After all those blogs I've written throughout my journey, I've realized a lot of them have content that is sometimes irrelevant or innapropriate. However, the nature of my writings was personal and not for publication and hence I did not ammend them grammatically or factually. This is the nth version of a space where I can write about the challenges I and many others face. I have made errors, I have accomplished a little bit and this is my archive. My error prone perspective on the world before I leave.
I’ve started to migrate. No it doesn’t feel too great. But this post today isn’t about that. It’s about structure, meditation and relationships. Aren’t those things related? Structure is important and helps to provide flow to the story. Setting up a context makes it easier for the reader but it also helps the author to gather content and give shape to the story.
Talking about structure let’s start with Notion. I didn’t realise this before but as I’m getting used to Notion templates and the interface (it has been languishing on different computers for some time now) it might be helpful to craft a story and easier to write content for the blog.
Now that I’m coming back to this draft I realise that something about the environment around me is pushing me to use structure and become better at writing. That said, this post will lack structure. So will twenty or so posts after this one. But you will see improvement.
My Waking Up app tells me that I’ve been meditating for 300+ days now. Even if that’s not accurate I know that on average I’ve meditated for 9+ minutes everyday for the past eight months. How has that changed me? It probably has not. At least not in a perceivable way. However, I can tell that I am looking at things differently. Even if folks around me don’t see a change. This will sound ridiculous. In fact if i heard what I’m about to write I would ridicule it immediately but I need to say it nonetheless. I can feel the universe around me is working with me on this. The book I’m reading, the energy I’m feeling, and the passages that are coming my way. What now? On to 20 minutes a day. It’s not a goal or a target but something feels right about it as I say it or think about it.
If I think about this two things come to mind. One, I could write a book about this topic or two, I don’t have anything to say about this topic. Very contradictory! Or maybe that is how all great topics are in reality. We have so much to say about them that we usually get overwhelmed when we begin to think about them.
This passage was primarily prompted because of a picture. The picture illustrated happiness. It prompted memories and left me with a bitter taste. I could have said so much and done things differently but relationships are not straightforward. A mother loves her children dearly but is human after all. A father can stake his reputation and health on his family. Children love their parents in a pure way beyond anything they have known in life, perhaps their first loves.
The wrath of a mother’s anger can leave devastation in its wake. It can bruise. A bruise that sometimes can take a lifetime to heal. A father gets involved in interests that prove to be damaging to the family. Children eventually leave their nest and find their next ‘true love’. So, yes, and image can tell a story worth a thousand words. That story though isn’t the only interpretation and the story perhaps can be told in a thousand ways.
This post was supposed to come to you and my blog from an airport. Things have been hectic but there are signs of growth. I have been back home or the past 72 days now and it’s been great mostly. When I say mostly I am including things that are not part of the home. Things like worry about the work visa, prospective work, etc.
Now I’m getting back to this draft after about two weeks and I desperately feel like I have to get something out. Things have started to tend towards the mean again. I think that’s what happens at home or when you’re surrounded by people that make you feel comfortable. You start to become comfortable and you tend to stop pushing yourself, both mentally and physically. I am not blaming anyone I myself because I have not held myself to account. If I don’t take control today I will consider myself to be slacking but this post is an effort for me to get moving forward. I am almost about the complete the second book in a month so there’s that. Personally, I’ve slacked but I’ll give myself this one chance.
Things are not easy in a family with children that are grown adults. Things are not easy in a family that has a fractured core. Things are not easy in a(ny) family. It’s a unit where people get together for some reasons they feel they understand when they are younger and then again they start to feel the same when they grow older. Sometimes these things are pressures, while other times they are desires but at the end of it all it is all the consequence of Life trying to prosper through us. Everyone attaches a different meaning to aspects of their life without realising they are just a vessel for Life. Perhaps people that involve themselves with the trivialities of religion understand this better because for them the entity is not Life it’s a God. In popular culture this is the Force. If you are conducive to the propagation of Life you are assisted with direction and guidance, otherwise you have to trudge through the misery and suffering that is life. When living within a unit that is a family combine all of the above to consider individual ambitions, fears, concerns, and emotions. It is not easy.
An attempt to paint a picture, in a very familiar setting he is oblivious to his own actions and she is too engaged in her own thought process oblivious to the impact it has on her own actions. She over-thinks it while he forgets to think about it. ‘It’ can be anything. To understand how lost we all are takes some amount of thinking, bandwidth and planning to have the spare intellect to think about thinking. I am aware that I am indebted to my family for where I am but then I have come to realise that I too have made some decisions by myself along the way. Not too many but some that have had some impact on outcomes. I was born into privilege. I have the privilege of thinking about thinking because some of the burden of survival was taken away from me followed by a lot of other burdens, which are perhaps not as tribal. This allowed me to thrive (i.e., spend time on thinking among other things). However despite all the privilege that I was born into, I cannot be oblivious about the shortcomings of others for whatever reasons they were ingrained into them.
Travel back home even before I was home was not easy. Balaji has a lot of hope in Indians if not in India. My trip back and specifically the part that started after I collected my bags at the luggage belt on arrival at IGI shed some light on and reminded me why my extremely bearish on the individuals within this country. The individuals in this country are doing great things no doubt but there is a dearth of a need to struggle. I don’t know if struggle is important to succeed but many who are in the limelight right now are not necessarily a product of the struggle in the sense that a large part of India understands struggle. The large part of India being the segment of the population that lives under a $1/day. I’m not from that segment of society either and I don’t want this to come across as sour grapes. I don’t think my story is complete yet. A large part of India is struggling and doesn’t have the most basic infrastructure that many smaller nations boast about. Yes, a large country comes with its own challenges but even a large number of people in this nation seem oblivious of its challenges.
It’s not a prerogative of the individuals to keep abreast of the challenges in their society. One individual can only investigate and/or be aware of so much in the 24 hours they spend in one day. There is a dearth of leadership in our country. Individuals reeling under the burden of a failing leadership cannot be blamed completely. For the past 75 years we have had a fragmented society or Disjointed States of India as they were originally intended. Perhaps leadership of a such a vibrant collection of states is a challenge in itself. Keeping aside the corruption and the general tendency of laxity in people (that may have arisen due to geographical benefits) there is a variance in culture of the peoples. Different cultures, languages, styles of living has rendered a variation unlike many other around the world.
However, looking at the number of challenges all the way from the unit of the family to society at large is not easy and doesn’t occupy my mindspace all the time. This was just an attempt to quantify the emotion about the fact that life is a struggle. Among other things I’ve wondered how meditation fits into all this. It fits well and has helped me as I’ve practiced (consistently) over the past six months. I don’t think it matters which app or practice you follow but the action to practice is what is important. I’ve started to realise that I’m present in some thing that is way larger and encompasses a space beyond me and my epoch, whatever name one wants to give it but that also means that my actions are consequential for a very small part of the universe around me. It does by no means imply that I am relegated of responsibility. Quite the contrary, the responsibility to observe my actions as causes and then my reactions to other things is more important if I have a need to understand how this works.
On another note and in a very contorted and abstracted way feeling hurt by some of the closest people feels … hurtful. The poison and the pain are disproportionate not because of the actions of the other person but because of the level of expectations that one builds up. There are times when some of these closest people are selfish not consciously but out of a need for self preservation. In such a state their definitions of what is right and wrong gets contorted and they lose the ability to evaluate their decisions. It happens to me and the best of us. This is just human. Meditation might make you realise this sense of loss of control when the person is in the moment but I think it only takes a significant amount of practice to overcome these human instincts. Add to this the fact that sometimes these people may not have the best intellectual capabilities and then it only pushes these issues and their resulting arguments and disagreements more downhill. Perhaps, more compassion and that’s the lesson I need to derive.
Things I need to be grateful for:
the awareness to avoid the feeling of victimhood
the good that has been bestowed upon me by people that were in my life when I was born and the people I got to know along the way
the amount of goodness in everyday that is serendipitous
Much has changed and much needs to be written about but this draft needs to go out now. Signing out of this disjointed post to do something more irrelevant but hey I salvaged the day despite all the hurdles.
Ukraine got attacked by Russia and I can’t necessarily pinpoint the date because there had to be ongoing operations before the day that things became apparent publicly. This just looks like another event in the world that I’m not completely sure would impact everyone in the world but it is just another event that exposes the fragility of the human condition or the human experience, depending upon how you look at life. People will suffer, and many will even die on both sides of the war. Unfortunately, it is not the heartbreaking loss of life but how those lives are lost. For no particular reason and the will of a deluded leader of one side. Even if it was the other way around or my own country was involved I don’t think war is ever the solution to a problem. It is a thing to get everyone involved and mired in debate but it doesn’t solve many problems. It only pushes out the necessary decisions that need to be made. Also, now that people have moved away from the conversations about COVID it looks like there is another even to distract the world from their day-to-day life. Perhaps from my own life? I think the world is looking at the events like I am looking at life. In aggregate everything averages out. This last sentence isn’t the most simple way of saying this but I think as one goes through the posts here it will seem as if this life was just another human trying to understand things and that is what I mean. Now that I have veered this conversation into myself now is a good time to talk about what is going on with me.
I just got done with a few conversations about opportunities outside of my current firm. It was not the easiest but I managed to go through the conversations. In all honestly, I don’t think it went well. It felt like I touched upon all the topics that I should have during my conversations but my audience that is the people I was talking to felt like they were a little blank and lost, perhaps even disappointed with the answers to the issues. However, I will say that it was a good conversation and it was genuinely a conversation to get to know me unlike ‘interviews’ back in my homeland and many post-colonial regions in the world. Here is a short excerpt from a life long gone.
Six years ago I interviewed for an MBA school in Singapore. It was one of the leading schools that is usually featured on global lists of best schools in the world and I was excited about the conversation. Unfortunately, since the school is based in a country that continues to derive its processes from the English ways of life an interview is less of a conversation and more of an interrogation. Someone that comes from one of the countries that were previously a colony will relate to this sentiment. Interviews in the west are more like “conversations”. Interviewers will often even refer to them as conversations. This was one of the first things that caught me by surprise when I started my journey of applications to the schools in the US. At any rate, this interview was an evaluation and I thought I was ready. Somewhere in the conversations the interviewer’s second hand ( who I later realized was a second-year student) asked me what about other interests of mine, you know like outside of wanting to pursue an MBA? Innocently and in a rather forward manner I stated that I’ve always wanted to start a podcast. The moment I uttered the ‘t’ in the podcast I realized I had made an error. He raised his eyebrow and said “Oh! Podcast… Interesting. What do you like to podcast about? Can you share it with us?” I said it was an interest and I had not yet started publishing the episodes.
Now in retrospect, I realize that many people can potentially give such an answer and use it simply as a filler or just as an excuse when you have nothing else to do. I could perhaps convince someone that I was genuine and I was true in my answer. I was genuinely interested in starting a podcast but no, I will not do that right now. All I remember about this incident is that the person asking the questions felt victorious. He had now cracked the accused in the interrogation. He had found out a fake and had a reason to eliminate the person from the roster. After all, that’s what the interviews are there for in the first place in those colonies. They understand the way to eliminate, dehumanize and demoralize. Heavy words for a simple conversation but worthy categorization that anyone who has been through a similar interview will relate to well. Interviews in most firms today, even those hedge funds which proclaim “pressure” interviews aren’t personally demeaning to the extent of my interactions with employers in the subcontinent and around. Maybe I just didn’t come across the best ones and hopefully, they have now changed their practices.
Back to the present, I realize the blog didn’t have a lot of posts recently. I had to stay away from the blog for a few days and it looks like the ‘muscle’ to write about things has atrophied which is why I had to force myself to get here. Not like in the previous times it wasn’t a struggle but it was more of a struggle this time. I tried external factors like coffee, music, and, location however nothing seemed to work until I got to Chris Hitchens. I don’t know if any specific combinations or everything I tried out worked but here I am writing away. Perhaps time to take a look at my drafts but now that I have talked about Hitchens perhaps a little bit about his impact or just him. But before I get to more about Hitch a little bit about my experience at the IBJJF Atlanta Open that took place on February 12th.
The question about blue is always lingering in my head. I know it’s not about the level but about whether or not I am capable of something on the mat. This test of being able to be tested without the nerves has always been there with me right from the start. I have started to believe it is more genetic but perhaps there are many things I can do about it. The net of it all is that I still need to grow in a lot of areas in life.
So I competed in yet another IBJJF competition. I wonder if I should say competed because the match lasted hardly 5 minutes. I struggled during the scramble but the nerves weren’t as bad as the last time or as bad as I had thought they would be. If I’m being perfectly honest with you I don’t remember if there weren’t nerves but I remember being confident about the scramble. I call it a scramble because in my head now it’s almost like a blur. Tugging and tearing at the opponent’s gi while trying to get a grip to pull him onto the ground.
What actually happened was that 2 minutes into the scramble I felt myself curve into a ball but, not a ball like defensive move and instead a very confident ball knowing exactly where I need to place my foot to get the next transition. I wish I could say that I won but perhaps it is not yet meant to be. Perhaps the lessons I am destined to learn are from the losses.
I spoke to my opponent later and I was emotional about his state in life. He had a grown son who was at least 15 and he was proud to show me his family. He also mentioned his background in wrestling which my mind was quick to pick up on and justify as the reason for his strong sprawl. Oh no, now I know it wasn’t my weak arms tugging at him, it was his superior wrestling background. No, I won’t deceive you here, I was pathetic at it physically but my mentality was different this time. It was this latter part that I have come to take as my experience and learning from the match and experience. It is exhilarating to see people coming to terms with their challenges in life, getting out of their comfort zone, and trying to do something to prove to themselves that they will not just sit on the sidelines waiting for something good to happen to them.
I don’t want to fool myself or you by assuming that there aren’t harder challenges in life or that I would have achieved a grand accomplishment had I won this tournament. There isn’t much more deceptive than to say that this is one of the hardest things in life. The challenge is to set aside those hard things in life and make progress in multiple aspects at the same time. Now back to my inspiration about Hitch and how I feel about the world in this later part of February.
“It is only when you have grazed on the lower slopes of your own ignorance and began to understand the grand vistas of non-knowledge that you have, that you can claim to be educated at all”
Christopher Hitchens, Reddit AMA, 2009
As always, one thing that has disturbed me is the ignorance and attitude of people towards subjects. In school I wanted to spend time admiring the history behind the person who came up with the theories. The beauty of the equation impressed me more than the race to solve the equations at the end of the chapter. I sometimes took pride in being the first to come up with the answer but soon I found myself distracted from the subject by the stories behind the subject. People in general however are not interested in most things. Neither the outcomes nor the process and nor the process to come up with the process seems to be of interest to them. And yet they come to the stage with a confidence even if they are sometimes not aware of the subject completely. Even while writing this I am completely aware that the fault is perhaps completely mine because I am asking too much from un-interrogative minds. Perhaps they are not meant to be asking any questions in the first case. Among all of this Christopher Hitchens comes across as a balm – healing my soul and my intellect. I do not understand how much one needs to stretch themselves to match that intellect or the intellect of someone similar (for example Peter Thiel). I guess one things that I can do is calm myself to thing about one thing at a time and here is where my efforts to meditate come in to the picture.
One hundred and eighteen days and I’ve not necessarily felt anything different. I have abandoned the the need to feel like I’m waiting for something to happen next. Sam Harris calls it waiting like a cat for something to happen next. I am making progress in visualizing myself floating through the ether with things happening all around me. At the same time I’m also facing a weird sort of degradation in my faculties operating as a sane member of society. I’m losing my strength of will and losing control over flow of my own conversations. Maybe there are many things going on at the same time or I’m not able to keep track of things or prioritize them.
I have to keep trudging along and making sure that I don’t let my ship sink until all the tasks are done. There are miles to go before I sleep and the choice of the road in front of me is not even binary. Sometimes I think ignorance was bliss but then I quickly realize that if I was ignorant. I wouldn’t have had the realization that I’m ignorant. So perhaps if now that I think I’m not ignorant I’m more ignorant than ever? Perhaps a question for Escher!
The amount of noise in the system seems to be at an all-time high right now. I wonder if this is just an externalization of what is going on inside my brain or the world is really in a bad shape right now. Almost everyone around me physically and virtually seems to be doing and thinking about things incorrectly. Unfortunately, the time is limited for everyone. The ultimate question is how does one make the most of this limited time?
What does approximately 900 hours of meditation teach one? I don’t know if there is some hidden meaning that will be unravelled after a given amount of time but I’m sure when I get to a point when the feeling won’t be one of sudden realization. Similar to the feeling after any hard endeavor there is a feeling of realization to which one can’t pin-point to and say that “here, this is when things started to make sense“. I think that my takeaway is going to be nothing special but something understood already like this that things eventually pass and that this too shall pass. At the very least I can say that now when I sit down to practice I sometimes instantaneously shift into a frame of mind which disassociates me from my physical presence. This seems mystical but it is not. It is probably most similar to how I feel when I am in a state of extreme pain, sadness or joy.
Looking at the internet and talking to friends and family it seems like people are lost and everyone is grasping at whatever seams seem to give them a semblance of meaning. Some find meaning in family, others follow people they admire for their lifestyles, their business, or some other aspect of their life. Net-net people are not sure about what their life should mean and they are grasping at things that help them give their lives some meaning.
I think first-principles can help in this case but one can quickly turn nihilistic if you look at things too objectively. I think you have to consciously pepper in some amount of emotion while being very conscious and cognizant that you’ve done that. One has to be mindful about how they look at things, events, occurrences, and situations around themselves. At any moment life will spin out of control. Those things that you hold very personal and close to your heart will disappear and shatter, what will all these things mean then? These might be the things that you expect are the things that are closest to your heart or you might not have realized that they were important to you. Is your brain as noisy as well?
This is for you. It’s never easy and it takes effort. The easy part is to make up your mind. Executing and consistency is the hard part. Laurels are not won on the stage or during the performance in front of hundreds or thousands or hundreds of thousands. They are earned in the early mornings, the times where you take a step and question yourself about whatever it is that you are doing and then proceed, either by deluding yourself in some vision of the future or by convincing yourself that every other option is pointless, in the times when your face is marred with defeat but you decide to dust it off and get back at it.
Life isn’t a big fancy movie but it’s got ups and downs just like any adventure. In all of that action, resolve is paramount. Results come by virtue of staying at things, consistency and repetition are key. Repeated movement around the sun, around the objectives, and around whatever propels us forward. Forward towards whatever is next. I have been doing daily meditation for 80 days now and can tell there’s a difference from when I first started. To drop whatever is going on and proceed with an effort to realize something. The realization that this body is floating in a sea of things that are taking place irrespective, is not small. However, it is the action of consistency that makes you realize the importance of the little things amidst what seems like a futile journey.
I will write more about the process sometime as well but for now this is just a check-in.