Sreenath Sreenivasan

Thriving Mindfully

Category: Choice (page 1 of 4)

On choosing your pleasures wisely

Nature has – as a provision for an evolutionary fillip- designed us to be a pleasure seeking species. It is our basic instinct to maximize pleasure and alleviate pain. From the joy in the warmth of an embrace, to the alluring magnetism of a baby’s smile, to the existentially satisfying act of procreation, nature has designed our experience of pleasure to meet its longing for itself, through our perennial pursuit for posterity.

Up until a few decades ago, our pleasures were few and far in between, and certainly, not accessible at will. To even get a bowl of french fries, one had to wait for the winter harvest. Think of the ubiquity of our starch laden indulgence in our tech-dictated age, where it is just a few taps away on the screen!

Technology has ushered in pleasures at a rate far beyond a human’s capacity to experience them. The brain, stimulated constantly by novel stimuli, seems to be in overdrive from the rush of dopamine and serotonin. The ease with which pleasures are available to us in today’s age also begs us to contemplate about where exactly pleasure morphs into peril, access into addiction. How many addictions have we sanitized to normalcy?

Have we, in seeking pleasure, forgotten to discern which pleasures are worth pursuing and which ones are best avoided?

Before we talk about discernment, let’s simplify the types of pleasures we go out to seek.

At the risk of sounding simplistic, I believe that broadly, there are two kinds of pleasures:

1. The Simple Pleasures
2. The Easy Pleasures

The simpler pleasures of life are, in most cases, accessible to one and all without discrimination. A simple pleasure of life is accessible in the following two ways.

A Simple Pleasure :

a. Accessible by a Deep Presence : Think of a calming wind caressing your skin, a field of sunflowers in full bloom, glancing your finger on a touch-me-not plant, or watching the luminous courtship dance of fireflies on a dark night. These are simple pleasures accessible to anyone who is mindfully present in the moment.

b. Accessible by a Deep Perseverance : Think of the time when you created something new, a demanding pursuit that was awarded with the simple pleasure of a smile that stems from deep within, on realizing the beauty of what you’ve created. It could be a pot, a play, a sketch, a symphony, a code or a caramel cookie. Manifesting anew gives joy abound.

However, we are confronted with another kind of pleasure in today’s day and age. The Easier Pleasure.

The Easier Pleasures are :

a. Accessible as Cheap-Thrills : (vices, addictions, passive digital entertainment, sexual self-gratification, pornography)

b. Accessible as Lifestyle Frills : (Consumption borne out of wants and not needs, individualism to the point of corruption of the longing for fraternity, the culture of seeking identity from objects)

How does one discern between the two types of pleasures?
There’s a straightforward test to know the difference between a simple pleasure and an easy pleasure. A simple pleasure is borne out of creation. It could be the pleasure one gets from creating something or in marveling in being able to experience what someone else/ nature has created.

An easier pleasure is borne out of consumption. Through most of human history, the easier pleasure was accessible only to a select few. But with worldwide access to the internet, the easier pleasures have become accessible to much of our generation.

What if I were to suggest that the quality of your life is a function of the choice you make when confronted with the promise of experiencing pleasure?

While you have been designed to be a pleasure seeking being, and the body doesn’t discern a detrimental pleasure from a favorable one (it fires up the same happy hormones in either case!), the responsibility of making a wise choice rests on your own mind.

The more lasting pleasures are the ones that have been earned through perseverance, or through a solemn presence in the unfolding moment – the simpler pleasures that one is more likely to reminisce about around a warm fire-place on a winter evening.

Creating something is perhaps the most demanding pleasure of them all that calls for a devotion that is absolute. But it is a much more character building than the pleasure that comes from the effortlessly accessible act of crude consumption.

The prospect of a meaningful life rests on how well you are able to navigate the pleasure paradigm. While the easier, short-term pleasures are easy to access, they seldom qualify as prized nostalgia, nor do they chisel your character to reveal a more glorious manifestation of your self.

Steering our pleasure-seeking self in the direction that asks for presence and perseverance is the prudent choice.

And when in a dilemma in choosing between the promise of two pleasures, ask yourself which one of the two is an easier pleasure and which one is the simpler pleasure. Once you can discern that, set sail to the winds of the latter.

For wisdom lay in choosing your pleasures wisely.

Juggling Joy and Sorrow

A candle needs, air to burn,
But along comes the breeze
For the sake of light, it puts up a fight,
Never looking for ease.

In wishing for Joy and running from sorrow,
Man makes up a mess.
For there to be light, shouldn’t there exist,
A blinding darkness?

As you run, into life’s arena,
Let Joy and Sorrow be either stride,
With a balance such, it isn’t a challenge much,
To perfect laughter shall your instincts guide.

Not in running away, but in running into
The battlefield shall you thrive,
For only in moments of battle, does a soldier feel,
Truly Alive.

Trust the stars, and  frown not,
When life calls for a fight.
For would the sun ever set,
If there wasn’t beauty in the night?

Cultivate a farmer’s trust, and sow your deeds in the soil,
And fate shall blossom, from the beads of sweat,
Of all your toil.

Find equanimity in Joy, and courage in sorrow,
Let crystal clear be your sight.

Find the fuel, deep in you heart,
And with resolution, set it alight.

Set out in this journey, enthused,
With all you might,

And then, life shall enter your heart,
With all of its light.

 

Continue reading

Lola and the River

In summertime, the river is a channel narrow,
A trickle, it flows, as if in deep sorrow

And even though the river bank turns into a desert,
The river remains a friend she would never ever desert.

In monsoon, it floods, as clouds cry a river,
It flows with a fury, she hadn’t seen ever

And even though for safety, she has to run away,
For the river, she would kneel down and silently pray.

In winter, the river freezes to ice,
It’s a miracle of nature, a superb surprise,

From her warm company and the songs she would sing,
The ice melted slowly, to the arrival of spring.

In springtime the river has a gentle flow,
She’s ecstatic and so is her water buffalo

And nature responds to her love and deep wish
The river is full of flowers and fish.

Seasons change but to the river she is always nice,
Her life is a sign, a subtle advice,

For Little Lola she knew,
A truth simple,
That people are rivers,
And rivers are people.

Image : Delphi De La Rua via Unsplash

 

Why you should take up Journaling this New Year

A friend once asked me,

‘What is that one habit you’ve cultivated over the years that has changed your life?’

‘Daily Journalling’ I said without thinking twice.

‘Wow, that is a surprisingly quick answer! How did you have such clarity in your thought to come up with a prompt responses?’

My response was the same again,

‘Daily Journalling’.

For the past two years, I’ve been trying consistently to archive my thoughts daily in my Journal. Despite many failures, something always brought me back to the journal.
I have found such value in the habit that I use every chance I get to endorse daily journaling as a life transforming exercise.

Today, I’d like to make a case for why you should consider Daily Journaling as a new year resolution.

Here’s a few reasons why I recommend Journaling so much :

1) FOCUS – In the age of the distraction economy, it is easy to be passively engaged. But to make a positive change in any sphere, we need active engagement. Journaling helps you keep focussed on your goals and what you should be doing in order to achieve them.

2) STRUCTURE – When you do something everyday, it adds structure to your life. And this influences the prospect of having consistency in our daily lives.

3) CREATIVITY – A journal by no means needs to be solemn and dignified. It can be that if you want it to, but you can also use it to foster creativity. Doodles and digits hold as much value as words. A blank page is an invitation to infinity.

4) ARCHIVE : Once you’ve been journaling for a while, you will have repository of old thoughts and nostalgia in those reams of paper. It is a great way to reflect back on your life and evolution over time.

5) CLARITY : This is the best part about daily journaling. You will be naturally writing about everything around you, from what you like to eat, what love means, about your dreams and fears, about what you learned on a particular day…
Since you have been reflecting about things like this daily, you will gain a mental clarity you’d never known earlier.

Now, we all know, it is not easy to form a habit. Even if it is going to only do you good, it is easy to fall out of the habit. You will have to approach it in a way so that the habit sticks.

Here are a few suggestions from my end that will help in that regard :

1) START SMALL

Start with a tiny notebook. Only write one line a day. That isn’t too hard is it?

Here’s a link to an amazing TED Talk by B J Fogg about the power of tiny habits. I found it extremely insightful and highly recommend that you watch it.

If committing for a year seems too much, have it as a ‘Power Of Everyday’ project.
How about January 🙂 ?

2) PEN AND PAPER

Write with a pen and paper. It gives you the freedom to scribble, doodle and draw along with writing. Also, you are much likely to read your past diary entries if you write them on paper.
Even in the digital age, that is the way to go.

3) WRITE THE FIRST LINE ASAP

We all know the horror of confronting a blank page. Let it not bog you down. Write anything that comes to your mind right away. It could be as simple as a good morning wish.
Once the page isn’t blank anymore, writing will become easy.

4) FIX A TIME

Make it into a ritual. Write at a particular hour everyday. It could be right at sunrise or during your commute back form work. Let it help you add structure to your day.

My journals over the past two years

If you keep at this habit for long enough, soon you would start to miss it even if you stopped writing only for one day !
I know that for someone who doesn’t journal, this would seem outright odd.
But I’ve learnt this with my own experience, it is something I would rather not live without !

Take your time and think this through.
I have a feeling that everyone should be writing a journal in the interest of living a focused, deliberate and creative life.

Let’s do this together !

 

 

On the urgent need for Motherhood

We are living in a challenging time in history. Yes, there have been times in the past when life was much more difficult, life expectancy was low and there was a constant threat of invasions, battles and bloodshed.
That was a part of evolution of the human psyche.
But, never before in history have we heard Mother Earth being endangered by any species.

Us.

Times have changed.

The appalling desecration our race has perpetrated on our planet is beyond question.

Is there a way we can bring about a shift in our global consciousness?

I believe there is.

We, as humans, regardless of gender, need to embody the spirit of motherhood.

A mother is an epitome of unconditional love, integrity, resilience, foresight, character, care and concern.

Is there any problem that seems too big to surmount if there’s a motherly spirit around you?

Sadly though, our mainstream culture is witnessing a global shift towards a masochistic aggression.
World leaders are rolling up hatred and divisiveness to get elected in office. And they seem to be winning at the moment.

This cultural shift gets imbibed in the spirit of the young boys, the leaders of tomorrow.

But is there one problem we are facing that we were able to address or solve with this attitude?
We cannot go on like this.

I believe the road to cultivating more motherhood in our society has to infiltrate from down to up, from our little homes to the big offices.

Let me cite an example.

A little boy has no qualms about picking up a puppy, feeding it and cuddling with it all day. It is absolutely comfortable with loving and caring like a mother.
But past a certain age, boys refrain from doing the same.
Part of it is hormonal, but surely part of it has to do with societal conditioning.
Even fathers dissuade young boys from being a ‘girl’. Friends reprimand each other to ‘man-up’.
The societal precedent for manhood is not well placed, neither for the heart of the man, nor for the spirit of the world.

We need to make men believe that having a soft, caring and compassionate heart is not being effeminate,
But it is being motherly.

We need the spirit of motherhood in our offices, in public and environmental policy, in administration, in the government.

As reality stands today, majority of workforce comprises of men.

If we open our minds and welcome the motherly spirit in the hearts of our men, the world will see a discerning positive change.

And if we have the whole world embody a caring motherly spirit rather than just half of it, there will only be a mellifluous harmony in our collective existence.

Mother Earth would welcome our motherhood.

In the end,
I believe that a man of great character is one who has the heart, to have the heart of a mother.

Let us foster motherhood.

Together.

 

Picture : via www.lifeisanecho.com

 

 

A plan for the last week of the year

Fifty one weeks have passed. Today, the sunrise ushered in the final week of 2018.

As the new year is approaching, I find billboards and airwaves brim with the invitation to enjoy, make merry, shop and dance your nights away.
The chorus being drummed up is subconsciously making us all prone to leaning towards consumption and decadence.
But, this blatant and overt invitation by forces of the market might be steering us away from the start of something beautiful.

Here, I would like to suggest an alternative narrative.

What if instead of falling into the trap of consumption, we make a mindful choice of dividing our precious energy reserve into three parts?

The parts are:

a) Contemplation
b) Resolution
c) Celebration

Contemplation :

You have spent 51 weeks of this year.
How was the return of investment of that time? How mindfully did you live? What were you triumphs and failures? What did you learn from either?
Contemplation helps one reflect on his life so far, so that his future decisions serve his growth best.

Resolution :

What would you like to do next year? What do you wish to improve on?
How deliberate can you be about fulfilling your deep held dreams?
Who would you like to help?
How?

Resolution helps you set a clear agenda about what you must do with your precious time so that you get the best return from your investment. It helps build a firm, reason based foundation, one that will help you create value out of your time.

Celebration :

Of course, there should be room for merriment in life. You should celebrate your achievements and failures alike, and share energy with people who you love and care about.

Celebration does not entail consumption.
Find a way to celebrate the last day of the year the way you like best, with the people you adore.

Maybe there’s more fun in cooking together with friends and dancing in your apartment with your pet dog in tow, than partying in a pub where pets aren’t allowed, you can’t control the music and you’re surrounded by people not exactly in their senses.
Let this year’s celebration be more mindful.

The forces of the market are strong. You will feel a gravitation towards consumption. But this time over, I wish you make a reasoned choice.

Follow these three simple steps in that order.

Contemplation
Resolution
Celebration

You will find much more happiness in the exercise than any year end discount deal there is.

Invest the last week of the year wisely.
I hope you find a pen and paper and plan this out for yourself.

I believe you will.

 

 

On just doing things without thinking

There’s a certain sense flow in the spirit of a child, a magical blend of curiosity and fearless adventure in every moment of its being. The openness to explore, decipher and create emanates from its core, as a natural expression of life itself.

Kids never think twice before they attempt something. They could open up their whole racing car toy to make sense of how it works, talk to strangers as if they’re long lost friends, dance even if there’s no music around, and even reprimand their Grandpa if he doesn’t practice what he preaches !

The energy flows as it comes, unhindered.

In a way, they are ‘just doing things without too much thinking.’

And how much life do they squeeze out of each living moment with that flamboyance !

While we adults, in comparison, have quite a constipated existence.

Why?

Because, believe it or not, we too,
are ‘just doing things without too much thinking.’
The same expression I had used earlier for a kid’s state of being applies to us, however in a way that doesn’t serve our growth

We are too busy doing things without giving conscious thought about it. Despite access to all the knowledge in the world we are just getting on with our lives.

What are we making off of our privilege?

We choose to not take care of our health,
eat and sleep at ungodly hours, poison our bodies with socially accepted addictions, all the while knowing that it does us only harm.
We box up our lives, feeling sorry for ourselves despite our privilege while we could be finding ways to help people in a greater need than us.
And life goes on like that, as we keep scrolling through a stream of information just to fill up the void in our life.

We get on with our lives,

Just doing these things without too much thinking.’

Life goes on.

A child also keeps doing things without too much thinking, but how profoundly different is its life from ours!

We need a phase shift.
Now.

For that shift to happen we must follow a two step process :

1) Rediscover the childlike abandon in us and do things without being bogged down by self doubt and fear of judgement.

2) Be mindful and deliberate about our lives, and not let it just happen.

With step one, we will regain the creative vigor of a child, beyond any imagined fear.

With step two, we will make the best use of our knowledge and channel our creative energy wisely, in the direction that serves everyone best.

After all, there are so many things in worlds within and without, that deserve attention and action from our end !

It is the same expression :

Just doing things without much thinking

It could mean a mindless existence in one sense.
But it could also mean a flamboyant existence rolling like a juggernaut in the direction of divinity.

It is a matter of choice, isn’t it?

Let’s change gears, course correct our journey, and give a better meaning to our existence.

Let’s do this !

How to Upgrade your existence

Normal is such a normal word isn’t it?
It refers of all things ordinary, the banal, the commonplace, not showing any deviance from the usual.
It is a word that references itself in its character. Normal.

There is an ubiquity to this word, despite how flavorless it is.
We use this word quite often to refer to the state in our own life. In fact, despite how lacklustre it sounds, we all wish for a ‘normal’ life, don’t we?

There is only one issue with wishing for such a normalcy in life.
It is that, often we seek what’s considered normal on a societal level. We take normal to be something that has met with the tacit agreement of others around us. We do not take a moment to consider and set a benchmark for our own self, of what we want our normal to be!

Let me cite a personal example.

The other day, my father came into my room when I was writing. He was a bit surprised to see me write with my left hand. He’d always remembered me to be right-handed. Since he hadn’t seen me for a long time, he wondered if he had forgotten which was my dominant hand.

Eventually I told him that I had been writing with my left hand everyday for the past 18 months. And now, it felt totally normal to me. I sometimes come to my writing desk and pick up the pen quite instinctively with my left hand.

That’s a normal I worked towards, something I eventually I got used to.

Would it not be best, if we strived to upgrade our ‘normal’ to a more challenging state of being?
Normal doesn’t have be a constant, it needs to have a positive evolutionary slope.

Personally, I am still trying to level up on my normalcy. I am constantly trying to be open in the heart, just as a child, something that doesn’t come naturally to adults. But I am working my way towards making it a normal part of my being.
Likewise there are many other areas where I wish to bring an elevation in my normal state of being. It is an ongoing process that challenges you to grow mindfully.

There is nothing wrong with wishing to lead a normal life, as long as you define what you accept as normal, as long as you choose to push your boundaries and upgrade your normalcy.

The same word, normal, gets invigorated once we choose give it our own definition.

Define your own ‘normal’ and constantly strive for an upgrade in your state of being.
To do that for your evolution, should after all become,
Normal.

When an old man runs

An old man used to frequent a park. He wouldn’t do much there. He would just sit on a wooden bench and enjoy the breeze of the season.
Every evening, he would see a group of three young men meet at the park after work. They would just sit on the bench opposite him and chatter away mindlessly.

The old man could barely see much. But even in a few months of observation, he could sense the gradual deterioration in the health of the young men.

He wished to change things.
But how? He wondered.

The next day, the old man quit his slippers and came to the park in his shoes. Just as the three men came in the park that evening, they were surprised to see the old man walk around the park with his cane.
In a few weeks, the old man felt healthy enough to set aside his cane and walk briskly without it.
Each time he would pass their field of vision, the men would feel a strange feeling inside them. Their talking would stop and all their attention would momentarily be on the old man.

The following month, the three men got a big shock. The old man was jogging slowly around the park with a beaming smile. There wasn’t much talk that day, just a lot of silence.

Next day, the old man got a surprise he was wishing for all along. The three young men were waiting for him in their running shoes. Soon, the three of them were following the old man around like chicks around mama hen.
Even with his slow breezy pace, the old man had moved three mountains semingly set in stone, in gentle onward motion.

For a few weeks they would run like this everyday.
Until one day, the old man didn’t show up.

They assumed that he was unwell and continued on with the running.

Little did they know, that from the vantage of heaven, he was rejoicing the sight of a stuttered jog turning into elegant strides.

Isn’t that the best way to make a change whose time has come?
To lead by example, beyond all rationalisation.

If we seek positive change, then shouldn’t we, at every moment, strive to be either the old man or the three young men?

If we can, we must lead the change.
If not, we should follow the ones who show us the path.

Our little world needs a lot of change.
Passivity breeds deterioration.
Only in running actively, in the direction of solutions would we find the blueprint of a better world.

Run. Follow. Learn.

 

 

On Inertia and choosing a better Lifestyle design

Kids have a special energy in them.
Once they learn to move about and pick things up, they trasmit bundles and bundles of energy in all that surrounds them.
They’re running all around the park, swaying in swings, throwing around toys, stones and tantrums alike without discrimination.

That special energy is in their ability to lend their power packed inertia to everything they interact with.
Even frail old Grandma gets energised to sing and dance once her grandson is around.

As we grow up, we lose that special power of transmitting our inertia of motion.
Instead, we acquire another trait,
Of succumbing to inertia of objects around us.

Think of that comfortable couch in your house or that workspace which has looked the same for as far back you can remember.
We succumb to the inertia of the couch and assume a similar inertial state of rest and slumber.

In a way kids are at peace because they find a way to equalise their inertial potential with their surroundings.
The inertia of motion.

While adults are also at peace once they’re in that couch because there’s a consonance, an equilibrium in their inertia and their surroundings.
The inertia of rest.

But the peace we find in a state of rest isn’t the best use of our energy.
It comes at the cost of our dynamism.

As responsible adults, we must design oursurroundings better.

Imagine this situation.

In nature, while trekking along a hilly range, where the wind blows fresh, and streams trickle from every cliff, isn’t it easy for most of us to keep walking?
Despite the difficulty of ascending up a hill, we find motivation to keep on moving.

I feel it is because the wind, just as the water around us is in constant flow, in perpetual motion. And we find it easy to embody the inertial motion of our surroundings.

But we don’t live in the hills do we?
A lucky few do, but most of us don’t !

So how do we design an ideal inertial design around us?

At times, when we have limited control over inertia of objects around us, say in an office desk, we can at least make sure that things are always moving.
That work doesn’t stay for too long on our desk and all objects in the vicinity are used constantly.

If you realise you’re not using something in your workspace, do away with it, before the spell of its inertia of rest catches hold of you.
Move things that you can, much like a child, and add a sense of dynamism in your vicinity.

Move things in your context.

And when you’re out of that workspace and ready to unwind, choose a context which calls for motion from your end.
Go walk, run, trek ,swim, sweat in a context that conjures up the latent energy inside you.

Make the context move you.

We embody the inertia of our surroundings just as much as the surroundings embody ours.

A good lifestyle design would constantly call for wise choices from our end.

In choosing our surroundings wisely and fostering inertia of motion in our lives,
The context for a productive life will surely materialize.

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