There are a countless books and articles on the topic of success and what it takes to become successful. You have scoured a few or perhaps you are one of those over-achievers who has zealously studied them all? That is quite impressive! But here you are looking for yet another secret to success? Could there be a little gem hiding here that which has dodged you everywhere else?
I don’t know where you are in your life. Perhaps you are waiting for divine inspiration that will get you off your couch and into the gym so you can stick it to your ex, or get you off your mediocre job to living the life of your dreams so you can stick it to your pompous boss? Perhaps you are just waiting for summertime, so you can grow your perfect garden, so you can stick it to your neighbor? Whatever the case may be and whomever you may be wanting to stick it to, if you are one of those people who are “waiting” to do something then chances are you will be waiting a long time.
Yea, you heard me! This article is not meant to be another pep talk that may get you motivated enough to get you off your couch for a day only to be back in it for a year. I am not here to tell you that you deserve to be successful because you are such a changeling and because you deserve better. I don’t know you and I have no idea what you deserve. But if you are one of those people who thinks you deserve something because you are special or because “mum said so”, well then you need to grow up. Nothing about life is fair or given just because you or someone thinks so. Life demands hard work and sacrifice, it demands fortitude to ceaselessly plan your life only to see your plans fail repeatedly and yet have the stubbornness to do it all over again.
What’s more life comes with no user manuals, guarantees or return policies, there are no consolation trophies and absolutely no pauses or escape buttons.
I am not here to give you any secret to success. I am here to tell you that success is not a secret. Or at least it should not be to you. See every body’s concept of success should be unique and personal. Before you set out on your life’s journey to become successful, I want you to take a moment and take stock of what success means to you?
So, what does success mean to you? Yes you, not your aunt Thelma, or your neighbor, or your boss or your wife …but YOU! Elementary as it may sound, this is an important concept you need to understand before you waste any more precious time in this world pursuing somebody else concept of success. Too many people have wasted too much time living somebody else’s dream which is why we are such an unhappy nation. If your concept of success is to get that gorgeous body, or a car that the world can envy, or a vacation with family then that’s fine. I am perfectly fine with shallow dreams. Just know that it should be your shallow dream not somebody else’s. But If you find yourself doubting what success means to you then take a road trip me with me into the future.
Imagine yourself 20, 30 or even 50 years from now, at the fag end of your life. You are on life support, breathing your last few breaths thinking back on your life. How would you like to view your life? Are you proud of the empire you have built, or happy to have contributed to society, are you satiated with the beautiful family around you there to bid you farewell? Or are you perhaps a bit regretful? Are you staring into a wrinkled face you have shared your life with and truly loved and cherished or are you looking at a stranger wishing you had called quits when you had the chance? Are you wishing you had not wasted your time on that mediocre job, or waited on that lucky break or perhaps just wishing you had spent more time with the people you loved? Now bring yourself back to today.
If there is the slightest regret in your life today, remember it will be a hundred times magnified and unforgivable at your death bed. Nobody regrets have done something and failed at it, people regret never having tried!!!
Well sorry if that was a grave exercise (pun intended). But at least you have a better idea of what success means to you now?
Do this exercise often if you need to figure out what you want to achieve and what it is you want to change in your life. So that brings us back to the million-dollar question? What is the one secret you need to know to succeed?
I wasn’t just trying to reel you in with that title you know. The answer is simple. You need to know what you truly value and cherish. What is the one motivation that every action of your life is geared towards?
Don’t have a nebulous idea of success, one that is brainwashed into your head by society, peer pressure or the numerous stream of advertisements on TV and social media. Don’t spend your entire life living somebody’s else dream no matter how precious that person may be to you.
I have an overachiever cousin who has spent years in school studying to become a surgeon while he secretly dreamed of being a banker, only to please his parents. I know of a woman in her forties who married the wrong man only to please her parents, and now is fighting a bad divorce and several health issues due to serious emotional stress at home. I also know of a man who left an ivy league school to start a small business and now is a very successful entrepreneur. Life is not easy as is, the last thing you want to do is live somebody’s else’s life.
So be clear about your dreams. Have a vision board or spend five minutes a day imagining what your perfect future will be. Perhaps you don’t mind being a bit somber and writing your own eulogy. What would your eulogy be? OK, sorry I promised no more grave exercises already!
What does any of this have with making me successful, you ask? That’s the thing. If you don’t know how to define your success, how are you ever going to get it? You may have everything in the world that anybody can ever dream of but in your heart, you will never be successful if what you achieved was somebody else’s success not yours.
Once you know what your idea of success means, everything else falls into place. Ignited by the fire of your true passion, following your dreams becomes easier. I said easier not easy. You still need to pursue your dreams like a warrior. It does not matter how brawny or brainy you are, as long as you truly know what it is that motivates you, you will find way to success and everlasting happiness.
Writing poetry is more than a combination of art and science. It takes a lot of insight and a fair amount of practice. Poetry requires the ability to reflect on mundane objects, things, animals or incidents and turn it into an introspective observation that is unique. Good poetry will make you want to think and draw your own conclusion. Good poetry is timeless, people can reflect on it for ages and derive insight or inspiration. I am therefore starting a weekly challenge to coax you into writing or reading poetry that you love.
Each week I will share a theme and some examples to inspire and titillate your creative instincts. Send me your poem in the comments section or write it in your blog and pingback to me.
This week I visited the Aquarium in Long Beach with my daughter. My two year old daughter was absolutely mesmerized with the musical movement of fish underwater. That is the beauty of fish, it can neither talk nor hear you, yet it leaves you mesmerized with its movement. So for this week’s challenge I encourage you to write a poem about a fish, it need not be titled “Fish” but try to include some reference to one. If you would rather not author a poem, then feel free to share your own analysis on any poem about a fish.
Take for instance this poem by William Butler Yeats. Even though the poem is titled “The Fish” and it starts off by talking about the sinuous movement of a fish within “the ebb and flow” of the tide, the poem is not about the fish at all. The fish is an analogy to a person who was perhaps “hard and unkind” or was perceived as such by people. Or perhaps it isn’t about a person at all instead the Fish is referencing the judgmental nature of people or society, who will criticize even the most instinctive behavior of a person.
You have heard of people doing a detox when they are feeling sluggish? But have you heard of anyone doing a TV detox? That is just the kind of detox I undertook recently. Read on if you want to learn more about my 10 day TV detox and what it did for me.
I recently decided to cut out TV, youtube and unnecessary online surfing. I allowed myself everything else including reading books, blogging, listening to the radio etc. The reason I wanted to do a TV detox was because I was becoming a bit of a TV junkie. On my weekends I would plop myself on the couch and go on a TV binge starting at noon. On weekdays I would start TV right after dinner and continue until after midnight. The lack of sleep was contributing to dark circles the size of Antarctica. My wake up call was when a well meaning friend inquired if I was well since I was beginning to look “a bit haggard”. That was the last straw, I decided I needed an intervention.
I have previously resolved doing a TV detox but have never been successful beyond day one. This time however I was determined not to get distracted. I created a list of things to occupy my mind with during my free time. The list including fun activities such as baking cake, cooking, painting, writing a poem or rewiring an old one, getting a facial and even enjoying a bubble bath. Who needs TV to have fun? If my mind ever craved TV I would confidently pull out my list of fun activities and flash it around like a victory flag.
Day one, was the hardest. I frequently found my feet mindlessly carrying me over to the couch: my TV pit. I thought it was best to go out for a long walk and avoid the temptation completely. On the way back I stopped by at Ralph’s and picked up some fresh fruit and decided to have a sweet potato and fruit salad for dinner with a cup of mint tea.
Day two and three fell on the weekend which were super hard. Normally when I am done with home chores, I love to plunge on the couch and binge. I love catching up on HBO shows or pay per view movies. But now I almost did not know what to do. So I did an hour of yoga and then cooked up a storm. Lunch included sauteed fresh vegetables with home cooked basil sauce over a bed of black rice. Later I went out for a refreshing walk and came back to clean up the pantry, kitchen cabinets and my wardrobe. The next day I decided to do a load of laundry and ironing. It was only day three, and I was already feeling quite accomplished.
Day four, I decided to do a bit of meditation and deep breathing. Even though I could not focus my mind too long, I must say, it felt good. Note to self: “Must continue deep breathing and meditation at least once a week”.
Day five, I was already feeling so much better. My eyes felt more relaxed and my dark circles were doing a vanishing act. Since I was feeling so good about myself, I decided to OD on TLC. I decided to give myself a long relaxing facial. I started with deep cleaning, then facial massage and pore extraction and ended with a cooling face mask with an eye compress. The result may not have been life changing but I looked squeaky clean like a freshly plucked tomato.
Day six, I went back to writing. I dug out some semi finished poems and rewrote them. I even published a shiny new post.
By Day seven TV detox had already become a habit. I no longer craved the idiot box. There was so much to occupy my mind with. I went for a leisurely walk, took plenty of pictures came back to cook and enjoy a peaceful dinner and went to bed early. Day eight I read a book and called it a night.
Day nine and ten again fell on the weekend. This time things were so much easier. I re-potted some old house plants that were growing out of their space and painted earthen pots. I did Hatha yoga, deep breathing exercises and worked on my blog.
I cannot believe how easily I have grown out of my TV binging and how great I feel. Before I went on my detox I had created a list of things to occupy my mind with. But I never had to use the list. After day three I was on autopilot mode, I automatically knew what had to be done. I felt all along TV was never something I loved infact it was actually distracting me from the things I love to do.
I am feeling so good I am going to continue abstaining TV for a month and do a follow up post. Meanwhile if you too feel like joining me on my TV detox and would like to catapult your productivity then please join me. I welcome you to write a post about your TV detox experience, all I ask is you ping back to mine so we can spread the good word around. Happy TV detoxing!
I was saddened to learn that Mario Maglieri died today at the golden age of 94. He co-owned Rock n Roll hot spots such as The Whisky a go go, Roxy and Rainbow bar and Grill. Famous Rock bands such as The Doors, Guns N Roses, Led Zeppelin and several others started their career at The Whisky. He will be fondly remembered by thousands of Rock fans and super stars. See picture of famous Roxy Theater below.
Here are some pictures of West Hollywood including pictures of Chateau Marmont a hotel on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. Built in 1927, this hotel is famous for A-listing sightings and a curious history including the untimely death of comedian John Belushi due to drug overdose. A celebrity hideout for famous Hollywood stars such as Robert De Niro, Errol Flynn, Bob Dylan, Clark Gable, Paul Newman, John Lennon & Yoko Ono, Jim Morrison, Marilyn Monroe, Boris Karloff, Carole Lombard, Mick Jagger, Ringo Starr, Jean Harlow, Sidney Poitier, Dustin Hoffman, William Holden, Jessica Lange, Led Zepplin and many, many more. The place has a forbidding air to it that makes it ever more mysterious and interesting.
The Viper Room also located in West Hollywood California, in close proximity to the Chateau Marmont, is infamous as the place where actor River Phoenix died due to drug overdose in 1993. Like the…
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I was recently reading a post on LinkedIn about how Beyoncé uses social media to promote her brand. She recently posted a very pregnant picture of herself on Instagram which got 9 million likes within days. The author had a congratulatory note toward Beyoncé who according to the author has used social media to create intrigue and advance her brand. All of this may well be true in Beyoncé’s case, I don’t know one way or the other, as I have not been following Beyoncé.
What I cannot help but note, is that Beyoncé is a superstar married to Jay-Z with a joint worth of over 1 billion dollars. Her own father devoted his whole life to the “Beyoncé brand”. Don’t superstars like Beyoncé and others, have enough cash floating around to hire a village worth of people to promote their brand? Then why is it so admirable when they are able to get a million likes within a few seconds of sharing a semi-nude photo on Twitter or Instagram?
Needless to say, the same goes for any other superstar be it Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Katy Perry, Kardashian sisters and the likes. Why should we be impressed when one of these extraordinarily endowed people making extraordinarily more money than the rest of the world, gets a million likes on Twitter????
Recently I was watching a 60 year old lady who looks like 30, sharing her story on You Tube. She started the video by apologizing how she is a “nobody” and yet vlogging. She just wanted to share her story so others could learn from her. Don’t get me wrong I have no personal vendetta against superstars like Beyoncé. I just think it’s tremendously more appreciable when a “nobody” in Iowa, Chicago or California takes the time and trouble to blog/vlog/tweet/instagram and gets a 1000 likes in 10 days!I think it is more important, because she probably does not have a band of people at her disposal to take that perfect shot of her, or help her draft a message that will spark intrigue. Nor is she famous enough to use her name alone to promote her post. Instead she put in some serious thought, planning and effort to make that video or post. She is a “nobody” and therefore has the power to reach other “nobodies” like her and make a difference.
Social media is truly about nobodies like us, reaching out to other nobodies sharing our stories because we know it is worth something. We may not have a million followers and perfect airbrushed bodies but we have a voice that is our own. And in that it is unique. And in that, my brand is no less unique than your brand, which is no less than Beyoncé’s brand.
In the end, I cannot help but quoting the maestro nobody herself.
I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Emily Dickinson 1830 – 1886
I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!
How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!
No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.
All is procession; the universe is a procession with measured and beautiful motion.
Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.
-Thich Nhat Hanh
Inspired by Cheri’s Photo Challenge: Path
5 Things Pregnancy taught me
- Whosoever said “Women are the weaker sex” had no clue.
Giving life is serious Business. Between the countless inconveniences of midnight bathroom runs, nausea, heart burn, Braxton Hick contractions and feeling like a whale for 9 months; bringing a person to the world is no petty job. By the end of Pregnancy most women would have experienced a sleuth of pregnancy related issues and gained at least 25-35 pounds. Nature did not goof up by entrusting this mighty job to the “weaker sex”. Pregnancy takes a physical beating on a women’s body. And I am convinced it makes us women physically, mentally and emotionally stronger not weaker.
- No walk in the park
When I first learned I was pregnant, I went through a roller coaster ride of emotions; periods of giddy happiness followed by fear and anxiety. I was fraught with fear that I would not make a good mother. I was uncertain of what to expect in pregnancy and feared the 9 months that loomed ahead of me. I had heard so many good and bad things about pregnancy and motherhood and now all those stories came back to perform a cirque de soleil in my head. Slowly but surely this phase of uncertainty passed and I grew more and more convinced that I was truly blessed to be experiencing this exciting period of my life. I learned later that majority of women experience similar fears at the beginning of their pregnancy but that few talk about it due to social stigma. While pregnancy is completely instinctive and natural there is nothing ordinary about it. We have lived our lives in a certain fashion for … years (fill in the blank with your age) and are used to it. Pregnancy changes all that experience on its head. Reconditioning our bodies and minds will surely take some time. Whether it is your first time or third time, pregnancy is no walk in the park.
- This too shall pass
I like how 9 months of pregnancy are divided into 3 trimesters. Each trimester has a set of unique characteristics and marks a period in the growth of the fetus. Each trimester brought to me a different set of issues and blessings. But as I waded through it all, I learned no matter how good or bad things may be today, they shall pass. So just live in the present with the absolute awareness that this too shall pass. Live in the moment and enjoy it.
- Appreciate what your mama gave you
I say this not in jest. All my life I have had a warped image of beauty. My image of beauty was in some ways mirror opposite of what I look like. I have tried countless exercise routines in hopes of improving my body but never once got close to my own definition of “ideal” or the “ideal” I was seeking. Pregnancy taught me that human body is perfect just the way it is.
Pregnancy has taught me to appreciate my body more than any exercise regimen could. Pregnancy has both humbled and embellished me.
After I deliver I will definitely go back to working out again, but not with dreams of achieving an ideal body but simply enjoying a healthy one.
- It is not just about you
One of the best lessons about Pregnancy came to me from my sister. She said pregnancy is the most beautiful time in your life as you will never be truly alone, and everything you will do will be for someone else.
A friend of mine added, “Pregnancy makes you a better person because never before or after will you have two hearts beating in your body”.
Up until now everything I did was for myself. Pregnancy changed my perspective. Simple things you do are not just for yourself but for your baby. For instance before I put something in my mouth, I research if it is healthy and nutritious for the fetus. Wearing clothes is not about looks but about comfort and so on.
These are few pearls of wisdom I picked on route to motherhood. I am curious to hear from you. What are your thoughts on pregnancy if you experienced it first hand? Or maybe you learned not by experience but through your sister, mother, girlfriend or wife?
Do share your pregnant thoughts with me.
It seems November is the month for coffee dates with friends! Well not really but it may as well be, since Cheri Lucas Rowlands created a prompt to write about a coffee date with a friend. The rules are simple: basically pretend you are having a coffee date with a friend and “share any details you’d like and include as many as you want, as long as you begin each with If we were having coffee right now... “
I loved the prompt and immediately drafted the post below. If you too like the prompt then feel free to get your creative juices flowing by drafting a post and publishing on your blog. Feel free to pingback if you like.
It’s been such a long time since we met for a coffee and talked. I have so much to tell you and catch up with you.
If we were having coffee right now, I could tell you that last month I completed an amazing trek to the bottom of Grand Canyon all the way to Phantom Ranch and back. And what lovely sceneries I caught on camera. Some of these pictures will soon be published on National Geographic! I will be posting links on my blog shortly.
If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you that two weeks ago, I ran a triathlon and helped raise $6000/= for Cancer Relief. I would tell you that that’s not all. I am planning to raise twice as much for the Homeless by the end of this year.
If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you that I have decided to take a yearlong break from work to go backpacking around the world. I have decided to leave my humble yet comfortable life to live out of a backpack, eat peanuts and rice, and wear recycled clothes as long as I can get to soak the world like a sponge. I would promise to write a post every day documenting everything I see and discover!
If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you, I have finally decided to climb the Mount Everest. Yes the Mount Everest! I have already started to train intensively for it.
If we were having coffee right now I could tell you all this and more but I will not. I will not, because I would be lying. I have lived my entire life in the safe lane. I am not brave or daring enough to trek to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Besides it is so forbiddingly hot that it is way out of my comfort zone. Snakes, lizards and mice creep me out. Yes I know I suck, but I am sorry that’s who I am. I am scared of heights, hot temperatures, reptiles and rodents.
I have frequently donated to several charities but never made an effort to raise notable sums for any. And oh how I wish I had the guts to leave my job and go and travel for a whole year! Discovering the world with a child’s eyes and catching it on a camera! But there again I am to disappoint you and above all myself. I like to play it safe, so safe that I may be missing out on life and I know it.
I am scared of heights so I would never be climbing the Mount Everest even though the very thought of scaling the heights of the forbidding peak excites every cell in my body.
Instead, if you were to take time out to meet me for coffee, I would tell you that just now I am trying to figure out the meaning of life sitting on my couch in the comfort of my home. And it refuses to make sense. I read the news and feel for the millions of homeless refugees as well as the families of the innocent people who lost their lives in the Paris attacks. I am trying so hard to make sense out of the chaos and sorrow but cannot. What could I say to justify the senselessness of it? What dire lessons are we to learn out of such madness that would justify all the human suffering?
If you were to take time out to meet me for coffee. I would tell you I am sorry. I am sorry I am not more exciting and spunky. I can’t just get up and leave and do what I really want to. Instead I do what I should. I pay my bills, go to work, eat healthy and basically walk the line. That’s how I have always been and that’s who I will be. I am a thinker yet I have not solved any major puzzles of life.
If you were to take time out to meet me for coffee, I would instead tell you my life is simple and monotonous where one day easily bleeds into another. But for that I am truly grateful. I cannot thank my stars enough for its comforting predictability. What’s worse is I know there are millions who would give anything to have half of what I or you take for granted every day.
If you were to take time out to meet me for coffee, I would instead tell you that even though climbing the Everest sounds mind bogglingly exciting to me I would never ever do it. I would never do it not because I am scared, but because I am not convinced it matters. Life offers enough challenges every day. I don’t need to climb 30,000 feet above sea level to discover them. You might say it’s an excuse but I am not here to prove you wrong.
If you were to truly take time out to meet me for coffee, I would tell you I am boring and ordinary in every way. If you can distinguish me from any other Jane Doe you met today on the bus stop, subway, coffee shop, grocery line, then I would be truly impressed with you.
If you still care to meet me for a coffee I will be sitting right here without any pretense, waiting with an open heart. And maybe I will just listen!
How are you doing? I am sorry I haven’t been answering your phone calls lately. The other day you knocked on my door and I pretended to be out. When you turned around to leave, it almost sucked the breath out of my soul. I needed some time to think about us. I just want to clarify that this is not a break-up letter, even if it reads like one. See I am not yet done loving you. You were, are and always will be dearer to me than anything else in the world. I am only writing to you so you can understand how you make me feel. Maybe once you learn what it is you are doing wrong, you will change your ways?
Yea, I know we have been flirting, fighting, making up and most of all disappointing each other for a long time. But now I am done playing these games with you. I am also done fighting with you because you are just too strong for me. I have bruised knuckles and knees to prove. The last time I fought you, I ended up rolled over in a corner; flattened out like dough. And then just when I was ready to give up, you came back around placating me like you do. You embraced, kissed, and sang to me and suddenly the sun shone brighter, and the world tasted sweeter than Nutella. Suddenly my world was an ice cream truck playing “The Mister softee” jingle.
I know I am play-doh in your hands. You reward me with your love just as unexpectedly as you punish and chastise me. But it’s when you ignore me that I hate the most. It’s like I am suddenly invisible to you. Without you, I am a mouse running aimlessly inside a wheel.
But who am I to complain? The truth is I need you more than you need me. Without you I am nothing. Heck without you, I don’t even exist. You on the other hand have countless lovers. You have kissed just as many into existence as you have put to bed (six feet under). For you my darling are life incarnate! You are the mountains, oceans, skies, birds, bees, animals and humans. Everything that lives is you and nothing that does not is not. You are past, present and future. To live is to love you. And dear life, I do!
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
― Ernest Hemingway
When it comes to writing there is no better place to start than in your own mind. Yet, I have read so many articles on accomplished writers sharing their personal stories on what gets their creative juices flowing and almost all of them recommend having a designated area to write; a shrine, a sacred place. They recommend using it strictly for creative writing and not desecrating it for any non creative activities.
As for me, I haven’t even spelled “a” of accomplished. I neither have a sacred “write” place nor a sacred ritual that will get the juices flowing. I wish creativity were as simple as opening a faucet! But it is not. Instead It is hours and hours of practice, writing and rewriting. It is opening your soul to the world fully knowing that it can be ridiculed, shredded apart or worse still overlooked!
So what is my favorite writing nook? I tend to write anywhere; tucked in bed watching Television (yes, that is very distracting), at the dining table (also distracting), or just making mental notes (yes, I have lost a lot of potential ideas by virtue of relying totally on memory). Unfortunately, I don’t own a private study, and have no designated nook of my own where I commence writing.
But if I had the luxury of having my own study I know exactly what it would look like. It would have a sign on the door reading, “Enter at your own risk, ye who dares to enter”. My study would have a large ivory colored table with drawers and filing cabinets. I would use the cabinets to save my unfinished drafts, cut outs, and newspaper clippings. The walls would be covered with photographs of beautiful places and life caught on lens. It would also have a couch that I can lounge on when I am tired of sitting at my desk. There would be a slight disarray to my ideal study as I feel too much organization is the enemy of creativity. Alas for now, my “write” nook consists of the space between myself and my laptop!
Fortunately enough writing is engrossing enough for me that I can easily shut off the world and can write comfortably anywhere! As a child I used to paint a lot. I would get so engrossed in my work that I would paint nonstop for hours without remembering to eat or drink. Although I have severe ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), when it comes to writing my ADD evaporates like a puff of black smoke.
Most writers find that waking up in the morning to write is especially valuable. While that makes sense (since your mind is at its peak performance in the morning) it somehow never worked for me. I usually write at night after preparing dinner and cleaning up. My biggest writing foe is also my biggest weakness: the idiot box. Whenever I have the courage to shut the TV out of my evenings, I can save time to write.
I know I have written a nice piece when I get goosebumps reading it out aloud. My “write nook” or a lack thereof is probably markedly different from yours (I hope for your sake!). So what’s your favorite space and ritual to write? Do you have a preferred time of the day when you like to put pen to paper? Do you have any other writing nuances? Give me the skinny on your “write nook” and “write stuff”.
Whoever says, “I don’t like poetry” is a liar. Poetry exists everywhere. It’s in sunrise, nightfall, rain and thunder as much as it is in a mundane book, bed, mantelpiece or window. It’s in a new born babe’s first cry as it is in a flurry of birds shearing through the skies like jets on 4th of July. Whoever says “I don’t like poetry” has never really listened to the random sounds that make up words that make up languages that make monkeys human. He has never been swept by a mother’s eyes brimming with an ocean of love, nor admired old lover’s holding hands, holding canes crossing the road of life.
But if he truly has never seen nor experienced any of that, he hasn’t yet lived, nor loved. Pity the man who has neither lived nor loved. For if he did, he would never have said, “I don’t like poetry!”
“There’s always room for improvement, it’s the biggest room in the house.” – By Louise Heath
I am a strong believer of continuous self-improvement, because what you are born with is God’s gift to you but what you make of yourself is your gift to God.
At the end of each year, I create a list of goals for next year. Some people prefer writing their goals on their birthdays since it is a different kind of a new year. You can do whatever works for you. But since my birthday falls right in the smacking center of the year (30th June), I find that I use my birthday to reassess my achievements and ponder on my goals. Looking back, I feel the most productive years have been those in which I achieved at least 80% of my goals. To be honest, I never realized all my goals just because life is so fluid and one’s goals need to be adjusted with the changing demands life places. Also, I tend to be overzealous while creating my goals.
If you are one of the over-achievers then you constantly not only achieve your goals but go over and beyond. Some people believe writing their goals down every day helps them stay motivated and keep their goals fresh in their mind. I write my goals once and then visit them a few times through the year. I feel that just keeping goals in the sub-conscious is enough.
Yesterday I found an old diary of mine, that I used to write 15 years ago. Surprisingly enough I happened to flip open a page where I had written what I would like to achieve and who I would like to be when I grow up and I had called the list “My Dream Self”. I was so pleasantly shocked to realize that I have achieved all the things my “dream self” was going to achieve. Sounds ambitious? Not really, I have heard a lot of my colleagues and friends make similar claims. It has probably something to do with the “law of attraction” or the concept of attracting one’s destiny. When we want something badly enough we end up attracting it. Sadly enough the outcome may not always be happy. Just because we wanted it and got it does not mean it is good for us or it would make us happy. But that is subject matter for another day.
In some ways I feel it is better not to be completely satisfied ever. If you are easily satisfied with who you are and what you have, you will not persist to achieve more. In order to create the best version of yourself, the hunger to constantly improve should persist. I am not recommending being unhappy or ungrateful for what you have. On the contrary, I am recommending the awareness that what you have is the best you can have today and be grateful for that, but also realize that it can and will get better if you continue to endeavor harder.
So about my goals for 2016? Sorry, I cannot share my entire list of goals as some are a bit personal but here are a few. If you already have had a chance to write your goals for next year then feel free to share a few. If not, may I recommend taking some time in the coming weeks and writing down everything you want to achieve next year?
My Goals for 2016
1) Read 10 new Poetry anthologies in 2016
2) Revise 30 of my own favorite poems
3) Write at least 2 posts a week
4) Workout 6 days a week (long walks count)
5) Eat healthily (more salads, smoothies, soups and other healthy cooked foods)
6) Learn a new recipe every week (salads and soups count)
7) Spend more time with family and friends
8) Do something nice for someone every day (anybody else besides myself)
9) Allow myself no more than 3 days of TV a week (right now I watch TV every day!!)
10) Visit a new place every month. It does not have to be any place special a fair, library, coffee shop…will do just fine!
11) Always stay positive (I know this is easier said than done, but I think just attempting to be positive is half the job done!)
I write to make sense of all my jumbled thoughts. I write to make sense of myself. To become a better version of myself. Whenever I am feeling embittered and jaded about life, I know I need to go back to my table and just write. I also write to leave a little of myself behind. Yes, in that respect writing is a very narcissistic desire for me.
But is it not the same reason why the rest of you great people architect skyscrapers, build bridges, write songs, concoct your own perfect curries or raise beautiful children? I have done none of that and therefore I write. I am both narcissistic and insanely hopeful that when I am long gone, someone on the World Wide Web would still care to read my words and feel connected to me. That’s why I write!
Life is a mixed bag of both sweet and rotten fruits for everyone. But sometimes it can feel like you were given a bigger share of the rotten. The challenges and ordeals life throws can leave you feeling spent and hopeless. After all, in the face of incessant hardships it is only human to feel demoralized and dejected.
But if life has you feeling run over then continuing to feel sorry for yourself will only make matters worse. There are positive steps you can take that will change the game entirely and put your life back on track. The good news is that it is never too late to change your mindset and circumstances. Here are some easy ways to heal:
- Acknowledge your pain: To achieve freedom from pain it is first important to understand what ails you. A lot of people feel depressed out of loneliness, poverty, competition, and physical ill health. Others feel miserable because they are trapped in a toxic relationship and are unable to find a way out. Whatever your case may be, the first step to cure is always to understand the root cause. However, if your depression has no particular known cause then try probing your subconscious with this simple trick. Sit in meditation and clear your mind of all positive and negative thoughts or simply listen to some relaxing music. Then take a pen and paper, and write down 10 things that are making you unhappy. If you have more than 10, then just keep writing to your heart’s content (empty all the pain out on paper) but make sure to number them appropriately. Then focus on the list of things that make you unhappy and further write down 10 ways you can either eliminate or avoid them. You obviously cannot eliminate all toxic relationships (e.g. a rebellious teenage child or an annoying aunt) but you can find creative ways to improve your relationships. If nothing works then you will want to find ways to distance yourself emotionally.
- Make small changes: Focus on the list of action items you created above and focus on just one or two. See if you can do just one thing a day no matter how small. If your health bothers you then do one thing to improve it today. If your relationship with your teenage son is bothering you, see if you can have face to face talk. If your Aunt is always taunting you about not visiting her often enough, then see if you can set a reasonable schedule to visit her which will work for both of you. But focus on one or two constructive ways to improve your situation today. If there is absolutely nothing you can do about it, then learn to accept it. Time will eventually heal pain.
- Make health a priority: A healthy mind resides in a healthy body. If you are already in tip-top shape than that much more power to you. For the rest of us we can all make small changes to improve and keep our health in the best shape possible. If possible join a gym. If you cannot afford a gym, then start your day with a brisk walk and observe the world with a child’s eyes. Notice the birds playing in the trees, or the dew settled on the green grass or the clear skies. Seek joy in the simpler things in life. Make an effort to eat healthy. It is easy to fall into a habit of eating comfort food when you are feeling blue. But this habit can become hazardous over a long period of time. Try making simple, nutritious meals. Make small changes by inculcating more greens, grains and fruits on a daily basis.
- Be grateful: Gratitude is one of the best medicines to depression as it changes one’s focus from “the have not’s” to “the have’s”. While it is easy to look at everything we do not have, it is far more rewarding to focus on the things we have and offer genuine gratitude. Kindness starts at home. Be kind and grateful to your parents, partner, friends, children, pets and colleagues. Find some time to send them a card, or call or text them with a simple “thank you” message. This alone will improve your relationships. This will not only change your perception but also alter their perception of you.
- Offer Charity: This may be so counter intuitive. When you are ailing and need help, it is hard to think of others. Yet when you focus on helping others you take away the focus from yourself and your own pain. You look at people who are less fortunate than yourself and realize how much you have to be grateful for. Also helping other people releases mood enhancing endorphins.
- Inculcate a hobby: Hobbies are not just for kids. They are equally important for grown-ups. If you have a hobby then find time to work on it every day or as often as you can. This will give you a feeling of fulfillment, accomplishment and joy. If you don’t have a passion, find something you can enjoy. Maybe it is something you did as a child but just don’t have time to do it anymore? If you enjoy reading books, then join a book club. Meeting like-minded people and sharing views helps take mind off your problems. If you enjoy photography then invest in a reasonable camera and take a picture a day. If you enjoy writing then start a blog. If you enjoy gardening then get a few plants and decorate your home. Get the drift?
- Set aside time for you every week: The worst possible situation is to find yourself in a place where one day dwindles into another. If you have a hard time remembering what you did yesterday or what you will do tomorrow then you may be in a bad place mentally. Each day is a new day to fulfill your dreams and promises. No matter how small. Set some time every week to focus on yourself. Write down your goals and plan on fulfilling them. You don’t have to come up with flamboyant plans. You can use the time to simply organize your bookshelf, or clear some clutter in the garage. Or pamper yourself with a facial or go to the cinema and enjoy a movie. Make time to invest in yourself every week.
- Do not participate in office politics: Sometimes vicious cycles are created by simply participating in vicious activities. If you are unhappy at work, participating in company politics will only make it worse. Venting about difficult colleagues or bosses can sound like a good idea to vent out at the moment, but it will only make you more miserable. And usually will come back to haunt you and cause you to lose credibility in the eyes of your peers and management. If people are participating in politics around you, try to stay disengaged. In the long run, you will gain more friends and build respect.
- Change your attitude: Whether the glass is half empty or half full depends upon the way you look at it. Perception is everything. And yet, it too can be adjusted. Find positive viewpoints in every situation. See also positive in people. People are neither entirely good nor entirely bad. We are all motivated by our own inner needs. Learn to see these needs impartially and try to forgive others for their faults. When something bad happens to you, try not to focus on what has happened but how you can fix it. Try putting things into perspective. Will this matter an year from today? Read positive books by motivational writers such as Dr. Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Stephen Covey, Dale Carnegie. If necessary read them over and over again. The mind can be stubborn but loves repetition.
- Consult an expert: If nothing else works then seek the help of an expert. Look up for a psychiatrist or see if you can join a support group. Build a strong network of friends and family who would be willing to see you through difficult times. Offer them love and gratitude in return and be there for them.
Remember there is no quick fix to most problems in life, breaking old habits takes time. Most known quick fixes like medications, drugs and alcohol only mask the problem today, but make matters exponentially worse in the long run. Instead try to become your own best friend and make small but consistent efforts to heal yourself both mentally and physically. Good Luck!
I was only six years old when my parents moved to Frankfurt, Germany. We spent three wonderful years there and to this day I harbor memories of beautiful Germany and the friends we made. Frankfurt was a beautiful, scenic and most of all a kid friendly place.
There were government funded youth clubs for children that offered after school activities to children of all ages, called “Jungendhausen”. The aim of these youth clubs was to promote creativity, art and workmanship in children while keeping them engaged and out of trouble…I guess!
I and my sister would go there every day after school and spend hours building or “basteln”. I remember making lamps out of a ballon and paper, toys out of wood, stone and clay and much more. The hours spent in the Jungendhausen under the supervision of the teachers were the highlight of my day.
One such day I remember my teacher calling me and my sister out as “Schön macher und Schnell Macher”.
“Schön macher” in German stands for a person who does beautiful work. My sister being a perfectionist and a few years older to me had the art for chiselling wood or stone into the most artistic shapes, which is why my teacher called her “Schön macher”. I on the other hand was all about “quantity”. I did not care much for detail. The fish I carved out of limestone had a vague resemblance to a fish but could have been an eye, the dog looked more like a cat and the clay shoe house was almost falling over its side. Get the drift? The Jungendhaus had a display window to show case all the art work made by children. It is no surprise that my sister’s artwork made it into the window many a times and mine would never reach its epoch glory.
Decades later I am reminded of what my teacher said, “Schön macher und Schnell Macher”. And I wonder which is better? Is it better to be a Schön macher and spend hours laboring on a piece of writing to perfection? Or is it better to be “Schnell Macher” and churn out greater volume?
Ofcourse this brings us to the ever debated topic of Quantity versus Quality? I am a bit equivocal on the matter and believe they both have their pros and cons. For instance when it come to blessings, I would rather have more but when it comes to friends I would rather have quality.
But are the lines between the two always black and white when it comes to writing? The craft of Writing is all about writing more and writing often and more importantly: rewriting.
I guess good writing is almost like a marriage of quantity and quality. If we marry the two we would probably end up with a supermodel child called “Quan-lity”.
Quan-lity would be the art of producing high quality written material in great volume.
But that is easier said than done. How do you strike the perfect balance to achieve a piece of prose or poetry that offers unrivalled quan-lity? If you were training someone to be a better writer would you err on the side of quality or quantity? Or would you insist on finding the perfect balance. If so, how do you strike the perfect balance?
As a child I was extremely fond of reading proverbs and popular sayings. They are perfect fodder for inspiration and self-fulfillment. But sayings have an inherent weakness; they often suffer from oversimplification. Maybe they should come with a list of exception clauses like “If…Else” Statements that computer programmers embed in their code to account for all situations?
Take for example the famous saying “Try, Try again…” Anybody who is over the age of ten has probably heard that saying. It has become the mantra of as many successful people as it has for unsuccessful people around the world. So deep rooted is it in our minds that we accept it unquestioningly and accept that the secret to success is to try, try again. But is that always the case?
Penned by Thomas H. Palmer in his “Teacher’s Manual”, this saying was made popular by W.E. Hickson in around 1840-1852. In its unaltered form it goes:
‘Tis a lesson you should heed:
Try, try, try again.
If at first you don’t succeed,
Try, try, try again.
My issue with this saying is not that it suggests trying your best in accomplishing a task, or never giving up. My issue with it is that it does not offer a stop-loss order or that it does not take other factors into account that also contribute to success.
Know when to stop and cut your losses: In the investment world a stop-loss order is designed to limit an investor’s loss on a security position. It is a safety net to save the investor and the market from incurring limitless losses. Likewise, in life too, it is important for any person to realize when he hits that stop-loss order before spending the rest of his life on a doomed project.
The question is: “Try, Try again” but until when? According to this old adage, the answer is: Never. Is that truly a reasonable advice? What if the failure ends up hurting yourself and those around you? How far do you go on a failed project before you realize it is time to cut your losses?
For instance how long would you pursue an abusive relationship? Is it fair to say if your husband beats you, you may be able to change him by continuing to live with him and sustaining abuse? Should you continue living with him until he realizes he should not beat you? Clearly, that is not the case. Trying to persevere in this case would only be suicidal to your physical and mental well-being.
Unfortunately, Success in life cannot be guaranteed simply by trying. When we fail repeatedly or get hurt trying, it may be a good warning sign for us to stop and rethink our strategy.
Have realistic goals: The secret of being successful is not just to keep doing whatever you are doing, but to make smart, well informed decisions about what it is you will persevere to do in the first place. For instance, I am a very bad singer…I am practically tone deaf. Ask my husband he has had to endure my vocal talents or lack thereof! If I decided to become the best singer in the nation despite the fact that I have no natural talent for singing, could I do it? What if I persevered to devote my whole life to improving my vocal talents? I know even then, at best I could become a mediocre singer. But would I ever become the best singer? That is an unrealistic goal to start with and no measure of attempts would change the fact that I do not have any talent for singing. Instead my time may be better invested in something I was more suited for.
Don’t go against nature: What happens when a swimmer swims against the ocean currents? Try as he may, he will eventually get defeated by the powerful oceanic currents. It is in his favor to try to swim with the currents not against them. Sometimes when you endeavor to go against the fabric of nature you are bound to experience failure.
Is it not childish to think you will succeed at a task, just by virtue of doing the same thing over and over again? A child standing at the shores of an ocean may think he may be able to plug the ocean if only he threw enough pebbles into it… but what a waste of time and energy that would be?
Know when circumstances are against you:
When I was a child my mother used to tell me the story of the frog that jumped into a pail of milk, which was too high for it to jump out of. So the frog tried hard to swim out, and all his kicking ended up turning the milk into butter. The frog was eventually able to jump over the butter and out of the pail. This is an excellent story designed to bring the point: repetitive hard work will yield results. But will it always?
Let’s consider for a moment the frog had instead jumped into quicksand instead of milk. Would all the fighting and kicking have yielded similar results?
When circumstances are against you and you are caught in a vicious cycle of failures then it is important to know when to call quits and break the cycle before it breaks you.
In conclusion: My point is simple. In order to succeed you need a lot more than careless, unplanned, unfocused effort. I want to bring the point home, with one last story written by Acharya Mahapragya.
It is about a man who needed to make an urgent trip to a neighboring village. In his hurry he grabbed a lamp and left in the thick of the night. When he reached the forest on his way he realized to his dismay that the lamp was broken and would not light up, hard as he tried. He was tired, frustrated and annoyed with the lamp and so he cursed it all along the way. By the time he reached his destination he was tired and severely bruised (having fallen over stones and shrubs). The next morning found him in great shock when he finally realized that he had reached the wrong village and that his lamp was not a lamp after all.
It was an empty bird cage! In the heat of the moment he had picked up an empty bird cage lying in his home and walked off. While the story sounds funny and silly it is not completely untrue. Haven’t we all been that man at some point in our lives? Haven’t we all embarked on a journey of sorts with unrealistic expectations? The man expected a bird cage to shed light, and try as he did it was unable to offer any light, since it is not in the nature of a birdcage to offer light.
Try, try again is an acceptable mantra only as long as you know when to stop and try something else! Otherwise it will guide you to a life of bottomless failure.
The concept of change and evolution has always resonated with me. Life, in its most basic form is nothing but evolution. The ability to adapt with the changing environment and times is therefore key to growth and success. But the vision to rise above one’s humdrum life and envision change for the betterment of humanity truly identifies a liberated and enlightened mind. In my own personal experiences I feel that the journey is far more precious than the destination. To me the awareness to will a change and take conscious efforts to execute the change is more important than being able achieve it.
When Mahatma Gandhi first visualized a happy and a free India independent from the shackles of the British rule he became the agent of change. His vision and the depth of his resolutions ignited the Independence movement of India and united an otherwise divided country which had been left economically shattered by the oppressive rule.
Often the catalyst of change is nothing more than a fleeting will to change. This fleeting will when powered by vision and depth of emotion can become so insurmountable that it can put one of the biggest powers at its knees.
Take John Locke for instance; the English philosopher and physician who influenced the Revolutionary movements in so many countries including America. He had views that were so revolutionary in their times that all through his living years and until his dying will he denied authorship of his own papers. Today the concept of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is not just a phrase (a phrase influenced by John Locke’s theories) in the declaration of Independence but an important Tenet for American socio-economic and political life.
A single powerful thought alone can be the catalyst for change. When like-minded people meet and share their views, thoughts multiply like a nuclear reaction and revolutions are formed. Therefore it is important to fully appreciate the value of thoughts as well as the power of an individual. Never say, “What can I do alone”? Chances are you alone are more than enough to bring about the change most would not dare to dream of.
When you think of versatile elements, water is probably one of the most versatile elements that come to mind. Not only does it have completely different temperatures and behaviors in each of the three different forms; ice, water and steam but water takes the shape and color of any container it is contained in.
What’s more the quality of stationary water is distinctly different from the quality of running water. Water collected in a closed place with no movement will collect dirt and eventually start to smell while moving water with plenty fish stays clean and will have a life-giving effect.
Not only are we humans changing like water and weather but our moods are constantly changing as well. When we are happy the world looks beautiful and the future seems so promising but come a bit of hardship and our perspective changes. We become sad, disgruntled and frustrated; performing simple tasks looks like a gigantic effort. When we are in love with someone we feel this huge windfall of emotion towards the object of affection. When rejected by the same object of affection we feel rejected and the same emotion of love turns into hatred.
Such seesaw of emotions is really not as incredible or uncommon as it sounds. The concept of “Mind over matter” is put to test.
They say love makes the world go round, but sometimes I wonder if that is really true? Love like hatred is a powerful emotion as is greed, competition and avarice. Powerful emotions whether negative or positive carry a lot of mental muscle. These emotions are manifestations of the same mind and possess the same depth of emotion. I wonder if it is the play of all of these elements that makes the world go round? Where would trade and economy be without greed and avarice? How far would countries and companies develop without competition? And how often have we seen lovers turn into enemies when they feel dejected and unappreciated? In truth so much around us including ourselves is constantly changing and evolving. This thought brings me back to Einstein’s famous discovery that “Energy can neither be created nor destroyed” but it can be rearranged in space or the entities associated with it may change shape and form. As humans our bodies and minds are no exception to this rule. In effect we are all like Ice, water and steam.
We are at the very threshold of entering the year 2015. So Congratulations to fellow bloggers for yet another successful year of Blogging! Ubecute completed its first year of blogging and for that it is extremely grateful to all the followers and supporters of Ubecute for the constant feedback and comments.
Writing is a labor of love that I ignored for way too long until I found my way into blogging. Blogging is like carving out windows into thick cement walls and finding smiling people waving back at you. In my experience, I found blogging to be an excellent way to share my ideas as well as get an opportunity to hear what others are passionate about. It is so heart warming to see the talent that people have and to find an avenue to be able to share one’s talent and personal experiences.
Like all New Years, 2015 is also filled with the element of surprise and dreams. For many of us, New year offers an opportunity to evaluate our efforts and successes for the past year and learn from our mistakes. It is a chance to make New Year resolutions in our attempts to building a brighter future. Like many others, I too make New Year resolutions. Starting a blog was one of my resolutions last year, which I successfully accomplished. According to the free report offered by WordPress, Ubecute was visited 14,000 times in 2014 (first year of publishing). Some of the most visited posts of 2014 were:
This year I resolve to write everyday, even if it means writing absolute gibberish. So what if 15 minutes of effort ends up being nothing more than a crumpled piece of paper ball in my trash can? Nobody needs to see a badly written piece, the effort is aimed at practice and self fulfillment. The act of the labor itself should be more fruitful than the rewards, correct? Well in truth I don’t know. But one thing I have learned in my life is that a small task done repeatedly over a period of time becomes a habit. And any habit performed consistently over the years has a cumulative effect; good or bad (depending upon the habit itself).
I therefore welcome you to join me in my endeavors. Let me know if you would like to be a guest blogger on Ubecute or simply resolve to writing more frequently? I welcome well written articles on self help. I enjoy and appreciate personal experiences of triumph over hardship, research articles on how to lead a happier and more fulfilled life and everything beautiful and poetic.
If you prefer feel free to write your own post and simply link to my site for articles of similar interests.
We live in a world where more is less and less is never enough. Commercials on TV and web abound selling us dreams of a life that would be impossible to achieve without these products. Likewise, markets are flooded with merchandise that promise beauty in a jar, a killer body by consuming weight loss pills, a great social life by virtue of sporting an expensive handbag and so forth. Movies and TV shows feature stars that are embodiments of perfection itself. Every year the bar for perfection is set just a notch higher thanks to the pressures of media and marketing. Unfortunately, material goods and outwardly appearances alone can only provide fleeting satisfaction. Is it any wonder then that more and more men and women feel the pressure of being less than perfect?
When our image of ourselves is based not by who we are inside, but how others perceive us, how are we to find happiness? In US alone, more than 19 million people suffer from depression out of which nearly twice as many women as men suffer from depression every year. Depression is even more common amongst young people. Although both men and women may feel the pressure of society, surveys suggest that women are more susceptible to feelings of insufficiency and low self-esteem. Could it be that sometimes we are our own worst enemies? Women are notorious for being unfairly critical of themselves. Young impressionable women are constantly exposed to ads showing thin, well-proportioned models that are not only beautiful to start with, but these pictures are also photo- shopped after. Women who are more likely to make upward comparisons with these extraordinary portrayals of feminine beauty may end up feeling less than attractive.
Movies abound where men are attracted to a woman who is not only stunningly beautiful but practically a wonder woman. She is an excellent career woman during the day and then in the evening she will change her Business suit for a sleek gown showing her perfectly chiseled body. She will then jump on the stage flip her hair and make an impromptu performance that would put the Spice girls to shame. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against a multi-talented woman. In truth, most of the women I know are really nothing short of amazing. They are excellent career women, great moms, perfect daughters, loving wives, sisters and friends in need.
My problem is merely with the portrayal of women in mass media. Such roles set high standards of expectation. The criteria for attractiveness just keeps becoming impossible to achieve while becoming more and more shallow. If the average American woman is 5’4” and 140 pounds why do we have actresses representing them who are 5’11” and 120 pounds? Why can’t we have more role models with less than “perfect” looks? Why are feminine characters in most movies, so two-dimensional and focused on their physical attractiveness?
In truth the portrayal of women as nothing short of “wonder women” is exacerbated by the fact that we women are tough critiques of our achievements and accomplishments. The ABC’s series “Ugly Betty” hinges on the portrayal of an attractive yet less than glamorous Betty fighting to make her mark in the glamour world while fighting her own self esteem issues caused by how her peers perceive her. To me, ‘Ugly Betty’ is a classic example of a regular working girl in today’s world. I am waiting for the media world to take more risks and start creating flesh and blood characters where women like men are valued as characters rather than their physical and sexual appeal.
“Ink runs from the corners of my mouth”
Eating Poetry by Mark Strand
The market for poetry is probably smaller than the number of poets in the world. Yet more and more people gladly join the ranks every year, spending their precious time penning a musical verse. To some there is no greater pleasure than the joy of reading and writing an ecstatic poem. There is something so deeply edifying about poetry that it makes up for all the troubles and the poor monetary rewards it offers.
Reading a good poem can be equally rewarding; it is like feeling every little cell in your body vibrate and respond to the import of the words. Emily Dickinson herself described reading a good poem as, “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only way I know it. Is there any other way?” (Emily Dickinson: An Overview)
But Poetry is less about “What” and more about “How”. Often a good poem is not about what it says but how it says it. Take for example Ted Kooser’s, “Four civil war paintings by Winslow Homer”. It is not the subject matter of the poems but the way that Ted Kooser describes the paintings that makes all the difference. He could very well be actually painting the picture himself in front of your eyes with his masterful brush. For instance in the poem, “Sharpshooter” which is the first of the series of four poems, Ted talks about the shooter “waiting” with his “finger as light as a breath” on the trigger ready to shoot. The poem starts with, “Some part of art is the art of waiting”, clearly making an analogy between the poetry and the art of shooting. The shooter waiting for the perfect aim is in direct comparison to the poet waiting for the inspiration to pen his poem. It is within these precious few moments of waiting; that the poet concludes a journey of creation and the shooter makes a perfect kill.
Is the fulfillment derived from this short albeit soul searching journey that makes most poets go back to the tedious task of writing poetry?
Poetry like all forms of writing requires a certain element of pride and stubbornness. Pride because as a writer you want to believe that what you have to say matters and that nobody else in this world has said exactly what you are going to say in precisely the same way. It also requires a certain level of stubbornness. Stubbornness because you need to continue writing, no matter how little recognition or approbation you may receive. It requires an almost die-hard resilience to want to wake up early or stay up late to dip the nib of your brain in the ink of poetry.
Take for instance Emily Dickinson; one of the most celebrated American poets of all times only published about less than a dozen poems during her lifetime. And yet she composed nearly 1800 poems. Likewise Henry David Thoreau, Allen Edgar Poe and many others did not receive much acclaim and recognition until after their death. Not receiving acclaim did not prevent them from being true to their work. And what if they did get credit for their work? Would it truly have made any difference to their work? Poetry even today is not a well-paid art. It is one of those forms of arts that must be undertaken simply as a labor of love.
The thing about poetry is that there is no “right” way to writing poetry, although there are some rather easy to follow “wrong” ways. Poetry much like all other arts has its techniques that you can follow or chose to ignore and still write extremely good or bad poems. And although practitioners claim it is an art that can be learned, the end result can only depend upon one’s inherent talent and the time one is able to invest.
Poetry is all about honesty. The best poems may not be autobiographical or the absolute truth, or even convey a novel idea, but they almost always convey the subject matter in the most beautiful, musical and honest fashion. Emily Dickinson, once said,
“Tell all the truth but tell it slant.”
This post is dedicated to sharing the true story of a young woman, who through her continued efforts, and her “never give up” attitude, is an absolute inspiration and testimony of the insurmountable power of human will. Part of what makes this story so special is because it hits so close to home and the other part because it proves how life teaches us to do extraordinary things even in the face of the worst of adversities and mishaps.
We have all heard of the inspiring stories of great personalities like Hellen Keller, Marlee Matlin, Christopher Reeve, Franklin Roosevelt and other such famous personalities, this however is a story of an ordinary person who continues to achieve extraordinary achievements in face of some trying difficulties.
I can never forget the night I first met Shivani Gupta. Shivani was my sister’s classmate and they had just turned twenty two and recently completed their Bachelor degree in Hotel Management. Shivani had thrown a party at her house, and was over at ours, to pick my sister for the party. It was the first time I was meeting Shivani, and I was instantly enamored by her, not just because she is an absolutely lovely girl, but because she has such a larger than life personality. She was the cheeriest person I met, and the moment she walked in, she met us all as if we were old friends. I believe such is her charm, because Shivani meets everyone with so much vigor and joy, it’s as though she is telling the world, and “Here I am!”
That night the car that my sister and Shivani were traveling in (on way to the party) met with an accident and Shivani was dislodged out of the car and thrown onto the road outside. She was immediately taken to a hospital and received emergency care. The next morning the doctors declared the accident had rendered Shivani a paraplegic from the neck downward.
It is unfathomable how a single night can change life forever. From a young girl, ready to take the world in her stride, she had to learn to gain her mobility and freedom back. Through all the physical pain and mental anguish, somehow Shivani pulled the strength to not only follow her dreams but she continues to amaze her friends and family by taking her dreams further every day. Life again threw her a curve ball when years later she met with another motor accident and lost the love of her life – her husband. However it is through her strong spirit and iron-will that she persevered and decided to write the story of her life in a very positive and inspirational book called “No Looking back”.
Since the accident Shivani has been a strong proponent for improving accessibility for handicaps in India she is the recipient of several awards such as Helen Keller Award (2008), CavinKare Ability Master Award (2008), National Role Model Award (2004), Neerja Bhanot Award (2004), Red and White Bravery Award (1999) and Sulabh International Woman of the Year Award (1996). She has also co-authored several books published by the Government on the issue of accessibility for the differently abled, which is a book used by architects and designers.
Shivani is also the founder for AccessAbility; a consultancy firm for promoting physical accessibility in India. While Shivani continues to work at spreading awareness for promoting equal opportunities for the disabled in India, she continues to be open to writing, and would like to write a PhD thesis in the near future. In a recent interview, when asked what the driving force was for her towards becoming the leading accessibility consultants in India, Shivani responded,
“Life is not easy for anybody but it has been more challenging for me. The most important thing that drove me to not give up was my desire to be independent and self-reliant. It is only after becoming disabled that I realized the value and importance of independence in my life. It may seem just like a regular aspect of life to most people but as a disabled person, I have struggled each day to maintain it. Being self-reliant became a second nature to me. After my second accident, I had no other option except to continue being so. Sitting back broken in spirit was just not an option.”
There is a lot more to Shivani’s story that cannot be shared in this small post, my hope is simply that we may all learn and be inspired by the truly great people amongst us. Life deals us all with a hand of cards, to which we have no control, but in the end the winners are people who don’t waste time regretting the cards they were dealt with, but go out and make the best of everything they got. If you are interested in learning more about Shivani, feel free to check her book, “No Turning Back” now on amazon.
I wanted to feel the thrill of the wild zinging through my teeth, so I pulled up fragments of survival into a backpack, enough to keep Sequoia hospitable for a week. And set off backpacking with a group of four, towards the Alpine zone. The deeper we receded into the woods the harder it got staying on the trail. The storms the week before had done a nasty job of hiding the trails.
I must have failed to keep pace with the rest of the pack, for I found myself farther and farther away until the distant heads vanished into the thickness of foliage. Before long instead of following a team of four, I found myself breaking trail through un-trampled greens. The map no longer fit the terrain, the trails were completely disguised with the havoc the storm had caused and there were fallen trees everywhere. As the sun dimmed its intensity, my hurried footsteps got more and more confused. One wrong turn led to another, and before I knew it, I was lost.
Night in the woods descends like a mighty eagle with its wings outstretched. Darkness is sudden and complete. There is no comforting light peering through embroidered curtains, or a mechanical buzz from the kitchen fridge, a sprinkler sputtering off at night, friendly chatter of the TV in the background, or the familiar clatter of silver ware and plates at dinner time. Instead there is the loud rhythmic thump of your heart beating against your ear drums. There are other disturbing noises intensified by the silence of the night. Like the rustling of leaves nearby, a sudden cry that resembles a baby shrieking except it is not, a howl, a hoot and an unnerving pair of yellow eyes watching from the distance…
A small shaking flashlight in hand and a poor job of a tent later I find myself strangely secure. It occurs to me that a human’s most fetal need is the need for security no matter how frail the promise of security may be. Thankfully, the fatigue from the day wraps its sleep laden hands around my neck and drowns me into deep slumber. For two days I hike senselessly around the green corridors of tall trees losing my way constantly. Until several miles, an abandoned baby stroller, broken shards of beer bottles, disbanded backpacks, and several cairns later I am convinced that I am well on the road to discovery.
The search team must have been thick on its trail, for it isn’t long before I hear myself scream, hands flailing like turbines in the wind. As two distant flashes of light glimmer like twin candles in the thick of the night swiftly growing in size.
A breezy autumn afternoon, and a long drive back home. We were returning from a long trip with our extended family; aunts, uncles, cousins and all. In those days there were miles and miles of farmland even on the outskirts of Delhi which is now a pockmarked cement jungle. We were all exhausted from our long journey, so we decided to stop and stretch a while at one of the sugarcane farms on our way back home.
The village had a lazy aura to it. It felt as though the environment was drunk on the sweetness of the cane fields. The yellow-green rows of cane plantation reminded you of long siestas under the balmy sun that promise never to end. A bullock-cart passed by carrying a farmer and his family Tok, Tok, Tok. A vendor on a wooden cart squeezed a tall glass of green sugar cane juice adding a dash of fresh ginger, salt, lemon and ice upon request.
An old thin farmer in a white dhoti and a shawl wrapped around him, squatted on the side walk with a bunch of other villagers. His was not the face of a youthful, carefree man who has yet to experience the toils of life. Instead, his face was the color of dark caramel etched with wrinkles. He had the intelligence of experience and a carefree resignation that comes from knowing, “it will all turn out okay in the end.” After a hard day’s work at the farm, I doubt he ever had to spend his nights tossing and turning trying to sleep. A good night’s sleep is often the understated reward of occupations that require handwork and sweat.
I was probably nine or ten at the time and most of my cousins were even younger than me. We were all very tired and needed a break. My parents asked the farmer if we could stop for a while at his field. He welcomed us enthusiastically, and showed us the way to a cool spot under a tree and offered us water. Then he took the shawl off his back and spread it on the ground for us to sit. And without a warning ran off into his field to pick us some of his ripest produce. Meanwhile, the kids started to create a hullaballoo playing tag and doing what kids do best; creating a racket! Nobody sat down, children were running everywhere and soon enough the poor farmer’s shawl was stamped with tiny boot marks. Thankfully, my aunt chided the kids, picked up the farmer’s shawl and folded it into a neat bundle. By the time the farmer came back, we were hungrily devouring the lunch we had brought with us. We offered the old man to join us, but he refused. It was probably one of the best meals I ever enjoyed. The inviting breeze on our faces and the incessant gossip of the country birds; what five star hotel could beat this ambience? For dessert we enjoyed a sampling of freshly picked sugarcane the farmer had brought us. I know our parents thanked the farmer heartily for his hospitality and insisted he accept money as a small gift, but he refused outright.
Children are so impressionable. It’s been decades since that day and yet it is still fresh in my memory. As far as I am concerned this farmer who took off his shawl and placed it on the ground for us to sit, was the richest man I have ever had the fortune of meeting. Wealth is not measured by a bank balance or the number of houses and cars one owns, it is simply a state of being. To be truly wealthy means to be so sufficient that you are happy to share your riches without the worry of losing them. And who could be wealthier than this old farmer who would share the shawl off his back with absolute strangers? As you will agree, even though the world is full of rich people there are few who are truly wealthy. Such people live on a different plane from the rest of us. Each experience etching an indelible wrinkle of serenity in their hearts, deepening their belief that, “it will all work out ok in the end”. So that when it’s time to go to bed, it’s simply ‘lights out’.
It was a humid, sultry night. Smell of spices and burning charcoal filled the streets. The hawkers gathered their wares closing in on their busy days as the sun set on the old, pious town in Karauli, Rajasthan, twenty years ago.
A little girl holding her mama’s hand, gets off the train and boards a bus full of strangers. The long day sits heavy on her eyelids but she is trying to stay awake as she knows she must. The smell of incense wafts the air like a prayer. A thin old man is singing a country folklore. His milky eyes glazed over, rolled up as if in prayer and his voice is like the soft murmur of water flowing downhill on a shallow pebbled, river bed. In his hands he carries a wooden box of incense. A small black cloth pouch hangs off his right hand to collect money. He stops briefly at every seat, giving the passengers a chance to buy his incense. Lightly touching the seats as he passes for sense of direction and balance.
Mama does not need incense but she buys some anyways and dutifully drops something in his pouch, making a tiny jingle. The old man nods and moves on.
When he is done he goes to the front of the bus and stands next to the driver to finish his song. Some of the passengers have joined him in his chant, others clap in tune. The bus draws to a halt at the next stop and the old man intuitively gets down and leaves.
The little girl tugs her mama’s hand and asks if the blind man will find his way. Her mother nods, “Yes,he will. I have seen him selling incense, since I was as old as you. He always find his way”. The girl smiles back wanly, wide awake now. The bus drives to a rest house and the two of them get out.
“But what if someone cheats him mama?” she continues clearly concerned. “What if someone steals his incense and does not pay him? He can’t see, won’t it be easy to cheat him?” Mama shakes her head and says, “No, they won’t my darling. Trust is blind…”
It’s been twenty years since that day, I never had a chance to visit that town again. Yet, I remember the day as if it happened yesterday. Memory is like a strange box, that can preserve random incidents forever, while the most lucid, current experiences escape it like air. I don’t know what happened to that old incense seller. I trust he lived a long and peaceful life.
A lot changes in twenty years. Today, trust and faith are commodities hard to come by. Yet I do believe that sometimes it is better to trust and be cheated than lead a life with the doors and windows of your heart closed. When I find myself helpless and in doubt, I remind myself of my mama’s words; trust is blind and faith fills our hearts like incense.
Success involves making a series of small incremental efforts over a long period. I am always wary of people who offer a secret mantra as a permanent solution to all problems. The truth of the matter is that there is no one magic bullet that will cure all evils, solve all your problems, and change your life around permanently. If you want to dream big, then learn the power of “small”.
Small efforts bring big results: If you want to write the next great American novel, then you will have to write it one page at a time. Your first draft may look nothing like the novel you will end up writing eventually, but making small improvements will add up in the end. Breaking a big task into smaller tasks makes your goals attainable.
If you want to change a bad habit then change it slowly. A lot of people try to break a bad habit overnight. It took you years to grow that habit and make it a part of your life, how can you expect to break it overnight?
If you are trying to lose weight for instance, will you consider losing all the weight in a day by crash dieting and exercising all day at the gym? If you did that, chances are over-exercising will cause you to injure your muscles or worse still break a bone and throw you out of track for weeks.
If for instance you are trying to improve your vocabulary, then reading the entire Webster dictionary in a weekend is not going to yield positive results in the long run. If you cannot fully capture and understand the meaning of the words you are learning you are sure to forget them eventually. Instead of planning to read the whole dictionary in a matter of weeks, try to make a more reasonable plan and then stick with it. Even if you learn nothing more than one word a day, by the end of the year you would have learned 365 new words, which is at least 365 words better than nothing!
To share a personal story, for years I have tried to tap into my creative juices by waking up at 5:00AM and writing. Unfortunately try as I will, until recently, I never succeeded at waking up at 5AM or if I did, I would go through my day tired and groggy. The next day, I would fall back into my regular schedule of waking up at 6:00AM instead. I could not change my pattern until my mother advised me to try making a small change to my schedule rather than a big sudden change. Instead of waking up at 5:00AM, she suggested, I try to wake up at 5:45AM (just 15 minutes before my usual time), which is much more doable for me. I know 15 minutes is not much, but it is still fifteen extra minutes that allow me to focus on whatever it is I want to do that day. When utilized properly, just fifteen extra minutes a day over a period can make all the difference between mediocrity and excellence and quantifies the power of “SMALL.”
People who are rich will often tell you that the secret to making it big is not only about making more money, but saving the money that you already make, and then making intelligent investments. If you cannot save too much, then just start it small. If for instance, you can only save $100/= every month, then by the end of the year you are $1200/= richer than before. Investing even that small amount wisely will bear dividends over a long period. Often the difference between successful and unsuccessful people is simply, that successful people realize the value of small improvements.
Sustainability is key: Remember the story of the turtle and the hare? The turtle was a lot slower than the hare, and yet it was the turtle, not the hare that eventually won the race. It wasn’t the speed, but the consistency that helped the turtle win the race. Remember, people who achieve success do so by making consistent efforts over time. Self improvement is not a weekly or monthly goal; it is a lifelong pursuit. If you want to get good at playing the clarinet for instance, then you will have to make a commitment to spending the time honing your skill every day.
Dangers of the Faustus syndrome: Remember Doctor Faustus from Christopher Marlowe’s famous play “The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus,” who sold his soul to the devil to gain instant ultimate knowledge?Doctor Faustus’s fault was not his desire for knowledge, but his avarice to pay any price for it. In truth, we all have a bit of Doctor Faustus in us, in that we wish to achieve our dreams overnight. Beware of Doctor Faustus syndrome; it does not bring happy endings in fiction or in real life.
Conquer your Donut: Are you one of those perfectionists who believe that whatever you do should be top-notch, or why do it? There is nothing wrong with aspiring for the skies, as long as you realize that to fly high; you will still need to take off from the ground.If you are learning to cook for instance, don’t expect to put Rachel Ray to shame with your very first concoction.
Have you ever gone on a healthy diet, only to find yourself getting tempted by a donut? And since you indulged in that one donut you felt so disheartened you completely gave in to your cravings and decided to start your diet another day? Donuts are evil. Don’t let a donut ruin your resolve. “All or nothing” attitudes are counterproductive and take us away from our goals. If you gave in to your indulgence, so what you still have the rest of the day to make up for it. Get back on track to achieving your goals. Conquer your donut!
Don’t aim to do it right the first time: I know that sounds so counter intuitive let me explain. In a self development course I took long ago, we were trained to “do it right the first time.” The concept being that the cost of fixing a mistake is a lot higher than doing it right the first time. While the concept is absolutely correct in theory, how many of us are born with skills that will allow us to do it right the first time, every time? How many of us are born with golfing skills, for instance, that allow us to win a “hole in one”? Sure getting the hole in one, will save a lot of time and effort, but is that always feasible? And should one never attempt to do a task for the fear of getting it wrong? There may be a handful of geniuses coupled with a few lucky strokes out there that will get a hole in one, but for the majority of us, our “hole in one” may require hundreds of shots.
I am not sure why the power of small eludes us? A child first learns to kick its feet before it learns to crawl. The child will then learn to grab on to things to try to stand up before it learns to walk and eventually run. Yet as grownups, we forget life’s elemental lessons and wish to run before learning to kick. Knowledge and skill grow at a gradual pace; these are not lotteries one can win at Vegas. Start it small, take it slow and continue making your efforts consistently. Sooner or later it is these small efforts that will bring BIG results.
Mother’s day is perhaps the most important day of the year, as it celebrates and honors the one person without whom life as we know it would be impossible. While the other holidays celebrate God, Country and traditions, this is the one day that celebrates a person’s very existence and origin; one’s Mother!
While both Mother and Father selflessly spend a lifetime providing their offspring the best in terms of time, guidance, resources, and most importantly love, this is the one day that gives the offspring an overt opportunity to thank the people who made everything possible. So allow me to take this opportunity to offer my heartiest thanks to my mom and dad, “Thank you Mom and Dad, we are so blessed to have you in our lives.”
Over the years, my relationship with my mom, metamorphosed from a mother and daughter into that of a friend, mentor, confidante and buddy. Needless to say like everybody else in the world, I too have the highest regard for my mother. I cannot even imagine a day without her selfless love, wisdom and inspiration that has always prodded me to work hard and do my best no matter how difficult times got for me.
But the one aspect that I truly respect above all, about my mother is the fact, that while she wishes me and my sister all the joy and happiness in the world, she truly wishes the same for everyone else she meets. I always found my mother to be this ocean of love that’s brimming to the top with kindness and affection for everyone. Since my childhood, I remember whenever my friends visited my home they were bowled by how sweet and caring my mother was. It’s a humanly need to see one’s offspring’s do well, but to rise above that need and wish the same for everyone is truly divine. Which is why I feel, that Mother’s day is not just about celebrating a Mother, but it is about celebrating the “Mother-ly” in everyone.
It is about celebrating all kind and loving people in our lives who have been a source of love and inspiration like a true Mother figure. It is also about thanking Fathers, older siblings, relatives, coaches, teachers and any other “Motherly” figures who in some way have nurtured us. Such is the “Mother-ly” that I wish to honor today, when I wish my mom and dad and everyone who reads this post, “A very Happy Mother-ly Day.”
We live in a success worshipping world. We are constantly inundated with the overnight “rags to riches” stories that give us an impression that success is driven by innate talent and good luck. We applaud the brilliance of Van Gogh, but fail to credit the failures he encountered all through his life, or the many failed attempts that Wright brothers went through before they got the plane “Wright”! In truth, behind every “rags to riches” story is an even more impressive story of years of persistent hard work and failures.
Yet we fear failure more than anything? I am not recommending making mistakes deliberately, but becoming completely averse to making mistakes, is not only unreasonable it can be counterproductive.
The only solution that can guarantee a 100% success, 100% of the time is a formula. And there is no genius in following a formula. Jobs that resemble formulaic assembly lines will always pay meager wages. Genius happens when we think “out of the box”, which involves stepping out of one’s comfort zone. Creativity cannot flow in a restrained environment where making mistakes are unacceptable.
Big successes often follow big mistakes: Simply put, sometimes the best ideas come from the biggest mistakes. Did you know that the invention of Penicillin, Potato chips, Pacemaker, Post It Notes, Microwave ovens, X-Rays amongst many others were a mistake, or came out of an experiment that went wrong?
Failures impart life’s biggest lessons: If you learned skiing pretty late in life (like me) than you will understand that learning to ski is more about being prepared to fall first. Likewise learning to be successful is more about being open to failures. We all know of Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Stephen King, Steve Jobs to name a counted few who failed many times before they eventually succeeded. In truth they succeeded precisely, because they persisted unapologetically despite their many failures. As long as you learn something from every failure, you are one fall closer to rising to those zenith heights you dreamed of.
The desire to be “correct” all the time is “wrong”: The bottom line is that nobody knows everything. We are all humans and learn from each other. The desire to be “right” or “correct” all the time can actually hurt more than help. Keeping one’s heart and mind open and ego small is the quickest way to learn and grow. Life teaches us important lessons that come camouflaged as mistakes. If you make one, be gracious enough to accept and create a plan to fix it. No matter what, never shrug responsibility for your own mistakes.
Being open to making mistakes is surprisingly liberating: A few years ago, I joined Toastmasters in order to overcome my fear of public speaking. I had practiced my debut speech a great deal but was very nervous that I would forget and stumble on the words. I overcompensated for my nervousness by putting up a false façade of confidence, so much so that I almost came across arrogant & rehearsed. Nobody knew that inside, I was shaking like a leaf. Fortunately, thanks to the constructive criticism that the other members of the club offered to me, I endeavored to do things differently the next time. I first embraced the idea of “letting go” and openly making a mistake. Being open to making mistakes actually allowed me to relax and just be myself. The moment I let go off my fear, I started to connect with my audience. I made eye to eye contact and talked not orated my speech. Needless to say, the response I got was far more warm and heartfelt, and to be honest it felt so damn good!
Taking Risks is a lot less daunting than we think: In order to grow you have to be open to taking risks. In all honesty we take far more risks in doing mundane everyday chores than we give ourselves credit for. Taking a shower involves the risk of slipping and falling, driving to work involves the risk of getting into an accident and so forth. Risks are everywhere, and a life completely averse to risks would probably require staying locked up inside a cupboard. On the other hand, taking risks does not necessarily mean going bungee jumping or jumping into a pool of water snakes. It simply means stepping out of one’s comfort zone, and devising new ways of doing things rather than the “tried and tested” tasks, it involves making educated decisions with the awareness that all your efforts could come to naught.
Failure only makes success taste sweeter: Nobody appreciates the value of success more that he who has tried and failed. In the words of Emily Dickinson:
“Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne’er succeed.”
…And may I humbly add “Until they do!” Because as long as we persist, we will achieve success. So be open to thinking out of the box, taking risks and making plenty of mistakes. We are not meant to be invincible, hard-charging embodiments of perfection. We are all fallible humans and that’s what makes us special. We try, we fail, we persist and in doing so we become better versions of ourselves every day.
Inventions that were a mistake (2010). Retrieved from: http://www.businessinsider.com/these-10-inventions-were-made-by-mistake-2010-11?op=1
Successful People who suffered obstacles (2013). Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/25/successful-people-obstacles_n_3964459.html
Whoever said “Happiness is in between the ears” was right on. Happiness and misery are states of mind. Yet we continue to believe that material goods will bring us joy. TV, newspapers, radio abound with commercials that promise us lasting happiness if only we buy their specific goods. With the best intention parents will often promise a child his/her favorite toy if the child agrees to adhere to the rules laid out by a well meaning parent; “When the child adheres to these rules he /she gets rewarded with a toy. Since our infancy we are trained to believe that hard work and perseverance lead to achievement of material goods that ultimately bring fulfillment and happiness.The only thing wrong with this picture is that the promise of fulfillment is a facade and a temporary one at that. The toy only provides temporary joy and is soon discarded for new shinier one. As we grow older the toy takes on different forms, it may take the form of a better job(s), a house(s), car(s), wife, children the list goes on. The toy not only changes forms it even multiplies. Yet, the joy and fulfillment we seek is not to be found?
This is because we never looked for it in the right place, in fact we have only been trained to look for it in all the wrong places. Happiness cannot be found “outside.” This is an important concept to understand. “Outside” here represents people, places and things all of which give us temporary happiness. Happiness and misery are right here within us; inside our mind.
I am not suggesting that one must not Endeavour to improve one’s economic status by getting a better job, or seeking a happy married life. The problem is not with the material goods, the people or places that we seek, but the belief that their attainment alone will lead to happiness. All too often despite having it all we are still not happy. And when we are not happy we tend to blame the world for our unhappiness.
Let’s pause here, and discuss what happiness is, before we dwell further into this. Happiness means different things to different people. Some people equate happiness with visiting certain places, others will confuse it with an acutely euphoric state of mind rendered by drugs, alcohol, material goods, while yet others feel they are happiest in the company of their loved ones. I am not here to tell them they are right or wrong. In one way, they are all right in another they are all wrong. The quest for happiness or the lack thereof is a very personal journey and it is what makes the world go round. However one thing is certain, lasting happiness cannot be found “outside” in any one person, place or thing.
So then how can we guarantee lasting happiness? Unfortunately, the simple truth is: we cannot.
The workings of a human mind are far too complicated to fathom. An ordinary person cannot be happy or unhappy all the time. We feel love, joy, jealousy, disgust, desire, happiness and a sleuth of emotions all in the span of a single day. The goal is never to remove the negative emotions completely and permanently because that is just not humanly possible.
The goal is to lengthen the enjoyment of the positive emotions, without becoming a slave to them and without the crutch of abusive substances, things or ever the people we love. Emotions such as happiness and pain by nature are transitory and thankfully so.
The state of mind that is most desirable is not happiness; it is equanimity. Equanimity is the intelligence to neither get completely carried away in a moment of joy nor get shattered in misery or pain. Equanimity dwells on the concept of awareness. All too often we live in the past or in the future, never fully cherishing the moment we are in. Equanimity in a nutshell is the negation of its ego and the complete awareness of the present moment without forming a bias or getting attached to anything. Clearly it is a loaded concept to understand, however, it is one that promises lasting peace of mind.
To become an equanimous person, one must let go of one’s ego which is the root cause of pain and misery. Needless to say, we live in a very individualistic world and see every opportunity with the lens of “What’s in it for me?” But if the answer to that question were to be “lasting peace and a greater appreciation of every moment,” would we not find it worthwhile to inculcate?
The problem is that the concept of equanimity preaches to lose the very baggage we have so passionately carried with ourselves through our life; our ego. Imagine a child that started rolling a ball of snow through a snow covered mountain, and as he rolls it, the ball collects more snow and grows bigger in size. By the time he reaches the foot of the hill, his tiny ball of snow has become a gigantic boulder of snow, which will eventually roll him over. This ball of snow is our ego, and it is not easily let go off.
I would like to clarify at this point, that I certainly do not claim to be equanimous myself. I am easily moved by sorrow, pain and jump for joy at the slightest indication of happiness. As humans, we can only endeavor and persist to continuously improve ourselves. When we stumble and fall, what do we do? We instinctively get up and move on. Thus also during difficult and trying moments it is only too human to lose one’s mind, but the important thing is to persevere. Losing one’s ego and becoming equanimous is not something we will achieve overnight, but realization is always the first step to change.
Realize that happiness cannot be bought with money, and the very ego that we are so protective of is the very source of our unhappiness. Realize that constantly living in the past or in the future is another source of unhappiness as it causes us to lose the only thing we are guaranteed in life: the present.
Unfortunately, happiness is not for sale here. Lasting peace of mind and equanimity is, however, available in your own mind. Let us now begin our journey to seek for the right goal in the right place; “within.”
Ants are the dark black insects that infest your backyard and can easily ruin your picnic plans. But far worse are the ANT’s (Automatic Negative Thoughts) that can infest one’s mind and wreak havoc to one’s mental equilibrium. The mind is a powerful place with its capacity to learn and imagine. As humans we were not born with wings and yet we fly (in planes), we were not born with gills and yet we can stay underwater (in submarines), we were not meant to scale heights yet we climb them every day (in skyscrapers). We achieve the impossible daily because we have the power to imagine, and what we can imagine we can achieve.
It is this power of imagination that can be our biggest friend and foe. Sometimes the brain can go off-track and start imagining situations that are destructive and hurt our ability to keep a positive mental attitude. Over the years, we all accumulate baggage from our past experiences. These experiences were meant to teach us a lesson, but some of us find it hard to forgive ourselves and others for the pain and anguish such experiences may have caused. The more we ponder on these negative incidents the more negative experiences we attract in our lives.
The value of having a positive mental attitude is not unknown to anyone. “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrnes is full of positive advice on the law of attraction and positive thinking and has sold 19 million copies for a reason.
Why do we continue to fall into our old ways of negative thinking?
Unfortunately, Automatic Negative thoughts invade our mind and create a toxic environment for positivity and creativity to breed. Like the ants that infest the backyard, they build colonies and breeding grounds of negativity. Because these thought processes are so automatic it is hard to control them. What’s more they come in armies and work incessantly to eating the mind from the inside out. Just allowing one negative thought is enough to open the floodgates to the whole entire army.
While difficult, we can kill the ANT’s with a few simple, albeit repetitive strategies. Unfortunately, these strategies have to be repetitive until we have achieved a place in our mind where negativity completely eludes us. Until then, try these simple strategies to stop the ANT’s from taking over your mind.
Awareness: The beginning to any change in life is always at the same place: awareness. Becoming aware of one’s own thoughts is crucial. It is easy to get carried away and ruminate in negative thoughts instead check yourself the moment a negative emotion comes to mind. Try to create a mental or a physical check like pinching yourself the moment you notice you are on negative thought pattern.
Kill negative emotions with positive ones: I find that the easiest way to kill a negative emotion is to imagine a positive one. Some people even suggest thinking of seven good things the moment a negative emotion hits the mind. I don’t know the significance of the number seven here, because as far as I am concerned I can barely think of three before my negative thought pattern is already broken. Positive thoughts can include; thinking of a small achievement, or a time in your life when you were perfectly happy, or even thinking of someone you love. If that does not work, try sending your loved one positive mental vibes. Nothing is a bigger boost of positivity than knowingly doing something good for a loved one.
Stay Busy: An empty mind is often the devil’s workshop. ANT’s usually strike the empty mind. I find that keeping myself mentally challenged helps me stay positive. Hans Urs von Balthasar said, “What you are born with is God’s gift to you, what you make of yourself is your gift to God.” I interpret this saying as the ability to continually challenge one to do better, achieve more and improve one’s mental and physical prowess. Staying busy with work and hobbies are keys to improving one’s own self respect and positive mental attitude.
Having goals: Having a set of clearly defined goals is imperative to achieving success. Some people never even make goals. It is hard to get to your destination if you don’t know your destination in the first place? If you don’t have strong goals in life then it is never too late. Start now and start small. “Losing 10 pounds by summer” is as equally an acceptable goal as is, “Writing a book in two years.” Goals give us motivation to work hard towards a destination. So even if you haven’t reached your goal of losing 10 pounds by summer, you may well be headed in the right direction. So what if you have only lost five pounds and started eating healthy? You are half way to achieving your goal. High Five!
Meditating: Some people find meditation to be extremely therapeutic in order to come to terms with one’s own negative emotions of hurt and neglect. Personally, I find it hard to meditate. Yet I do achieve a meditation like state when I do yoga, write or paint. If you are like me and find it hard to meditate, then maybe there is something you enjoy doing that gives you peace of mind?
Gratitude: Being grateful for the friends and family in our life gives us an opportunity to ponder on what we have versus what we are missing. And while it is important to be grateful for the joy others bring to our lives, it is equally important to be grateful to our own self. Too often in order to achieve our dreams we play it too hard on our self. Constantly berating our self if we fail or miss even a small deadline. The body we take for granted is actually on loan to us and will eventually be taken away. Be grateful for it. Be grateful also for the mind that has given us so many astounding qualities and abilities to write, read, learn, sing, paint, dance and so forth. Remember, what we feel inside we project outside.
Constant Self improvement should be a never ending goal in life. Killing the ANT’s and creative a positive mental attitude creates an environment for peace, happiness and continuous self improvement.
I loved this article curating the best poetry books. Please check it out!
It’s important to take time out to do the things that help us recharge and unwind. Again they are all different for different people, as also ever changing.
Here are the 5 things I want to do this weekend (that will make me happy)
1) Cook a healthy meal: It really does not have to be raw to be healthy. This weekend I want to use fresh produce to make a delectable, satiable meal rich with colors and health.
2) Go visit Getty: Getty is beautiful and beautiful places make me very happy.
3) Exercise: It’s hard to pull myself up and go to the gym, but every time I do it, I thank myself. I also make a list of “things to Do”, and exercise is the easiest task to cross out.
4) Pamper myself: I am thinking…a Facial? A nice relaxing fruit facial.
5) Just chill: Enjoy a glass of wine while watching a flic.