The coming of spring

Spring heralds new beginnings. It is a time when the darkness and uncertainty of the winter is replaced by light (actually lots of it) and the certainty or sometimes that hope is here…finally. Spring is celebrated in many cultures by religious occasions that show new beginnings. I often wonder why do not the Roman Calendar begins with the first day of spring – it used to be at one time. But that is the topic for a different day.

We all love new beginnings. Starting afresh has been used so many times that it is more of a fad. Most of the time we have the intent to change – it doesn’t work. We go hard on ourselves citing our lack of willpower – but most of the time new beginnings start with doubt or uncertainty. Let’s think about the creation – God made everything so beautiful, created man and rested on the 7th day. What happens on the 8th,9th or 10th day? There is a certain sense of uncertainty partly because it is inherent by design. In the story of the creation, there was a tree placed right in the middle of the garden with clear instructions that though shall not eat from that tree. Now who would do that? On top of the uncertainty what would happen you place the lever for failure right in the middle of the garden.If one knew what men where, they are known to never follow rules or adhere to order. What happened was exactly as one could easily predict. Observe an young child they will always try out what they should never be trying – or what they have been told explicitly not to be doing so.

Our inability to have new beginnings can be traced to our incapability to adhere to any sense of order. We are not designed inherently to adhere to order or normalcy. We are inherently troublemakers and people ‘who love to poke the sleeping bear’. Thus within a short period of time we end up back to we were prior to the new beginnings. This cycle goes on and on.

If you look at the seasons, you can derive an analogy from it too. If spring heralds the start of a season, we have summer when the new beginnings are at its brightest followed by fall or autumn when it begins to falter and summarized by winter where a full cycle is hence completed.

What am i saying, every great initiative goes through a natural cycle of life and death. This invariably the cycle of life.

New beginnings are no different. They too have to follow the cycle of life. These self evident truths are the very nature of human existence and creation. Mainly because they are the inherent rules of the universe.

But is all hope lost? No, with every cycle there are remnants that keep feeding with each cycle – these are what we call in systems and processes as lessons learned or as history. they keep adding up and slowly the remnants make their way to what the outcome was first envisioned to be.

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Fighting and Winning

‘The Last Jedi’ was a Star Wars movie that ended up polarizing its fan base when it took lots of risks with its unique storytelling and choices that was different for one of the most lucrative movie franchises of all time. In the movie, the story progresses immediately after the end of its predecessor ‘The Force Awakens’ with the presumed protagonist Resistance fighting for its last strands of survival. They were being chased to oblivion by the antagonist The First Order, who were remnants of the vanquished Empire from the Original Trilogy. Upon discovery of a tracking device within the Resistance ship, the movie portrays the attempts by the Resistance to thwart the First Order from totally destroying them. Parallel to the movie’s narrative is the training of Rey, a nobody with the Force trained by one of the veterans of the original series Luke Skywalker. The Resistance believed that Luke will be instrumental to them winning the war with the ‘evil’ First Order and hence was counting on him to help them just as he saved the day in the first movie of the original trilogy. However, Luke beaten by his demons (from a failed assassination bid on his nephew once he found that the latter was moving away from his teaching to the evil side) chose to sacrifice himself by projecting himself across the galaxy to distract his nephew as the Resistance fled to its safety. This portrayal of heroism was unusual to the Star Wars fan base who reminisced how Luke took down the Death Star in the original trilogy and were astounded by the former’s meekness this time around. As a result, the hugely successful movie polarized the fan base so bitterly to this day.

The portrayal of heroism in this movie was duly summed up by one of the supporting characters within the movie, who goes by the name Rose where she mentions:

“That’s how we’re going to win. Not fighting what we hate, but saving what we love,”

We have always been taught that any war is fought with a clear black and white narrative — good vs evil. There is a clear definition of who the good guys and the bad guys are. One is supposed to hate everything about the bad guys; and like or adore everything about the good guys. This simple mode of definition — works very well. However, we all know how life is different. One look at world history and we get our answer. During the cold war, USA was portrayed a benevolent superpower whereas the Soviet Union was the evil empire and gained notoriety in art and culture. Yet if one considers the events from the fall of the Berlin Wall till date, the lovable superpower doesn’t look like what it was made out to be. Similarly, the traditional model of warfare between good and evil doesn’t work anymore. If one glances through the social media, the world is clearly polarized than ever before. Take any field and it is difficult to obtain consensus. The entire world economy is crawling because people simply cannot make up their mind on anything like they used to. There is a constant sense of attrition and diatribe. In this context any win would seem not worth it. Maybe if we did save what we believed in, by sacrificing our hatred, the outcome may be different.

Time Travel

Time travel has been a pet fascination of mine since time immemorial. Ever since I had a chance to read the Time Machine by H.G.Wells, I have been fixated on the practicality of time travel. Although theoretically it may be possible, it is highly unlikely that one gets to actually travel back in time based on the current plane of reference — our existence on this earth. However it may be a possibility with interplanetary or interstellar travel.

There are two things that are true in one’s lifetime — the passage of time and death. The concept of time is baffling- you can measure time but you cannot go backward or forward in time. This makes it a special entity that one faces throughout his life on this earth. The question remains on what to do with all the time we have on this earth?

I do not think that our influence on time is the entire part of the story but it could be the other way around. Time influences us and develops us to what we are as humans. Time is the factor that makes our destinies dance to the whims and fancies of its choosing. I cannot claim that what I do today or did yesterday can completely influence what may happen to me tomorrow. Because time does not behave like that. It may offer clues but never allows your deeds to always influence the outcome.

I have learnt and understood in this short life that good people always get whacked by fate where as the evil people (if you allow such a distinction) gets a free pass most of the time. It may be easy for us to relate this happening to the power of doing evil lasts more than the power of doing good. However this distinction is wrong. In most cases it is ‘time’ that plays its narrative and not fate.

If you look at the tales of dictators around the world. They all had a long period of prosperity where they were able to impose their evil will on people and get away with it. The victims of their deeds in most cases used to be the poor, unfortunate people. Then one day you hear that the same dictators perish in the most unlikeliest of circumstances. It is their time that has come to an end.

I have learnt a simple lesson in life. Good times are like being on the top of a mountain and bad times are like being in the valley. The only way to survive or sustain is to prevent oneself from falling in the case of the former and to prevent digging further in the case of the latter. It is important in those times to withdraw to a shell and maintain the status quo.

Just like the cycle of life, there is also a cycle of time. We commonly hear the words, ‘history repeats’. Time follows the rules of the universe — it repeats, allows many chances. However when one understand this truth, you do not need to travel back or forth in time — you need to travel with time.

Happy New Year

January 1, 2019. A new year.

Another cycle of 12 months has just passed us, and a new year has arrived at our doorstep. As human beings we get charged up every time there is something new in front of us. Having something new is exciting as there is lots of potential to make a true difference. It brings in hope and a new-found optimism. The energy and the power that comes henceforth is raw and needs proper channelling before it ends, and January 2, 2019 starts to feel just like December 31, 2018.

How do we prevent something like that from happening and allow the benefits of the ‘new-found optimism’ to prolong over the next 12 months or even greater? This question has always dazed people especially when resolutions that one set forward in the new year collapse within hours, days or even months after they come into effect.

I believe that ‘intention’ is the first step in a process to ensure that resolutions live or last longer. Resolutions are seeds of newness one finds in the new year. To cultivate or grow them takes some hard work, yet it is not impossible.

I am a strong believer in the principles outlined by Charles Duhigg in his path breaking book ‘The Power of Habit’. In the book, Charles explains the habit loop that has three stages: the cue or the trigger that causes the habit, the routine which is the behaviour and the reward. The thing with most resolutions is that we are good in defining the ‘What (trigger)’ and sometimes the ‘Why (reward)’. Most of the time we fail to define the ‘How (routine)’ which causes the resolutions to fail. For example, just by taking a gym membership doesn’t mean that you lose body fat or weight. At the same time if you work 15+hrs a day and are tired by the time you reach home, you will have only yourself to blame if you cannot find the time to burn the fat, because there is a disconnect between what you want and what you have.

So how then one gets around and use the power of habit in meeting resolutions? That’s where the power of intention comes into play. Intention is the foundation stone of behaviours. Behaviours are key to the success of any habits. It is important to define and agree upon the routine prior to embarking on any habit — or resolution. So how do you define the routine?

Stephen Covey’s habit (2) states that ‘Begin with the end in mind’. If you clearly define the end (reward) by being specific about it, you begin the journey to a successful resolution. For e.g., ‘I want to be 90kgs by the end of December 2019’ by ‘____ (?)’. This is where one needs to define a meaningful routine. For example:

– By going to gym by myself and then get bored and drop off in a week OR

– By employing the services of a fitness trainer and work with him in meeting my objectives?

By having clarity on the routine i.e., challenging it so that it is robust and do not fail, there is a better potential to succeed.

To summarise, resolutions work well when developed as a habit. Any habit needs a strong definition (‘What’), reason (‘Why’) and behaviour (‘How’) to succeed. Start with the ‘why’, define the ‘how’ and see how the ‘what’ starts to make sense.

Happy New Year.

There is anger everywhere

Before leaving for Canada I remember a decade ago, my dad telling me these words “Tenny whatever you do, never get angry”. I tried to live up to his expectations but was never successful. I have been obedient to him mostly yet for instances when not, my anger has always caused me irreparable damage.

Today’s world is no different. There is anger, frustration and despair everywhere. Globalisation has clearly overstayed its welcome. Countries if not continents are collapsing. People are losing jobs in large numbers and economies everywhere are on the decline. The current government model is clearly losing its sheen because of its inability to understand the pulse of its citizens. Taxes are increasing, inflation is rising and if one looks at the social media, trolling and abuse have reached newer depths of shame.

If you look at the election scene in the world’s most powerful democracy, one can clearly see why the whole political system is headed for a crash. The crazy ascension of Mr. Trump and the selection of a very dubious Mrs. Clinton has clearly caused concern to observers and polity around the world. The terrorist attacks that have crippled Europe and the shocking and never ending refugee crisis from Syria, the downward spiral of oil prices have created a dangerous situation which some observers have begun comparing to the days before the two main World Wars.

Is this going to be all doom and gloom? Will there ever be a time of calmness and peacefulness? I think there will be. In my opinion, the only solution to this whole problem is that humans need to shift from the current economic model to a new knowledge and spiritual model where we need to seek for ourselves what lies beyond us. We need to look up to the stars and understand reasons why we were created and are we the only ones residing in this cosmos. We need to revisit our spirituality and shed away the psuedo secularism that brought us to this condition. We need to rise above organized religion, organized groups and structures and seek new and meaningful partnerships where we learn to respect each other and reconcile with one another. We need to stop this anger…and this hatred.

There needs to be love everywhere…

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How does one define ‘simple’? I looked up the definition of this word and I got the following choices:

  1. Easily understood or done; presenting no difficulty:
  2. Composed of a single element; not compound
  3. Of or characteristic of low rank or status; humble and unpretentious:
  4. Of low or abnormally low intelligence

If you look at the four definitions of the word ‘simple’, they are entirely different and mean different things depending on the context that the word is used. There are many definitions for the word that can be found elsewhere. To me, ‘simple’ is a powerful word as I will explain as follows:

  • Simplicity is ‘focus redefined’: It is very easy to get distracted in today’s complex world. Being simple affords you the opportunity of not getting bogged down with the luggage that the world tries to offload on you.
  • Simplicity is a major ‘task killer’: As we grow older, tasks of various types keep piling on us. Practicing simplicity as a habit helps us in creating a mindset that helps in completing these tasks smartly and effectively.
  • Simplicity is a ‘problem solver’: A majority of the problems in life can be resolved by simple and patient solutions.
  • Simple messages are powerful: Twitter allows you tweets of 140 characters or less. It is such a powerful medium of communication of the 21st century because of this simplicity. Keep is short, keep it simple. It helps convey the message better.

It is difficult to be simple in a complex and quick changing world like ours. It is a habit that helps us cultivate valuable life lessons that can go a long way in redefining who we are.

Be happy for being simple
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Being Mindful

When one is mindful, the whole journey of life from birth to death suddenly becomes very exciting and meaningful.

Ever since this year started, I have been hearing about a lot of deaths both on personal and professional fronts. Some of them were close to me and some I knew very well at one point in my life. What stuck me like a jolt was the swiftness at which they left the world-some even without a chance to say a proper goodbye.

When such things happen around you naturally we tend to question our perspective on life and death. Many times one feels that we are nothing but mere dices rolled in a cosmic game played by invisible forces.

One way of experiencing such power is through the art of mindfulness. Though not consistently yet I am a big fan of this art. It is a simple form of meditation. Imagine yourself doing one of the most boring tasks in the universe- ironing one’s clothes. As you spread your clothes over the ironing table and rinsing it with water and applying heat to straighten the wrinkles, feel each steps slowly as they happen. Picture yourself enjoying the task. At the end marvel at the well pressed cloth and feel good at restoring the cloth to its original beauty.

This is simple mindfulness. In a fast paced world, it is important to slow down and enjoy these miniscule tasks to the content of one’s heart. With practise as you extend mindfulness across your life, you can feel the power of our creators. One that is slow, steady, comforting, relaxing and yet powerful.

When one is mindful, the whole journey of life from birth to death suddenly becomes very exciting and meaningful. Just as a new journey begins with a birth, another ceases with death. But the universe keeps on expanding and times go on ceaselessly.