Friday, August 12, 2011

Cost of freedom

Since I was a young boy, My dad used to take us to the aquariums in Balgandharva Rang Mandir in Pune. I recall that I used to always feel quite bad to see fish in an aquarium. I believe it was a cage for them and that they would be better off in the open waters. I felt the same way about any animal which was harnessed in any way. I never wanted to really keep any kind of such pets. At a very subtle level I also believe that our dogs (I have several of those at home :-)), even though they are not tied up at home, are still caged. That they would be freer outside on the road or a farm house at least. This is evident from the behaviour they exhibit when we take them for a walk. Its like they haven't been out in ages, smelling and picking at almost every thing. They are so repressed. Whereas their stray friends, who are always outside, don't pay much attention to the same elements (they are not repressed)

One can always argue that we are providing them food and shelter. Out in the open, they would need to fend for themselves. But I believe that by protecting them, we are actually stunting their growth (same for human kid as well...parents are you listening?) and making them dependent. Once they are dependent, obviously they will find it a challenge to fend for themselves in the open.

A couple of years back, I was gifted a small aquarium with fish. For some reason, I didn't resist it and accepted it and enjoyed it too. I enjoyed caring for the fish, watching them, cleaning the tank etc. So much so that I went and bought a big aquarium, and added more fish. One thing led to another and I kept adding elements to this (external filters, TDS meters etc). I found myself spending a lot of time and money on the aquarium and also observed that I wasn't really enjoying this as much. Maybe there was a nagging thought at the back of my mind about their captivity. Whenever I looked at them, I felt bad.

Sravanthi, actually planted the seed in my head of releasing the fish into their natural environment. I connected with this advice and did this for the fish in my small aquarium. I felt a great relief to watch them swim and play in the natural waters. Recently, I felt motivated to do the same for the bigger fish in the large aquarium. I felt they were really boxed in and also were not growing. It was as if for our little viewing pleasure, we have captured these live beings in a box. I took help of Rajesh, took them in a box and released them into Pashan lake. It was a pleasure seeing them swim.

of course in both cases I couldn't really go back to check on them, since it would be impossible to spot them. But I believe they are much better off, happier and free. They will have to work for their food no doubt, but isn't that what life is all about. Growth.

I did a rough calculation to note that in 2 years this hobby cost me about Rs. 50,000/-.

This is the cost of the freedom for the fish.

Or is this the cost of my freedom :-)

Some learnings/observations
- If you are about to start something new (whatever)
- Sleep over it
- Feel your gut for doubts (ignore fears)
- Sleep over it again
- If still feeling good, go for it.
- If you are into something and its not feeling good
- feel your gut for doubts
- If not feeling good, not your calling
- Drop it fast

Thursday, July 28, 2011


I am reminded of a session I attended with guruji Sri Sri Ravishanker. This was a public session to introduce "art of living". During the Q&A session, a lot of people came up to guruji and ask for help with their problems like, inability to walk, family troubles, chronic medical problems etc. After listening to them, Guruji only gave one piece of advice, i.e. do your pranayam daily. At that point I found that advice quite disconnected.

Similary, when during our SSY programs, if any student is to ask our guruji about solutions to their problems (in this forum the problems presented are in the relationship, family and business zone and not much related to health), guruji would (after listening to them) eventually give them a common advice i.e. to be in silence (not to be confused with not speaking). Again I couldnt find the connection.

As of late during my disturbed states, I have observed myself "thinking" constantly about how to handle the "situations, people who are causing me distress". My mind is busy being angry with these people, forming conversations which I need to have these people, threaten them, show my authority over them, tell them what I think of them, correct them, fearing for the future, brooding over the past, etc.

Now I guess I would have been doing this all my life, but unconsciously.

It hasnt helped at all. Or else I wouldnt be distressed at all. I wouldnt attract toxic situations in my life. Why is it then that I go through ups and downs in my moods, my energy, my enthusiasm, my happiness, etc.

I now realise the value of the advice of the Guru. They are actually saying that you cannot solve the problems in the body and mind at that level. The constant stream of thoughts is creating the reality around you. And you are attempting to solve the problem created by thoughts by more thinking. Stop, and do your pranayam, and meditation. Go down to zero.

But don't I have to solve the problems I am facing, or confront a person who has hurt me, caused me a loss, etc.

No, going by the law of attraction, please note that these toxic and distressing situations (reality) are caused by an equally disturbed mind. So no point in using the same distressed mind to resolve this issue. Instead go beyond that and silence your mind. This will automatically lead to calmer, prosperous exteriors. Nothing needs to be done except practice of silence (being mindful) and breath awareness. This will reduce cluttering thoughts which will result in a reality which you actually want from within.

Osho also always said, that if you are angry, distressed, get away from other people since you will spread this to them. Go and hide somewhere and come out only when you are calm and centered. In hiding, do some dynamic meditation to rid yourself of the toxic energy by beating a pillow, doing physical activity, dance etc. Your anger, disturbance is your own. Nobody else can cause this. Now I understand why he invented the dynamic meditation.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Helping or Supporting someone

I became aware of this tendancy of mine to do things for people, make them comfortable, put them at ease, reduce their pain. It was "my way of expressing love" for them. While I have been doing this all my life (not sure where this tendancy/habit started), recently I actually saw how its actually crippling them. This is a selfish move on my part, I am doing this for my self, I am doing this to feel good, I am doing this to avoid conflict, I am doing this to distract others, quite unaware of how much damage its doing to the other and to myself.

But then, giving to someone and seeing them smile or use your gifts is so gratifying, right? Is it not what we are taught, give, share and that will bring happiness?

So there is a distinction which is kind of sinking in now:
If we are doing things for people such that it will make them happy or will make you happy, or make them dependant on you, etc...probably its a disservice to both.

If we are doing things for others out of being happy and peaceful and which ENABLE them to feel happy deep down (e.g. you help them discover their true calling, help them discover their worth, help them realise how much potential they have to help themselves go to another level...), then its love. Then supporting them monetarily will be to help them work on their potential. Said another way, supporting another is to help them be free and not a dependant.

Remember, however that the sun doesnt rise from your ass, so we should not claim credit to make others successful. Do your part since thats happening through you. It is Gods will and doing.

At another level, examine the motive behind your own actions, and do it only if its out of love. It will help you grow.

On Forgiving

The other night at dinner, Sushi our dog was begging our maid for food. The maid gave her food. However Sravanthi got really angry with Sushi and gave her a shouting. Sushi slinked away and hid. But Sravanthi couldnt handle this and called her back, gave her ice cream, petted her and then continued her dinner.

I observed that when a pet or an animal does something we dont want them to do, we do rebuke them but we forget it as fast. In fact it stays with us only as fond memories. However when a human in a relationship with us, does something we dont like, we hold it against them for a long time. We seem to have forgotten, but if you observe these instances keep coming up as flashes in our memory. Why is this? The common factor between both interactions is me, myself. So why cant I treat the human "mistakes" just like that, drop them and move on?

I have known people to not talk to each other for years. People may change but the issues linger on.

Our guruji explained this quite well; When our pet does any "mistake" even repeatedly, we internally understand that its not a deliberate act of malice towards me or my family, its unconscious. We can correct this by training, but that doesnt make it a conscious response, it only makes it a conditioned response.

When a human repeatedly performs the same "mistake", we feel its a deliberate act. Its also to be noted that most actions by humans are out of habit (conditioned actions). But our feeling is that "this person is not able to get it". We probably need to understand and observe that most actions by most humans are as unconscious and as conditioned, as a pets. Additionally, the focus cannot be on the other, it has to be on self. The other is my mirror image.

By holding on, we are harming ourselves more.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Become the Bike
Pune to Mangalore – The journey within

The Trip

This was a holiday of a lifetime. It stretched all my capacities in more ways than one :-), combined adventure, being in nature, and an indulgent recoup in Goa. I went upto Goa alone on a cycle and was joined by my dear friend Sravanthi in Goa. From then on I travelled by cycle along the coast line to mangalore while Sravanthi accompanied me by car. Along the way we experienced staying at beautiful locations like Marwanthe near Bhatkal in Karnataka where the NH17 road has a stretch with the ocean on one side and fresh water on the other. Over the 9 days on the road, I would start at 5 AM and ride an average of 100 kms a day, through some of the most beautiful roads and regions. At Mangalore we turned back to return to Goa and soaked up the ocean, sun and beer for a lovely recoup. Take my word, do this trip if not on a cycle, at least on a motor cycle. You will come back a different person :-)...Love...Sunil

The Journey
On this journey, I experienced how it feels to be the work that you choose to do (so the title). My day on the bike was akin to a day in my normal life where I had to continuously challenge my belief systems, make choices, mitigate risks, keep myself energised, be in the moment, take quality decisions and action, and most important of them all, love what I am doing. The love for cycling, for my bike and for nature, kept me going day after day even though my ass hurt like sin :-). There came a point, where I could wake up daily and cycle the 100 kms as if it was a normal routine day. I could go on and on. I became the bike.

Pillars: Fuel, Stretch, Pranayam, Meditation and Rest:
This is what kept me going. Simple clean food during the ride and good stretching, meditation and sleep after the ride. This pretty much makes up the pillars of our lives (should be :-). Make this a life habit and you can keep going with high energy. I would strongly recommend Yoga for anybody serious of living a high energy and healthy life. The big difference this time was that my training was 80% about regular Yoga practice and the rest was hill climbing. Did almost zero gym work this time around. My rides were better and post ride recovery was good. Also at each pit stop, I would perform basic stretches, which I learnt in my yoga class, and then start again. Heartfelt gratitute to my committed teachers at Param Yoga, ( who introduced me to this energising and refreshing form of exercise and relaxation.

Best wishes in your inner journeys, Love, Sunil

The Full Story:
Dear Friends,
Just like all my holidays this too had to have a challenging element along with an indulgent recoup thrown in. I decided to double the distance from my last years pune goa ride and go the distance upto Kannur in Kerala. However I aborted the trip on the last but one leg of the trip at Mangalore. The NH 17 road was not great going forward and also extremely crowded with a lot of diversions etc due to four laning activity.

I have documented my experience in 2 sections, one which talks about the changes within me and one which is about the external experience during the holiday.

Hope you enjoy reading this and can learn from this.

The Trip
Day 1: Pune - Panchgani: 100 Kms : 6 Hours 15 mins
This was an unnecessary diversion, however I had missed covering Panchgani in my training rides and felt a deep urge to get a strong and difficult start. Scaling this distance, boosted my confidence big time and set the tone for the days to come. I would recommend strongly Maitstone homestay in Panchgani. Very nice location, very cost effective, exptremely hospitable Virjee family. (Contact : 02168240256)

Day 2: Panchgani - Satara: 45 kms: 1 hour 45 mins
This was such a good location, that I was tempted to stay for an extra day. BUt I decided against it since by taking this diversion, I was making my Kolhapur ride nearly 150 kms. I decided to stay the night in Satara and then ride to Kolhapur the next day morning. I rode in the evening to Satara at an average speed of nearly 30 kmph, going all out to reach before the sun sets. I stayed at a highway hotel and kept my cycle in the room as a part of my luggage :-)

Day 3: Satara - Kolhapur: 129 kms: 5 hours
This was by far the best performance of the entire trip. Averaging 23 kmph, I did this like I was possessed. Was a steady horizontal ride on a very high quality road (no comments on the density of traffic closed to Kolhapur). I stayed in the Guest house of the Ford dealership on the highway which belongs to a cousin of mine. The guest house is one the emost tastefully done up place I have ever seen. And the stay was absolutely five star with the cook Santhanam giving me lovely home cooked food and being very attentive.

Day 4: Kolhapur - Amboli: 139 kms: 7 hours 30 mins
By far the toughest day of the journey. I dragged on the ride a few hours into the ride. Kept thinking it was to do with a fatigue level. However it turned out to be a slow puncture, which I noticed at the 70 km mark. I had the option to change the tube on the road itself or push air and continue until I reached Amboli. Chose the latter. This decision cost me in terms of energy since the tire never really remained hard and the road was uphill and rough. Reached 10 mins before lunch hour closes. Evening I replaced the tube and got ready for the next day. Stayed at whistling woods, which is a decent good hotel. Had dinner at Kamats, as dependable as ever.

Day 5: Amboli - Goa: 89 kms: 4 hours 30 mins
Hot, strong ride and smooth ride into the hotel at Calangute where I stayed. I stayed at ABC resorts. Cheap and best with a 5 min walk from the beach which is not too crowded. Had to leave after 6 AM (after the visibility was good). Descending the Amboli ghat in the dark is not advisable. The road is bein repaired and there are no markers.

Day 6: Rest

Day 7: Rest

Day 8: Goa - Karwar: 105 kms: 5 hours 45 mins
Couldnt leave at 5 AM from now on. on NH 17, which is a 2 lane highway, its better you are more clearly visible. But this meant a lot more riding in the heat. But by far this highway is the most scenic roads I have ever been on. You go through forests, come close to the ocean, backwaters, villages, all in one stretch. The road had its share of climbs, curves and descents and loads of traffic, especially till margoa (35 kms from goa). All along the road, one gets to see loads of stray cattle loitering across the road :-). Stayed at the Lotu resorts, where Vishal the manager was kind enough to give us a good discount considering the effort I had taken to get there :-). Karwar, on the border of Goa and Karnataka, is a place to settle down in. Very sparsely populated, pristine untouched beaches, islands which one can visit (i didnt do this). We had lunch at restaurant downtown called "Premier". Awesome local food (Karnatak south indian thali).

Day 9: Karwar - Bhatkal: 120 kms: 6 hours
A very beautiful ride again through similar territory described above. All along the higwhway one can stop and buy coconuts. I drank and ate a lot of tender cocunut to keep hydrated. This was a long and hot ride. We decided to go past Bhatkal and stay in Marwanthe, which is a small village where the ocean touches the highway and there is fresh water on the other side. The two dont meet. We stayed at Turtle bay resort and experienced Karnatak hospitality and tourism. Very warm people with a simple but working system. All food orders are placed at reception and time taken to deliver is in hours. Only one cook taking on the orders serially. Was fun though. BTW we had no electricity all through the night.

Day 10: Marwanthe - Mangalore: 100 kms: 5 hours.
This trip was the home run as decided about halfway to mangalore. AS I got closer to Mangalore, the traffic increased manyfold, and road got worse. At stretches, there was no road at all. All through our travel and stay through Karnataka, we kept looking for a Kamat to eat an original dosa. He eluded us until we reentered Maharashtra. Karanatak is full of duplicate Kamats :-). Even in mangalore after a lot of asking we were finally directed to a thalli joint for original mangalore food (Janata dining). This is in the heart of Mangalore and Was quite good. Instead of staying in Mangalore, we decided to pack up and drive back to Goa the same day itself. The rest of the holiday was spent bumming around in Goa and recouping from all that exertion.

Day 11 - 14: Indulge in Goa :-)

The Journey
Below are some of my takeaways. Nothing new, except that these were experienced by me first hand :-) All of these will apply to any aspect of your life (daily). Its not just with the bike.

Break your mould:
To go to another level from experiencing what I did, you would need to push yourself out of comfort zone at the mind, body and emotional level. Dont be timid with life, choose experiences even if they appear tough and you will experience great freedom just doing those. Just like the body grows by resistance, the mind also needs challenges. BTW this can happen at work too.

Dont get stuck:
Our Guruji (Pujya guru Rishi Prabhakar of SSY), conducts these 21 days with Guruji programs. Although I havent attended any of these, I learn that he doesnt allow the troop to settle anywhere. As soon as they feel comfortable, he moves them away. This keeps people growing. Everytime I landed at any of my halts, I would feel like staying an extra day. But I would enjoy that 1/2 day and move on the next day. I realised that I enjoyed the riding as much as wanting to stay a little longer in that place.

Effort->Relaxation->Effort- cycle
I realised that only indulgence will sap your energy. Also that only exertion will sap your energy. However exertion followed by indulgence followed by exertion is a great combination to maintain health, grow and enjoy the "good" parts of life.

While riding on the highways, a few times I had some trucks come real close and actually startle me. After these incidents, I became aware that for some time I would be very anticipative while riding. This actually brought me away from the moment and got me into a "planning" mode. I then realised that actually risk is a future or a past concept. In the moment there is no risk whatsoever.

Mind limits and Mind expands
The choice is yours. I believed I could do it, and I did it. The reverse is also true.

When Sanjay (my driver) picked up the freshly serviced car to bring it to goa, I observed that the fuel comsumption was 3/4th of the tank. I worked the math from a 40 litre tank and came to an average of about 15 kmpl. I was quite satisfied since it matched popular wisdom and the norm. However on the way back, I checked the tire pressures before leaving (found them to be 1/2 of what it should be) and then found out that the same distance can be done in 1/2 the tank. Thats a saving of 10 litres of fuel + the fact the car is very efficient at about 22-25 kmpl (which may not sound belieavable). At first I was a little upset with sanjay, but it was low quality on my part to accept the initial reading without a quick review on basics. Be aware, at every step you would need to exhibit quality. Quality is not an end result but a series of quality steps. Be there in what you are doing. Give it full attention or none at all. Dont do anything half baked.

Fuel, Stretch, Pranayam, Meditation and Rest:
This is what kept me going. Simple clean food during the ride and good stretching, meditation and sleep after the ride. This pretty much makes up the pillars of our lives (should be :-). Make this a life habit and you can keep going with high energy. I would strongly recommend Yoga for anybody serious of living a high energy and healthy life. The big difference this time was that my training was 80% about regular Yoga practice and the rest was hill climbing. Did almost zero gym work this time around. My rides were better and post ride recovery was good. Also at each pit stop, I would perform basic stretches, which I learnt in my yoga class, and then start again. Heartfelt gratitute to my committed teachers at Param Yoga, ( who introduced me to this energising and refreshing form of exercise and relaxation.

Be present:
Rise above the mental chatter to be there and be aware of all what is happening. While riding from Kolhapur to amboli, I was unnaturally dragging. I kept feeling that fatigue has caught up with me (popular wisdom) although I was feeling strong. My average speed dropped from 25 to 19 or so. I thought I was bonking. I kept eating and drinking regularly to keep going. However when I got onto the bumpy state highway, I realised I had a flat. The rear wheel was slowly releasing air and it was half empty. Possibly I had this a long time back and was dragging because of that. Dont assume anything. Go with your feelings. I should have connected to my feeling of being strong and checked all other aspects of the ride.

Become the bike:
After the first couple of days, I got into the groove of waking up early, getting on the bike and going for 100 kms. Ater 8 days of riding like this, I was ready to go on. It was like going to work. I then realised that what I experience in that one day on the bike, we all would be experiencing in our days at work. Challenges, pain, joy, rest, et. al. Become the bike, become what you do. Love it.

Love your work:
My bike, body, mind went all the way with me because I loved them all. I nurtured them, cleaned them, maintained them and they served me well. Love whatever you are doing, whatever you are using, whomsoever you come across, just come from love.

All the very best in your journeys.

Packing list for solo trip:
The below list is a bare essentials list (trimmed as per my experience). I was a little heavier since I carried a spare cycling gear assuming that the clothes wont dry in 18 hours. BUt I found that they dry by the night.
1. Minimum toileteries (toothbrush, small toothpaste, shave kit, small soap & face cleanser, small bottle of moisturiser (doubles up as after shave also))
Buy shampoo sachets, whereever you are.
2. Shorts/pyjamas + a t shirt + a spare underwear to change into once you land up and shower.
3. Cycling gear, just what you are wearing, which you wash and dry before the next day.
4. Gatorade sachets, dates, raisins
Buy bananas, cocunut water, water along the way.
5. Tool kit, spare tubes, air pump
6. Camera (optional)
7. Cell Phone and charger.
8. Money, id, credit card, atm card etc,
9. A plastic bag/case for all electronic and paper items.

Cycling dos and donts as I learnt:
1. Start early at around 5 AM to beat the heat. Ensure that the headlamps and tail lamps on the cycle are functioning.
2. On the NH 17, start only after day break (around 6:30 AM), since its a 2 lane road, with no consistent border marking, making it very risky to be on in the dark.
3. Consistent, evenly paced, fuel and stretch breaks will keep you going longer. Stop every hour of cycling for 5 mins to stretch, pee, drink fluids (at least 300 ml). Eat every 2 hours or so (dates, bananas, potatoes, cocunut) to prevent bonking.
4. Dont cycle after 12 noon. It will be counterproductive and will actually sap all the energy fast. If you havent reached your destination yet, sleep below a tree or in a dabha until 4 PM and start again.
5. Be aware of the air pressures and slow punctures if any. You will feel the cycle dragging.
6. Pack the carrier bag such that the food, camera, phone and money are right on top and easily reachable without having to unharness the bag each time you stop.