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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Discipline & Impacting lives

The goal isn’t to be better than anyone else, it is to be the best that I can be. It’s about putting the work in, without the fear of consequences or results.

If we embrace the temporary nature of our existence, and how short life really is, then we start appreciating the journey, rather than what lies at the finish line. I think life is beautiful, because it has an end and a time limit, and you never know how or when might be the end of it. It is this beautiful uncertainty where the good things happen. Through the journey of Ironman 70.3, I’ve started to appreciate and value each day, more than what might happen at the finish line. I have started seeing inputs on a per day basis, rather than a long shot, which makes me more productive, active and compassionate. Discipline, for me, is the highest quality of life. Having read Bhagvad Gita, and done extensive research on both Eastern and Western philosophies, a pattern that’s repeated the most is the power of Discipline. Just how Aristotle wrote, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” I feel my best self when I am leading a life that flows effortlessly because I’ve made discipline a habit. I don’t have to ‘control or try’, for a lifestyle that reflects highest quality of life, or the best version of me, is a habit, a second nature to me rather than something I’m aspiring to. It takes days and months, sometimes years to make this a reality, but then it becomes a lifestyle, rather than something on your ‘To-Do List’. Sure, when I started, I wasn’t the person I am today, but it is because of the difference that I’m able to see in myself, that I know what a great personal conquest this has turned out to be.

Another lesson that has come my way, in this journey, is that once you realize and accept that your life is inconsequential in the bigger plan of the cosmos, you stop focusing on the insignificant and petty things. A failed training session or an accident, isn’t the end of your life, you can’t see it that way anyway, for it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Fighting mediocrity is often made to seem a personal conquest, when in fact, it is a matter of impact, impacting others.

The best way to transcend the boundaries of time is to live in a way through which you can impact the most number of people. How I see impact now is to make others’ battles your own, and to fight for the greater good, rather than your own little personal combat. You never exist in isolation, and humans are social creatures that thrive on the feeling of connection, so yes, I’ve come to believe that in order to achieve highest nature of existence, you have to be able to make a significant contribution to others’ lives. If legacy is your goal, and if you want your name to transcend your generation, you should aim at making lasting impressions through everything you do. In a way, this needs to become your discipline.

Once you shift your perception to discipline, you start fighting for reasons bigger than yourself. It is not only your life that you need to succeed in, but you’ve to make others successful through your journey too. It is never about you VS life, but about humanity VS life. “It is but right to wage war against evil oppression. That is the message of the Gita. Perpetration of violence- don’t silently support the infliction of atrocity. “

Be patient, you are never in control, but you have a duty to act, and to act well. If you’ve been following my blog posts, my goal is ‘legacy’, thus, my true goal automatically becomes impacting lives. Through my journey of Ironman, I practiced discipline in a form, I’d never imagined before, and received lessons that make me feel more alive and awakened than before.

Here’s to becoming the best possible versions of ourselves, and leading the highest quality of lives.

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.

What do runners think about while running?

On my regular runs, I normally listen to podcasts. They distract me from the physical work, and engage my mind. It feels like I’m expanding my horizons along with my endurance, which is a very rewarding feeling. This sense of contentment dawns over me because I learn something new, I listen to conversations among great minds all while challenging myself to go on for longer, get better. Tim Ferriss, Jonathan Fields, Kevin Rose, Dan Carlin are some of my favourite podcasters, by the way, just to give you an insight into what I normally listen to. They’re all like human guinea pigs that do crazy ass experiments to improve the quality of life, something that I seriously believe in. Becoming the best version of yourself is what they talk about, so if you’re interested, do tune in sometime!

Although podcasts are great company to be in, during my 20Km runs, I have these physically daunting laps wherein I need to switch off from the distraction because it no longer helps. The thoughts about knee or body ache, distance still left to cover, my speed, comparisons with other runners and all things about running crop up and I have to bring myself back to the present again, almost forcefully. I’ve read about mindfulness a lot, which really helps me during my runs, as I focus on my next steps rather than distance, and focus on form rather than aches. I try to breathe almost as if I were meditating, deep inhales, strong exhales (enough to attract attention, and scare people along the way), and keep moving. I’ve realized how much of a difference it really makes, to live in the present, to be in the moment- I’m not sure if I never truly knew what that felt like before. I want to extend my runs to 30Kms then ultimately marathon distance (42.195Kms).

It is mentally agonizing to run long distances especially when you’re just starting out. I always was comfortable till about 10Kms, but this 20Kms is something very new to me- and might take a few weeks before I finally get used to it. I can’t help but wonder though, what is it that the elite marathoners think about or focus on during their runs? Isn’t it fascinating that they can keep their heart and in this case legs where their mind is? Even during my long runs now, I have this great, powerful force that comes upon me, towards the last few Kms especially. I almost visualize this wonderful, almost blinding white light lining my body internally, activating all my chakras, and making me one with the universe. I have written about how I value the divinity that is within us, the tremendous powerhouse of energy that lies within- and it isn’t something that I just write about to get attention, I have felt it. I feel it. Today, as I was running, only after 2.5Kms, my right knee started hurting awfully, and I was reconsidering my training regime but then I knew if I could get my mind to it, I’d do it. And, I did it! As I write this, I have an ice pack around my knee, because after the 20K, I could hardly lift my leg off the ground but during the run, I endured, I mastered, and I felt spiritually connected and massively inflated from within. This vision sprung into my mind from somewhere- of my sitting by the beach and meditating. I knew peace, and in my head I joked to myself that that could be the island that I’ve always dream of buying (yes, larger than life vision, you may laugh). The vision saved me from myself and my thoughts today.

It is in your most challenging phases that you realize how strong you are, how much you can really endure and how limits only exist in our heads. I know that as I keep evolving and improving, I’ll become a more focused thinker and gain clarity of thoughts- but for know my pseudo spiritual sense is my drive forward. I cannot help but wonder, what really goes on in the minds of the runners around me? I can say for sure, if they’re doing long distances, they’ve got a winner’s mind- cause this takes all you got, boy!