you do it and process it differently than the next person who does it. There always are differences.

In a spiritual/philosophical sense your plane will take off when it is the exact match of your abilities with a time of need which is much larger than what our rational minds can comprehend. All airplanes never cruise the sky at once and neither can we have all on the runway at the same time. If we can get out of our heads and appreciate the ‘whole’, we would perhaps be able to see that not all people who have been successful did it at age 20 or 50. Each one has a different story. What is the common is their ability to acknowledge their uniqueness, embrace some level of uncertainty and take action. Don’t beat yourself up if 5 of your friends are millionaires and you are not right at this time. (On second thoughts, you could absolutely choose to do so if you do enjoy self-torture.)

I don’t have a count for how many airplanes exist today and how many cruise the global skies at once but there’s always room for more or so it seems. There’s always room for YOU to BE YOU! There’s a difference that ONLY YOU can make living in the most ordinary circumstances. A certain set of people with whom ONLY YOU will interact in the way YOU do. There is a micro in this whole macro that can only be touched by you.

Would love to hear if you have been able to relate to any of this..

 

Spiritual & Worldly..The Dichotomy.

My tryst with spiritual contemplation and exploration began with the questions: Why do I exist? Why am I here?

Most of us have struggled with these existential questions at some point of time in our lives. Some of us chose to ignore it and agreed to bury it deep down inside forever.  One way or another, it’s not an easy path to tread.  I was born, brought up in India and lived there for the first 26 years of my life and then moved to US. India is a land which is synonymous with almost everything spiritual/religious/mystic and US is the epitome of materialism. In this blog, I would like to share some parts of my life journey with you dealing with the spiritual/worldly dichotomy.

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Sunset on a Biking trail

I was born in a Hindu family but was fortunate to not be forced to do things a certain way. I explored my way through the questions of ‘why’ chant certain mantras, follow certain rituals and visit temples. I never bought into ‘this is how it is’ type of responses. I read a lot of books on different religions and alternate modalities, dived into different prayer rituals, the concept of idols (I don’t think I ever was an ‘idol worshipper’), contemplated on why I was born in a certain city to a certain family etc. You get the idea. I was bursting with questions and searching everywhere. Through most of my searches in India I did realize that most ‘spiritually’ inclined people didn’t pay much attention to everyday life which was filled with the challenge of facing ‘desire’ in many forms. Renouncing your family duties and not wanting to associate yourself with any material wealth was what most people aspired to do. I internalized that allergy to material wealth and never focused on trying to make more money and living a comfortable life. I could never relate to my friends who talked about their 5 year plan of getting married, buying a house, car etc. This was all gibberish to me. I could respect but not relate to their goals. It was easy for me to not place money and material goals on my priority list when I was 25 and living with my father in a good two bedroom apartment in Mumbai.  Having completed my MBA, I found a decent job with a company and made good money just for myself. My worldview completely turned topsy-turvy when I came to US as a student and had to do odd jobs, study , pay my rent, buy a car with working heat to survive in Chicago’s winters. I am not a quick learner though or should I say I am strong-willed and I couldn’t grasp the fact that I needed to align myself with the realities of the world where you ought to have a certain amount of money to feel safe, have a car to commute etc. I took my time but I learned my lesson.

My understanding  with respect to this dichotomy of spiritual vs material is that one is asked to be like a ‘lotus’ where one is in the dirt( you are free to question whether this world this needs to be referred to as dirt in the first place) but not of it. In my opinion, it’s easy to simply renounce everything and not have to perform any duties. It’s like being an addict whose life revolves around his drug of choice. The drug of choice here being the illusion of self-realization and nirvana. During my search I also came across a Buddhist thought which said something to the effect that: Before you are enlightened, you chop wood and carry water, after you are enlightened (which isn’t an end), you continue chop wood and carry water. This thought made perfect sense because it isn’t all or nothing. It doesn’t have to be ‘either – or’, it is meant to be an ‘and’. It’s about striking a balance. A few weeks ago, I was reading The Quran and was impressed by the clarity with which it portrays the need for this balance between spirituality and materialism.

The truth is that understanding these spiritual concepts is one part of the struggle and like any other subject, you need to be able to apply it in your everyday life. It is this application which isn’t easy and makes people want to find an escape and run away. I meditate everyday and there are times when I don’t want to come out of it because it’s a state of pure joy whenever you manage to tap into it. Despite feeling this joy during meditation I cannot say that I always emanate joy from my being in all my dealings on this earth. This is where one needs to laugh at oneself (am a huge work in progress on this one). It is easier to sit in the Himalayas and say that one needs to love thy neighbor as himself because all is one and a totally different thing to apply that thought when your neighbor’s dog shat on and ruined your first go at having a herb garden( On second thoughts, isn’t that manure for crops).

Be true to yourself on your journey as hard as it may be. Strike a balance with an ‘AND’ not ‘OR’.

The Wisdom in Stillness

 

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Folsom 

 

Being still does not mean you are stagnant.

When you are separated from external activity, through an illness, job loss etc, it is not a punishment. Embrace it as a time for renewal and healing.

Winter is nature’s time to lie low and renew. Everyone one of us lives through different seasons in life. All seasons play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of nature.

You will know when life presents you with this ‘still’ and ‘down’ time. Go inward. Spend some time in silence. Retreat into your being. Utilize this time to rest your body. Become a witness to all that you have created without judging yourself or others.

I believe it is for this purpose that several people go on a pilgrimage. You need not always travel to a different destination. You may choose to do so if your heart so desires. Spending time in nature will provide you with the inner stillness and grounding that you need. For some of us, it may present as a time to do some soul searching.

Until you find that ‘stillness’ inside you, you will continue to experience restlessness because your spirit is not at ease. A lot of us need a ‘time out’ from family and friends too. Some of us recognize that we need this time for ourselves but are unable to do so due to familial responsibilities. The more we ignore it, the more pronounced it becomes and then comes a day when circumstances build in a manner that we have no other excuse to reach for. We also find some people who take a break from a successful career to satisfy their soul’s longing and wonder how does one give up a well settled life in search of an unknown. I am reminded of the book ‘The Monk who sold his Ferrari’ by Robin Sharma as I write this.

Having lived through some such seasons in my own life, I can also say that there are some who choose to fight and fret this period which makes it even more gruesome. Ultimately, such periods are nothing but chances for us to grow on a spiritual, mental, emotional and physical level.

Not to say that there is anything easy about these stretches.

Similar to most other experiences in life, we can choose how we respond.

Namaste.

If you let it go , you do not care enough..Is it so?

When was the last time you tried your best to salvage an already broken relationship? OR made some offers to an employee who had decided to leave the corporate world for good but YOU wanted him to be there…Even in a tricky situation like an ailing person on the anvil of death who wants nothing but peace to breathe the last few moments, we try and hold on. Why do we do so?

In work or personal relationships it is difficult for us to let go off a person. Many a times in a marriage when two people cannot even bear to see each other eye to eye, they HOLD ON and claim that they are salvaging the sanctity of the institution of marriage. At work, if a person clearly declares his choice of leaving, we again try to make him offers to stay back which may or may not be lucrative or worth a consideration. Whether he takes it up or not is an entirely different issue. The question here is why do we try to hold on?

One major reason could be the way we are brought up. If a person is independent and wishes to live life on his own terms, he is looked upon as person who does not care enough for the people around him. If two people in a marriage are not compatible, they cannot comfortably separate because of social stigma saying “ 2 people who seek divorce cannot really sustain a relationship” and hence can never make good parents if they separate. Whoever said that living under one roof was testimony to a healthy relationship and much healthier upbringing needs a new perspective.

Our concern then is the superficiality and not the core, we look at quantity and not quality. For example: Measure for a successful relationship whether work or personal is the no. of years one has lived or shall I say learnt to live with the other. However damaging it may be for one’s personal growth, a child between 2 incompatible adults is expected to live with them and abide by them. A person who wishes to leave the world in peace is forced in to the pains and further sufferings of getting into an Intensive Care Unit and being treated as another machine, simply because his family members who care for him cannot see him die but cannot even understand that every moment his death being prolonged is like living a million deaths at a time.

From the little experiences that I have had, I see that it is important to sustain but it is also important to let go when required. If we respect a person, we would also respect his decisions indeed. When we care for someone we would care for his wellbeing irrespective of whether we feature in it or not. One of my angels once said to me “ Love is never about holding on, it is more about letting go ..”

At the end of the day, this is what is evident even in nature. You can enjoy and cherish the beauty of things but cannot hold the thing on… try to hold a flower for more than a day or a butterfly, you can but there will be just the skeleton, the spirit gone…

I have had enough..a fallacy..at least in my life!

I have had enough..a fallacy..atleast in my life!

Throughout my life till now (mind you I have lived 25 long years) I always had experiences that called for more than the normal from me. Mainly the environment at home made me grow at a pace much faster than my peers. That’s how I registered a gap between my biological and mental age. In those stressful situations when I handled myself I felt like a positive survivor (why positive? Because some people survive by default without liking it). It called for me becoming independent for I could not look upto many elders for advice (they were not given to me in my surroundings for a long time).

Many years later in my teens I started meeting people who wanted me to open up to them and wanted me to feel good by loving me in their own ways in the very little time we met. They helped in their own ways and are angels to me. In the whole process till a few months back, I started subconsciously discounting the advice given to me by elders because I never really learnt to listen to them with 2 adults at my home always quarreling with each other. I began to live in a notion that I understand things much better than they do which was true to quite an extent but may not always be so. I grew up to be matured but also began to make the mistake of equaling people much older than me (older = experienced, right?). In the process, I began just listening to myself and not to anybody else except 1 person who had become a father figure to me.

When I entered the real life job situations, I entered with a confidence that I could handle anything and that I really did not need anybody’s help. I was more of “telling” than “Listening”. I met 2 beautiful people on work who till date are very close to me. They got close to me for the same reasons that I am positive, matured and had goodwill for all. These 2 people were again much elder to me, but we clicked somewhere and well indeed. Over a period of time, as I got more and more love( which I was probably wanting to have), I made some mistakes which I would otherwise preach people not to do. What were they?..Taking them for granted, many a times not involving them in a decision or not even informing certain things which for me was normal because I grew up thinking and acting for myself. With these 2 people so close, I was experiencing a matured relationship for the first time. After having read this, you may think how I call myself matured!! True, isn’t it?

Having had a tough time for many years, I made one mistake of thinking “I have had enough”. With these situations given to me I understood (hope I have) that one can never say “I have had enough” and close himself to learning. One may be good at certain aspects but there’s an ocean of things to be learnt. Those situations given early in my life did help me grow faster but I guess, since I am still alive I have lots more to learn from different beautiful people around me.

The polishing of a diamond never really ends; it is just that it shines enough to make us feel that it has been polished enough. Can the diamond ever know how much has it been polished?

It’s there now…it’s not..

It’s there now…it’s not..

Temporary..Unpredictable..Uncertain..Pleasures of life..

Many of us must be passing through these phases of happiness, then pain and then pleasure again. I cannot generalize this statement, for, very few of us realize this and even fewer make it vocal. Some practical men choose to ignore it saying it is a waste of their time and energy to mull over such issues (probably the itch caused by the grey cells gets uncontrollable for them)

Well, jokes apart I have been hearing these temporary truths of life from many a sage and some books of wisdom too spell out these in black and white. Even I chose to swing into the roller coaster of smiles and tears for quite some time. One fine day I felt that the love that I was chasing was also for a few good moments of togetherness and many more of sadness arising from separation from my source of love/happiness. Our source of love or happiness could be a person/ a book/ music/ nature/ etc etc..The love within a person is always in the waiting till there is a stimulus like the above that makes it move. Quite naturally any of the sources that holds good for one is also temporary simply because it will not always be there with you, do you think otherwise??

Why is it then that we choose the temporary over the permanent? For that’s the only source of suffering and hence our cleansing. One more fallacy that we deal with is to try and not believe that these indeed are impermanent. We try and make the mistake of possessing the source which leads to even more misery especially when the source happens to be a living being.In the name of love we call for sacrifices from the many people we supposedly love because if they do not act as per our wish “we will not be happy”.Over a period of time we develop a formula for our happiness and anything that challenges it is unwelcome. May be we should sit back and think how may times in life we very subtly as parents, lovers, friends make our source of love change his choice or at least attempt that. We do this because our sense of permanency (love from that source in certain set circumstances/conditions) seems to get challenged if he/she does not act as per our wish.

When I started watching myself from a distance doing all these scenes of smiling one second and shouting the other, I felt like a puppet in the hands of the situation itself. Quite often we let ourselves behave like a tennis ball being shot between two rackets.

Its not that people do not know this but they are afraid of the awakening, for, not many mistakes of an awakened soul are pardonable.

No wonder that our so called society cannot stand the people who love even after one source has taken heaven’s abode or may be simultaneously love 2 or more.

It is only here that there can be rights and wrongs because something which is permanent does not permit duality.