Sunday, August 31, 2014

Rain in Hyderabad

It's been raining the past couple of days which is a nice change in weather. A drive around Tank Bund and Necklace Road gives a perspective of life in these Hyderabadi rains.

On tank bund one witnessed crowds rushing in to immerse their Ganeshas. A few cranes were already in place handling the big Ganeshas. Many small Ganehsas were making their way - on push carts, in small autos, in cars. One can imagine how it would be on the 9th day.

I can smell the corn somewhere!
A drive around the Necklace Road warrants a stop at one of those nice lawns.

Isn't this fun?
Anjali was thrilled to walk around in the rain. And to strike an impromptu pose once in a while.

Steaming it up - perfect!
The bhutta chappies were around thankfully.  

Celebrity - Movie Review

Continuing the Woody Allen series on the rainy weekend, I saw 'Celebrity' last night. Woody stays out of the acting and that makes the movie a tad serious because he can make the most serious role funny. Anyway the irony of the situation, which is his trademark way of story telling comes through - the wannabe celebrity husband (Kenneth Brannagh) who leaves his school teacher wife (Judy Davis) in search of celebritydom through his novels, screenplays, meeting celebrities etc finds himself going nowhere while she becomes a celebrity as she takes her chances in life.

I remember another movie of Allen's (was it "You will meet a tall, dark, handsome stranger"?) that has a similar theme. Celebrity gives a peek into lives of celebrities and we see ageing celebrities, young studs, TV stars and so on and on with their quirks and madnesses and the lives they lead. But the story is about the estranged wife and husband who end up in lives they do not expect finally - he by struggling too hard and being dishonest and she by being open to life and taking her chances. Leonardo Dicaprio, Winona Ryder, Donald Trump. Melanie Griffith and a ton of others play either themselves or celebrity roles and pep the movie up.

Not his usual dose of humour but enough to keep it interesting.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Broadway Danny Rose - Movie Review

A bunch of comedians are discussing some of their peers over lunch and the discussion turns to Danny Rose. Danny did may things in his life and they all recount bits and parts until one of them tells them the big story no one knows about Danny. This is when Danny was a one man talent scout who has a penchant for picking complete losers and getting completely involved with them and their personal lives. They benefit form his excessive support, get over their low phase and typically leave him and move on to better things.

One such case is Lou, a has-been singer, trying to make a comeback. Danny gets fully involved in his personal life to the extent that he offers to act as the 'beard' or the boyfriend of Lou's new mistress Tina, so Lou's wife does not suspect anything fishy when Tina comes over. But Tina was once married to a mobster and another mobster is an ex-boyfriend of hers and the mob feels that Danny is the one who has taken Tina away. The mob wants to kill Danny. Tina helps Danny escape and they spend an exciting day together escaping, including wriggling out of a rope that binds them together. After all this trouble, Lou gets a better deal, leaves Danny. Tina however finds herself being attracted to Danny and his ways and comes back to him. It does appear that Danny finds recognition and fame too finally. Maybe one of his other losers makes it or he gets better at his work.

Woody Allen is perfect as Danny Rose, bumbling his way through his job. Mia Farrow is perfect as Tina. Woody puts in a shade of drama though, a tinge of hurt on his character, which one normally does not detect in his characters - they are thick skinned as hell normally. But it is packed with some sharply written lines and situations that come through so well only in Allen's movies.    

Trauma of facing Facebook posts

They creep on you most unexpectedly and before you even realise it, the images and stories get lodged in your mind and traumatise you. One such post traumatised me for days together (I don't think I am over it yet) and am now wary as hell to open the facebook page. Why do these people revel in sharing such gory stuff?

I am talking of the news that many people cannot wait to share with others on fb. Stuff that causes me to shudder includes posts of accidents, people getting eaten by sharks, lions and snakes, people whose hands are getting blown off by mobile chargers, people getting beheaded and one that I barely saw but which made me sick to the stomach, about some vague skin disease caused by some shampoo. I don't need to open the video, there is enough evidence already on the page of the gore without any warning, and before I scrolled past it hurriedly, it has already done the damage. I am not joking, the last one makes me not want to open my facebook page in a hurry. It was that sickening.

I normally take out these spreaders of such stuff from my friends list and escort them out of my life. I do wonder what it is that they wish to share with this carefully picked gore. What kind of stuff makes up their mind that they hunt for this information and share it with us as if we were waiting to see this stuff. In a social context certain things are fine being shared openly and some are not. But the present rule seems to be in favor of being as sensational as anything else to draw attention to oneself.

I suppose the one action to take is to gently remove oneself from the presence of those who betray these signs. What's surprising is that the most unlikely people surprise you with their appetite for gore.And I do wonder why facebook does not seem to have any policy for editing out gore and such stuff. If these images could do me this much distress, I wonder what might happen to the younger and the more impressionable.

Thought for the Day - Pursuit of dreams is like scoring centuries

I was intrigued to meet this lad the other day who was sceptical of dreams and goals. He just wanted to live and have a good time. I am all for this ideal state of existence, an almost Wodehousean ideal of friends, fun and clubs and I wish him luck in his pursuit. However he did ask me how he thinks he will benefit if he has a goal and there was some discussion.

On the other end of the spectrum I found many others who dream of stuff that I am sure would seem rather out of reach or plain frivolous, and perhaps driven by media and the aspirations it creates. Nothing much in a jet, a Rolls, a travel round the world, villa, money in the bank, island to say that it is a goal one would want to strive for. It cannot be the purpose one would want to live for solely and they can only be consequences of activity in another area.

In which case one needs to go beyond the consequence and identify the action, the choice of actions that will fetch them these goals. Here I'd say that achieving dreams is a bit like scoring centuries in cricket. Let me explain why and how.

As an ideal, batsmen wish to live a life where they will never get out. Now this may not be the case in reality but he will pursue the ideal. How he chooses to achieve the ideal, how much he is willing to risk in his pursuit defines his approach to life. The lower the risk, the higher the reward here. The pursuit of large scores needs one to be patient, to build on sound basics and in keeping out risk.

A batsman who has always been struggling with a score of fifty cannot aspire for a double or triple hundred right away. Something in his preparation indicates that he is not ready yet. This however does not mean that he cannot aspire for it - everyone should. It is only when one challenges to go beyond oneself that life gets interesting.

So having aspired for that triple hundred or a six hundred (since Lara has achieved a 500) the batsman who is struggling with scoring a fifty needs to get real. Why am I not able to get a fifty is the next question? Which part of my preparation needs work? Who can help me? If he or she is aware and works at the game and pushes the score to a seventy next game, he or she is on the path.

By now he would be aware that scoring big and on call requires certain things. It requires sound knowledge of basic skills. It requires one to analyse the skills enough to self-correct. It requires enough purposeful practice and self-analysis. It requires a detailed study of how to push beyond the next barrier. And then it requires a good look at ones performance. All this will get the person to think of how to get into the state of zero-error, high return and performance irrespective of conditions. Certainly the person is a much better equipped person than she has been for all this thought.

Having done this, the first thing the person realises is that one must achieve a basic promise. What is the basic promise that one can deliver? A fifty? Fine get that first as many times as you can and then improve on it slowly. With time we realise that we are getting better at it. Hundreds follow, and the more ambitious get more double hundreds. Some spill into the triple hundred arena. And so on. The biggest dreams come by as one pursues the dream of fulfilling the basic promise of the fifty well. One fine day it unlocks itself. It rewards the serious practitioner,

The big dreams then come by as a product of getting the basic promise right. The basic promise is a goal - be it a process goal or an achievement goal. A goal it remains. The good news is that in many cases when we involve ourselves deeply in our pursuit of the goals and process, the higher purpose strikes us and lifts us into those white fluffy clouds we never imagined we could ride on.

It does require proof of that commitment, purpose, concentration and work before it happens though.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Thought for the Day - Quality of Prayer

It is Ganesh Chaturthi and I was praying to Lord Ganesha. Almost immediately  got a gift. As soon as I began praying I detected an element of conditionality to my prayer. I will pray and you give. There was no true devotion, no true surrender. It was based on a bargain that Lord Ganesha would protect me and clear all my obstacles if I prayed to him on this day.

It was nothing close to prayer.

I wondered how the concept would work if one inserted the idea that one is a god-particle and hence the same one is asking for boons and the same god-likeness is fulfilling them. One is fulfilling them oneself. My prayer would be to the god within me to take care of me. How would my approach be then if god was not some far away object but within me?

In such a case I need to be more aware in my prayer. I need to be aware of the god-self in me as I pray. I need to be fully present, completely focused. I need to be far more trusting, devoted and have complete faith. I would need to be in a state of total surrender where I say - 'God, I surrender to you and you take care of the rest. I will trust that you will take care and give me what is best for me.'

Such an approach would require a grounding in oneself. It would require me to evolve in self-love in recognition of this divinity within. My entire approach to this god within me would be one where I have steadily grown in my admiration for this god within to the extent that I am grateful for all that I have.

To offer prayers is to completely surrender. It struck me today that one cannot do it from a place of ego even in the slightest bit. There may be an idol out there but can you practice the emotion of total surrender each time. One must bow down, kill all ego, touch the forehead to the ground and know that one is nothing. When one can surrender fully, one can let one's god-self flow through. There can be no obstacles then. Life becomes a celebration.

A lesson learned.

The Curse of the Jade Scorpion - Movie Review

I love this movie. It's one of the most romantic movies I have ever seen. I like the chemistry between Helen Hunt and Woody Allen and the way their romance builds in starts and spurts and the amazing way it ends. Superb stuff. Made me want to meet Helen Hunt.

C.W. Briggs (Woody Allen) is an insurance investigator. He hates the new efficiency expert Betty Ann Fitzgerald (Helen Hunt) because they do not see eye to eye in many matters. Hunt thinks he is a fake, cowardly measly chap and Briggs thinks she is too cold and bossy. The two get picked by a magician in a hotel for a hypnotic trick in a hotel. But what the magician really does is hypnotise them both with a password which programs them to obey him. He later calls CW and hypnotises him with the password to obey his command and commit robberies on their clients because CW has all the details. CW has no recollection of what happens whatsoever after the deed is done, but leaves a big trail. The investigators on the case find evidence against CW, who doubts Fitzgerald and sneaks into her apartment. Turns out that she is having an affair with her married boss who is not ready to leave his wife. CW saves a suicidal Fitzgerald and from there on till the end one finds a totally whacky and brilliantly choreographed film that ends with CW proposing to a Fitzgerald who is about to take off with the boss. Fitzgerald pretends that she is under hypnotic trance when she is really not. Ah, lovely.


Anjali - How To Play Shaukar-Bhikhar

There a basic game of cards where we put one card over the other until the same number turns up and the one who has matched the card takes the whole lot. Its called shaukar-bhikhar in Marathi which roughly translates into rich man- poor man because the game will eventually make one person rich and the other poor.

It never ends

Anjali sometimes plays this game with her aunt. She recounted those games with glee today.
'You know me and Mythily atta talk about all kinds of things while we play shaukar-bhikhar. Sometimes I don't even realise that I won,' she chattered on happily.
'Umm,' we went.
'It's so much fun,' she said. 'The game never ends.'
'How's that?' we asked, our ears perking up.

'Because when one of us loses all the money the other has to give ten cards and when this person makes ten cards, she has to return the same,' she said simply. 'So it never ends.'
Ha! Caught you.
'But in reality the game ends when you lose all your cards,' we explained.

Anjali did not seem too bothered with our version of the game with its black and white rules.
'But we play like that,' she said. And that was that.

Which is a wonderful way of looking at life or a game. The game never ends really if we choose our outlook differently. There is more to be gained for all parties if we choose to look beyond, change the rules and seek help. Then the game becomes cooperative and like she said, it never ends. Everyone helps everyone, everyone is happy.

Life could be simpler eh. Win-win. Help out. Be happy.
What about all those guys doing fighting wars?

Anjali - Where Do We Get the Honey From

'How do we get the honey from the bees nanna?' asked Anjali.
'You have to drive them away from the beehive,' I said. 'Or else they will sting you.'
Live and let live

'So what do they do to drive them away?' she asked.
'I have seen them light a fire under the hive which smokes the bees away. Then they get the hive and the honey from it.'

Anjali was indignant when she heard that.
'Hey, that's so unfair. You drive away someone from their home and the steal their stuff from their home. It's so unfair.'

So it is. I shrugged. What to do.

But there's a way the Taoists say, which is the ideal way of making a living. Make it like the bee they say which does not hurt the flower to take its honey. Something to learn for us about doing things without infringing and hurting others and the environment.

Workshop at School of Management Studies, University of Hyderabad

Nothing beats the satisfaction of sharing time, knowledge and experience with bright young students wanting to change the world. At the end of the 2-day workshop at the School of Management Studies on 'The Champion's Mindset' conducted on August 27 and 28th, 2014, I experienced the deep, deep satisfaction that comes from having put my time and effort to good use. Frankly, it's a feeling that compares with little else.

Prof Jyothi, me and the students
This is the fifth year of my program at the School of Management Studies,University of Hyderabad. It happens mainly thanks to Prof. Jyothi's trust and belief in my ability to handle this vital and critical input to the student. Her belief that investing in a workshop for 2 full days (we even did 3 day workshops for earlier batches) to address the approach of the student to their MBA course and life after that, is commendable because not many administrators seem to get it. She can see the long term benefits of this time which is truly in the interests of the student, because it sets context, provokes thought, asks basic questions and discusses basic processes, all of which recalibrate their approach to their career and themselves. This is not taught to us during years at school or college. Not only is it not taught or discussed anywhere during the course of our study, but the student is expected to set it all in context and figure it out by herself, which is not being realistic. This is not about motivation - it is merely shining light on well known truths and established practices of how to approach and do things well.

Me and most of the students who stuck it out - we sneaked in a picture before Prof Jyothi arrived. 
I know that by merely setting it in context and reiterating processes and high-performance concepts, young people on the cusp of their transition from higher education to careers, can dive deeper into their own resources confidently and achieve greater heights without doubting their ability and capability. It happened to us and happens every time there is a committed teacher. It is here that Prof. Jyothi stands out in her commitment to the students. I am also humbled by her immense faith in my abilities to fulfill her trust and her wonderful way of handling this course - never has she questioned me or my methods nor has she ever tried to put any agenda. Its such a pleasure to work with her.

This year though, we did something different. We got feedback from the students in a before and after questionnaire, thanks to a suggestion by a team from the UGC. I wonder why the thought never occurred to me before. The basic questionnaire we designed dealt with students rating themselves on their clarity regarding career path, knowledge of unique strengths and how to utilise the same, goals, process-orientation to achieve goals, responsibility towards career development and expectations from the course and how they see themselves fulfilling it. At first glance of some questionnaires, there seemed to be a reasonable improvement in terms of clarity of goal and process. More on that after we complete the analytics.

That apart the 2-day workshop was attended by 80 students to start with, from the general and healthcare sections. As it happens always, the lure of long weekends takes many students away and it settles down at around fifty or sixty students. However, I must say that I am highly impressed by the students who attended all the sessions. They showed remarkable resilience, fortitude and commitment, answered tough and searching questions and opened themselves to concepts that took me twenty years or more to understand.

The workshop in a nutshell then. We started Day 1 with questions regarding themselves and their strengths, the need to hone their strengths to position themselves better, goal clarity in the long term, short term and mid term and filtered their long list of goals (dreams and desires included) down to a manageable set of six goals. The picking of an enabling goal, which enables fulfillment of all other goals big or small, and the planning that goes into preparing for that goal took up all of Day 1.

We started Day 2 with a quick look at the 'Mindset' Carol Dweck's wonderful book, which to me makes all things equal between the student of UoH and those from Harvard or Stanford, by using the principles of a growth mindset and purposeful effort. All one needs is the right mindset. We discussed the importance of preparation, planning, process orientation and did exercises based on the students' own past experiences and achievements.

The big idea of the workshop was to
1) focus on product features (themselves) and make them the hero of their story
2) gain clarity on goals and filter them to one enabling goal that will set in process the rest
3) understand themselves in context of what they have achieved, what they like doing, what they want and
position themselves accordingly
4) prepare in earnest for achievement of that goal by using the two main resources of time and energy
5) understand importance of preparation in context of performance and know the process of doing anything or learning anything.
6) by doing all this one improves self-worth which determines the price they can command. 

I prefer feedback from participants directly, however short, because it gives a feel of their reaction. It also gives them a chance to get on stage and do away with any inhibitions regarding public speaking. As always it was wonderful to listen to them. Nothing can ever replace the direct emotion of knowing that the effort has made a difference to someone - a thousand feedback forms written in the most eloquent prose cannot replace that. The sincerity in their eyes, the gratitude in their hearts, the warmth in their voices - these youngsters need all the support that the system can give so they can fulfill their dreams. And what are they dreaming of but a better world for everyone! So idealistic, so wanting to do things for greater good. Hearing them out put the icing on the cake, and I was glad that Prof. Jyothi came and sat through the last couple of hours. We got the questionnaires filled out and took the mandatory picture - only this time in front of the department building. Utkarsh of the second year, he sat through the workshop with his mates last year, helped me out with my camera and took pictures for me. Thanks Utkarsh.

Thanks is owed to Prof. Jyothi for giving me the opportunity again and organising this workshop so seamlessly as always. Research scholars Kiranmayi, for being a huge help during the workshop and Srikanth, for accompanying me to lunch both days. And a huge, big thanks to all the students for sharing their lives, aspirations, experiences and dreams and sticking out 2 days. Much has been learned from all of you and I am deeply grateful for that. Here's wishing you all the very best in your career and may all your dreams come true and more.      

Gravity - Movie Review

It's like nothing you have experienced despite all the sci-fi movies we have watched. This looks and feels like the real thing. The earth, the sun, the space, it all looks so serene, so beautiful and so calm. Wished I'd watched it on the big screen at IMAX.

The story starts with these astronauts in space, out on a spacewalk from their space shuttle to repair the Hubble telescope. There's Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) on her first mission, Matt Kowaloksi  (George Clooney) a veteran on his last mission, Shariff and the three are sharing good humored banter with the chaps on ground in Houston. News first comes of some debris heading their way which quickly escalates to a warning to abort mission and head back to earth. But the debris hits the Explorer first, killing all crew. Stone suddenly finds herself flying in space with no tether and she remains that way until she is rescued miraculously by Kowalski. The two then head to an International space station where Kowalski is also lost, heroically trying to save Stone. And then it is Stone by herself as she gets to a Chinese station and heads to earth. If you want high drama there is enough - abandoned space ships, malfunctioning units, fires, debris, falling oxygen levels, no fuel in tanks - you name it you have it.

But nothing looks as beautiful as the earth from space. Nothing feels so nice as the time when Sandra Bullock emerges from the lake - does not matter where. She is on earth, beautiful, beautiful earth. Gravity is shown so beautifully and imaginatively by cinematographer Lubezki,. It was nominated for 10 Academy awards and won seven. It has this quality that makes you want to watch it again. Who would want to resist an opportunity to space walk in that beautiful universe?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Great link to 21 GIFs that will help understand math

Great link to 21 GIFs that will help you understand math concepts. I finally understood a few. Thanks Satish for posting on fb.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Anjali - What You Choose To Do, A Poem

I am not sure if this poem is an indication of things to come. Some independent streak breaking through was my first reaction. Anyway Anjali read this new poem out to me, left the paper on my desk and went away without a second glance at it.
'They call me a poet at school,' she confessed later. Now where did that come from.

There's a poet somewhere there
Here then, this very interestingly titled poem by Anjali.

Poet - Anjali P. 

If you're still choosing what to do
Everyone will do it too

If you want to do some art
First you make it start

If you dance around
But not on the ground

If your going to sing a song
First you have to ding-dong

If your going to do water sports
First drive a motor boat

If your going to be a hunter
First learn to kill a Tiger

The essence seems to be to get started and not go on taking about it. Action is the buzz word here. Also seems to be a solid sense of 'my life, my choice' going by the title and the wide variety of stuff she is planning to do. All stuff that I could do well to follow myself.

Original ms
Anyway, God bless you my dear and you get to do exactly what you choose to do. With the kind of drive this poem has towards action, I have no doubt you will do what you choose to do.

Thought for the Day - How to Avoid Conflict or Why People Who Cause Conflict Are Your Biggest Teachers

This is a sure fire way to get rid of conflict in your life. We have heard of practicing gratitude, forgiveness and acceptance as principles to dissolve conflict in our lives. I completely agree with them. However I found them difficult to practice because the entry into the situation through those portals was difficult. I have a slightly different entry point where all three fall in line and conflict dissolves.
Animals in the car

Pick any situation of conflict. If we say, "practice gratitude on the situation", one is not sure what one is grateful for and hence gratitude as an entry to change the situation may fail. If we say, "accept the situation", one may try to but there may be doubts and resentment may still persist. If we say, "practice forgiveness", one may fall deeper into the victim mode because one is already feeling like a victim and on top of it all one has to practice forgiveness. The three approaches might fail for the reasons given above.

So here's the approach.

First. This other person is not going to change. No one will. Accept that. Now that is over, don't try to change that person. Let him or her be.

Second. Ponder over why this person affects you or puts you in a state of conflict so easily. What can you learn from this? What is he/ she trying to teach you?

Third. Accept that person as your teacher. (Even if every cell of yours wants to protest against accepting this person as your teacher, mentally tell yourself that.) Accepting the person as your teacher, does not mean you do things against your will. It only means that you accept their teaching mentally.

Fourth. When you are the seeker of whatever this person is trying to teach you, your thought quality is no more about resisting - it changes into a possibility that someone is constantly going to give your practice at something you could use for your growth. (It could be your own holding on to the fact that you are right. That you are the victim. That you have to always suffer. That the other person does not understand.) Whatever it is - it certainly leads to acceptance that there is a learning opportunity here. When there is a learning space there is no conflict. Everything is accepted, observed and assimilated.

Conflict dissolves. You are not affected by it anymore. You find that the energy has dropped. When you accept the other person as the teacher gratitude comes in. When there is gratitude there is no room for forgiveness.You have experienced all three - acceptance, gratitude and forgiveness.

You have transformed the situation. You have changed your attitude to it - and bent like a blade of grass instead of being a rigid old tree. You have transformed yourself. You have transformed the other. You have transformed the quality of things.

Be in peace. Ahhh...

Monday, August 25, 2014

I Am Another You - Priya Kumar

This is one book you will never be able to judge by its cover. At first glance you'd never get how much stuff Priya Kumar packs in the book with her unique experiences in the Netherlands with the shamans and their rituals and how it transformed her (and it does transform us as readers as well). You could well be fooled into thinking that here is another young writer on the block out to share his or her own home grown wisdom with some humour, some this and that and pass it off as a best seller. Its none of that. It was like nothing I'd read before. Much credit to Priya for her honesty, accuracy and humility that the book became what it did.

The book starts with Priya being at the lowest point in her life, circa 2004. Her successful business has been stolen by her partner, there is little money left and her love has gone off with someone else. All of these events conspire to push her to her greater destiny of course (the universe is for you and not against you, even when it seems to be so). With her last savings Priya heads to the Netherlands to a little town called Winterswijk, north of Amsterdam. Her purpose - to do the Spiritual Freedom rituals with with shamans, ancient tribesmen residing in Northern Europe and South America, and make sense of her rapidly disintegrating life. The rituals set your spirit free and help you find your purpose among other things. The next seven days in Priya's life are made of stuff that have you flipping through the pages as you would a suspense thriller.

Priya stays in a lodge, teams up with a couple of guys, Sain (gift shop owner) and Rick (software engineer), and one girl Emma (dentist), all locals, who are also doing the rituals. They meet Kahuna their master and he conducts the rituals on which she dwells in detail and with disarming honesty. From the breaking of barriers (nudity of the other participants in certain rituals for one) to the hardship and shock of some of the stuff the rituals comprise, Priya undergoes it all with the commitment of a seeker and comes through.

"Observation is the best medium of learning,' says Kahuna. 'It puts the responsibility of learning on your shoulder. When you observe you are your own teacher.'

The first ritual of the sweat lodge where they sit around an intense fire made from volcanic rocks with thick blankets around them in a crowded space in a tent like structure, awakens one to their higher purpose and cleanses the body of impurities. The rituals are conducted by masters and at one stage a talking stick is produced. The one who is given the talking stick rattles it until he or she speaks of her purpose. Priya, the chosen one to speak first, understands that it is a stick of responsibility and when she spoke she finally took responsibility for her life and her purpose. It's not the talking stick that speaks, its you. And so it has to be in life.

The ritual fulfills one's desires too. 'Desire is your soul's plan for you to discover yourself. Its the soul's plan for growth. Desire is not sinful,' says Kahuna. Interestingly he and Maharshi Ved ji, an Indian guru, are friends and frequently visit one another. Kahuna is well versed with Indian spiritual system.
The Salt Cleanse ritual is also called the 'Spiritual Challenge' and one that is considered difficult because most fail to complete it. It requires one to cleanse the body with salt water, defecate and then later in the evening, hold the feces and observe them knowing that nothing is good or bad.  'Whatever the excreta means to you..accept it in your palms and acknowledge the contents. Feel and experience the contents and when you have fully acknowledged it touch your hand to your forehead and release it into the fire'.
Priya sits through the process while the others leave and her transformation comes through as she becomes aware of the whole process that takes place in the human body to sustain life. We eat food to survive. We'd also die if we do not excrete out what we have eaten. How can food be good or bad? Both are essential processes..both sides of the coin...everything is important for the cycle. 'I was covered in shit from head to toe. I became the shit. And it was ok. It was a process. I lost all judgment of good and bad,' she says. Powerful.
 Kahuna says 'Accepting waste with no judgment is respecting life to its fullest. You cannot respect one end of the process and loathe the other. Good and bad, right and wrong do not exist. The only thing that exists is your acceptance and denial. When you accept you understand. When you deny, you create a toxic experience. Judgment is the enemy of purpose.'
Wonderful words.
Priya says - You never cheat anyone. You only cheat yourself.'

The drummers edge is a ritual where she has to find a dead animal (from an accident along the highway) which is then skinned and made into a drum (by helpers) and a drumming ritual with another person lying on top of you. In the frenzied drumming and its loud rhythms the heat and the dead weight of the person Priya thoughts floated on to the big regret, of a life lived in ignorance. 'We live in a dual reality, a world of opposites. Be strong enough to face the world everyday. Be weak enough to know that you cannot do the best you can be,' she realises. Great stuff for all of us.

The spiritual walk is a ritual that takes her into the woods where one meets ones deepest fears. Priya chooses Martin, the handsomest man she had ever seen and one with whom she experiences love at first sight (but he is already engaged) to go on the walk with her. She dreams of a walk in the woods under a starry night. Unfortunately it turns into a stormy night. But Martin turns up dutifully to honor her wishes and asks why she has cooked up a storm for her walk. Priya is puzzled at his question. How can she conjure up a storm? They walk in the rain, in the dark woods. Martin tells her clearly that she is the boss. 'You are in charge.' He also tells her that its best to be honest and not apologetic. In the walk Priya finally experiences being in the darkest part of the woods by herself and gets over her fear.
Martin tells her the spiritual walk normally gives an answer to a question we have and asks her what the answer was. Priya ponders and knows that her question was , one most of us may identify with, is - why do I have to struggle for everything? Why are there so many obstacles? Martin puts it into perspective when he asks her - if the world world does not accept your work, would it still serve your purpose? She says i t would because she is still learning. If it does, then how does it matter what they think, he says. Also people need to trust you and for that you need to love the world. The world is for you, not against you. To love someone does not need permission. He says, we lead ourselves where our highest lessons lie.

The fire walk ritual is conducted by Priya, and she is assigned to be the master, and which she conducts with aplomb. 'When you pray upon the fire and walk on it, you become the fire.' On Priya's doubts about spirituality and materialism (her desire to be a multi billionaire) Kahuna says 'To be a billionaire is a great prayer that invites greater responsibility because people accept and acknowledge your service to be genuine and priceless. You don't become a billionaire because you want to. You become a billionaire because you add value, because you change people, because you improve the world with your contribution.'
'Freedom is never found in extremes, freedom is found in balance.'
It is found in the balance between material attainment and spiritual renunciation.
On why people do not burn when they walk on the fire, Priya says that fire does not burn a mind that is made up. The body becomes bigger than the fire and embraces it. 

On teaching Kahuna says - there is no language for teaching. You can teach lessons of a million lifetimes with your sheer presence.
On the fact that people walked on a fire made of teak wood which burns higher than the pine wood, Kahuna says. 'People walked on your energy and your force. Your energy is greater than any teak wood put together, such is the force of the master. It is the master alone, the soul that is ignited to its purpose that can burn poison into a cup of life.It is the power of the master to negate any hurdle in the path of the follower's belief. ...It is your force that will take millions along any fire because you are there, holding a spiritual responsibility. You are a celebration, you are a joy'

Priya thinks of people people back home who are constantly unhappy. She says - happiness is something you is in the act of doing. It's a choice, not a consequence. It's not something others give you, you give it to others.

Finally the ritual of self mastery draws it to close, when all her masters sit at her feet and seek her blessings. Kahuna's words ' If I am another you, then how can I treat you different than myself? My relationship with you is but a relationship with myself. I am another you in every way and experience. Take care of yourself as you would take care of me. I am another you and when you meet me you will know yourself. When you know the divinity in me you will know the god in you.''

Priya describes the rituals and her feelings and emotions with great honesty and with such intensity that one feels as if we are in the ritual itself. Thanks to the lucidity of her expression we experience the experience almost. Its wonderful.

Priya always marched to her own drum. As a youngster from Chandigarh she would give tuition and at one stage was teaching as many as 1900 students. She started helping her neighbor who would speak on de-addiction and got into the speaking circuit. Today she is a well known brand in motivational speaking, training and workshops. She is India's first certified woman fire walk trainer. She has authored two other books 'License to live' and 'A Perfect World' and is making a difference to the world in many ways. Wonderful stuff. Definitely recommended. She is a master.

The Indian Cricket Team and Its Management

I often wonder how quickly the fortunes of our cricket teams fluctuate. A historic win at Lords and a total collapse after that. Its the kind of stuff that one cannot explain really. The same players and the same management (and perhaps the same girlfriends and wives too) - then why this difference?

One can only blame a lack of standard process when such fluctuations occur. That apart, there is much to suspect the dressing room environment too. I cannot see how things can decline so rapidly otherwise. Whatever the reason, blame must lie entirely with the coaching staff. It is for them to ensure that some level of consistency is maintained and that the preparation of that - skill, physical and mental - is adequate. If they are clueless, they need to get their processes sorted out.

Having said that, knee jerk reactions like changing coaches and bringing in short term measures like appointing a Director show the systems flaws. If you have employed someone, trust them for the tenure. Don't keep hopping around to curry popular support. The question one needs to ask is how did the same team that won at Lords lose so badly later.

It is obvious that the players need take much blame for their performances too. They have been exposed badly. Its time for them to quickly self correct, get their focus back and reorganise themselves as a team to start winning. When the team wins many passengers get carried along. When it loses, even champions get shot. In their own interests they better get things working right.

As for the wives and girl friends theory it is amazing how any one can make these kind of rules where wives are allowed and girlfriends are not. It only reflects again the kind of thinking that can go on.

Anyway, its time to watch the ODIs and see what happens.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Fisher King - Movie Review

I got stuck on this movie (and a couple of others) after Robin Williams died. One of my favorite Hollywood films is 'Dead Poets Society' which could ever have been what it was without Robin Williams. I always felt there was an element of sadness, which he did not try to hide, in his madness, to the extent that the sadness overpowered the madness.

The Fisher King is a most unusual story and I wonder where they got that story from. Must be real. Anyway there's a popular RJ Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges) who causes one of his callers to become suicidal and homicidal and kill a bunch of people before shooting himself. Jack goes into depression and alcohol, and just when he is on the verge of committing suicide he is saved by a half crazy homeless man Parry (Robin Williams). Parry takes a fancy to him, takes him to his basement apartment, tells him how he wants to find the Holy Grail etc. It is obvious that the two connect, but what kills Jack is that he finds out that Parry was a successful man whose wife was shot by the crazy guy who go influenced by his radio talk. Driven by guilt Jack tries to get Parry out of his half crazy life where he sees red knights scaring him. Jack helps Robin find love (with an equally crazy woman), find sanity and finds love and his life too.

The story of the Fisher King is something that Robin tells Jack as he lays naked on the grass in Central Park. About a king who always wanted the Holy Grail but who can never find it. It is revealed only when a young boy gives him water because he is thirsty. The boy says he does not know what it is, just that he wanted to give water to someone who was thirsty.

Robin Williams was brilliant in the movie in his half crazy role and got a nomination as best actor for his role. Jeff Bridges is great and so is Mercedes Ruehl, who won best supporting actress. Most unusual and interesting movie.

The Tao of Abundance - Laurence G. Boldt

This wonderful book was gifted by Suresh after I posed him questions concerning my unclear relationship with  money. Written by Lauren G. Boldt, writer and career consultant, the book needs slow and careful reading to ponder and comprehend. I read it twice, making notes the second time around. The book dwells on eight ancient principles for abundant living. I will try to limit myself to the understanding and application of the same. I will also use quotes and reproduce excerpts to convey the essence.

Some basic Taoist principles and ideas of the universe and us.
It's not the world that is insufficient - it's the way to relate to it, to one another, and to the deepest parts of ourselves. The world is a naturally abundant place. Appreciate leisure and beauty in the simple things in life. Value humility, naturalness, and spontaneity.

The fundamental principle is that the universe is you and for you. Be in the way of the universe and it will take care of you abundantly.

Become aware of the inner process through which you create an experience of lack and struggle and refrain from it. A feeling of abundance and gratitude is natural. Be aware of resistance. The system is the ego. A feeling of separation. Incompleteness. Attachments. Struggle. Approval. Envy. Greed.

A psychology of abundance flows naturally. The Taoist advocates oneness with all life, to live in harmony with it and its cycles.To respect our humanity over any outer goal or reward.

 There are 3 tasks on journey to life of total abundance
1) Recognise the inner and outer forces that conspire to make us believe in scarcity and thus to feel lack

2) Cultivate a spirit of abundance in our lives, celebrate the gift of life with joy and thanksgiving. Focus our thoughts on things that bring a feeling of connection with all life

3) Become a liberating and empowering  force in the lives of those we interact with

To embrace all is to be selfless - Lao Tzu

To the mind that is still the whole universe surrenders. - Lieh Tzu

On Lack
The author says that we have to accept responsibility for creating our experience of abundance or lack. He also points out that money is not everything - you are greater. The questions that one needs to ask about money are - 1) how much do you need and 2) what is it going to cost you to get it.

How we create lack
Sense of separation (the ego) from the whole, causes a sense of lack (contraction, incompleteness). This causes a need for attachments. Attachments cause a perceived need to defend and expand and create struggle. Struggle creates resentment, ingratitude and withholding. It stops the flow.

The 8 Principles
1) The Nameless Tao, Wu-ming - The Unity of all things
2) The Nature of Abundance, Tzu-jan - Learning to receive opens the door
3) The Ease of Abundance, Wu wei - Follow the path of least resistance
4) The Flow of Abundance, Chi - Circulating the energy in your life
5) The Power of Abundance, Te - Honoring your innate dignity and actualising your inborn ability
6) The Harmony of Abundance, Yin/Yang - Balancing yin and yang and eliminating stress
7) The Leisure of Abundance, Jen - Taking time to grow, nurture yourselves
8) The Beauty of Abundance, Li - Achieving your destiny is a matter of trusting and embracing the organic pattern

1) The Unity of Tao
The art of abundance is the art of knowing how to live. According to the Taoists abundance is based on the realisation of a natural state of abundance. The ego's insistence on separation cuts us off from this natural state of abundance. When we  realise that we are part of the whole and the whole is represented in us, that all good and bad, all of the whole is in us; once we accept that, it is easy to be in unity with the universe, to flow.

The ego wants us to possess. To compare. But is it possible to use all things without lack-inducing feeling of possession. That is real abundance.

Trust in the innate intelligence of the universe. The universe is you. You must let go of control in order to find real control. There is an overarching intelligence within the universe and there is a means within human beings of accessing or becoming conscious of this intelligence. Trust people to be people and accept the totality as basically good. Trust and surrender (of control) are the keys that open the doors.

This is not a world that has been made. There is no maker or Creator God. Nature is of itself so. Things are not made from outside but expand from within. We come from the earth and return to it. The mountains are not obstacles but lift us higher. We must understand that we are one. There is nothing wholly apart or other. All are interrelated. Not to determine that 'this' and 'that' as opposites is the key essence of Tao. Ego is the propensity to separate consciousness.

Abundance is the feeling of enough, and to spare. To be fully alive, free of any sense of lack or desperation. Knowing how to live!

"Stop analysing, making distinctions between one thing and another. Similarly see that you are the center of the universe and accept all things and beings as part of your infinite body." - Lao Tzu

We must stop doing and let the universe do us.

Whatever we focus our attention on, expands in our lives.

The dilemma - We require our ego to function as social beings and yet the ego puts us int an experience of separation, isolation and conflict.

The 3 eyes to the world
Dharma eye - the world as separate things
Wisdom eye - thoughtless being and seeing the world as undifferentiated beings
Buddha eye - seeing the world from form and emptiness

To integrate the ego - if we view the earth as a living being we can appreciate and receive its gifts of nature with genuine joy and appreciation. We are free to move in a world of plenty. The key is psychological disengagement from the concept of ownership.

Why money at all? Two motives that bring happiness are 1) pure enjoyment of money and 2) being of service to others

In your original nature, you are one with everything; in your human nature, you are a social being; therefore being yourself means being helpful to others. To deny this desire its fullest expression is to go against your nature.
The test of any desire is -  does it make you feel more isolated or more connected to life?

The essence as I got it:
Knowing that we are all connected, that the universe is for us, all we need to do is trust and let go of control. There is an abundant world that is ours without needing to possess it. One we realise that abundance is the true nature of the universe and that we are the universe, that we are all interconnected we'll never experience lack.

2) The Nature of Abundance
It is the nature / receptivity of the Tao. This principle looks at developing our innate receptive capacities to bring in abundance.

Receptivity brings a feeling of participation in life and a sense of gratitude for it, an openness to creative ideas and inspiration, a spontaneous joy and zest for life, an expression of love. We can only respond spontaneously when our receptive capacities are open.

Giving provides ego gratification. When we are giving we are in control in a way that we are not when receiving. Receiving requires a humility and letting go that can make us feel uncomfortable. Ability to receive is as important as ability to give.

When we allow ourselves to open and receive, giving takes care of itself. Genuine giving is always and only the result of having first received. When we first receive, our giving is without effort. without ego.

Intend to receive. Being receptive is an ability to be one with. Become one with what you want. Don't separate yourself. Don't block your understanding by struggling to figure things.

We cannot demand, earn or negotiate love. We can only open to receive the love that is the Universe.

Remember that the useful part of the pot is the empty space.

No good and bad. Love god and do as you please. We resort to 'goodness' and righteousness' when we lose real love. we resort to 'filial piety'.

Love is superior to any ethical code.

Genuine receptivity requires and almost child like innocence. Ego is an artificial boundary in a world of interconnectedness. Attachment is not physical but a mental, emotional string. Engage with the world.

The degree to which you're free of unconscious associative attachment is the degree to which you can concentrate your attention.

Meditate on bamboo for ten years, become bamboo and then paint yourself.

Path to spontaneity through concentration. Absorption or merge consciousness is the state of being so completely absorbed in an object, experience or an event that all sense of time, self, space is lost.

The way of Tzu-jan means following our nature in each and every moment, however politically correct or incorrect we may appear to be.

Often we limit our capacity to receive by confusing the roles that we ourselves play with the roles of who we really are. As our receptivity diminishes, so does our sensitivity.

Keys to loving relationship - never to forget what we receive from the other is truly a gift

Noting must happen before you receive
Limiting beliefs. To overcome attachment, be aware. Awareness transforms. Mindfulness - being fully conscious helps. Intervention - mentally replace agitative thoughts.

There is no abundance or lack, no separation or unity. We have become the universe and all its treasures are ours.

Stilling the mind is the purpose of meditation. When we are still we are at one with the natural intelligence of the universe. Intuitive. allow yourselves to be guided by the intelligence of the universe.

First receive. Then give. Be, then do.

Discard old grudges and grievances, old ways of doing things, old ways of relating, old things, old limiting beliefs. Law of vacuum - nature abhors a vacuum.

The essence as I got it:
This principle is brilliant. Having accepted the unity of all things and that we are part of the whole, we must open ourselves to receiving from the universe. Receiving is as important as giving. When we are empty we can be spontaneous. We can give genuinely, spontaneously. True giving is giving from the space of having received already. Open yourself to receive. Create the space to receive by discarding old stuff. Be empty.

3) The Ease of Abundance
Use what is naturally useful, do what you spontaneously can do - this is the most easy matter of non action. When you are in accordance with the principle of non action, your life cannot but be perfect. -
 Chuang Tzu

Abundant living has an easy and effortless quality to it if you're one with the process that is the universe. If you have opened and received the bounteous gifts of life, you are free to live with ease in a work you feel at home in. Follow the path of least resistance.

We are normally creative beings. When you are open to natural intelligence, act freely in an unforced and effortless manner. Unforced action is about using least amount of energy and not mere passivity or avoidance. It is receptivity in action. Effortless action assumes the capacity to open and receive and then seeing the essence of things and their principles. Action in harmony with the intelligence of the Universe.
Effortless action is fluid spontaneous action arising from emptiness. A man of perfect virtue has not thoughts, no action, no anxiety. Anxiety arises from attachments which are thoughts.
Free of ulterior motive, non action, not laziness or passion

 Being at ease is about the center of the circle - be still. In stillness there is clarity.

If nothing within you stays rigid
Outward things will dissolve themselves

Young and growing things are soft, supple and yielding
Old dying things are hard, brittle and rigid

Preconceived notions - acceptance
We-wei, unforced action, is letting things come to us. Letting things become us. Move like water. Let things be as they are and at the same time transform them.

'The leader leads by embracing and effortlessly guiding forces of human nature. She doesn't differentiate between right and wrong and lets people be as they  are. There is no position to defend, no opinion to ram down. Lead without leading. Direct the attention and action of others but they do not feel forced to go the way.'

Make money like the bees - who do not hurt the flower - Pali Canon

To be free of anxiety is to be without thoughts when still, and without anxiety when in action. When our minds are fully aware and wake, yet fluid and relaxed, our actions have a simplicity and clarity to them. We are capable of spontaneous, decisive action.

Tao abides in non action
Yet nothing is left undone - Lao Tzu

Struggle - A sense of struggle is critical to the psychology of poverty. To maintain the illusion of separation we must make an effort to deny, reject and repel the natural abundance of Tao.The ego sees the Universe against us, They against us, you against me and I against me.

Be open to natural abundance, act with ease, from a feeling of openness with all things. Opening to receive always, free flow of energy, effortlessly

We come out of the world and return to it. Mountains are not obstacles, they lift us.
Me and not me. Like me and not like me. Fight against evil is a fight we will never win.
Perfect happiness is the absence of striving for happiness.
You are not your biography, you are your biology.

Shame and guilt about our condition can prevent us from keeping our wits about and acting intelligently enough to survive. Most of us die of shame slowly.

All depraved and perverted manifestations of human behavior result from rejecting our deepest nature, not by following it.

Create with ease.

Sensible people get paid for playing. that is the art of life. - Alan Watts

God gives every bird its food but he does not throw it in its est. - JG Holland

'People often fail on the verge of success
By giving as much care to the end as the beginning
there will be few failures" - Lao Tzu

When you receive an idea, know that its done.
Harmonise, refuse to send your body to do any task without uniting heart and mind fully behind it.
Visualisation. When the task is done beforehand, then it is easy.

"The considerations of the intelligent always include both benefits and harm. As they consider benefits, their work can expand, and as they consider harm, their troubles can be resolved" - Art of War, Sun tzu

Use the basic spirit, instead of struggling. Step back.
Formulate the question and wait upon the universal intelligence to supply the answers. Act as if though you have already received what you asked for, be it an answer to a question or an object or circumstance you require to accomplish.

Be happy and attract good fortune. Meet life with a smile. prepare for success. Act on expectation.

'If I keep a green bough in my heart, the singing bird will come.' Chinese proverb

Life is to be enjoyed. Don't resist, struggle, fight against what we don't like. If we resist poverty we cant be free form it. If we run from lack it will follow us. Agree to experience these situations without being affected or emotionally drawn out. then you transcend them.We are at ease when we don't have anything to prove.
Ease comes from doing what we are doing without using it as a means of trying to do or get something else.Use the spirit. Step back.

The essence as I got it:
There is an ease, a path of least resistance that we must follow. Do not struggle. Life is to be enjoyed. Effortless action comes from a space of receiving, of allowing things to come to you. Be happy. Ask the question and await the answer form the universe. Act as if you have already received it. Visualise the outcome you want. Effortless action comes out of emptiness. Be still. Be clear. Ease from acceptance of all parts of you; unease from nonacceptance.

4) The Flow of Abundance
Abundant living requires abundant energy and a flow of that energy (chi). Free flow of energy brings spiritual, emotional, physical health.

Chi is related to breath. Chi means 'no fire'. Chi follows through meridians.
Returning is the motion of Tao. What we give returns.  Give what you what to receive.

To increase experience of abundance increase circulation.
Don't resist. Don't hold on. Let it flow. Life is bliss. Joy is in the circles.
Blocked up energy needs to circulate. Find expression.
Resentment robs your chi. Resentment leads to guilt. Guilt makes us feel unworthy and undeserving.
Can stop a downward spiral anytime by practising gratitude
Act as-if it already happened. It builds momentum.
Put your whole self into your efforts. Don't hold back. Close the back door of escape. Opens front doors of commitment.

Complete things. Don't leave things incomplete. Close them.
Communication problems result from a lack of circulation. Happens when we block our free expression or jam our ability tor receive. We may withhold, we may resist hearing. Being aware of where in the cycle we are blocked and releasing them can be energising.
10 steps to Cultivating chi - vitality of mind, body and spirit.
Increased sensitivity to life.
1) Be cheerful 2) Breathe 3) Eat well Move your body 4) Rest your body 5) Master your emotions (forgiveness is the most essential) 6) Meditate 7) Simplify 8) Spend time in nature 9) Cultivate an awareness of your surroundings

As you sow, so you reap.

The essence as I got it:
You need abundant energy for abundant living and abundant energy comes from free flow of energy. This is about flow - the principle of returning. What you give will return. Circulate to increase abundance. Don't hold on. Keep the flow going. If energy is blocked get it flowing - find a means of expression. The big block to flow is resentment which leads to guilt. Guilt makes us feel unworthy and undeserving. To stop falling practice gratitude. Put your everything into your efforts, your life force, without holding back anything. Complete things. Cultivate chi.

5) The power of abundance
Be what you are, follow your nature. This will lead you to your destiny. Instead of seeing the way, we crave for approval. We lose our Te, our real nature.

Everything has its own Te. Everything is happy if allowed to be in accordance with its nature. Accept nature as it is - mixed bag. 1st umbilical is cut by the doctor. 2nd umbilical must be cut by you.

Everything grows according to its nature.Your nature is your strength. The Tao's principle is spontaneity.
Choose work for the sake of work itself. Be simple and follow the way of your own heart.
Do not seek approval from others.

The clever often end up outwitting themselves.
Leaders ought to lead with an extremely light touch avoiding excessive regulations, laws and interference and refrain from placing heavy burden on citizens.

What is in harmony with nature is to be pursued. What is contrary to nature is to be avoided.

Rule of money
Middle class feels shame for not achieving the material level of their parents generations. Sense of shame.
Use creative gifts and persevere until you create a platform that will...

The essence as I got it:
This is about your innate nature. Following your nature will lead you to your destiny. We lose our Te and seek approval from others. Instead of second guessing yourself, be what you are, follow your heart, be simple. Follow what is in harmony with nature. Persevere with your creative gifts.

6) The harmony of abundance
Yin and Yang. The world is a dance of their complementary energies.
3 elements of yin and yang
1) Complementary
2) Non absolute
3) Yin transforms yang, yang transforms yin

Complementary: One cannot exist without the other.
Taoists considered sex could aid spiritual enlightenment. To end the battle of sexes, one must end the battle against sex. If nature is anything, it is sex. If we deny sexuality we end up being repressed, perverted and exploited. Sexual imagery is prominent throughout all systems of alchemy.
Alchemy  for daily lives - affirming, denying and reconciling
Duality is not conflict, its complimentary

Non absolute:
Anima (male) capacity for female (You don't care about me
Animus (female) - capacity for male (You don't respect me)
Emptiness embraces all.

Dynamic: Change is an expression of the rational order of things. It is gushing life. Things are either in the process of becoming or 'un' or 'de' becoming. The manipulation of the yarrow stalks makes it possible for the unconscious in man to become active.

Competitive hostility
Without the experience of our Te, our natural power and dignity, we seek unauthentic power and control.  We abandon our innate dignity and become involved in a desperate search for attention and approval.

The essence as I got it:
There is no this and that; everything is flowing from one to another and belongs to the other. The yin and yang show that the world is complementary. If we understand that we are living in a world which has the three elements of yin and yang i.e. that they are complementary, non absolute and are dynamic, we have the power to accept and transform everything.

7) The leisure of abundance
Every man knows how useful it is to be useful
No one seems to know
How useful it is to be useless
- Chuang Tzu

It takes time to be human. 
Leisure is one of the great abundances of life. Leisure preserves and develop our humanity. Leisure is the sense of losing awareness of time while engaged in them. To forget time is to forget ourselves. To lose self-consciousness. For Taoists leisure is the essence of abundance.

Contemplation of nature, in the now. Emphasis is on relationship, beauty, humanity and not possession.
In advertisements the model is selling an idealised version of oneself.

True abundance is first and foremost an abundance of time ad the freedom to choose what to do with it.
Time is the new poverty -

Ancient Rome had 175 public holidays, medieval England holidays were 1/3 of the year, French had 90 rest days and 38 holidays, work free Sundays, Ohlone of California work 2 hours a day.
Nap times, siestas.

Taoists - do what is needed, leave undone what is not.

Important things are those that reflect your values and sense of purpose in our lies.
Leisure to be - Time to be idle, to play, to experience
Leisure to grow - Time to think to learn and o express
Leisure to relate - Time for our mates, our children and our community

Be the kid again, nurture playfulness, eat and converse with mindfulness, figure out how to use time in the 20%,

Play seems to be the essential feature of productive thought.

Learning is the essence of humility.

Still the mind, observe, penetrate into the essence of things
Whatever you want to do, do it.

The essence as I got it:
Leisure is one of the great abundances. It is the sense of losing time when we are doing some things. It happens when we pursue and admire beauty, humanity and relationship and not merely possession. Leisure is about play, about mindfulness, about being fully immersed in a child-like manner. The creative minds convert everything into play. Just go ahead and do whatever you want to do.

8) The Beauty of abundance
Organic pattern within nature, collective human consciousness and the life of each of us reflects the natural order of life. It is the inner flow of things. It is not some separate thing from us, rather it is in our minds.

People must discover for themselves that this thing is truly in them, the everything will be ok.
- in every individual
- within human consciousness
- grand pattern of patterns

Rhythm of nature. Nature is wholeness, rhythm and harmony. When spirit is left out, the form is dead.
To essence of the pursuit of beauty is to show the Buddha nature in things.

Release control. Let go. Unite with the higher order.
We can bring beauty to life by following the organic pattern of our lives. Organic pattern - life energy, follow your bliss. Beauty is in excellence - in love and wisdom, care and attention to detail

Ease is often hard won.

If people know how hard I worked to get my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all- Michelangelo

Ease comes in embracing discipline.
Add beauty in little things. Trust the energy, the organic pattern of your life.

Don't fall into the trap of - Envy and self-pity

'The abundance and beauty of life are here now for those who will embrace them. The purpose of life is to live it. So many want to change the circumstances of their lives, but how many will change their attitude. Your attitude toward things makes all the difference."

Eliminate self pity. If you don't bring yourself down, you don't have to bring yourself up.
You never get the lessons by struggle. Finally you have to embrace it.

The essence as I got it:
There is an organic pattern within  that reflects the inner flow of life. There is a rhythm, an inner beauty that exists. We can bring it to life by following our bliss, our life energy. The rhythm is in care and attention to detail, love and wisdom. Beauty comes from an ease; an ease that comes from discipline, from long hours of practice. One way to block beauty in our lives is to eliminate self pity and envy. Don't struggle, embrace.

In summary
Though I realise that this blog is still rather uncoordinated and needs more work, I feel I can summarise it for now and then come back and relook and make whole some parts. The Tao of Abundance is in effect about bringing true abundance in our lives, not just money. It is a way of life which if practiced, can bring us to a state of natural abundance.

The universe is abundant and supports us. In our natural state if we are in tune with the universe, abundance is a natural state for us. However our ego, with its need to be separate, struggles against what is.
The eight principles show us ways to avoid the struggle.

By understanding that we are one with everything and accepting it, we find the Unity of things.
By opening ourselves to receiving, we find the abundance of receptivity.
By practicing the path of least resistance and effortless action, and allowing things to come instead of struggling, we find abundance of ease.
By understanding that we create abundant energy by circulating energy, that what we give is what we get, we create the flow of abundance.
By understanding that we must pursue our true nature to achieve our destiny, we choose to be ourselves and create authentic power, irrespective of the approval of others, and find the power of abundance.
By understanding that we are not opposites but of yin and yang which are complementary, non absolute and 
dynamic we find the power of harmony.
By understanding that leisure is a way to lose time consciousness by losing awareness while doing things, we find abundance of time.
By understanding that there is an organic pattern within and flowing with that pattern, by following our bliss, our rhythm, we find abundance of beauty.

This is a book to imbibe it. To practice. I am yet to do the exercises but I propose to do them soon, upon which I shall add a bit to this post. Whatever else it does, this book makes life easier, makes things easier to come. I have started living more spontaneously and can feel the difference in the quality of my life. When I am in the loop, I have no lack to fear. I am abundantly blessed. Thank you Suresh. Thank you Laurence Boldt.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Corporate Slogans - Examples of How Not To Write Them

Excerpt from the book Ogilvy on Advertising.

'The copy in most corporate advertisements is distinguished by a self-serving, flatulent, pomposity which defies reading and agencies waste endless hours concocting slogans of incredible fatuity. Consider these beauties.

Diamond Shamrock: The resourceful company

Honeywell: The automation company

Boise Cascade: A company worth looking at

Georgia Pacific: The growth company

Dravo: A company of uncommon enterprise

Textron: THE company

General Motors: People building transportation to serve people

Toyota:Serving people's needs in a hundred basic ways

Firestone: As long as Firestone keeps thinking about people, people will keep thinking about Firestone

Siemens: Siemens turns ideas into people

ITT: The best ideas are ideas that help people

General electric: 100 years of progress for people

Western Electric: W make things that bring people closer

US Steel: We're involved

Crown Zellerbach: We help make it happen

Sperry Rand: We understand how important it is to listen

Rockwell International: Where science gets down to business

I think I get what Ogilvy was getting at.

Michael Kristoff's Questionnaire to Help Create Company Slogan

 These are some questions that every business might want to answer to get its communications and marketing strategy right. The questions are from the following link by Michal Kristoff.
Michael Kristoff says that the goal of this worksheet is to help make the process of creating your company slogan easy.  The answers help to focus and define the exact benefits your service or products offer your customers. 
1) What does your company do? (You have created a product - what specially can you offer?)

2) What image or personality do you want to convey? (Conservative, avant garde, trendy, intellectual, trustworthy, knowledgeable, relaxed, prosperous? Corporate look and feel = trustworthy+relaxed+prosperous)

3) Who is your target audience? Whom are we talking to? (Age, race, gender, income etc)

4) What do they currently think? (In conjunction to what they do already? Is there a flaw, difficulty or road block that keeps them from purchasing or trying your product or service?)

5) What would you like them to do? (A sentence written from the consumer perspective, encapsulating the single most important thought you want your consumer to have about your product or service)

6)  What is the single most persuasive idea you can convey? (what is the barrier or problem the slogan must communicate. It can be a product problem a market problem, an image problem - but it is always a problem that your slogan can help address. The problem is either the high cost of ingredients, federal regulations, distribution or low ad budget)

7) Why should they believe it? (What is your unique selling point  - point of difference? There must be some sort of benefit to the end user - even in broad terms. eg It makes their job easier etc)

8) Who is your competition? (A clear, crisp statement of the area in which your product will do battle for the prospects attention/ retention / behavior?)

9) What are they doing? How do they present themselves? (Review what your competition is doing. How are they positioned? What are they saying? What is the benefit their product or services are offering?)

It is a questionnaire that is immensely helpful. The more we know about the benefits we are offering to our customers, the better we can communicate what we do to them. Thanks Michael Kristoff.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Charminar - Happy Independence Day

On August 15, 2014, we passed by Charminar, all decked up. It looked lovely.

Charminar all decked up, August 15, 2014

Ogilvy on Advertising - David Ogilvy

David Ogilvy is one of the grandmasters of the advertising industry. He apparently started his advertising career when he was 38, with no advertising background. Having been credited with building Ogilvy and Mather, the ad company that made many famous ads, Ogilvy took time off to pen his experiences down. These nuggets of wisdom are stuff I have been waiting to read for years and it was only the other day when Raja gave me a copy that I could read it. I do believe that all writers will benefit from advertising copy writing.

I will reproduce stuff that I liked in the book randomly.

On how to make advertising that sells

"Advertising is a medium of information. I want you to find it so interesting that I want to buy the product."

"Consumers buy products whose advertising promise them value for money, beauty, nutrition, relief from suffering, social status etc."

"There are products with the right appeal and the wrong appeal. Advertisements with the wrong appeal have actually harmed sales."

On research and homework
He cites the example of Rolls Royce and its classic line - "At sixty miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls Royce comes from the electric clock" - and the research that went into it to highlight the importance of doing your homework, studying the product, studying the competitors with similar products and researching consumers.

"Find out how they think about your kind of a product, what kind of a language they use when they discuss the subject. What attributes are important to them and what promise would be most likely to make them buy your brand. Informal conversations with housewives can help."

On positioning - "What the product does and who it is for". He cites the example of how he could have positioned Dove soap either way, at men or women, and chose to position it as one for women with as a soap with moisturising benefits. Also the positioning of SAAB cars as winter cars and Volkswagen Beetle as the small car.

On Image - "Products have a personality. Its name, packaging, price, style of advertising, nature of product itself. Every ad contributes to this overall branding, personality."

"An image of quality helps. Images appeal. People buy the image, not the product. Brand image is 90%."

What's the big idea to make your advertisement stand out- "Invent the big idea. Stuff information in your head. Then when you have enough go for long walks, so the big idea releases itself. Imagery is important he says."

Ogilvy quotes someone who said that the best asset a man can have is "Humility in the presence of a good idea."

How to recognise a good idea?

- Did it make me gasp when I first saw it?
- Do I wish I had thought of it myself
- Is it unique
- Does it fit the strategy to perfection
- Could it be used for 30 years

Ogilvy says - "Make the product the hero."

While advertising he says "you need not be superior. Its sufficient to convince the reader that it is positively good.If your consumer feels certain that your product is good and feels uncertain about competitors, he will buy yours."

"If you and your competitors all make excellent products, don't try to imply that your product is better. Just say what's good about your product. And do a clearer, more honest, more informative job of saying it. Do not insult the intelligence of the consumer."

"Repeat your winners until they stop selling. Remember you aren't advertising to a standing army, you are advertising to a moving parade."

Ogilvy has no faith in committees and says he would like screening to be down to two levels. His grouse is that "by attempting to cover too many things they achieve nothing."

A great surgeon knows more than other surgeons. So "know your stuff better". Like for example, that black on white reads better and not reverse. Other stuff that research threw up is that images of finished dishes attracted more viewers than raw material ingredients. "Photos with an element of story appeal attracted more."

Ogilvy on advertising careers - or careers as a whole
I loved this line and it holds good anywhere any time - "At the start what you learn is more important than what you earn."
Tips for CEOs (or how to run an ad agency)
"Make it fun. Be honest. Be a good listener. Be fair. Avoid playing favorites. Hire talent."

On hiring talent
He would give the top managers a gift on promotion - a Matrioska doll from Gorky where there are dolls within dolls. If the recipient of the gift had the patience to go to the innermost doll he would in this message from Ogilvy.

"If each of us hire people who are smaller than we are we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants."

"Look for curiosity, common sense, wisdom, imagination and literacy. Look for people who can lead the agency."

Look for crown princes (talent) who show.
1) Power of analysis 2) Imagination 3) Sense of reality 4) Ability to look at facts from an overall viewpoint

He cautions against hiring your friends, relatives, client's children, your children and clients.

On Leadership To handle office politics he says - fire the worst of the lot, encourage face to face confrontation, lunch meetings, don't play favorites, don't play politics

On discipline he says - "Ensure punctuality, that telephones are answered promptly, client confidentiality, Sustain unremitting pressure on professional standards, don't settle for second best, insist that due dates are met."

Ogilvy believes great leadership can have an electrifying effect. When you look for leaders look for the unorthodox guys. "Companies don't grow without innovation." Look for self confidence. Committed.
He says that people do their best in a happy atmosphere,

"The most effective leader is the one who satisfies the psychological needs of his followers."
Create centres of leadership. Inspire,.

He quotes Field Marshall Montgomery
"The leader must have infectious optimism and the determination to persevere in the face of difficulties, He mus also radiate confidence even when he himself is not too certain of the outcome."

The final test of a leader is the feeling you have when you leave his presence after a conference. Have you a feeling of uplift and confidence?

Have written principles - servicing clients to profits.
5  tips to lead
1) Never allow two people to do a job when one would suffice 2) don't summon them to your office, got to their desk unannounced 3) if you want action, tell verbally 4) use client products 5) don't write complaints

On getting clients
1) Make a list of the clients you want and go after them 2) Look for 1st class business in a first class way
3) Do good advertising 4) Build track record 5) Listen at meetings 6) House ads

For clients looking to hire an agency 
Look at their ads, give a 5 year contract, reject gently, praise quickly

Tips for Print advertising

Headlines - They sell your product, people read them 5 times more than they read copy, promise a benefit, news (22% more readers read), offer helpful information, include brand name in headline wherever possible, when lines are within quotes readership increases by 28%

Illustrations - Get a good idea as the subject, arouse curiosity, make your package the subject, end result makes them curious like in before-after ads, photographs make more sense than drawings, use known characters, simple illustrations, normal sized human faces (not out sized ones)

Body copy - Interest the reader, talk directly, short sentences, short paras, tell a story, don't use analogies, no superlatives, testimonials help

Use headlines under the illustration

On television commercials 
He says there are 10 types that work and 3 that don't (for him)
The ones that work are 1) humor 2) slice of life 3) testimonials 4) demonstrations 5) problem solution 6) talking heads 7) characters 7) reason why 9) news and 10) emotion

The ones that don't seem to work are 1) celebrities 2) cartoons and 3) musicals

Tips for TV ads
Brand identification - use name within 10 seconds, show package, show food in motion, close ups, open with fire, sing it when you have nothing else to do, use sound effects, voice overs, supers

Advertising for corporates
Need 1) clear objective, research to track progress.
To influence readers
1) Simplify if issue is complicated
2) disarm with candor
3) give both sides of the issue
4) know your target

Ogilvy goes on to talk about many more things - how to advertise foreign travel, Business to Business advertising, direct mail (limited edition, limited supply, last time, special price), he talks of how it is to work with P&G and their attention to detail and control over the process based on research and on marketing.

The book is full of great ads and their analyses. And he says it in a most interesting manner. Glad I read it. Will read it again and add some more at that time.