The Art of being Vulnerable

Being vulnerable has always been looked at as being weak. But the truth is that we all have things that we are not good at and will at some point or the other be embarrassed or feel like a novice. But if you want to learn to be good at something, we all have to start from that place of being vulnerable and asking for help from people who know it better than us.

We all start from a place of ‘not knowing’ and gradually move to a place of mastery. The path is not a pretty one. Hence we don’t often get to see it. We therefore see the master and want the ‘crash course’ or ‘the 10 steps method’ to get there. Here patience is the key. If not, being disappointed and quitting becomes the obvious result.

Being vulnerable and comfortable at the same time takes a lot of courage and a lot of practice. You need to sit in that vulnerability and look around and know that everyone started out the same way. Be aware that being vulnerable in new and strange (unfamiliar) situations is part of the process. It is what everybody including the master has gone through.

It is also very important to note that the vulnerability is internal to yourself and that no one else knows you are feeling that way. You can trip over on a banana peel in front of the prettiest girls and get up dust yourself and walk off with your head held high and your confidence intact if you want to. It all depends on how strong you are internally built in terms of your confidence and your ability to laugh at yourself.

Wear your flaws like your armor. Trying to hide it only makes a bad situation worse. This does not mean you run around on rooftops shouting that you are a nervous wreck. It only means you admit your situation and smile about it when someone tries to make a joke out of it. When they see you are comfortable being yourself (flaws and all), they’ll make it a point not to pick on you the next time.

Being genuinely comfortable with your vulnerabilities means, now you are in control of the narrative and the bullies know that you laugh at your own vulnerabilities. Somehow your vulnerabilities are not funny anymore.

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The New Year Resolution

A Very Happy New Year everybody. With the new year obviously comes a new beginning. The making of ‘New Year Resolutions’ have become a part of our universal culture. These are usually our promises to make changes for our betterment in the brand new year.

The issue is that everywhere we see people waiting for the New Year to make their life changing decisions. I have friends who quit smoking or start going to the gym for the month of January and when their enthusiasm fades, they go back to doing what they have always been doing.

The reason for the above trend is that we use the New Year Resolution as an excuse or as a procrastination mechanism to delay making these changes. Every time you decide to make decisions to change your life you need to take steps now or as soon as you possibly can. Never procrastinate on taking such difficult decisions. It gives you time to come up with excuses and you end up losing that motivation that initiated the enthusiasm to make the changes in the first place.

The reason we stop this new lifestyle after a month or so is because New Year Resolutions are made as this big annual announcement that you are making a positive change in your life. We tell everybody about it and get a high on all the attention we receive. But after about a month we realize no one cares about it anymore and our motivation to carry on is lost.

So here’s the solution; don’t do things to show-off your resolve to become better. It is alright to tell a friend or two to keep tabs on you, but don’t do it so people will praise you or give you some attention, because such praise and attention dies down and with it your plans to keep going strong. Take it slow and make it a part of your lifestyle. Don’t expect a pat on your back every time you resist the urge to smoke or stick to your schedule at the gym. This is personal and concerns no one else but you.

While, making New Year Resolutions are nice, be aware of its pitfalls and know that sticking to it in the long-term is way more important than just making them. Do things for yourself or find inspirations in things that last. Have a great year ahead.

Living in your own Reality

Sounds like science fiction, right. Well, I’m not talking about a physical reality, but a mental one. The good comes with the bad and the bad comes with the good. Separating the two and taking the good and learning to minimize the effects of the bad in every situation will take some practice and an acute sense of humor.

Creating a bubble you can retreat into is vital. It should be your happy place where nothing can touch you. This place need not be logical or obey the universal laws of physics, time or space. It can just be a place in your mind. The purpose is to minimize the influence people have in the decisions you take. Meditation has helped me a lot in this regard. It puts your mind at ease and puts things back into perspective.

We are all part of the rat race in one way or the other. None of us are completely free from its influence as we are social beings and live in societies that depend or interact with each other (however minimalistically). So being able to step out of it when it all becomes a little too much and being able to find that place where you can switch off and be yourself and think for yourself becomes important.

The funny thing about us as humans is that we like to think of ourselves as being in control of what we do, but we tend to underestimate the influence people have on us. That’s the reason for the saying ‘You are the sum of the five people you spend most of your time with’. We even agree that people in general can be influenced by others, but somehow, it happening to us is almost unbelievable.

To step out of these influences and to do things you what to do without regard for what a vast majority of the people think takes a lot of courage. You also need to be confident in yourself and you should be willing to take responsibility for your actions. Playing it safe and then blaming people around you for your unhappiness is always easy. On the other hand, listening to your heart and doing things your way can be a slow and lonely path to choose, but it will take you places and teach you valuable life lessons that other ways would be lost. This way you will always know that what happens around you doesn’t matter, as long as it doesn’t influence what happens within you. You become the dominant influencer of your life.

Training the Emotional Muscle

Emotions are the strongest the first time you go through them. Their ability to affect you fades as you experience them repeatedly. So it is only logical that if you are scared of a particular emotion and want to be comfortable with it, you have to expose yourself to it repeatedly. That is the only way to be immune to it or at least to be able to better handle it the next time it happens.

Remember the first time you got your heart broken? Well, I’m going to bet the next time it happened to you, it wasn’t as bad as the first time. This is because the shock of it, to an extent, was expected as you had been through it before. I’m not saying that it wouldn’t hurt or you are going to smile through it. But this time you will be calmer and will be able to observe the way things work rather than freaking out and searching for the tallest building in your neighborhood to jump from. It’s just like working out in the gym; (if done properly) pain is what builds muscle. So pushing through that uncomfortable feeling is essential.

Now this doesn’t mean you have to go around doing stupid things so people break-up with you. That was just an example to help put my point across. When negative things like this happen to us often enough, you come to a point where you stop caring about it and these things don’t affect you anymore, this is both good and bad.

Good because, now you are not afraid of the outcome anymore and you proceed to work on what you want without fear. Even if things go south you know you can handle it because you have been there before. It can be a bad thing because, now you might start at a negative place expecting the same outcome of failure and might self-sabotage your progress if things go too well.

What you need to understand is that the bad (emotional) experience is a lesson you need to learn from and that such things happen to you not because you deserve it or that you are destined to such negative outcomes. Trust in the process and start afresh like nothing bad has ever happened to you, but be aware of the lessons you have previously learnt and make a conscious effort to not make the same mistakes again.

Like in sports or music, it takes time to get good at something. There is no instant rock star or pro-athlete formula to achieve mastery at anything. It takes time, effort, a whole lot of patience and keen observation skills to master your emotions.

The Beauty of Pain

Pain (physical and mental) is universal. There is no getting away from it. But we live in a time when minimizing or denying the existence of it is more important than dealing with it. Learning to sit in it and not being restless can open up a new way of experiencing pain. It also helps you develop immunity to the same kind of pain henceforth.

You begin by accepting the pain and not looking for ways to get rid of it. Start looking at pain as a positive, transformational (evolutionary) force. Learn to look for the root cause of the disturbance. Pain is usually a signal to stop doing something or to start being aware of what’s happening.

When you are in pain, you are not worrying about the past or the future; you are in the present (Now). This is a nice place to be. In fact, you should practice bringing your mind to the ‘Now’ without the pain. But with the pain it is an automatic response. I’m not saying you should go looking for pain, but when it comes (as it usually does) make the most of the opportunity. It is said that even Buddha in his early days tried to experiment with pain to help speed the process of attaining the ability to stay in the present, but later gave up this method as it was not a positive process.

I have had a lot of heart-breaks, but they have been the best learning experiences that I have had and the people who have broken me are the people I owe the most for my development as a mentally and emotionally strong person. If they had been forgiving and had let me be the same mediocre person, I would never have grown-up to be me. There are a lot of distractions out there that can numb your pain, but to truly benefit from it and become stronger you need to face the pain without the numbing agents.

The point I’m trying to get across is that you can either be bitter about your pain or you can look at it positively and make use of it to grow and mature into a better version of yourself.

Disclaimer: I’m not an expert on pain and I have not had any vastly traumatic experiences. This is just my view about pain and the way things have worked for me in my life.

Spirituality: The Personal Journey

We tend to confuse spirituality with religion. Religion is all about ‘Which one of us is right?’. Spirituality is about attaining inner peace and happiness. Peace and happiness cannot be attained in a group. Each person needs to develop his own process to reach this goal. All the religions and gurus can point you to certain directions, but if you have not made yourself ready to reach that level of understanding, you will find it difficult to move towards your goal.

Finding your own way at your own pace is important. For me, taking a break from work and reading a lot of books helped. For others discussing it with people or travelling to new places might have helped. Whatever method you choose to use, it should suit your lifestyle and your way of thinking. Meditation in this journey is unavoidable. As uncomfortable as it may be for most people, understanding yourself and separating yourself from your thoughts (mind) are vital.

We live in interesting times. We can learn to do anything we want. Making use of technology in this journey is useful. Shutting yourself off from it completely might not let you use some of the tools it provides. It is how you use it that matters the most. You can either use it to watch ‘Cat videos’ (not that it’s a bad thing to do so) or you can choose to listen to different people and gather as many view points on issues that interest you and in turn have a more rounded understanding of the issue. You can get plenty of free ebooks on spirituality to get you started.

I in particular have always been happy. My goal in this journey has been to remain happy and find the equilibrium (balance) and to avoid the urge to compare my world with anyone else’s. This may not sound exciting but it is definitely going to let me be at peace with my being. Knowing what you seek is important. It puts things into perspective.

Understand that this is personal. The moment you compare your journey or your successes with someone else’s, you start to compete or get frustrated and this will result in you losing all the progress you made thus far. While it is good to discuss your pursuit with like-minded people, it should be done with an intention to learn. We all have our advantages and disadvantages that are unique to us. We need to learn to make the most out of our circumstances.

Happiness from an Indian Perspective

India is a beautiful country with the largest youth population in the world. We have managed to have a prosperous economy with a thriving democracy. Everything isn’t perfect, but if I had to choose where I would live, I would still prefer to have been born and brought up here, in India. In other words, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Well, this might be because I’m happy with everything that I am and the things that I have. That does not mean life is perfect; in fact, it never is. Acceptance is the beginning of happiness. From that place of happiness you can see clearly and make improvements on things that you feel are lacking in your life.

The importance of being in this state of mind is that you are not desperate anymore. You make decisions out of a place of positivity and goodness. The saying that ‘The ends justify the means’ is not the right way to go about in life. In life, the process (journey) is more important than the goal (destination). Goals are far and few in between, but most of it is the journey.

Unfortunately India also has a high suicide rate. In fact, suicide happens to be the leading cause of death among teens in India. One reason could be the excess pressure kids are put under to excel in school. Academic success in India plays a vital part in whether a child is viewed as a failure or a success. Sports is given a low priority, which makes matters worse because then these kids loss the lessons they could learn in sports such as team effort, discipline, mental strength etc.

I played a lot of sports in school and I can tell you that I learned more life lessons on the field than in the classroom. There is another important factor to look at; learning disabilities. It’s always assumed that if a kid is bad at school work or slow compared to his peers, it’s because he’s lazy. That could be true, but it also could be because the kid has a learning disability.

The important thing for us to do as a society is to listen to one another (especially to our kids). Being heard is one of the most important needs for a person. We should make sure that our kids know that we expect high standards from them, but also that making mistakes is part of the learning process and of being human.