Can Someone Tell Me What Zen Is

SF - November 2019

In a recent conversation that I had with a friend, she was describing to me some of her recent spiritual experiences and some details about the path she follows. As I was listening to her, one thing that struck me instantly is that this is not Zen. There is something non-Zen about this.

Because of my interest in Zen and the several references that I make to it in my talks, my training programs, my coaching sessions and even in my writing, I get asked this one question pretty often. What exactly is Zen? I’ve read several books on Zen, watched videos as well as spoken to people. All of which gave me some knowledge about it. Yet my best and deepest understanding of Zen came from over 20 years of meditation that I’ve been practicing. The meditation per se is not focused on Zen. But when I started learning about Zen, I realized that I knew what it was a while ago. There are several quotes about understanding Zen that sort of suggest its inexplicable nature. Two that come to mind at the moment are these.

“There is more to Zen than the Japanese tea ceremony. There is no more to Zen than the Japanese tea ceremony.”

“If you understand, things are just as they are. If you don’t understand, things are just as they are.”

I particularly realized this every time I read something about Zen. You can never tell someone what Zen really is. If you do, then you end up telling them something that is well short of what Zen actually is. What has worked best for me and some others who’ve made a genuine attempt to understand Zen is to keep accumulating some of its qualities. It’s something like understanding what a teaspoon of honey feels like when poured into your mouth. Knowing that it is sweet, gives you some clues. Knowing that it has a thick syrupy feel gives you some more idea. Knowing that the taste will stay strong in your mouth for a bit and then fade away into your throat tells you more. Also, knowing what it’s not. Knowing that it is not spicy, not salty, not pungent, tells you certain things about what honey feels like in your mouth. Likewise, out of the many things I understand about Zen, here are four things that I can safely say are true. And still, these are by no means a substitute for actually tasting the honey yourself. These are qualities of Zen in terms of what it is and what it is not that would help in getting closer to an understanding.

First of all, Zen is not a thought, it’s not a concept, it’s not a notion or mindset and it’s certainly not an idea. It’s an experience. Therefore reading or talking about Zen will only get you to skim the surface.

Secondly, Zen is simple. If something is too complex and difficult to understand or grasp, then that is certainly not Zen. Zen is about simplicity. In fact Zen is so simple that you might discover it and be surprised that you missed it all along because of its simplicity.

Thirdly, Zen is never seeking to become or seeking at all. Zen is about being. Any phenomenon that is seeking to get better, seeking to be elsewhere or seeking to transform in any way whatsoever is not Zen. Zen is at peace with itself.

Fourthly and finally, nobody can tell you what Zen is. The best that a book or video or even a teacher can do is to put you in the general area where you might get a sense of what it is. You have to get a glimpse of it and experience it yourself.

Then when you do and you get repeated glimpses of it, you become more and more tuned to it and you tend to know almost through instinct whether something is Zen or not. That’s exactly what happened while I was talking to the friend who I described at the start of this article.

The “Now Nothing” Philosophy

The Now Nothing Philosophy - September Stayfit 2019

The chase is on for most of us. I’ve studied hard and gotten good grades, now what? I’ve found a girlfriend, boyfriend, wife or husband. Now what? I’ve got a great job and am doing really well in life. Now what? I’ve got a great circle of friends, I’m in great health, I’ve bought my favourite car, I’ve got a house, I’ve gotten my kids married, I’ve learnt many things that I’ve always wanted to, I’ve traveled to all countries that I’ve wanted to travel to, I’ve achieved spiritual progress and I’ve done everything on my bucket list. Now what? This is what I call the “Now What” mindset. The attitude of wanting to chase one thing after another and never reaching a point where you’re truly satisfied and want no more. The need to find the next high in life and pursue it in the fond illusion that when you get there you’ll feel good and be happy. Of course you will. But only briefly. Because you’ve trained yourself to not stay in that phase too long and quickly dive into the chase again. What this mindset does is that it keeps you tied on the endless treadmill of dissatisfaction, chasing, momentary excitement and then dissatisfaction again.

The opposite of that and perhaps a better way to live life is through what I call the “Now Nothing” philosophy. This is where you stop constantly asking yourself the question “Now What?” When you’ve had any sort of achievement in life, however small or big, and you catch yourself asking the question “Now What?”, just remind yourself that well, “Now Nothing”. This puts you in a place where you give yourself the permission to enjoy the moment and bask in the sense of achievement and experience the pleasure of living without diluting or diffusing happiness too quickly. While the “Now What” mindset hates the equilibrium that is achieved after a dream is realized, the “Now Nothing” philosophy embraces this equilibrium instead of disturbing it. People who’ve lived for years through the “Now What” mindset also carry this into their daily activities. I’ve read the newspaper, Now what? I’ve had breakfast, I’ve watched this movie, I’ve met my friends, I’ve taken the kids to the park….Now what. A new week has started, now what? The weekend is here again, now what? And so on.

The next time you catch yourself saying “Now What?” Just repeat to yourself in your head the mantra “Now Nothing” firmly and assertively. Then sit back and enjoy where you are and what you’re doing. Remind yourself that there is nothing that’s happening elsewhere and there is nothing you need to do that will make you happier than you are right now. When you’re chasing something, you’re telling your mind and soul that you don’t have that thing yet. There is something implicit in the phenomenon of chasing that conveys the idea of lack to your mind. When you follow the “Now Nothing” philosophy, you convey to your mind the idea of abundance and a sense of owning and possessing what you once chased. This will allow you to enjoy the simple and larger pleasures of life more thoroughly rather than zip through life with fleeting moments of happiness here and there.

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If you want to schedule an organizational training or individual coaching session or just have an exploratory consulting conversation. Get in touch with Vinesh Sukumaran.

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The Secret To Finding Positive Emotions

I recently gave a talk at a health and wellness center to a small group of people. I started by telling people to sit down and focus on just being there, instead of worrying about finishing the talk and getting back home or focusing on what will happen next.  I actually announced that we were going to sit there for an hour and just let ourselves be. Allowing ourselves to do nothing and enjoy the process of just being there. I also emphasized that they don’t have to try to change their state or try to make themselves feel more relaxed. They can just sit there feeling the way they are feeling and experiencing what they are experiencing and that’s fine.  Most of them looked a little shocked but agreed to try it. As we sat there, there were some people looking around, some staring into thin air, some looking at each other, etc. Of course after about five minutes I told all of them that we were going to proceeded into the talk. The talk was about applied psychology and the content of it is quite immaterial for this article. What was really fascinating to me was the number of people who came up to me after the talk and told me that they really enjoyed what I made them do during the first five minutes. It made them more at peace, it stilled the wheels of their minds, it brought them back to the present moment and I heard many more such experiences that people had during those five minutes.

In my view, the reason that people found those five minutes so powerful was because, for once, they stopped trying to get into another state and accepted where they were and what they were experiencing. This is the essence and the secret if you like, of achieving some of the most sought after positive emotions in life. If, for example, you are not feeling peaceful for whatever reason, then don’t try to fight it. The moment you start fighting it and working on becoming more peaceful and start doing all sorts of things to achieve that peaceful state, you actually end up becoming a little agitated. And this takes away from the very peace that you’re trying to create. On the other hand, if you just tell yourself, “Well, I’m not peaceful. So what?” This indifference to your lack of peace actually makes you feel more peaceful. The same logic applies to most other positive emotions. Imagine you’re not feeling happy on a particular day for some reason. The more you try to make yourself feel happy, the more you start feeling concerned about why you aren’t so happy. The more you try to fight that lack of happiness, the more true happiness evades you. Try this. Just say to yourself, “Hmmmm.., I’m not really happy right now. But it’s alright. We all have good and bad moments”. This casual attitude opens doors to greater levels of happiness. At least you start feeling happy that it’s not bothering you that much anymore.

So the secret to finding any positive emotion is to not try too hard or even to stop trying altogether. There is something about trying to chase a positive emotion that takes you away from the emotion that you’re trying to experience. So just stop trying.

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If you want to schedule an organizational training or individual coaching session or just have an exploratory consulting conversation with Vinesh Sukumaran, click on the link below.

http://www.vineshsukumaran.com/contact.html

What Really Drives Your Behaviour?

During the launch of my book, “From Behaviour To Wellbeing”, I was asked an interesting question by a member of the audience. “Your book describes human behaviour as one of the most important elements in the world. So is there something beyond behaviour? Is there something more fundamental than behaviour?”

Of course there are things more important than human behaviour and things that actually drive your behaviour. Here are a couple of them.

 

Genetics

You are likely to carry behaviours of people from your previous generation. Particularly your parents and grand parents. Whether you like it or not, your genetics have a huge bearing on some of the behaviours that you demonstrate in life. This is not taking away from the fact that an arrogant father needn’t necessarily have an arrogant son and that children can be nurtured to be more composed and respectful. However, the chances of two arrogant parents having a son or daughter who might also be arrogant could be a little higher purely because of genetics.

 

Logic

This is another dimension that is fundamental to behaviours. People who are addicted to anything bad are almost always sure that there’s no real logic to their addiction. If you’ve ever snoozed your alarm in the morning and gone back to sleep, you know what I’m talking about. In the morning when your alarm goes off, you know that you’re supposed to get up and start your day. But it actually feels more logical to hit the snooze button and go back to sleep.

 

Love

I’ve seen people who are in love, doing some of the most ridiculous things in the world. Sharp and intelligent men who are great at business and life in general, becoming completely irrational and demonstrating really unexpected behaviours. Likewise, people who are tough and pushy on the outside becoming soft and bringing out their innocent and vulnerable sides when they’re in love. Love could be an incredible driving force to bring out people’s power to stretch themselves, take more responsibility and commit to something that they never could have imagined.

 

Attachment

I keep telling people that a behaviour is anything that you do. And a habit is a repeated and regularly demonstrated behaviour. One of the reasons why people have certain habits that they struggle to change is because of their strong attachment to those habits. I don’t just mean the big addictions like cocaine or nicotine. Even if you’re really attached to your cup of coffee in the morning, it would make it a lot more difficult to change that behaviour and stop drinking coffee.

 

My point is that behaviour is an important dimension of your life and could well determine some other things in your life like the level of your overall Wellbeing and the extent of peace and happiness you experience. And yet there are other more fundamental aspects that could be driving your behaviour, a couple of which I’ve listed above. Identifying and working on these fundamentals could be a great way to both change your behaviours as well as develop new ones.

Focus On What’s Going Well

SF - 2 - February 2019

When parents notice their child struggling with a particular subject in school, the instant reaction is to find a tutor for that subject or to send the child for remedial classes. The remedial classes, extra study and effort might bring that student’s weak subject up to power with the stronger ones and I think that’s a good thing. But what often get missed out are the strengths that the student has. A student who is extremely good in the English language but is struggling with Math might spend a lot of time and effort to improve his Math but lose out on the opportunity of building on his real strength of English. This is what I call the Weakest Link Approach. The mindset of focusing on what’s going wrong and what’s not working, while completely neglecting what’s going well. I also see this at play when organizations call me in as a consultant and tell me about everything that is a problem or everything that is not going well. Almost entirely overlooking the things that their people are good at and the things that the organization is doing well. And there’s always something that people are good at and there’s always something going well in any system. Focusing on that is what I call the Strongest Link Approach. The mindset of first accepting that there’s always something going well, focusing on it and eventually allowing that to expand.

To start using this in your own life, just follow this three step process.

  1. Start by first making a list of at least 20 things that you are grateful for. This is a good primer to help you set the right tone and get moving in the right direction. If you can’t think of at least 20 things in your life that you are grateful for, then it’s important to work on doing that first before proceeding. This helps you work on yourself from a point of power, abundance and gratitude.

 

  1. The second step is to think about what specifically might have helped you have some of those 20 things that you are grateful for. Write down three things that are going really well that you can do something about. These could be your strengths, a life situation, an area of your life, something that you possess, etc.

 

  1. Step three is to do at least one thing everyday that helps you focus on and build on what’s already going well in your life.

For example, if three things that I am grateful for are my house, my health and my job. Then the second thing I would do is to think about three things that are really going well. Maybe, in my case, it is the fact that I live in a house that I own, so I don’t have to pay rent. I am in a state of health because I work out everyday. Finally I am in a job that I enjoy because I have the skills that are required for excellence in my job. The third step then would be to do one thing everyday that helps me build on what’s going well. Perhaps take better care of the house that I own and do one thing everyday to keep it clean and looking great. Maybe going for a five kilometer walk everyday or learning martial arts to further improve my health. I might also join a course and spend an hour everyday to read, learn new things and practice and improve the very skills that are getting me to excel at my job.

In the end, what you focus on expands. Since there is enough that is going well for all of us, it totally makes sense to focus on them and allow them to expand to all other areas of our lives.

The Five Levels Of Happiness

Sometimes, it’s worth admitting that happiness is not as easy as saying “either I’m happy, or I’m not.” Like most other things, there are shades of happiness and sadness that one might go through. While there’s no end to the number of different levels that one can break down happiness into, for the purpose of this article, I’ll stick to just five. Here’s how they unfold.

Being Happy

This is the level of happiness where you feel good, content, glad, joyful, blissful, cheerful or whatever the feeling of happiness means to you. The reason why you feel this way is immaterial. What’s more important is that you’re feeling the emotion of happiness.

Being Sad

While I would still call this a level on the happiness scale, what it really signifies is a lack of it. It’s important to realize here, that not only are you not feeling happy, you are feeling down, gloomy, depressed, wretched, miserable or whatever the feeling of sadness means to you. Once again, the reason why you feel this way is immaterial. What matters is that you’re feeling the emotion of sadness.

Being Neutral

This is an interesting level on the happiness scale. Here, you are not feeling happy but you are not feeling sad either. You’re not glad but nor are you gloomy. A lot of us go through such states almost unnoticed. A regular and insignificant day in some people’s lives could feel like this. You wake up in the morning, you get ready, get to work, nothing good or bad happens in office. Then you get back home, it’s a regular evening even at home and nothing that you consider good or bad happens at home either and you get to bed. So, were you happy? No. Were you sad? No. You were feeling neutral.

Being Sad About Being Sad

At this level on the happiness scale, you are not just feeling sad but feeling sad about your sadness. These are times when someone is experiencing sadness and perhaps telling themselves, “why me?”, “why does this have to happen to me always”, or “this sadness will never go away”, etc. The point is that there is pondering and rumination about the sadness that in turn makes the person feel even sadder. This is a meta state and actually is a few notches below just feeling sad.

Being Happy About Being Happy

At this level on the happiness scale, you are not just feeling happy but feeling happy about your happiness. This is when you’re experiencing happiness and that happiness is bolstered and boosted up by thoughts like, “wow! I feel so good”, “this good feeling is really awesome”, “I’m so fortunate to feel so happy”, etc. Eventually, all these positive thoughts about you happiness actually make you feel even happier than you already are. This again is a meta state of happiness and is a cut above even the state of merely being happy.

If you visualize this as different levels, from low to high, at the lowest level would be, “Being Sad About Being Sad”. Just about that level would be, “Being Sad”. This would be followed by “Being Neutral” which is just above and bang in the middle. One level above being neutral is “Being Happy”. Finally, the level that tops all the others is “Being Happy About Being Happy”. If there is one thing that I want to convey through the description of the levels of happiness, it’s this. It’s alright to feel neutral or even to feel sad. When that happens, feel the emotions that you’re going through and carry on with your life. Do what you need to do. This will keep you from spirally downward into mild or deeper states of sadness. If you really want to contemplate and ponder, do that with the happy states that you go through and the positive emotions that you experience. That’s something that will make your happiness sprout and blossom.

 

 

The Magic Of Not Trying Too Hard

The underlying premise of this article comes from the concept of Paradoxical Intention. It’s something that was originally coined and conceptualized by Dr. Viktor Frankl, more popularly known for his ground breaking book, Man’s Search For Meaning. Dr. Frankl saw Paradoxical Intention as something that could be used for therapy and cure of various kinds of phobias and anxiety disorders.

Paradoxical Intention means deliberately and consciously thinking of and exposing yourself to the exact thing that you’re afraid of or trying to avoid. For example, if you are someone who stammers while speaking, you deliberately try to stammer as much as you possibly can. That takes away the pressure on you to not stammer and you end up stammering a lot less than you would otherwise have.

This has several applications in life and since most of the work that I do is related to the applications of psychology, here are a few.

  • Insomnia

If you’re a person who struggles to fall asleep at night, just the thought and the anxieties of not being able to fall asleep could keep you awake. Try this instead. Try to just stay awake. When you do this, it reduces the anxiety of not being able to sleep. Because now, you’re not trying to sleep anyway. This automatically kick starts a process of relaxation that helps you fall asleep a lot more easily.

  • Performance Anxiety

Whether it is on stage, during an exam or in front of an authority figure. When you have to perform, you are trying to do your best and give it your every ounce. As a result you end up becoming nervous about your performance and end up doing the opposite. That is underperforming or not being able to give your best performance. The next time you have performance anxiety, try this. If you have to talk in front of an audience and are afraid that you might goof up. Then get on stage with the intention of goofing up and making people laugh through your mistakes. This will reduce the stress on you to perform and will calm you down enough to speak fluently and comfortably on stage.

  • Fear Of Failure

I meet a lot of people in my coaching sessions who have a very high fear of failure. The fear of failing in a new job, in a new country, in a business or even in a new area of life. What this does is that it makes you avoid that situation. For example, a guy who is afraid of starting a new job in another organization might avoid that situation by sticking on to the same job. In the long run, this causes him to land up in the exact situation that he was trying to avoid. He ends up failing because he kept sticking on to a job that he didn’t fit into but was afraid to shift out of. If you have a fear of failure, then try to enjoy failing. Tell yourself, “I’m going to fail at something every single day. I’m going to practice failing and I’m going to enjoy failing.” This will push you to try new things without the fear of failure and in the process; you’ll be surprised how many things you actually end up being successful at.

To sum all this up in a couple of sentences, do the exact thing that you think will happen to you when you are out of control. Get yourself to purposely magnify and demonstrate the very symptoms that you’re trying to avoid. Dive into more of those scary and outrageous outcomes that you’ve been trying to avoid all along and you’ll trivialize them in your own head. This will eventually produce more of the results that you want in life.

 

Article in the Mindscape Section of the November 2018 Issue of Stayfit Magazine by Vinesh Sukumaran.

To know more about Vinesh and his work visit http://www.vineshsukumaran.com

Things Are Seldom What They Seem

Article in the Mindscape Section of the October 2018 Issue of Stayfit Magazine by Vinesh Sukumaran

The title of this article is a recurrent theme in conversations between a really close friend of mine and me. She sees these words as pearls of wisdom passed on to her by her mother. And having had several long and interesting conversations with her, even I begin to see the relevance and applicability of the statement in several walks of life.

One of the big lessons that I’ve learnt as an organizational development consultant is not to judge organizations or people by their appearance. And over the years, I’ve become extremely slow to judge people. I might be quick to observe something or quick to comment and give feedback but I’ve become really slow to judge people and organizations. The reason is simply because of the number of times that I’ve been wrong and after a point, I realized that evidence and actual facts must always overshadow gut feelings, impressions and opinions. Here are some examples.

I’ve consulted with quite a few organizations which have an absolutely professional image from the outside or the way they’re portrayed on the internet but when I get in as a consultant and start working with them, I start seeing the real picture. Professional and otherwise well respected organizations filled with dirty politics, poor culture and even corrupt and unethical working styles. I’ve seen individuals in organizations, like a really tough manager who is considered a great business negotiator by all. When I start working with him one on one as a coach, I start to see how insecure he really is about his position in the organization. Likewise a really charismatic, good looking and confident woman who from the outside looks like she has it all figured out and is living a wonderful life. Through a series of conversations brings out the horrible difficulties in her personal life and how much validation she actually seeks from others. I’ve also noticed this in relationships. Couples portraying an image of being really happy on social media. Posting pictures of fancy holidays and thoughts that others can only marvel at, thinking how blessed this wonderful couple must be. Only to find out a few weeks later that they are on the verge of an inevitable divorce.

Of course even the opposite is true. Some of the most timid and meek looking people might actually have strong and unshakeable conviction in who they are and hearts of pure iron. A married couple without kids who seem like they are living a mundane and lukewarm life from the outside might actually be sharing the highest amount of respect for each other and enjoying the wildest sex. And organizations that are located in an almost battered bungalow away from the buzz and other IT parks showing the highest level of professionalism and clocking incredible profits.

My basic massage to you is that a lot of things in life might look great or horrible from the outside, but that is not an indicator of what the truth might actually be. Going with what things seem like is a classic mistake a lot of folks make. It pays to dive in and explore what things are for real. It’s typically what happens when people choose a career path or shift careers. Almost every career looks great from the outside. It is when you step in and when the tyre meets the road that you truly understand what working in that field feels like. Even people who want to become Bollywood or Hollywood stars often underestimate the amount of hard work, early mornings and practice it might take to look good on screen.

Excerpts from this old piece by Gilbert and Sullivan also called “Things Are Seldom What They Seem” sums this up really well.

 

Things are seldom what they seem,

Skim milk masquerades as cream;

Highlows pass as patent leathers;

Jackdaws strut in peacock’s feathers.

 

Black sheep dwell in every fold;

All that glitters is not gold;

Storks turn out to be but logs;

Bulls are but inflated frogs.

 

Drops the wind and stops the mill;

Turbot is ambitious brill;

Gild the farthing if you will,

Yet it is a farthing still.

 

Though to catch your drift I’m striving,

It is shady? It is shady;

I don’t see at what you’re driving,

Mystic lady? Mystic lady.

 

Slow Is Better Than Fast

Article in the Mindscape Section of the January 2018 Issue of Stayfit Magazine by Vinesh Sukumaran

One of Google’s philosophies listed in the “about” page of their website is “Fast is better than Slow”. Google calls this one of the ten things that they know to be true. That might work perfectly for a corporate giant like Google, but not necessarily for human beings.

I have a friend who went on a weight-loss mission last year. His goal was to get MBA admissions into a B-school in the U.S., and after that, his immediate goal was to drop to below eighty kgs. He was 103 kgs when he started and had never dieted in his life, ever. So when he started walking about 10 kilometres every day and went on a strict diet, his body responded phenomenally well. He dropped exactly 24 kgs in two months. It was an incredible success story despite the fact that the suits and other clothes that he’d gotten stitched to take to the U.S. were loose and dangly by the time he left. Here’s what happened when he got to the U.S. His workload increased, academics and deadlines took priority, and since he was on a student budget, he succumbed to the quickest escape route of eating junk food. Suddenly there was no time to even sleep, let alone walk or exercise. The long and short of it is that he put on about half the weight he had lost in about six months and the rest of it thereafter. If this trend continues, he’ll soon be heavier than he ever was.

‘Fast is better than slow’ is a great philosophy for the speed of website searches, automobile performance or Amazon deliveries. In the case of health and wellbeing, it rarely works. Of late, I’ve been suggesting to anyone who’s on a weight-loss programme to just focus on losing 1 kilogram a month. This will ensure that in two years you lose 24 kgs, and this is exactly the kind of weight loss that sticks. What a lot of people don’t realise is that a crash diet, quick-fix exercises or workouts and the related plunge in bodyweight are like stop-gap arrangements. To become slim and fit requires you to become a different person – a person with different habits, behaviours and a new mindset. Sudden changes that happen often impact just the physical dimension but leave the mental side of the person untouched. On the contrary, when you lose weight progressively, it means that you’ve been working out regularly; you’ve stood the test of time as far as your new diet is concerned, and you’ve made fitness and exercise a way of life rather than a short-term arrangement.

Now that’s just one example. There are tonnes of others. In the travel industry, there is the whole phenomenon of quick travel and package trips. In my view, that’s one of the worst ways to see a country or a city and also to approach travel in general. It only works for those for whom visiting places is more of a tick mark than an experience. I recently met someone who went on a package trip to ten countries in fifteen days, and when he was showing me the photographs of his trip on his phone, even he could barely decipher one place from the other. In many of the big cities, people are accustomed to rush out of bed in the morning, rush through their morning chores and breakfast, rush to work, rush through their workday, rush back home in the evening, rush to the gym if they’re lucky, rush through their workout and get back home to rush to bed. This rushing mindset and lifestyle is the opposite of enjoying life. I also see a lot of people wanting to get rich fast and retire fast, as if work life is a horrible dungeon to quickly escape from.

The real solutions lie in slowing down. As you start imbibing this idea of living a slow and relaxed life, do it slowly. Don’t rush into the idea of slowing down. Start by doing one activity every day slowly. Maybe have your coffee tomorrow morning slowly. Very slowly. Make sure you really enjoy every sip of it. Once you’ve done that, don’t be in a hurry to add two activities the next day. Stick with a slow morning coffee every day for a month. If you catch yourself naturally doing a few other things slowly during the month, then good for you. But don’t push it. After a month, add another activity. Maybe you can take a slow walk around your block after dinner or read a book slowly before going to bed. Do this for a month and then add one more activity. If you do this, you’ll begin to notice that you’re also learning to give yourself time in other areas of life. If you want to go on a diet, don’t change your entire diet overnight. Start with one small change. If you eat four slices of bread, two fried eggs and some butter and jam every morning, then just start by reducing the quantity of butter to half of what you normally eat. Then you can reduce two fried eggs to two boiled eggs. Then keep progressively changing things till you reach your ideal diet.

This is what the ‘Slow Is Better Than Fast’ philosophy is all about. If you were reading this and thinking that one month is too long of a time or one activity a day is too less of a change, then you are exactly the kind of person who might need this approach the most. Life is not meant to be a speed test; it’s meant to be a slow and ornate experience of our existence.

A Quick Way To Tame Your Ego

Article in the Mindscape Section of the December 2017 Issue of Stayfit Magazine by Vinesh Sukumaran

sf-1-december-2017.jpg

For the sake of this piece, I’m not referring to ego merely as the consciousness of your identity or the “I” as Freud called it. I’m referring to the inflated feeling of pride that some of us sometimes feel in our superiority over others. Taming your ego is not about putting an end to the ego and killing it altogether. This causes a person to miss out even on the good aspects of having a healthy respect for their identity. My focus is to ensure that you aren’t being controlled by your ego to a point where it constantly influences your behaviour, and you have no way out. As Friedrich Nietzsche put it, “Whenever I climb I am followed by a dog called ‘Ego’.”

Begin by thinking about a situation when you behaved in a certain way because of your ego. Maybe you screamed at someone, stopped being in touch with someone, walked out of a restaurant, lied about something or even drove rashly. Now think about what your ultimate goal was in that situation. Imagine you walked into a restaurant to have dinner, ordered your food, but walked out before it arrived because you weren’t happy with the waiter’s service. Your specific behaviour in that situation was, walking out of the restaurant before your food arrived. Your ultimate goal in that situation was to actually eat a good dinner. Then ask yourself if your behaviour supported your ultimate goal. If yes, then great.

On the contrary, if you walked out because your ego had filled you with a sense of entitlement, that you need to be served as soon as you walk into a restaurant, then the only thing you achieved was staying hungry a little longer or even skipping dinner. In which case, you ended up doing something because of your ego that took you further away from your ultimate goal of wanting to enjoy a good dinner. Every time you notice that you’ve done something because of your ego, that’s taken you away from your ultimate goal or what you actually wanted to have, then you better rethink that behaviour. The final step is to do something different or adopt a new behaviour the next time around. Or even do something right now that will help you undo the damage caused by your past ego-driven behaviour. If you screamed at a friend and that severed your relationship, and your real goal was to retain that person as a friend, then maybe you should swallow your pride, call up and apologise. The next time you’re at a restaurant and the food is a few minutes late, realise that it’s you who needs dinner and not the waiter. So stay put or request the waiter again to speed up. Call the management and give them some feedback, if you like.

People I’ve suggested this to started doing it for several instances from their lives where their ego caused them to act or behave in a certain way. Eventually, this got them to act differently the next time a similar situation arose. Do this, and in due course, you’ll start doing the right thing in different situations out of instinct rather than being controlled by your ego.