Sunday, September 20, 2015


I was talking to my sister recently about positive and negative events in our lives and how they impact us. We went for hours talking about the so called positive and negative events. We talked and talked and talked and realized that we are talking about the stuff that we have known for a long time anyway. There was nothing new in our conversation. There was no groundbreaking discovery. There was no eureka moment. There was a constant realization of “I know. Easier said than done. 

We talked about negative events being and feeling negative because of the perception more than the event itself. What makes a tragedy a tragedy? It is not the tragedy itself. It is our perception of that event. Tragedy is probably too severe a word to use for our everyday life instances. But you get the idea. The way we think and process the events in our life have a greater impact on us than the occurrence itself. While the reality is that we are better off without a bad event occurring in our life, there is also the reality that when you think something bad is happening to us, it is not that bad in the large scheme of things. But it is hard to see it in that moment. In fact, more often than not it is impossible to see the greater good amidst some crappy experience you may be going through. That is why it is so much easier said than done that life is all about perspective and a bad event may not be as bad as we think it is.

In fact, there is so little in our lives that we can actually control. It may seem like a very regressive statement in todays day and age of technology, innovation and breakthroughs. But a big part of me really and truly believes in this statement. The philosopher in me treats this as a holy grail of our existence. We spend out lives planning and figuring and creating and inventing and progressing. All in the hope for a better future, more advancement and an easier life. But I am sure all of us have faced realities amidst these breakthroughs that ground us. That level our thinking. That make us realize that as humans keep getting more and more powerful and omni-everything each day, there is a part of us that cannot control it all. We as humans are not supposed to control this Universe and all its events. If that were the case we would have been born with a remote control to control this Universe. But we are born with the ability to control ourselves. And therefore we are born with our minds in our body. The point is that you can control yourself, your thoughts, your actions, your reactions. And you better know your limits. Of course, easier said than done. But it really puts a lot of things into perspective. 

My sister recently attended a seminar and one of the things she took away from it was the realization of how we treat things and events differently based on our convenience or perception. For example we all deem smoking and drugs to be vices that we supposed to be bad for our mind, body and soul. But we don’t treat negative emotions such as jealousy, contempt, anger, and so on similarly. While the reality is that these negative emotions harm our body, quite literally and physically and not just emotionally, just as much, if not than any drugs out there. But while we build our perceptions around physical substance such as drugs and cigarettes, we forget to pay attention to emotions that fundamentally make or break us. The truth is that we should be treating anger and jealousy with an equal force. But of course easier said than done. I read somewhere long time ago: When someone else does something wrong or unacceptable, we blame it on their character. But when we do something wrong or unacceptable, we blame it on our situation. I don't know about you but this is especially true for me. Once I put this thought at the back of my mind, I realize how much I actually do this. We are so willing to give ourselves the benefit of doubt and blame our faults on the situation. We are equally unwilling to realize that someone who did something bad to us did it because of their situation and not because of who they are. We are so quick to call people mean, selfish and money minded. When in fact we demonstrate similar behavior and conveniently ignore it, or attribute to factors outside of us.

What is the point of this long, random, round about piece of writing? Well, there is no one point. Maybe there is no point. But there is a realization, yet again, that we are small tiny fractions of unit in this world that we can’t really deem ourselves more important than we really are. While we deal with all sorts of events and emotions that happen around us, we just need to know our strength and our limitations. And control is a very important part of it. Knowing what we can control and what we can’t control is at the heart of making peace with the happiness and the sadness of life. Here is a to digging one layer deeper every day in knowing more about us. Our limitations. Our strengths. Our controls. And our non-controls.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Judgement & Opinions

It has always been very easy for me to identify which side of the argument I stand on when it comes to being judgmental. Don't be. That is my side. Always. I make a conscious effort to practice that side. I am pretty sure there are times I fail. But it is one of the few things I really care about. Not being judgmental. Everyone has a different story, a different context, different circumstances, different background, different priorities, different sensitivities, different sensibilities, different likings, different disliking. You get the idea. The point is, everyone is so different. It is so unfair to to declare in your infinite wisdom that “a certain something is the only right thing to do.” In an absolute reality, that just isn't true. Be it about what people eat, or wear, or read, or see, or write, or say. That said, there are some guidelines I still tend to follow. Like, it shouldn't impact your health negatively. I can never ever in a thousand years be indecisively negative about smoking. I am absolutely, 100%, decisively against and repulsed by smoking. I don't think it is good for your or others’ health and I am quite judgmental about it. So health issues are slightly off the limits when it comes to this topic. So are issues pertaining to hurting oneself or someone else. It does get a little gray here. Some things that people do in the name of discipline or religion could be considered as things that potentially hurt you at some level. But I treat that differently from physically or emotionally hurting someone or oneself in certain other ways. If that certain something is causing someone I love to be negatively impacted in any which way, then all bets are off. None of what I have ever said may or may not be true. I may be after your blood. Not really. Only metaphorically. Lot of subjectivity going on here. I get it. But the point is that I am generally accepting of people and their choices especially when they don't impact me or my loved ones. 

The thing I am attempting to reconcile this with is opinions. Opinions are important. For your self, for your self esteem, and just because. It is important to have a point of view. I quite value it. In my mind, not being judgmental does not and should not translate to not having opinions. But how is it really possible? This is me talking out loud. But wouldn't your opinions make your judge people accordingly. I am not sure what spectrum I fall in. I want to believe I have the best of both worlds. That is, I am not judgmental and I have opinions. But something’s got to give. If you have strong opinions on a topic then how is it that you can be non-judgmental regarding the same when it comes to other people. Is it because while I have opinions, I don't care enough? That sounds little too detached to me. I don't want to sounds that detached. I am not really sure where acceptance, non-judgment attitude and having-opinions meet on a spectrum. Or if they meet ever. 

My mind is actively arguing on this issue. But I am not able to resolve it. On one hand I feel so passionately about not judging other people for who they are and the choices they make. On the other hand I value having opinions and standing up for them. Being non-judgmental means people can see two (or more) sides of the same issue. You understand why some people could like something and others could hate the same thing. But then you have your own opinion on whether or not that thing is likable. So what do you think of people who don't think like you? Does simple having the understanding of the other side release you from the ability to judge them. This logic, somewhat makes sense to me. But how true it really is. Do we just pretend to be understanding of other people’s opinions and choices while still harbor our strong opinions? Do we pretend to be non-judgmental while persisting our opinions? Or do we really, truly emphasize with people who have different opinions than ours’?

I haven’t figured this one out yet. So I don't know where to begin concluding this post. I am going to leave it open ended. Until I crack this code…

Friday, September 4, 2015

Way out of negativity

While it sounds somewhat negative, I am writing about it because I feel rather positive right now. I can’t think objectively about negativity when I am in negative state of mind. For me to think objectively about negativity, I have to be in a somewhat positive state of mind. That said, it is one of the things I wonder about quite often. Why do we feel negative? About things, circumstances, people, anything. It is a slightly tricky one for me because I get easily influenced by what is around me. We feel negative toward circumstances when they are not favorable toward us, or when they don't go as we planned, or when we feel like we are not in control. We feel negative toward people or things when we feel let down by them, or we get a sense of judgement or pessimism from them, or we feel anger toward them. I honestly don't know how to not feel negative in such situations. But I also know that the only entity that suffers through our negativity is us. It is not the circumstances, or the things, or the people who caused you to get in that negative zone to begin with. And there lies the catch. Albeit, easier said than done. It just means that even more important than feeling positive is the act of trying to stop feeling negative. While feeling positive may sound like the ultimate goal (it does to me anyway) it is not the step in life that helps us get stronger. It helps us stay happy for sure. But it is our drive and the will to stop being in a negative place and get to a positive place that determines how we fare. It also depends on our point of view. I have very often seen people draw positive and negative conclusions from the exact same situation and people. It depends on how you look at things. Some people have an always-wrong whereas some people have an always-not-wrong outlook when viewing situations. I have realized what a world of difference it makes in whether or not a situation or a person will make you negative or positive, or at least not-so-negative.

For all this abstract mumbo jumbo I have typed, here are some instances and people that make me realize the crux of point of view, frame of mind, what makes us negative, how to be positive and not-so-negative.

The other day I was at a clinic where I spent 30 minutes waiting in the reception area just to be called in by a nurse. I waited another 20 minutes to see the doctor once I was finally let in by the nurse. I was so incredibly mad that I wanted to yell at someone, or hit someone, or worst yet, cry. How on earth could something get so inefficient. There are two possible outcomes when I am feeling so negative - I could let it all out and spit out some very negative words and emotions, or, don't say anything at that point to avoid all the negative stuff from coming out. At that point I avoided saying anything. But on my way out I called Siddharth and told him what happened. I was so angry that I was literally shouting at him while narrating the experience. He responded “Sorry babe, you had to go through all that. It sucks. I hope the patient before you is ok though because if the doctor took this long to see you then he must be spending more time with the previous patient, which probably doesn't bode well for them.”  Seeing the enormous outpour of empathy for a patient we didn't know and doctor Siddharth didn't see that day hit me like a massive snowball filled with ice. I obviously wasn't thinking of anyone else but me. Most people would probably do that, because why not. But Siddharth’s first thought was the other patient who needed so much extra time from the doctor. My extreme negativity was quite a contrast to Siddharth’s extreme empathy and not-so-negative outlook. And there lies the difference. He always functions in the mode of giving people the benefit of doubt. I always function in the mode of ‘they are not right’ and ‘they need to prove otherwise’. Except nobody is really bothered about it so I am left feeling all the more negative. This difference in our outlook makes such a big difference in whether we feel negative or not so negative and how we cope with it. 

Another story I remember is that of my paternal grandfather (papa ji). He passed away when I was less than three. Weird enough, I have a distinct and real memory of talking to my papa ji in our old family home and I remember him handing me a pen or something like that. That is obviously besides the point. Anyway, the point is, all of what I know about him is through the pictures and stories my parents tell about him. He was a freedom fighter, he worked in theater, he wrote poems, he wrote songs in movies and private albums back in the day. He did a lot of stuff. But most importantly he was a free spirited person. They lived in a very humble home. Nothing extravagant. Simple. Basic. This one time there was a theft in their home. I am not sure what time of the day it was. I think it happened overnight when everyone was asleep. They discovered in the morning that somebody broke in and their house was in complete shambles. While everyone was in a major panic mode, papa ji was relieved that all the family members were safe and that no one was hurt. He was calm and asked everyone to calm down, drink a cup of tea, and then start looking at what we had lost. What!? How is that reaction humanly possible?! Obviously path breaking. But it reflects on his tendency and inclination to think of the positives before thinking of the negatives in life. I wish I could have known him. 

Every time I see my brother and his much better half, A, I am reminded of how the spirit of life trumps the circumstances in life. We all go through ups and downs in life. But every time I look at A, I am reminded that her enthusiasm toward life is like that of a five year old child. And I love that about her. No matter what is going on in life, her spirit and positivity toward life are unparalleled. It makes me jealous and make me want to have the same streak. But a part of me believes it really comes from within. We all are pre-disposed to thinking one way or the other. Not that you can’t train your mind and body to drift away from your natural tendencies. But it takes a lot of work. 

It is kind of similar to how Siddharth reacts so differently when he finds out that he is let down by someone. My knee jerk reaction “WTH !? It is unacceptable.” His reaction on the other hand is “It is not their fault. Maybe there are circumstances that caused them to say these negative things. Maybe they don't mean it. We don’t know what they were going through when they said something.” I try to think like him and give people the benefit of doubt, but that is so not my natural tendency. It takes so much of me to be the bigger person, and yet I fail more than 50% of the times. So the same person, the same conversation and the same circumstances ignite a very different reaction and feeling in the two of us.

I feel like I am all over the place on this topic. But I constantly feel the need to re-evaluate my reactions and my tendency to feel a certain way in certain circumstances or with certain someone. The easiest way for me to not feel negative is to avoid circumstances and people who bring out the negativity in me. And while avoiding is not a great strategy, it definitely helps to surround ourselves with people and things that make us happy. They do, to some extent, lend to happier circumstances. And they are the ones who help us out of our negativity. That is my easy and quick fix remedy.   

Strangely enough, there are two paradoxical things that happen simultaneously. I do strongly believe that positivity is infectious. If you surround yourself with the people who lift you up, are supportive of you in front of you and behind your back, ground you, keep it real and keep it jolly - you will surely feel more positive than not. That said, I also think that negativity is a state of mind that you have to fix from within and no outside factor can change it for you. You can have all the luxuries of the world, or be in an unprecedented crunch - you could still end up feeling quite negative. And the only person who can take you out of that rut is you, and your point of view. Sometimes I am feeling negative enough that I seek help from my dear ones, but I realize that no matter what they say or do, it is me who has the power to shift the balance from negative to positive. Same way, sometimes I see my dear ones feel negative and be in a non-ideal place in life and I want to move mountains and bring the moon to the earth just so they can feel better. But beyond a point I can’t make the shift for them. They have to do it on their own. So while there is power in surrounding yourself with positive people, there are limitations to the same. There is only one way out of a negative spot - and that is you.