Tuesday, March 13, 2018

thirty seven banana peels: provisional epilogue

The epilogue in the title is because the commitment of #37 is over. The provisional is because three more have been added to the list. What I will do is fill in the three more over the next few months. Thereafter it will be one per year. The #37 has a mysterious ring to it. So the forty second banana peel (if I am alive and around for that) will still be prefixed with thirty seven banana peels.

This has been a very interesting project. Its origin lies in a post an acquaintance shared. It had 50 random incidents from her life. The 50 incidents formed the entire post. I thought, why note make 37 banana peels like this from my life. Only, each one would be a post by itself. So that was that. At a macro level, I've said almost everything about my life here.

Now, I am contemplating making this into a book. I will review the peels, spruce things up, edit them, make some structural changes and will make an ebook. No particular reason to make it a book other than to tick off a bucket list item. I wrote a book! In terms of effort, the time has gone into it though I am no writer. Really, I am like a monkey wielding a keyboard aided by technology today. The one possible area where I can get some kamarkat* points is sticking with the task for three long years now.

So long then - adios. It was fun doing this. I will see you periodically with a peel. The regular junk posts will continue as time permits.

* - kamarkat is brown as well. Its better than "brownie"

Sunday, March 11, 2018

thirty seven banana peels #37: amma - vidya - mummy!


Mummy was what I called her. I realize when typing how weird it sounds to read! Over the later period, which started about a decade prior to her passing, I just called her Vidya. It is quite symbolic in representing how my relationship with her evolved over the years.

It started like a stereotypical south Indian mother son relationship. Two children were the norm as well. Look at the other peel on how I was with my brother. She alternated between a strict disciplinarian to performing the tempering role when our dad blew his top. That there was a studious fixation on our studiousness goes without saying. My grades were above average overall so I largely got a free pass in this category.

Looking at the amount of fuss that goes into bringing up children today amuses me. Welcome to the modern era where everything goes into convoluted analysis and ends up coming out better informed and wholly messed up. Not just my mother, mothers of that era and the previous once brought up children effortlessly. Many had to handle 4 or 5. It is not that they were perfect, but looking at today, I can say it was largely sufficient. Some niches are in our awareness today, that is all. I echo Joey: "I turned out fine!"

However there was one time I fell into the trap all educated children fall into. The information muddle convinced me I was better than her. I once remarked: I am surprised you brought me up this well. I quite didn't intend to portray it in that tone or meaning but it unfortunately came out that way. She was hurt. But like all mothers she forgave me. It is one of those things I regret saying.

While I didn't consciously decide to, my relationship with her evolved almost into that between two friends. This was when I just called her with her first name. It is my most cherished part both because of the recency and my full realization of what she meant to me.

I am also glad my relationship with her isn't a regret story of could have beens. Though we lived in different cities, one of us made it a point to talk once a week. Our calls usually lasted 30 minutes on average even though there wasn't enough substance to fill the time. Some balderdash would do.

There were about 3-4 people she opened up in depth to. One was my dad. Other was me. Third was Radha. Finally, one of our aunts. I amusedly noted that in some cases Radha was ahead of me in the pecking order. Vidya had the ability to say the same trivial incident to twenty different people with the same involvement, emotion and intensity. It was as if she narrated everything the first time.

She lived happily in the last decade. Not that much was lacking earlier. But a certain happy-go-luckiness got to her. She was largely untouched by happenings and if she was, she moved on pretty quickly. She never harped on the same thing. She was also blessed in a certain way. People around her wanted to protect and take care of her. Her innocence had a very disarming effect on others.

She was on continuous medication and the number of surgeries she endured will form a list. Despite all this, she lived an upbeat life. While not deeply inclined intellectually, she often surprised me with some deep observations about people and life. The other area she surprised me was in a few incidents she narrated in passing which showed she had a certain "spiritual cocoon" around her. The most telling demonstration of this was in the way she passed on. I am happy she did her Shambhavi practice sincerely to the end.

Once a way, I get this thought that would I be happy if I had gotten one more week with her? Part of me says yes. But I realize whenever it happened, the void cannot be escaped. I haven't suffered since her passing. It speaks well of our relationship. But there's no replacing a mother isn't it?

Sunday, February 25, 2018

thirty seven banana peels #36: Volunteering

Courtesy: Ashwin

If I am writing about the core milestones that comprise my life in these banana peels, I should say I am retired now. Did I say I retired earlier? Once, but there were no details. I retired at the age of 33. [Few years later I was reading Thriftygal’s blog and the fact that she had retired around the same time, I was in awe. Then I reminded myself: you’ve done the same dumbo!]

This was planned and unplanned. I ain’t being cryptic. What I mean is that I knew it was going to happen eventually but did not set a date. I set the direction and let providence decide the timing. The inspiration was my wife [someday, I will see if I can write a post about how all the best decisions in my life were taken by her without being cliche or dishonest].

One, she had quit her million rupee (or somewhere close) job and gone on to be a full time volunteer with Isha. Two, I moved from Chennai to Coimbatore to be closer to the Yoga Center. At the time, the triple whammy of a job change, city change and milieu change was too much to take. Two years passed in Coimbatore and after some equivocation I took the plunge as well. As of this writing, seven years have passed. So this can be a line item in my job history. Even if I opt out, I need not look stupid as I honestly can say I gave it a good shot.

The title: I came to volunteer. The essence of volunteering can be experienced when you do your job with involvement. Sometimes, in the process, a “zone” is hit where you aren’t there any longer. That is the peak of volunteering. To up the ante a little more, when you’re serving someone else (either literally or in emotion), it elevates to an offering. Some or all of these, I’ve experienced before I came full time. I’ve experienced them very frequently after I came full time.

So, honestly, you need not come to the yoga center to experience what being a volunteer feels like. BUT, and BUT again, it sets a context. It is like this. Let us say you wish to wake up at 3 AM. It really helps to go to bed at 9 PM. It helps even more if you eat light or skip dinner. In the normal world, the calculation of self-gratification is intertwined with the work of the day. Either randomly, or being fed up with this search for gratification, a portal opens up and “volunteering” happens. The decision to come here removed all this mulch in one stroke. Additionally, being in a space that is geared towards growth, situational aspects are handled as well. So I can sit for shoonya at whim and everyone will know not to disturb me at the time. I can go ka ka ka with full blooded intensity not worrying what my neighbor will think. Work became overwhelming? The sacred abode of spiritual intensity is 20 steps away.

But that is not to say this is a bed of roses here. Many times, this feels like another job. You just get settled to the fact that there’s no pay and everything else is like a corporate office. You drag through the day at times. You do the work without involvement. You bicker with someone. You want to escape to Coimbatore and catch a movie. But there are reminders everywhere. Often you see someone who reminds you how you felt when you first came here. There is something on video or writing. Sometimes you see the impact your work has. And you’re back in the zone again. This is a see-saw of back and forth and back and forth. I won’t lie or pretend otherwise. But I also will say that the see-saw system is inside an incubator. The pitch, intensity and the target of the incubator is set and will not change. I have to either journey to the destination or drop off. That is the biggest value of being in this space.

Would I prefer anything differently now? I certainly miss the money. But I am fine. Sometimes I doubt the “fine” too. That’s fine too. I wish the see-saw’s are lesser. I see many people who move like an arrow in one direction and let out a sigh. My vice is lethargy. And several offshoots of that vice. Many time I target the offshoots and keep myself entertained without progressing. The core vice is lethargy. Over the years, going far far back, I’ve let this grow into a huge tree with roots spread deep deep into my system. It reflects often as inertia or sigh-yawn many times. The fact that our society has romanticized this sigh-yawn doesn’t help. But I get my butt kicked often here so that’s good. The way I am, I don’t expect to drop my lethargy like snake skin. That would be a great surprise though. Hopefully, I will be able to chip at it piece by piece so the structure itself weakens to the point where it can be broken to pieces with one solid punch.


Sunday, January 21, 2018

thirty seven banana peels #35: Pardes



Love it, hate it, or lovehate it, you can't ignore the USA.

For a 21 year old guy visiting the place for the first time, it made quite an impact. The preceding 21 years had molded me in a particular way so the US never left any deep changes within me. Read the end to understand what I mean.

Two very particular things I enjoyed in the US:

One was the wide open spaces and sprawling roads. The long road trips I was able to make hiring a spanking new car or SUV in a moment's notice will remain etched in my experience. There is simply no comparison! Indian roads are now gearing up, but it is still not easy to make a long road trip unless you own a car.

I particularly remember one road trip I made deciding to drive 850 miles solo on a whim. This was from Dallas to Louisville. There were a couple of conference calls I had to participant and I did them while driving. There was another we made from Dallas to Garavan Gardens, Arkansas. [We as in three of us, but I did all the driving]. There was another we made from Los Angeles to SFO (via coastal road 1) just to dine in HSB. Driving is a joy in the US especially coming from India.

The other thing was the purchasing power. This was a mind warp even growing up in a not-very-unaccustomed-to-lifestyle in India. I got spoiled a bit in this aspect being there. I remember making some unwise [wisdom of retrospect] purchase decisions totaling up to thousands of dollars. Later in my corporate life, I probably could have afforded this lifestyle in India as well, but they "felt" in-affordable. Economists could probably come up with a tongue twister to explain this. In layman terms, I could buy a used car with a month's salary there. But it takes six-seven months salary to do the same here. Even if you can, it feels unwise here comparing. This blowing off dollars on what seemed like a luxury there is one of the things I regret. If I wish to look at the silver lining, I never incurred any debt.

Guilty confession - actually I don't feel all that guilty really: I visited a strip club to see b**bs live. There - been there, done that - checked off. In truth, it didn't at all feel different to watching them on pixels.

What I am proud of: Remained a teetotaler, non-smoker, vegetarian there. Went out of my way to ensure I did not acquire an accent.

My overall verdict and advise: If you have the chance, you absolutely must visit the country (or a similar one) once. Don't imbibe the hedonist culture. But soak in the scenery, organization, discipline, customer service, governmental efficiency, shopping, glitz and glamor. Leave all them back when you come to India. You'll appreciate India's cultural chaos more once you return.

Except for the driving aspect, I don't really miss the US much. Especially with Trump, I am appreciating the distance aspect better. But there is one aspect I am profoundly grateful to the US for. It helped me retire at 33.

Friday, January 19, 2018

thirty seven banana peels #34 - movies

We grew up with movies. We as in, our family. Our involvement with movies was what was considered normal at the time. The advantage we had was that there was no cable tv. So in the initial period it was the Sunday tamil movie that screened on DD. We watched whatever was screened. The mix was a healthy exposure to black and white and color movies. Whatever knowledge I have of B&W movies is because of this.

Other than this, we owned a VCR. We weren't avid movie watchers except during summer vacations where we rented movies. I don't ever remember us binge watching except one night where we screened four movies back to back. Finally, the odd outing to theaters. Very early, I recall watching Thanga Magan, Herby goes to monte carlo, Enter the dragon and a few others in theaters. Again, the frequency was "normal".

Considering how things are today, our movie appetite was spartan. That I was a Rajnikanth fanboy goes as default. Strangely, I became a Vijaykanth fan as well - this was as late as my college period and few years into my work life as well. I got out of this mode after his movies went totally downhill and he himself went out of his way to spoil his name in politics.

Somewhere I also got this bug that there were a lot of "spiritual movies". In a sense, there are some movies which try to tell something deeper (CIP: The Big Blue) or open your eyes to something which wasn't in your awareness before (CIP: Blood Diamond). Unfortunately for me, I started binge watching movies at this time. The fact I was in US made things easier as I got a Netflix subscription.

Osho says entertainment is an attempt to be away from who you really are. That is a strict spiritual no no. For the common man, being away from his problems for a few hours is actually a good thing. But in today's era, movies rule the common psyche (my state elects its leaders based on their movie performances). If I rewatch every movie I ever watched again non-stop, it will take about six months. It doesn't sound so bad. But it is very hard to measure the long term impact of these movies in terms of shaping your milieu. If it is just to entertain and make you forget your worries for a few hours, the six months price I will pay willingly. But I don't think that is all it is.

So there needs to be a certain checkpoint. I like the entertainment quotient. I don't even mind the mindless junk in exchange for some laughs or some adrenaline rush provided a certain minimum quality and aesthetic is maintained.

But I would like my consumption quantity to go back to what it was before the cable tv and Internet hijack happened. 3-4 movies a year in theaters and ~30 hours a year on TV and Internet put together seems reasonable. Let's see. This restriction should also fix the quality aspect as well.

Erratic confessions - sue me!
  • I am a fan of Sasikumar
  • I love to see cars flying about and exploding. Jason Bourne is my favorite character for how he can drive
  • Iron Man (not the movie!) rocks
  • You have to pay me to watch a Simbu movie. I still may not watch
  • If I have to pick three movies: Enter the Dragon ("boards don't hit back"), Avatar ("eywa has heard you"), Kaadhalakku Mariyadhai (the climax!)
  • Three actors: Denzel Washington, Rajnikanth, Surya
  • Three actresses: Meryl Streep, Ramya Krishnan, Revathi
  • Music Directors: Imman, Rahman, Hans Zimmer

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

thirty seven banana peels #33: ping pong

I have a post on cricket. I am wondering how ping pong got left out.

If I have to compare the amount of time I spent between cricket and ping-pong it would be a tie more or less. But that is if cricket watching and analysis is counted. If playing time is what is being compared, ping pong wins hands down. I am kind of surprising myself with this revelation.

If I discount picking up a racquet and dabbling the ball here and there, I think I seriously started playing in college. I had a friend (yes, one of these buggers) who was a virtuso. A virtuso relative to how I was playing. But even accounting for my skills now I can say he was extremely good. 

During our lunch break, we had about 45-50 minutes. After quickly eating our food, we went to our college's recreation room which had a table. We played there almost everyday. It was a slightly frustrating experience because there was just one table and we got just one game many days. Two on better days.

I decided I loved the game too much to contend with one 10 minute game everyday. So I joined YMCA with two of my friends (same blokes). Finally we could play as long as we wished.

I recollect so many hours I put in to this game and I slowly got very good, still not as good as my other friend. However, when I partnered with the third friend (who was approximately on par with me in skills) for a doubles game with my virtuso friend and another partner, our skills sort of became more than the amount of ours both put together. It is like a jinx which none of us have been explain so far. I remember one game where we were down 18 to 7 and we went on to win the game against the V friend. He abhors losing. So it was an enjoyable win for us.

At the time I wasn't earning (obviously). Yet I convinced my parents to spend about INR 2000 for a semi-pro ping pong racquet. I got it with my V friend. Part of me was really scared it was money down the drain. But after playing with it for a few hours, I could see the game was up a few notches. It is not very unlike running with good running shoes or listening to music with a high quality headset. If the game is important to you, investing in good gaming gear improves it.

After I joined my first company, I found they had a ping-pong table (yaay!). So many more hours of ping pong. However, it was here I was exposed to what taking your game X levels more than my existing skills meant. There was another V I met there. I recall playing a singles match with him and I thought I was good (hell, in a sense I was). But I was so badly thwarted, exposed, ripped up and left to dry that it was a humiliating experience. I lost 21-7. But it turned out to be an eye opener in terms of possibilities.

Then my company conducted an inter-DC (dev center) tournament and there were qualifying matches to shortlist the reps from each DC. The guy above qualified from our DC. Much to my genuine shock, I found out this guy lost 21-13 to a guy from Bangalore. It opened up my eyes further as to how far you can push your game if you put in the work. It wasn't the YouTube era then. But we have the benefit of it now. Watch Ma Long's snippets here. I found a few more playing partners in my company. There there were many intra-DC tournaments we participated in. I don't recall winning any. But I remember being the semi finalist or finalst a few times.

My second company also had a table tennis table. My frequency of playing came down as my role did not offer much time. But there was a tournament here and I won that. (after few years of hiatus).

Finally, my "current company" (the one I am volunteering for) got a table tennis table recently. So guess what I do during game time? Many folks are learning only now. There are one or two folks who play like me so it is an interesting mix. I learn to enjoy the game instead of trying to expect too much.

One interesting episode that happened here was that one American who had come to volunteer came to play. Since there weren't any others waiting, we played singles (otherwise we play doubles). All his shots came to me and I managed to send them back to him. Some were tricky but I did not miss any. Every time I managed to return, his exclamations ranged from "Man!", "Jeez!", "Oh come on!", "Are you kidding me?"

At the end of the game, he came up to me and asked, "how did you get so good?"

I said, "I've been playing for long".

"Man, it was like ping-pong Sadhana for me".

I smiled.

"And you know what the worst part was?"

"What?"

"You were taking it easy on me." (I think he lost the game 21-5)
"If you wished you could have taken me 21-0".

I am not trying to be "humble" here. In spite of all the time I've put in and however well I can play, my current skill rating will be 4 out of 10. Why? Watch Ma Long's snippets again. There is always another peak to scale.

So ping-pong Sadhana it is for now and later!

Sunday, January 07, 2018

thirty seven banana peels #32 - swimming

Swimming had always been a jinxed skill for me. Kind of embarrassing and amusing. This is a fundamental survival skill that also has an extremely high enjoyment quotient.

For the first phase of my life, 1-12 years, I kind of blame my parents. They probably should have put some thought into training us. At age 13, they did train us. But both me and my brother fell sick very badly half way through. Since we both got the same sickness with the same intensity, I am pretty sure it was the water.

Thereafter, it never happened. Perhaps after this, I should take the blame. I never persisted. There are several instances where we were around either swimming pools or very alluring water bodies and I had to stand away at look at it with longing.

So FINALLY, a few months back, I gave one final push. I am happy to report that I can now do the breast stroke successfully. I recently did about 4-5 laps in an Olympic size pool so I can say that I can swim. I am yet to actually try this in a pool or water body where there is a real possibility to DROWN.

Now to get trained in a few more strokes. I am looking at freestyle and backstrokes next. At this point, I do not know if what I know can be applied to strong currents.

But a long long standing checkbox finally checked off!

Thursday, January 04, 2018

thirty seven banana peels #31 - sutras

The mind is a great armor. Provided it knows that weapons are going to fly towards it. Otherwise a well designed weapon can penetrate through at unexpected times.

Hence sutras. It might be a strong word in the context. But the English translations pithy maxims or aphorisms fall short of adequacy. I remember Sadhguru speaking about this. He mentioned this as an example. I am saying the same thing from experience. He said (all paraphrased): "Shiva is everywhere" could be a powerful sutra for you. But you need to be open to it. This is one reason I insist not to read spiritual books. If you read them, your mind's armor gets reinforced with the content. When I say it you already "know" this and it won't work for you.

I have experienced this first hand. But I have encountered random "sutras" when I was least expecting them and hence the impact has been quite powerful. In essence this post will "spoil" these sutras for you. That is the very essence of this post. So if you want to skip this post, please feel free. But I know curiosity will kill the cat as well. This is a very odd catch-22 situation. I will go ahead and share.

One final thing: What is a sutra for me might just be "meh" for you. I guess it also depends on how your life experiences have chiseled you. (Read the story of Gutei and the missing finger* if you want more perspective on this)

These particular phrases, definitely not all I've encountered, worked like sutras for me. The unpreparedness of myself combined with the potency of the consciousness from which the words arose just "clicked" for me.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step
Simple and powerful. I later found out it was by Lao Tzu. Till this date, it serves as a reminder to take one step when the end goal seems overwhelming. Whether the 5-minute rule is based consciously on this or not, it certainly employs this.

எங்களது திறமையே அல்ல; அவனது அளவற்ற கருணை
This is in Tamil and translates to "Not our effort at all. His boundless grace!"
I remember my eyes instantly welling up with tears the moment I read this. These words arose after an action that happened as a result of being a conduit of something larger than oneself happened.

The answer my friend is blowing in the wind:
My first experience on reading this was "Woah!". Though I don't really understand why, I had a strong (and incorrect) hunch that it was Bruce Lee who said this. I later found it was Bob Dylan and I listened to that song many times. While the song was quite impactful, it did not have the same impact when I encountered the quote first. (Read the post again from the top!)

Learn to stand where people keep you
Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita (I haven't verified this)
This was the most recent and it liberated me from a lot of mental mulch. As much as we like not to, subconsciously we want people to like us. And this manifests in certain expectations of their behavior. People are complex. With each individual being endowed with unique body, mind and emotions which combine into such myriad life experiences, trying to second guess them and expecting them fit into our expectations is bound to be frustrating. But this comfort of distant inspection is not always available and I often tend to get caught up in expectations. When I first encountered this sutra, I was like "Oh yeah!". In one stroke it liberated me from my rut of thinking and hoping. Whenever I forget, remembering this acts like a sanity anchor point. All thanks to that moment of vulnerability that allowed this to pass through.

* The story:
Whenever anyone asked him about Zen, the great master Gutei would quietly raise one finger into the air. A boy in the village began to imitate this behavior. Whenever he heard people talking about Gutei's teachings, he would interrupt the discussion and raise his finger. Gutei heard about the boy's mischief. When he saw him in the street, he seized him and cut off his finger. The boy cried and began to run off, but Gutei called out to him. When the boy turned to look, Gutei raised his finger into the air. At that moment the boy became enlightened.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

thirty seven banana peels #30 - driving

How many kilometers would I have clocked so far? Safe guess is 100,000. In general, you can say that I love driving. Especially a four wheeler. In front of the steering wheel with music thrown into the mix, I am set. I can watch the asphalt and the scenery pass by for long.

The why or how is not clear. Perhaps driving is a symbolism for life. Everything passes by eventually. Driving is physicality in motion. Life is time in motion.

My wife tells me I become a bully when I drive. It is true. I tend to want to be in control of all aspects when I am driving. The AC temperature, the volume of the music, when and where to stop. I don't know why. With some serious effort, I've learned to accommodate her preferences when we drive.

Because of my love for driving and for the fact that the vehicles I own make them possible, I am filled with a lot of gratitude for them. Recently I named them and I wonder why I did not think of this this long.

My previous car was Garuda. The current one is Chetak. My bike is Charokee. 

For driving and for the vehicles that make it possible, thank you for being an important part of my life!


Saturday, November 25, 2017

Wireless charging

The Samsung Note 5 and later models featured "wireless charging". When I first heard that in the ads, I was amused. I later saw this in action and it was amazing use of a scientific phenomenon. But it sets your pocket lighter by 3k. I can live with the traditional hooked by wire charging thanks.

But why this in a Renewal post? The spiritual metaphor is more interesting. When the phone gets into the magnetic field of the base, it starts "charging". The yoga center is 100% similar but if you haven't experienced it first hand, I won't blame you for calling all this balderdash.

I tend to experience the starkness of contrast when I am away from the place for a long period. Recently it was after an overseas trip that lasted 40+ days. While the trip was enjoyable because of the "cultural experience", I hadn't realized how much the trip depleted me energy wise. The moment I stepped foot (and I use 'the moment' literally), I could feel the charging. I might as well have had an LED display that displayed "charging". This charging continued for about 12 days and I could feel "charging complete". Thereafter, another few days, I forgot all about it and this becomes the new baseline energy to work with. I don't usually notice this difference when I visit places like Chennai for a week or so.

But this time was different. I stepped foot into the Yoga Center after ~70 days. The charging lightbulb wasn't that strong. But it was something else. Sitting in the dining hall, I remember how aware I had become without even trying. I had gotten used to gorging, eating out, sampling exotic dishes in this 70 day period. A subconscious habit of eating more than required had stepped in. But sitting in the dining hall of the yoga center, I could clearly see myself making a very considered response on the intake of the quantity effortlessly. [Ironically, I got rewarded with parotta and kurma at the yoga center that night, no kidding]. Another stark contrast was the nilavembu kashayam which I used to gulp effortlessly earlier. The first sip I took, I thought: was it always this bitter?

So the place is not just an energy incubator. It is a shaping tool for awareness and consciousness without effort on your part. Well there is effort in that you have to subject yourself willingly to the lifestyle. But I don't expect you to understand or agree with me. But hey you're in my blog - deal with it!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

thirty seven banana peels #29 - programming

Saturday, November 04, 2017

The caffeine conundrum - part deux

After my hardest sobriety exercise with caffeine recently, I was able to successfully keep away from the chemical (coffee in particular) for one mandala successfully.

After this, I was able to complete another successive mandala as well. I did not keep track of sober days after that, but I think I can safely say I would have passed the '100 days without caffeine' test as well. Till date, 118 days have passed. I have relaxed the rule slightly with a strict condition that I _do_not_ever_ want to go through this detox phase ever again.

I haven't had coffee ever since (while I say caffeine addiction, my particular problem largely goes with coffee). Besides, I really do enjoy a cup of hot tea on a cold evening or when chatting with friends. So, my new steady state rules are as follows:
  1. A max of one cup of tea* on any single day
  2. If I have a cup of tea today, the next day would be a clean day
  3. If I break rule number 2, that is have a tea on successive days for whatever reason, I will skip caffeine for 7 days
Hopefully, these will maintain a balance between deriving an enjoyment from the drink while warding off the possibility of the addiction taking root again. I've been able to satisfy my coffee cravings by taking a deep whiff of a well made brew occasionally. Works quite well!

* tea means caffeinated green tea or the regular tea from ads (does not include herbal teas or other namesake teas without caffeine)

Monday, August 28, 2017

thirty seven banana peels #28 - Osho



How do I describe the impact of Osho on my life? To put it very simply, I would not have been on the spiritual path if not for him. Given I have restructured the very way I am living to focus fully on the path, it doesn't leave much else to say does it?

Whether I would have come across the path another way if not for him is a pedantic exercise which will result in conjecture. Connecting the dots back in my life, he forms the first limb. My second and third limbs are a direct offshoot of the first limb.

"Everybody wants freedom as far as talking is concerned, but nobody really is free and nobody really wants to be free, because freedom brings responsibility. It does not come alone. And to be dependent is simple: the responsibility is not on you, the responsibility is on the person you are dependent on."

My introduction to Osho happened when I was sixteen. It looks like an accident, but they say life has no accidents. My dad got an audio cassette of his talk titled "Happiness". He got it form my mother and asked her to listen to it. To go with it, there was a book called "Gold Nuggets" as well.

One lazy session, I picked up the book and was perusing the book. I might have walked through a door that said "Enter at your peril". I was an energetic 16 year old and I had never been exposed to material like that. It was like I had moved into a void and as I flipped the pages, the feeling was like kilograms of crud comprising of borrowed knowledge, assumptions and beliefs being stripped off.


"Yoga means now. You will have to be a harmony. You will have to become one."

I remember being very scared, yet very light and free. While I did not exactly articulate it that way in my mind then, the clear understanding at the end of the exercise was to question everything that has been handed over. I did make the classic mistake of getting to the other end of the spectrum for a brief period.

This was to rubbish age old traditions and cultures. One reason for this was Osho is very happy to contradict himself. There are many doors through which something can be approached and some paths may seem contradictory even though the reach the same destination. He freely moves without baggage and gives himself fully to that viewpoint. An earlier viewpoint about questioning got embedded firmly in my head and this questioning became rubbishing of rituals. I realized later that I fell into my own trap of concluding without questioning.

"Discipline has its own beauty, it is not all slavery. And freedom has its own dangers and is not all beautiful. A real person is always capable of infinite discipline and infinite freedom – he is not a slave or an addict to anything."

It took a few more months to settle down to these contradictions and it got to a point where nothing ever he said unsettled me. It seemed like I always understood what he was trying to say.  Back to Gold Nuggets, I remember re-reading this a few times. Then I remember hearing that audio cassette on Happiness. That was the first time I heard his voice as well.

This led to a period of osho-binge. This would continue for the decade or so where I binge watched, heard and read his words. I used to think that I read almost all his books. There are 600 of them and it is never true I read them all, but it felt like that. I became a seeker the moment I laid my eyes on the words of Gold Nuggets. It was like he showed me the Spiritual path and said "keep walking on this path and you will meet  your Guru". That confused 16 year old lad would have never guessed this.

"If you love a person, you will not interfere his personal life. You would not dare to break the boundaries of his inner world."



As the first sign, apart from the impact his words had, it was the impact Ilaiyaraja's music had in me. Just a month after I read the book, tears would start dripping when I started hearing certain songs even as I was passing by a shop playing them. These were songs I had been hearing all the time because there were part our milieu. The first time the tears happened, I was overwhelmed and confused. I then realized a doorway had opened. A doorway I never realized existed thus far.

He held the candle on the path until I met my Guru when I was 25. He has sort of receded into the background. Now my Sadhana forms the core focus of my spiritual path.

"Respect life, revere life. There is nothing more holy than life, nothing more divine than life."



I find it appalling and disgusting that India has missed him so badly. Granted he did not make it easy for people to like him. He spared no bones being provocative and offensive. His way was to either kindle your intelligence, bring a fragrant meditative mind scape or to ruthlessly prick your ego. The masses have largely received the last and have treated this at face value. If my life is any indication, they've missed him so badly at their own peril.

Dear Osho, is there a way to put a value on what you've given me? Given where I am now is a result of walking through that one doorway you opened, I realize I was at a cross roads then. Where would have the other roads led me? What would I have been if not for you? Should I say thank you?

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Guru Purnima and caffeine

Ironical title, I know.

This Guru Purnima, I wanted to make an offering. A hard offering which challenged my limitations. So I picked caffeine. You can get a ringside view of my travails with caffeine here. I still could not come to offer the entire addiction. So my offering was to be away from one mandala from caffeine.

The rules were simple. No cheating. Which means no caffeine. Only exception was chocolates which may or may not contain caffeine. That was because I never ate chocolates for the caffeine. It was for the sweet tooth. No caffeine in my life means no tea (including green). No coffee. I don't drink Red Bull or any cola. I also made the decision to not wean off gradually but bite the bullet and go through hell. Madness of AdiYogi? I do not know. So starting 9-July I went off caffeine.

I also did not want to proudly announce about my decision here. I know public accountability is supposed to be a big thing and is supposed to strengthen your resolve. Going by my history, it was very probable I would be stupidly writing a well thought out reason about why I started again. So I wanted to write about it after the mandala period was over.

So, now that one Mandala (48 days) is complete, I am writing about how this period was.

Picture courtesy: spunkygidet


Day 1 and Day 2:
Excruciating headache. I do not know if you've experienced withdrawal headaches. If you have, you probably do not need an explanation. This headache was one reason I could never abstain for good. In ER in the US, they usually ask the patients to rate the pain on a scale of ten. It is subjective, but it is also a good indicator of how the patient is feeling. Caffeine headache rates at 8 for me. You might think I am exaggerating. I am not. I've been through some conscious body injuries myself. The hand fracture with Devi was a 7. The time I fell from a two wheeler and had to take 14 stitches in the hand rates a 7. So you get the idea. So what is 9? Probably if I lose a limb when I am conscious and similar. I don't want to think what 10 is.

This is the kind of headache that takes hold of the inside of the head and never lets go. The only relief is sleep. But day time sleep just postpones the headache and it starts again. Night sleep takes off about 50%. The rest continues the next day. So it was practically 2 days of hell. One recommendation was to drink a lot of water which I did. And it did help. I will put the alleviation from water at about 30%. The other was to use a placebo. My placebo was sukku coffee. It did not help, but during the drinking, it felt good.

The only way out was to tough it out. I am not a big fan of painkillers so I usually let it be. Almost all activities come to a standstill. So this was the case day 1 and day 2.

Day 3 and Day 4:
This was a bit of a surprise for me. It was excruciating body pain. Rating oscillating between 6 and 7 in terms of pain. I read up on why this happens and it turns out this is a withdrawal symptom as well. I don't recall having one earlier. Definitely not this prolonged and intense. The feeling was like random muscles on the surface and inside being jolted with not so strong, but sharp electric shocks. The feeling was much pronounced near the shoulders and the hip sides.

Day 1, 2 and 3 was chutti for all practices (SCK and Shoonya don't count - they're on always). Day 4, I added Shambhavi and Surya Namaskar. During Surya Namaskar, when doing position 5, it was like I found where the source of that electricity was. About 4 inches above the tailbone. The Surya Namaskar definitely helped but not to the extent I hoped.

This pain basically brought my activity level down to about 50% of usual amount. I had about 3 cups of sukku coffee each day.

Day 5:
The first rays of light from the other end of the tunnel. There was still some hangover body ache from the earlier two days. There was also the tendency for the body to sleep longer through the night. I am assuming that the body realises the regular 'jolts' it was receiving from caffeine had gone missing. So the body was confused about whats going on. After 4 days, it probably realised it needed to rebuild again. (Very very sorry). I still had to have about 3 cups of sukku coffee. I had no regrets. This placebo will be taken as and when necessary until I am comfortable enough to let it go. Besides, the weather was cool and something hot to drink was good.

Day 6 and 7:
These days were when I first experienced normalcy. That was how I used to feel after my body had my caffeine fix earlier. I was still having about 3 cups of placebo coffee. I don't want to take that off yet. Too much too fast. That is anyway a health drink. Restarted all Yogic practices!

Days 8 through 48:
Largely uneventful where I drank either 1, 2 or 3 cups of sukku coffee a day. Mostly 2. I also tried the herbal tea Isha makes and I liked that too. I found out in this period that there are times in the day when the body asks for something hot. So it was not just the caffeine. However, this hotness requirement can well be taken care of by just... well hot water. But right now, the sukku coffee is doing this job well. I also had some signs, were coffee just magically presented itself about three times just ready to be drunk. Warding that off wasn't that hard either.


Analysis:
What the body went through the first five to six days were clear signs of long term abuse. That little looking innocuous seed is a very potent drug. I am not using the word 'drug' for dramatisation. My definition will be - if some substance provides a disproportionate result compared to its quantity intake it is a drug. If I take 10 grams of groundnuts, it takes three hours to turn into energy. And the energy quantity is proportional to 10 grams. 10 grams of coffee wakes you up from nowhere. So it is clearly messing up with some body systems.

The brain carefully maintains checks and balances of various (thousands) of parameters. Now, the coffee molecules come in and override and provide a different set of instructions. The brain has no choice but to comply because its boss (you asshole) decided to ingest this bean. It is akin to a complex traffic system in the city managed carefully by signals. Suddenly, the country's prime minister is coming so everything is haywire. The traffic stops until the convoy passes. Now if the PM comes once a month or once in three months, it may be ok. If the PM comes thrice a day, what will be  poor citizens do? The body thus starts realigning itself to this overriding influence choicelessly.
 When I suddenly pulled out, I experienced the effects the drastic undo of the realignment the body had made.

There is a reason why even someone like Sadhguru decides to write an ode to coffee. You simply cannot ignore its widespread influence and impact on people today. More than habit, it is a culture and borders on an art form. I've been a coffee drinker all my life. While I have not really experienced a telling negative impact because of this, the symptoms I went through clearly show this is no innocuous drug. Perhaps it doesn't do long term body damage because millions of coffee drinkers have died "normal" deaths. But for those who wish to build vibrant bodies and take up serious Sadhana this is definitely a serious crutch.

What was the exact trigger that led me to decide to quit? During Guru Poornima, Sadhguru said, the Yogic culture has maintained whatever you do, you don't mess with two memories. Neural memory and genetic memory. That set the alarm going because I knew coffee messes with the first. So I bit the bullet. A side note - but worth noting, is the fact that being immersed in an environment that pushes you towards your growth is important. I am not necessarily referring to spirituality though that is my core focus. What I mean is, I've known for a long time that caffeine in general is not good for the body. In my mind and my earlier blog posts, I've always referred to it as a "drug". Sheldon Cooper copied that from me. Not the other way around. I've read enough articles and a full book to go with it about it and its side effects. My Guru has spoken about it enough. Being immersed in this environment, you never know which reminder will give the "click". This is why immerse yourself in that environment that aligns with your long term goals.

Here now, I guess I can safely say, I am "technically free" from coffee. The one mandala should have cleansed the coffee. What should I do now? Half my life has passed by as a coffee drinker. And I would have loved to say "I love coffee". I am really a keep-calm-and-drink-coffee guy. I am happy I am free from a major limitation now and sad I may no longer have coffee for company.

I still need to make a long term decision about caffeine.
Is this a new chapter in my life? Why don't I feel like celebrating?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Bharath - 15000 not out

The title is a refer back to the Manyavar ad featuring Virat Kohli. Virat ends the ad by saying "India, 70 not out". As you can see, I changed the title. India to Bharath and 70 not out to 15000 not out.

For good or bad, mostly the latter, our identity has somehow been fixated with the period the British ruled us. So when we say India, we somehow associate it with 1947+. But the attainment of political independence is a significant event and must be treated as such.

But Bharath has existed as a nation for a duration that can only be called timeless considering our lifespan. (The exact duration is immaterial for this discussion). As countries in other parts of the world split or unify based on sameness criteria, this land challenges all those notions with mind boggling diversity and still stands as one.

Personally, this land is significant because it gave me my spiritual master. This land and the culture this land forged have always had seeking as the basic premise for as long as we have known. This thread of seeking, while not always actively present on the mindscape of its citizenry, has been working in the background. This is true even when they are seemingly lost. There is an invisible thread from the core on which we are hanging. Here and there, there is a tug which produces a centering amid the chaos.

Now, after all these years, I fear we are beginning to lose it. Our mass media have given many labels for various factions, but I would simply like to call it abuse of the so called freedom of speech.

We need to remember that this nation is beyond who is ruling us now or who ruled us then. The culture of land is replete with people who always placed their own lives secondary relative to what they were seeking. Their people for kings, freedom for freedom fighters, their Guru or their ultimate liberation for spiritual seekers. Now, we want to rip off this tapestry at the earliest signs of discomfort?

Let us be clear, a phenomenon like this nation isn't happening again for another eon. The language we speak, the color of our skin, the person who sits in our parliament or the religion we practice do not define us. We are products of this kaleidoscopic crucible which forged us from its heart through the arc of time. 

What makes this nation is what we put into it. What makes this nation now is what has been put into it over eons. We have now been making heavy withdrawals and very flimsy deposits.

The baton is with us now. I will start with pride for this nation. This land is my physical and my spiritual home. I am honored that this nation chose to have me here and now. Through thick and thin, let us please stick together and see what we can put into this nation and see what we can do for Her people.

Bharath - 15000 not out! And an existential miracle!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Choose your words wisely

Words can be weapons - this is an oft encountered message for me, in varying forms and phrases. After all they're just sounds. How can they be so powerful? Even if they have some impact, can't the impact be reversed?

I try to come up with some concrete example of this. Let us say a couple adopts a child from its infancy. The child grows with them as their own child for all practical purposes. Then one day, when the child is 16, in a fit of rage, the father calls him an "orphan".

What is the impact of this statement? Perhaps, the right thing for the child to do will be to fall at the feet of his ex-parents as a token of gratitude for bringing him up all these years and then move on out and away from their lives.

Is there an undo for this action? Thankfully, Bollywood has always been one up on dramatic situations like this. To see a dramatic enactment of this scene, watch KKKG (Kabhi Kushi Kabhi Gum).

In this particular case, that one word setup an exclusion. Someone who was part of the family was ousted in a jiffy. Words are indeed powerful.

I know I am speaking in metaphors. This is a pointer to something I am currently going through myself, but on a subtler level. What it is isn't really necessary to say. My intent was to jot this as a pointer on my timeline.

Ironically, I am fine. 20 years ago, perhaps I would have been devastated. By fine, I do not mean fine the way Ross Geller was. I am really fine. Sad but fine. Sad because I couldn't have envisioned this happening in any shape or form.

As Murphy says, if something can go wrong, it will go wrong. Or as James Clear says, entropy is the existential law. Go figure!

Note: If you know me personally, don't second guess the incident. You will most likely be incorrect. If you don't know me, the title of this post is the message. My personal reference can be an interesting anecdotal reference.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Dhyanalinga - The 18th



Nothing explains the possibility and the privilege of being there better than the source. I have not experienced specifics of the possibilities outlined here. But hearing them tingles me with goosebumps.

On this day, 24-Jun-2017, I had the privilege of being there. Walking through the sanctum, watching Patanjali, Sadashiva Bramhendra, Sadhguru, His Guru, the prostrating Yogi and the Dhyanalinga Himself, it was a referback to everything this culture stands for. Standing on the shoulders of giants cannot be more apt.

This wave of spirituality that started eons ago, had somehow wound through the maze of time and space and is present here in rapturous density. Sitting there in the sanctum reminded me of the privilege of being there and being part of this glorious culture. And the gratitude kept spilling as tears.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Patanjali


In terms of imprints in my system, Patanjali is among the strongest.




I do not remember when and how He got so firmly anchored within. It is certainly before Isha. And almost certainly Osho would be the culprit. Like Krishna or Buddha, it should be obvious I don’t have a direct experience of Him. This debilitating impact on me is due to what is pieced together of what exists of Him and His work.

Another interesting perspective: One question that was asked of Osho regarding Krisha: How do we know Krishna is not a figment of imagination of this culture? How do we know that the man actually existed and is not made up? (Question comes because someone like Him is too magnificent and too surreal to be true). Osho said (paraphrased) - “I don’t have to go digging for historical artifacts. I know there exists the Bhagvad Gita. Looking at it, I know the consciousness from which the words have come out. The fact that the book exists is proof that there was a person of that caliber in the past”. Batman is fiction. The Blue Man is not.

The same observation can be made of Patanjali. The fact the Yoga Sutras exist are proof that the person existed. I also have verbal confirmation from the greatest beings I have experienced. I am not submitting a thesis or anecdotal proof for the Nobel Prize. My concern is my growth. Some very unbelievable observations about Patanjali. (all paraphrased - I am not attributing sources)

Looking at the body of work - its depth and diversity, “scholars” concluded that it could not have been the work of one man. It is humanly impossible. But I am telling you, it was the work of one man. That was how He lived.

His brain must have been the size of this planet. No single person could have such mastery over so many different areas.

Patanjali is an unbelievable combination. He is a mystic, a scientist and a poet all rolled into one. Never before has it happened and never again will it happen.

You look at the greatest scriptures of the planet, take out their most intricate parts and look back, Patanjali has already said it. You think up something absolutely brilliant and look back. Patanjali has already said it. Patanajali did not leave anything for anyone to say about life. He just said it. It’s not fair really.

In the world of Buddhas, Patanjali was Einstein.

He is nothing less than Shiva Himself. It is just that he came later.


Okay, this last one was said by Sadhguru. I read the Tamil translation in Isha Kattuppoo. Given my already existing awe for Patanjali, the words had an explosive effect. I later had an opportunity to ask Sadhguru about this. He denied having said it and said it could be an error in translation. (I believe it. As much reverence as Sadhguru has for Patanjali, he probably would not compare two beings like this. And definitely not with AdiYogi) And as these people go, He realized I was too eager to hear Him shower accolades on Patanjali and made sure he never did that.

Ok, the man existed and he really was as great as people make him out to be. So what? For me, it is untold reverence and inspiration. It is just that, if you imagine all the great things you could do in your life and scale a thousand peaks, you will still be looking up at Patanjali and He will be a small speck a million miles away. Reaching His heights is impossible. But just the thought of the Man revs up the intensity within so much. Yoga is to kick the but. And this is such a kick for the but and the butt.

Since “…And now Yoga!” from Patanjali is beaten to death, how about these:

“WHEN YOU ARE STEADFAST IN YOUR ABSTENTION OF THOUGHTS OF HARM DIRECTED TOWARD YOURSELF AND OTHERS, ALL LIVING CREATURES WILL CEASE TO FEEL FEAR IN YOUR PRESENCE.”


Remember, when Patanjali says something, he is not inspiring you. He is stating facts based on how the human system works. The inspiration comes from the depth of observation and the fact that you can implement what he says as a working process.

Above all, my greatest blessing is that I get to look at Him everyday and have a reminder of what it means to live like a waterfall of Grace and Intelligence.

Final note: If you wish to read a proper interpretation of His Yoga Sutras, you can start with Osho: “Yoga: The Alpha and the Omega”. Spans multiple volumes. If you want to read a similar interpretation of Bhagvad Gita, head to Paramahansa Yogananda’s “God Talks with Arjuna”. Again spans multiple volumes.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Tharai Thappattai

One of the songs I am repeatedly listening to is the theme music from Tharai Thappattai. Some facts I can tell you are: The situation for this theme in the movie is annihilation. The theme music is mostly done using tharai and thappattai. As for the quality of this song, my words fail me. Read the story below.

After winning several archery contests, the young and rather boastful champion challenged a Zen master who was renowned for his skill as an archer. The young man demonstrated remarkable technical proficiency when he hit a distant bull's eye on his first try, and then split that arrow with his second shot. "There," he said to the old man, "see if you can match that!" Undisturbed, the master did not draw his bow, but rather motioned for the young archer to follow him up the mountain. Curious about the old fellow's intentions, the champion followed him high into the mountain until they reached a deep chasm spanned by a rather flimsy and shaky log. Calmly stepping out onto the middle of the unsteady and certainly perilous bridge, the old master picked a far away tree as a target, drew his bow, and fired a clean, direct hit. "Now it is your turn," he said as he gracefully stepped back onto the safe ground. Staring with terror into the seemingly bottomless and beckoning abyss, the young man could not force himself to step out onto the log, no less shoot at a target. "You have much skill with your bow," the master said, sensing his challenger's predicament, "but you have little skill with the mind that lets loose the shot."
The analogy from the story is not one to one. But the competency demonstrated by the master is similar to the one demonstrated here. So many similar analogies keep whizzing past my head and it is very hard to contain emotions when listening to this.

That this musical piece came and went and there was no bedlam in the city makes me scoff in disbelief. My Thamizh notes on this piece.

"In shallow men the fish of little thoughts cause much commotion. In oceanic minds the whales of inspiration make hardly a ruffle." —Yogananda

Monday, November 28, 2016

The power of the void

I am currently reading recently finished reading Airframe by Michael Crichton.

I am about 40% through. It is fascinating so far. One aspect that stood out for me was a conversation between characters where one describes to the other how airplanes fly. That is, what makes them lift off the ground. I obviously read the physics of this through school and college. But it all went through my head into the exam paper and finally into my degree certificate. That was that.

What happens is that the curvature of the wing creates a suction at the tip. Not just the curvature, but the speed at which the aircraft is traveling and the shape of the wing as well. So air rushes in to fill the suction and lifts the wing up. The wing is strong enough to support the fuselage and thus lifts the entire aircraft up.



I am reminded of what Osho said about this. He said existence never likes vacuum. So the moment it sees a suction spot air rushes to fill it in. It is inevitable and there is no choice involved. *Scientists create vacuum states consciously with elaborate setups which is a different matter.

Incidentally He has spoken about this as well. There is such a thing as a Spiritual vacuum. If you manage to create one, Divinity has no choice and has to rush in. The Guru Pooja is a way of doing that. In a different context, He says there are only two ways to meet Shiva. Either you meet Him on His terms or you make yourself a zero.

Meeting Him on His terms means phenomenal competence, tenacity, endurance and strength. I am not sure how many people can fathom what this is, let alone possess the faculties to undertake and complete the journey. Making yourself a zero is creating a Spiritual vacuum within yourself. The path of devotion.

Aircraft takeoff to devotion. Spirituality is indeed science!
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