The Infallible Brace of Breath

Many a times in our lives we feel totally helpless. Situations are either out of our control, or things are just going wrong all over. Our sense of peace gets lost and our self gets disintegrated. We need to adjust, compromise and reluctantly agree to coexist with all the discordance for greater reasons beyond our self interests.

During those critical times we find ourselves totally at loss of what we want to hold on to. There are such times when we are absolutely at loss of our sense of self. We need fervently to hold onto something we find our own – an infallible brace! This brace holds our integrity and our identity. It is like being a Lotus. Even being rooted in stale stinking sump, the Lotus doesn’t lose its integrity – its beauty and elegance. The dirty water doesn’t wet it. It just flows down its body keeping it untouched.

Today in the world of uncertainty, deaths, betrayals, darkness, narrowness and all that can be called evil, we need to keep our soul redeemed to our own ideals and highest beliefs. That gives us our sense of identity ; sense of self!

One easy technique our seers suggest is to mindfully breathe and watch your breath. Just taking and releasing deep slow breaths and counting them till day 50 or 100 gives that profound sense of centeredness. It dawns in us an eternal inner sanctuary of stillness and peace. From that sanctuary we experience that silent power, love and pause!

This tight, powerful and infallible brace of our breath holds us like a sail of the boat amidst a tumultuous ocean storm. It guides us towards the right direction towards the destination of our own making – the destination that inspires us! The journey of life in the presence of this brace of breathe is so soothing and fulfilling!

Our mind needs such a brace and it is a common experience for all of us. Some find that brace in their family. Some in their friends. Some find that brace in their job, wealth, possessions, power or position. But soon all these wither away. And then that inner sanctuary cannot be created as the mind by then had lost the ability to curl within. Developing a daily habit of meditation helps to develop this powerful and infallible brace of breath!

It excites me to see the app – ‘BREATHE’ in my Apple Watch! It makes reclaiming this brace of breathe at any point of time during the day or night!

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Outsourcing the 10 essentials

When I look around the sad plight of many people in he society, I feel that there are few aspects of our lives which are supposed to be taken control of strongly within one self as strongly as possible! These should at no circumstances lost control of and outsourced to any person or super human aspect ever. These are –

  1. The daily healthy habit of workout
  2. The daily habit of meditation
  3. The daily habit to be able to cook fast, healthy and light food all by one’s own self. (I know people for whom cooking one plain meal to fill their stomach is the most difficult and important aspect of their life in a day)
  4. Not get daily chores take more than 3-5% of ones daily life. (I know people who spend their more than 90% of their daily time in dusting, cleaning, grooming, and arranging daily chores)
  5. Take control of the education of kids. Teach them and get involved in their educational and hobbies first hand. This is a golden opportunity not only to bond well with our next generation but also enhance our basic knowledge of science and humanities. This is a great way to enable the next generation not repeat the mistakes we already have done. It is our personal responsibility to ensure that the bad is not continued and the goodness is expanded and nurtured. We should be able to solve the numerical of physics and mathematics of our kids along with them. We need to be in their shoes to solve their problems along with them. Of course I am not asking one to be so called a helicopter parent. I am rather asking ourselves to be buddy parents where we learn along with our kids the science and humanities that we have forgotten.
  6. Daily one is supposed to learn something new as per their identity, goals and ideals. One needs to go deep into a non human domain. One needs to be an expert in a differentiated domain. The age of generalists are gone. Today a general manager is first a specialist who has learnt to make sense of the big picture. One needs to develop scientific models based on their specialisation field to see and make sense of the world.
  7. One needs to be in control of their circumstances by being able to reflect on their day atleast 4 times a day. This can be done by doing incremental journaling throughout the day. The world class journaling apps like Journey, DayOne, jrnl, Evernote are great ways to do this.
  8. Have control on the TODOs. Various tools like Bullet Journal and plethora of ToDo apps in mobile platforms are great ways to do this.
  9. Have control on what you drink and eat! A person who gives in to unhealthy taste and is addicted to unhealthy food like spicy food, alcohol, smoking etc has already lost their control on life. They are already heading to a powerless and helpless state of affairs.
  10. Don’t give in to hatred. Each instance of hatred is a missed opportunity to understand another point of view. Empathy is the key!
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Identity, Habit and Goals

The decisions, choices, behaviours and actions we take in our lives appears more generally on our own conception of the self instead of the exact circumstances and outer aspects of our lives. The same scheme of things inspire different people to act in different ways. The research of James G March of Stanford university goes in details on this theory. He names it Rule Based decision making. The theory stated simplistically is as follows –

The decisions individuals or organisations take are based on the following three questions –

1. Who am I ?

2. What is the current situation?

3. What a person / Organization like me shall do in the current situation?

He explains this theory in much details in his book – Decision making primer.

Applying this theory in one’s personal life it becomes imperative to answer the first question. I feel, who one is shaped by following two things –

1. What they do every day as their daily habit.

2. What is that long term goal that their daily habit is aligned towards.

These two aspects are key to conceptualising one’s identity. It helps to build a map of this. Following is the map that I have created for myself which may serve as an a good reference to start with to arrive at your own identity maps.

Having this map is not good enough. It is just a starting point. It would help if somehow a metrics is created around this and measured on daily basis one’s performance on this map. This can be as simple as a table with rows as dates and columns as the daily activities one would take up daily towards implementing this map.

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Durga Puja 2018

Among all the special gold rimmed memories of 2018, Durga Puja is yet another special gem studded in the glossy memoir of this year for me! We visited Kolkata to celebrate Durgotsav and had a great time with our family and friends!
Durga Puja is christened as Durgotsav in Bengal. More than religious Puja, it stands for a grand gala community celebration. This marks an yearly getting together of families, friends and more importantly communities all working together towards a grand event management which would constitute a 5 days long list of events back to back comprising of music, dance, poetry, quiz, painting, and several other forms of art exhibitions, public programs, competitions etc. There would be community feasts organised. People would all assemble in the puja Pandals in their new clothes and adornments and celebrate in togetherness this grand festival.
For all non-Bengalis who confuse Durga Puja (of Bengal) with Navaratri (outside Bengal), there’s a simple big difference in the way it’s celebrated. While Navaratri could be religious (as people claim it to be), Durga Puja is a cultural festival. There’s a remarkable difference between religion and culture.
For most Bengalis, they have nothing to do with devotion, and everything to do with celebration. Religion (as it has become) is an organized way to deal with devotees, and the Bengalis are far far away from any sort of blind beliefs.
God/Goddess is an image that’s alienated from family of our own lives and seen as an authority. To Bengalis, Durga is just a part of our family. She could be termed as the Goddess, but never seen with a God-like image. There’s way more love than devotion. It’s a very human connection. She’s the daughter of the house who’s come for Autumn break to her parents house with kids and friends
While people outside Bengal may fast as much as they like, Bengalis will continue to feast on Mutton Biriyanis and all sorts of delicious non-veg food (even at Puja premises where organizers often arrange for meals). Had there been any religious angle, things might not have been so simple.
Durga Puja as a festival is deeply connected to arts, crafts, music, theater, films … everything! It’s an all-round celebration. Only a very tiny percentage of people would bother to offer prayers. For the rest of us, Durga and the spirit of Durga puja is all in our heart. Even if we offer ‘Anjali’ (a prayer), our eyeballs hover all over the surrounding beauties in laal-paar-sada-sarees (a beautiful dress that ladies prefer to wear).
Durga puja is all-inclusive. Many Muslims in Bengal celebrate it too. Even there are religious Muslims who are the Presidents and Secretaries of Puja committees. No ‘religious’ festival could ever break these barriers!
There are hundreds of government and private awards given for ‘Best Puja’. Not a single parameter in judgement relates to the devotion aspect of it. The Best Puja judgement takes into consideration the artistic finesse of the idol-making, the decorations around it, the lights, the sound, the safety measures, the theme, the concept, the social relevance of the theme, etc. It never considers how devotedly people offer prayers. So, devotion doesn’t even come in our way of celebrating Durga Puja.
For those who have never witnessed Durga puja in Kolkata but have a lot to comment on it, please do make a visit. Your idea of a festival will change. Our country had no religion, but we thrived on our culture. It’s time we pack religions into the sacks and throw them back to the western world (from where it has come) and fall back on our all-inclusive cultural ways of celebrating life once again.
Here is the album of some glimpses of my Durga Puja Celebration for 2018 –!AtRNziOnlGfJuHpGbYwb3_astpTx!AtRNziOnlGfJuSdg-PHCX-PxlquF

#identity #rulebase #travelogue

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Theory of Identity and Bhagavad Gita

# Theory of Identity and Bhagavadgita

Reconciling the first principle of Swadharma

God says to Arjuna to do the right action as per his Svadharma. In the story of Mahabharat, Arjuna has already resolved that central question, even before the beginning of all the drama. He knows he is a Kshatriya, and his svadharma is to protect the good and fight away the evil. The dilemma of Arjuna starts with the reluctance to follow his svadharma and from there the debate starts between the human and the God.

But, for the modern man grounded with the values of liberty, freedom, self expression and individuality, the primordial question remains unanswered! What is my Swadharma? What is my Identity? Is the Identity even relevant in the world of aggregation, consolidation, scale, automation and AI?

In the theory of decision making James March proposes that in this uncertain, unpredictable and dynamic world, decisions, choices, and actions are taken majorly based on specific rules determined by one’s own Identity. Individuals, organisations, communities, and nations act based on their identity. This happens in 3 stages, answering the following questions one at each stage –

1. Who am I ? (Looking within)

2. What is the current situation (Looking outside)

3. What a person like me should do in this current situation (rule based decision making) : This is the Swadharma. IT is contextual. It is dynamic. But it is grounded deep within by a singular direction – determined by one’s own identity.

Following is the flow chart to determine one’s own identity –

1. Learn the basic high school level sciences and arts

2. Exploration of one domain of study determined by the following –

Life circumstances -> Aptitude -> Creativity / Interests

3. Identify – The domain of expertise

4. Advanced training learning and development in one domain

5. Model of thinking – theory of mind – how one experiences the world through the eyes of the domain chosen. This brings focus.

6. Motivation to Act

7. Practice / skills / actions

8. Habit

9. Identity.

Examples of Identity – Computer scientist, neurologist, social scientist, child psychologist, economist, cognitive computing expert, writer, painter, fashion designer, Philosopher, priest, yoga teacher, backpacker etc.

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The realm of immortality

I am deeply saddened by the violent fatal accident of Memphi – the dog son of my best friend. He was killed by a reckless SUV speeding on the lane in front of his house. I certainly cannot ease my buddy from this irreparable and deep loss. But such incidents over and over again remind me one thing more and more loudly – the nature of love.

Being head over heels in love with a person, a pet, an institution, an object or for that matter any physical entity out there in this world, is destined to meet a heartbreaking end of mortality and entropy. It might be an end in the life or end of the spark of love for that matter given the chores of life.

But, again when I compare this love with the other form of love few people develop – like love for music, love for travel, love for reading, love for a domain of study, love for an idea, love for a purpose, etc – that never breaks one’s heart. No one can steal that love, and nothing can extinguish it. More a scholar delves deeper into an area of study, more love she is strengthened, and she finds an infinite flow of novelty from her scholastic pursuits -thereby fuelling that love even further.

Similarly in the field of music and art, or for that matter mathematics or marketing – the person engages more and more, and discovers newer sparks of innovation, that enables them to create a positive difference to their communities. Such spontaneous and productive engagement is what I say the realm of immortality. There is no entropy. There is no death. There is no descent. More the person gives their heart and soul to the process more and more the love grows, and nurtures not only the doer but also the world at large.

Yes, we are social beings and we need to connect to men and women, plants and animals, rivers and mountains, flowers and trees to reclaim our own humanity. But then, there is another truth that we perhaps need to more strongly remind ourselves of simultaneously. That is, humans, flora, fauna and the world around us are after all active agents to kindle in us the fire of love, and help us experience, evolve and deepen that love. They are just carriers of that love. Love is experienced within the heart of the person while being in that process of active engagement with these agents. These agents come and go. People come and go. Situations change. But then the feeling of the primordial belongingness and love is unchanged. It keeps getting more and more established within the soul. Every new experience, every new victory, every new loss – in their own unique way deepen that love.

The loss of Memphi is a moment a very deep melancholy. And that heart wrenching pain cannot be eased. But then isn’t it a privilege to have reclaimed that level of sensitivity of being a human, that one can even conceptualise and feel such a heart sinking agony deep in the heart – for a canine?! For a majority of humans are not even able to differentiate between a pothole, a speed breaker and a living , innocent, love brimming heart of a canine.

I cannot release your pain buddy. But then, I can just tell you to cherish this pain, and hold it very close to your heart. Don’t forget this pain, and let it burn in your soul to eternity to keep it warm with the power of love. It is through these cracks in the broken heart, the light of love enters, and keeps it warm and human. Such agony, humbles us, and makes us more human.

The art of love learnt through these experiences of selfless giving, probably somewhere deep down in us makes us worthy of being called – Human Being. Such active engagements probably makes us fully human. And not only that. Love certainly kindles and then thrives in the realm of immortality. Love is not lost. Agents come and go and give into the entropy of the.physical world. But loves labor is never lost. It deepens the heart and makes it sensitive to see that never ending love transcending the agents – men, woman, pets, flora, fauna and the cosmos itself.

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Heart over Mind

It is good to take a break from thinking. Feel your way through things for a while. Your mind will never take you to those sweet places your heart knows so well.
– Scott Stabile

‘Thinking’ is something I feel is most useful only for day to day transactions. You want to solve a problem at work or pertaining to a project you are doing in ur personal lives or community life.

But when it comes to larger questions about life and our existence and being, like the questions and issues we have about our fate, destiny, circumstances etc, those, i think doesn’t have a robust answer from the realm of mind and thoughts.

Solutions to them perhaps bubble up when we dis-engage from our mind and just meditate. Instead of that relentless struggle to find answers, we probably need to relieve and relinquish that human will, and just surrender to the bigger scheme of things.

Introducing into our awareness the mere inconspicuousness of our existence amidst the infinitely vast universe (billions of galaxies, and more so the magnanimous that space that houses these galaxies), and just observing this scheme deep inside our meditative trance, settles in us some sanity of being. Is the only answer i feel.

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