2014 – What does it mean to you?

2014 – What does it mean to you?

I resisted the urge to write this post in the beginning of the year. I had two good reasons for it:

  1. There was already way too much noise on the “Interwebs”. Nothing that I would say would make an impact.
  2. I thought I’ll write this at the end of Jan after the euphoria of the new year has worn out and people have settled into their lives.

Like everyone, the beginning of a new year is a magical time. It brings with it the promise of a new start, a chance to let go of the past, and to make a real, permanent change in our lives for the better.

“I’ll get in shape this year”, “I’ll quit smoking”, “I’ll get a new job”, “I’ll spend more time with the family”, “I’ll be a better person”…. The list can go on. Hop across to 43Things.com and you’ll see that we all pretty much want the same thing. But there’s one that I don’t see very much…

I’ll come home.

No, not physically. I’m talking about bringing your mind home.

If you’re anything like me and millions of others, you’ll see that our minds haven’t been home for the longest time. Mine certainly hasn’t. It has wandered off to a million places over the past 2 decades.Here’s where my mind has been:

  • It has travelled far for work
  • Been to some nasty places in relationships
  • Been under a ton of stress while raising kids
  • Has been engulfed with the desire for money, success, career, achievement

But here’s the thing… We didn’t really send it to any of those places to begin with. We just woke up one fine morning and it was gone. In the beginning, we didn’t even miss it. And a short while later, we forgot about it. A decade later, we decided “this is how life worked; after all, kids leave home, right? So what’s wrong with the mind leaving home? That’s how things are supposed to work.”

Another decade goes by and we begin to miss it. We coin a new term for the time when it was home. “The good ol’ days” is one that pops up most frequently.

But the one we stick with is “The end of our childhood“.

I spent a fair bit of time thinking about this and came to the realization that we’re deluding ourselves. There’s no finality to our childhood. Or that magical time? Who said there was? On what authority? Or have we simply absolved ourselves of the responsibility for what happens to us on to something “external”…. Something that’s not in our control.

That’s bullshit.

I’m not saying that it’s our fault for letting it go. Not at all. I’m saying we have a responsibility to ourselves to bring it back.

2013 was a tough year for me. Pretty much nothing went right. My personal life, relationships, work life, finances all took a hammering. That’s fine. I’m not complaining. If I’ve had some good times in my life, it’s only fair to expect some bad times. Despite understanding this very clearly, I was surprised that I was angry… a lot! And I don’t normally get angry; I’m not that kind of a guy. I had to figure out where this anger was coming from.

I started thinking about this in late November. I figured I’d have this licked in a month.

I was totally wrong.

December came to a close and I was nowhere close to identifying what I wanted from the next year and what to do with my disturbed mindset. If anything, I was getting angry about not being able to figure out what made me angry. Does that make sense to you?

As January began, I began to calm down and things started registering in my mind. My problem was less to do with my circumstances and more to do with the fact that I was identifying myself with them. I was “becoming” my circumstances. Here was the problem! It became clear that one question needed to be answered:

When was the last time I was truly happy with myself as a person? Not any attributes such as money, career, health… but MYSELF?

I pushed the rewind button… kept it pressed as I went back a decade… and then it became clear that the last time I was happy with who I was was when I was a kid… Maybe 16 or 17. I was fearless. I was optimistic. I was bulletproof. And then, of course, life happened and I allowed myself to be consumed by it.

I don’t know what it will take but I will make sure that this year I travel back in time to find myself and to bring myself home. My instincts tell me that I’m going to have to take some big chances, perhaps even appear crazy to other people. But I’ve spent the past 29 years being like other people and how’s that turned out for me?

So till I try, I’ll never know. Starting this morning… the journey begins.

I’ve been scared of doing a few things… mostly avoiding relationships that may result in conflict. I’m touching base with those people today assuming the conflict doesn’t even exist. It’s what I would have done when I was 16.

If you’ve had any success at this, I’d be happy to know. Leave your comments in the box below.


The Warrior

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The moment you saw her…

The moment you saw her…

I still remember the day I first saw her… And it still gives me butterflies in my gut. Do you remember the first time time you saw that special person in your life?

Feel free to change the gender as you wish, but the question remains the same? Do you remember?

I was at this party and I saw her against the backdrop of a dark room, with the kitchen light casting a soft glow around her face as she stood in the doorway. She had long hair to her waist, and the light accentuated her collarbones. I loved her smile as she enjoyed seeing our friends dancing like crazed monkeys. She was clearly loving the evening. And she looked marvelous! That was the “official” time I fell in love with her.

It’s been 20 years and I still get that feeling every now and then. No, I don’t get butterflies each time I see her, but once in a while, I do. And I’m so thankful for that. Yes, I am still very much in love with her.

I had that same feeling this afternoon. And much like before, every time this feeling strikes, it makes me want to so something special for her. It puts me back in time to the point when I first saw her. Would I have done anything to have her in my life? Yes, Yes, Yes. So why wouldn’t I do that today, even after 20 years?

So tonight, I’m going to plan a fabulous meal for her. I’ll ask her to sit back and relax while I prepare an amazing feast for her. And while we eat, I’ll silently thank the heavens for making her a part of my life.

I think we all need to do that more often. We forget our blessings too easily. We’re far too quick to point our fingers at what we’re missing in life… but not quick enough to appreciate all that we have.

This evening is dedicated to the most precious thing I have – My sweetheart!

The Warrior

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It’s hard to take one’s own advice

It’s hard to take one’s own advice

About a year back, I was helping a friend through some difficult issues he was facing in his personal relationships. At the core of his problems was money. No, it wasn’t the mismanagement of money, but rather the “over-management” of it that was creating conflict in his personal life. His desire for financial security had ended up as the primary objective rather than the well-being of his family. Ironically, he wanted financial security for the welfare of his family.

His wife believed that the should spend less time worrying about money and more time with the family.

So I was staring at a classic case of both sides doing what they did with the best of intentions for the family. Both good people, with good intentions. But amid those good intentions lay the conflict.

Now I’ve never been crazy about money to this extent. Everybody is different and that’s the way I like myself to be. So I counseled him from my point of view and urged him to give up control of the money… I urged him to make some decisions that are simply fun – without any regard to whether they make financial sense or not. He listened intently and promised to think things through.

OK, so that chapter finished there. And then after a couple of days, I was called upon to take my own advice…

My wife wanted to buy some family room furniture on Boxing day. Now when we bought the house, we both decided that we won’t spend any money on new furniture for a year. But she’s been wistfully looking at the empty rooms and speaking about how good they’d look once there was furniture there.

Now buying a house isn’t a trip to Walmart. And the recent purchase has left our bank account with a rather empty feeling. And any future, immediate purchases would need to come out of the credit lines (something I detest diving into).

So the question confronting me was – just how much emphasis should I place on this desire of hers? Here were my options:

  1. I can say “We had an agreement. Lets honor it and buy the furniture next year instead of this year”
  2. I can delay the matter by saying “Lets think about it”
  3. I can take the big financial hit and howl while I go berserk trying to pay it off.

But then, I recalled the lengthy discussions I had with my friend and realized that money is simply… well… money. I have to look at what it means to me compared to what’s really important in my life. I mean what will bring me more happiness? Looking at my bank statement or looking at my wife’s face when she enters the family room each evening?

The answer was clear.

The next day, we spent $5,000 on some gorgeous family room furniture. There were no compromises made on quality, especially when it came to selecting the recliners. After all, it’s my tushy that’ll be spending the most time in those chairs for the next 10 years and damned if I’m going to compromise on those 🙂

Looking back, I made the right decision. I still wince at the thought of paying the debt down, but you know what? I’ll pay if off eventually… it’s just money.

Someone once said “Money is nothing but paper with an attitude”.

I believe that.

The Warrior

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Tolerance? Really?

Tolerance? Really?

Call it the scotch working overtime, but my ears pricked up during a party I was at last week when I heard a woman state “It’s so important to teach kids tolerance in this day and age”. Something didn’t quite sound right with that. So I refilled my glass and sat back to listen in on her talking animatedly about the challenges that we face in a culturally diverse society and that tolerance is what is needed.

10 minutes later, I was convinced – Tolerance is a “negative” concept.

Let me ask you something… Think of a person you really like – a friend, relative, anybody that you’re fond of. Do you tolerate them?  Or love them?  Why don’t you ever say this about your loved one “Oh, I tolerate my boyfriend just fine”.  When do we tend to use the term “tolerate”?  We use it in the presence of people we can’t stand, but simply have to put up with. For example, you might say “I can barely tolerate my boyfriend’s buddies” or “I can’t tolerate my mother-in-law anymore”. I can go on….. but I’m sure you see where I’m going with this.

We tend to consider tolerance as a good word. Heck, we’re teaching this stuff to our kids in school.  The word has the aura of peace, understanding and cohesiveness in society. Yet our language betrays the word’s real meaning to us.

The opposite of tolerance isn’t intolerance…. its understanding. Where tolerance urges us to keep our opinions (of people we don’t like) to ourselves, understanding pushes us to try and see where they are coming from.

Isn’t that what this world needs? Our world is coming together at a stunning pace. We haven’t been exposed to so much cultural diversity in the past 50 years as we have in the past 10 years. And a lot of us don’t know how to handle it.  We almost feel as if our identity is under threat and the natural instinct is to assume a position of “We” vs “Them”… anything that makes us better than the others. You can extend this to any situation – the workplace, family, anything.

And as we can’t do anything about their presence, we tolerate them.

What if we didn’t tolerate them? What if we tried to understand where the other people were coming from? What if we thought “They’re not idiots. Let me see what they’re trying to tell me”. When we’re no longer taking the refuge of a weak word which (ironically) makes us feel superior as well, that’s when we’ll see our paradigm change.

The clumsy, geeky neighbor’s kid who’s always hanging around your kid’s toys may emerge to be a kid who looks for love wherever he can find it. The new immigrant with the funny accent at the office may emerge to be a brilliant strategist only if people would listen to him without laughing. And the beggar who bugs you for change may simply be a guy who’s given up on life. Heck, who are we to judge?

So next time, don’t tolerate…. Understand!

The Warrior

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Are you really in love? Try passing the acid test !

Are you really in love? Try passing the acid test !

I was listening to the Dhamma Podcast recently and what was said about love really got me thinking. In a sense, I already knew much of it (and agreed with it as well), but what was remarkable was it presented certain concepts that made me sit up and take notice.

So you say that there’s a person in your life that you love more than anything else in the World – even more than yourself. You say that all you really want is for that other person to be happy. That’s all fine and good, except that your statement may not pass the acid test. As far as he’s concerned, he just loves you for what you are, no matter what you do.

So lets take the test, shall we? Lets say you’re in a relationship (married or otherwise) and one fine day, you find that your significant other has run away with the mailman. Are you happy? If you really love that person, then you should be happy for her because now she’s clearly more happy than she was before. In 99.9% of the cases, you’re not going to be celebrating this event.

So what that really means is that we tend to love ourselves more than pretty much anything else. We love the people around us, our friends, family and our possessions… but we love them for ourselves.

So what is so wrong with this equation, you might ask ! Nothing, really, but I do believe that there is a higher form of love…. a higher platform that we can reach. And once we reach this platform, the way we look at people, relationships and possessions completely changes.

Ironically, we can learn this best from those we don’t give much credit for intelligence – dogs and babies.

Take your dog for instance. Each day, when you come back from school or work, this little fellow will run towards you, jump all over you, and makes no bones about how delighted he is to see you. He doesn’t care about the way you look, or dress. He doesn’t care how much money you have or what you do for a living. He doesn’t even care to remember how nasty and indifferent you might have been to him a day earlier. He’s just happy to see you, no matter who you are and what you do.

Can you remember the last time you did that with anyone? When it didn’t matter what they did or said… when your love was unconditional in every sense of the word?

Through the ages, the strongest bond has been between a mother and her newborn baby (even in the animal world). Why? that’s because the mother will love her child regardless of how the child looks, or behaves. I have yet to see a mother say to her baby – “If you crap more than 3 times today, I’m not going to hold you”. Childbirth is a difficult process, and even after the child arrives, there are some huge sacrifices and pains that the mother endures. Yet, each of those sacrifices endears her to her baby even more.

The strongest relationships are those that are forged on unconditional love… that you can say “I will love you no matter what you say or do”. When it isn’t important for the other person to respond or reciprocate… when you’re happy simply because the other person is happy… when you can finally let go and still be happy. I call this selfless love. And in my opinion, its the most powerful love of all.

Can you imagine the sense of security the other person feels when they receive this kind of love? The freedom of being loved unconditionally. Living without fear of retribution or rejection yet having someone else celebrating every moment of your life as if it were their own?

Think about it. Want to take it a step further? How can you apply the same knowledge to yourself – I mean loving YOURSELF unconditionally. Learning to forgive yourself and accepting yourself completely. I can say a lot on the subject, but I’ll leave that for another day.

Till next time, have a wonderful life.

The Warrior

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