“Then i looked at my hands in the flickering candlelight”
The prompt for today suggested i pick up the nearest book, open page 82 and make a post based on the 3rd line from the page. So i took this one from Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami.
I’m not a fiction buff. But most of my favorites from the genre have been written by Murakami. His tone centers around loneliness, great music and the 60s. The writing style has always had me glued on. Today when i read the line on top, i wondered if it could mean something in a different context. The only thing i can think of is to look through the darker uncertain times with sheer Pollyanna optimism. In the book the character is confused about visions pretty similar to the way we build notions and let them guide us. So let that flickering candle not dampen a moment’s enthusiasm. Believe. That’s what i really took away.
It’s that time of the year, where most people here in India begin an extensive cleaning exercise for the big festival – Diwali. Home improvement, fixing the furniture, getting the walls done to much simpler things like throwing away unused items are on the to-do list. I decided to start a bit earlier than usual, considering its our first Diwali after getting married. As i dusted and picked up random receipts, card statements, brochures and bills i could retrace some wise and a few unwise buying decisions. While most of the stuff we had stashed away wasn’t of any utilitarian value, I had to keep some of it because of sentimental connect. Somehow there is always an emotional connect to inanimate things like books etc.
With every irrelevant and broken item i put away, i felt much better. It got me thinking to how much we accumulate over days, weeks and months without actually realizing the burden we are creating for ourselves. The burden, if that’s what we choose to call it for now – can be physical, emotional or materialistic. But no matter what, its important to pause and reflect. The cleaning bit is always a good way to let it off.
Another aspect that came to my mind about cleaning up centered on how a major cleaning of the mindset is required. In the past few weeks several stories have done the rounds on social media. First there were photo leaks due to a icloud hack, then Emma Watson got threatened after her UN speech and a powerful media house took on a popular actress. In most cases, women were objectified and blamed that they were asking for it. While the explanations defeat logic, all of this has left a lot of tongues wagging. Sure we are talking about gender equality, women empowerment and work place equality. But what would it take for us to break out of the regressive mindset? Some men would be intimidating the wife at home, getting intimidated by the female boss at work and end up going for the latest movie released to go watch some lead actress being objectified over celluloid. I cannot even begin to connect the dots and put all of it in perspective. All i know is that a major cleaning of the mindset is required. It’s not going to be easy. But given the number of decades and generations we’ve spent discussing, its most required now.
More often than not, i come across people who talk about others having all the luck in the world. Such thoughts baffle me because i think that we create our own luck as we go along in life. That also is what we learn in spiritual lessons, that all of life is your karma. What you sow, so shall you reap. But scientifically, research has proven that successful people tend to drive luck in their stride by doing some things. I love reading up on behavioral psychology so here are a few things i picked up worth noting:
1. Seize the opportunity: It’s common to feel overwhelmed with the number of things going on around you. Successful people try not to look at obstacles and rather approach every problem with solutions. In short they look at problems as opportunities. This does require an attitude shift, but it looks promising to try out. Even if you do fail, that will be a learning.
2. Pay attention to the world around: I was reading a book by Richard Wiseman and he talked of an experiment where they asked people who considered themselves lucky or unlucky to look at an article and count the photographs in it. The lucky ones finished faster with the correct number ’cause they spotted a line early in the article mentioning this information. The unlucky ones kept counting and finished late complaining. The point is they weren’t focused on what they were looking for and feared failure.
3. Use your gut instincts: Very often you do get a gut feeling about a person / situation and its always got something more to it. I firmly believe gut instincts must be trusted. Somehow we subconsciously know of the outcome just when we are going to start something. So we must trust from the larger experience our minds are offering indirectly.
Apart from the regular keep a positive attitude and appreciate change kind of tips, i felt the ones above are more effective. At the least these are backed by years of research so i do hope these help you!
Come March-April, we revel in the festivities of Navratri. Several people fast through the 9 days for the granting of their wishes or just for the well being of their families. These days of fasting are dedicated to the Goddess. Being from a punjabi household, i grew up with this phase being celebrated twice a year. The second more popular wave come in October, just before Diwali.
As for me, i skipped the fasts to indulge in the special food preparations on the day of Ashtmi. This is the 8th day of Navratri. In most punjabi homes, Puri (Fried Bread), Black Channa (Black Bengal Gram) and Halwa (Semolina Pudding) are cooked and offered to the Goddess first and then to 9 young girls and 1 boy. The 9 girls are symbolic of the different avatars of the Goddess.
Here is a photo of the meal my mother cooked back home. These always make me smile 🙂
Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd – Voltaire
I remember seeing this quote and wondering if its safe to doubt everything around me. We do feel a false sense of certainty at times and when routine kicks in we fear stagnation. That is a worrisome thought and hence i constantly seek out new tasks or routines to put myself through more experiences. The doubt is that little nudge that pushes me to explore more.
Certainty being absurd according to the witty french philosopher is something i completely agree with. With just six degrees of separation online how frequent it is to come across people you don’t know and connect to work on something bigger. In a city like mumbai where one could face strikes / delays / torrential rains or even more pleasant things like someone returning a lost wallet / helping you find your way back / offering directions its more often to see doubt at the base of things. Maybe we doubt more because we know and understand more. After-all, more perspectives could add to doubt, but the collective view will be of more value than a singular distorted opinion. In a democratic society like ours i must say the elections are a classic example. Individuals more certain of a win are looked at with suspicion. There is no dearth of internet memes surrounding the upcoming voting season.
In my case, i choose doubt more over certainty. Its good to know some things for certain but when you begin to think everything is for certain, then ‘Houston, we have a problem’.
“Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only completely consistent people are the dead.” – Alduos Huxley
The quote sparked a bunch of thoughts to my head. Firstly, most of us are looking for familiarity in situations we find ourselves in. We like to think back if we have done this before and wonder how can i do this task better. In short, we are looking for some kind of consistency. In life or in experiences. When faced with a situation we know little off, we begin to feel that this is not the comfort zone and wonder how soon will it be over. Seeking consistency is the mistake we make. Many would like to think of it as stability too. Or as some of us like to think of it as “settling down”.
The second line of Huxley’s quote is a very valid one. Its definitely better to be at ease with change. Rather than stagnating, getting bored and loosing focus i would surely prefer situations that intrigue me. That’s the point that the quote is also trying to make. Why seek consistency? Rather most of the world around us is chaotic and ever-changing. Maybe all we need to do is pause and revel in the present, as it passes us by.
Behavior change is typically bought about by forming and cultivating habits that drive it. No matter how good we think we may be, we can always do better by pruning a few bad habits here and there. Staying up late / smoking too often / having a drinking problem / unable to exercise / or even simple ones such as procrastinating and other bad habits do find their way in our daily routines. I have been reading up extensively on the subject too. It’s intriguing to know that behavior change can be brought about rather simply.
So here’s a round up of 5 simple tips i found really useful:
1. Plan: Most of us start by thinking we need to change one aspect of our life but unsure of what needs to be done. Hence its important plan it out in advance and set goals for yourself.
2. Identify the cause: Make sure you notice what drives you towards the bad habit. If stressful meetings are the reason you’re out smoking, then maybe catching a healthy snack with a colleague would be a better option. If watching TV till late is leading to you staying up longer, then reading could be something you could take to.
3. Control the urges: It’s really easy to slip away and think just this one time. However, you need to fight the urge. I think having a simple line and talking yourself out of slacking off works well. Telling yourself “I’m better than this” does work in stalling the urge.
4. Talk about it: Telling your family and friends would be a good idea to ensure that you’re on track. This will also help as they will be your support network to encourage you through the change.
5. Positivity: No change come easy and its important to keep yourself going no matter what. Surround yourself with positive quotes or images to make it easy for yourself. The simplest one could be to keep your smartphone’s wallpaper as a positive message / quote.
Those were some of the tips i found simple to implement and actually bring about positive changes. Hope these are helpful for you too 🙂