Tag Archives: introspection

F r e e yourself

Free yourself

Of expectations

Money

Restrictions

Constraints.



Free yourself

Of limitations

Material bindings

Wants and needs.



Free yourself

Of ambition

A job

Stress

Demands.

Free yourself

Of competition

Hype

Frustrations

Pain.


Free yourself

Of order

Routine

Planning.


Free yourself

Of  obligations

Rituals

Guilt

Remorse.


Free your “self”

From your body.


Be a stream of consciousness

With ideas

That take flight

And soar.


Free yourself

Just for a day

And live

Life.

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Winning isn’t everything

I’ve often wondered where our urge to win stems from. What prompts us to want to come first? Why is coming second or third not good enough?

As a kid, I was always taught that winning isn’t everything and yet when it came to class tests or sports meets, my parents would set the bar so high that, sometimes, it was almost impossible to reach.

As an abstract concept it worked well, but in reality, not so much.

When the report card came, instead of congratulating me on scoring 92 percent in the finals, my dad would ask, “Who came first?” followed by “How could she score 95 percent and you couldn’t?”

Dejected and teary-eyed I’d head to my room.

Later I would be taken out to dinner as a “treat” and mom and dad would look proudly at me, encouraging me to study harder, nudging me to go that extra mile.

I was a bright kid — they didn’t want to see my talent go waste. And they knew that out in the world, coming first was going to get me places. No one cared if you were one of the top three, let alone the top five, they reasoned.

Some children cheated — took little “chits” to class, had their art projects completed by their moms, indirectly bribed the teachers.

Because winning meant too much.

And since everyone was doing it, it was somehow justified.

So much for the mandatory moral science classes all of us attended.

I was too self-righteous. And my mom was too busy.

Most of all, I couldn’t lie to myself.

Because at the end of the day, all said and done, you might have good grades on paper, but in your heart you know you’re a failure. You may have it but you know you didn’t deserve it.

I didn’t want sleepless nights.

I knew my parents had a lot of expectations from me, but I had decided early on that my best is all I could give it. And if it wasn’t good enough to earn me the best spot then so be it.

Even today I see my friends urge their toddlers to out run each other, to come first, to be better … nay, to be the best.

Because what good is second-best?

And every time someone says, “it’s all about participation,” or “it’s all about having fun” — they’re perceived as talking to the losers’ club.

But isn’t that really the essence of competitions? The ability to show one’s mastery over a subject or a sport with the help of an opponent? About enjoying yourself?

It’s not about showing the world that you’re the best, it’s about being the best you can be. There’s a distinct difference between the two.

That’s not how the world works, though.

Winning and cheating go hand-in-hand. We learn that there are moral, social, economic repercussions for those who cheat; that those people pay somehow, some time, somewhere…but when we look around us we find them getting better grades, more money, more power.

The hunger to win feeds corruption. It brings out not only the best, but also the worst in us.

Think about it the next time you feel dejected about your (or your children’s) less-than-desirable performance report.

If you gave it your best shot, be content.

This is an abstraction that when applied in reality will serve you well.

Read David’s well-written post on the same subject, especially the study [PDF] he refers to about bronze medal winners in the Olympics who were “simply happy to have received any honors at all (instead of no medal for fourth place).”

In the end it’s all about perception — the one you have of your self outweighs what anyone else thinks of you.

Go get ’em, tiger!

 

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A journey of self-discovery

I sat in silence.

The sky engulfed me. So did the greenery.

It was a meditative state … hearing nothing but the chirping of the birds.

The sound of the breeze in the rustling leaves.

The smell of grass.

Everything kissed by the sun.

I was at peace.

As I cocked my head to the left, I saw the freeway … glistening metal and glass edifices.

A mass of civilization. People running from Point A to Point B. Mindlessly.

Trying to make ends meet. Trying to figure out their purpose in life through their work. Trying to survive in a consumerist battlefield.

Perched up on the green folds of the mountain, I tried to blur it out.

All needs, wants, ambition, goals — vanished.

Replaced by calm.

It was so real, that it felt surreal.

And then came a flood of questions.

Why didn’t I make more time for such escapes from a life that continued to stress me?

Why have I built a life that continually demands me to be a robot?

Why can I not just leave it all behind?

Why can’t I enjoy more time with Nature?

Why can’t I just spend days wandering, reflecting, marveling?

Why do I need a routine, a structure to make sense of my existence?

Why can’t I just be?

Escape.

Create my own reality.

I didn’t come back with any answers, but the questions keep nagging at me.

When I know what I really want to do, when I know what brings me contentment, when I know what makes me fulfilled…

What’s holding me back?

Is it a false sense of security?

Is it just because?

I don’t want to go down the “I don’t know” street…it never leads me to any answers, just buys me more time to muster up the courage and ultimately confront my fears.

I want to close some doors and not look back.

I want to open some doors and explore with wild abandon.

One day soon we’ll have to sit and talk it through.

I, me, and myself on a journey of self-discovery.

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Also posted on Writers Rising.

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An inquiring mind

A couple of my posts in the recent past have triggered some “interesting” in-person/offline reactions — people have said that I am “too philosophical” or that I “want to live in an ideal world.”

I’ve been told some of these issues don’t concern them (or me, for that matter) and never will … so why bother?

Why spend time trying to tackle issues that will never arise? Why not just let things be? Why ruffle feathers? Why advocate for change when this is what it is? Why not just “enjoy life” and “take it easy”?

Why do I look for answers where there are none? Why do I keep pushing people out of their comfort zones? Why do I espouse debate?

They tell me to lighten up. To act my age. To have some fun in life.

I ask them: Why not just stop thinking all together?

What is the point of getting an education that stresses on using one’s critical thinking skills if you’re not willing to use them? Actually, what’s the point of education, even?

Why not just go with the flow, stop asking questions, and propagate the status quo?

Complacency is so easy. So is conformity.

But is that all we want of our lives? That which is convenient?

Even if we don’t really believe in social stereotypes, just shut up and assimilate?

Because it is what it is?

I ask questions because I have a thinking mind. I wonder, I fear, I suspect, I marvel, I doubt.

I seek to be a better person. I hope to be the source of some improvement, no matter how miniscule.

I don’t think everything is right the way it is.

And I think we dwell so much on insignificant things that those that really matter get sidestepped.

Those of you who read these blog posts and tell me to enjoy life: you are a privileged lot. You have the mental faculties, the education, and the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of those who don’t.

So, to you I say, grow up.

I use my writing to probe. To analyze. To connect with a larger audience.

I am not about to squander it for posting trivia. I am not here to entertain. I am here to start a dialogue — even if it is with yourself.

I am here to express my appreciation of this life and the world we live in. I am here to comment on the beauty and the ugliness of it all.

I am here to be honest.

I am not sober and thoughtful all the time. I know how to have fun. But I cannot live the obsequious life. Or the smug life.

This blog is a reflection of who I am — it is a tapestry of many different emotions.

It’s like a car ride through different terrains. We’ll admire the natural beauty, honk through the urban setup, and even stop for ice cream along the way, but the journey is going to be bumpy and uncomfortable at times.

Hop on if you’d like to stretch those mental muscles.

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You are not your job

I watched The Fight Club again after several years and it was interesting that different aspects of the movie resonated with me this time than when I had first seen it. Probably because of where I am in my life right now vis-a-vis a decade ago.

There are a lot of gems in this well-scripted movie, but what stayed with me most was this piece of monologue from Brad Pitt:

You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your f*&%ing khakis.

Aren’t these, though, the things we identify our “selves” with the most? The brands, the paycheck, the number of rooms in a house, the front lawn, the backyard, the mortgage, the rent … but if these things don’t really matter then what does?

We judge people immediately by their titanium watches, their diamond earrings, their leather jackets. We nod our heads as they describe their professions. We “relate” with them when they talk about taxes, phone bills, and the rising cost of every consumable commodity. But do we ever look through to see the person they are?

Do we even look inward that way?

We let material things define us. Armani, Bebe, Gucci, Mercedes.

We let our jobs take over our lives.

We have no time for R&R and introspection because we’re so caught up in the “bling” of life.

We don’t look past the outer shell. We don’t seek answers. We don’t ask questions. We don’t think.

All we do is react.

We’ve let ourselves be shaped by things that don’t matter in the bigger scheme of life.  Some people find their “calling” but a majority don’t even know the answer to “Who are you?” anymore. Not for anyone else, but for oneself.

And perhaps, most of us are ok with that. Perhaps, that’s how society can function “normally.” When folks don’t go out on a limb seeking answers. When people operate like machinery. Like puppets saying the same things in different languages. Pining for the same material comforts. Fighting for the same limited resources. Lusting. Hoarding.

Dying with just the clothes on their backs.

I’ve realized in the last two years that what makes me happiest are the simplest things in life. Things money can’t buy. Things corruption and greed can’t touch. Things like the twinkle in a person’s eyes. A baby’s toothless smile. The smell of the earth when it rains. A croaking frog. A blooming bud. The silence of the hills. The calmness of a lake. A sunset. Writing.

Satisfaction, I have found, comes from within. Peace follows closely behind.

It’s true that I am able to roam the world and enjoy its people and its beauty only because of the paycheck that comes with a 9-5 job. That monthly deposit to my bank account allows me to do the things I really love. But should I let it define who I am and what my life should be? Shouldn’t I let what I love define what I do?

There are things we want, and then there are things we need. Sometimes we confuse between the two.

It’s tough to let go of the lifestyle one has become used to, but it isn’t hard to review and let go of things that truly don’t matter.

This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time.

You can choose to continue living it the only way you think you know how. Or you can ask the hard questions of your self and discover a way you never knew. In the process you might just find out who you really are.

Also posted on Writers Rising.

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A stunted approach to personal growth

Like most folks working in corporate America, every year I am asked to identify areas of professional development. For the past four years I have been going to the Editors Forum, a conference that brings together writers and magazine editors from the world of higher education to exchange ideas, explore uncharted territories, and look at the work we do with new eyes. It’s helped to network with peers in the industry, discuss institutional challenges, and learn something new. Every year, I’ve returned to my job invigorated and ready to “rock ‘n’ roll.”

As I deliberate on which conferences to consider for the year ahead, I’m also wondering why we, in general, don’t spend more time investigating personal development opportunities.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to go on a retreat at least once a year for oneself? Just take some time off from the 8-5 routine, its demands, its challenges, and its excitement, to look inwards. Doesn’t it make sense to introduce some pause in one’s life, so one can introspect, review, and regroup? It’s great to have that mandate from management (and the dollars) to invest in one’s professional development — couldn’t we then have a mandate for ourselves, akin to a resolution, if you will, that allows us some time to think about our personal goals, our passion, our beliefs, our relationships, ourselves…? It might not result in us feeling rejuvenated or clear-headed (I suspect, most of us would come back to the “real” world questioning the craziness we surround ourselves with), but I do think we’d come back grounded and in better touch with our “self.”

You’re probably saying that’s what vacations are for — our escape from the commotion of everyday living. But, think about it — do you really spend time questioning, challenging, discovering yourself? Isn’t it more about the family, the kids, and sightseeing. Vacations provide relief, not food for thought. Certainly not fodder for growth.

Resolutions aside, checking in with yourself may be the most important thing you do this year.

If you’ve been on a personal retreat, I’d love to hear from you. Also, if you have any ideas for professional development in the field of higher ed writing/editing, please drop me a note.

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