Tag Archives: Attitude

Attitude

I was reading about some thing called ‘Lojong’ in Tibetan Buddhism (which involves refining and purifying one’s intent and way of thinking through a set of proverbs) when I came across this short story about a teacher called Atisha, the originator of this concept. This happened when Atisha was planning to move to Tibet to teach there; the story is reproduced below from Wikipedia:

 A story is told of Atisha that when he heard that the inhabitants of Tibet were very pleasant and easy to get along with, instead of being delighted, he was concerned that he would not have enough negative emotion to work with in his Lojong practice. So he brought along his ill-tempered Bengali servant-boy, who would criticize him incessantly and was awful to spend time with. Tibetan teachers then like to joke that when Atisha arrived in Tibet, he realized that there was no need after all.

 Though the story brought out an instant smile, the depth was touching. How many people really think of the possibility of negativity around for his/own self development?

 This reminded me of an article I read long ago. This was written by a person called Siddique (a film director from our state) about a person called Father Abel, the founder of an institution called Cochin Kalabhavan  (this is group of performing artists with lots of emphasis on humor). Siddique recalled this incident about Father Abel, when the latter passed away .

 When Siddique was a small boy, he along with his friends used to play football in a ground adjacent to the church. Father Abel used to walk  to the church from his residence and back, along the road next to the ground. The children used to make fun of him, call him names and tease him, whenever he walked past. But he would never respond and would walk away walk away calmly as if nothing happened. Many years later, Siddique joined Cochin  Kalabhavan as  an artist and during a conversation asked Father Abel why he refused to react when the children made fun of him. Father replied with a smile: “ When we were in Rome for the priesthood training, people are employed to stand on roadside to insult us. This was done to increase patience and tolerance. When you boys were giving me that training free of cost, why should I get angry at all?”

In the corporate world, I have heard the ‘whether the glass is half empty or  half full’ stuff more than a dozen times, and whenever people use that to talk of attitude, you could tell how empty the statements were. But to practice it to the  extend where everything is simply a means to help you on the path, needs something more profound.

May be that’s why god need to exist…

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Playing with Perceptions

We all form perceptions. We categorize and label people, situations, places and objects continuously, based on some cues that we pick and interpret. They are positive, negative or neutral and are generally harmless in most cases (except that it triggers a pre-conditioned approach or response). When we have formed a strong perception, we tend to avoid situations involving that anyway.

Why do we form perceptions in the first place? I think our minds are trained to logically analyze things around us and this ‘ability’ gets better as we grow. Lot of the work that we do demand this; be it analyzing a requirement or assessing a person. And before we know, it is our personality, and we conveniently label it as ‘sense making’. Even the tools that we use help us reinforce this behavior. Look at this blog itself; I have to categorize every post and add tags and build a meta-data around it.

When do perceptions become a problem? I think, in relationships which are egoistic and demanding in nature. The two most obvious are romance and work. The moment perceptions are taken over by mind and ego, there is trouble. Some times real serious trouble. I think in romance (marriage included) the impact is not that bad because there is some thing called ‘belongingness’ which at times can overrule all such negative tendencies.

So let’s look at work. Typically in Indian companies, managers are supposed to assess the employees not just based on the work done, but also the behavior, attitude and other soft skills. Perfect setting for forming perceptions, which are ‘professionally right’. I think this is one of the prime reasons for stress at workplace and people leaving jobs.

As I said, mostly perceptions are typically formed based on ‘cues’ and is not substantiated by evidences mostly. How the cues are interpreted depends on the person (and I think where is processed – ego or mind)

Look at this illustration that I think we all can relate to:

Alex is a manager in a company and Erich is a team member reporting in to him. There is another manager David who, Alex suspects to be working against him. All of a sudden, Alex finds that Erich and David are hanging out together often. He is curious but decides to wait and watch. Sometime later, in a meeting David brings up a particular point against Alex, one which Alex thinks is not possible for someone outside the team to know. Now Alex’s perception on David that he is working against him is reinforced, and Alex forms a new perception that Erich is actually bitching on him to David. (Alex’s ego takes over here). Alex gives a feedback to Erich that he is not seen at his desk often and has been taking too many breaks these days. Erich if offended. (His ego takes over). He is now wondering why Alex is trying to find fault with him, while he has been delivering what is expected on time. Erich forms a perception now that Alex is trying to intimidate him. (Why? May be my ideas are better than Alex’s).

Now Erich is careful and but also uncomfortable that Alex is watching him continuously. In the months that follow, Alex is actually searching for cues to reinforce his perception, while Erich is behaving quiet unnaturally, careful not to give Alex any chance to intimidate him. Alex picks some simple ‘cues’; for e.g when Alex gives a smile to Erich when they meet on the corridor, Erich returns just ‘half a smile’ and turns his face away. Fine, Alex is at least confident that he isn’t wrong. The relationship between Alex and Erich becomes very formal and uncomfortable and Erich is now avoiding Alex as far as possible. Alex is also watching who Erich is talking to in the team, subconsciously looking for any changes in their attitude also.

Now Erich talks to David about this and seeks his guidance and in the process David’s perception on Alex, that he is a man on mean thinking, is reinforced. Talking to David reinforces Erich’s perception on the situation that he is being victimized.

 In the next feedback cycle, Alex gives a comment that Erich is ‘spreading negative energy’. Erich is furious and offended (ego is hurt badly) and wants to now prove that Alex has a malicious intention to corner him. His mind is now sucked totally in to this and is completely disturbed. A week later, they meet up to discuss the feedback and Erich couldn’t hold his emotion back and vents out his frustration on Alex. This reinforces Alex’s perception and now he is more the sure that he was right. Alex tries to portray that he is helping Erich ‘improve’ by pointing out a ‘hidden’ problem and expects Erich to thank him for that. Now Erich’s perception is reinforced that Alex has some malicious motive in trying to find fault with him and brand him. Alex also sense that Erich is forming a perception on him, and this reinforces his perception on Erich further.

It’s easy to assume where this is heading to. But the sad part is that we get in to this trap often in life and it sucks all the creative energy in us and makes our lives miserable. What everyone missed in the above example that there could be a genuine positive reason for the connection between Erich and David. And the existing perception of Alex on David, prevented him from seeing it that way or trying to find it out.

One of the most important outcomes of letting perceptions rule relationships is that it creates ‘false identities’ for us. When someone has formed a perception that you are ‘moody’ (and you know it) you will automatically tend to be moody in his presence.

While I do not think that it’s not possible (and not needed too) to completely stop forming perceptions, I definitely think we can stop it from ruining our lives and the others around.

Here are some thoughts and suggestions:

  • I think the first thing is to see situations and people as they are, without the frills around it. Rather easy said than done. But you we are more mindful and understand how ego and mind works, I think you will be able to do this
  • Drop the notion that people are out there to get you. This arises out of fear, and leads to the wrong assumptions we make.
  • Even if you form perceptions, don’t let your ego latch on to it. Without the ‘ego’ playing our side, you will be able to solve it through discussions.
  • Whether you have formed a perception or fighting one, don’t go around discussing with people. It feeds your ego and further reinforces the perception. Seek help if needed from someone who can help.
  • If you are discussing with someone on a perception issue between the two, don’t let your emotions to take over. That will further aggravate the issue. Stay calm and don’t lose your balance
  • If you try are trying to change a perception someone has formed on you and it doesn’t work, just drop it. Understand that it is his problem and let him deal with it. Stay away.
  • Drop the conditioning that everyone has to have good and right perceptions on you. Try to resolve it only if it has any relevance to you. Don’t let your ego chase it.

 

After all perceptions are transient, they are bound to change. No one is going to hold on to a particular perception on forever.

Rajinikanth and Sharukh Khan

Before you get carried away by the title, let me make my point. I believe that people who have had phenominal sucess in life, do have certain ‘special qualities’  which are not very obvious or noticeable. I think these qualities have helped them (over and above the accepted traits such as hardwork, perseverence, committment and luck) reach unimaginable heights and stay there for long. Let me give you two of my observations:

I was reading a review on the book The Name Is Rajinikanth ( I haven’t read the book) in a magazine last year ( For those who do not know, Rajinikanth is a south Indian actor who is famous for his style and commands a popularity that no other actor in India can ever imagine). There was something I found very interesting about him in the article; that’s his ability to detach from what’s going around. There was an incident mentioned where he goes to a director to return the advance payment and to tell him that he is going to the Himalayas in search of the truth. The article mentions that Rajini often gets this ‘problem’ where he can detach from life and look at it as a third person.  This is the essence of what is called Sakshi Bhava (The art of witnessing) which even great sages would die to achieve.

Look at another example. During a flight , I watched an interview with Shahrukh Khan   ( For those who do not know, he is the ‘King Khan’, who rules the Hindi film industry of India). There was something interesting that caught my attention. Shahrukh talks of a special character of him, which describes as – Every place looks new to me, even if I have visited it several times. I forget people and places. When I’am there the next time, I can’t recollect if I had been there earlier. When I’m there, I am just there. (My interpretation of what he said, not verbatim). This is what every one who is trying to ‘be ‘mindful’ or ‘live in the present moment’ strive to achive.

The point I am trying to make here, these simple (but profound) characteristics in these people have definitely helped them to be what they are, but without being feverish about it. They may not get noticed easily, because I think they came to them naturally and effortlessly.

Who knows, there muct be such a quality in each of us, lying neglected because we don’t really recognise its significance..

Surrender

Surrender is a beautiful concept advocated by all the Indian religions. It is even placed superior to many of the spiritual practices.

But what does it mean really? What do one surrender? To whom? What happens after that?

I had my own problem understanding what surrender means. It is a tradition in India to offer your problems to a god, diety or a guru. This seemed to me the closest possible meaning of surrender, when I tried to undertsand this initially. 

This is how I experimented this.When I had a problem that I couldn’t solve or escape from, I said – God, I can’t handle this, I’m surrendering this to you. You take care. But it didn’t really work and soon it looked more like a ritual. I realized that such a surrender demanded complete faith (in whatever you surrender to), which was another abstract concept I needed to then understand. Without faith, the surrender was meaningless, because I doubted whether it would work or not and still continued pondering on it. Subconciously, I wished it would work, because my faith would grow then! So I had another chicken-egg situation. 

I dropped it for months till I became interested in  Mindfulness  and present moment. I decided to attempt to be ‘in the present moment’ for a week or so, just to feel it out ( I didn’t continue that for a reason; that’s for another post). As I became more and more mindful (in the present), surrender manifested all of a sudden! It was there in the present moment.

This brought about a totally diffrent meaning to Surrender. The real surrender is to drop all the resistance (to anything, may be after you failed to solve it or escape from) and just be in the situation. And the problem is no more there, simply because in present moment there are no problems.

Try it yourself. If there is a problem thats bothering you right now, just drop all your resistance to it, accept it fully and just be there. See what happens.(No cheating, be true to yourself, the acceptance has to be total and effortless)

I have tried this in some simple issues in my life and it works beautifully. But I think the challenge is to apply it to real serious issues (especially where ego is involved..)and that’s something I would like to start practicing.

Long way…

Why is that I do not enjoy something fully?

My daughter loves story books. Everyday I read her a story book before she goes to bed. She has a huge pile of children’s magazines that we subscribe and she picks one at random and I have to read it cover to cover – that’s the procedure.

Few days back I was reading a book for her. There was a poem which I read out. The poem was so meaningless and when I finished, I couldn’t make head or tale of it. What was he trying to convey? It was really that stupid.

So I ask my daughter-‘ Did you like it?’

‘Great’ she says

‘What did you understand?’

She just gave me a grin and said ‘next one’

In a flash, I understood what was happening. For her a poem meant the pictures, colors, rhythm, rhyming and the fact that I was reading it to her. Whether it made sense or not, whether it conveyed something or not – all that was secondary. For her the whole experience is what mattered. And she never even felt the need to explain it. 

And here was I, the stupid logical brainer, caught up with the meaning of the poem…And I just missed the whole thing.

As I went to bed with a disturbed mind, I was thinking of the time when I was a kid and my father used to read story books for me. I would have enjoyed it the way my daughter does now. And what has it taken for me to get this stage where I am stuck with judging and conceptualizing everything around.

Tips to beat depression

There are times when one gets depressed; often due to a sudden change in life. Quitting smoking is one such. In my previous attempts to quit smoking, I was depressed for weeks and didn’t know what to do. I tried to get medical help, but couldn’t tolerate those anti-deps. As a result, I relapsed and was again in the trap.
So before I finally quit, I tried to find out things that could help me fight depression. Here is a list of what I found working for me. If you are trying to fight depression, you will find them useful. You may not want to do all of them; pick what suits your kind of personality:

  1. Awareness / Mindfulness :
    1.  There is an age old technique buddhist technique called Mindfulness. Extremely simple but profound. The crux of Mindfulness is not to fight depression, but to understand it. Find more details in Wikipedia. I would also advice you read a great practical book on Mindfulness – Mindfulness in Plain english http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html
    2. This will also help you become aware of those –ve thoughts that slowly pull you down
    3. If the depression is caused by a ceratin event / conflict, this will help you understand it better, from a different perspective
  2. Fall in love : Not for everyone. But a great way to get the needed High
  3. Deep breathing : Definitely helps. Do it periodically in between your daily chores. Also will help you stay mindful
    1. Try ujjai breathing
    2. Mudra pranayama
    3. Bhastrika pranayama
  4. Cultivate contentment and gratitude in life – When you are depressed, mind takes a negative attitude- you feel you have not made it, you feel life has been unfair to you. Learn to be content and feel grate ful to what you have
  5. Socialize – Take time out and have fun with your friends. Do not withdraw in to your own cocoon.
    1. Spend time with people you love/like/respect
    2. Avoid people whom you dislike / or you compete with / or who are in general negative
  6. Reclaim your creativity – When was the last time you did something very creative? If you had any such interest and you had abandoned it in your school, time to reclaim. This is probably the single most powerful technique to beat depression. It could be painting, sculpting, cartoons, poetry, stories, craft, landscaping; anything creative that you like. If there is nothing, find something new. Learning something new is also a great experience. (Note: I do not recommend things like reading, browsing, chatting…for creativity. Don’t fool yourselves)
  7. Roar like a lion – Simply get to a room and roar like a lion with all your might. Do few rounds, lie down on your back and relax with your eyes closed.
  8. Reciting Om and Gayathri Mantra – Ancient sages have learnt how to use sound to achieve great things. Just try chanting Om or Gayathri mantra few rounds a day.
  9. Talk to people who have a larger perspective of life – Sometimes the cause for depression is that you have a very narrow perspective of live and events confined by your small little mind. Talk to someone who can show you the bigger picture
  10. Dance – A simple but working method. You don’t have to be a classical dancer for this.When you are down, get in to a room, play some music (instrumental I would prefer..) and dance. Swing your body, let the music move through your body. About 5-6 minutes would do. Lie down and relax for few minutes with your eyes closed.
  11. Sing – Sing hum a tune that you love. See the difference
  12. Travel– Travel to new places, a good way to be fresh again.
  13. Watch hilarious movies – Nothing like a good laugh
  14. Jokes – Read some jokes. You find plenty on the net these days. Grab a Calvin and Hobbes book and keep at your desk. Avoid the kind of –ve ones that your mind can identify with.
  15. Exercise – work out regularly. Do graded weight training. Jog 2 miles in the morning. Will keep you fresh and fit
  16. Laugh – When you wake up in the morning, go to the mirror and just laugh. Laugh with your whole body and mind. Whoever has tried it will vouch for it.
  17. Be in the Sun – I have no clue how this works. But I have experienced this. Just stand in the sun for sometime (mornings better) and feel the difference
  18. Suryanamaskara – From perspective if yoga, depression happens due to low levels of ‘Prana’. There are several techniques in yoga to boost up your prana. One such ancient profound technique is Suryanamaskara. Easy to practice but very very effective..Do couple of rounds regularly
  19. Read articles on positivity – There is lot of stuff around. Pick some good stuff, I would recommend experiences of people who have overcome such difficulties in life
  20. Identify a purpose in life – Sometimes depression is also caused by a lack of purpose in life. Set small objectives and work towards it.
  21. Self talk– The most important ally in your fight against depression will be your mind. Talk to your mind (not self hypnotizing please…)Tell your mind that you do not want to be depressed and ask for help. Listen to your mind and your consciousness. You will get the direction.
  22. Have that great smile on your face – Fake it till you make it. You will soon.

Things to avoid:

–          Do not go around telling people that you are depressed. Tell it to only those who really need to know (may be your manager for e.g)

–          Avoid meditation – it will make you more introvert (also some yoga techniques like bramari, trataka..)

–          Be careful what you watch and what you read. There is lot of negative stuff all around, and it’s easy for your mind to respond to subtle clues. Even be careful with newspapers.

–          Avoid negative people – no second thoughts. If you feel someone is pulling you down, don’t think twice.

–          Don’t pack your day – Slow down, have enough time for you

Hope this helps. Let me know your experience.Good luck