Saturday, March 15, 2008

How does it matter what people say-2

A few months ago I had written a blog titled “ How does it matter what people say?”.
I wrote it so casually and so easily. That was because it had nothing to do with me. I in my supercilious style was being all preachy and full of wonderful insights. It was so easy for me to remain detached and offer advice and tell Sue how it is the people’s perspective and just by saying something nasty about you they are actually living out their own inadequacies. Humans have a tendency to belittle others when they themselves have unmet needs.

It all sounded so easy when I was preaching. Today however, I heard things about me and it actually upset me to no extent. I was rather hurt and I could not hold back my tears. I felt, I had done no wrong and I did not deserve this negative talk.
Why is it that we get so affected by what people say?

We could easily call it human nature. We are all social beings and have an inherent need to belong and be accepted. When we feel our acceptance threatened we feel insecure and fragile. We want to be revered, we want to be acknowledged, loved and accepted.
I was telling my daughter about contractive vs. expansive speech and thinking. It has been shown that when we receive or give compliments our whole being rejoices and expands (metaphorically) and on the other hand, talking ill or hearing ill about ourselves leads to a contraction in our energy field. This emotional turmoil eventually manifests in the form of physical illnesses.

Why then do we still indulge in gossip and negative talk? Why do we rejoice in spreading malicious rumors about others? Even though we have the ability to practice discernment, why do we still choose to inflict pain on fellow humans? Why do we insist on destruction? Why do we indulge in malice?

Is that also human nature?

I guess the survival of the fittest promotes elimination of competition. How do we humans compete? Either we go about killing each other in the name of religion, territory, ideologies or sects or we spread malicious, rumors and hope that the object of our scorn gets eliminated from our circle of friends.

So does that mean that humans are a vindictive, malicious, vengeful race focusing on elimination?

History has enough proofs to show the demonization of humans. Wars, both past and present, Hitler’s gas chambers and more recently 911 and the war on terror. Also the very public ridicule and eventual killing of Socrates, Jesus, Gandhi and anyone who has stood for a cause goes to show that humans are an afraid bunch. We use might and force and sometimes surreptitious strategies towards fulfilling our own ill formed dreams.

I remember reading Lord of the Flies by William Golding and thinking to myself, how could a bunch of perfectly normal children be capable of pure evil. So is it true that given the right or actually wrong circumstances we could all stoop towards anarchy?

I know I have digressed from my so stated subject, but the more I think about the more I get convinced that humans are not really bad. It’s just that negativity gets more publicity. How many of us knew about Schindler but all of us knew about Hitler?

I read somewhere that only 6% of the world population was really evil. The rest are generally good. So for every 6 bad people there are 94 good ones.

So I can rest assured that for every one person that talks bad about me there will be at least 15 who will talk well of me. Well, even if it were not true, that’s my story and I am sticking by it
Mark Twain said that “the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about!”

So I shall let the momentary feeling of unease pass me by and continue to focus on seeing the glass half full. The world does look pink through rose colored lenses so my recommendation! Let’s all go and buy rose colored glasses.
So it really should not matter what people say. I will choose to hear what I wish to hear and choose to see what I wish to see.

Like my mother used to say, “ If you have nothing nice to say, don’t bother saying anything at all.”


Monday, March 10, 2008

Attend to yourself before helping others!!

I was on the plane , on my way back from London and during the safety video demonstration; there is this scene where a young mother is shown putting on an oxygen mask and then reaching out for another oxygen mask to attend to her child. The scene is accompanied by a voice over saying “in case of decompression, reach for the nearest available oxygen mask and don on your face and mouth like this!!. Attend to yourself before helping others.” The others in this case being her young son.
As a mother, however my first reaction would be to save my child first and then try and save myself. So the scene in the video was a little disturbing. However when I really thought about it , it all made sense. How would I be able to save my child if I wasn’t even around to save my child. At a time where seconds make a difference, what if in my attempt to save my child, I got so incapacitated that I was not able to save myself or my child.

This got me to the question of life. How often in our attempt to please others do we sacrifice our own interests with unsatisfying results. Very often we put others desires before our own, we sacrifice our dreams and happiness to fulfill those of our loved ones, but does it always lead to the best solution?

I was talking to a friend of mine and she started complaining about how tired she always feels as she has to constantly run around catching flights to see her husband and children in Taiwan. She lives and works in Hong Kong and her family lives in Taiwan which is about an hour away by plane. Although not too far, it is rather stressful for her to catch flights every other day to see her family. She would not have it any other way. However the stress of doing this every other day started to take its toll and she started resenting the fact that it was always her who had to do the travelling. When I asked her if her family could visit her once in a while, instead of her jumping on the plane every time, she promptly said, “ Oh no! I couldn’t subject them to that.”

So what is the solution? Either she quits her job and moves back to Taiwan, or she moves her husband and children to Hong Kong . Both options are not really financially feasible at this stage. So she continues to do what she hates to do. She has now become very resentful, resentful of her job, resentful of her children, resentful of her husband and resentful of herself for becoming so resentful.
Where do you think all this resentment will lead? Obviously not towards a happy fulfilling life! Even though she undertakes the necessary physical travel to be with her family, she is mentally, emotionally and physically drained. Wouldn’t it better for her to put herself first? At least then she could give her undivided attention to her family and do it happily.

We are all guilty of self sacrifice at some stage or the other. Although a great gesture, it does leave us rather unfulfilled at times. It leads to anger, frustration and resentment and in the end everyone suffers.

I read this at a fountain in New Zealand “ To thine own self be true.” It made me stop and take notice, I thought to myself , how simple and yet so profound. If we are not being true to our own selves how can we ever be true to anyone else?
So get selfish, put out your own needs and wants and expect fulfillment. Often it’s the women who make more sacrifices; they often give up their careers to follow their husbands or to bring up children.

I recently met with many women who seemed rather unhappy with the choices they had made. Society puts so much pressure on us to follow the expected path of self sacrifice and makes us feel guilty of self fulfillment. Mothers do and will always make sacrifices for their children; but should they be made to feel guilty if they choose to pursue their own passions?

I don’t know the answer; I think it is a very individual choice. I can’t be the one to tell a person how to lead his/her life. They need to make their own decisions and choices, but the one thing they really need to do is to be happy with the decision they make. Why be resentful of something that you are choosing to do? You made a decision, so may as well enjoy the outcome. Why deliberate and second guess yourself? I remember my friend saying “Either Shit or get off the pot.”
So yes, go out please yourself and then please others. An unhappy person can never make anyone else happy even if he/she tries. They have about them a kind of tiredness and negativity that follows them around.

“Be the person that walks into the room and the room lights up and not the person that walks out of the room and the room lights up.”


Giving up too soon!!

Ever tried to do something and consistently fail at it? You put out all the right messages, all the right motivations and yet fail. All amount of mental imagery and visualization does not bring the desired result? You keep trying and you keep failing.

What happens then? Do you start punishing yourself, indulge in self badgering, and then eventually give up?

This is exactly what happened with me. I enrolled in a yoga class and had been going there twice a week for over a year!!!!.(the recommended attendance is 3 -4 times a week) . Each time I came out of the class feeling like a complete idiot. I just could not bring myself to doing half the poses that the class was doing. Even the ones that I could manage, I needed correcting all the time.

I persevered with my shameless endeavor to master the crow ( standing on hands with legs dangling in the air)and the chataranga, ( sweeping your body from a high push up to a low push up in one sweeping motion) but no amount of will power or visualization came to my rescue. I was still falling over and making an absolute fool of myself.

Eventually, embarrassment at my inability to do even the simplest of poses got the better of me and I stopped attending the classes. I decided it was not for me and berating my stiff body, went back to my treadmill. I missed the relaxation and the calmness of yoga, but I still did not think of going back.

Till yesterday, that is;

I decided to go back to the class and had a chat with my teacher, I told her how I was completely demotivated and I did not feel like coming for yoga anymore. She then told me the story of the farmer who gave up too soon.
A farmer desperately in need of water started digging a well, he dug and dug and the hole got deeper, but still no water. “I must be digging in the wrong place he concluded". Each day he began digging in a new place. Eventually he had 20 similar holes and no water. A wise man passing by saw the farmer’s predicament and asked the farmer to dig in the same spot, but go much further as the water was available at 20 ft and the farmer was giving up at 10 ft. The first few feet was easy, but the next 10 feet needed a lot of work and sometimes more than one person to do the job. So instead of asking for help the farmer would just give up.

This is exactly what I was doing; each time I was unable to do a particular pose, I would just go into the child pose ( Lying down with my head down and legs and arms curled under) . Even when someone would approach me to help me I would turn around and ignore them. I would just curse myself and wonder why I was unable to do what everyone else was doing?

Too often we are too hard on ourselves. We compare ourselves to others and beat ourselves for not having attained what the other person has.

I recently met a 14 year old boy who stopped going to school because he came 2nd instead of 1st. He is an extremely bright boy and always ranked 1st, but this semester, his grades fell by a few points and he came 2nd. He felt embarrassed and stopped going to school. Much to the worry of his parents he has now adopted the attitude of “ If I can’t be the best , I won’t bother being second best”.
How often do we all do the same? We try and we try, but eventually give up just short of attaining our goals. We set the bar too high and when we are unable to attain it we tend to get too hard on ourselves. Only if we could sustain the enthusiasm and focus till the end, our lives may turn out very different.
Wasn’t it Edison who said “ I haven’t failed yet, I have found 10,000 ways that won’t work”.

With that in mind, I am once again going to try and master standing upside down and looking at the world with a whole new perspective.