Sreenath Sreenivasan

Thriving Mindfully

Category: Personal Growth (page 1 of 8)

Rescued by a river

On the mighty plains, under the setting sun,
There flowed a mighty river

On its silty banks, there sat a lost man,
Much did he cry and quiver.

Through snuffles and shivers, he
gathered his voice, a few words he spun

To mother river, thus spoke, a beaten farmer son.

In utter grief, he partook in a dip, and the river knew of his tears

To allay her son of all his fears, the river whispered in his ears.

When met with rocks of refusal, my child,
Do not stop, and submit to surrender
Like a gushing river in monsoon swell,
With a lovely grace, charge and meander.

But mother, when will it end, this dreadful season of sorrow?
Without a rain, why should I sow, hope for tomorrow?

Trust the gradient of life, flow, do not ask for a reason why
Believe and be true to your spirit, surely shall you thrive
And even if the farmland is parched, desolate, run dry
The clouds are riding on the wind, wait as they arrive.

How long could I wait for, it has been too long a while
When the hand that feeds the world sleeps hungry, life seems all too futile.

To deem life futile is but futile my son, do not submit to a passive revolt
Ever wondered why I drain my fresh water in an ocean full of salt?
My end may seem tragic, but my life is magic, despite tides high or low
For the meaning of life is not in the end, but in all the life I create as I flow.

So, arm yourself with a sickle, and set out on your challenging quest
When fortune finds you working hard, shall you reap a bountiful harvest

Gather all your courage my son, despite darkness however deep
Arise, awake and march on, there is no time for you to weep
You have a world to feed after all, and promises plenty to keep
Set out in the field and make a change, even a little step is a giant leap.

The clouds heard their conversation, and together did they ply
To congregate and condense, to become a river in the sky

And thus the elements conspired with nature at the helm
As the first drop of rain and the last teardrop of the farmer, fell in tandem

And amid the drizzle, in ecstasy, the farmer ran to his farm
And the wise old river, blessed her child, and flowed on with a loving charm…

 

An Antidote to Depression- The Habit Loop

Depression.
A state of mind that we all face at some point in our life. And sadly, it is something we dread accepting, and confronting the way it is.

I am not talking about clinical depression here. I speak about a general discontent and disillusionment towards life, that makes one feel inactive and despondent.

This feeling plagues us all at some point in our lives. While we cannot do away with it altogether, can we design a scheme that helps us swim out of the pool of passivity?

Today, I would like to suggest a method that has helped me overcome despondency and realign my focus in life.

It is a four step process called ‘The Habit Loop’.
The steps are as follows :

1) Acceptance

A couple of days ago, as I was sharing my somber state of mind with a friend, she told me something that changed my perspective towards the issues I was facing.
She told me that it is but human to feel the way I was feeling at some point in life. One cannot be motivated and enthusiastic all the time. In fact, would it even be desirable!

That insight gave me the courage to accept my state of mind as it was.
It is normal to feel despondent from time to time. It is best to avoid to whirlpool of ‘why me?’ and stay clear of self pity.

2) Resolution

The most important question you must answer in a despondent state of mind is :

Do I want to come out of this phase?

Only when you have made a deliberate decision that you want to come out of this phase can you move forward from where you stand.

The resolution to change things, a decision that comes from deep within, is paramount.

3) Confrontation

Now that you have accepted your state of mind and decided to bring about a change, what should be the next step?

In my experience, the most obvious symptom of depression is when one stops to confront himself.

There is a tendency to :

A) disrupt all systems one adhered to that brought a sense of structure to life

B) cave to desires of decadence, marked particularly by over-indulgence in consuming data, food, sex

C) not confront yourself, look into the mirror, or create art

We do all of this while being fully aware that it doesn’t serve us best.

The easiest way to come out of this state is by confronting yourself.

Here’s a few ways that might help one do that:

1) Take a sheet of paper and write down what you have been doing and why.

2) If writing is not your thing, make a voice note, speak what exactly what you’ve been up to and why

3) The most effective one, is to make a video, speak into the camera about your current state of mind and what you’ve been doing while you were stuck in the rut

This is the step that will truly test your resolution, whether you want to really get out a depressed state of mind or not.
But as soon you start doing this, you will realize that you have enough self respect to not bullshit yourself to no end. Within a few minutes, you will address matters that have been responsible for your despondency and find ways to come out of it.
It is self diagnosis, and it works better than anything else I’ve come across.

4) Repetition

Of course, you will need to repeat the whole process over and over and build your resilience.

With enough practice, you will be able to
face the vicissitudes of life with equanimity.

It might take a while to crawl out of a somber state, but the more you repeat the four step habit loop, the easier it will become along the way.

I hope my suggestion helps you in times of trouble.

Feel free to share your experiences, reflections and feedback in the comments below.

If you feel this article will help someone is need, please feel free to share it with them.

Good luck on the bumpy roller coaster ride of life!

The Power of Everyday (February-March 2019)

Spring time is here !
Isn’t it the perfect season for rejuvenation, realignment and realization of what we can truly achieve?

As it is the beginning of a new month, let me apprise you of my performance in my Power of Everyday challenge for February, what I learnt from it, and what challenge I am planning to undertake for the month of March.

The two challenges for February were :

1) Write and Publish a blog Everyday (9/28)

2) Write a page about an Object Everyday (17/28)

As evident from my blogging frequency, one could tell that I hadn’t been the most productive last month.
This has been my most dismal performance so far, with just a 33% success rate. However, on closer inspection, I realized why this isn’t that bad a record.

When I looked closer at the frequency of my posting, I realized that even though I was not showing up for many days at a stretch, I came back and tried to start again.
Had I posted blogs for 9 days in a row and then stopped altogether, even if the success percentage would still be 33% , It would have reflected that I had given up on the exercise after a point.

But this month, I tried posting even after I took long breaks in between. Post dates ( Feb 1, 2 , 3, 4, 6, 16, 18, 19, 25)

Even for the second task, while I had a 60% success rate, I tried to keep up the consistency, and not get demoralized after a few days of inactivity.
Dates when I succeeded in writing a page about an object a day ( Feb 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 ,8, 9, 11, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 22 ,23, 24, 26)

So, even though I want not successful at completing either of the task, I learned that I still wanted to come back and try again.

I realized that just as much as consistency matters in cultivating a habit, so does resilience.
The act of showing up again, even after a few days of lull, is still a valuable sign.

For the second activity, I have written about objects as diverse as a blackboard, a microphone, a wallet, a table, a toothbrush, a pressure cooker, a football, a blanket, a curtain, a bulb, bricks, airplanes, televisions, a zipper, a cup, shoes, a pen….

As mundane as these objects seemed to me, once I started to write about them, I realized how alive they actually are!
The exercise enlivened my imagination to an extent and helped find new metaphors to relate with these objects.

A brick, red, as if it has borrowed the color from the fire in the kiln…

A blanket hibernates in the summers…

A wallet, a safe, that manages to contain a person’s worth and identity…

A wineglass lends the wine much of its panache…

 

These are just a few metaphors I could come up with while writing about objects. I might not have come up with these had I not taken up the Power of Everyday project.

The beauty of the Power of Everyday project is that it is a self defined, self monitored activity. The nature and magnitude of the challenge can be chosen as it suits an individual.

This month, my Power of Everyday challenge is about confronting a fear that I have had for a long time.

Facing a Camera.

This month, every single day, I am going to record a five minute video of myself speaking on camera.

I will keep you posted about my progress every weekend.

I hope you find enough value in my proposal and choose a power of everyday challenge for yourself.

It’s always fun to do this with other friends who share the same vision of self evolution.

I hope to hear about your challenges and progress along the way.

Until I write again,
I wish you great month ahead.

Best,

Sreenath

The Value of Bad Poetry

When a lost  poet felt, he had exhausted, each idea, every card

In desperation, he knocked, on the door, of a saintly, old, bearded bard

The old bard invited his younger self in, and sat him in a chair
Lovingly, the wise man spoke, to ease the poet’s despair

“When poetry comes into being, through you,
Sometimes the words will be fresh, as morning dew
But do not expect it to be spectacular everytime,
For sometimes, the words might not be, even worth a dime

Poets are people too, and just as prone, to be a fool,
For most of us, do not realize, that not every poem, is a perfect jewel

But some fools are poets, for they only put out work, that is their best
Some poets are fools, for they never put, their worst work, to the test

But there are poets wise, who value, each and every line,
Who realize, that infact, even bad poetry, is a clever evolutionary design

They put out a jewel, just to kindle, a budding poet’s fire,
They put out their worst, hoping a lost poet, shall once again aspire

A wise poet, is a channel pure, beyond I, mine and me,
He knows, that poets shall perish, but forever lives poetry

So, put out every poem, as it comes, bypass the sense of self,
So that a young poet pens,
And fulfils poetry’s longing for itself.”

And so, the young poet learnt, and from the rocking chair he arose,
Beyond good and bad, and ego and self,
he penned down, the above prose.

 

 

How deep is your love?

Can one
ever live
A Life,
Deeply

If he
hasn’t learned
To Love,
Deeply enough?

 

 

How a forest grows

A Sapling always looks up to a tree,

A Tree never looks down upon a sapling

That is the only way how,

Forests are created.

 

——-

 

Photo : Bryan Minear via Unsplash

A Conversation with God

Like every morning, I went to the temple,
To make my wishes

Dear God, I said, grant me health and all of life’s riches.

And finally after all these years, gently he spoke,
Slowly he opened his eyes, as his pious spirit awoke.

Overjoyed, in anticipation, for his sermon I awaited,
Lovingly he looked at me, as I sat with a breath bated.

 

Don’t deify me, He said, don’t glorify me to No end,
Just treat me as a humble and caring, everlasting friend.

Open your ears, listen to your prayers, and find that subtle sign,
Devote yourself and fulfil the purpose, of you life divine.

So, don’t pray and scoot away, don’t pass the baton to me,
I am only as powerful as you allow yourself to be.

Next time, don’t bring me a prayer, just bring me good news,
Of all the difference you made, of every responsibility you choose.

And I realised –

My prayers were only a direction to myself, for what I should do
I stepped out of the temple with an understanding new,

The next time I visit God, I will come with my report card,
That’s when I will treat my divinity in its highest regard.


 

Picture : Jason Cooper via Unsplash

 

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

The Proust Questionnaire

Today, I would like to share an interesting questionnaire with you. It is called the ‘Proust Questionnaire’ named after the French writer, Marcel Proust.

Proust believed that foremost, a person must develop a thorough understanding of his own self. Only then would he be able to understand others.

He developed a list of questions that he felt would help people to reflect upon their own present beliefs and understand their true self. 

While some questions might require a few moments of reflection, most others are best answered spontaneously.

Today, I would like to share my answers to the Questionnaire with you. I hope by the end of it, you also  challenge yourself to answer the Proust Questionnaire.

My Answers to the Proust Questionnaire:

 

Q: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A: Having the wisdom to realize how perfect each moment is.
Q: What is your greatest fear?

A: Living an unfulfilled life devoid of meaning.
Q: What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

A: The tendency to procrastinate and not take initiative.
Q: What is the trait you most deplore in others?

A: Indifference

Q: Which living person do you most admire?

A: My Grandmother

Q: What is your greatest extravagance?

A: Flying in Airplanes.
Q: What is your current state of mind?

A: An excitement that comes with the gradual unfolding of a heart that’s ready to give and receive as dictated by the Universe.

Q: What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

A: Idealism
Q: On what occasion do you lie?

A: When I am not ready to share my state of mind.
Q: What do you most dislike about your appearance?

A: I have a frown on my forehead at all times. It is involuntary and unintentional. I wish I could change that.

Q: Which living person do you most despise?

A: —

Q: What is the quality you most like in a man?

A: The quality of taking responsibility.
Q: What is the quality you most like in a woman?

A: Compassion

Q: Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

A: Theek hai na yaar (It is okay my friend) usually to pacify a friend who is struggling with a narrow perspective in that moment.
Q: What or who is the greatest love of your life?

A: The gift of life itself.
Q: When and where were you happiest?

A: At all points in my life when I embodied the spirit of a child.

Q: Which talent would you most like to have?

A: The talent of singing.
Q: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

A: I would like to have a better sense of humor.

Q: What do you consider your greatest achievement?

A: To have always listened to my heart.

Q: If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

A: A Dolphin.
Q: Where would you most like to live?

A: Amid the chirrup of birds, in nature, in a community my friends and I build with our own hands.

Q: What is your most treasured possession?

A: My body.

Q: What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

A: When a person ignores his ability to help. (Himself or someone else in need)

Q: What is your favorite occupation?

A: Tidying things up.

 

Q: What is your most marked characteristic?

A: Honesty
Q: What do you most value in your friends?

A: They care for my growth just as much as their own.
Q: Who are your favourite writers?

A: Kahlil Gibran, Gregory David Roberts, George Orwell

Q: Who is your hero of fiction?

A: Swami (From Malgudi Days)

Q: Which historical figure do you most identify with?

A: M. K. Gandhi

Q: Who are your heroes in real life?

A: Anyone who does what truly matters to them when nobody is watching.

Q: What are your favourite names?

A: Maya, Sreenivasan

Q: What is it that you most dislike?

A: Loss of Freedom
Q: What is your greatest regret?

A: Not apologizing at the right time.
Q: How would you like to die?

A: While working, as I am engaged in doing something I care about.

Q: What is your motto?

A: Be the change you wish to see in the world.

 

 

Hope you find time to answer these questions for yourself. It is a great self reflection activity that doesn’t take much of your time.

Good luck with finding your answers 🙂

 

 

 

A Change Design Matrix

Today, I would like to share an idea about designing a positive change in your lifestyle that will stick. All of us have experienced how difficult it is to sustain a good habit. But what could be the reason that this journey is met with failure so often! Shouldn’t our actions naturally gravitate towards our own betterment? One of the reasons for this constant stumbling on the journey towards positive change is that we do not find the right mix of the level of challenge and our level of enjoyment at the pertinent time.

Let me illustrate this with the matrix pictured in the beginning :

As you can see in the matrix any habit will fall into the following four categories.

A habit that is :

1) Easy to follow but that you don’t enjoy so much

2) Easy to follow that you enjoy doing

3) Challenging to follow that you don’t enjoy

4) Challenging to follow that you enjoy

Let’s take a habit to make things clearer. Say a person wishes to start running every day. His goal is to be able to run for 5 kilometers after 90 days of training. Now, where does he start? He doesn’t even go for a walk as yet!

A logical flow to follow according to the matrix would be:

1) Start walking every day for half an hour. It is a goal that’s easy to meet. He might not enjoy it at first, but within a week, he will start liking it. The outdoors have that power over every human being.

2) Once he is comfortable with the walking, his body will naturally want to take it a step further to jogging. The happy hormones and sweat will make sure he enjoys the activity. His stamina will boost and in a couple of weeks he will be ready to take the next step.

3) Running would still seem difficult, but in the interest of fulfilling his goal, he will have to take the next step. He might not enjoy the challenge of running at first, but he understands that he will only emerge stronger from here on. In a couple of weeks, running will become natural to him.

4) Eventually, since he can see the end goal in sight, he has all the motivation to keep training. He realizes that he has come a long way from where he had started. Even though it is challenging to train every day, he will run happily.

If he follows this matrix guided approach, making a change will be easy.

Let us take another example. Say you want to write stories. But you have not written one in your life so far. Where do you start?

1) Start with writing one line a day. It won’t be enjoyable at first but once you get past the inertia it will become natural to write. (Easy task, Not enjoyable at first)

2) Next, when you’re comfortable writing one line a day, make use of the momentum and write one paragraph a day. Since the wheels are in motion and you’re creating something new, you will enjoy the process.
(Easy task, Enjoyable)

3) Once you’re comfortable writing a paragraph, challenge yourself to write one full page. Write about the synopsis of the story on one day, write a page of character sketch the next day. It will be challenging at first and you might not enjoy it initially. But soon, you will realize that the exercise enlivens your imagination and you come up with better ideas as a result. (Challenging task, Not enjoyable at first)

4) The next logical step is to piece together the story with the framework you’ve built in step three. You will have the momentum and the direction to finish the story. The act of creation becomes easier because of your homework. Writing the story will become an enjoyable process. (Challenging task, Enjoyable)

The matrix forms a good framework to design a positive change. The level of challenge and the level of enjoyment are designed such that they are pertinent to the stage of change, in sync with the level of motivation an individual has.

Step one helps you overcome inertia, step two helps in building momentum, step three in challenging yourself and step four helps in finding flow.

The next time you’re seeking to develop a positive habit in pursuit of a personal goal, design your plan with the reference of this matrix.
The change is much likely to stick.

Good luck!

 

 

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