Thursday, December 31, 2009

a letter to new year!

If I were to write a letter (....and why not...???) to the new year , it would look like this :

"I have been waiting a long time for you to arrive, that's because I have planned to do many things that I didn't  get around to last year. You give me hope because you come around every year without fail and you come with no expectations...just a clean slate...its up to me to bring what i want to into this year and what I want to make of this time with you.

This year, I will take things slowly so I can savour each moment fully and see what gifts they bring me. I will spend more time being thankful for my blessings and for the people around me who love me so much! I also want to spend more time giving back to society and paying forward.

Thank you for coming back again renewed ( this is something I admire about matter what the world throws at always come back renewed !)  Thank you for giving me the  opportunity to do the same. You are a good year and I know now, that this a one time journey as you will never come back as 2010 again! I look forward to my time with you"

Happy New Year!

picture - courtesy of my blackberry , happened on its own..I call it new beginnings

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Two way street

Every year I send a friend flowers for Christmas and this year I forgot. She waited for them until Christmas Day arrived... no flowers... so her husband bought her some flowers for Christmas. When I went to  their house for dinner on Christmas Day, I was sitting at their dining table and I noticed a big vase of yellow orhids and I commented on  how nice they looked to her husband ( it never occurred to me that I forgot to send her flowers). Later on in the evening as my friend and I were talking she said jokingly that she waited for my flowers and that I musnt forget to send her flowers next year. To her, its wasnt about the was what I did for her every year was a mark of our friendship.

I am not sure why I forgot to send her flowers...maybe I was too preoccupied in my own life. But I made a mental note to send her flowers the next day, as it was still Christmas in some parts of the world. When she received the flowers, she called to tell  me that she was touched by the gesture but she felt bad for telling me about the flowers....BUT I was so happy that she did. Its a small thing but its the small things that add up and in a true friendship, both parties need to be comfortable enough to voice their feelings. This morning I asked her to return the table runner I gave her that she is not using!...ha..ha... This is what friends do.

I remember many years ago,I was travelling in U.S and I "hounded" my business partner and friend to buy me a handmade kaleidoscope. And he did, it cost a small fortune at that time but I still have it on my desk and every time I look at it, I am reminded of how I "badgered" him into buying it for me. I could have bought it for myself but it was more fun getting him to buy it for me.

We are very happy to give to others but we are reluctant to receive and even more uncomfortable to ask for what we want...because we worry about how it will get interpreted and we don't want to burden our friends. But there is a flip side to not allowing someone to give to us, we are not giving them the opportunity to experience the joy of giving.
 In the bigger scheme of things  there is no need for formality with good friends.. what matters more is how happy we feel when we have the opportunity to do do something for a close friend and make them happy in the process...and the fact that we have so much to share and give...that in itself is a true blessing!

(picture - courtesy of erica dickens)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Christmas!

I used to get quite sentimental at this time of this year and if I didnt watch it, I could get myself into quite a " state" . Initially I thought it was because I was on my own and then I remembered times when I was in a relationship and still felt very alone.
I realise now that it had to do with noone else but me... that feeling of aloneness and not belonging anywhere had to do with my own discomfort with myself... the various characters I focussed on ....about what they did and didnt do,were distractions and excuses that kept me from fixing my life, instead they  fuelled my "story"

We all have a "story" and sometimes we fall into a rut where we buy into our "story" to the point that we will do anything to defend our "story" ...times when we say..." you dont understand who hard its been to .....(fill in the blank) ... " But who are we kidding?... ourselves!!

These days, when I get that lump in my throat or knot in my stomach... I think " how interesting, what do I need to draw my attention to now, and what gift does this situation bring for me?"
When I do that, i free myself from the drama and I can focus on what's working in my life and there are so many things that work in my life.
My gorgeous children, my beautiful home, my wonderful family, the great people I work with and my loving and kind friends.  Yes there are bits in my life that can "scare" the life out of me if I focus too much on them ...its all about balance and turning around every now and then to see how far I have come....and its been a terrific ride!

I read something today that reflects the way I feel about Christmas, we dont know who wrote it  but whoever did, really understood the essence of Christmas :

"Every time a hand reaches out
To help another….that is Christmas

Every time someone puts anger aside
And strives for understanding
That is Christmas

Every time people forget their differences
And realize their love for each other
That is Christmas

May this Christmas bring us
Closer to the spirit of human understanding
Closer to the blessing of peace!"

Peace in the world outside begins with us feeling peaceful within ourselves .....and that comes from being grateful for what we have and acknowledging ourselves for our own personal journey in life. Happy Christmas!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

a hundred lamps of awareness

I went to a hindu temple with my mum today, she wanted to light oil lamps for Lord Ganesha to mark my birthday, so we were there at the temple and I was watching people light up hundreds of oil lamps...usually giving thanks for what they have received or perhaps they were also putting a prayer out for what they wanted. As I watched this, my mind kept wandering back to a TED talk I watched on the net last night. It was by a lady called Sunitha Krishnan. She spoke about how we need to raise our awareness to the fact that many children and  women get raped and abused in such horrific ways on a day to day basis. She herself was a victim of a gang rape by 8 men and she spoke about the anger that she had and how she chanelled it into rescuing more than a 1000 children. She spoke about how we pretend its not there and how we need to accept this part of our lives... yes it is a part of our lives...because I do believe that we perpetuate this ugliness in the world. We create it with the way we abuse power in our own lives and by the way we look the other way when we hear of such things. I know I used to say that its not a part of my reality and I foolishly believed that by not thinking about it , it wont be a part of my reality!

Recent statistics show that one in three women have some sort of abuse in their lives...I wonder how many more helpless children share the same plight? After listening to her I felt that what I am doing for street children by raising funds for them through my art is such a small drop in the ocean. I wanted to do more, so here I am writing about this. Below are links to Sunitha's TED talk and also the art auction site that I initiated for my company with the Christina Noble Foundation. Please tell your friends or as Sunitha says " can you break your cultural silence tell this story to two other people and encourage them to tell 2 more people" She made a request... asking us to open our minds in our limited world to accept and include these people into our lives. Perhaps if we did that, we can shine the light on these issues and flush the perpetrators out of the shadows.  This is why I have put the pictures of the oil lamps from the temple this morning because I want a hundreds lamps of awareness to reach out to the world and multiply... its the least we can do...afterall the real hard, heart wrenching work is done by people like Sunitha who give so much of themselves to make a difference to the world of these victims of abuse. Lord Ganesha is said to be the remover of obstacles, so my prayer this morning was for him to ensure  the safety of every single child today who may be in a threatening situation and ensure that they get timely help... when I did that, my initial thought was that there was no way we, the human race or even God can protect every single child!... why not ?  what is there to stop us from thinking about what else we can do to offer safety to every single child out there? what stops us from raising human consciousness  and doing our share on a day to day basis....only our limited thinking!

Letting the day flow by...

Yesterday was a full on day and even though I had plans to walk on my treadmill, meditate and process my thoughts ( basically 'me' time)  before I got on with my day...I dropped everything and just did what needed to get done. I was hosting a lunch party at home for my office team and felt I needed to just dive into the day. Its the task master in me who creeps up every now and then. This morning, however, was different ...I did the reverse, I took my time,  made time for exercise, listened to music and had quiet time for myself to listen to my thoughts.... the difference amazing! Yesterday was good day ( but by the end of the day, I was irritable and a little listless) , but today everything just flowed and one thing melted into the other.
Even better ... is how I responded to this insight. In the past I would have made a pact with myself that from now on I will make sure that I always have  time for me. By doing that I would have set myself up for failure in the future and would have got really pissed off with myself or anyone else who ate into my 'me' time. Why?  ..because it is not possible to predict what will happen tomorrow and sometimes life has a way of throwing 'wild cards' at us. Instead of planning and scheming ways to hold on to what I consider as things I value in my life,  I had another perspective.  I realised that I was only able to appreciate the difference  between the two days because I experienced both of them in the first place. How would I know that today was better if I didnt have yesterday? And so , in my awareness , I just took a silent moment to appreciate all of it. I am glad I didnt have 'me' time yesterday and I am glad I had it today. I realise that all of it works for me because I am not that attached to an outcome or destination instead I am just enjoying the journey. As with nature, there is an ebb and flow in our lives. When we sit to watch the ocean, its nice when the waves come roaring in  and its also nice when it receeds and gives us that moment of peace and silence.... only to flow again ...
We dont set out to hold on to the waves that come in and not let it flow back into the ocean, we know it happens, we accept it as a natural process.  This is what  I learnt today, that its ok to have days that are perfect and days that are not so " perfect" because all of it serves a purpose and everything is exactly as it was meant to be.... PERFECT!!!

(above picture of the ocean was taken on a vacation to phuket in Thailand)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Happy Birthday to me

When my son,Michael turned 5 , the school arranged for a special ceremony where they had the birthday child standing at one end of the room with two "angels" ( two of his classmates)  that he was asked to select. On the other end, we, the parents sat and next to us were 5 unlit candles. The teacher then told the class Michael's story and how he found his parents from high up in the sky,  and what he did at each age. Then she would say " and then he turned one" ... at  this point the parent had to light one of the candles and the child would walk with his angels a little closer to the parents. We did this for every age , till he turned 5 and we lit all 5 candles and till he ended up standing infront of us.  The "angels" then left him with his parents and the ceremony was completed. As a parent , I found this moving ...watching my son and listening to his story of how he travelled his life so far...even though I knew every detail intimately.
We all have our own story and we use this story to give ourselves an identity that we identify with. We sometimes defend our stories ... even if the story doesnt serve us anymore.
Its my birthday today and the picture of the cake above is the cake that my daughter helped me bake. I wanted a plate of brownies with candles on them ( inspired by the Domestic Goddess, Nigela Lawson)
A few of my friends got together in the kitchen to put this display together and as I watched them light each candle, I thought about my each candle represented a chapter of my life that's brought me to where I am now.  Looking back, if I had known right from the begining as to what was in store for me, I am not sure if I would have signed up to do it ... I think I would have been really afraid. Its a good thing that we get life in bite sizes, one mini chapter at a time year at a time... just like my son's 5th birthday celebration. Each candle represents a learning opportunity, my own unique passage through life and how my life got lit up jus a bit little more with each year. Maybe thats why my mum has a certain glow about her... its the wisdom of years combined with the genuine love and gratitude that grows in her heart  with each year!

Happy birthday to me!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

my purple water lily

Three days ago, I said that I needed a new gardener and today, one turned up at my doorstep. He was selling plants and I just happened to be there when he drove past in his truck full of plants. He stopped and asked me if I wanted to buy some plants I said "no", then he came out of his truck to ask me if I needed a gardener!!...he said that he was retiring and asked me if I had gardening work for him. (of course I eventually bought some plants- I bought a purple water lily and I bought a few other plants.)
I asked him if he could look after my garden like his own, he smiled and said yes, he had a kind face and we walked around the garden and he shared his knowledge of plants with me, what is edible, what is not, healing qualities of certain plants...He was perfect!
And I didnt have to go out and look for him. He just turned up. They say that you dont have to do much, just sit back, relax and align with the universe.... I cant say that I do it all the time because the "control freak" and super achiever in me sometimes manages to get me all " stirred" up. But when I do let go and relax, things flow so smoothly.
There is a joy in "allowing" things to happen...because you melt into whatever is around you when you lie in a hammock and sink into that moment's pleasure... you become one with everything... you open yourself up to life and in return life opens up to meet your heart's desires.
I didnt even know that I wanted a purple water lily but I know everytime I look at will remind me of surrendering to the universe and allowing things to flow.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Stones to Diamonds...

Its that time of the year... as my birthday draws nearer, christmas and new year too.. it makes me nostalgic and depending on what happens that day...I sometimes feel quite alone. I feel a little sorry for myself ...that it would be nice to have someone to share the load with or just to share my deepest desires or thoughts. I went to bed feeling that way last night, this morning I feel different. This is my "script" , this is the life I have chosen. I do have people around me who are more than willing to... not just carry my load but also carry me some of the way.. my sister and brother in law, my best friend and lucky charm... I have so many "angels" around me who just come when I need suppport and leave quietly when they see that I am ok. And, really.. there are so many of them.... even strangers on the street go out of their way to make my world a little better!

Its got to do with the "lens" I choose to put on and look out of. I can wear the " I am alone, nobody loves me lens" or I can choose to wear the " this is neat, look at the number of people who love me" lens.
Is it all just about positive thinking? I dont think so. Thinking is just one faculty...thinking without feeling doesnt cut it for me...its like lying to myself and pretending!. Feeling helps me connect with my emotion but feeling combined with a higher self/spirituality/God just takes me to a completely new level. It allows me to see things I have never seen - the colours, the layers, the sounds, the textures....its just amazing. It opens up a whole new world for me.
I think we complicate life too much. Its normal to have the "stone" days every now and then. It's what we do with the stone that matters. Reminds me of something I read a long time ago by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar "If you are holding on to stones in your hands, your hands will not be free to take the diamonds and gold."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hugging the day!

I was listening to some music today and I havent heard this one in a while , by Enya, Wild child and the words struck me, one sentence in particular " let the day surround you " .... and when I heard it , I had this image of the day "hugging" me. It brought me back to childhood instantly. The memories that come to mind are the ones of me lying on the grass under the sun and feeling the warmth of the sun... and as I did this, I will drift away into "nothing"....(...well...until my grandma would call out for me and ask me to come into the shade..." come in quickly, out of the sun, if you get too dark, noone will marry you!")...ha..ha.."

I had that feeling today, that warmth of being surrounded by the judgements... just acceptance... everything is ok ... everything is just right...everything is exactly as it needs to be. But will that disappear when I get into work?...probably ... but every now and then , when i become aware of my state, I can let the day surround me and be one with the day.

The first two verses of the song below:

"Ever close your eyes
Ever stop and listen
Ever feel alive
And you've nothing missing
You don't need a reason
Let the day go on and on

Let the rain fall down
Everywhere around you
Give into it now
Let the day surround you
You don't need a reason
Let the rain go on and on"

Every day we get on the planet is a special gift that we take forgranted. We dont know what the future holds, infact we dont even know what the next hour has in store for us... all we have is now and the gift of today. With that in mind, I am going to embrace today wholeheartedly and give it a great big hug!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Living in a Cave...

My dad used to say that its easier to be a sage or wise person if you lived in a cave/ up in the mountains far away from everyday life. He said the real challenge is in being able to rise above and make wise and noble choices when you are serving your "human" responsibilities as a parent, employee or boss , as a son or daughter an everyday person living life. And whenever I felt that I was judging myself, this is what I would recall. Sometimes, its hard to be a "good " person and think "peaceful" thoughts. Especially when we feel slighted or hurt by someone else. We dont wish them evil but we feel bad about having negative thoughts about someone. Children on the other hand allow themselves to feel an emotion fully. I know kids ( I wont say whose kids!!) who say things like " I hate my teacher...she is such a B....." and when I ask why and what they want to do about it .... this one kid i know would smile cheekily and say " I have already put her in the freezer or put her in a spaceship and sent her into outer space" These are the two more mild examples of what they would do! But by doing what they do, they have found a way to cope with what they feel in the moment and they dont feel guilty about it.

Everytime we reject a thought and pretend its not there, we reject a part of ourselves because in truth this is what we are feeling. By accepting that we feel a certain way without judgement, we give ourselves permission to process that emotion. At a course I did recently, the instructor said that our emotions are "energy in motion". We take in energy in the form of food and we digest it and what we dont want, comes out. Breath is the same, we take it in , process it and expel carbon dioxide. I never looked at emotions in this way and I have been thinking about it alot. So we feed ourselves in many ways - food as fuel for the body, knowledge for the mind, breath maybe for the body but its also our connection to our spirit or God as when you breathe you take in life and it calms you down...and I guess emotion is the "food" for the heart!!! If this is the case, then we need to apply the same natural principles that apply to the other bodily functions. Just that with food and breath - it happens on auto pilot , the body takes over whereas with information/mind food and emotions, we have to actively process it and be aware. This is the challenge, I am a master as distracting myself... I could write a thesis about it! and these days, with awareness I recognise the distractions and give myself the time to clear out the "mental and emotional " garbage as it comes through and also at the end of the day. Its still a chore and everytime I recognise a "wave of emotion or thought, I sigh " we go again!" But when I deal with it, I am a happier person, this is because I am not constantly fighting myself or others in my "head space" or projecting my fears or past hurts or having "mental conversations with people I am not happy with"... I find myself really present in the moment . Its such a freedom. Do I do it consistently?... No! but I am getting better at it ...why?... because " I dont live it a cave." I have kids to feed, work to do, earn a living and these days take out the garbage regularly ( mental and emotional garbage too)! Well thats my excuse anyway... I am learning that its really about doing my best in every moment... thats all I have to do!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Drinking Life...

Claudine, who used to work with me used to tell me...."just breathe" ..., whenever I got worked up. She even sent me messages to remind to breathe deeply whenever I had something big happening.
When we breathe deeply, we connect with life around us. Its such a simple thing to do and its effects are quite dramatic... for example when I started writing this piece about breathing deeply, I found myself taking deep breaths.Within minutes Claudine rings me on my mobile( we havent spoken in more than 6 months!) I answer the phone and tell her that I was just writing about her on my blog and she says " I just read your blog and wanted to ask you about today's challenge" We spoke about life and we spoke about gratitude and how the little things seem bright and "sparkly" when we are connected with life and centered within ourselves. The things we take forgranted... like the phone call from Claudine is a bit of magic,that life throws at you when you connect with it. Both of us got such a buzz from it.

My daughter, when she was 3 or 4 years old, used to stick her head out of the car and open her mouth and if I asked her what she was doing , she would say, " I am drinking the air " That made me smile and sometimes both of us "drank the air" together when we sat outside by the pool.

So the next time someone says " lets drink to life" ...I am going to make sure that I take a deep deep breath and connect with life and its magic before I drink my toast... and I will reply by saying " Yes.. lets drink to a magical life!"

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

whats core and whats not!

One of the things I learnt in marketing is to clarify the purpose behind any activity or initiative we chose to do. This is true for me with business and life in general. Sometimes it gets clouded and I lose perspective but it helps to ask every now and then as to what my true purpose is and what I am meant to do in this planet.
I did that this morning as I am giving serious thought to how I want to do business in the next ten years of my life. To me my work and business life are an expression of has to reflect my true essence. I have wasted too much time in the past trying to "fit in". (I dont even know why I bothered because I never did anyway!)

I did this by playing down my feelings and thoughts on how things needed to be, kept it buried, bypassed it and compartmentalised my life so that work remained seperate from some of the core beliefs i have about life ...although, as i got older i let more of this slip in.

To the people I work with, they think I am 'way out there' in terms of ideas...right in "space cadet" territory ...they like my ideas but they dont believe that it is practical in the real "dog eat dog" business world.

What I ask for is not that far out, just requires a slight shift in perspective.
I believe that as business leaders we need to make decisions from our true essence or core. To consider the impact we have on other peoples' lives and to be conscious about what we do. To not make it all about ourselves, to let go sometimes ..that its not always about winning and getting ahead of someone else. Not everybody is trying to manipulate or cheat. There are a few out there but because of our fear and need to protect ourselves we build rules and play stupid games designed around these few but affect the majority. How stupid is that!!

Back to clarity on my purpose, I only want to work on business with a heart, with people who are keen to make that change or impact the way we do business and still make alot of money. It is a longer term ride but its worth it. Anyone who cant see that, is not suited for my business model and way of life. This is just my manifesto and it helps me get to what's important whenever I am evaluating a business proposition.
Feels good to me!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

being visible in tough times

Sometimes leaders have to make tough decisions, whether it has to do with closing down a business unit or letting someone go. I recognise that this is a part of working life and that there may be a bigger picture at play. There are times when its impossible to save someone’s job and in those situations, what matters more is whether you did your best as a leader. Maybe its helping them find another job, maybe its just calling to check up on the individual, maybe its just listening with an open heart. Most of all it’s about leading to make a difference in the lives of the people we touch. Being there for the good times to celebrate wins is one thing but a true test of a leader comes when he/she chooses to be there when someone he/she manages is going through a tough time. This is when leadership needs to be visible and when leaders need to stand by their employees.Its easy to pretend that its not there because it makes us uncomfortable but I happen to believe that we need to do things that make us uncomfortable to help us grow as individuals. How else are we going to be a good example to the people we manage?