Sreenath Sreenivasan

Thriving Mindfully

Category: Mindfulness (page 1 of 4)

The Yellow Balloon

It was a windy winter morning. Little Kalpana was standing on the pavement next to the traffic signal, waiting for the lights to turn red. She was a balloon seller, like the many other kids who lived on the streets. The one minute window of red lights on the traffic signal was the arena of her life. She held a wooden stick that had 10 balloons tied on to it. The colorful balloons dangled in the air as she ran from windscreen to window, hoping to make a sale.

That morning, an elderly gentleman named Ajay, was strolling on the pavements. He had taken a detour from his usual morning walk route in the park. From far away, he could see bright balloons hanging in the air, rising up from the stalled traffic. It was a wonderful sight to witness from a distance. He strutted slowly towards the balloons.

But as he got closer to the signal, the traffic lights turned green, and all cars moved onward. What was left was a little girl, with ten balloons, standing barefoot on the dusty road. The colorful sight of the balloons suddenly lost all its charm. Ajay, realized that the little girl was selling balloons for a living.

As he came closer to the traffic signal, Kalpana ran towards him, hoping to sell a balloon to the old man.

There were no words spoken. Ajay stopped on the pavement, and Kalpana stood right in front of him, with hope in her eyes.

Ajay smiled. In that moment, he gave her something that was denied to her all her life. A modicum of attention.

He dug into his pocket and slid out a ten rupee note. Kalpana’s eyes lit up. She quickly untied a yellow balloon from her stick and offered it to the old man.

Ajay gave the ten rupee note to her. He held the soft thread that was tied on to the yellow balloon. He smiled and offered the balloon to Kalpana.

She could not understand the transaction. The old man looked into her eyes one last time and walked away. Little Kalpana stood on the pavement with the ten rupee note and the yellow balloon in one hand and the stick with nine balloons in the other hand.

Before she could take a moment to understand what had happened, the traffic began to swell up. She quickly got to work again, trying to sell balloons on the roadside.

Later in the evening, she was left with two balloons. In her right hand, she had the yellow balloon and dangling from the stick in her left hand, there was a red balloon.

A lady in a car summoned Kalpana by blaring her car horn. She ran quickly to her, hoping to sell the last balloon and go home.

The lady asked for two balloons. Kalpana looked up at both the balloons.
At that moment, as she looked at the yellow balloon, a strong feeling took over her heart. How could she sell the yellow balloon? It was hers!

Somehow, she found the courage to say she only had one balloon to sell.
The lady in the car asked for the yellow one for her kid seated next to her. Little Kalpana was firm about her emotion for the yellow balloon. She told the lady that only the red balloon was up for sale.

The signal was about to turn green soon. Caving to the wheedling of her little kid, the lady in the car bought the red balloon from Kalpana. Soon, the car was gone, in the direction of the next traffic signal.

Kalpana was only left with one balloon. The yellow one.
A smile surfaced on Kalpana’s innocent face. She danced her way to her hut next to the pavement, with the yellow balloon, the sun of her life.

That morning, the elderly gentleman Ajay, had bought something priceless with just ten rupees.
With the compassionate transaction, he had brought Kalpana, a moment of her own childhood.

 


Photo by Sagar Patil via Unsplash

My New Year Theme for 2019

It is the first day of 2019 !
Foremost, I would like to wish you a very Happy New Year.

A few days ago, I had shared an idea about why we should aim to have a New Year theme and not a list of resolutions for the New Year.

Following my own advice, I have come up with a year theme for the year 2019.

The theme for this year is :

PUTTING MY BELIEFS TO TEST

On a personal level, I have always felt that the way I lead my life might not always reflect the values I think I have.

Because, a belief has to go through the test of life to become a living value in a person’s character. It is easy to advertise or assume a set of beliefs as our own, but to truly live by them in each moment is a challenge.

For example,
I might believe that Non-Violence should be a philosophy I must adhere to. But in order for it to become a value I live by, I must practice it with great deliberation for years and put it through the test of life.

Each brick in the foundation of my values has to be cured by the kiln of life.

A few beliefs I have at this stage are:

1) TRUST IN THE UNIVERSE

I believe that the Universe has an exquisite design. Each action has a consequence, no matter how oblivious I might be of it. In that light, I believe in doing the best I can with the gift of Life.

Will Karma take care of the rest?

2) NON-DUALITY

I believe all of existence to be One.
We dwell in a cosmic pool of consciousness, infinite in every dimension.
If all of existence is One, whatever I do to someone else, is akin to doing the same thing to myself.

Then, what must I do with my time and my life?

3) CREATING GIFTS AND PRACTICING GIFT ECONOMY

This belief is a natural extension of the two that precede it.
As a human being, I must make the best use of my creative energy and share it with the world. The gift of life must beget more gifts for the world around me.

No matter how much I have, I must always be willing to share.

As rosy as it sounds,
Is there an inherent fairness in this parallel economy?

I will only know when the belief has been through the test of life.

I am mentioning just three of my current beliefs to drive home the point of why I am choosing to put them to test in this New Year.

How shall I do it?

By living mindfully, in practical adherence to all my beliefs.

My beliefs cannot remain cerebral concepts to be availed during discussions with friends. They have to be tested through.

This year I want to have an empirical existence.
Maybe an year is too short a time to test my beliefs.
But it is still a start.

I feel a nervous excitement inside me.
It is a good sign !

Have you thought of a New Year theme yet?
I hope you have.

This is going to be quite a wild ride.

Let the adventure begin !

The Power of Everyday – A transformational exercise

It is the last day of 2018. And it gives me great happiness to share that I have been able to successfully complete my Power of Everyday project for the month of December.

The Power of Everyday is a project I started this year with the aim of learning the impact of consistent, deliberate practice. I would choose a few activities on the first day of a month and would promise myself to practice them every single day of that particular month. At the end of the month, I would reflect on what I learned from the exercise.

After an year of experiments, I can safely say that The Power of Everyday has been the most transformational activity I’ve ever engaged in.
The positive changes were so obvious that my friends also started to take up this challenge and found value in the exercise.

Today, I would like to share a few crucial learnings from this year long exercise and why I recommend you to take up this challenge so highly.

 

1) YOU WILL FINALLY START DOING THINGS YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO

 

Let us face it. We don’t even do half of the things we have always dreamt of doing. I am not even talking about big lofty dreams. We fail to do even the most simple of activities that will only do us good, if done consistently.
Even simple lifestyle habits like waking up bright and early, going for a run, engaging yourself creatively, cultivating love and gratitude are hard to inculcate.
Mostly, because we do not have a structure and direction.

The Power of Everyday challenge gives you both the structure and direction to cultivate a positive lifestyle.

I had always wanted to start writing a meaningful blog, practise Yoga and Meditation, Journal every day. But only after I found the structure of the Power of Everyday project did I start doing all of these activities.

If you wish to push yourself to be better and are looking for a framework that would help, The Power of Everyday is what you need.

 

2) YOU WILL REDEFINE WHAT NORMAL MEANS TO YOU

 

A year ago, writing everyday seemed impossible, staying celibate for months on end seemed superhuman, writing with the left hand everyday was a punishment, and practicing Yoga or Meditation everyday felt like an unachievable dream.

But once I started to have these activities as a Power of Everyday project, I cultivated the stamina to do these things day after day. And before I knew, what seemed unachievable got reduced to a natural daily ritual.

At the end of the year, I do all the above mentioned activities naturally, even if they aren’t on my challenge list anymore. Practicing them everyday for a few months redefined what normalcy meant to me.

 

3) IT IS A SELF CREATED POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY PILL

 

Every time that you tick off a day on your calendar after successfully finishing the Power of everyday task you defined for yourself, you will find yourself smiling.
You will naturally feel good about the achievement.
The task, the activity and the appraisal, all three of them, come from within you.
It is a simple way to find daily contentment.

Citing a personal example, I had committed to writing and publishing a blog post every single day in the month of December. It was a daunting challenge. I had no idea if I could come up with that many ideas to share with the world. But everyday that I finished the task, I would tick off that date on the calendar and feel a great sense of contentment.
Today, I will be ticking off the last day of the month.
I couldn’t be happier !

I hope my pitch was convincing enough for you to consider starting a Power of Everyday project for yourself.
If you are wondering what task you should choose, go here and find one that suits you.

For the month of January, I have two tasks lined up for me :

1) Write and Publish a Blog post everyday

2) Sketch/ Paint every day

The first task has been carried over from last month in the interest of making daily writing a ritual.

The second task is to infuse a sense of novelty and imagination with a form of expression I haven’t explored in a long time.

What is your Power of Everyday challenge going to be in January 2019?
Leave a comment below and let us know.
It is a truly transformational exercise.

Let’s do this together !

 

 

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 !

 

 

A New Year theme is what you need

For the past two years, I have been doing something unique regarding a New year resolution.
Instead of having a fixed goal in mind that I must accomplish, I would opt for the direction I wish to have in my life in that particular year.

I would choose a ‘Year Theme’.

Once I was clear about the theme, I would then decide on what my goals should be with regard to the theme.

So, in December 2017, as I sat thinking about an year theme for 2018, I wondered,

‘I have been having all these dreams that I have not pursued as seriously as I should. How can I have fresher, bigger, more ambitious dreams if I do not fulfil all the dreams I already have?’

And that’s when I decided to have the theme for 2018 :

EXHAUST DREAMS

That was the direction I wanted to head in. I wanted to pursue and fulfil all my dreams in the year 2018.

Which dreams/ goals should I aim at, was the next question.

I had chanced upon a TED talk by Patti Dobrowolski, where she endorsed the concept of drawing your future.

So I took a Post-It leaf and got to drawing.
The image you see at the top of the post was what I ended up drawing.

Here’s a list of what I had drawn :

1) Start your own website
2) Run a half marathon
3) Learn to swim
4) Finish a draft of a Book
5) Train your Ears
6) Find time to practice Drums
7) Be able to touch your head to the knees
8) Go on a Bicycle Tour
9) Start the Power of Everyday project

I took the post it and pasted it on the cover of my journal to serve as a daily prompt about the direction I must head in.

As 2018 draws to an end, I realised that I have made great progress with the year theme.

I started my own website this year and have been blogging regularly. I’ve completed two half marathon runs, I finished writing a draft of my first book, I went on a 7 month long bicycling adventure, and started The Power of Everyday project.

However, I could not really work as much as I would have wished to in the other four areas, the goals I couldn’t pursue to fruition.

While I did go to learn to swim for a month, I am not able to swim just as yet.
I did practise Yoga regularly, but it will take me another year to reach the pose (Paschimottanasana) I had drawn on the post it.
And since I was on the road for most part of the year with no access to drums, I could not practice regularly or work on ear training.

But even if I could only finish 5 out of 9 of my dreams, I have space in my mind to dream big, to dream anew.
The progress I’ve made this year on a personal front has been incredible !

From what I learned from this year’s experience, having a year theme helps channel your energy in one direction.

More important than having a New Year Resolution, or a set of goals, is to have a clear sense of direction, a year theme.

The theme can be about how you want to live your life in the new year,
what you wish to change, which area you want to improve on.
It should be short and easy of remember.

Also, drawing your goals in a piece of paper in line with the year theme helps to have structure and homegenity in your pursuit.
I highly recommend the drawing exercise.
A visual reminder that you draw yourself is the best map to reach the abode of your better self.

In the end I just have three things that I wish you do :

1) Create an Year theme for 2019

2) Write the theme down on a Post it and draw your goals in it

3) Paste it at a place so that you have to confront your goals everyday, maybe on your desk or on your journal

This activity is about setting a clear agenda and inching gradually in the right direction.

I can tell from my own experience that it will help you by leaps and bounds.

So, if you’re ready to bring a positive shift in the direction of your life, get thinking about the theme, and get drawing !

I will share my year theme for 2019 on the 1st of January 2019.
I hope by then you’ve decided on yours,
And we can start the new year, with our respective themes guiding us towards constant betterment.

To our collective growth !

 

A Rhyme for Lola

Little little Lola,
She was sure she knew
That each morning the birds,
Sang a song new,

Everyday they chirrup,
The world they apprise
Of the daily wonder, the gift,
Of a new Sunrise.

To an ear untrained,
The song is clamour
Unintelligible, without any glamour.

And If eyes could truly see,
They would know why
Each sunrise is new,
A painting in the sky.

But Little Lola, wise,
With senses in sync,
With nature she has, a seamless link

So each morning she sings,
She dances along
To the gift of each sunrise,
Of every birdsong.

Picture : Khanh Steven via Unsplash

 

 

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.

 

 

A Song for Silence

I see a solitary ant, carrying a sugar cube huge,
Marching on to its colony, its homely refuge,
Oh this tiny being, what a wonder !
Never does it let out even a whimper.

I see a little sapling with leaves but two,
Fighting its way up, to a world bright and new,
Oh this son of a seed, brave with no fear,
Never do a rustle from the hustle do I hear.

The wind and the waves, riding on time,
Travellers forever with no reason or rhyme,
Oh these vagabonds, to every man’s intrigue,
Never do they speak of a weariness or fatigue.

Spinning and revolving around the sun,
Maybe ever since time had begun,
Mother of seasons, with a tilt, so busy,
The earth doesn’t ever speak of being sunburnt or dizzy.

Never is the sun too hot, or the moon too blue,
Hidden somewhere, there’s a subtle clue.

Look at life and work from another lens,
Let the music to your work be but silence.

Why shout, in stillness should you rejoice,
For in that silence will your work, find its own true voice.

Don’t let work be loud, let it be loved instead,
Toil in silence and have the heart to leave things unsaid.

To foster grace, let that be your purpose sole,
And work shall find harmony with the song of every soul.

 

 

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.

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