Personal Growth Relationships

What if those close to you are negative?

There is a lot of personal development literature out there that talks about the importance of keeping good company. I have myself written about it in a lot of posts.

I feel the company we keep affects our attitudes and, consequently, the direction of our lives. The opposite seems to happen too, we affect the attitudes of the company of which we are a part.

A balance of energy

If you stay with those whom you find negative, you feel a pull down in your enthusiasm for life. There is, I feel, a balance of life force that happens when you are with other people. If they are negative compared to you, they feel a bit pulled up in your presence but you feel pulled down. On the other hand, if they are more positive, you get the benefit of an upward pull while they are pulled down.

Also, in the case of a crowd,  this balance seems to tilt in favor of the majority. If you are a lone negative with a lot of positive people, you will be constantly motivated to improve while they might feel just a little pull down. If you are a lone positive among a lot of negative people, they might feel only a little pull up, but you will feel pulled down a lot. When this continues long enough, your positivity gets pulled down for good and you get habituated to the new balance, until you decide enough is enough and break out of this company.

In light of this realization, it is only natural to look for positive company, something at least at par with your own attitudes.

But…

What if your family is negative?

There are certain humans you are dealt with.  There is a certain place and a certain society you were born into. You didn’t choose them, they were given to you. Some, who believe in past lives and karma, or the Law of Attraction, might say we choose our parents and surroundings. But, for the sake of this article, I will assume that we don’t.

When those around you seem full of negativity, should you severe the deep bonds you have with them and leave for more positive people? Or should you stay where you are and try to make the best of what and whom you were dealt with?

If you stay, you will probably be pulled down into negativity. If you don’t, you might be severing ties with those whom you have had a long and deep connection with.

Let me add another question here…

Would a continuous improvement path leave you with no friends in the end?

If you are looking for positive company all the time, where does this bond-snapping stop? No human is perfect and you will never find one. When you continuously improve, you might find those whom you see positive today, seem negative and below your level some day. Wouldn’t that leave you totally alone in the end?

There are probably no straight answers, no black and white guidelines here. The only thing that I will suggest here is – listen deeply and intently to what your heart is saying.

If your heart says stay, stay. Work to make the best of what you have. If it says detach, then detach.. It is OK to move away from your nearest and dearest. As I mention in this post, it might be good for them too.

I also think it is important that you separate your heart’s voice from that of the ego’s. Don’t decide in anger, or sadness, or fear… decide in calmness, in peace and in awareness. If you can’t find that calm within you, try to create it first. It is important to connect to the heart before deciding.

To create the right state of mind, you can try following these steps – 5 steps to creating a conscious life.

When you keep following the heart(your intuition), it seems to me that you sort of shut yourself from external stimuli. The negativity of those around doesn’t affect you as much, if at all. All your senses and your focus are aligned to one point, and that point is deep within your self, it is your essesnce speaking to you. You then witness your attitude and your life unfolding naturally from within you.

When you following this voice truly, it is my experience that there is no sense of separation from others, not for long. In time, you see a deep connection with them and start working towards common good. The detachment, if it happens, is now just a physical thing, you still see the far deeper bonds and know they are always there. The question of being left alone vanishes.

If you decide to leave…

If you feel it in your heart to leave, here are a few things I would like to say to you :

I think most people blow the idea of leaving their loved ones out of proportion.

When you leave, it is not like you leave them for ever, you are just detaching for a while. There will be lessons that you learn, new realizations, that you might not have had, had you stayed. You might start seeing their actions and attitudes in a new light and they may not affect you anymore. Or you might find some problem in your own outlook and will see how you can improve.

In my experience, there comes a time when you will feel the urge to get back to them. But this time, you are a changed person, you handle things differently, you also have new insights and realizations, insights that not only help you but potentially you loved ones too.

You might find that your bond grows deeper as a result of such a detachment.

So, if you see that you have to leave for a while, don’t resist it out of a sense of loyalty, you will only be stifling your heart’s natural path. Let it happen, flow with it, enjoy it, learn from it.

What about the feelings of your loved ones?

In the meantime, how would your loved ones cope up? I think, there will always be a certain discomfort. Most people resist change. They are comfortable with the way things are, even when they are complaining about it. But past this discomfort, they will find a way to continue. In fact, your decision to leave might even make them face the problems they had been avoiding and work on them.

This of course requires sensitivity on your part. If a family member is prone to depression and has a heart problem, you don’t want to give that person a rude shock by just walking out. Be sensitive, compassionate yet firm with them.

*****

Remember that whether you stay or leave, neither is a better choice over the other. Don’t judge yourself or feel guilty because of your choice.

Your heart will lead you to a lot of learning, it will lead you to discomfort sometimes, but it will keep you close to your essence, it will keep you growing and expanding into your best self. And I have a strong feeling, that, in the long run, it will ensure you act in a way that improves your life and that of the people around you.

Until next time…

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Experiences Musings Personal Growth

A change in the direction of my life

About 4 months ago, I wrote about my decision to quit writing full time for now and do it along with a regular day job.

In this while, as you might have noticed, I have posted very infrequently. I have been busy doing quite a handful of things. I recently took up a job in software development. For sometime, I tried to get a job in organization development but that was not working out as soon as I would want it to. So I came back to my old love.

I also decided to move to New Delhi from Bangalore. Making both these changes has been quite demanding.

Before I continue further, I want to say that this post talks entirely of what is going on in my life. Usually, I don’t write such posts but I think I need to keep my readers informed about the direction I am moving in. I feel that you, as a reader of this space, deserve to know what I, the writer of this blog, stand for. So here goes…

 ….

When I started writing, I was fired by the idea of doing something that I deeply connect with, the idea of creating something of my own, of being my own boss, of earning money from my own passion. In the last year and a half, I have seen tremendous growth and I feel like a very different person now.

I am still in love with most of that original idea. There have been some new realizations though that have led to slight changes in my inclination.

What holds

Growth and expansion. With this blog, I got an avenue not only to share my experiences and life lessons with you all, but also to grow as a being and allow myself to expand into my potential. I have gained some rich experiences, like working totally on my own, giving full attention to what I like doing for a whole year and a half, taking this year and a half off from professional work and then getting back at it, looking for a job in a new city of my choice, and I have experienced first hand the effort it takes to make the context switch when you move from one line of work to another…

I still coveat such experiences.

Expression, writing, analysis, observation. This is a place where I feel totally connected with myself and I feel that life force is flowing through me unimpeded. I feel pure and complete. This still holds and keeps me strongly bound to the blog.

I want to continue expressing myself though writing, and other means, I want to continue seeking more knowledge about life, I want to observe this world, and I want to use my mind to analyze and try to make sense of what I see.

Creating things. I still am in love with creating new things, whether they are a piece of software, an article or a book. This I intend to continue.

What gives

Being my own boss. I am not so keen on being my own boss now. According to my current understanding of things, the idea of working alone came out of my habit to keep to myself. I have always avoided connecting with others. But now I feel that, to find deep happiness, one needs to connect deeply, both with one’s own soul and with the souls of those around. There is a deep joy in working with others towards a common goal. With my new job, I see an opportunity to work towards this.

Being a personal development enthusiast. If you have read my About page, which was created towards the beginning of the blog’s life, I call myself a personal development enthusiast. I now realize that my enthusiasm is towards the greater and all encompassing field of life itself. I am more of a life enthusiast! I am an analytical thinker. I am an observer… of life, of people, of myself. I am a seeker… of knowledge, of truth, of wisdom. 

My interest has also started building up in the fields of philosophy, psychology and sociology.

This is causing an expansion in the kind of topics I write on. You might have noticed this in the last few articles already. I am yet to change the About page though. :)

A respite for my cash flow

As far as earning money is concerned, I feel I am OK, for the time being, with getting it from software development. I have always enjoyed software development and it seems to get me money easily. This is not to say that I have abandoned the idea of making money from my writings and my expressions. It is just that I am not too keen on monetizing this persuit for now. For now, I want to just focus on continuing writing from my heart and improving at it.

This move has an added advantage – I just have to write to express myself freely and to create good value. In the past year, whenever my focus was on earning money through my writings, I felt that my writings got a little disconnected from my heart. I wasn’t writing as freely. Whatever was coming out, I wouldn’t feel it truly and clearly reflected my soul.

I feel it is possible to have both but for the time being, I want to focus on just writing and writing well. I want to write from my heart, without much thought to whether the article will attract attention and whether it will turn up on search engines etc.

With this job, the concern about a negative cash flow, that I had while I was writing full time, would be gone. Of course there is the brute force method of just keeping at it until it starts earning me money. I don’t think one way is better than the other, they both probably work. It is just my personal choice and comfort with this particular path right now.

What I expect in the coming days

With this job, and its demanding nature, I see a challenge in managing my writing. I have purposefully pushed myself in this corner. I see a lot of adventure and learning in the days to come and I am excited and eager for it.

Well, this is where I am right now. I am kind of enjoying this uncertainty and feeling very excited and free in the moment. These changes have forced a lot of readjustments and a lot of rethinking about a lot of things. I feel all these changes will spark new realizations, new observations and new insights which I intend to share on this blog. :)

Until next time…

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Musings Personal Growth

To flourish, how much do we depend on the state of society?

Recently, I was reading a book – The Immortals of Meluha. Here is an interesting short excerpt from it  :

Any successful society needs stability. Stability allows a person the freedom of choice. People can pursue their dreams only when they are living in a society where survival is not a daily threat.

In a society without security and stability, there are no intellectuals or businessmen or artists or geniuses. Man is constantly in a fight or flight mode. Nothing better than an animal.

There appears to be some truth to these lines and they got me thinking.

We are the creamy layer. The simple fact that we have an internet connection on which we are reading and sharing this article makes us a part of a fortunate few on this planet. There are so many who are born into a life of extreme poverty, strife and a lack of opportunity. There life and dreams can be cut short by a single stray bullet or disease or any of a number of umpteen reasons that don’t bother us, the creamy layer, as much.

Srinivasa Ramanujan, the great Indian mathematician died at an early age of 32 due to tuberculosis, that did not have a cure then. He solved many mathematical problems at that young age. These problems had baffled many eminent mathematicians of his time and before. Some of his writings are still studied to help find meaning in other complex problems. Who knows what else he could have accomplished, had he lived longer. But he succumbed to something out of his control.

People as a collective

On a collective scale, people seem to flourish more in stable societies. We all know of a lot of famous entrepreneurs, geniuses from the developed Western world today. But how many such people do we know of from, say Afghanistan? Or The Congo? Or Somalia?…

It seems that as a collective, it is important we try to create such a society. A society that provides minimum survival for all, a society that allows people to follow their own calling, to express themselves in ways they want to.

The dilemma

In spite of all that I said above, I have also believed in a person’s control over his destiny.

This belief and attitude is best summed up in the last lines of a very popular and inspiring poem, Invictus :

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

The Law of Attraction, which I consider a very helpful perspective and which explains a lot of my experiences, states that a person fully creates his/her experience in this world. It says that, from the smallest events that happen in our lives, to the big and seemingly uncontrollable ones, everything is the mere manifestations of our repeated thoughts. Hence, it implies one’s life is absolutely and totally in one’s own control.

This dichotomy raises some questions in my mind –

Exactly how much of stability does one need, if any?

From what little I know of famous and successful people, it seems quite a few of them were not born in the most secure of conditions. Examples that come to my mind are Ramanujan himself, Dhirubhai Ambani, Dale Carnegie and Wilma Rudolph. They seemed to work against odds to get what they wanted. Even a lot of successful people, who were born in to a relatively stable life(Eg. Bertrand Russel, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Steve Jobs), embraced instability and insecurity often in pursuit of their calling.

It seems that insecurity could not keep them from achievement and progress. On the contrary, it some time seems to be the very thing that drives these people to achieve extra ordinary feats.

Looking from the other end, it also seems that too much of comfort spoils people. Obesity, which seems to be a big problem in the ‘secure’ Western world is only now coming up in India, that too only in the progressive and more ‘secure’ cities.

So what is the right mix of stability and uncertainty? Too little seems to make man an animal in a fight for survival. Too much seems to spoil him and leaves no reason to strive.

When I asked my wife whether she likes to have security in her life, she said Yes. When I asked her whether she would prefer the utmost form of security, where survival and all the things required for a comfortable life were guaranteed, she was not so sure.

She likes adventure, trying new things. And adventure always means a bit of uncertainty and insecurity. If things were to be made very easy, she might loose the drive to do anything.

It seems to me that struggle cannot be escaped, it should not be escaped. It is essential for growth, it is essential to find meaning and satisfaction. Only the type of struggle differs according to circumstance.

To what extent does a man’s fate depend on circumstance?

Ramanujan died of tuberculosis at the early age of 32. Society at that time did not have a cure for it. While Ramanujan’s end was probably out of his hands, the effort he made to come out of the anonymity of the remote reaches of India were his own. They probably came out of a will to reshape his destiny, a determination to do something, rather than out of a sense of helplessness at the lack of opportunities and bad luck.

So, does man depend on the state of society?

I suppose it boils down to which perspective an individual decides to believe in. To illustrate this point, I will recount a story here that a friend of mine told me, when I put the same question to him :

A man went to a learned sage and asked him – “O learned one, to what extent is my destiny determined by fate and how much depends on my own efforts?”

The learned one smiled and asked the man to stand on one leg. The man complied.

Next, the learned one asked him to lift up his other leg too. The man tried all he could but failed.

“How can I lift both my feet in the air Guru ji?” he asked.

“You are right my son, you cannot. You have both the legs at your disposal. The choice to lean on one rather than the other is all yours!”

The man understood the meaning of the wise man’s words and left satisfied.

 

Until next time…

Image: Vlado

Musings

Looking for everlasting happiness?

This post, like the previous one, might leave more questions than answers. Perhaps this is in keeping with my current state. :)

They say he only knows the taste of water who has traveled through the desert for it. If you are thirsty, water tastes sweeter than honey. But if you have a ready supply of drinking water, there is no excitement in the, now simple act of drinking it.

This seems to go for everything. There was a time when my father strictly restricted eating chocolates, watching movies and even TV. I craved for these things. Getting to experience them in some rare moments would make me excited and happy beyond all bounds. Now, when I have easy access to all of them, none of them feel as desirable. These are but a few examples of so many other things in life that loose there sheen once they become an easy and everyday experience.

So can the same be said of happiness? We all look for lasting happiness, I wrote an eBook on the topic. But is it possible to have everlasting happiness? If one has a ready supply of happiness, if one can be happy all the time, won’t happiness become boring, mundane and, consequently(and ironically), make the person unhappy?

If the only constant in this world is change, wouldn’t continuous happiness be an anomaly?

The happily ever after

Most of us, at some point in our lives, create a dream of a perfect life. It is the best that can happen, it is the point beyond which nothing would be needed. There would be no wants and nothing more to achieve. This dream, when realized, would keep us happy for ever, it would get us the kind of ‘happily ever after’ we come across in the stories.

But can there be a happily ever after? My experience says that a situation that I get to experience continuously, no matter how desirable in the beginning, does not keep me happy for ever. All situations become boring after sometime. When it did, it seems it was not the situation that gave me happiness, it was probably the challenge or the novelty of it.

Challenge is exciting and fun, when it makes me do something I have never done before, when it requires me to go up a level, when uncertainty of success is involved. Doing such a thing makes me feel alive. Probably, it is also the growth experience that this challenge provides. It is the process of my expansion, brought about by this situation, that gives me happiness.

Sometimes, happiness seems to come from an activity I love, like watching movies. Or it may come by being with some people I like, friends, family. But if I get to do this activity continuously or I get to be with these people all the time, the situation becomes routine and unremarkable.

I am tempted to say that trying new things and people gets me happiness but then trying new things and people all the time can become routine itself and become less desirable. :)

 The discontinuity of happiness

Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity. -Carl Jung

Jung seems right to me here, happiness would lose meaning without sadness. Happiness, it seems, can only be had in bits and pieces, it comes only in highs and lows. The greater the elation you feel on the highs, the greater the sadness and misery at the lows.

I don’t completely see his point about how to face this reality though. If, as Jung says, you decide to face things with equanimity, you can avoid big miseries, but wouldn’t you also loose the highs you feel? Wouldn’t equanimity be boring? What would you rather have? – big highs at the cost of big lows, or an equanimous feeling? Or would you have something in between – where you probably stay somewhat grounded but allow some space for experiencing the highs and lows?

An acquaintance of my wife’s, told her that his wife, who is a classical singer, doesn’t like talking after she has sung for a while. She goes into a sort of a depression. This happens to many of the other singers that this guy has seen over the years(courtesy his wife) who, after going through the high elation of being one with a song, realize that it is gone now. They understand that there is no point in holding on to it for it cannot be continuously had. They cannot sing for ever, they will have to come back to it later. It leaves behind a vacuum that is filled with a lot of sadness.

This is the reason he thinks why many artists resort to drinking heavily or even drugs, they try to recreate that bliss through artificial means.

It seems the misery is the price for the high you get, and the level of the lows you can bear will decide the level of the highs you can have.

*****

So what do you feel about it? Can happiness be continuous? If it cannot, what attitude would you prefer to have towards it – would you accept the big lows to experience the highs? Or would you prefer equanimity?

Until next time…

Image: Lavoview

Consciousness Courage Personal Growth Relationships

The allegory of the cave

Below is a video representation of a very popular and interesting allegory(A story that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning) by Plato called, The Allegory of the Cave. Different people might arrive at different meanings from it and that makes it even more interesting. Go through it once if you will.

When I first came across this allegory, it re-raised some of the questions I have faced before. I will discuss them in short but, for those who decided to skip the video, …

A short description

In short, there are people inside a cave who are tied in a way that they cannot see the entrance to the cave. They have been in this state for ever. They only see some shadows forming on the opposite wall and think these shadows are real(as opposed to being caused by something else). One of these people becomes free and goes outside the cave for a while. He gets to see that shadows are not real and are caused by other ‘real’ objects. He sees the world, the sun, the Earth, different forms of life… everything.

After getting this better understanding of reality, he decides to go back to the cave where his former friends are. Because it is dark inside, he has difficulty seeing things. His friends are busy discussing the shadows they see. They notice that the enlightened one cannot see as well as before.

When he tells his freinds that what they are seeing is unreal and that these shadows are infact caused by some other things, they laugh at him. They say he made a fruitless effort to go outside and check things. The only thing he managed was a poor eye sight. When he persists, they fear he will corrupt others and decide to kill him.

This allegory, among other important insights, shows what effect an individual’s improvement in wisdom has on his relationship with others around him.

Here are some questions that this allegory raised in my mind –

Should the enlightened one return to the cave?

Should the enlightened one go back to the cave, knowing that trying to talk sense into the people there can be dangerous?

Maybe you can relate to his plight. Maybe you have progressed in life and have now come to a place where, when you look back to the people you were once among, you feel they are burdened by a lot of illusions, fears, myths etc. Would you go back to them and try to help them see reality in a better light? Would you try to improve their lives at the risk of being misunderstood, mocked or worse, punished? Or would you leave those ignorant and ungrateful people behind, knowing that trying to help them can backfire on you, and just move on ahead in your life?

If you decide to go back, do you think you will be able to cope with the loneliness of being the odd one out? Would you be able to cope with the initial suspicion and hostility? Would you be able to cope with the uncertainty?

In other words, would you be, what Plato calls, the sun who provides life to all creation by burning itself in the process?

Or maybe you have decided not to go back. Do you think you are generally happy with your life? Do you feel satisfied and feel no pull towards your past?

Probably a middle path can be carved out. But what could be such a path, that ensures your safety(to whatever extent it can be ensured) while you still try to help people? And you will still be leaving a lot of comfort and security, and accepting discomfort and doubts.

The wise man’s burden? Is it?

Do you really know better or is it just your ego?

And how does one know (s)he is enlightened?

Does making more money make you enlightened? Do you become enlightened just by spending more time on this Earth? Does seeing different people and experiencing different cultures make you enlightened? And correspondingly, those who don’t go out too much(but probably look a lot inside), are they necessarily unenlightened?

If you think about this allegory, the people sitting inside the cave also believe they know reality. In real life, all of us think we understand things well enough. Things are probably more clear to us about the allegory because we are observing the events in third person, because the illusion here is about something we all agree upon(whether shadows are real objects or formed by something else) and find very simple to understand. But when we are among people and are discussing not so obvious things about life, how do we know that we know better than the rest?

Remember that Plato’s Guru, Socrates, said that “All I know is that I know nothing”.

Is the pursuit of enlightenment a path of sorrow?

Does the search of enlightenment and wisdom invariably lead to loneliness and sorrow? Does it necessarily have to invite hostility and mockery from others?

Most spiritual texts might say that ultimate enlightenment takes you to a state of bliss, it takes you away from the sufferings of this mortal world. But then who knows?… As far as can be seen from this allegory, the search of wisdom is not comfortable. It can lead you to your death too. Is it really worth knowing these truths if they result in alienation and mortal danger?

Can ignorance be really bliss? If you believe ignorance is bliss, then, once you are out of the cave, would you wish you had not gone out. Would you wish you were just sitting there with your old friends, discussing the nature of the shadows and anticipating what would come next, feeling very smart in the process? If you coveat ignorance, would you really want to be an ignorant child again, believing in fairy tales, ghosts and what not, dependant totally on your parents and guardians for sustenance in the real world?

*****

For this post, I felt like not providing my own ideas on the questions raised. I just wanted to raise some doubts and questions in your mind and then leave you to grapple with these questions, ponder over them and see what answers appeal to you. I would love to read your thoughts in comments below.

Until next time…