Immersion

In 1923, the German thinker Eugen Herrigel, hoping to master Zen philosophy, visited Japan and immersed himself in archery. He wrote in his classic study “Zen in the Art of Archery”: “Archery is not practiced solely for hitting the target; the swordsman does not wield the sword just for the sake of outdoing his opponent; the dancer does not dance just to perform certain rhythmical movements of the body.” The target may be hit, the opponent outdone, the dance technically perfect – but those outcomes will be merely the happy by-products of a deeper absorption with the activity itself. And that is best achieved, according to Herrigel, by avoiding prescriptive goals and techniques.

Excerpt from “Are We Too Professional?” by Ed Smith More Intelligent Life

New Eyes

There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt,
containing a tornado. Dam a
stream and it will create a new
channel. Resist, and the tide
will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry
you to higher ground. The only
safety lies in letting it all in —
the wild and the weak; fear,
fantasies, failures and success.
When loss rips off the doors of
the heart, or sadness veils your
vision with despair, practice
becomes simply bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your
known way of being, the whole
world is revealed to your new eyes.

– by Danna Faulds

The Fog of Life

fogoflife

Our train to Chandigarh encountered heavy fog on that winter morning. At one point when visibility was less than 100 meters, I thought the train will not move forward. We had little choice but to stay put and trust that things will start moving. And it did, although quite slowly.

It was an interesting setting. When I got down of the train at a quaint station to click some pictures (and also stretch a leg after hours of non-stop journey), my mind went on a train of thoughts as it usually does during travel.

The train. Dense fog around. People moving here and there on the platform. The hazy trees at a distance. It all seemed very familiar. I felt as if I had seen this before. We all have probably seen it before.

A lot of our life is like this. If you can clearly see the path before you, you may be amongst the lucky few. For the rest of us, it is mostly difficult to see past the haze and uncertainty of the very next moment. But we move on, even if slowly, with a hope to get to clearer views. We trust something within ourselves and something beyond us and that keeps things moving. We persevere and keep the faith and suddenly, the vistas clear up offering magnificent views. The struggle through the fog makes it even more special.

The next time I am surrounded by fog in life, I will remember this – that the tracks are still in place, the green hazy trees at a distance will get clearer, hope will guide me there. That I need to trust the process.

That I need to just keep walking.

Written: Jan 16, 2016

Limitless

limitless

Treading along in this dreamlike, illusory realm,
Without looking for the traces I may have left;
A cuckoo’s song beckons me to return home;
Hearing this, I tilt my head to see
Who has told me to turn back;
But do not ask me where I am going,
As I travel in this limitless world,
Where every step I take is my home.

– Lao Tzu

Be

be

Always we hope
someone else has the answer,
some other place will be better,
some other time,
it will turn out.

This is it.

No one else has the answer,
no other place will be better,
and it has already turned out.

At the center of your being,
you have the answer:
you know who you are and
you know what you want.

There is no need to run outside
for better seeing,
nor to peer from a window.
Rather abide at the center of your being:
for the more you leave it,
the less you learn.

Search your heart and see
the way to do is to be.

– Lao Tzu

Paper Boat Memories

paper boat

“These paper boats of mine are meant to dance on the ripples of hours, and not reach any destination.” – Tagore

This one was floated by my daughter last year when first rain of the season soaked not just the parched earth but also our hearts. The fragrance of the wet soil filled our souls as we breathed a sigh of relief from scorching summer heat!

My daughter had a big smile on the face as she launched her maiden paper boat into the water. Seeing those folded words moving with the water, I reminisced my own childhood when I used to tear pages from school books to make paper boats and play with them in the puddles and streams.

Each time I would launch a paper boat, it merrily sailed along trying to protect the sides, putting up a valiant fight before finally giving up. And then, I launched the other ones till parents noticed and got furious about the reducing size of my books!

That day, I joined my daughter and made a few paper boats myself experiencing immense joy of revisiting simple things in life.

Selfie World

selfie_tanmayvora

I love selfies. It is my chance to focus on myself for a moment and take a picture.

But “selfie” is also a hallmark of the culture we are seeing increasingly – people excessively focusing only on their selves. When we start putting ourselves before others all the time, it impairs our ability to serve others which is so vital in the collaborative and networked world we now live in.

I am reminded of a wonderful quote in Huffington Post article titled “Selfie World” by Michael Rosenblum quite aptly sums up what we really need to focus on: 

As the sage Maimonides wrote, “If I am not for me, who will be?” But he also followed with “If I am only for me, what am I?”

We sure have the first part down.

Maybe it’s time to focus on the second?

What do you think?

What is the meaning of Life?

meaningoflife_tanmayvora

Nicolae Tanase is the Excellence Reporter who asks thought leaders from different walks of life a single question: “What is the meaning of life?”

This is one question that I secretly hoped no one ever asked me. I have been thinking all the time about business related topics and any question that did not have defined boundaries was difficult for me to respond to.

And it happened. Nicolae asked me this question and threw me into a whirlwind of thoughts. What emerged as a response was as follows:

Life is so profound, enormous and ever-expanding that it has no meaning.

When I photograph birds, I learn something about life. A bird, enlivened by the same life energy as us, never goes around trying to find the meaning of life. It just follows its own nature — to fly, to sing and to simply be what it really is. They are peaceful with their self not lamenting about what happened to them in the past or what will happen to them in the very next moment. They live in here and now; in perfect harmony with their inner nature.

I see the same life energy manifesting itself when I see my three years old son jumping on the bed merrily singing rhymes. Joyful for being alive, he is the most complete expression of life, just like birds and other elements of nature are.

The quest for meaning of life is the quest to connect with our inner self and let that shine bright. Nothing outside of us can help in finding the meaning of our own life. We can see the abundance in the world only when we connect with the abundance of life that is within us. Only then can we see the possibilities that life brings to us. Only then can we truly express our real selves through our endeavors. Only then can we expand our consciousness about life. Only then can we move beyond mere survival and truly live our potential.

Connecting with our true inner nature is almost like diving into a deep ocean to find a precious pearl. It may not always be attainable but it is this pursuit that makes life worthwhile and beautiful.

~Tanmay Vora, Excellence Evangelist, lifelong learner, blogger, author and IT business leader who writes at QAspire.com

This response originally appeared here.

The Summer Day

floral_tanmayvora

Listening to the “On Being” episode with one of the greatest living poets Mary Oliver truly made my day, especially the following poem.

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Swan and black bear represent the good and the bad. Grasshopper represents us, the indecisive human beings.

Life seems to be fleeting by and being present and mindful in the moment is perhaps the best gift we can give to ourselves.

Welcome to ‘The Wise Journal’

musings

In the analog world where I grew up, I had formed a habit of maintaining an analog journal. A joint effort between me and my father, the journal was enriched with wise words, poems, quotes, thought snippets and articles from great thinkers – all hand written! Occasionally, my father would also ruminate on life using this small journal as a tool. Everything that inspired or enabled us to make sense of the crazy world around secured the space in that journal. It is a shared stream of wise thoughts on living a simple, meaningful life.

And then we were invaded by demands of life and career. By technology. We saw ourselves writing and reading digitally more often without even realizing when the trusty pen silently gave way to the keyboard.

Analog journal gave way to business blog that I started in 2006. The goal here was to get wise in business and record my lessons on leadership and learning. The blog evolved to gather recognition across the globe. This journey of learning and expressing extended to Twitter and resulted in my first book in 2009. The mere act of thinking and putting my points of view out there made me a better professional and a better learner.

And then, on a rainy Tuesday morning, the memories of maintaining a personal log of thoughts, ideas and inspiration came back to the fore. There was a strong urge to travel back in time and continue with the process of exploring the random dots of life, connecting them in some way of the other, sharing inspiration and being inspired in the process. The real reward in the journey of life is the journey itself. As we move along this journey, we notice things, things notice us, we evolve and we weave a life together.

And therefore, a digital version of “The Wise Journal” is born. I aim to share wisdom as I encounter it. I hope to delve deeper into higher dimensions of life beyond the trials of mere survival. I hope that this journey will take us some place worthwhile, enabling us to connect the seemingly random dots that make up a wise, meaningful life.

So, join in this exploration. I look forward to our conversations here and elsewhere.

Tanmay Vora