2015 to 2016

I promised myself last year to write an annual reflection post at the end of the year and on my birthday, so here it is- my year in review.

My religion is spirituality. I was never religious, always thought of myself as spiritual. This year, I’ve been fortunate to read Swami Vivekananda’s books, and boy have they transformed how I think! I’ve gained clarity on my WHYs and have come to discover practices that have sworn me to sanity (or insanity, as it may seem to many). I meditate daily, without fail, and believe in cosmic intelligence and the Infinite One. I have been able to develop strong reasons to not support or believe in a particular religion, for I’ve studied material that talks about evolving the human body as it is, and reaching a higher state of being. I’m not against anyone or any religion, I’m just stating my personal views: that all religions lead to the same truth, and one God. Ignorance is not healthy, holding a particular worldview without knowing why is lack of self-awareness, and religion is meant to help you get past the layers and lift the veil to ultimate self-realisation.

God, family, business- in that order. I watched this movie in which a footballer always talks about three things that he holds sacred: God, family, football- and that made me think about my three core reasons. For me too it is God and Family, and then there’s business, for one and one reason only, to impact lives. Bhagavad Gita made me realise that because of the position/family/circumstances you’re born into, you have certain duties that you need to fulfil to elevate your being to the next level. As someone born into financial security, I feel my duty is to create value and prosperity for others- and my background is most suited for business because that’s what I’ve been raised around and all I’ve ever wanted to do.  While many people view business is selfish, I am greatly opposed to that for the core essence of a business should lie in helping others, and that is where I get my passion for social enterprises. I often meditate on ‘love and abundance’ for the words fill me with a sense of purpose.

Finding love. This is the decade when all my friends will be married, most of them already started with it this year. To all my friends looking for love, I only have one advice: Your life needs to already possess and be abundant with the love that you are seeking. It won’t be new love when you find it, but a reflection of the love in your heart that you will share with a partner. Stop feeling like you always need a significant other to validate your presence, you need to learn to enjoy being single too, and that way you’ll be able to attract and build a healthy relationship. Needy and lonely are states we impose on ourselves, because of how we perceive our external surroundings. Value and cherish your life as it is, believe in grand possibilities but love every single bit of the present, and that’s when you will attract a partner that deserves you: when you are at your highest state of self-esteem and self-love.

Nothing in life is an accident, but everything is a miracle. I can’t exactly explain how deeply meditation has changed me but I can confirm this: I often dream, wake up to, or realise certain truths that I feel come directly from my heart. You have to learn how to acknowledge opposites- there’s good and evil, pessimism and optimism, evolution and involution, and that’s just how the cycle works. There can never be one without the other, where there is life, there is bound to be death. There are only two ways to live life: you believe that nothing is sacred OR everything is. Everything that happened this year has turned me into a believer of the law of cause and effect. Good attracts good, just focus on good, and you will learn how to escape evil and return to good, every time. There will always be negativity around, but you have to find a place within you, the place that’ll keep you safe, where you can re-introduce yourself to the good. I don’t mean to come across as a preachy-hippy, but I can tell you this: I’ve seen how my thoughts affect the quality of my day.

Work incessantly, work to live life to the hilt. While a lot of this post is turning out to be about trusting the timing of your life, and believing in the higher power- it doesn’t mean that I’m asking you to take a backseat until its all done. Yes there are things beyond your control, but you have to find your own meaning through your efforts, and you must put in the work without caring about the consequences. Discipline is freedom, when you find the work that fulfils you or even as you are trying to find it , you can design a life of discipline to achieve freedom. I aspire to live a life of discipline, in fact I felt my top form as I was training for Ironman, cause it filled me with a sense of satisfaction and contentment because I was working hard on something. I was able to compartmentalise my time and efforts with everything, and my whole life gained a new idea of balance. The first try didn’t work out- I got a ligament tear, but that didn’t make my journey any less beautiful, for I wasn’t training to reach the finish line (in my head, I already had crossed it multiple times) but for the virtue of discipline.

As this year ends, I promise to spend more time with my two loves: travel and music. Next year, I want to explore more places, meet new people and produce some music. I don’t have any idea how to, I don’t even know if I’m good but it’s something that I’ve always secretly wanted to do- just to live life one notch up. While I haven’t planned the details how the HOWs for those two yet, definitely on the menu are: publishing my first book, completing the Ironman, finding a way to harvest kinetic energy and giving a TED talk.

Happy New Year! Welcome 2016, we’re gon have a blast!

 

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Life 101: Ironman training

With each mile, I learn. With each mile, I become a better and a higher version of myself. Being a girl, in India, people can make it really hard to train outdoors, but if your heart’s in it, you innovate and redirect, cause its ultimately about you, and not them.

Training for Ironman is tough, its a certain level of discipline that most people don’t understand, its also very repetitive, and yet one day is never exactly the same as another.

You may think that it gets easier after a certain level of training. I’m starting to realize that that’s not the whole truth. Yes, your stamina might get better, you might get more comfortable with distance, and you might even build tremendous endurance as a result of your training. But what they don’t tell you at the start is, that each day is actually a fresh start- doesn’t matter how many miles you clocked in yesterday or day before, you’ve to show up, and do it all over again, each and every day. To those who think that that’s easy, I’d like you to compare it with the Law of Diminishing Returns. Yes, of course you start with excitement & commitment, but once the mind knows that it has to keep doing the same thing again and again- it takes a lot of mental strength to keep going. It’s the same thing again and again- till one day, you actually reach the finish line, and then it all in hindsight makes incredible sense. How much of it is mental vs physical? Personally for me, it’s 80-20. If I’m feeling good, thinking right, feeding off energy from good thoughts, I normally am able to complete my session even if physically I’m sore, hurt or tired. However, if my body is ready, and my mind isn’t up to it, I’m not able to do anything, literally. Call it mental fatigue, some days you’re just going to feel burnt out, which is worse than anything else I’ve experienced. When it comes to it though, training is where I realized the real value of the term ‘mindfullness’, for you need to present in each moment, each breath, each mile, each ‘now’, otherwise you risk everything. If you think of the future (how much you have to do), it can weigh you down, and if you think of the past (how much you’ve done), your body will beg you to stop as a natural response.

Although after a few episodes of mental fatigue, you start putting things in perspective, and you stop beating yourself down. You start realizing that a failed session isn’t a failed effort in its entirety, but just one failed session (in a way, an opportunity)- the next one doesn’t have to be, and probably won’t be cause now you know you’ve to work harder. This has probably been the most refreshing insight that I’ve lived through. Why? Cause now I know that a bad day or a particular setback, is so temporary in nature, that it can’t hurt me if I don’t allow my mind to dwell there. New day, fresh start- almost like you’re rebooting and restarting every day, and its yours to own. This feeling is really empowering, cause after this realization, not much can affect you, not the petty stuff anyway.

Another aspect of this sport is how personal and introspective it is. Each journey is unique for each athlete and in the challenging moments you tend to find and discover yourself, your grit, your willpower and your own reasons. You’re constantly redefining your limits, challenging what you’re made of and striving to excel- on the risk of sounding cliched, you’re unraveling truths of your life. Having tasted this drug of individualism, it becomes kind of hard to settle for mediocre ways of life- cause this habit of striving to excel transcends to everything you do, every role you play.

Lastly, we aren’t in it for external recognition or laurels, but conquering and winning inner battles is what fuels us. Most endurance athletes will tell you, that although its nice to be acknowledged, we are in the game because we have something to prove to ourselves and have raging, chaotic storms inside our heads, that we try and tame. For me, Ironman is the ultimate test of psychological and emotional strength, its where I get to develop, idealize and philosophize life, to reflect, introspect, and grow. This is my mode of serving this beautiful gift of life, by delivering my very best, exceeding my current expectations and living a meaningful, high quality life.

To end with, one of my favourite essays of all time by Ralph Waldo Emerson called ‘Self Reliance’ (read it here), has the following lines:

There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried. Not for nothing one face, one character, one fact, makes much impression on him, and another none. This sculpture in the memory is not without pre-established harmony. The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify of that particular ray. We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents. It may be safely trusted as proportionate and of good issues, so it be faithfully imparted, but God will not have his work made manifest by cowards. A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise, shall give him no peace. It is a deliverance which does not deliver. In the attempt his genius deserts him; no muse befriends; no invention, no hope.

Conquer the inner dialogue

Conquering the inner dialogue is absolutely the most important aspect of endurance training. There’s often a constant struggle sometimes between your body and your mind that makes you want to give in and stop. However, in that moment if you train your mind to replace the ‘can’t-do’ thoughts with what you hoped to achieve at the onset of training and your goals, you can go on for much longer.

I’ve seen that most people in endurance sports start because of either of the two reasons: they have something to prove, mostly to their own-selves (the dropout rate is high when it involves proving something to others), or they have at one or more points in their life have felt victimized by a certain adversity/mishap and aim to regain control of their lives. Once you feel something on a very deep, personal level, you start trying to make every experience in your life match the extremity of what happened, or what you went through. Most people won’t understand what I wrote above, but those who know, really know. In my opinion, it all comes down to seeking control and power in your personal life.

Nietzsche was of the opinion that all men aren’t equal, as it is ultimately a game of power, with people having different levels of ambition and ‘will to power’. I’d like to suggest that while outwardly power and ambition might be a distinguishing factor, the control of the inner consciousness and self-awareness is what truly differentiates men. The more you tap into the inner power, the more empowered and driven you feel in the outside arena. It might seem preachy and idealistic to not let anyone or anything from the outside to affect your internal game, but the ability to bounce back after a certain influence is what matters. We are human and do not exist in isolation, so it is almost impossible to not let the world affect you, but how soon you gain control on your mind after, is the defining factor.

Having said that, I do believe that some of the endurance athletes I’m lucky to have in my life, are also the most loving and caring people I’ve ever come across. There is a certain charm that these people have because of their passion and their commitment to excellence that makes you feel alive in their company. They make it seem like life is a drug, that they’re always high on and breathe. These people have successfully undone their negative conditioning, know how to stop their thoughts from beating their morale down and can overcome life’s disasters with grit and valour.  These qualities demand utmost respect, and just witnessing them for real in my life, keeps me motivated.

Inner dialogue: I can’t. I’m tired. I didn’t sleep well. I was out late. I have a long day ahead. I am not made for this. I didn’t eat much. I’m sore from yesterday. What are the others thinking? Am I looking okay? Are my clothes the right fit? He/she shouldn’t have said or done that or he/she should’ve. I can’t do this. This isn’t for me.

Replaced with: I’m getting better. I’m going to focus on one step at a time. I can. I’m focused. I want to get better than yesterday. I will keep going. I will try. I will focus on me. My only competition is me. My focus is me and my performance. I’m committed to my vision. I have goals, and I’m going to for them.

Honestly, sometimes just saying the right thing, to yourself, at the right time, can change the course of your whole day. Try to control your inner dialogue, kill the outside noise, and you can conquer it all, I’ve learnt that from the best.

This is not only true for just endurance athlete or sports training, but also for life, in general. Most of the times without realizing we’re constantly telling ourselves how we aren’t good enough, inadequate or powerless. How we can’t do certain things or can’t achieve what someone else has achieved etc. Come to think of it, everybody starts at level zero, it’s your drive that takes you places, you gotta decide where you wish to exit life. If you try to proactively control the inner dialogue, you’ll be able to see yourself for who you truly are: loved, powerful, and absolute.