Posted by & filed under Interviews, Kindness, Mindfulness, Vulnerability.

Kaveri - The Voice

 

Kaveri sits at the crossroads of contemplation, creativity, and compassion.  She tries to parent, write, and facilitate healing for others and herself from this place.  Her poetry books include An Invitation (2011), Under the Waves (2012), and The Voice (2014).  Her meditation cd The Feminine Faces of Compassion was released in 2013 and her journal Be the Space: Reflections on the Journey was released earlier this year.  She resides in northern California where she practices Family Medicine and teaches a meditation and writing class.   She can be contacted at www.wisdominwaves.com

 

I discovered Dr. Kaveri at the Mindfulness4Mothers blog when my little one was a few months old and I was struck by a difficult phase of postpartum anxiety. Her words were incredibly comforting and I was inspired by her courage in being vulnerable and also how gracefully she is embodying a portfolio career.  I have enjoyed reading her words around the web and am so glad kind people like her abound in our medical community. Here’s more of Dr. Kaveri for you:-) The poem at the end is an absolute heart warming, thought provoking gift!

  • How does living mindfully manifest in your life?

Buddhist teacher, author, and director of mindfulness education at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center, Diana Winston has a definition of mindfulness I resonate with.  According to her, mindfulness is paying attention to your present moment experience with openness, curiosity, and a willingness to be with what is.”

 

For me, living mindfully means that I need to be present, open, and care about what is actually happening in any given moment.  The joyful moments are much easier to be with, to open my heart and feel connected to everyone and everything around me.  The difficult moments aren’t so easy I’m not willing to be with what is if I’m not aware of my thoughts, feelings, and body sensations.  This can be tricky when I’m surrounded by others, which is why I need periods of silent space throughout my day to connect with my mind body and heart in ways that are deeply truthful and healing.  Only then can I open again and actually sense what is needed by others.

 

The neutral moments are interesting to watch.  Sometimes I zone out and get busy cleaning, organizing, or checking email to fill the space with something to do.  The beauty of mindfulness is that I can always return to the present moment without judging where I’ve been.  If I am self-critical, the practices of self-compassion and forgiveness are like soothing balms to any wound.

 

Living mindfully is perhaps most challenging in the context of relationships.  Wise speech, paying attention to word choice, tone of voice, and my intentions behind the words, is often helpful in order to facilitate harmonious relationships.  It is also a useful reminder when words have already been used as weapons and I’m trying to minimize further damage caused by them.  Asking myself the question, who am I or what am I believing in a challenging interaction with someone is also quite informative.  I can see all the ways I defend myself as a ‘good’ person and all the ways I blame myself as a ‘bad’ person.  Neither version of me is accurate.  The same question can be asked of others. Who are they?  What am I believing about them?

 

  • What comes in the way of your making intentional, conscious choices and what brings you back on track?

Fear and guilt get in the way.  I was raised in a culture that values the well being of the larger family unit over the yearnings of an individual.  I also live in an area that values productivity over vulnerability.  When I contemplate a career move, the creation of a new project, or crave alone time, fear and guilt arise.  I fear separation from my family/colleagues and the loss of love, respect, and understanding that might follow.  I also fear that there is only a finite amount of time to do all that I want to do.  I feel guilty in prioritizing my callings over the needs of others.

 

Meditation, yoga, writing, spending time in nature and with souls who value authenticity and vulnerability, all help bring me back on track.  Through these practices, I experience unconditional, compassionate presence.  Her presence is gentle and reassuring.  Her voice is kind and clear.  She senses the bowling ball in my stomach and palpitations of fear in my chest.  She knows the tension of guilt in my jaws and forearms.  She understands, and is willing to stay with me till I can feel her love from the inside out, till I am confident that my mind, body, and spirit are strong enough to hold whatever is moving through me with tenderness and trust.

 

  • What got you inspired to deepen your work in teaching mindfulness and leading retreats in addition to your work as a family physician?

 

Nine years ago when I experienced postpartum depression and anxiety, I knew I needed something beyond traditional therapies to heal a deep hurt.  As I began the practices of mindfulness and compassion, attending retreats and working with skillful teachers, I touched something larger than my small, painful self.  She is the unconditional, compassionate presence I mentioned above.

 

When I see others struggling in a similar way, carrying the heavy burden of a painful, unworthy self on their shoulders on an endless journey of self-judgements, I want them to know there is another version of their story.  I enjoy the marriage of mindfulness to compassion, with meditation and writing as witnesses to express a new story, a celebration of our divine and wondrous light.  It isn’t an ego based celebration, but awareness of a universal Spirit moving through us all.  When I see that spark of recognition in a patient or participant’s eyes, I feel deeply fulfilled.

  • How do you integrate your mindfulness practice and creative pursuits in your traditional medical practice?

 

With short office visits, it can sometimes be challenging.  I try to be present to the thoughts, feelings, and sensations that are arising within me in any given patient encounter.  This helps to facilitate a non-judgmental awareness of the patient and whatever they are experiencing.  If the patient is open, I might suggest a mindful breathing practice, yoga poses, and/or guided meditations rooted in kindness and self-compassion.  Sometimes we practice a guided meditation together.  I also facilitate a 6 week meditation and writing class to help patients meet personal challenges with loving presence.

 

  • What advice would you have for someone who is skeptical about meditation and mindfulness?

That’s an interesting question.  For years, I felt like a Buddhist Evangelist praising mindfulness meditation as the greatest thing in the world.  I’d convince anyone who had even the slightest interest to give it a try.  I’d even argue vehemently with those who were skeptical that my way was the right and only way.  It wasn’t till a loved one pointed this out to me that I realized what I was doing.  Mindfulness teachers often caution participants at the end of a retreat not to go home and be a ‘buddhist’ but practice being a ‘buddha’.  If we are to share the benefits of these practices with others, we must first embody them in a non-violent manner, and then decide how we want to manifest them in the world with kindness and gentleness.

 

  • If you had 30 days that you could spend in any way you’d like, what would you do with them?

 

Wow.  That seems like a generous amount of time!  If you mean consecutively, I might consider a silent meditation retreat or a trip to Europe/Asia on a Sacred Feminine pilgrimage, and vacation time with my family.  If it’s not consecutive, then I’d try and do the above in shorter time slots.  Still need to journey on a Sacred Feminine pilgrimage.

 

  • Do you have any final thoughts for those who are beginning or currently on a path of mindfulness?

The journey of mindfulness will be different for everyone.  Some will sit many meditation retreats while others might read or take classes in mindfulness.  Some will create a quilt with mindfulness as one square since other practices have already been stitched in, occupying the other squares in the quilt.  Some will want a blanket in only one color of mindfulness to keep them warm against life’s bitter truths.  Some will dive into mindfulness, impatient and frustrated that they cannot swim with ease in the deep end, while others will wade into the teachings step by step, learning to swim at a slow and steady pace.

 

Whatever your particular flavor of mindfulness practice might be, listen to your heart.  Let it inform you of how much or how little you might want to engage in any mindfulness practice.  Mindfulness is not a self-improvement project.  It is a kind, clear way of relating to yourself and others to help alleviate your suffering, not to perpetuate it.

 

Perfect Questions

 

What if I never wrote another poem,
never saw another patient,
or meditated ever again?
Would I still be respected?

Why is the President more valuable
then a prisoner on death row?
Why is your child’s heart more precious
than a homeless person’s heart?
Isn’t a homeless person also
someone else’s child?

I don’t want to live this life
always grooming myself for
the next moment, pretending
there is a better version of us
all just around the bend,

when all the perfect questions
never asked for perfect answers.
-from The Voice

 

 

Posted by & filed under Callings.

 

 

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A few months back, I had written a couple of posts on callings here & here. This post is a continuation of my thoughts in them. If you haven’t read those, I’d invite you to start there before reading further.

 

  • Your calling has to be your vocation

For some individuals, their job title matches exactly with their heart’s desires and the job pays the bills too. This is incredibly inspiring yet your story doesn’t have to be the same way. Your calling may be very different from your day job and that is perfectly fine. They may be somewhat interconnected and complement one another and that too is perfectly fine. There doesn’t have to be one linear way of sharing your gifts in the world.

Looking for more inspiration on portfolio careers and slash careers? Click here and here for more reading…

Lesson #5: It’s okay for your day job and your calling to be poles apart or somewhat aligned. Start anyway!

  • But I should have only one calling

Who said so???

Yes, we all get inspired by the story of the musician who spends 10 hours a day, every day creating music with a uni-directional focus. We absolutely need individuals with that laser sharp focus doing just one thing. Thank God we have those brain surgeons and oncologists in the world taking care of us.

But that doesn’t have to be your story. It is absolutely okay if you like to paint and also crunch numbers. You think I am kidding, read more about my colleague Mariah Walton here and see her art here.

You may spend more time on one at one time in your life and then switch gears at another. Multi-passionate individuals shouldn’t feel that something is wrong with them. Being strategic, creative and thoughtful with your different interests can actually empower you to live more fully.

Lesson #6: It is okay to care deeply about more than one thing at the same time. You don’t have to but its absolutely okay if you do!

 

  • Pursuing your callings should be easy

The media keeps sending us messages that when we pursue our callings, life will suddenly become easy. This is often not the case. Yes, there will be increased meaning, purpose and fulfillment in life but that doesn’t mean every minute of spending more time doing what you love will make life increasingly simple. Quite likely, it will mean learning new skills, stepping into unchartered territories, embracing fear, and facing some failures.

Continue anyway…

Lesson #7: Pursuing our callings add complexity and challenge to our life but also bring meaning, purpose and contentment making the extra effort worth it!

 

The world needs more of us to express ourselves and share our unique gifts with others. Yet, its absolutely fine if you don’t have a calling that you are pursuing at this point. If you’ve reached to the end of this post, chances are you have the curiosity to explore more about what makes you come alive and that’s the most important first step. While you are on this path, also remind yourself that trying to be a good human being, intentionally fulfilling your responsibilities as an adult, practicing kindness to yourself and others and doing your part for our planet and society is a worthwhile pursuit in itself.

 

Deep bow to each of your callings!

 

 

 

 

Posted by & filed under Kindness.

 

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Last month I had taken on a project to practice kindness for 30 days and had invited all of you to join me as well.

So, how did it go?

 

In short, it was a beautiful journey to make kindness an explicit priority in my day. It was even more rewarding to listen to some of your stories on your kindness projects. One of you did a run to raise money, one wrote a yelp review for a friend starting a new business and another one of you brought lunch for your co-worker. Kindness is contagious! I used the word more often in business meetings when tough decisions were to be made. I paused more often to buy extra salsa at the farmers market to share with my neighbors. I exchanged more “kindness ideas” messages with friends and family but…

 

… despite this open & public declaration on my blog and a deep desire to practice kindness, there were enough days when I didn’t do anything extra special and my day just went by. Some days I even forgot that I had made this commitment to practice extra kindness. Sigh. My to do list took priority and unexpected life events came in the way such that I didn’t even spend a few minutes to make a loan at Kiva, give Vivaan’s teacher at day care an extra hug or send a handwritten note to a friend.

 

However, I learnt that on days when I was most exhausted, depleted and tired to chop a few extra carrots and add to my vegetable so I could share with my neighbor, that if I did spend five minutes practicing kindness and chopping those carrots, I felt more content, more full and more purposeful in my day. Kindness energized and refueled me. Kindness added purpose and meaning. Kindness added joy and peace. Kindness brought a smile to my face and made my overwhelming day a tiny bit easier…

 

Last month in our mindfulness circles, one of my friends mentioned that kindness was so empowering & yet so simple unlike many other aspects of our life. For example, if you may want to accomplish x at work, there are some many factors that need to come into play and your success doesn’t just hinge on how well you perform. However, kindness is so much simpler and doesn’t require power, political influence or luck for you to succeed in your actions. It simply requires a desire to brighten someone’s day and the willingness to take action.

 

I learnt practicing kindness requires building & strengthening my “kindness muscle.” It requires repetition for the brain to do it subconsciously to choose love over selfishness, to choose giving over anything else. It requires not making my day soooo busy that I forget what it means to take care of someone else. It also means that creating a world with more kindness starts with kindness to my own self, kindness and compassion for my own challenges and sufferings to have more love to give in the world.

 

So, now I am inviting you to another kindness project. Design your own project and include what you want to give and create in the world. Make it as specific as you can without making it a chore. Infuse love – for yourself and those who come in touch with you!

Here’s my commitment for the next 60 days!

  1. Write 15 handwritten notes of appreciation/gratitude. I love writing notes and always keep a stack of empty cards with me in my car, my laptop bag, my desk and bedside table so not having a card is never an excuse to practice kindness. And yes, I keep stamps too for those lovely people I cant drive to often.
  2. Share fruit, food or smoothies with my cleaners. I love my cleaners and can’t imagine my home, rather my life without them. I am not good at keeping my house super clean and they truly empower me to create time to write and express my self by freeing up some time in my weekJ. They love it when I make a fresh fruit smoothie for them and I want to continue doing it even more.
  3. Call up 4 distant family members who I haven’t kept in touch with. This is something I really want to do more often. I want to express my gratitude to my family members I haven’t kept in touch with and let them know that I love and appreciate them for all that they do for me.
  4. Share a home cooked meal with a friend once a week. I love cooking and sharing food. There is something incredibly rewarding about cooking from scratch, adding some love and giving it away. I hope to do it more…
  5. Complete my volunteering form for the Community Service Agency in Mountain View. I have been procrastinating filling up my form and starting my volunteering shifts with this organization for several months. I have even received an email reminder from the volunteering lead following up on my application. It’s about time I turn this intention into action!
  6. Fundraiser for Nepal. I recently found out about this inspiring story about an orphanage in Nepal run by a wonderful family in Sunnyvale.

Bishow Bhatta, is one of the people behind NECO who currently resides in Sunnyvale, California with his wife and four children. He drives a taxicab to earn a living and support his family, but donates up to half his income to help support NECO.

Soon after the earthquake, he flew back to Nepal to help the children and unfortunately he broke his leg during the second earthquake. Sumit and I wanted to help them beyond writing the check we did and are hosting a fundraiser at home and I’ll be cooking a multi course local, Indian meal.

 

I’ll end with another humble request. Practice kindness and share with the world, not to feed the ego but to inspire and spread kindness, spread love and generosity in the world. Here’s the Random Acts of Kindness website for more ideas and inspiration.

 

Let’s bring more kindness in the world.

 

 

Posted by & filed under Callings.

 

I was recently having a conversation with a friend who sadly shared that her life was just a to do list devoid of any form of self-expression or meaning. She said – “I don’t have a calling” and more importantly how do I find something that fuels my self? I am already overwhelmed getting through my day.

 

She isn’t alone. I have myself said this at many times in my life and have heard so many people around me repeat this. One of the key reasons we don’t find and pursue our callings is because of some limiting beliefs that we hold about them that come in our way. Here are a few reasons that hold us back:

 

I must always know my calling

Big lie! Yes, some people know when they were five that they were meant to paint, write or work with animals but for most of us it is a twisted, winding and rocky journey. Real world responsibilities come in the way, we have bills to pay, soul crushing jobs that take up energy and we may lose track. But all these experiences can give us information and we learn a little more about what matters to us and who we are meant to be…

 

Lesson 1: It’s okay if you don’t know what your heart’s deepest desire or form of self-expression is. You are not alone. Keep taking steps and you will get closer to what matters most to you.

My calling must stay consistent

Another story I don’t agree with. Again, for some there is something magical about cooking 5 hours a day for 25 years. That’s amazing & inspiring but that doesn’t have to be your version of a calling. Your calling may morph and take a different form as your life evolves and changes but you will notice that the core essence – the underlying value, the feelings it generates, the joy it brings will likely stay consistent even though its external form may change.

For example, I loved, loved teaching yoga at a studio for several years but I stopped in my last trimester of my pregnancy, as I didn’t have much energy to give to my students on top of a full time job. Once Vivaan arrived, I deeply missed teaching but leaving him for 3 hours on a weeknight wasn’t aligning well with my other values. I made some changes on how to manifest my love for teaching, self-expression and community by hosting meditation groups at home and giving birth to this blog that allows me to have the same joy and impact but in a different medium.

 

Lesson 2: The core of your calling stays the same but its expression and form can change & evolve

I don’t have time or energy for my callings

This one is so common. I was really nervous when I launched my blog when I have a pretty full life and thought I was setting myself up for failure. 6 months later with only 17 blog posts and my first guest blog, I can happily say, I am glad I followed my heart and didn’t listen to my inner critic.

Here’s what I believe – Pursuing our callings have a uniquely remarkable way of recharging & refueling us and giving us the energy we need to get through our day. I am not saying that on days I write or connect with you, my laundry suddenly gets done (Ah, I wish that were the case) but rather I feel more content and purposeful in my day and that’s what brings me back to my journal and my word document. There is a time constraint for sure and I don’t write for 2 hours a day, every day but 2 hours a week is possible on most weeks.

If you feel that you don’t have 60 minutes a week or a few hours a month to do something that matters deeply to you (say in the next six months), it is time to take an honest look at how you are spending your time and what needs to change to create that time and space in your life.

 

Lesson #3: Our callings add meaning and purpose to our lives that gives more energy to everything else we have to do on our to do list.

My callings have to be GRAND

Your calling may be to open a food truck that serves your entire town or your calling may be to cook a simple meal every week for your family or even just yourself and they are both equally beautiful. We often trick ourselves to believing that if our dreams are not big and larger than life that they are trivial and not worth pursuing. WRONG, WRONG, WRONG.

Every individual is different with unique dreams, desires and life circumstances. The world we live in makes us believe that everything that bigger is better (houses, cars, paychecks, etc) but that isn’t true. What matters is that your callings are yours and are coming from a place of self expression, meaning and authenticity and not the ego, habit or lack of awareness.

 

Lesson # 4: Callings come in all shapes and sizes and each one is unique and worthy of your love, care and nurture

 

I’ll continue this post next week as I have a few more things I don’t believe about your callings.

 

How about you? Which one of these most resonated with you and what are some of the ways you hold yourselves back?

 

Posted by & filed under Callings, Everyday Lessons.

 

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For a long time, I believed that my “work” had to be an almost perfect manifestation of my callings and fully align with my life’s purpose and values. I went to a progressive and mission driven business school and had been trying really hard to have my professional work – my title, my day to day work, my employer and its mission statement align with my purpose. I even started believing that if this weren’t the case in its ENTIRETY then I was being “true to my fears” or I wasn’t trying hard enough or I had to keep seeking or that my path wasn’t correct.

 

Wrong, wrong, wrong…

 

Over the last one year, my thinking has expanded and I have come to believe that there is more than one way to live our calling and be true to our purpose. While there is something absolutely magical when your job, career and callings align perfectly, there is nothing inferior when they don’t. For so many of us this perfect alignment doesn’t happen overnight or in fact may that perfect alignment may not be the path we are meant to pursue. I have seen waaaaay too many people waiting to take that first step in the direction of their callings until the conditions are perfect. They wait until they can give their 100% to their vision only to live year after year devoid of the purpose, joy and light they are meant to share in the world.

 

For some a calling may ALWAYS complement a job or a career. Did you know that T.S. Eliot, the famous writer, poet & dramatist and Nobel Prize Laureate had a day job as a banker for many years to fund his dreams ??? For others, experiences at their job or a career may open their worlds to their calling and that path is beautiful too. Susan Cain, who has a TED talk with over 11M views on introversion worked for many years as a lawyer and his written extensively on how her previous journey helped her discover and live her purpose.

 

We often trick ourselves into thinking that the amount of time spent on our callings, their exclusivity & uniqueness and more importantly their replacement of our day jobs is what makes our callings credible and this is absolutely not true. The most important truth about our callings is to find them, nurture them and and start embodying them in our lives even if it starts with only 5 minutes a day…

 

If your heart’s deepest desire is to paint, it doesn’t matter if you do it for a living or a weeknight project. It doesn’t matter if you get paid or not, recognized or not. It doesn’t matter if you have consultant, teacher, driver, or hairdresser on your resume. What matters is you take out the time even if it is a few minutes to nourish your soul, express yourself and let your work be seen, even it is just by yourself.

 

And the most beautiful thing about taking that first step, creating space, time and resources for our callings is that these small steps will give us the information of whether we do want to make our callings our career or not. By starting with something we learn whether we want to charge for our art or not. We learn if we want to share our work with 10, 100, 1,000 or a million people some day. You will not know this until you start.

 

I had a friend who had a day job as an engineer and loved photography and had his work at various art galleries. I once asked him if he ever wanted to make photography his vocation and his response was a clear NO. He said that he didn’t want to monetize his work and learn about the business of photography. His hearts deepest desire was to focus solely on the art and this portfolio career of photography and engineering was an ideal manifestation of himself at this point in his life. How beautiful! His story always inspires me. Again, he wouldn’t have known this until he had tried creating & sharing his work with the world. If at any point he decides to change his mind and make photography his vocation he has a lot of data points to know what would work for him or not.

 

Things to remember!!

  • Your calling doesn’t have to be your job or career and it is OKAY
  • You DO have 10 minutes a day or a week to nurture your calling
  • Small steps in the direction of your dreams lead to their full manifestation

For your journal –

  • Is there something you have always wanted to do but were waiting when you had more time, money, or something else?
  • Can you take out 5,10, 15 minutes a day, everyday to work in the direction of that desire?
  • What do you need from your partner, friends, bank account, web designer, teacher, etc, etc to make this happen?
  • What do you need from yourself to let your dreams see a little more light?

 

I will be writing a lot more about callings, purpose and dreams in the coming weeks? Let me know if there are questions or things that you struggle with on this topic!

 

For the next post, I’ll be writing about how to find that calling of yours or discover your life’s purpose…

 

 

 

Posted by & filed under Kindness.

 

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As much as I like traveling, I also like coming back homeJ. There is something magical about the comfort of my room (even though its generally messy), the warm, cozy bed and my kitchen with all its gadgets. A few months back, we were on our way back from Hawaii. Our flight landed around 8 pm and it was almost 10 by the time we reached Mountain View. We were tired, hungry and debating if we should go home and cook a simple meal or just pick up something on the way back. We agreed on the latter and as I placed the order for food, a dear friend texted and said – “Neha, you guys must be on your way back and tired. I have some home cooked food for all of you. Why don’t you stop by on your way home.” I was touched and incredibly grateful to have such a caring, loving and kind friend with a big heart. She truly made our day.

 

Stories like these remind us of the power of kindness, generosity and care. It is moments like these that truly fill up our hearts and stories like these make life meaningful. Our ability to be present, notice, love, give, share, connect, empathize is a key part of being human and unfortunately in the “business” of modern day living and in attending to our to do lists, we forget that being kind is such an important part of our to be list.

 

I am inviting you all to join me in a small project where we do at least one #kind thing for someone else everyday for 30 days. No act is small and everything counts – bringing lunch for a coworker, helping an old person cross the road, a generous tip, helping a sick neighbor, whole heartedly thanking the janitor who cleans your office restroom…

 

Pause, see where you can contribute and you’ll find someone who can receive your love and warmth.

 

“I am on board. What do I do next?”

 

  • Great, we’re excited you are joining us. We’ll be starting the project this coming Monday 04/06. Add your name in the comments section below to be a part of the gang!
  • Pick one act of kindness and inspire others to do the same by sharing your story, pictures & thoughts on social media. Use the hash tag #30daysofkindness
  • Save the date – May 17th For all my bay area crew members, I have a surprise where we practice kindness for ourselvesJ
  • Invite friends & family. More kindness can’t hurt, isn’t it?

 

Thank you for joining me on this journey! I am looking forward to listening to your stories:-)

 

Posted by & filed under Happiness.

Last week, I received Lindsey Mead’s post on “things that make me happy” in my inbox. I love her writing, her honesty, her vulnerability and am so grateful for everything that I have learnt from her. I sometimes nod my head in agreement and feel like I am listening to a dear friend talk when I read her posts and on other days her writing make me feel that I am less alone in my struggles and dilemmas. Sometimes, I wish I lived next door and could have a real conversation with her. Most importantly, I am grateful she inspired me to start writing!

Here are a few things that made me happy this past month –

  • Walking to Vivaan’s daycare after work and noticing the fresh, crisp air touching my face.
  • Watching his big bright smile when I see him and yell out – “Vivaan – Mama is here.”
  • French fries
  • Deep & vulnerable conversations with close friends knowing that I am cared and loved for despite my imperfections.
  • Hot tub with vivaan, several times this past month!
  • Telling Sumit – “ You look handsome” after he came back from his haircut
  • Watsapp messages with hearts, smileys and lots of pictures from my family
  • 8, 9 and 10 hours of sleep at night in a warm, cozy bed and feeling rested the next morning even though my sleep was interrupted
  • Freshly squeezed orange juice
  • Being able to fit into one of my favorite dresses and the ability to smile at my new mommy belly:-)
  • Watching the sunset on a lake
  • Home cooked food
  • Texts, emails and messages from blog readers
  • Writing hand written notes to people who matter
  • Watching Elle Luna talk about her book  – The crossroads of should and must
  • Having the time, support and desire to write this blog and share my voice

What’s made you happy lately?

Posted by & filed under Mindfulness.

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I live a very privileged life. Despite the numerous times when my fears, insecurities and doubts over consume me, deep in my heart I have nothing but gratitude for the different gifts that life has given me. At a more practical level, I am blessed to have a beautiful combination of work, family, community, service and self – care that define how I spend my time. It takes a lot of planning, juggling, surrendering and accepting setbacks. One of the biggest challenges of living a big, full rich life is truly being present and witnessing each moment as is before I add my own layers of judgments on top of it  (which I am working on adding less of!) and is really hard. It is a practice and like anything else requires repetition for the brain to get it:-)

 

On most days, I try to go to our office café that serves freshly squeezed orange juice. It’s a luxury to nourish my body and mind with fresh food on demand as many times a day as I’d like to. When you have access to these absolutely amazing Silicon Valley tech benefits every day, it can be so easy to take it all for granted. At first, I’d come, drink, look around, think of all the things that I needed to get done, feel a little blessed and get back to my desk on auto pilot. One day something shifted…

 

I intentionally slowed down and closed my eyes while I was waiting to receive my glass. I didn’t look up at the two large screens flooded with all kind of interesting updates on what’s happening in the world. I didn’t think of my to do list. I didn’t check my phone (though I was really tempted to). I was in no special meditation position but simply paid attention to my breath & body for a minute. I noticed the tension in my shoulders and neck and reminded myself to relax, smile and then gently opened my eyes.

 

Instead of rushing to finish my juice, I paid attention to each sip that I was taking. My mind was tempted to check my phone, of course! I tried to bring it back to simply drinking each sip and paying attention. It sure was hard. My mind wandered again and reminded me of how I was not being “efficient” and spending TOO much time on a glass of orange juice when there are so many things TO DO. I tried to stay calm and breathe and drink my last few more sips. I now try to do this every time I have the privilege and luxury to step away for my glass of orange juice and the reality is that paying attention hasn’t taken away from my productivity or output at work. If I am going to take a break, why not do it with intention & awareness!

 

This simple exercise has been magical in many ways. It’s made me appreciate how fortunate I am to have access to healthy, local food in my office for free when there nearly half the planet lives on $2.5 a day. It’s taught me to relax and not take myself too seriously and that by refueling myself, I have more to offer to my team. It’s a beautiful reminder that my breath, my friend is holding me all the time. I don’t need to be in a yoga studio, at a retreat or on the beach to connect with my breath but just pay attention to my breath and body.

 

It’s taught me to find other orange juice moments in my days and that there are 1,440 minutes in a day where I can practice being present. There is more time than I realize when I can simply be and not do, practice presence and not plan, not multi task and not analyze too much. And interestingly, this simplicity, this presence has opened up my heart to more kindness, more compassion and more gratitude. It opened up my heart to spend a few seconds saying thank you to the janitor who really makes my work life easy by ensuring I have access to clean bathrooms and clean mugs for my hot chocolate. It reminded me to send a thank you note to a friend who supported me through a tough phase by holding space for my feelings. It reminded me to make another loan on Kiva.

 

Most importantly, my orange juice moments make me appreciate my life a little more, its imperfections and generosities a little more. It makes me realize I am not as busy as I may think I am or that our culture may make me believe. It makes me realize that every moment indeed is precious and that how we spend each moment is what makes up our life.

 

What are your orange juice moments? Moments where you pay attention to the sounds and smells in the air. Moments where you notice the tiny white flowers that are beginning to blossom as we enter into spring. Moments where you notice the orange and yellow in the sky as the sun sets every evening….

 

Posted by & filed under Callings, Work.

Alan Cohen Quote

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few people have asked me lately – Why are you writing this blog? What is your mission & vision with this blog? Some people find it interesting that in addition to a full time job, grad school and a small baby (who is about to turn one!!), I would still dedicate resources to writing and growing this online community when I could be focusing more on what’s already on my plate.

 

And the short answer is – I am deeply called to do this work right now. My inner critic reminded me how busy I am as a new working mom, that every free minute in my day “should” be spent with my baby and that there are enough blogs in the world that my voice isn’t needed (ouch!) and YET, I couldn’t stop myself from writing & sharing with all of you.

 

I have to confess that I don’t have a well-crafted vision or a north star that I am aspiring for. It is in the works and perhaps one day I’ll have more clarity but for now I am absolutely enjoying this journey …

 

However, what I do have clarity on is my now (in formal terms my mission). I hope to share my voice & deliver content via various products & services to inspire a life that encompasses both personal fulfillment & global impact.

 

So what does this really mean?

 Self  Expression + Service

 a) Self Expression

 I had always wanted to write. In fact, I had started writing my first book, (on life at a boarding school) when I was 13. That book isn’t in print anywhere and I wish I had followed my heart and finished the book but somewhere I believed that doing math problems and competing in debate competitions is what good girls do. Ah!

 

Fast-forward to a decade later, I still wanted to write but my inner critic got loud, too too loud. She kept telling me how my grammar wasn’t perfect, how I didn’t have any new ideas and that my time is better spent somewhere else. I listened to her. Sigh…

 

For many years, my left-brain was fueled with numbers and power point in my job(s) but my right brain felt lonely and unloved. I only dreamt of this blog, this community, the impact it could have and I kept telling myself, I’ll do it when X happens, Y happens and the usual drill of listening to your fears.

 

It was truly during my pregnancy when I had this absolutely unstoppable voice that kept telling me – “Neha, you are giving birth to a baby and he will learn more from how you live your life than how you ask him to live his life. GO start your blog. You will never be busier or more exhausted than as a new mom but you have to start somewhere.”

 

I am so glad I listened to that voice and have the wonderful privilege to think about what I have to say, to think about what the world can benefit from hearing and translate them into words.

 

b) Service

 I have always found great joy in helping people and honestly I am no special person in feeling that way. Our brains are biologically wired to care. Pause for a moment and think of the times when you have felt your heart fill up with joy and almost always there will be a component of care, love and giving in it!

 

I am sharing this blog so that more of you can connect with your truth, share your voice and gifts in the world and contribute to the conversations that are not happening. I wanted to share my own thoughts as well as the voice of those who have helped me on my journey, in helping me feel unstuck and go for the life I am truly called to live. I want to build a community of people – those who can inspire others by their own truths.

 

When we feed our true desires, fuel our authentic voices, we make a difference in the world. We care, we give, we love and that is what the world truly needs!

 

Looking Ahead

 In the years ahead, I do hope to get my coaching certification and do more of teaching, writing, speaking & coaching. Not sure if I want this to be my full time work but I hope to create a business that can serve people in accessing their true potential through this platform and build in a component that can also serve children & women in developing countries so that they too can access their true potential and I can stay true to my purpose of self expression and service.

 

For now, I am finding great meaning in the work I am doing today and connecting with each of you via this platform.

 

Thank you to the people for the questions! You inspired me to write this post:-)

 

 

Posted by & filed under Interviews.

This is a project  very close to my heart where I have conversations with people who inspire me on my journey and embody what it means to live a mindful, authentic and meaningful life. I hope their stories and journey inspire you and bring you a tiny bit closer to your own truths, dreams and desires.

 

Myshkin_Ingawale

Myshkin and I went to college together and I have known him as a happy, adventurous, fearless, kind and empathetic person who  is always a joy to be around. He questioned the status quo and didn’t want to do what all of us were aspiring for in college. Fast  forward a decade and he is living true to his values and dreams. It’s been an honor knowing him and watching him follow his  dreams and serve others along the way. What strikes me most about his journey is his courage to truly be himself, take the risks  that many of us would cringe about and most importantly, his humility with all of his absolutely amazing accomplishments (see  below!!)

 

 

1) How does living consciously manifest in your life?

Regardless of our circumstances in life, each of us always has choices. Living consciously implies introspecting before making choices. The most important thing to realize, of course – that even though there might appear to be a “default” option, the choice to pick the default or pick any other option is ours to make – hopefully after a thoughtful consideration of benefits, costs and risks!

 

2) What got you inspired to pursue a career in social entrepreneurship when you could have sought a much more traditional and stable career? 

In today’s world, I think, increasingly, the notion of a ‘traditional and stable career’ is changing and everyone has be comfortable with change, with movement, with – essentially – innovation and entrepreneurship, whether it is within the guise of a corporation or without. I must confess I never even knew the term “social entrepreneur” when I took the decision to (apparently!) become one. I don’t agree with the term ‘social entrepreneur’ itself and believe the term to be more a ‘flavor of the decade’ product our collective social commentary than of anything with basis in ground reality – fundamentally, an entrepreneur is an entrepreneur is an entrepreneur – but that is a whole other debate! With regards to the logic behind my decision making about my career, this can be accounted for either by a) Temporary insanity or b) Temporary sanity, when I happened to do the introspection suggested in point (1) and unchecked the “default” box in my life 😛

 

3) Tell us more about your wedding and how that was so non conventional and yet so meaningful to what you and your wife stand for?

My wedding was non-typical of Indian weddings. Unlike the traditional “big fat Indian wedding” which I can only describe with not-so-complimentary words like “a big bore”, “a humungous chore” and “a huge snore!”, my wife and I were married with a scribble on a court document followed by what could have passed for a tea-party at our house, with her parents, my parents and a few close relatives dropping by to say hello over the course of the afternoon. I must thank both sets of parents for graciously agreeing to this much pleasanter way to tying the knot!

 

4) What comes in the way of your making intentional, conscious choices and what brings you back on track?

Fear – of all kinds! – of failure, of abandonment, of humiliation, of future regrets, etc – gets in the way of making intentional, conscious choices. Fear grips the brain and colors our thinking with panic, blocks out our true selves. I guess each one of us has to find a mechanism, a “trick” to get back to our true selves at the moments of making choices. My trick: I just “zoom out” mentally. At some level of zoom, panic vanishes, as you soar and see the big picture, the “eagle’s eye view” of your decision, yourself, in the interconnected world of people at large.Super trick hack with nitro boosters: Don’t stop there though! I find that if we zoom out sufficiently, we are nothing more than an assorted group of over- grown monkeys (now with great mobile phones!) who happen to habit this slightly bluish green dot, one amongst a great many similar and dissimilar dots that make up the cosmos. Now, take the decision in front of you…

 

5) As a new dad, what are a few things that you’d like to tell your son about your journey?

I would like to tell him that we are all just incredible lucky to be here on this bluish green dot, and whatever he does, will be OK. So long as he follows 1-4 above, haha!

 

6) What are some new adventures in the pipeline?

I am working to create a platform that allows anyone with an idea to bring it to reality, without taking a huge amount of personal risk. This is an initiative that will use the power of the social web, the power of the crowd, to help and support high impact ideas. More on this soon!

 

7) If you had 30 days that you could spend in any way you’d like, what would you do with them?

33%: Spend time with family. Play!

33%: Spend time on learning new things and putting them to the test. More Play!

33%: Eat, drink, sleep!

…so somewhat similar to my current schedule then 😀

 

8) Is there anything else that you’d like to share with our readers?

One of my favorite one-liners is this one by Groucho Marx: “If you come to a fork in the road …. Take it!”I think it has levels of interpretation beyond the initial humor. It could be interpreted as saying “don’t worry about the definition that is ‘right’ for the first part of the sentence….you are free to make the second part into something a little bit different, a little bit special, by picking the non-default option if you feel like it: And the sentence will be all the more meaningful, thanks to your imagination and courage!”

 

Myshkin_Ingawale

Myshkin co-founded Biosense, an internationally recognized med-tech company designing and building innovative, disruptive healthcare technologies.

In the past, Myshkin has worked at Mckinsey & Company, on client engagements across the Banking, Technology, Pharma and Healthcare sectors. He has been a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was part of the team that conceptualized and built the Copenhagen Wheel, an innovative electric bicycle concept demoed at the United Nations Climate Summit 2009.

He holds a PhD in Management Information Systems from the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta and a B.Tech in Electrical Engineering from the National Institute of Technology, Bhopal. His PhD research – on the conditions under which quality emerges in open collaborative platforms like Wikipedia – has been published in the international journal Online Information Review (OIR), and at multiple conferences. He is a regular speaker at global conferences such as TED, Global Insight Network, Autodesk University, St. Gallen’s Symposium, and an advisor to the Inter Institutional Inclusive Innovation Center.

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What part of Myshkin’s journey most resonated with you? Let us know in the comment’s below!