Sreenath Sreenivasan

Thriving Mindfully

Category: Personal Growth (page 1 of 8)

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.

 

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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!

 

 

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 !

 

 

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