Whose Business are we really in?


Whose business are you in

“No one can give you freedom but you……”
―Byron Katie

My daughter was coming home for her Diwali vacation and had to catch an evening flight from Mumbai. Her cab got caught in an awful traffic jam a couple of kilometers from the airport. Almost an hour passed and the cab had barely moved a few meters. Visions of her missing her flight, not knowing what to do and not having a place to stay wrestled with each other in my mind. In a panic state, I started calling my daughter as well as the driver of the cab repeatedly. Little realizing that I was offering no support or suggestions, only communicating my panic to both of them. Making their situation worse, reducing their ability to think clearly and consider other options.
***
During a review, I found that a team handling a critical project with a deadline, had totally overlooked the time schedule of a specific activity. In the ensuing brain storming session, a plan was formulated whose proper execution would get the project through. My apprehension about whether the plan would be handled properly led me to try and micro-manage the team members at every step. But what this led to was resentment , loss of the team’s initiative taking and working together ability and members blaming each other.
***
I am a stickler for orderliness. Specially at home, I know where things are kept and stored. So when I see my wife and daughters taking out and using something, I expect that afterwards they would put it back where I believe it should be kept. Alas! This seems to be hardly their priority and so things taken from somewhere are kept back somewhere else. I intensely dislike this and therefore become more strident and possessive about how things need to be used and kept. I need hardly add that neither my wife nor daughters have been able to come to terms with this trait of mine.
***
As I look back at the above situations, I realise that in every case, my thoughts and the consequent behaviour and action, have led to more stress, both for me and others. I sense that in some way, my thoughts and consequently myself, are not willing to accept the reality of ‘What Is’. So what is the genesis of such thoughts and behaviour?

Byron Katie, American speaker and author, in her self enquiry method ‘The Work’, provides an interesting perspective and insight. She identifies three kinds of business in the Universe: Our own, other peoples’ and God’s. God’s business is really about the reality that exists. So when we are unwilling to accept such reality, we are really into God’s business. When we hold fear or expectations about other people, we are living into these other peoples’ business. As per Katie, every time we start mentally living in God’s or other peoples’ business, we are no longer in our own business. We separate from our own selves and this is what leads to the stress we experience.

In the words of Byron Katie:

“If you understand the three kinds of business enough to stay in your own business, it could free your life in a way that you can’t even imagine. The next time you’re feeling stress or discomfort, ask yourself whose business you’re in mentally, and you may burst out laughing. That question can bring you back to yourself. And you may come to see that you’ve never really been present, that you’ve been mentally living in other people’s business all your life. Just to notice that you’re in someone else’s business can bring you back to your own wonderful self”.

In Learning………… Shakti Ghosal

Acknowledgement: The Work of Byron Katie. http://www.byronkatie.com

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The Audacity of Who I am


“High above the noise and fear mongering of critics and cynics softly speaks your true self.”
– Mollie Marti, Psychologist, Lawyer & Coach, USA

The other day, I watched the Bollywood movie Queen. In it Rani, a girl from Delhi, travels to Europe after being spurned by her fiancé. The movie then goes on to explore Rani’s ‘World view’ as dictated by her Indian middle class values and how that alters, as her biases and prejudices fall away, as she is confronted by radically different value systems and perspectives. A journey of self discovery in surroundings where she is no longer weighed down by others’ expectations and diktats. As she morphs, she confuses and pisses off many people including herself. Rani emerges from this crucible of experience as a more authentic human being. As she chooses to be ‘who she is for herself and for others’, she symbolises courage as well as resistance. Walking out of the theatre, I could not help but acknowledge how Rani’s awareness and acceptance of ‘who she is for herself and for others’ left her more empowered and in control of her destiny.

Kangana Ranaut in Queen
Kangana Ranaut in Queen

Who I am for myself and for others? How many of us are willing to make this query a daily practice as we loosen the constraints imposed by our world-view, let go of who we believe we should show up as and embrace who we really are?

What is it that makes me avoid being who I am for myself and for others? I can see this stemming from my desperation to be admired, liked and looking good. My life experiences have conditioned me to avoid being straightforward and veer towards being diplomatic if I perceive it is the latter which makes me look good. I have also been guilty of the corporate lie. On occasions I have stretched the truth about my company and its services, hidden what could have been embarrassing. On other occasions I have manipulated situations and people. All this to succeed, be admired, look good.

I muse. Have my efforts to gain admiration and look good empowered me to greater heights? Have I succeeded in engaging in my life from a place of worthiness? I remain increasingly unsure.

So if avoiding ‘who I am for myself and for others’ has not worked for me, how could I embrace it? As I think of this, I begin to see what being who I am for myself and for others could mean for me.
Who I am 1

It would mean the audacity to show up as the ‘imperfect me’ that I am and the willingness to be vulnerable.

It would mean the audacity to let my hair down and allow myself to truly belong with the folks I choose.

It would mean the audacity to be compassionate and loving even when I hold the fear of not being good enough.

It would mean the audacity to be authentic about my own inauthenticities.

Am I committed to being this audacious?

***

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse.’ It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Excerpt from ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ by Margery Williams

In Learning….. Shakti Ghosal

Is this all there is?


What all is out there

I cannot claim to recall what I first saw as I came into this world. But I do hold memories of the wonder I felt as a child as I looked up at the evening sky and the stars. Or as I lay on the grass for hours, watching an array of ants or beetles carrying morsels of food. As I think back to those times of wonderment, I can still sense the question at the core, “What all is out there?”

Growing up, seeing and trying things for the first time, leaving home and going to hostel, getting into a new job, place, assignment. Into the unknown every time. At all such junctures, I sensed support from that accompanying question, “What all is out there?”

Life seemed to accompany with surprises galore. As I walked the pathway of new decisions, new insights, new direction, new philosophies. And as I continued to negotiate life’s surprises, what remained with me was, “What all is out there?”

“What all is out there?” It was about embracing and trusting that first step. It was about seeing things for the first time. It was about that unquestioning and unconditional mindset to take it all in. It was about listening to the life and energy that surrounds. It was about feeling connected to all things. It was about that undeniable faith that the world gives.

Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way

– Mary Hopkins, 1968

But somewhere along the way, that childlike wonder, vision and instinct seemed to dim. What seeped in was disenchantment and boredom. A preoccupation with things that are artificial. The burden of living up to other’s expectations. The loss of the allure of things acquired and goals achieved. The ‘Wow!’ and the newness of the first time giving way to ‘Being there, Done that’ refrain. The question taking center stage in my mind was, “Is this all there is?”

Is this all there is

“Is this all there is?” I wonder how this has taken root within me. Is this a mindset shift that gives undue importance to my knowing rather than feeling? Is this the conditioning from my education and peers which extol knowledge and wisdom as must-have virtues and gives short shrift to emotion and intuition? Is this my refuge from the sheer inadequacy I feel in dealing with a complex world?

Even though I discipline myself to ‘count my blessings’ and think of all that I have achieved in terms of position, wealth and family, I sense an emptiness and a lack of fulfillment. A feeling of disorientation and loss. Why is this I wonder?

I also sense another change in me. I now think much more of how much time and opportunity I have left rather than how far I have come and what I have achieved. If only I could recapture that ‘sense of wonder’ from my childhood for this remaining time and opportunity I have. I know in my heart of hearts that this could be that unfailing antidote against all that boredom and disenchantment I feel. But how could I do this?

Authors Werner Erhard and Michael Jensen in ‘Four Ways of Being that Create the Foundations of A Great Life, Great Leadership and A Great Organization’ point to a way when they identify one of the foundations as, ‘Being committed to something bigger than oneself’. In the words of the authors, “This is being committed in a way that shapes one’s being and actions so that your ways of being and acting are in the service of realizing something beyond your personal concerns for yourself – beyond a direct personal payoff. As they are acted on, such commitments create something to which others can also be committed and have the sense that their lives are about something bigger than themselves. This is an important aspect of a great personal life, great leadership and a great organization”.

As I muse I realize that the way to handle “Is this all there is” is in finding and pursuing a Cause that ignites a passion in me. A cause bigger than myself, that which energises and lights me up from within. What may this Cause be for me I am left wondering.

***
A quote from George Bernard Shaw’s ‘Man and Superman’.

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”25
***

In learning……….. Shakti Ghosal

Acknowledgements:
1) Four Ways of Being that Create the Foundations of A Great Life, Great Leadership and A Great Organization– by Werner Erhard and Michael Jensen, a Harvard Business School research paper, Nov. 2013.

2) Man and Superman– by George Bernard Shaw, 1903

Connectedness – My takeaway from Avatar


“….and unless we touch others, we’re out of touch with life.”
– Oliver Wendall Holmes, American physician & poet. 19th Century

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Most of us remember the James Cameron directed 2009 epic Avatar as a technically brilliant Sci Fi extravaganza. But what fascinated me about the story was the vast neural connectivity between every living organism on that beautiful world of Pandora. A network which allowed the humanoid species called Na’vi to not only connect to every other flora and fauna on the planet but to an evolved and higher planetary consciousness called Eywa. Eywa apparently is all about deep connection , bonding and balance, termed in Na’vi language as tsaheylu, and this alone becomes responsible for the defeat of the otherwise technologically superior and better armed human army.

Sometime back I had mused on the influence of internet and social media connectivity and the shift it is bringing to our society in ‘A World of Tweeple’. A shift that is moving large swathes of humanity from traditional groupings of ethnicity, community and religion to individual ‘Me- Self’ connectivities that satisfy emotional and social needs. My crystal ball gazing showed up two paths. One leading to a frightening Matrix like future where wired to central intelligences, we access information at will in return for our innermost thoughts and beliefs on display for others to examine. The other path holding the promise of our individualism being empowered by the power of networks to achieve a utopian future.
20090921_social_connections
What is it about these visions of connectivity that fascinate so? Does such connectedness somehow, somewhere, signify an aspect of yearning, an area where we see a lack? I dwell upon this. I see myself connected to every life form through that double helix structure called DNA. I see my connections in the symbiotic relationship of the air, food and water that I take in. And I also see my connections in my social needs to bond and belong.

So what exactly is lacking?

I decide to do a reality check. What is it that makes us prefer Facebook friends to real ones? Could this be because deep down we remain diffident and uncertain about our ability to ‘connect with our hearts’, so essential to blossom a real friendship? Could this be because Facebook and such social media technologies allow us to calibrate and control how much, when and where we choose to share? Something which real friendships and connections could never tolerate. Could this be the reason that as technology gives us the means ‘to connect’ more and more, we see increasing evidence of disempowering disconnect all around? As we try and escape by shifting our connectivity to gadgets and technologies than to each other……….

I once again come round to the thinking that we have indeed become obsessed with a “Me- Self” mindset. And have chosen to forget all that had our forefathers had learnt to reach this stage of societal development. Aspect of being there for each other. Aspects of trust and empathy. The need to reboot our ‘operating system’ back to “Us –Selves” from the recently acquired “Me- Self”

So I come back to the question about what could we do to steer onto the alternative path promising that utopian future?

In a recent graduation address, Nipun Mehta, the 32 year old founder of CharityFocus.org and a recipient of the Jefferson Award for Public Service, speaks of three keys that helped him to return to a place of connection.

• Key number one ‘To Give’: Contrary to what the corporate world teaches, Nipun started with the hypothesis, “Maybe Greed is good but Generosity is better”. His experience with several projects has shown that (in his own words) ‘People consistently underestimate generosity, but human beings are internally wired to give.”

• Key number two ‘To Receive’: In Nipun’s words, “With any act of unconditional service, no matter how small, our biochemistry changes, our mind quietens, and we feel a sense of gratefulness. This inner transformation fundamentally shifts the direction of our lives.” It is in giving that we receive.

• Key number three ‘To Dance’: Contrary to what most people do, Nipun says that we should never try and track what is being given or received. Instead we need to let go and tune into the rhythm. The real reward of the give and take lies not in the value of what is being exchanged but the connection which flows underneath.

To Nipun Mehta’s three keys, I wish to add a fourth one.

• Key number four ‘To be Conscious’: As conscious beings, we are uniquely endowed with awareness and imagination. Aspects which allow us to connect to the Universe. As we do this, using vehicles like Science, Art and Religion, we are able to gain the unique understanding of the “spirit” that permeates and connects all things. Much like the connectivity in Avatar, it is this spiritual consciousness that becomes our ultimate connection to everything in the universe.

zen-of-connectedness-hands-frame

So, are we ready to give, to receive, to dance and to be conscious……… and to connect as we move through our lives?

“The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.”
― Carl Sagan, 1990.

In Learning…………………… Shakti Ghosal

Acknowledgement: Miserable & Magical: A Graduation Speech for Paradoxical Times– by Nipun Mehta, May 27, 2013.

Who would I be without my story?


“You are what exists before all stories. You are what remains when the story is understood.”
Byron Katie, American speaker & author of “The Work”

I muse about this Coaching question asked me.

So what is my story? As I think of this, I see its tentacles going into the past.

The year is 1911. A lowly placed accounts clerk of the British Accounts Service in India boards the Kalka Mail train from Calcutta with his family. He is shifting home to Delhi in accordance with the British colonial Government’s decision to shift the administrative capital of the Indian subcontinent there. He is following his work, the only thing he knows that sustains him and his family. He is my grandfather.

East_Indian_Railway_Mail

Fast forward fifty years and it is my father in the midst of a career in the Indian Audit and Accounts service. Now settled in Delhi, the capital of independent India. Content with a middle class lifestyle. So grooved in his office work that he feels insecure to take up an exciting consular opportunity in the US. He regrets it citing family constraints.

Fast forward another fifty years and it is I sitting at the desk in my office wondering what next. Having been on a sometimes exciting, sometimes lacklustre roller coaster ride through diverse business areas for three decades, I can claim fair knowledge of the nuts and bolts of corporate working. But like my grandfather and father, I see my work primarily as the means to provide a comfortable life to me and my family.

My story. The story in which working at an office desk equates to life comfort and sustenance. The story which I accept as me. And as I accept, I see it gaining power and dictating what I do. I see it protecting me in a ‘safe box’. As it allows me to peep through my perception coloured lenses and read meaning about the world at large. But as it protects, do I also see it confining and preventing me from setting forth, taking risks and achieving my true potential?

What is it that has embedded this ‘office work’ DNA in me thus? What is it that has made it such an integral part of my story? As I muse, I sense that in my office work DNA resides a gene harking back to the industrial revolution. A gene that through generations has altered my value system. And made me shift towards valuing business growth, productivity and profits over beauty, compassion, love and community ties. Over generations, the gene has also lured me away from simplicity and frugality and towards materialism. An attachment to materialistic possessions which has fuelled insecurity. And has manifested in my life through frantic work schedules, technology tying me down 24X7, scarcely any time to “stop by the woods” or “wander lonely as a cloud”.

So, who would I be without my story? Who would I be if I could shed the above DNA and gene? Would I have that glorious opportunity to start from a place where I am no longer confined and am free to define and implement what I think is important? What do I see?

I see myself slowing down, without the pressures of societal expectations of wealth and ownership. As I take personal responsibility to do that which is meaningful, creative and liberating to me.

I see myself effortlessly crossing those artificial barriers created by economic, social and racial compulsions.

I see in me the birth of a great willingness to learn. From all corners of the world. Unfettered and unhampered by beliefs of my education and experience.

Like the return of the Jedi, I see in me the comeback of the human heart. As I acknowledge intrinsic qualities like Empathy, Faith, Creativity and Interconnectedness and bring them centre stage.

I see how work would look like for me. Passion…. Art…… the pulse of the environment.

photo-0613

Who would I be without my stories?
Like a tree
Without the rustle of the leaves
Winter mind
Kind
Aligned
To the Inside
Inside the inside
A space so wide
It has no centre
Because it is centre

From Caitlin Frost’s Web log

In learning………………… Shakti Ghosal

2012 in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 6,800 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 11 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

What is out of harmony and how do I restore it?


But what is happiness except the simple harmony between a man and the life he leads?

                                                    Albert Camus, French philosopher, early 20th century
 

Harmony. The word itself brings forth visions that soothe and caress. Of wafting melodies. Of the gurgling of a mountain spring. Of the swaying of flowers in the wind. Of a synchronicity of notes and music.

What is my harmony? It is intrinsic to who I am. What I feel, what I think, what I say and what I do. It is a ballet of all these aspects of mine. When I am in harmony, these pieces fit and the alignment between my inner and outer self comes into being.

As I reflect on ‘What is out of harmony and how do I restore it?’ I realise this holds the power to set the ultimate goal for my inner self. As I try to align my inner self with my outer behaviour into a harmonic resonance.

Am I in harmony? I shine the light of this question inwards and seek. Where is the disconnect in the way I feel, think, speak or behave? Yes, at times I do feel out of sorts- frustrated or confused. At other times I feel upset or overwhelmed. I see this happening mostly in my relationships- at work, at home or amongst friends. I see the disharmony between what I feel and think and the way I am conditioned to act and speak. These are clearly not on the same page. I notice that what comes in the way is my ego. That ego which is always putting up a façade and trying to project a different image of “ME- SELF” than what I really am inside.

But my ego has its usefulness. It creates a resistance, sometimes aggressive, sometimes passive, sometimes positive and at other times negative to any perceived attack on my self. And I do find this resistance gives me stability.  Stability about “Who I am”, “Who I want to be.” And at other times “Who I do not want to be.” As I further think of this, I realise that I am also offering some kind of stability to the attacker as he tries to push, pull or grab some aspect of me. The attacker expects and needs my resistance for his attack to work. I seek to be part of the conflict and this makes me feel emotionally powerful. I justify to myself that I need to maintain my ego because otherwise the attacker would see the weak real me.

I time travel into the nineties. Fresh into a new job, I was having an awful time with this guy from the corporate office. I felt powerless in front of his overbearing and bossy attitude. An attitude which made me feel like a scapegoat every time we interacted. Then one day the volcano burst- an outburst from the usual reticent me. And it was too late to pick up the pieces. Years later, I came to realise that the corporate guy had similar qualities to a school teacher in my childhood. This teacher used to bruise my confidence (ego) by always judging and criticising me in a discriminatory manner. My reaction in the workplace came from the perception that my ego faced a similar hurtful situation. I had played the script of offering resistance to my attacker to perfection.

But does my past justify how I need to react in the future? Or is this my excuse to maintain disharmony in my life?

  • What thoughts and beliefs do I engage in that create disharmony in my life?
  • Does disharmony in me cause conflict with others at  work, at home or at play?
  • Do I tend to blame others for my disharmony?
  • What if I let my ego down? What could happen?
  • What if the other guy sees the real me?

As I ask myself these questions, I start gaining clarity. I see them as issues to be dealt with rather than excuses.

I realise that to restore my harmony, I would need to offer no resistance, or as little as possible, to attacks on my ego. This is initially a frightening prospect with my deep rooted fear of getting hurt taking control over me. But I delve deeper…..

When the other person decides to attack me / my ego, he is breaking the harmony of our joint universe.  If I choose to offer no resistance, I move to a place of harmony as I leave my attacker out of harmony in his relationship with our universe. I believe that as he is left alone without any resistance from me to give him stability, nature would restore harmony in him. Without my ego for him to attack, he would have to stop.

I see now that harmony empowers the highest level of Self Management in me. As it supports me to act from a place of integrity; a place where there is no fakeness or self-deception. Harmony allows me to be at peace within my own skin. But I also notice that to achieve harmony, I need to begin with my values. What’s really, really important to me?

Ultimately, to answer the question, “What is out of harmony and how do I restore it?” I need to first answer, “Am I living my values?”

In learning……………..                                                                           Shakti Ghosal