Over the past two days I’ve been reading about the 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal that has taken over 3,000 lives – A number that is expected to sharply increase in the coming days and weeks. And the devastation has shocked me to the core.
The people who lost the most were the ones who had the least… People in small villages, small towns. Families who were rendered homeless and now faced the aftershocks in sheer terror. No food, no water. Dead bodies lying all around. The freezing night temperatures. One quote from a homeless man has stuck in my head “It’s all too much to see and bear. I can’t do it anymore”.
I have tried placing myself in this man’s situation. But I don’t think I can come even close. What does it mean to lose EVERYTHING? What does it feel like to feel utterly HELPLESS? What does it mean to lose all HOPE? And these are good people from a gentle nation. I’ve been to Nepal several times. They are a country of some of the warmest, most sincere people.
There are those trying the help. The entire army of 100,000 has been committed to relief operations. But the terrain is unfriendly and people in the remote regions can’t be reached. At least, for now, they’ll have to fend for themselves. I cannot imagine what they’re going through.
Here’s the thing… given what these people are going through, you have to ask yourself – What are the problems we face today compared to what they are enduring? You feel so small when you think about it. And if this doesn’t remind us of how truly fortunate we are, nothing will. It doesn’t matter if you are reading this from a 1st, 2nd or a 3rd world country. NONE of your problems can compare to this.
So look around you. Appreciate all that you have – your loved ones, your life and your blessings. And send out prayers for those hundreds of thousands of good people in Nepal. If you can contribute, please do it here:
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In January, I decided I was going for a minimalistic lifestyle. I had read a lot about the subject and was impressed with what I saw. It appealed to me on just so many levels.
So I decided to take the leap of faith. I knew I didn’t have all the facts, but I had a good feeling about this.
The simple life… less choices… focus on things that really matter, not materialistic things. Learn to let go…
All these words were swirling in my head as I decided to take the plunge. After all, what can go wrong? Right?
“My wardrobe is going Minimal, Baby!”, I proudly announced to my wife one Sunday morning. It took her about 30 minutes to realize that I was serious about this one.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” she asked nervously. “You know you have some very nice clothes in there”.
“I’m sure” I replied with a quiet confidence.
Unfortunately, that’s where the easy part ended. After emptying out my entire closet and dumping everything on the bed, I stared at disbelief at just how much stuff I had! Nice stuff, mind you… but a lot of it. A lot!
I pulled out the index card I had prepared with much enthusiasm. It had on it the list of things that would be in my “new” wardrobe. For a few minutes, all I did was look at the list and then stare at disbelief at the mountain on clothes in front of me. How the heck am I going to choose?
- T-Shirts – 5 (I had 68) This includes workout gear
- Jeans – 3 (I had 22)
- Shirts – 3 (I had 27)
- Trousers – 3 (I had 14)
- Hoodies – 1 (I had 6)
- Jackets – 2 (I had 8)
- Ties – 5 (I had 46)
- Sneakers – 2 (I had 7)
- Underwear and socks – Not even going there!
You can now see why my circuits were overloading…
Not going to bore you with the details, but long story short, I did it. And yes, there was screaming involved – “Yaaaaaa! I can’t give this up!!!!!”. I kept muttering to myself “Why the F**k did I think this was a good idea?”
Once done, all the old clothes and shoes went into suitcases & garbage bags and were packed off to the basement. The select few that made the cut were lovingly put back into the closet.
I stepped back and looked at my new wardrobe. This is where it gets weird. I was anticipating a sense of deprivation… A sense of losing something. Instead, this feeling of calm swept over me. I can’t explain why. It was a like a load had been lifted from my shoulders. “Payoff #1″ I thought to myself.
“What are you going to do with the 80% of the space you now have?” asked my wife.
“You take it.”
Squeals of delight followed as she rushed in to claim the space before i changed my mind on this minimalism thing. She was in a happy mood for days after. Payoff #2.
I swear to God, 10 minutes later, her clothes were all over the space where mine had been… and her closet still looked just as jam-packed as it was before! Unbelievable!
Frankly, I didn’t think this would last. But in the months that have gone by, I’ve become really comfortable with the new size of my wardrobe. It doesn’t bother me anymore. In fact, I’ve lost the desire to walk into shops at malls to see clothes because I know I can’t buy anything. I’ve saved a lot of money there. Payoff # 3.
But the biggest payoff has been the effect on my mind. I don’t like having too many choices. I don’t have to wrestle with the thought “What do I wear today? I think it’s allowed me to take one thing out of the daily equation of making choices. And the realization that I’m living a simpler life makes me happier… at least when it comes to clothing. Payoff #4.
It’s a small step. But I’m glad I took it. I hope to extend it as I go along.
Why don’t you give it a shot. What do you have to lose? Letting go can be a good thing.
I resisted the urge to write this post in the beginning of the year. I had two good reasons for it:
- There was already way too much noise on the “Interwebs”. Nothing that I would say would make an impact.
- I thought I’ll write this at the end of Jan after the euphoria of the new year has worn out and people have settled into their lives.
Like everyone, the beginning of a new year is a magical time. It brings with it the promise of a new start, a chance to let go of the past, and to make a real, permanent change in our lives for the better.
“I’ll get in shape this year”, “I’ll quit smoking”, “I’ll get a new job”, “I’ll spend more time with the family”, “I’ll be a better person”…. The list can go on. Hop across to 43Things.com and you’ll see that we all pretty much want the same thing. But there’s one that I don’t see very much…
I’ll come home.
No, not physically. I’m talking about bringing your mind home.
If you’re anything like me and millions of others, you’ll see that our minds haven’t been home for the longest time. Mine certainly hasn’t. It has wandered off to a million places over the past 2 decades.Here’s where my mind has been:
- It has travelled far for work
- Been to some nasty places in relationships
- Been under a ton of stress while raising kids
- Has been engulfed with the desire for money, success, career, achievement
But here’s the thing… We didn’t really send it to any of those places to begin with. We just woke up one fine morning and it was gone. In the beginning, we didn’t even miss it. And a short while later, we forgot about it. A decade later, we decided “this is how life worked; after all, kids leave home, right? So what’s wrong with the mind leaving home? That’s how things are supposed to work.”
Another decade goes by and we begin to miss it. We coin a new term for the time when it was home. “The good ol’ days” is one that pops up most frequently.
But the one we stick with is “The end of our childhood“.
I spent a fair bit of time thinking about this and came to the realization that we’re deluding ourselves. There’s no finality to our childhood. Or that magical time? Who said there was? On what authority? Or have we simply absolved ourselves of the responsibility for what happens to us on to something “external”…. Something that’s not in our control.
I’m not saying that it’s our fault for letting it go. Not at all. I’m saying we have a responsibility to ourselves to bring it back.
2013 was a tough year for me. Pretty much nothing went right. My personal life, relationships, work life, finances all took a hammering. That’s fine. I’m not complaining. If I’ve had some good times in my life, it’s only fair to expect some bad times. Despite understanding this very clearly, I was surprised that I was angry… a lot! And I don’t normally get angry; I’m not that kind of a guy. I had to figure out where this anger was coming from.
I started thinking about this in late November. I figured I’d have this licked in a month.
I was totally wrong.
December came to a close and I was nowhere close to identifying what I wanted from the next year and what to do with my disturbed mindset. If anything, I was getting angry about not being able to figure out what made me angry. Does that make sense to you?
As January began, I began to calm down and things started registering in my mind. My problem was less to do with my circumstances and more to do with the fact that I was identifying myself with them. I was “becoming” my circumstances. Here was the problem! It became clear that one question needed to be answered:
When was the last time I was truly happy with myself as a person? Not any attributes such as money, career, health… but MYSELF?
I pushed the rewind button… kept it pressed as I went back a decade… and then it became clear that the last time I was happy with who I was was when I was a kid… Maybe 16 or 17. I was fearless. I was optimistic. I was bulletproof. And then, of course, life happened and I allowed myself to be consumed by it.
I don’t know what it will take but I will make sure that this year I travel back in time to find myself and to bring myself home. My instincts tell me that I’m going to have to take some big chances, perhaps even appear crazy to other people. But I’ve spent the past 29 years being like other people and how’s that turned out for me?
So till I try, I’ll never know. Starting this morning… the journey begins.
I’ve been scared of doing a few things… mostly avoiding relationships that may result in conflict. I’m touching base with those people today assuming the conflict doesn’t even exist. It’s what I would have done when I was 16.
If you’ve had any success at this, I’d be happy to know. Leave your comments in the box below.
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I still remember the day I first saw her… And it still gives me butterflies in my gut. Do you remember the first time time you saw that special person in your life?
Feel free to change the gender as you wish, but the question remains the same? Do you remember?
I was at this party and I saw her against the backdrop of a dark room, with the kitchen light casting a soft glow around her face as she stood in the doorway. She had long hair to her waist, and the light accentuated her collarbones. I loved her smile as she enjoyed seeing our friends dancing like crazed monkeys. She was clearly loving the evening. And she looked marvelous! That was the “official” time I fell in love with her.
It’s been 20 years and I still get that feeling every now and then. No, I don’t get butterflies each time I see her, but once in a while, I do. And I’m so thankful for that. Yes, I am still very much in love with her.
I had that same feeling this afternoon. And much like before, every time this feeling strikes, it makes me want to so something special for her. It puts me back in time to the point when I first saw her. Would I have done anything to have her in my life? Yes, Yes, Yes. So why wouldn’t I do that today, even after 20 years?
So tonight, I’m going to plan a fabulous meal for her. I’ll ask her to sit back and relax while I prepare an amazing feast for her. And while we eat, I’ll silently thank the heavens for making her a part of my life.
I think we all need to do that more often. We forget our blessings too easily. We’re far too quick to point our fingers at what we’re missing in life… but not quick enough to appreciate all that we have.
This evening is dedicated to the most precious thing I have – My sweetheart!
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I routinely conduct photography workshops over the weekends where I teach regular folks how to take better pictures. I begin by showing them parts of my portfolio and asking them if they think they can take these kind of shots. Invariably, the reactions include “Oh, I could never take shots that good. I just want to improve a bit on my photography. I’m not a professional like you are.”
My reaction is always “Well, then stop behaving like an elephant!”
What does that mean? You see, in India, when the baby elephants are being trained by their trainers (Mahouts), they are often tied with the thickest rope the Mahout can find and tied to the largest tree in the forest. They are then left there. For obvious reasons, the baby elephant doesn’t like this. So he pulls, tugs, chews, yanks… basically does everything he can to get away from the tree. But it doesn’t work. The rope and the tree are too much of a match for him.
Fast forward a few years. The same baby elephant is now a full grown tusker. But this time around, he is tied with the thinnest of ropes to some scrawny looking tree. But he doesn’t even tug at it. Why? Because he “knows” that he can’t get away from it. That’s a fact in his mind and it’ll stay there all his life.
Most of us have a bit of that elephant mentality as well. Have you ever caught yourself saying “I could never do that!” without even examining what it is that stops you from doing it? These are just limitations that exist only in our minds. They aren’t real… not based in reality… yet we believe them with all our heart.
I’ll admit – I’ve been guilty of making this mistake ever so often. But as I’m aware of this, I’m able to catch myself and dispel the thought. I often marvel at kids and teenagers. When they talk about their dreams, they really go the full distance. Everything is supersized! And nothing can go wrong. That’s because they haven’t lived long enough for life to instill those self-imposed fears into them. I look back at my teenage yeas and recognize it. Those were magical times – Everything was possible!
So I implore you to catch yourself the next time you say the words “I can’t”. Take a moment to assess if the limitation is real or just one in your head. Are you the only one who has put it there or is it backed by facts? And if you say “facts”, then do a brutal fact-check on that claim.
You owe it to yourself not to be an elephant. And once you’ve decided not to be one, watch in amazement as the World opens up to you. You can now do anything (well, almost anything). You want your teenage years back? You got them!
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I always thought that depression was one of those things that hurt mentally. Heck, I’ve experienced it personally several times over the past year. It hasn’t got better by much, but I’m getting better at fighting it off. Unfortunately, “it” is also getting better at fighting me.
Last night, it upped the ante by escalating into a physical thing. For absolutely no reason, I had a panic attack at 1:00am. I woke up feeling scared as I had trouble breathing and my chest was really heavy. And my body felt completely depleted of all energy. All I wanted was water – lots of it. I downed about 4 glasses of water and the panic subsided a bit. But I still couldn’t breathe.
I woke my wife up (for the first time in my life) and told her what was happening. She listened… but there wasn’t much she could do. She asked if I wanted to go to the hospital. “No”, I firmly replied. I knew where the roots of this were… My old friend – Depression.
I opened the bedroom window and the cold winter air came streaming through. It really felt good, even though it didn’t help my breathing. I looked at my wife who was sitting by the side of the bed groggily looking at me. She was tired as hell too. She’s been having busy days at work. This wasn’t fair on her.
So I figured if I have to solve a problem I’ve never had before, I’ll do something I’ve never done before. I got out of bed, grabbed the duvet from the next room, my yoga mat from the family room and headed out to the car garage. I was going to sleep in the garage. My wife gave me a “Are you friggin’ nuts?” look which I was able to ignore. “I’ll be OK” I said as I walked out.
It was freezing cold in the garage as I lay out my yoga mat and my pillow. My chest still felt heavy, but in about 30 minutes, my breathing improved. I think the biting cold took my focus away from the physical discomfort. I was spending all my energy staying warm to bother too much about the breathing. The only thing that bugged me was the garage light that came on every 20 minutes as a squirrel would scamper across the driveway. I have never cursed so much at a squirrel in my life!
By 3:00am, I was breathing normally. I even managed to doze off a bit. But now that I had things under control, and I got thinking…
I have to get a grip on this. More than anything, I have to believe that I will be able to take control of my problems. The company I worked for closed down in August and everyone got laid off. I have been working for myself ever since, but money is nowhere close to what I was making working full-time. Every now and then, the fear grips me and I think “What if I don’t make enough the next month?”. I then try to push it away by telling myself “You’re worrying about something that doesn’t exist. Cross the bridge when you come to it”.
I’m trying to focus on what’s going well for me – I have an amazing family around me – My wife loves me, my kids are fantastic, and we have enough to get by. So what the heck am I worrying about? I have all I need. In reality, it’s the excess that I don’t have. Do I really need to kill myself trying to get a little bit more? No!
This morning at 6:00am, I walked back into my bedroom feeling a sense of relief. My circumstances were EXACTLY what they were five hours back. But I had been able to change the way I was looking at my life. I felt better about the fact that I wasn’t going to give up on myself. I’m not the first person dealing with depression and I won’t be the last. It will take time, but I will get out of it.
In the meantime, I’ll focus on all the good things I have going to me in my life.
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