Monday, July 15, 2019

Wisdom from The Wisdom of No Escape - Pema Chodron

The message for the dathun as well as for the reader is to be with oneself without embarrassment or harshness. This is to love oneself and ones world.

Loving Kindness

  • If we are committed to comfort at any cost, as soon as we come up the least edge of pain, we're going to run; we'll never know what's beyond that particular barrier or wall or fearful thing.
  • Generally people think if they meditate they will improve, but loving kindness (maitri) toward ourselves doesn't mean getting rid of anything. Meditation practice doesn't mean throwing ourselves away and becoming something better. It's about befriending who we are already.
  • One of the main discoveries of meditation is seeing how we continually run away from the present moment, how we avoid being here just as we are. It's not a problem; the point is to see it.
  • The path of meditation has to do with curiosity, inquisitiveness. It involves being gentle, precise and open. Gentleness is a sense of goodheartedness toward ourselves. Precision is beeing able to see very clearly, not being afraid to see what's really there just as a scientist is not afraid to look under the microscope. Openness is being able to let go and open.
  • The effect of month of meditation will be as if at the end of the day, someone were to play a video of you back to yourself and you could see it all. You probably would see that you do all those things that you criticize all the people you don't like in your life. Making friends with yourself is making friends with all those people too, because when you have this goodheartedness and clarity about yourself, then there is no obstacle to feeling loving kindness for others as well.

Satisfaction

  • It is helpful to realize that being here, sitting in meditation, doing simple everyday things like working, walking outside, talking with people, bathing, using the toilet, eating is acutally all we need to be fully awake, fully alive, fully human. The body and the mind we have are exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake and fully alive. The emotions that we have right now, the positive and the negative are what we actually need. Being satisfied with what we have already is a magical golden key to being alive in a full, unrestricted and inspired way.
  • One of the major obstacles to what we traditionally call enlightenment is resentment, feeling cheated, holding a grudge about who you are, where you are, what you are. Meditation is a process of lightening up, of trusting the basic goodness of what we have and who we are and realizing that any wisdom that exists, exists in what we already have.
  • Our wisdom is all mixed up with what we call our neurosis. Our brilliance, our juiciness, our spiciness is all mixed up with our craziness and our confusion, therefore it doesn't do any good to try to get rid of our basic wonderfulness. We can lead our life so as to become more awake to who we are and rid of who we are or what we're doing.
  • We know we're never really going to know all the answers, because these kinds of questions come from having a hunger and a passion for life. They have nothing to do with resolving anything or tying it all up into a neat little package. This kind of questioning is the journey itself. The fruition lies in beginning to realize our kinship with all humanity.
  • Our journey of making friends with ourselves is not a selfish thing. We're not trying to get all the goodies for ourselves. It's a process of developing loving-kindness and a true understanding for other people as well.

Finding our own true nature

  • Regarding practice - If you think the things are going well, it is some kind of arrogance. If it is too easy for you, you just relax. You don't make a real effort and therefore you never find out what it is to be fully human.
  • The karma kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism are called the mishap lineage because of ways in which the venerated teachers of this lineage blew it time after time. They are good examples of people who never gave up on themselves and were not afraid to be themselves, who thefore found their own genuine quality and their own true nature.
  • The point is that true nature is not some ideal that we have to live up to. It is who we are right now, and that's what we can make friends with and celebrate.

Precision Gentleness and Letting Go

  • The Buddha taught that we share an innocent misunderstanding that we all share, that can be corrected, and seen through as if someone switched on a light in a dark room. The key to being less shut off is to be able to see clearly who we are and what we're doing.
  • The innocent mistake that keeps us caught in our own style of ignorance, unkindness is that we are never encouraged to see clearly what is, with clearness. Instead there is a basic misunderstanding that we should try to be better that we are, if we get away from painful things, we will be happy. This is the innocent naive misunderstanding that keeps us unhappy.
  • Meditation is about clearly seeing the body that we have, the mind that we have, the domestic situation that we have, the job that we have, and the people who are in our lives. It's about how we react to all these things. It's seeing our emotions and thoughts just as they are right now, in this very moment, in this very room on this very seat. It's about not trying to make them go away, not trying to become better than we are, but seeing clearly with precision and gentleness.
  • This is not an improvement plan; it is not a situation in which you try to better than you're now. If you have bad temper if you feel that sitting and meditating here will make your bad temper go away. The problem is the desire to change is fundamentally a form of aggression toward yourself. The other problem is that our hangups, unfortunately or fortunately contain our wealth. Our neurosis and wisdom are made out of the same material. If you through out your neurosis, you throw out your wisdom.
  • Someone who is very angry also has a lot of energy; That's the reason people like that person. The idea isn't to try and get rid of your anger but to make friends with it, to see it clearly with precision and honesty, and also to see it with gentlesness. That means not seeing yourself as a bad person, but also not bolstering yourself up by saying, "It's good that I'm this way, it's right that I'm this way. Other people are terrible and I'm right to be so angry at the all the time." This gentleness involves not repressing the anger but also not acting it out. It is something much softer and more openhearted than any of that. It involves learning how, once you have fully acknowledged the feeling of anger and the knowledge of who you are and what you do, to let it go. You can let go of the usual pitiful little story line that accompanies anger and begin to see clearly how you keep the whole thing going. So whether it's anger or craving or jealousy or fear or depression - whatever it might be - the notion is not to try to get rid of it, but to make friends with it. That means getting to know it completely, with some kind of softness , and learning how, once you've experienced it fully, to let go.
  • The meditation technique itself cultivates precision, gentleness and the ability to let go - qualities that innate within us. Below are the steps of the technique.

Precision

  • The technique is first to take good posture and second to become mindful of your out-breath. Just feel the breath go out and touch the breath as it goes out. This seems simple but to be actually be with the breath and be with every breath requires a lot of precision. Just the fact that you always come back to the breath, that you try in a gentle way, to be as fully with the breath as you can sharpens your mind.
  • The third part of the technique is that, when you realize that you've been thinking, you say you yourself, "Thinking". Now that requires a lot of precision. If you just wake up from your throughts and go back directly to breathing and accidentally forget about the labelling, then just pause for a little bit and say to yourself "Thinking". Use the label because it is so precise.

Gentleness

  • If we emphasized only precision, our meditation might become quite harsh and militant. It might get too goal-oriented. So we emphasize gentleness.
  • If you notice your stomach and shoulders tense, relax them.
  • We are also not maintaining 100% awareness on the outbreath, we only maintain a gentle 25% of the attention. We have our eyes open and because the gaze is not tight our emphasis here is on openness, even though you're mindful of the out breath, you're not sshutting out all the other things that are going on. Touch the breath and let it go. The touch is the precision part and also the softness part.
  • The moment you label your thoughts "Thinking" is probably the key place in the technique where you cultivate gentleness, sympathy and loving-kindness. Rinpoche used to say, "Notice the tone of voice when you say "thinking.". If you notice you're being harsh, say it a second time to cultivate the feeling that you can say it to yourself with kindness and gentleness. You're cultivating a non judgemental attitude.
  • The honesty of precision and the goodheartedness of gentleness are qualities of making friends with yourself.

Letting Go

  • The third aspect of the technique is the quality of opening and letting go. This simple technique helps us rediscover this ability that we already have to open beyond small-mindedness and let go of any fixation or limited view.
  • In this technique we are asked to be only with the out breath and we are given no instruction as to what to do within the out breaths. So one could just let go at the end of the out breath. Breath goes out and dissolves, and there could be some sense of letting go completely. Nothing to hold on to until the next out-breath.
  • Even though it is difficult to do, as you being to work with mindfulness of the out-breath, then the pause, just waiting, and then mindfulness of the next out-breath, the sense of being able to let go begins to dawn on you. Just do the technique, as months and years go by, the way you regard the world will begin to change.
  • The experience of labelling your thoughts as thinking also becomes more vivid over time. You say yourself "thinking" and as your'e saying it basically you're letting go of your thoughts. Once you get the hang of it, it's incredibly powerful that you could be completely obsessed with hope and fear and all kinds of other thoughts and you could realize what you've been doing - without criticizing it - and you could let it go.
  • This is probably one of the most amazing tools that you could be given, the ability to just let things go, not to be caught in the grip of your own angry thoughts or passionate thoughts or worried thoughts or depressed thoughts.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Why the rush?

When I see my son, I realize how ineffective rushing things are. I was like that and I'm still like that. My previous manager used to tell me to take it slow. I now see clearly that is another case of a hyperactive mind. We want to complete the work quick and dirty and go to the next thing. But it begs the question what next and why ? It really doesn't make sense. It just becomes an excuse to not really tackle the hard bits. Because getting to 70% is easy, the next 30% is the difficult part. If we are impatient, we are tempted to skip over that 30%. But if we are going slowly but steadily, we can stomach the tough parts slowly and try to work through that.

When I'm in the office in the morning, I just say good morning and keep rushing to my desk. Why is that necessary? Why can't I stop at someone's desk and ask them how their day is. It is literally stopping and smelling the roses isn't it? I really am appreciating this slow and steady way of doing things. 

Monday, March 25, 2019

A few thoughts on living in Massachusetts

I lived in Mass for couple of years. I had heard a lot about Boston and about how it was one of the first place the English settlers came to in  the US. Mass is the place where the revolution against British rule started with the Boston tea party. I was also aware that MIT the best engineering school world is also based in Mass. So I was pretty excited to live there. 

I worked in Boston near the South station. The subway system in Boston  pretty old but it worked well 80% of the time. I used to travel on the red line. In Boston the subway uses a third rail for the power. The equipment was old and there used to break down pretty frequently. And it used  take a lot of time to clear up and the delays cascaded through the system. Commuter rail worked better than this and the instances I traveled in commuter it was fast   and worked well. New train cars are coming on the red line and it should be better. 

Boston is a nice city. It is small but doesn't lack anything. It is healthcare hub with lot  great hospitals. It has  great innovation centers with the presence of multiple universities. 

Downtown is walkable and has great places like parks, shopping, museums and the like. 

Being in New England we can expect good snow here. I used to stay in the South shore region and luckily the two years I stayed it didn't snow much at all. But people here still reminisce about the 2014 snow which caused so much disruption that people worked from home about a month. When I was in NJ even for little snow I used to work from home but here till it is 6 inches of snow no one cares. It is part of living in NE. And people here love the snow. Most of the people enjoy winter sports like skiing, ice skating and snowboarding. I didn't get a chance though. 

There is good beach near the city at Revere and otherwise we have to  drive down to Cape cod. The beaches in Cape cod are good and I had so much fun here. The beaches are not as crowded as in NJ, so a trip to the beach was very relaxing.

One thing I miss from Boston is about restaurant called Clover which creates dishes with local grown stuff and it is amazing. Don't forget to try if you're there. 

I lived in a town called Quincy which is a suburb of Boston. The cost of living was high starting from the apartment rents. The apartment complexes are huge and we made lot of friends there.

Mass is close to Vermont and New Hampshire and if you love nature, they are some of the best places to visit. The white mountains, lakes region of NH and the green mountains of Vermont have breathtaking views in fall. And the best part is it is just a couple of hours of drive from Mass. This is something I will definitely miss.

The taxes are high in Mass. There is a personal property tax for cars and other vehicles. For Indian, there are couple of Indian grocery stores in Quincy  and a few stores in other places like Waltham, Norwood and Attleboro. So it is great if you're in any of those towns, otherwise you need to drive far for them.

 But that said the civic services are great. The libraries are pretty amazing And parks are good too!

On the whole, if you make peace with the cold weather, it is a great place to live. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

An Update

After Feb 12, I haven't made any updates to the blog. It was because I moved to NJ from Mass. I have some topics lined up and will get back to my regular schedule.

Upcoming posts:
1. Learnings from my previous job
2. Decision making snafu
3. The good and bad of living in Massachusetts

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Practical Ideas helping my year of focus

This is my year of focus where I resolved to do whatever I do with complete focus.

These are some of the tools and ideas that have kept me on the path. Hope they help you too!

Meditation:
As I alluded to previously, I am learning meditation from the waking up course by Sam Harris.
Whenever we get distracted, Sam just asks us to take a moment to notice to observe everything that is appearing in your consciousness via visual, audible and sensory medium. The new addition to this, courtesy of Sam is that your thoughts are also appearances in consciousness and you can also observe them during your meditation. This is something that is very interesting and is sure to free you up from whatever thought distracted you. This is helping me on my journey on the year of focus.

I've also observed that the most frequent time I get distracted is when I'm waiting for my application to build on my machine. I think that is a great time to practice my meditation and also to see how I can speed up the build time.


A mindful companion to  web browsing :
A big part of that is not getting distracted by interested stories and articles. I'm able to do it sometimes, but I often end up distracted and in no time I end up swimming pretty fast in the stream of hyperlinks and feeds that I frequent. I have installed an extension called 'Mindful Browsing' on chrome. This extension gently asks you if you really want to spend time on a time sink which you are aware of ? It also allows us to setup an alternative activity we would be rather doing. This is helpful to certain extent. But our behavior also controls it to some extent. If you gave in and clicked '10 mins' once on the mindful browsing extension, there is all the more chance that you will do the same again after 10 mins.

Deep Work Rules: 
Another thing that has helped me is just remembering the focus rules from Deep Work. My rule is that I will not browse non-work related things before 5:30 PM. When I remember this, the day is very productive. If you want to know more about deep work, check out the book here.

Thinking about contribution 
A final thing that helps me focus is thinking about contribution. We ought to use our limited time to do things we are proud of and just getting this thought has a way of getting my thoughts focused.



Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Feedback Analysis - Peter Druckers way to discover your strengths

Peter Drucker the esteemed management guru writes in his book, Managing Oneself about a great way to discover your strengths. He calls is feedback analysis.

It involves before any decision or action write down the expected results- what do you think will happen and why. Then after some time may be after six to nine months, review the decision compare the actual results with your expectations.

If you practice this method consistently, you will identify what your strengths are. He expects it to take around two to three years. You will also know what you're doing or not doing that are preventing you from taking full advantage of your strengths. It will also show where you are not particularly competent and where you have no strengths at all.

Once you know your strengths, try to improve your strengths and become a star performer instead of trying to improve in areas where you don't have strengths.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Vocabulary In Use series - Great resource to improve your english vocabulary

There is an excellent series of books published by the Cambridge University Press about improving your vocabulary.


I have read through the basic vocabulary in use and I am currently working through the intermediate vocabulary in use.

I got to know the importance of  learning and using colocations, phrasal verbs, fixed expressions and idioms in speaking to make our words flow easily.

Colocations are words that go together like

make + mistakes
under + table
on + the bus
have + breakfast etc
go + up the stairs
do + the dishes

Phrasal verbs is a phrase that combines two or three words from different grammatical categories like a verb + a particle or a verb + a preposition to form a a single semantic unit.

e.g. turn down
       get along
      give up etc.

Though I know of the words already, it gave me a refresher of all the words I could use instead of good
good = nice, beautiful, great, terrific, wonderful, excellent, fantastic fine, gorgeous super, friendly, happy, thoughtful, well behaved, smart and kind.

bad = worse, awful, terrible, nasty, mean, unkind, horrible, difficult, stupid (very strong word), selfish, childish.

A fixed expression is a standard form of expression that has taken on a more specific meaning than the expression itself.
as a matter of fact
inspite of
for starters
to make matters worse etc

Idioms is a group of words with a meaning different from the individual words and often difficult to understand from the individual words. Many phrasal words are idiomatic.
get a move on - hurry up
take turns -
offhand - without looking up
small talk
make it - come
keep an eye on - watch

It has been a very helpful resource and if I'm looking for ways to practice my new vocabulary.

Each book has number of lessons. The lessons are always one page in length on the left side of the page and the right side has exercises to practice. Different units take different words or different situations for using vocabulary and make teach us.

I highly recommend going through those books if you are interested in speaking english fluently and increase your vocabulary.