I lived in a ‘hole’ once,

And the nicest hole it was.

At least that is what I thought,

Until something made me pause.

My hole looked big and pretty,

When I crouched inside it.

But when I stretched my arms wide,

I could barely fit.

It was not a problem of course,

For all ‘holes’ were like that.

‘That is how we are supposed to live’,

Everyone living in a ‘hole’ told me that.

One night I saw in a dream,

A bird! Soaring high! Spreading its wings!

Blissful, bold and free,

Majestic as the kings.

I woke up in my hole, stirred.

And forcefully shut the dream out.

‘It is what people do’, I thought,

‘They love their holes throughout.’

But alas, the dream had been dreamt!

Back into my mind it flew,

“You think your ‘hole’ holds you firm?” it said,

“It’s not the hole, it’s you!”

No longer did I want to waste

My days in this ‘tiny’ hole,

Blinded by what others do,

No wings! No joy! No heights to soar!

The treaded path of the ‘holed’ ones

Made them empty, blocked their vision.

Blowing kisses to my dream,

I surmised, made a decision.

I want the ‘whole’, not a ‘hole’

Why refuse to see beyond?

To stretch! To seek within!

To reach out to the magic wand!

The transforming wand is within

But leave the ‘hole’, you must!

See the ‘whole’, be the ‘whole’,

Shine like a gem! Why go for dust?

I  once read a quote that said, “Be willing to surrender what you are for what you can become!”

Change is exciting. And yet, it is fearful  for many. Fearing the unknown, we refuse to change. We close our eyes to the ‘wings’ change will give us to make us better.

I implore you to contemplate on your present and your past to make way for a better future.

If you think you cannot, you won’t! So think you can, and you will!

— Nivedita Shori


Try to be like …

Try to be like the turtle — at ease in your own shell.

~ Bill Copeland

In the olden times, the human race was hardworking, patient and tolerant. Whenever and wherever, whatever they did, they allowed the activity to run its full natural course, without looking for shortcuts. They did not rush through things hastily. They did not seem to be eager for results. The results came automatically. They were usually positive— an outcome of seemingly lengthy, natural processes. Those processes look cumbersome in today’s times, but they were not perceived to be so by those people. They were satisfied with their working. They enjoyed life as it was. It was fulfilling enough for them.

In the present ‘progressive’ world, that sort of lifestyle is obsolete and redundant. Life is fast these days. Technology has made us automated and daily routines have much more to offer. Outcomes are a focus. ‘Efficiency’ seems to be a key requirement.  We feel that we do not need to take weeks or months to do what can be done in a few days. The quality does not seem to be a big consideration.  Quantity and speed are the things that count the most. We are full of ideas and plans, and try to materialize them through modern means at the fastest speed. Technology has made it seem like everything is possible, rational and logical. Sometimes we do not know whether we have actually gained or lost on our way to ‘fulfilment’, but nevertheless, we do not question the process.

A growing wish these days, especially among youth, is to look attractive. The readymade answer to this wish initially comes in the form of clothing, cosmetics, and accessories, to name a few. People try to look impressive by showing off the things they have, for instance, fancy-looking electronic devices.

After trying these things, they often realize that something is still missing. They feel their goal of impressing others has not been fully achieved. So, they start focussing on their bodies. Boys decide to show off some muscles and the girls concentrate on losing weight to look prettier. Some youth even resort to artificial, chemical means of achieving this. However, those who consider themselves more aware and health-conscious opt for exercising. Lots of gymnasiums and health centres have cropped up as a result of an increasing trend to ‘look fit’.These centres have grown like mushrooms within the last ten years.

The tendency of the individuals going to these gyms is, as described earlier, to get the maximum results in a minimum amount of time. They are left with no other option but to exert themselves more than what is necessary to be healthy. If they come across someone who appears to be more attractive than they are, they push themselves further than what their capacity allows.

Unfortunately, they do this in the name of inspiration, encouragement and motivation. It is good to be influenced by someone or something in a positive way, but at the same time, it is also important to remember one’s own strengths, limitations and uniqueness. Being inspired is not the same thing as ‘comparing’. The deeprooted tendency of comparison in our society leads to the desire to be ‘like others’ or even ‘better than others’.

The gyms continue to promote the mentality of fast results through weighing machines and measuring tapes. Expected result-lists and trainers are available, promoting the spirit of achieving goals fast. Most of us who adopt this practice do not even care that we are experimenting with our bodies and are putting ourselves in vulnerable situations. Each and every one of us has different physical capabilities and limitations. Comparison with others and using the same criteria for everyone is not logical.

The over-exertion during workouts usually does more harm than good. Most people I know— including myself— have been  either to a physiotherapist or to an orthopaedic doctor at least once in their lifetime due to gym-related injuries — sprains, tendonitis, ligament ruptures, tennis elbow, hernia and many more. The desire for fast results leads to problems that can leave a person severely uncomfortable for a long period of time, and sometimes even permanently.

Around eight years back, I went to visit and stay at an aashram for an isolated spiritual retreat. I was slightly overweight those days and one of my goals during my two-month stay at that place was to lose some weight. On reaching there, the first question I asked the inmates was whether there was any type of fitness centre in the aashram. With a smile, they shook their heads and told me that the use of gyms was restricted, just like the use of televisions, newspapers, cellphones and even mirrors. I was disappointed at first, but then I decided to do what the others did— take a long walk in the morning, a run in the evening, some light exercises twice a day, food that had been carefully selected and healthily prepared, a relaxed and a focussed mind. I left my goals and plans aside and stuck to the routine dedicatedly, as naturally as possible.

After two months, when I returned home, my family members could not believe my transformation. Unkowingly, I had achieved my goal. Everyone I met wanted to know the magic behind losing the extra weight and looking well-nourished and refreshed. The mirror revealed my new look to me, and I realized that my overall self-image had taken a healthy bend. I understood then that a normal, healthy lifestyle is the answer to most of our plans and wishes. Using modern-day ‘efficient’ means, we mar the fulfilment of those wishes. We feel that we need to take control of every situation, forgetting that nature’s control is the most supreme. Following the natural course, albeit with dedication, one can live a better life without tiring or hurting oneself. I, for instance, not only just looked good, but I also felt good. My purpose was not to show off to others that I had outdone them and therefore my health-results were stress-free.

As far as fitness goes, I believe it is important to remember that the purpose is to be disease-free, strong and positive— both physically and mentally. Having a calm disposition is as important as having a healthy body. Both these things reside in a healthy lifestyle. A life that is lived for speed and outcomes does not lead to fulfilment. We feel that this ‘haste’ is working for others, and so we decide to join their bandwagon, not realizing that a life lived with a simple approach brings the best results. Our self-image is just one of the things that thrives well on this simplicity.

— Prashant Shori

Expressing Emotions

In the words of an American Nature photographer, Ansel Adams, All should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.”

        Some would say that we are what we feel. Our emotions are reflective of our personalities and our character. However, emotions are like a complex web. A lot of our own emotions are intermingled together and it becomes difficult to understand them. Due to this, it becomes all the more difficult to express them. While reading a book on Interpersonal Communication titled Everyday Encounters (authored by Julia Wood and Anne Schweitzer), I came across some reasons that prevent us from expressing our emotions, especially in a socially pressurizing world:

Speaking in generalities is the first mistake we make in expressing our emotions. This refers to making very general and abstract statements about what we are feeling. We sometimes use vague words like ‘bad’ or ‘upset’. We fail to define ‘how’, ‘why’ and to ‘what level’ we are feeling this emotion.

            I still remember when this generality created a big confusion between me and my wife. Once I was working on a project and was sitting on my laptop almost for the whole day. In the evening I suddenly got up from the computer and said, “Yeah!! I am happy now”. Next morning I saw my wife getting ready to go out. I was surprised as I recalled that we had already decided to cancel this plan to go out due to my project. I asked her why she was getting ready. She said, “Didn’t you express happiness yesterday evening after finishing your project? So now that you have finished it, obviously we should keep our original plan and go out”. It took me a few seconds to understand what she meant. Then I realized my mistake. I explained to her that actually the statement  “I am happy” was made because I got an extension of half a day to submit my project and it is now due tonight instead of in the morning. I told her that I still have a lot to do to finish it and the expression of happiness yesterday had nothing to do with the completion of the project. This was a great learning experience for me that taught me not to make broad general statements that could be misunderstood. I needed to be specific.

Not taking responsibility for what we are feeling and expressing, but blaming others instead leads to flawed expression. This attribute makes people ineffective and destructive in relationships as parents, partners or even friends. Some people lay responsibility on other people while expressing their emotions, for instance, “You are driving me crazy”. By saying so, they are blaming the other person for how they themselves are feeling. If they took responsibility for their emotion, they would be more specific and help themselves and the other person to solve the problematic issue. For instance, the above statement of “You are driving me crazy” does not need the word “You” at all. Pinpoint the exact issue and express your problem clearly: “The high volume of your music system is hurting my ears and it is making me go crazy”. By stating this, by communicating correctly, the person is not transferring the blame on another person, but is rather projecting him as a helper. By communicating clearly, we are able to easily find a solution to the problem we are facing, in this case lowering the volume, for instance.

Using counterfeit language is another reason for lack of effective expression of emotions. This is when a person says or does something due to a certain feeling but does not actually describe what he is feeling. This expression is depicted in the form of agitated verbal and body language. This kind of miscommunication is more common in youngsters. It reminds me of a very funny incident that happened a long time back. My aunt came from India to visit her daughter in Canada. Her teenaged grandson got attached to her in no time. One day when her daughter came home from work she noticed that her mom was very sad. When asked she said, “Your son told me to go back and leave the house”. Her daughter started laughing and said, “I am sure he did not mean it.” She asked the little boy. He told his mom, “Granny was telling me again and again not to watch T.V. which made me upset and so I said that. But I like Granny a lot. Please don’t let her go away.”  Her mother smiled and said, “Honey, you should have said what you meant. You should have told Granny that you really want to watch your show and that you are feeling upset that she is not letting you watch it and is suggesting the same thing over and over again.” Thus, using language that counterfeits the meaning of what you want to say, can be damaging.

            We need to understand the right way to express our emotions. On the other hand, some people think that expressing themselves and talking about things that affect them does not change anything around them. This is not true. Our perceptions change because of how we feel. Expressing those feelings in the right way is equally important. By expressing our emotions, we connect with the world. It also relieves us in many unknown ways. Venting our feelings in the right way helps us take care of ourselves and of others, especially our immediate family and friends, in a better way.

~ Prashant Shori

Pursuing Glory

Kay was a famous corporate manager. His career started off at a low-profile company but escalated speedily. He hopped from one big corporation to the next, excelling in what he was doing and receiving the rewards he deserved – a good reputation and a decent salary that eventually became exorbitant. He was able to afford the luxuries that he had only seen in the movies until a few years ago.

In a few years however, he was living only for these luxuries. The wealth he had earned became a starting point for more and yet more accumulation. He thought that with his hard work, he could buy anything. Sometimes, stories he had heard in his childhood would flash in Kay’s mind – stories about how people fell into the traps of greed and want, never being able to live a contented life again. But whenever such thoughts came to his mind, he snubbed them out quickly. He was now full-speed ahead in his lifestyle and the mere thought of slowing down made him nervous.

In time, he got a big house and got married. His wife saw him as a really important man at first, but she eventually realized that he was living a life only to provide comforts to his family. In the process, he seemed to have lost the importance of relationships and relaxation. Their two children rarely saw their father who had to leave the house early and return quite late.  He could not be present at any of their school events or to read them bedtime stories. He was too tired and too occupied for all this. He could not go on family vacations as his position in the company was ‘too sensitive for time-off.’

In Kay’s eyes, he was doing his best for his family. He thought that providing them with money and resources was his only job. His family could afford every pleasure because of the wealth Kay earned. His kids had all the latest technology they wanted, his wife shopped for top-brand clothes and accessories, they had luxury cars, maids and servants to help them out, and were able to materialize all of their whims and fancies. Kay felt satisfied thinking, “What more could a man give to his family?”

In his family’s eyes, Kay was the father-who-was-never-there. Initially, his children complained and put up a fight about this, but eventually realized that they did not fit into their father’s packed schedule. They were happy with the cool things that their father let them buy but deep inside their hearts, they were sad that they could not share their joy with him.  Kay, who thought he was doing everything for his children, did not even know that his children actually needed him more than anything else. His wife, whose dream it had always been to live a life of sharing, caring, laughing and enjoying had learnt to be content with
shopping, looking pretty, decorating the house, organizing parties and ensuring everyone knew about their family’s financial status.

There was no doubt that Kay was really good at his professional work. Unfortunately, he was at work for so long and so often, that eventually, it was the only thing that he was good at. Somewhere along the road, Kay had ‘become’ what he did for a living. His identity was his work. Even though he had made a name for himself in the corporate world, he had forgotten to live life as a person, as a human being. His mind was never ready to think about anything except his work.

Never once did Kay pause to think, “Who really am I as a person, as a human being, as a husband, as a father and so on? Is this human life limited to increasing the profits of a corporate company? If I did not have this job, who would I be? Why am I so busy in filling my coffers overlooking the beauties this life and this world have to offer? Have my most meaningful accompaniments – my wife and my children – become reduced to fixtures? Was I born only to earn money?

Such a living style had become his passion, his mission. He took increasing stress for successive steps to his path — the path to glory. But stress is stress and gradually, this stressful life began to take a toll on his health. He did not have time even to see the doctor. Whenever he did go to the doctor, he was advised to re-plan his life, relax and unwind. The advice never worked. He continued to do whatever was required to rise higher and higher in his profession. Eventually, the stress showed up. One day, he had to be rushed to the hospital when he fainted during a heated meeting with a client. His condition was serious. The doctors were not sure if he would survive.

Kay’s life flashed before his eyes. All he saw was meetings with clients, convincing his team members, leading projects, his office and his pending files. Pushing aside everything, he asked to see his wife. She responded quickly and arranged a full-time attendant as she herself was scheduled to attend some meetings.  In the endless race for materialism, Kay had forgotten to show his family what togetherness meant. Everyone had started going by a fixed schedule, with no time for anything or anyone. His children, on hearing about their father’s condition, sent him flowers. They did not show up to look after him or to talk to him as they already had their day chalked out. Kay was responsible for all this. In all his wisdom and sincerity, he had modelled this. In the early years after his marriage, whenever his wife called him in the office to tell him that their child was sick, he would call his secretary to send for a doctor and also arrange for flowers to be delivered. He himself was too occupied to take time off to comfort his family. Now, the ‘standard’ had been set.

A new flash now appeared before Kay’s eyes. All of a sudden, life seemed like such a waste. Accomplishments seemed so superficial. What had once seemed like moments of glory now appeared to have nothing glorious about them. The real glory had been lost. A human life had been lost in meaningless pursuits and now lay helpless on a hospital bed.

~ Nivedita Shori

What’s Your Story

We all live a storied life. If you think about it, life is one story after another. When we relate an incident, make a diary-entry or think of a memory, we are actually re-living a certain story from our life. Although this is a figurative meaning of ‘story’, the literal sense of stories is equally important. From bedtime stories to moral stories, from news stories to novels, from traditional stories passed on across generations to specific stories happening in our day-to-day lives – all stories have their own place and help shape our identity.

I urge you to think about some of the stories that have had an important role in your life, in making you who you are. Some might have been stories from your personal life, while others might have been stories about a different person, family or even society. Some might have been with purely fictional characters, while others might have been as real as you are. It is my belief that just ‘reading’ those stories, that is, becoming conscious of them, reminiscing about them, will enable us to ‘write’ more remarkable stories for our future.

In reading a book called ‘The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative’ by Thomas King (an award-winning Canadian author and scholar), I realized how tremendously powerful stories are— at personal and social levels both. They identify our past, and play a role in shaping our present and future. Stories connect us to our roots, reveal things that might leave us shaken and can make us see the world in a different light. In the words of King, “Stories are wondrous things. And they are dangerous.”

While we are talking about stories, here is a note for those who, like me, are avid story-readers:

Stories, if told with a purpose, help broaden one’s perspective and in some cases, transform one’s outlook. While taking a course with David Booth (professor emeritus at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto), I had come to dwell upon his words, “If you read a novel and it does not change your life in some way, then it was a waste of time.” My readings have since then had conscious moments of realization about the effect of the text.

Take a trip into the world of stories, into a world that will make you a better thinker – about yourself and about life in general.

— Nivedita Shori

Introspection is a process which involves analysing, evaluating and appraising what one has already done. These ‘done’ actions could be physical as well as mental. When one thinks about these actions and reflects over the past, it leaves a positive influence on his present and future. By introspecting, one cannot go back to rectify the past. But one can definitely understand its effects and can avoid the chances of repeating the past mistakes.

Before I started writing on this topic, following my old habit, I checked the dictionary-meaning of the word ‘introspection’ and found it to be stated as, “The act of looking within oneself”. I found this meaning quite simple and understandable. After contemplating over it for some time, I realized that this may sound simple but the process is not so simple.

To explain its complexity, I want to share a story that a preacher had once shared with me and my family :

A family once came to the preacher for some counselling. The problem the family was facing was constant disputes, quarrels, and unhealthy arguments among the members. The head of the family was complaining, “My son never listens to me, my daughter-in-law always disobeys, my grandson does not know how to talk to his elders and my wife always counters whatever I say.” The preacher asked him if there were any flaws or problems in his own behaviour  towards others. He said that he did not have any problem. It was the other members that had the problem. They were the ones responsible for the quarrels. The preacher further asked the man if he got involved in the quarrels. He spontaneously replied, “I do, but I never initiate those arguments. It is always someone else who does.” After a small pause, the preacher asked him what he thought the solution should be. Quite confidently, he replied, “Tell all my family members to improve themselves and to start behaving the way they should.”

“What about you?” asked the preacher.

To this, the man assertively said, “Once everyone else improves, the problem will automatically go away.”

The dialogues of the head of the family in this story clearly depict that he is the last person in the family who wants to change himself. He wanted everyone else to make a change but he realized neither the need, nor the importance of contemplating and reflecting over his own behaviour. Interestingly, most of us share the same views as that of the character in the story. It is very easy to blame others, but it is really hard to sit down and think, “What was my role in the situation? What could I have done differently to make the situation better? Is it the environment, surroundings and other people who are the cause of the problem or is there something wrong with me which contributes in making the situation worse? Honestly speaking, we all avoid thinking of our own responsibility. We wish for the world to be a better place full of responsible citizens, sans our own selves. It is easy to pass the buck on to others, isn’t it?

Sometimes I find myself getting entrapped in situations that demand introspection but I feel that I have failed to do so. The two major reasons which I think act as obstacles are ignorance and ego. Depending upon the situation, either one or both the factors are  at play.

Ignorance is the lack of understanding about the importance of introspection. Introspection refines the mind and behaviour. It helps a person to figure out whether his mistakes were intentional or unintentional. In the case of intentional mistakes the process of introspection helps to find out the reasons and the validity of the actions performed by the doer. He asks himself, “What made me do what I have done? Are the expected benefits of this action worth it? Which direction am I going in with my life?” Such questions help us to review and recover.

In the case of unintentional mistakes, introspection helps to figure out our carelessness that caused a mismatch between the intention and the action.

The other obstacle in the process of self-introspection is ego. In many situations, somewhere in our heart we know that we should evaluate our actions, but our ego comes in the way, telling us impressively that all our actions are foolproof and we are devoid of any mistakes. This ego, on the other hand, does an ‘excellent’ job of finding faults in others – just as the story mentioned above has showed – but totally fails to demonstrate the same in the person himself.

Self-Introspection is a basic tool required in our life. It can make us better with each passing day. Moreover, the betterment it brings will not be limited only to us  but will spread in the environment to make it healthier and happier.

Indeed, introspection is a pre-requisite for a journey within ourselves.

— Prashant Shori