Category Archives: Personal Growth

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

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…

Personal Growth

Understanding and dealing with reality

Many people feel held back by the reality of their situation. Some want to get a more satisfying job but are stuck with the reality of their present demanding job that does not allow for preparations. Some want a peaceful marital life, but are stuck with the reality of an irate, un cooperative spouse. Some want to be rich but are stuck with the reality of their present poor lives that allows few options and opportunities. And so on and so forth…

The interpretation of reality is very personal and unique for each one of us

Most of the time, when we are talking of the reality of our situation, we are actually talking about our own interpretation of it.

What is also interesting is that all of us have our own different interpretations of reality.

As a kid, I would often visit my mother’s village(some 3 hours train journey from New Delhi). I met an old lady there who was convinced that the moon is not very far from the Earth and is inhabited by dwarfs. These dwarfs live by drinking water off a well. She could see and point out the well on the moon. No amount of passionate explanations from me and my brother, backed by our geography and physics lessons, would make her believe otherwise.

For those who believe in God, no amount of scientific explanation is enough to make them believe otherwise. In fact, a lot of them have their own, ‘scientific’ explanations of how God is an irrefutable reality. Come to think of it, the idea of God itself has so many different interpretations.

Why are we so obsessed with reality?

And why do we, the humans, seek to understand reality so badly? Animals don’t seem to be bothered by it, they just take and respond to whatever comes. It is perhaps because we can see that it affects how our lives go, how we feel, what we are able to do, accomplish, experience.

So, to ensure our own happiness and peace, we try to understand the reality of things around us. We want to be able to manipulate and control it.

This is a concept agreed upon by many. Understanding reality is a big part of growing up. We are encouraged by everyone to get a better hold of reality and learn how to manipulate it.

In the wake of this popular ‘common sense’, it is interesting to note that there have been some great minds who have pointed out that this approach is upside down. They say it is not the external reality that affects our internal state but the other way round – it is our internal state that affects the reality outside(or, at least, our interpretation of it).

The outer world represents our inner world

According to the people who believe in this, each one of us is creating our reality by the thoughts, feelings and emotions we hold dominantly.

There are 2 schools of thought among those who believe in this maxim. One can possibly be called the extreme believers, who say you are fully responsible for creating all your life experiences and situations. The other group, the moderates, say that you are responsible for the emotional and physical response you have towards the situation.

So, for example, if you have an irate and un cooperative spouse, the extremists would say you have manifested him/her in your life with your own thoughts. You have created this experince with your thoughts. The moderates might say that, while you can not control fully whom you come in contact with and how they behave with you, you sure can control how you respond to their actions. They might not agree that you are fully creating your reality with your thoughts, but they will agree that your thoughts(your emotional response to situations) decide how you ultimately end up feeling about yourself and your life.

So, whether it is a moderate or an extremist, both agree that…

It is just a thought that we are ever dealing with

What ever the problem with your reality, it is just a thought that you are dealing with. The problem because of an irate spouse, or a bad boss, or your low image of yourself, or your guilt over a life not spent well, or your unfulfilled desires for riches… they are all just thoughts in your mind.

And thoughts can be changed, at the drop of a hat. If you are unhappy about something right now, you have a choice to replace these thoughts of unhappiness with something else that you can be happy and grateful about.

Well, maybe I over stated. It is not just a simple change in thoughts, it has to be a bigger change in thinking habits and thought patterns. And breaking old patterns and habits takes conscious, continuous effort.

But the point here is not that. The point is, it is always and always just a thought. Your regrets of the past, your worries about the future, your anger, guilt, sadness, longing.. these are all just thoughts. And you have absolute power over them.

Now since you are habituated to them, you might disagree with me here, you might feel you are not in control. A simple test can prove the truth about this. Repeat slowly in your mind the words that follow. Feel their meaning, do this for a minute.

I am grateful that, of all forms of life, I have recieved a human form that gives me infinite possibilities.

I am grateful for living in a time when life has been made so easy to live that I don’t have to fight for every next meal. I have time to pursue higher goals.

I am grateful for having facilities and comforts(internet, phone, TV, automobiles, air travel, running water, electricity, air conditioning, ready made clothes, toilets with a flush!) that people just a couple of hundred years ago could not have imagined.

I am grateful for having been born into a such a privileged life, a life privileged not only among other animals, but among humans as well.

Now, how do you feel? Is sadness, want and anger still there? If you really tried to feel the words, the answer is probably ‘No’.

What you just witnesses was the absolute control you have over your thoughts, and hence your experience of this world. You made a conscious choice to read this post, you made a conscious choice to feel the words written above, just as you make a conscious choice sometimes to think of the people and situations that hurt you, just as you sometimes focus on all the things that are not right in your life.

*****

It is your own thoughts that decide how you feel. You have the power to completely control your life experience. If you believe the extremists, you can mould your whole life just with your thoughts. Even if you don’t, you will probably acknowledge that a change in attitudes will render you better prepared to make use of whatever opportunities life presents you with.

Until next time…

Image: Salvatore Vuono