On Raising Children!

“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”

― William Martin

In the pic: My kids watching the expanse of Sukhna lake with Shivalik mountains at a distance.

 

What Death Teaches Us About Life..

Sometimes, witnessing death teaches you about life that life itself cannot.

This week, I encountered two deaths – one of a relative and one of a neighbor but it was the stark contrast of how they passed away that taught me something important.

Our relative passed away on the stage at the age of 70 years pursuing his passion for singing and music. He was performing at a religious gathering when he collapsed of a sudden cardiac arrest resulting from a rather long history of cardio-vascular disease. He was a parent of a special child and life wasn’t really easy for him. But he would always wear a smile as gentle as his nature and radiate joy whenever he met others. Music was his passion and to pursue it full time, he opted for a premature retirement from his banking profession.Music was also his defense against the trials of life – whenever he found himself tangled in vagaries of life, he would lose himself in songs that he wrote, composed and sung. He often mentioned that he would like to pass away gently while singing in devotion of the higher power. Universe granted his wish.

On the other hand, I heard the news of one of our neighbors who committed suicide at the age of 40 leaving behind wife and two boys aged 5 and 8! Though no one knows the reason why he chose to run away from life, everyone thought what he did was horrible. Escaping life to avoid being confronted with problems leaves those left behind with much bigger problems for rest of their lives!

Events like these makes you think hard about life and how to live it well. We often get too caught up with our problems whether it is financial, relational, physical or emotional. Problems are there for a reason. We evolve as we go through those experiences, face the challenges and solve our problems. We cannot let the dark clouds of despair take us over.

We all face problems and challenges in our unique contexts. A few things really help in dealing with them.

Having a strong support system in form of family and friends with whom you can share and communicate your feelings, emotions and concerns is important buffer we have. More important is to actually choose to communicate with our loved ones regularly. Having exposure to right kind of reading and thinking can help in dealing with problems wisely. Having at least one passion that you can lose yourself into completely can be a savior. Doing something to serve others can help in taking away focus from the self even if for short time. Having a spiritual hook in any form can help too. Living in the current moment and doing whatever you are doing with full focus can keep you away from anxiety of the future.

The life we have been bestowed with is precious. We got to use life energy as a tool to overcome challenges, to create meaning for ourselves, to serve others, to tread gently on this earth, lose ourselves in something bigger than ourselves and be open to learn along the way.

Voltaire said it right:

God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living it well.

Choosing our Pursuits

Does your work make you a better human being?

The work we do and the stuff we accumulate are much like adding more zeros to life. There is no end to it and the sum total of all you accumulate is still zero.

Haven’t we all seen miserable millionaires and poor people (materially) who are blessed with contentment?

In a world where you can do almost anything you want to, our choice becomes ever more important. And it is the choice of doing the work that not only makes a bigger difference to the outer world but also enriches your inner world as a human being.

We see people doing menial mundane jobs with great joy and we see people in meaningful and deep work doing it with a feeling of drudgery.

Work itself means little, unless we assign a meaning to it. It is pretty much like a stone cutter who thinks he is busy building a cathedral. Stone cutting is mundane, building a cathedral is not.

It is this kind of work, and the meaning we assign to it, that adds a one before all the zeros. That which makes all the other zeros meaningful and valuable.

That is how we create value in life. Not by simply accumulating stuff and external validations. But by also doing the work that makes us a better human being.

👋

Wanderlust

During our Kashmir trip in 2011, we met a gentleman who was not enthused at all with the gorgeous snow clad mountains, river streams and beautiful valleys. He said, “its all the same!”

Wanderlust is as much about exploring our inner selves through journeys outside as it is about our internal openness to embrace change and uncertainty.

Loved this wonderful essay titled “The Art of Wanderlust” by Cody Delistraty in The Paris Review.

Hat Tip: Kenneth Mikkelsen for the pointer. Here are some excerpts.

“Not everyone can travel, but anyone can sit in front of a canvas, an image. To wander no longer requires one to have resources; instead, it is universal and should be depicted as such. No matter how much we travel—no matter which mountains we hike or which cloud-swept vistas we position ourselves in front of—it is only an internal openness to change that will ever really allow it to enter us.”

No matter the scene or the artwork, no matter what is in front of us or where we are, it is ultimately up to us how we react. Travel, geography, physical movement—these Romantic ideas of existentialism hold far less sway over our internal being than we’ve long thought. What most matters, rather, is how we’re made to feel, how we choose to feel, and how we allow ourselves to feel.

 

The Real Purpose of Education

We think of education very narrowly. Education is not just a means to find your vocation, education is an enabler in designing a good life.

As far as earning your daily bread is concerned, even uneducated people end up making big fortunes. At the least, they know how to survive.

But on the other end of the spectrum, we see many educated people (or lets say,  people with impressive college degrees) in a dire state of affairs when it comes to living a good life. We see people around who have been handed over a good fortune that they squander. They have loving kids who they ignore in the busyness of work. They have caring parents around who they take for granted. They have a good career but their finances are messed up. Their relationships broken and they have a toxic view about life and others.

I feel that the real purpose of education should be recentered around living a good life and not simply have a good career. A good career is certainly an essential element of survival, but that’s cannot be the whole point of our life.

Where will we lead our society if we always place a premium only on vocational growth and position in the pecking order of society instead of celebrating people who are able to live a balanced good life?

A life built around the highest human virtues of love, compassion, contentment, relationships and generosity.

That’s what society needs today, more than ever before!

On Brevity of Life

“You can think of death bitterly or with resignation, as a tragic interruption of your life, and take every possible measure to postpone it. Or, more realistically, you can think of life as an interruption of an eternity of personal nonexistence, and seize it as a brief opportunity to observe and interact with the living, ever-surprising world around us.”

Our time here is but a blip, and when we leave, the great world continues to spin. As such, the appreciation of our own lives has much to do with the ever-increasing awareness of its relative brevity. It is this — an awareness and acceptance of our own mortality — that makes us human. And it is the impetus, I’d argue, for living our lives to the fullest.

Today this awareness of the temporal nature of it all leaves me determined to seize, observe and interact with the days that remain. It is the knowledge of how quickly, sometimes tragically, things can change or disappear that fuels my urgency to be in the present.

– Excerpts from NYTimes Opinion piece Life Is Short. That’s the Point. by Allison Arieff

Gratitude and Generosity

Gratitude is the prerequisite for generosity.

If you think what you have is not enough, how will you be able to share generously with others?

You will rarely see someone who is ungrateful and generous at the same time!

In the photo: A beautiful colored wooden house at Suomenlinna Island, Helsinki, Finland (2016)

Joy is in the Work

“Where is the joy in writing, dancing, film-making, or any art or entrepreneurial venture? It’s not in the praise; it’s not in a paycheck. (Though there’s nothing wrong with praise or paychecks.) It’s in the work itself. The sweat of it and the grind of it and the happy moments when it gets rolling all by itself. Krishna said that’s all we have a right to, and he hit the nail on the head. The joy is private and silent.”

– Wise words from Steve Pressfield via his post “The Fruits of Our Labor

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

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.