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Blog of the Month

Role Models are Everywhere: Group at TechCU (July 2018)


Millennium Yoga In the series “Role Models are Everywhere” on this blog, I had written about individuals and could not imagine writing about the entire group some day. Today am feeling very happy to showcase my TechCU yoga group. Can’t believe that we have completed 4 years this month since the program started.

Am amazed by the consistency and commitment of this group and consider it very rare. In corporate setting, sometimes the initial enthusiasm wanes after a few months and it’s very challenging to keep the motivation going. The work takes the precedence and there are always legitimate reasons - either personal or work that convince participants to let go of the practice.
***
Was stuck in morning traffic while going to my TechCU yoga session one Tuesday morning. There was no particular reason except that I started 2 minutes late that day, but guess it was just that day and the 2-minute delay was not the factor.

I was almost 11 minutes late when I entered the yoga class. Let me confess that I did not know what to expect, as I was never late before. When I entered, I noticed that everyone was quietly practicing the yoga poses. It was amazing to see that they had started and continued the practice on their own instead of choosing to use that time socializing.

Am very grateful to this group who is helping me to keep up the creativity. It’s easy for participants to outgrow a yoga class especially when one is attending a class consistently once a week for 4 years with the same instructor. Just wanted to let you all know that I am continuously thinking about how can I make the session interesting, little different each time, and making sure that the instructions do not get monotonous to loose interest.

Thank you so very much to my TechCU yoga group for continuing our creative journey together since last 4 years.

Heartfelt gratitude to my friend Shaila Gupte who introduced me to this wonderful organization where I met these amazing participants. Special thanks to TechCu administration to keep this Wellness Program open to their employees who are truly taking the benefits every week.

Wishing you all health and happiness!

Links to previously-showcased role models.
Role Models are Everywhere- Showcasing Dr Vani Velkuru
Role Models are Everywhere- Showcasing Vidya Vaidya
Role Models are Everywhere- Showcasing Rajashri Suraj
Role Models are Everywhere- Showcasing W1 and W2
Role Models are Everywhere- Showcasing Neha Purohit

Understanding “to understand” (May 2018)


Millennium Yoga “I fully understand this Shubhangi, but am unable to put this into practice”, Carmen expressed her frustration with her usual animated hand-movements. Her movements were stronger than usual indicative of high degree of frustration.

As I was adding and supplementing my notes after the meeting, it prompted me to look at the dictionary definition of word-to understand.

Here’s how the verb “to understand” is defined:
1. to perceive the meaning of; to grasp the idea of; comprehend:
2. to be thoroughly familiar with; apprehend clearly the character, nature, or subtleties of:
3. to assign a meaning to; interpret:
4. to grasp the significance, implications, or importance of:
5. to regard as firmly communicated; take as agreed or settled:
6. to learn or hear:
7. to accept as true; believe:
After looking at the various definitions of the verb “to understand”, it appears to me that “understanding” is at the intellectual level only. Though it is assumed that if we know something then our actions will be in accordance with what we know or accept as truth, but is it necessarily so? One meaning of understanding is to believe. Do we act on our beliefs all the time or just use the term belief very loosely?

When Carmen says that she understands that she needed to take charge of her own health by cultivating good eating habits and exercising but seldom acts on it consistently, is she understanding it? According to definition 4 above, she is grasping the significance of and knows the implications and importance of doing or not doing something intellectually and theoretically. Maybe we use the term “to understand” just to mean that we understand words but not the sense, or the value behind the words.

The more I am trying to understand, the more I fail to understand whether I truly understand what the word understand means and whether everyone understands it exactly the same way it is intended and uses it accordingly.

It’s going to be a creative assignment to understand the word “to understand” in its true sense.
What should I do? How about practicing “non-doing”? (April 2018)


Millennium Yoga “What should I do?”, Nam was extremely restless when she asked this question. Nam is a very type A person, so I knew that she would not take “nothing” as an answer.

As mind argues that doing something can only change the situation, brain agrees with it fully. Though it appears very logical and convincing, doing absolutely nothing works better in some cases. These are the situations where things resolve themselves and doing something may actually have the reverse effect. The simplest example is of trying hard to clean muddy water. The more we act, the muddier it gets. Watching without acting or reacting could be the best strategy in such situations. Waiting and watching helps build patience, patience leads to positive acceptance, and acceptance has the quality to transmute and transform. Of course discernment is needed to decide when to do or not-do.

In my coaching and yoga practice, I work with people to build patience and learn positive acceptance. The strategies or tools change based on situations they are bringing in to the table and also on various factors like personality, temperament, age, culture, gender of the client and the like.

Here are some of the techniques I use in yoga class:
1. Certain meditative/relaxing poses like Anantasan, Tadagasan, Makarasan, Vajrasan, Sukhasan or Shavasan help
2. Some breathing techniques like Anuloma Viloma or Stambh Vrutti pranayama or Chandra pranayama are found to be effective
3. Chanting of Om or A, U, M separately can also do the magic
4. Some movements especially of lower back or ankles or wrists work unbelievably in some cases
5. Some hand-gestures are very effective and work as quickly as within 30 seconds

The techniques I use in coaching practice are:
1. Specifically designed observation assignments
2. Other tools very specific to clients/situations

As the years pass by, am realizing the importance of conscious non-doing even more.
If you are considering incorporating “conscious non-doing” in a daily routine, it’s worth investing time learning this skill.

Even if you are a “doer”, it’s worth practicing non-doing so that you can do more.

Beauty of Not Knowing (February 2018)


Millennium Yoga It was a cool pleasant morning in the beautiful and tidy green Orange county of Southern California. I got up slightly early in the morning and curled myself up in a warm throw sipping warm tea. The window curtain was slightly open and I could see a big green tree gently wrapped up in fog. I was not sure how the entire view from the window would look like if I opened the curtains fully. The place was new and surroundings were unknown.

I closed my eyes and imagined seeing the same tree on the backdrop of a vast ocean as seen from the meditation gardens in Encinitas we visited the previous day. I then imagined seeing it looking standing in front of one of the beautiful homes cascading on the small hill facing the Newport Beach. The homes were so beautifully lit by the divine golden light from the setting Sun, that the fog currently surrounding the tree turned golden too. It was so easy to mentally Photoshop that tree anywhere I wanted, and the geography did not matter.

Many of us express uneasiness and discomfort in the unknown. Except for an adventurous few, anything unknown is scary and nerve-racking. When I work with people in a coaching relationship, almost in all the cases they want to know an answer for every question. Though my job is to help them find answers, finding answers for each and every question is not an easy task. Why did he cheat on me? Why she does not love me? Why my mother-in-law is mean to me? Why my kids don’t respect me in spite of me doing everything for them?... The list goes on and on.

I always like to challenge the fundamental paradigm that each and every question has to have a corresponding correct answer. Is it possible that question itself is phrased wrongly? What if we have yet to reach the level of understanding that is needed to understand the given answer? Maybe we are just 8th graders yet learning the concepts of mass and energy and Einsteinian equation of mass and energy conversion is beyond our present level of understanding.

Quest for knowledge is good, and curiosity to find answers is commendable, but when frantically finding answers to some questions drains us emotionally putting our systems at risk at the brink of collapse, it’s time to think whether this quest (for that particular question) is really healthy and worth the effort. Can we live without finding the answer and be ok with it?

The closed curtain that allowed me to imagine the tree anywhere I wished, did not appear as a hindrance. I continued sipping the warm tea with my eyes closed and did not find any need to open the curtain.

Am not sure, I would be able to enjoy “not-knowing” in other areas at some other time, but on that day, it felt very relaxing.
Simplifying Multitasking (January 2018)
Completing 5 years of blog writing with this post.


Millennium Yoga We all know when researchers started talking about multitasking being a myth. According to the latest research, we are serial thinkers/doers doing one activity at a time switching quickly between activities giving us the illusion of multitasking.

This Winter break, as I relaxed doing nothing, I got a chance to look at the ways I do routine tasks and the ones that demand cognition. As I observed closely and attentively, I noticed a few activities in my routine that fall under complex multitasking (multiple activities needing cognition). I was totally oblivious that such routines existed. The more I observed, the more I noticed. At the end of 2 weeks, I have a list of things that can be approached differently.

Based on the observation, I am planning to do an experiment with myself going forward.
1. Challenge the old-habitual ways (that actually appear to work) and look for modifying them to simple multitasking (combination of activities not needing cognition if they are synchronous)
2. Increase the activity duration of the mundane household tasks. Switching among mundane tasks every 5-10 minutes does provide me with necessary relaxation though, so am anticipating some mental resistance from within to practice this.
3. No change is currently planned in areas where I am comfortable keeping the tasks open for weeks, months and years by their very nature.

This is going to be an interesting on-going experiment. Most of us keep changing ways to work anyways due to changing resources and easy access to information. The only difference, if at all there is, could be doing it with little more awareness, or without adding any new piece of technology.

I routinely repeat this sentence in my yoga classes which I believe in: “On the yoga mat, simpler is effective, slower is better, and less is more”.
Am extending this thought to make changes in my current multitasking habits. Am pretty sure simpler will work. Choosing to keep myself fully open to see whether slower or less can also work when it comes to routine tasks.

Have you thought of any experimentation this New Year?
Wishing you all Happy, Healthy and Experimental New Year!

Observing self (December 2017)

This end of the year, am choosing to take a break of 2 weeks. Usually I use this time of the year to review the year and plan for the new one. I love doing that so I may take it up or may choose to do nothing.
Doing nothing sounds too lazy and unproductive, so would like to phrase it as: I will be practicing non-doing during this break. Wanted to skip writing this blog post too, but choosing to write a small one so as to avoid break in the activity I started in January of 2013.
Enjoy the end of year relaxing and spending time with your family.

Role Models are everywhere – Vani Velkuru M.D. (November 2017)

Millennium Yoga   This month I am very happy to showcase Dr Vani Velkuru (M. D.). Vani is a regular attendee at Millennium Yoga classes starting May 11th, 2016. I have many participants who are referred by their physicians, but Vani came to know about Millennium Yoga from her patient who is a regular attendee at Millennium Yoga. Vani attends yoga classes twice a week in spite her very busy routine. She is the founding physician of Advanced Arthritis Clinic, Fremont, CA. She is Board Certified in Rheumatology and Internal Medicine and has more than 15 years of medical experience. In addition to yoga, Vani loves dancing and biking.
More about the services she offers can be found at: Dr. Vani’s home page

I have many participants who in spite of their demanding full time careers, family responsibilities, kids’ activities and social interactions carve out time to take self-care. Personally I feel that everyone, and especially those who are working in the health-related fields, should assign some time to take care of their health so that they are able to better care for others.

Vani has been able to creatively incorporate yoga in her daily life. Am sure reading about how she does it will motivate those who are busy and unable to find time to take self-care.

After Vani attended yoga sessions for about 3-4 months, and mastered 25-30 major poses really well, we talked about a simple routine that can be distributed throughout her daily schedule. By this time, she knew the poses her body liked and she enjoyed practicing. The inputs coming from her helped me to create a specific yoga routine that she blended into her daily routine.

Here is what Vani’s daily yoga routine looks like:
Some days she manages yoga at home before breakfast and some days she does is at her clinic before starting her consultations. The routine consists of Sun salutations or 5-minute simple stretches and pranayama with specific mudras. Practicing simple routine before starting the consultations helps her listen fully and attentively to her patients, and especially helps to deliver her best without draining herself.

If the mornings are hectic, she manages standing poses and plank variations before lunch. Sometimes her clinic staff joins her and they practice together. They creatively choose poses that can be practiced in the regular clothing (not special yoga clothes) without sweating.

Seeing mom practicing yoga has created interest in her sons too. That’s the ideal way to pass on your values to the next generation instead of just verbally sharing them. You can see Vani showcasing some of her favorite poses in Tip of The Week of November 2017.

Wishing Vani and her entire family good health, happiness, and prosperity in all the areas in the remaining of this year, in the New Year 2018 and for many more years to come!

A Catalyst (October 2017)

Millennium Yoga I entered Mr. Ray’s class at MVROP and looked at the white board on the right hand side. This is a space where Mr. Ray writes quotes. This quote resonated with me instantly and so I took this picture.

The quote quickly rolled me back to the past when I was a kid. The process of teaching fascinated me even then. My first teaching attempt was teaching a small girl who came begging at the front door back in India. I do not remember which year it was, but vaguely remember that I was in Elementary School then. I loved to draw, so created a few resources for her with pictures and was totally engrossed in thinking how could I teach reading alphabets to this kid. My first student ran away after 2 sessions. The temptation of food was not enough to continue the learning motivation.

The second teaching attempt was tutoring Math and Physics to one of my relatives who was scared of the subjects. I was not good in Math and that’s exactly the reason I could teach the basics well. This assignment was temporary and ended once the girl mastered the concepts.

The strategy I used while clearing my own doubts was: explain the concept to self. I played a game of imaginary student sitting in front of me asking me several questions. I wrote all the possible questions on paper and while trying to explain those questions, created many more. I still remember asking self,” How can I explain this to someone who is at zero level?” This “Zero-level” did not refer to the intellectual capacity of the student but it referred to the assumption that the concept was totally new to the student. Believe that the strategy worked for students when I started my teaching career as a lecturer in Physics in Nagpur, India.

The teaching passion continued to express after coming to US when I started as an adjunct faculty in De Anza college, Cupertino, CA. I still remember my first day in 2001 when I entered the class with butterflies in my stomach. I knew that there were a few students in my class who knew more about web page design than I did. I told myself hundred times that it was not about knowing but the entire process of teaching that I was hired for. While learning adult learning concepts while completing Adult-Ed and Voc-Ed credentials in California, I was introduced to the concept of “Teacher is not someone who is sage on the stage but the guide by the side.” Instructional design, development and delivery certification reinforced designing the learning experiences for different learning modalities and giving more control to students to learn than to teach or give information.

I continue to enjoy the process of designing a learning experience which in turn becomes a learning experience for me too. It’s amazing to notice how Newton’s third law comes hand in hand with all the concepts of force while describing a yoga pose. The instructional design concepts help to monitor and assess learning, and plan/do/check/act cycle in project management helps to monitor and change trajectory when things don’t go as planned.

The more I teach and coach, more I believe that I cannot teach anything to anyone. My job is just to trigger a learning experience like a catalyst and joyfully observe how the learning reaction takes over.

Abhyas Vairagyabhyam… (Consistence practice and detachment) (September 2017)

Millennium Yoga
“I know that my upper back and neck issues are due to stress. I am a chronic worrier and absolutely do not know how to not worry”, - Anne said while touching her hand to her right shoulder. The shoulder pain was all written on her expressive face and tired eyes. The pain had kept her mostly awake the previous night.
“How can I control my thoughts?”- is another common question that is asked often in addition to pain and mental agitation. Many people share that even if pains are at the physical level, they are able to link the cause to the mental unrest that triggers them.
Stress- if not managed well - can trigger many unwanted responses in the body. By paying careful attention, one is able to pick up the link between onset of physical pain, discomfort or sleeplessness to a particular trigger. The outside triggers like allergies cannot be avoided, but if it’s the mental reaction responsible for initiating the pain response, modifying the mental reaction helps. As there is no such thing/organ as mind, quieting the chatter- the flow of thoughts feeding further thoughts needs to be quieted. Sometimes too much trying feeds it further, and the “minding” activity continues.
Patanjali Yoga Sutras provide ways to calm down these distractions. It provides ways to calm down minding-the continuous flow of thoughts that feeds itself.
Patajali suggests “Abhyas and “Vairagya” to manage distractions of the mind.
“Abhyas”- according to Patanjali means consistent and regular practice of turning awareness inward and observing the thoughts dispassionately. Just observing thoughts as a distant observer (“Sakshi”) without attachment or aversion is the key.
“Vairagya”- can be translated as detachment. Detachment in practice helps continuing practice (Abhyas) without giving up too soon.
Though discussing Abhyas and Vairagya in details from Patanjali’s point of view is not possible in this small post, for all practical purposes we can understand it as:

“Consistent practice of paying attention to our thoughts with a detached attitude can be helpful in calming down distractions of the mind”
As paying attention to inside do not come to us naturally, we use different yoga poses, and pranayama, and meditation to achieve it.
One participant recently shared: “When I joined the yoga class (about an year ago), I did not believe when you shared possibility of experiencing calmness in daily chaos. Now I can feel it happening in me.”

When you are ready to experience calmness, look for a yoga class that matches with your expectations or if you live in Fremont area (or South Bay, contact me.

Can Yoga Do The Magic? (July 2017)

Millennium Yoga When I called Valerie to check on her, she was excited. She could not believe that simple movements and hand-gestures (mudras) can cure her carpel tunnel that bothered her since last 4 months. Valerie is a software- professional so she cannot stop using her fingers and wrists. She did what she could do like get an ergonomic mouse, and a few physical therapy sessions. Her friend somewhat pushed her to my class and she felt so better at the end of 1 hour that she immediately enrolled and started sessions.

Alex is also a software professional who has 2- hour commute either way. He had developed lower back pain and then his leg started hurting. He came when his doctor recommended him to me, and we started with a simple routine. Alex started practicing the routine for just 2-5 minutes a day. After 2 weeks, he felt lot of difference and after 6 months his pain completely vanished.

Rachel was very emotional and in tears when she shared her bladder leak issue. Rachel associated bladder issue with old age, and was perplexed and horrified when it started at 33 for her. Two months of breathing techniques, hand gestures and pelvic strengthening exercises cured her problem.

Elena entered yoga class complaining burning in her hands since last 2 days because of which she could not sleep. Practicing a simple hand gesture cured her burning pain in 1 minute. She was extremely surprised that this could even happen in such a short time but not me. Have seen and experienced that certain hand gestures cure certain conditions almost immediately. It sounds too good to be true, but it really is.

Suhani shared that her husband’s migraine headache stopped after practicing a gentle yoga pose for 2 minutes. She requested her husband to try a simple press and pose when his migraine triggered at the middle of the night and he asked her to get ready to drive to the emergency room. He felt better by the time she changed her dress saving visit to the emergency room in the middle of wintry night.

Frequent belching made Kevin extremely uneasy. He felt very nervous and anxious when it happened during important meetings at work. After working with him 1:1 for about 2 months, we were able to figure out a set of movements, poses, breathing techniques and mudras that work just right for him. Now he knows what to do when he anticipates certain symptoms, and he is able to stop/manage them even before they trigger.

After extensively working with people in small group and 1:1 yoga sessions, I am totally convinced that whenever people are going through physical or mental pain, the possibility of magic exists and probability of this magic is very high. Only thing that is required for this magic to happen is to practice simple yoga poses consistently (even if it is as small as 2-5 minutes a day).

Want to experience magic? Please call/email me or go to any yoga instructor who takes your entire physical and mental health into account and irrespective of the type of yoga taught, instructional method, or number of participants in the class, works with you to create this magic just for you.
Here are some stories about magic experiences
The Latest Addiction (June 2017)

Millennium Yoga “My teenager is glued to his cell-phone all the time. When pointed out, he gives all reasons to support his addiction. My husband passively supports him by doing the same under the pretext of work. What should I do?” Vanessa was upset when she shared this during our parenting coaching session.

Teenage years are challenging- both for teenagers and for parents and now phone addiction is making it more complex. It is increasing at an alarming rate and our smart phone has taken over our lives so much that it’s outright scary. It is contributing a lot to the increased anxiety level. We feel it when we don’t check the screen or don’t see our device nearby generating tremendous insecurity. I do not remember feeling such insecurity 15 years ago when we comfortably drove around the cities with paper maps without smart-phones. We trusted maps and knew that we can reach to call boxes in case of need. Events did not appear that urgent and could wait till we accessed the news. Knowing the events as and when they occur anywhere in the world has now become a necessary necessity and the pressure of being left out is constant and real.
***
In one of my relationship coaching meetings, one wife shared that not replying to non-urgent texts from her spouse was a trigger for a big fight between them. Communication protocols in spouses vary a lot, and now texting is adding more to it. In another meeting, a mom shared that she was ready to book a flight the next morning to fly to the East coast (from the West coast) when her son did not respond to her casual, non-urgent text the previous night. To my surprise she was actually proud about her caring/parenting when she shared this to me. It turned out later that her son stayed with his friend who had weak reception in his apartment.

Remember working with a teenager a while ago when he struggled with having face-face conversation with a girl he really liked and was comfortable communicating only online. It took him 6 months to learn face-to-face communication with someone when I repeatedly made him practice walking to me, shake hands, make eye contact, say hello, and be ok with little silence. It is a strange time when normal ways of communication need to be taught as a skill.

When it comes to using smart phones and other communication media, it’s all about personal choice and setting communication expectations. It’s a choice similar to the ones we make when we choose to eat/not eat certain foods, do/not do exercise, sleep longer/better or choose to work long hours.
***
Well, I need to go. My cell phone has indicated me about a text received 15 seconds ago and I am unable to focus and cannot write further. BFN.

Brain hacking
Hooked on Phones

Do you see signs that something needs to change? (May 2017)

Millennium Yoga Recently I received a call from a young girl who is feeling stuck in her career of just 5 years. She feels complacent and thinks that inertia has set in. Things happened as planned and expected in her career path and she feels too comfortable and good at present. In spite of everything being perfect, she has this constant nagging thought that something needs to change. She does not know how to address this and so she called me when someone recommended my name to her.

This girl is too young to be facing a mid-life crisis though. All of us are aware of this well-known phenomenon they call mid-life crisis. At age when things in personal life and career settle in, the initial enthusiasm and momentum starts dwindling and whatever one is doing appears less appealing or even torturous.

Here are some of the signs and signals that are indicators that something needs to be changed:
• Boredom and a sense of apathy
• Lack of enthusiasm, interest, and energy
• Thoughts of incompetence and inability to keep up
• Unable to relate to the profession
• Lack of sense of purpose/fulfillment
• Anxiety, irritability
• Sleeplessness
• Fear, insecurity
• Palpitations
• Unexplained pains and aches like upper/lower back pains, headaches and the like
The above symptoms are also noticed in case of mental fatigue or illness that needs medical intervention or counseling.

It’s always good to rule out physiological reasons for the above symptoms. Sometimes low vitamin D levels or thyroid levels could be the culprit.

After ruling out physiological reasons for the symptoms, it’s time to turn the focus inwards. Cultivating and developing self-awareness is the key. Though most of us know it, we do not know how to access this self-awareness territory on our own. It’s not at all easy to delve inside but it is not too difficult either. The self-awareness exercise may take little longer, and sustaining the momentum needs consistent self-discipline. As the busy life takes precedence, developing and continuing the habit of self-awareness appears challenging.

A trained professional coach can act as a catalyst to speed up the process. Being accountable to someone keeps the momentum going. I have been working as a professional coach for last 10+ years and have designed a systematic process to assist clients in self-exploration. If you know anyone who needs assistance in exploring self, I can be reached at 408-529-6314 or email Shubhangi@MillenniumYoga.com

An Invisible Thread (April 2017)

Millennium Yoga Our morning yoga classes are slightly different than the other classes. Girls who work from home, for home and at home, attend these classes. They are on flexible and very demanding schedules. The class time is the only time they get for themselves and most of them are very respectful of this self-time and do not want to miss it.

That day was different. One girl shared about her worries related to her son and everyone started chiming in. Girls continued to share different things while we continued our yoga session transitioning from one pose to another.


Meeta then shared with us her “Invisible Thread Story”. This happened when her son Sahib was little. I simply loved the story and sharing it here with her permission.

The story goes like this:
Her son- Sahib- was much younger then and was afraid for some reason. That's when Meeta first imagined the invisible thread. She sat him down over a hot chocolate, and a lot of hugs, as she unfolded the story of one magical invisible thread. She made him picture a thread that connected his heart with her. With this thread, she would always be connected to him. Physical proximity is not needed for the magic of this invisible thread to work. She could feel his fears, pains and emotions through the tug of the invisible thread from anywhere. He could just do his best to center his thoughts and take a deep breath, and tug the thread to make everything all right. Sahib believed her and trusted the invisible thread.

Last week was the time when Meeta was getting nervous and worried about Sahib being away alone at the science camp for 3 days. Sahib reminded her not to worry about him. Now it was his turn to assure Meeta and remind her about the invisible thread and its power.
***
Am sure all of us continue to experience these invisible threads. It’s easier to feel this connection in certain relationships like mother and child, spouses, or in siblings. It is felt with friends, and sometimes with total strangers. It is felt with animals, and with elements of nature like plants, trees, and even with man-made things like cars. For spiritual people it is felt with formless or with a particular deity/god.

All of us are busy and time is scarce. Still it is worth to pause a little, think for a moment, and look through our mind’s eyes for this invisible thread.

Are we willing to take a pause right away, close our eyes, and through heightened sense of awareness feel this strong connection with someone, or something? It won’t take more than 2 minutes. Now is the moment to feel it.

Thanks Meeta for showing this powerful invisible thread to us!


On Being Creative (March 2017)

Millennium Yoga It was a usual day when I walked in to the substitution class at MVROP. This January I have completed 16 years at Mission Valley ROP, Fremont, CA . It started with teaching in the Adult program at MVROP, and when Adult Program discontinued, I started substituting. The campus and people are familiar, and some connections are very close to the heart. It feels like other home when I walk on the campus and I simply love it.

Substituting for high school classes gives me opportunity to be with teenagers across different cultures and I enjoy learning a lot from what and how they speak, think, behave, and act. It allows me to connect with a few of them when they share about their high school stress and even personal challenges. The campus is filled with enthusiasm, laughter, and lot of energy which is very inductive.

The class I was subbing that day was small and the high-schoolers were well behaved, and were on task. After completing their on-line quizzes, the class went on to practice the soldering skills. I observed that LK finished his tests early and moved on to set-up the soldering guns, safety goggles etc. for everyone. All the guns pointed in the same direction and everything needed for the job was neatly placed on the side. I observed with genuine curiosity as the students pulled out their circuit boards and started working.

I noticed LK coiling the soldering wire around the refill from the broken pen. He did it very rhythmically applying even pressure that the soft coiled wire looked beautiful. He then removed the coil and inserted it in the pen. His actions grabbed my attention and I asked him what he was doing. He shared that he was making a soldering wire dispenser using his pen. He further added that it gave him better control holding the wire while soldering. The long handle of pen was easy to hold on to (instead of coiled wire bundle), and made his act of soldering more efficient.

I was thrilled to see this. It was a very creative act and I asked him whether I could take a picture of his creative tool. He gladly accepted. The picture you see here is not just a picture. To me it represents the genuine act of creativity. This picture is a reminder that if one decides to be creative, it is possible to be creative everywhere and in whatever you do.

Am sure I still remembered LK’s creative act in my next day yoga class while talking about being creative in doing yoga poses. That day we tweaked a routine yoga pose just a little, and everyone felt a big difference that minor tweak made to the pose.

Thanks LK for the trigger.

Doing Yoga Consistently Works (February 2017)

Millennium Yoga “How much time does it take to see the benefits of yoga?” – a yoga workshop participant asked me at the end of the session.
“It depends on what benefits you are expecting” – was my answer. We then briefly talked when I shared approximate time frame to expect some of the commonly sought results.

Am sure people are able to understand increased flexibility due to yoga and also some mental benefits, but it would be good to know that yoga helps in many ailments and we can actually measure the results. Of course it’s not a magic pill and consistency of practice is needed to keep the results sustained. If one is ok with taking BP, thyroid, heart or diabetes medication without complaining forever, then one could be ok with doing the yoga practice regularly. Regularly does not y necessarily mean 30-60 minutes every day. It could be as small as 5-7 minutes every day (or an hour per week). I have a steady pool of yoga participants who attend once a week class. Many of them rarely practice at home, but are fully committed to once-a-week session and still continue to experience benefits.

Here is a list of ailments/conditions that could be cured, improved or could be maintained with little or no medication with consistent yoga practice.
***
1. Lower/upper back pain/neck pain/wrist pain
2. Sciatica
3. Knee pain/ankle issues/flat foot
4. Blood Pressure
5. SI joint pain
6. Menstrual/endocrine disorders
7. Anxiety and panic attacks
8. Overall Stress Management
9. Sleep disorders
10. Anger Management
11. Openness in attitude, increased patience and tolerance, increased compassion
12. Thyroid
13. Urinary incontinence
14. Impotence
15. Infertility: Primary/secondary
16. Puberty related issues
17. Balance/flexibility
18. Tummy toning
19. Overall strengthening
20. Positivity
21. Focus and concentration
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Gratitude Rain (January 2017)

Millennium Yoga It was windy and wet rainy morning when I got up enthusiastically to start for my morning yoga class at TechCU in San Jose. Was very excited to go to the class after a 4-week rejuvenating vacation in India.

It was still dark when I started. The first thought of gratitude (for the rain) drizzled when I pulled out my car out of the driveway. I could hear raindrops rhythmically tapping on the front windshield, and the car enjoying this musical shower.

The reflections of street and car lights on the wet road looked extraordinary and I marveled how the reds, yellows, whites and greens looked different with aura around them. Think the raindrops did some magic to their color. My eyes could smell the cool fresh outside air as I reached to press the button to let the outside in. The nose joined the eyes, and I appreciated the indescribable scent of rainy air. I was extremely thankful to see and smell and listen while driving in the midst of respectful traffic. I was also thankful to the car designers and manufacturers who allowed me to let this outside environment into my car with a single press of button.

As I turned at the signal, I heard the sound of car tiers moving through the puddle. The car appeared stable and secured in spite of reduced resistance from the road and I was grateful for the new tiers. The car felt happy driving through the rain and as I merged on the freeway, the “gratitude rain” started pouring. I felt grateful for well-built roads, and the government and the people who paid for it. The gratitude thoughts went backwards to all those workers who worked tirelessly days and nights to construct this road so that I can enjoy a smooth ride today. My car thanked the other drivers who drove cautiously in their respective lanes and obeyed all traffic rules. The traffic was slow, and the car chose to be in the right lane running at the fuel-efficient speed of 55 miles/hr and felt proud about it. I felt grateful for my reliable and thoughtful buddy of almost 13 years. Am sure the steering wheel must have felt that heart-felt thank you.

I had started 5-7 minutes early anticipating slow traffic, so did not feel even the slightest sense of rush. Got distracted for a few seconds thinking I left my cell-phone at home and a momentary flash flood of insecurity emerged. That was quickly drained by the free flowing thoughts about what I could do in its absence.

As I exited, I felt sense of deep gratitude to all my yoga class participants at TechCU who consistently attend this morning yoga class before work for 3 years. It’s their consistent attendance that TechCU extended the contract for another 6 months making it the longest (3.5 year) corporate yoga contract in my career. I longed to see the familiar, loving and smiling faces in a few minutes as my eyes synched with the outside rains. All other faces from my other yoga classes quickly joined them creating a wonderful yet blurry collage. The gratitude rain was pouring heavily by the time I parked my car in the parking lot.

We expect rain to end and sunshine to emerge after a few days, but I don’t mind if this gratitude rain continues to pour forever starting this New Year 2017.

Happy New Year to you all!

Failing to plan is planning to fail (December 2016)

Millennium Yoga Being in a profession of personal coaching, teaching/training and project management, I totally believe in the process of planning. Daily life, and uncertainties associated with it, continues to give us surprises both pleasant and painful. There are ample occasions to practice and enjoy spontaneity daily.

December and January are planning months and I totally enjoy creativity associated with it. This is the time when I like to sit and introspect the passing year and think about the coming one. I have coaching clients who are also eager to do this exercise. This period totally excites me. I eagerly look forward to meet some of my clients whom I see only during this time (end/beginning) of the year. They self-monitor their goals sending me feedback at decided frequency.
***
I met Gloria yesterday. She came with the completed assignment, and was pleasantly surprised when we compared her progress with the last year’s. Am working with Gloria for past 5 years. She is my regular “once a year” client. We have a feedback system set up every three months when she updates me. If the goals are not met she takes it upon herself to meet them before the next 3-month cycle. The accountability brings her back on track in case of minor slips.
This year she was determined to put certain goals like giving back to community, learning new language and pursue a hobby on her calendar. Giving these goals some place on her calendar made her very happy.

Jonathan had put his smoking habit and other health goals on hold for a year as he was struggling with relationship and career related issues. He is young, and very healthy so nothing major related to his health interfered with his goals. Being a wellness coach, it was really hard for me not to “advise” him to let go of his health goals. Every time Jonathan visited, I had to sit prior with myself self-teaching that I was there to support his goals and not to choose goals on his behalf. I respect my adult clients fully and leave the choice of goals to them unless explicitly asked.
During this year-end visit, a mention of anxiety came up and Jonathan was willing to resume working on his smoking habit and practice routine for self-care.

Pritha is a new client and she enjoyed the exercise of taking a look at her whole life. She being a certified Project Manager could relate to managing life as a project. We mapped the project management processes with real life and agreed that managing life is challenging given the fact that end date of this project is unknown.

As we are entering into a New Year, do you have time to stop and think about what you have accomplished and what you plan to achieve in the next year? My days in December 2016 are planned and already booked, but if you would like to spend some time planning this and need some inputs, let’s talk/meet in the New Year!

Happy New Year 2017 to you all!

It’s time to open conversation with kids (November 2016)

Millennium Yoga
This post is triggered when a parent called me sharing how disturbed her daughter was when the daughter called mom after election results. The daughter lives on college campus, and was terrified and frustrated after election results were out. She was concerned about self (being an immigrant), about her parents, about her Muslim, Hispanic and gay friends, about her future, and future of the country. The mere assurance from mom that things would be ok was not sufficient and the mom did not know how to handle the situation.

Another mom was unable to calm down her 10-year old son when he returned from school visibly upset with what he read in the school restroom. I also talked to my teacher friend who did not know how to explain this to her elementary school kids. Talked to a practicing doctor who mentioned her 3 patients (all White) making last minute appointments as they were feeling too depressed. One even expressed his wish to die. The other apologized to her expressing that this country was behaving in an inhuman way with the immigrants.

The handyman who visited my home yesterday appeared unsure about his feelings and said he was on wait and watch. My neighbor looked and sounded extremely hopeful and positive about the change when I saw him wearing “Make America Great Again” cap and we exchanged a few sentences while I pulled out of the driveway.

People take and process information very differently. Many factors like race, ethnicity referring to cultural factors like nationality, ancestry, language, age, sex, life experiences, and education play important role in processing this information. Most of the people I met, and explicitly opened conversations about election results, were skeptical and scared. Many appeared uncomfortable and too confused after hearing conflicting viewpoints.

There is enough material out there to educate self on latest election results, so am choosing not to post any links as Social media is already flooded with multiple links.

After talking to young adults and also to worried parents, I sincerely feel a strong need that parents should talk to their kids and listen to how they are feeling. What and how much will differ from family to family. Parents can make that call based on the ages and nature of their kids. Am sure many thoughtful parents have done so already, but just in case you missed, it’s time to open conversation with your kids.

This is what 2 juniors from Fremont schools penned down on the night of November 8th, 2016 after the election results. These young adults are very articulate in expressing their emotions.
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Tonight's election has revealed to many of us that America isn't the place we all believe it be. America isn't all diverse, and it isn't all fair. Our Constitution guarantees us all equal rights, but it sure doesn't guarantee all of us equal respect. It doesn't require leaders to be civil, respectable, or even decent individuals. It doesn't even suppress against the most misogynistic, racist, authoritative leaders. It does none of this, because it leaves us the responsibility to do. It gives this power to society, to "we the people", to us. And today our society has undeniably failed us. Our neighbors, our colleagues, even our friends, they've failed us. It's hard to realize that, to embrace that, but it's even harder to recognize that it's not their fault. Because our society, our decisions are shaped overwhelmingly by one thing: our education. And when even a high-school education is not enough to prevent Americans from electing a man like Trump, something is messed up.

And I'm not surprised. How could I be? In a society that values standardized testing over standards, math over morals, in a society that treats students as numbers and letters, how could I be? In modern America we know how to educate, but we sure as hell don't know how to teach. We oppress and enslave students who want to learn, depriving them of natural ambition and curiosity, devaluing their talents while submerging them in a "standardized" world, where uniqueness is a liability. This is the example we give to students, and they pay attention. Schools may not realize it, but while they teach biology, physics, or algebra, they're teaching morals and ethics as well, and they aren't doing a very good job of that either.

Don't get me wrong, I don't hate Donald Trump, I don't even know if I like Hillary Clinton. But i have been lucky enough to be among adults who have taught me my values, and I do know a few things. I know a person’s actions, a person’s thoughts, and a person’s vision. I know a person's character, and how to judge it. And I know that Donald Trump could surely become a great president, but he is absolutely not a great, or even good person. And I hope that one day the rest of America is lucky enough to know that too.

In a nation that is as divided as ever, only one thing is clear tonight: America has a long way to go before it lives up to the ambitious creed our forefathers put forth, and that journey begins in the classroom.
-AB from from FUSD, Fremont CA
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As a girl who is a racial minority in this country and is the daughter of immigrants, I can't even begin to express how I feel about the election right now. Knowing that a man who has sexually assaulted women (and feels no shame about doing so) is guaranteed the presidency disgusts me. As a racial minority, having a president who disrespects and demonizes groups of people is frightening and hurtful. As the child of immigrants, my parents came to this country with the hopes of getting a better college education and having successful careers. They hoped that this country would be as accepting and as full of promise as they had heard about, and that their dreams, both for themselves and for their children, would come true. Having a president who despises immigrants (who have become the backbone of this country) is terrifying for a person like me, because had my parents never left India, I wouldn't have the same abundance of opportunities and choices as I do today. On all three levels, the idea of having a man with no decency and respect for others is truly appalling, and I sincerely hope that the Americans who voted for that man quickly come to their senses and realize how big of a mistake this is.
-AD from FUSD, Fremont CA

I hate my tummy (October 2016)

Millennium Yoga
Ariana came to see me to get information to enroll in my yoga class to tone her tummy. As she entered the room, I noticed that she was just slightly overweight with most of the fat collected around her belly. As we continued to discuss her eating/exercise habits and expectations from the yoga class, that’s when she actually hit her tummy and said,” I hate my tummy”. I heard sobbing, and then a loud cry from her tummy.

“It’s hurtful and totally insensitive. Why is she blaming me? Am doing my best to keep myself in shape but she is unable to hear me. I keep shouting and she continues to listen to her tongue. She should blame her tongue, and not me. Am tired of working when she continues to eat every now and then and I am not getting any rest”- her tummy was upset and felt totally dejected and disowned.
“Why blame me?” Now it was the tongue’s turn to get angry. “Am just doing my job. She should blame her brain or mind that is ordering her to eat”.

All the organs involved, directly or remotely, started shifting blame to one another. It was a total chaos as most of the systems started arguing shifting blame to one another.
***
Weight management is a challenge. Some people work really hard to get the desired results. Some succeed and some don’t. Those who get the desired results are happy, but often find it challenging to sustain them. It requires tremendous self-discipline, constant monitoring, and consistency of efforts.

If you are one of those who are trying to control weight, here are a few things to think about: 1. Is there any strong genetics linked to the body weight? If yes, is it more logical to eat healthy and do moderate exercise without torturing self too much or attaching too much importance to that number on the scale?
2. If you want to loose weight fast, and working out heavily to achieve that goal, consider the possibility that your entire body is in very unsecured mode and feeling traumatized. Watch-out for body and mind waiting for every opportunity to jump off the weight-loss wagon.
3. There could be legitimate reasons when people are looking for quick weight loss. If possible, think of making the weight loss regimen slow and consistent instead of too fast, as there’s a higher probability of sustenance when it is done slowly.

On a closing note:
How about working on weight management in a more caring and compassionate way instead of torturous, and hurtful ways? Are we willing to work with our body parts respecting them as sensitive individuals? Can we look at our body parts like our children? If we do, then only we can hear a loud cry or a nervous sob every time we hurt them with our words or gestures.
Ariana, being a teacher, instantly agreed that though she is teaching respect in her classroom, she needs to respect her own body.

I noticed that her hand lovingly went to her tummy as she got up to leave.
Am overwhelmed and don’t know when to do what I want to do (September 2016)

Millennium Yoga
Peggy sounded and looked overwhelmed when she said this.
Life is hectic and we have too many things to do. Planning time to take care of our personal and work life becomes truly overwhelming. Everything seems urgent and we are unable to decide what’s really important. The limited time resource forces us to focus on short-term rather than long-term consequences of our decisions and actions.

People choose to be busy. Self-chosen busyness feels and sounds good, and it comes with aroma of success. It disguises as inevitable and we do not have time to challenge our thoughts. Not having enough time is mostly not about time but about misplaced priorities. Not always, but often enough, it signals that we really do not want to do what we say we want to do. Other major reasons could be our inability to say no to unimportant things or choosing divergence against focus that results in time-scarcity.
***
“Remove the value “health” from your goals’ list Peggy!”, I said it so affirmatively which totally surprised Peggy.
“No, it’s one of my values Shubhangi”, she continued with puzzled and bewildered expressions on her face. “Maybe it sounds and feels good to say health as your value Peggy, but your inaction clearly shows that it is not”. Show me one action you have taken in last 60 days that proves that you value your health”. Peggy could not think of any and that made her more nervous.

Challenging the unclear thought process is one of the key components of my work, and it was clearly time to make Peggy aware of it. I knew that she was very busy, and was going through difficult time of her life, but that did not justify “not doing”. Taking self-care was the goal she had chosen for herself, and monitoring her goal was my job.

Peggy had 2 options: 1: take off “health” from her goals’ list temporarily and switch to focus on other goal/s, or
2: keep health as her first priority and create time to do what she decided.

Peggy chose to create time. We agreed upon a protocol that she would text me a smiley face when she took the action and I would follow-up with a question mark if I did not receive any. The system is working acceptably well since last 2 months.
Both of us are now working on “how” to get her “what “ done efficiently and effectively. If you are missing on your important things, a question to ask is:
“Do I really want to do what I say I want to do?”
Are you ready to take mini-vacation right away?(August 2016)

Millennium Yoga
Is relaxing doing nothing becoming a great skill now-a-days? I don’t know for sure but meeting 3 people back to back last week who were very much struggling to relax made me think so. The people I talked to, all of them expressed that they felt guilty while relaxing. It felt as if they were wasting their time. They continued to think about getting things done from their checklist instead of relaxing. The thoughts related to “to-do” kept nagging and they could neither work nor relax.
***
“Am overwhelmed with things to do”,- Naomi said. Her lips were quivering and eyes were tearing up as she said that. She sighed and moved her hands awkwardly. That was clearly her “stressed-out” body language. Naomi is a very detail-oriented person who likes to plan everything up to the micro-level. The habit of careful planning made her achieve her goals and I consider her successful. She is creative and loves color-coding different items. (BTW, noticing that 4 of my millennial clients are choosing paper over any digital media makes me feel trendy ☺).

“Show me what’s overwhelming you?”

She opened her diary and as I looked into it, I realized the problem. She got carried away and planned everything she needed to do in next 2 months to the minutest details. The sheer volume of it sent chills to her spine and left her frightened and too anxious to start anything. She was unable to enjoy anything and could not rest.

Am not going to focus on the entire discussion that followed but would like to talk about the structured relaxation assignment that followed.

Asking people to relax is not sufficient. Many of us don’t know how to. Hobbies or activities one enjoys are not compelling enough to forget the stressors. As people get busier with work and as relaxation subconsciously gets equated with laziness or waste of time, it’s extremely challenging to relax at will.
***
I gave assignment to Naomi to write things and activities she can do. The idea was to take frequent and small breaks while working. That way she could possibly relax without apprehension or guilt. Naomi is now working on it and am curious to hear the results during our meeting this week.

Are you noticing that life is too hectic to relax at will? Want to take a vacation that’s hassle-free without hotel reservations, delayed flights/traffic, planning what to wear and when, and zero monetary cost?

How about taking a mini vacation within self to tap the inner resources?
Let’s unplug for a while.


Magic in the Front-yard (July 2016)

Millennium Yoga
It was painful to see the rose tree broken in the middle when I opened the front door one morning. The rope that tied its main staff to the stake gave up during the night storm breaking the single main staff that supported its big crown. The stake appeared sad and lonely. The tree had just bloomed at the onset of summer and the last rose from the first bloom of flowers was still fresh and fragrant.

It was broken real bad with just 10% of contact remaining. I had no hopes of its survival. The tear was too big to heal and the tree being 15 years old, I was more sure about its death than its survival. I went twice to cut it, but couldn’t gather courage to do so. Am feeling very ashamed to admit that I left it crying for 2 days and did nothing. Mandar (my husband) suggested tying it with a tape. I emphatically dismissed the idea thinking that it would prolong its death. After 2 days, I decided to give one hopeless try.

The days passed. I had lost so much of hope that I did not even check how it was doing after taping the broken staff. Am not sure whether the strategy of avoiding to see its pain really worked.
***
And then I noticed the magic. Initially I thought that it was just my imagination when I saw small red leaves. I really had to check it multiple times to believe it. Even if some of the leaves dropped off, major crown of the tree with all the branches and leaves actually survived pretty well. I sobbed like a baby after experiencing this magic. I felt grateful to Mandar for his suggestion, and also felt grateful to myself for not listening to my hopeless belief.
***
Though I had done grafting on roses in my teenage years, this cohesive adhesion of xylem and phloem of the entirely woody part of the tree was incomprehensible. Intellectually, am still unable to fathom how did this happen.

This resilient, graceful and blooming tree proudly stands in the front. It continues to express itself with the same fragrant yellow roses. I do not see any weakness in its body and everything seems just the same.

This amazing rose tree has taught me the following:
• Do not give up even if things appear 90% hopeless.
• It reinforced the belief that my intelligence has limitations and sometimes the logic it generates is outright wrong. I need to challenge that logic especially when it sounds hopeless.
• I may never understand it, but there is always a possibility of magic happening somewhere somehow.

This magic is standing in my front yard, and a tiny magic seedling is sprouting in my heart.


A Smile Is A Smile (June 2016)

Millennium Yoga “How was your day?”- I asked N as she entered yoga class with her usual, genuine signature smile. She has this sweet style of slightly raising her shoulders when she replies, “Very busy, or the like”. The way she says it every time with her energizing smile, the negative sounding words like hectic, tiring, stressful, busy…loose their negativity and appear cute, funny and welcoming.

We have a nice group of people in different yoga classes. Participants get used to each other and most of us are comfortable sharing major happenings in our lives with each other. Some of the participants connect extremely well and develop friendships of a lifetime. This week N happily shared that she was getting ready to move on to her dream job.

She had applied and tried for this job three times earlier. Her consistency, patience and resilience have paid off, and she is very happy to accept this new job offer. When I admired all her qualities and congratulated her on her success, she shared the following story.

N, after getting hired, asked her hiring manager what made them select her over other candidates. I cannot imagine someone asking this question after getting selected, so was very impressed with her ability to do so. The manager replied that N was the only candidate that walked in the room with a big smile. The manager further shared that all the people working in her department are working together for many years. They know each other very well and have developed wonderful chemistry over the period. They wanted to hire someone who would gel with them. They wanted to hire someone who is positive and fun to work with every day given the stressful nature of the job. N’s smile gave them the assurance that she was the one. N’s attitude reflected through her smile got her hired.

We have heard that people are hired mainly for their attitude, and N’s story reinforced it. Of course she had the necessary skills for the job to get hired, but so do the other candidates who were selected and appeared for interview. Maybe her smile separated her and put her above all of them.

Being aware of the behaviors that are positive, one can learn to train the mind to cultivate and nurture those thoughts, behaviors and actions. Certain words/phrases we say, reactions that come-out naturally, and too-quickly (especially the negative ones) could be modified with awareness, acceptance, and sincere and consistent efforts.

Some people may argue that faking a smile is phony and untrue. Personally to me, a faked/forced smile, consciously practiced with the sincere wish of transferring positive energy to others, a smile that makes someone comfortable, little happier and relaxed is a genuine act of compassion and there is nothing untrue about it. Intention is what truly matters.

We all, at Millennium Yoga, wish N her very best as she starts her new job today. It brings a big smile on my face too as I am writing this and am sure the good news and seeing N’s smile in attached photo will bring smile on your face too. Thank you so much N for sharing your smile with everyone.

Genuine or cultivated, a smile is a smile and am very positive that we all love it when we see it and do it! ☺


Role Models Are Everywhere: Showcasing Vidya Vaidya (May 2016)

  Millennium Yoga I very much wanted to write something about my friend Vidya Vaidya, but always postponed it thinking that a small blog-post like this would not give her justice. Finally decided to write about her anyways with a big disclaimer that whatever I write about her is just not enough.
***
Vidya is - “true love personified”. The quality of loving everyone unconditionally comes very easily and naturally to her, and this very quality makes this girl super-human. I have never seen, or met anyone who is so loving, affectionate, caring, kind, compassionate, forgiving, understanding, hard working, and beautiful- at the same time. She expresses her love through her eyes, smile, words; small/big acts of caring, and her entire being. Everyone in her presence feels her love instantly and does not have even the slightest doubt about its purity, and sincerity. Those who know her well, or those who have interacted with her even briefly, will instantly and unequivocally agree.

Vidya is well known for her culinary expertise. Amino acids in her hands are truly magical. She ran her own food business when she lived in Bay Area. We all still miss her food. Her caring attitude expresses at its maximum when she cooks and feeds people. What an amazing combination to have in an individual- culinary expertise to satisfy people’s taste buds, feed their tummies, and a kind heart to nourish their souls! Am always amazed at how she manages to remember even the slightest variations people prefer in their food, and willingly works extra to respect those preferences. Everything she cooks has one important ingredient added very sumptuously - love!
***
Here is Vidya’s recent act of love that totally awed me:

After Vidya and her husband Atul moved to Nasik, Maharashtra, India in August 2015, they employed several helping hands to take care of their sweet home. After experiencing wonderful help from their maids for about 6 months, Vidya proposed to Atul to arrange a special get-together just for them. Atul readily agreed. They creatively planned a small party for the maids and invited them with their kids. Vidya cooked food for them and Atul arranged games and a movie. Atul surprised them by passing out warm pop-corn packets to all as they watched the movie. Everyone received a beautifully wrapped small gift at the end of the party. It must have been a memorable and unique experience for all the maids and their kids. I was totally amazed after hearing this and was curious to get more details. Vidya shared that when she thought of the idea, she anticipated possible consequences. She decided to share the idea with her maids and set their expectations in advance about not expecting similar gesture from their other employers or as a routine gesture from her in future. Though we did not talk about what exact words Vidya used to explain the whole concept to her maids, but I could imagine her gentle and unassuming way to explain everything without glorifying her act.

What a gesture! I have never heard of anyone doing this. Inviting servants to other parties is common, but to host a special party just for them is simply unheard of.
Kudos and Cheers to my friend Vidya who is a true gift to me from above!
***
If you are reading this post and Vidya has touched your heart, just write to her at MeeVidya@Yahoo.com. As you already know, Vidya has capacity to read even a blank email!
***
Those who don’t know Atul and Vidya Vaidya:
The entire San Francisco Bay Area Indian community knows Atul as the audio/video expert. Vidya ran her own food business in addition to supporting Atul in all his endeavors. Atul and Vidya (along with Milind and Madhura Gokhale) started ePrasaran Internet radio exactly 10 years ago (May 1st, 2006). This radio is consistently up and melodiously running since then.
Atul and Vidya Vaidya moved back to India last year (August 2015) after staying in Silicon Valley for 19 years. Though they have moved to the East from the West, their voice is global and can be heard all over the world through ePrasaran.

Happy 10th anniversary to ePrasaran Internet Radio, and the best wishes to this amazing couple!

Links to previously-showcased role models.
Role Models are Everywhere- Showcasing Rajashri Suraj
Role Models are Everywhere- Showcasing W1 and W2
Role Models are Everywhere- Showcasing Neha Purohit

Am I A Bad Girl? (April 2016)

Millennium Yoga “Am I bad Shubhangi?” “No you are not Melony, and I totally mean it!”, I assured Melony because I believed that it was true.

Melony is one of my good-hearted and compassionate clients that I work with. During our monthly coaching sessions she was describing her negative emotions to me. She was unable to make peace with herself when she suddenly started experiencing strong negative emotions, and was very disturbed. Though Melony recognizes most of the good qualities in self which she values and respects in others, this sudden outburst of negativity was surprising to her.

Based on my experience of working with people, I consider this very common. Being gone through similar emotions myself, I exactly knew how Melony felt. I still remember myself crying hard when I did not open door to the salesman who was standing outside my apartment back in 1997 in Sunnyvale, CA. It felt like my entire humanness suddenly vanished and I felt as if I suddenly morphed into a heartless creature.

People often share with me how they dislike themselves for their negative thoughts and emotions. Those who are extremely sensitive blame themselves for all these negativity. “How can I stop these negative thoughts?”, is the question they often ask. “Am sorry, but I do not know how to stop those thoughts”, is always my answer.

Though I do not know how to stop them, I definitely have some tips on how to accept and diffuse their intensity. They may sound routine, but successful implementation is the key.

Here are some of the tips that may work.
1. Identify the negative emotion/s
2. Label it without reacting to it; use a neutral sentence to describe.
3. Think that it has some purpose- teaching, learning, evolving… (add your own to this list) which one may not know right away
4. Treat it as a guest and show it the guest- room. This action may help energy drain in rejection or denial.
5. Do something with your body. Walk, run, move, dance, exercise, or do yoga. There are many poses, movements, breathing techniques and mudras that help to manage negative thoughts; check with your yoga instructor what might help
6. Create your list of things you can do when experiencing negativity: take a shower, listen to music, watch a movie (how about Inside out?), sleep, gardening….
7. If things don’t help and you continue to remain negative, make appointment with your primary-care physician to eliminate physiological causes like thyroid levels or vitamin D/B levels.
***
“All positive emotions all the time, is a fantasy and not a reality. No-one is positive and happy all the time. We, humans, have a need to be negative sometimes. The world is full of pair of opposites, so the existence of negative emotions is there to balance the positive. It’s ok to feel angry, jealous, mean sometimes but that does not make one a bad person Melony”.

As we continued to discuss about frequency and intensity of negative emotions and strategies to manage them, her face slowly relaxed. She realized that her expectation to have no negative emotions the entire time is unreasonable, and she left the session with a smile.


Finding and Cultivating Happiness (March 2016)

Millennium Yoga “I just want to be happy!” Naomi was in tears and sobbing when she said this. When the emotions calmed down after a little while, I suggested her to talk about how the happiness would feel like?” The discussion then moved forward with questions like: “What is your definition of happiness?”, “What different areas of your life will look like (or feel like) when you are happy and what is your criteria for “base-line happiness” in those areas?”. I was not surprised when she expressed that she had no idea what would make her happy.
***
It is not easy to define important things in life like love and happiness. Individual definitions vary and keep changing as we advance in age and change roles. Naomi struggled while figuring out what made her happy. It took us a few coaching sessions to figure out what made (or possibly can) make her happy. We then proceeded to set realistic goals and create a plan to achieve them by including her “happiness activities” in daily, weekly, and yearly routine. Some of her thought processes and ideas about happiness got challenged during our sessions and she had to make some changes in her behavior to actually feel happy. That is what we called as “cultivating/nurturing happiness”.

This was possible because Naomi was open and was totally determined to make the desired changes to feel happy. Initially she looked at everything painful as either somebody else’s fault or her own fault. When she could not assign blame of her misery either to someone or something outside, or to herself, she kept on moving in circles of “why me?”. This drained her emotionally and made her very angry and resentful most of the time. As she gradually learnt to look at pain and misery as normal/inevitable part of human life, a heavy weight got lifted off her shoulders and she lightened up. She still feels pain when things do not go as expected, but now she has stopped exponentially multiplying her misery by considering it as her failure/fault.

She still admits swinging back to her the old miserable thoughts once in a while, but now she is able to observe them, recognize them, and take systematic actions to manage them when it happens.

I sincerely believe that each and every one of us have innate capacity to know what makes us happy, and it’s just a matter of tapping that capacity.

Happy exploring your happiness!


  Role Models are Everywhere! Showcasing Rajashree Suraj (February 2016)

Millennium Yoga Am very glad to share about Rajashree Suraj today.
Rajashree joined Millennium Yoga classes on May 5th 2012. She started with one class per week and then gradually added. Currently (as in February 2016), she is attending 3 yoga classes per week in Fremont location. Given her extremely busy routine, it is very commendable that she is able to take out time to take self-care.

All of us know (or can imagine) how hard it is for working moms and dads to juggle everything and still find time to take care of themselves. Rajashree is a perfect example of what one can do and achieve if one is determined and organized.

Born and raised in Bangalore., Rajashree completed her BE in Instrumentation Technology. She is in US for about 10 years now. Currently she is working for Chevron Refinery in Richmond CA. in the Instrumentation and Controls field, She is completing almost 13 years in this field. Here’s her LinkedIn Profile

Rajashree, like all other girls of her age, has a very busy routine that starts at around 4:30 AM everyday when she gets up. She is very good in time-management and organization skills. She makes fresh meals for her family before she leaves for work. Her family consists of husband -Suraj Nagaraj and 2 kids- Rohith Moudgal and Siya Moudgal ages 7 and 1. Her 7-year old Rohith loves food his mommy cooks with love and considers her cooking the best! Rajashree enjoys yoga, hiking, travelling and flying.

She is one of the advanced participants enrolled in Millennium Yoga program. She enjoys creatively exploring what she does and in spite of being busy has volunteered to do videos for Millennium Yoga website. Through the online videos, she continues to inspire people to practice yoga when she is not actually on mat.

I really admire Rajashree for all her qualities and especially her commitment to take self-care, so that she continues to do everything using her full potential. Am sure after reading about her, the readers will be motivated to create some time on a daily (or at least weekly basis) to take self-care. If Rajashree can take self-care in spite of being busy, all of us can do it too.

Wishing Rajashree health, happiness and success in her current and future endeavors.

Link to previous Role Models
Role Models are Everywhere- Neha Purohit
Role Models are Everywhere- W1 and W2

Ramping up in the New Year! (January 2016)

Millennium YogaMillennium Yoga Are you the one who makes New Year resolutions? If you already do, then this may interest you, but even if you are not, think of taking a few minutes to read below and give it a thought.
***
We are already in 2016 and the first week of the New Year appears to be on ramp to me. Am still gearing up to merge into the New Year.

For me, the ramping up process starts with looking telescopically at the distant goals.
Being self-employed, am answerable to myself, so planning the activities- both business and personal- in advance becomes a sheer necessity. If the goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely), then it’s easy to monitor the deliverables. The objectives do change (sometimes drastically during the course of the year), so the exercise of looking through the telescope (at least twice a year) to ensure that the star is still visible makes perfect sense. Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle helps in keeping my behaviors and actions on track. My personal coach assists me in this process and provides a third-person’s perspective from a distance, which I lack when I am painting the picture sitting in my own picture frame.

After looking telescopically, it’s time to turn to the microscope.
The activities related to various goals then sit on my calendar as daily, weekly, monthly, 6-monthly or once a year. Some checklists/milestones/activities are marked MUST, some are marked NICE TO DO. The process (at least theoretically) is easy because it’s very clear where to focus my energies on. I do fall for distractions and take exits happily but the track-sheets and missed deliverables induce just the right amount of guilt to bring me back to the highway. The surprising element inherent in the nature of human life allows spontaneity and does not make the cycle (Plan-Do-Check-Act) too mundane. There is an ample scope for creativity and modification even if things do not go as planned.

Am sure you will agree that as years pass by, we explore new creative ways to do the routine things. Those creative ways keep ordinary chores really interesting and fun.

How are you ramping up?
Have you taken a stock of what went well and what did not in 2015?
Did you complete your plan for this year as we are already in it?

If you fall into planning type, enjoy planning, and executing. If you are the ones who prefer to plan nothing and enjoy as things unfold naturally, sit back relax and enjoy the way things bloom.

Happy New Year 2016 to you all!


Yoga Sessions on The Wall (December 2015)

Millennium Yoga “My name is Tanya and TJ from your Saturday morning class told me that I can attend yoga sessions on her behalf. She has 2 sessions on wall. Can I use both of them?” A very polite voice on the other end asked. “Of course, you can” was my cheerful answer.

Am extremely fortunate to have very consistent yoga class participants in all of my classes who commit to attending sessions regularly. The fees are charged monthly irrespective of whether they attend or not. This actually builds the discipline, as people do not want to miss the sessions without a valid reason. Of course they can make up classes or ask their family members or friends to attend on their behalf or ask for gift certificates.

Instead of asking for gift certificates, some people choose to donate sessions on wall. When the sessions go on wall, I am able to offer them as free to anyone who would like to use them. Am very fortunate to have amazing people like AF and DW in my class who won’t miss a class and still sometimes pay extra amount to donate up sessions on wall. This is their way of giving the gift of health to someone totally unknown and they do not want to know who accepted their gift. When I first started this concept, I did not imagine someone actually buying to donate sessions on wall.

I teach at multiple locations so I do not have a physical wall at the locations where sessions are put/displayed. I put them on the front wall at my working desk at home, (or sometimes I put them on my desktop). Every time I see them, it brings smile on my face and joy fills in. My profession has given me this opportunity to see, meet and hear such extraordinary human beings. These are people, who through the eyes of the world may appear very ordinary or even unsuccessful, but they have this amazing human compassion that they continue to spread touching everyone and everything that comes their way.

This holiday season (November and December 2015), am expressing my sincere gratitude, appreciation and respect for these individuals who continue to make these small gestures to make a huge difference in other people’s lives in their own unique ways.
***
Giving is very good and so is accepting. My grandmother, after seeing the egotistical “I helped” expressions on my 11 year-old face, has taught me that giving is not possible unless someone accepts.

As I am taking this moment to express my gratitude for all those who donate sessions on the wall, am taking opportunity to thank the ones who graciously accept them.

Having yoga sessions on wall does not mean anything unless someone comes forward to accept them.

Happy Giving and Happy Accepting!

Want to come over Bryan? (November 2015)

I felt relieved when the painful act of watching the gardener trimming the vigorously growing jasmine vine got postponed by 3 weeks because he was busy.

Finally the day came yesterday (October 28, 2015) when he came with big scissors to do his job. My heart ached though deep within I was convinced that it had to be done. He chopped the vine practically and removed the branches very matter-of-factly.

I told myself to look at this act as a haircut consoling myself in vain that vine was feeling good. In spite of lot of convincing, sadness set in and my body started aching. I then did everything to ease my body ache. Touched each cut of the branch with cold soothing water and touched all over the vine thinking that it might feel better. I used specially stored water from copper vessel with a belief that it would be medicinal and would make all the cuts hurt little less. I cleaned its surrounding unnecessarily and restrained myself from over-watering.

Today it’s looking little better. It has adjusted to its new status I guess and branches appear to be busy planning wherefrom to sprout again.
***
I miss Bryan every time I see this gardener chopping the plants/trees. Bryan was my gardener 14 years back. He was a person with compassionate heart and innocent expressions of a child that totally mismatched his huge 40 year-old body. Though I always felt uneasiness at the idea of trimming anything, actually viewing Bryan trimming plants/trees was never painful. I was speechless when I first saw this man cutting branches and then delicately putting cut branches on the ground as if he is putting down a small kid with gentle care. When I appreciated his act, he laughed good-naturedly and replied, “they are still living Shubhangi”.

Bryan had lots of health issues and he had to stop working. We were in touch after he stopped working for almost 2 years and later our calls faded. His number does not exist anymore and I don’t know where he is.

Hey Bryan, I still remember you and my garden misses your loving and tender care. Diwali is just 10 days away and I still remember how much you loved home-made savories made at this time of the year and also “jilebis” (*) from Taste of India (Restaurant in Fremont CA).

Wherever you are, I would want you to know that you are the one who taught me how to handle cut branches with care and made me aware that recently cut branches being alive need to be handled like a living organism. As I am looking at the cut jasmine vine in the atrium, the ficus tree standing nearby (that had received your exceptional care) tells me that he too remembers you.

Am thinking to get “jilebis” during this Diwali season. Bryan, do you want to come over?
(*)A dessert from India

Now Working On Improving My Grade While Eating (October 2015)

I was eating quietly at the table and the phone signaled text. I quickly got up to check what it is and suddenly stopped. Is it really urgent to check it right now? “No”, came the instant answer, and I moved back to continue my lunch focusing fully on what I was eating.
***
I was raised by my grand-mother who had a rule which I followed without fail every time I ate my food. In case I forgot, her eyes got bigger and scary. I still wonder how she could keep her eyes so wide and still without blinking or watering. No words were needed and I did not dare not to listen.

The eating routine was fixed: Wash hands, dry them with a small cloth (which she washed every day), and sit down. I had my favorite “paat” (Slightly raised wooden platform to sit on while eating). It had 3 small brass flowered plates with brass nails on both the sides. (These nails held the sideboards underneath that raised the platform just enough above the ground). A petal of one of the brass flowers was slightly raised and I always liked to sit with that flower on the back. It then brought the extra smooth wooden part to the front-left, which I liked to feel with my left hand while eating. I loved to get down to touch my cheek to that part which was tricky, but I still managed it somehow when my grandma was not looking. She insisted on sitting in a particular way on this platform. The right leg had to be folded touching the platform and the left had to be folded at knee keeping it straight gently compressing the stomach. (Now I realize that this particular position may help avoid overeating)

Grandma insisted on following certain etiquettes, which I challenged and she logically explained why. Decades passed by but I still remember them very clearly.
The glass of water (which was made of stainless steel and not glass though) had to be on left and touching it with the right hand was not allowed. She used to sit in the front watching me how I ate. She taught me how to break chapati (freshly made wheat bread) in the right-sized pieces and how to fold it in the form of a boat to pick up either lentil soup or vegetables. She even insisted on eating certain combinations. The angle of the hand while eating, the opening of the mouth, how much tongue to come out, and avoiding touching of tongue with the hands,… everything was discussed. Food was not allowed beyond a certain line on the fingers and the instructions were repeated till I mastered it. Mouth had to be shut while eating and talking was not allowed while eating. Making even the slightest sound with mouth while eating was a big NO and so was use of left hand.

I did not like certain foods, but whatever was cooked had to be eaten - at least a teaspoonful. I remember hating certain flavors but had to try them anyways. She gave me only what I could eat (occasionally convincing me to eat more as I ate little when I was a kid). Leaving food on plate was not allowed and was equated with total disrespect to her, to the food and to the Universe. I tried multiple tricks to run away from certain foods, which I am too ashamed to admit here.

During college days when I moved at my aunt’s home, we ate at the dining table. Still the ritual remained mostly the same. I was old enough to self-monitor by then and we paid full attention while eating.
***
My eating habits have changed over the years, and now I notice getting up frequently while eating, check texts or sometimes receive phone while eating. Multi-tasking has encroached upon “eating- time” and though I am not too bad, there is still some scope for improvement.

As we are entering the last months of the year 2015, am choosing to improve my grade from a B+ to an A in this subject.

If I can be A+, I would be honoring in “Respecting Food” subject.

Managing Distractions (September 2015)

“He is a very sharp and intelligent kid, what he needs to learn is focus and concentration”, the mom sitting in front of me was sharing.

This is a very common complaint from almost all the parents that contact me for improving focus and concentration or time management and organizational skills in their kids. When I ask them about their own work habits like their use of cell-phone, email/ FB check/updates and other routines, they admit being distracted themselves. They attribute these distractions to the increased work-pressure and workplace need.

We are at a point where we are surrounded by all the cool gadgets that are actually helping us to keep distracted. They are altering our brain chemistry and our brains are struggling with staying on task. As we get addicted to these distractions, we tend to glorify them by giving reasons that reinforce their inevitability. We, subconsciously, tend to overvalue our instant responses as mandatory, urgent and very important.

With changing needs at the workplace, the need to be connected and to respond immediately even to the non-urgent communication is going up, increasing impatience and the perceived sense of extreme urgency in everything we do. This unnecessarily taxes our nervous system.

Is it time to invent “new gadgets or Apps” that instead of distracting will help us stay on task? Is it possible to have such gadgets? Will it be distracting managing the versions/updates of such gadgets?

What about learning a few simple skills that can actually help us focus and remain focused? It may take little time to learn them, but once learnt, they may percolate in our physiology and stay with us.

Learning such techniques is not at all complex. In fact they are too simple, to even believe that they work so effectively. Looking at our work pattern, and making small changes here and there can create a big difference. There is a big general repository of such tools and techniques and based on our personality types and ways of behavior, some may work better than others. It’s a matter of some trial and error before finding out what exactly works.

I request parents to try out managing distractions themselves first before teaching their kids. Role-modeling the behavior may support the verbal instructions. On a closing note (nothing new, just the same old): Kids learn by observing the role-models and not to mere instructions. Are you willing to look into your ways of doing the stuff and learn to do it differently without distractions?

Excuse me, what did you say?. Sorry, I just got busy checking that text message which is very urgent and could not wait.

Am I There Yet? (August 2015)

“I want to be happy”, - my new coaching client wrote on the client data form, which she filled out for me. Client data form is the first document my clients fill out and email me before our first meeting. This form gives me a rough idea of their personality types, their motivators and put-offs, their belief systems, and overall clarity of thoughts they have. The information presented in the form helps me to know them a lot even before our first meeting.

“Could you please share what makes you happy?”- I asked back.

I know it’s not easy to answer this question. The definition of “happiness” changes from person to person (and also from time to time), so when someone says happiness, I have no idea what exactly he or she means by that. People also write fulfilled life, purposeful life, … on the form, but when asked about what makes them fulfilled, or what brings purpose to their lives, they struggle to answer.

It is definitely not easy to know what makes us happy. Many a times we consider it to be based on some general criteria in the areas of: career, health, finance, family, kids, relationships etc. Somehow there is also an inherent assumption that all the areas should be performing at optimum levels simultaneously and maybe forever.

Is it possible to think/imagine what happiness looks and feels like? Is it reasonable to expect that after defining and even meeting those criteria our lives will be “happy”? Well, I do not know answers to these questions for you.

I remember working with a young adult in her late twenties on “being happy”. I had given her the assignment to capture elements of happiness, which to her surprise were mostly present, but she did not feel happy at all. She actually felt miserable. It was frustrating (and at the same time enlightening) to recognize that the elements she thought would make her happy were actually not making her so. We then continued the exploration of her true inner self and as she gradually learnt to identify her true values and started aligning her behaviors and actions to match those values, happy moments started appearing.

Am not sure whether logically capturing the criteria for happiness, and working towards fulfilling those will make people feel happy. Even if they feel happy initially, there is a high likelihood that they would return to their base-line status after temporarily adapting to the happy state. Still this understanding may motivate them to challenge and change their belief systems thereby pushing their base-line happiness levels little up.

“I want to be healthy for lifetime” is what another client writes.
My job as a coach is to ask questions to check whether such expectation is reasonable and even possible. Frantically working to meet expectations that are totally unrealistic and unsustainable is a sure recipe for frustration and emotional drain.

To know whether we are there yet, we need to know clearly how destination looks like so that we know we are there when we reach. While crystalizing destination looks (SMART goals or objectives), many a times clients realize that such utopian destinations do not and cannot exist. Paradigm shift may even make them realize that they are there already!
Wisdom To Know The Difference (July 2015)

“Can you blame it on planets?”
“Are you saying this?”, my friend asked in utter disbelief. She was sharing the frustration when her tireless efforts didn’t generate the expected results. She was unable to accept failure and was in tremendous pain.
“I know that you believe in it, so maybe this is the only way you can go through this”, was my answer.

Managing pain and frustration related to failure is not easy. People who believe in philosophy that present/future events are result of what happened in the past (Concept of foreordained future - Daivavaad) have something to rely on to manage frustrations. For those who believe in possibility of voluntary action (Concept of free future- Prayatnvaad), handling failures can be very challenging.

The following is one of the best analogies I read. Am sure, it’s not new to the readers. Am reiterating it with the thought that - if accepted - it will serve as a reminder to those who are currently swinging in between the concepts of foreordained and free future.

Life is like playing a game of cards. We receive our cards randomly – the time and place we are born, our culture and religion, our parents/genetics, our socio-economic status and other elements. We learn and master strategies to play the game and based on our inherent/ consciously developed intellect /skills, we play the game to win. Our objective is to win the game with the available cards and having fun while playing it.

The question then remains is: How to develop this wisdom to exactly know the difference between elements that we can change and those that we cannot.

There is not a single strategy to develop such wisdom that fits all. The awareness that there are causes that lie outside my system of perception can be a starting point. By keeping this awareness constantly alive, we can explore our unique ways to cultivate this wisdom within our human limits.
Are We Frantically Trying To Separate North and South poles? (June 2015)

I was looking at the assignment submitted by my new client who is a young adult. He is confused in multiple areas of his life and wants to get clarity on what needs to be done right now. The assignment was to capture frequently occurring negative thoughts and one of the thoughts read,” Why always bad things happen to me?”

This thought is very common. I always come across this “Why me?” question especially from those who choose to do all the good and right things most of the time. I have a cancer patient asking this question with frustration and so does a high-schooler who is intelligent, studies well and still fails to get the score of his expectations. I hear it from an emotional girl who breaks up without understanding the reason, and also from a sincere mother who sacrifices her career to raise a good kid and the kid gets involved in drugs. It goes on and on…

Was listening to “The Art of Happiness” by The Dalai Lama, which gave me a new perspective on human suffering. According to him we consider suffering as something unnatural. We consider “happiness” as our birth right and suffering leads us to think that either it is someone else’s fault or ours.

It appears logical when we expect appropriate (according to us) results to our efforts without considering the unknown factors that might be affecting the outcome. Surprisingly when we get something without us doing anything, such thoughts of “why me” are rarely there. How logical is that?

Looking around at everything in nature, we see pair of opposites: light and darkness, hot and cold, day and night and the list is big. In spite of all those pair of opposites, we secretly wish to be “happy” all the time in all the areas of our life. We may never think that this expectation itself is unreasonable and “happiness” all the time without experiencing “unhappiness” will not feel “happiness” anyways.

Can we train our minds to embrace “unhappiness” as natural, inevitable part of human existence? It definitely feels painful being unhappy, but accepting it as natural may possibly stop the emotional energy drain caused by “why me”? . Cultivating the attitude to look at it differently may prevent the self-created suffering (“klesha”) that adds to the actual pain.

Are we ready to stop separating North and South poles?
When at South, we can then think of the magnetic flow-lines moving upwards, and be grateful and humble when we are at the North.

Getting a different pair of eyes (May 2015)

“ And I did it again Shubhangi. Am no good. Am inconsistent, lazy and lethargic…” Penny went on and on evaluating herself with all negative labels.

“Are you willing to consider that your self-assessment could be wrong?”, I asked. Penny looked at me in disbelief and I could even hear chatter in her head. “Don’t try to cheer me up, I am bad and I know it. I won’t improve….”

I do not believe in phony cheering and fake positivity myself, as it does not sustain anyways. My job is to make Penny (and me) see the clear picture and not believe in the one her “critical self” and the “complaining others” portray for her.

Am not very sure, but guess that Penny is very hard on herself. My perception is based on her sharing during our previous sessions, and the experience of working with girls of her age in similar situations. I always felt that she is doing too much, and fails to realize the worth of what she does. That’s the reason I did not take her self-evaluation very seriously. She is a home-maker and a good one. She has 3 school-going kids and a husband who mostly travels. He thinks he deserves rest when at home and does not have time, energy, and interest in routine and mundane chores at home, and Penny ends up doing them all. As there is no monetary value attached to what she does, she feels worthless. Her to-do list is always big with family members (including her parents and siblings who live in the city) adding chores to her list. Penny’s inability to say no, keeps her busy (and tired) all the time.

Penny is currently working on an assignment specially designed to increase self-awareness and clarity related to her contributions to the family and accounting for the time and energy she invests daily in different chores.

***
At the end of 2 weeks, Penny herself has concluded that she is not lazy and actually needs to relax and sleep a little more. With clear understanding of what and how much she does (instead of vague feeling that “I am not doing enough”), 3 of her negative labels have been already dropped off.

Am positive that as Penny continues to work further on the assignment, she will have clear understanding of who she is and what she does in different areas of her life. Together we are planning to assess her strengths and weaknesses as objectively as possible.

With a new set of eyes, things are going to look more fresh and colorful for Penny!

Was it a dream? Really? (April 2015)

Got up in the morning today (March 9th 2015) with a big smile on my face. The body and mind felt totally energetic and warm. Kept my eyes closed vividly imagining the experience that felt so real! The soles of my feet felt wet and ticklish from the grass I just walked on and there was a funny sensation on the palm of my right hand from the affectionate lick from a small dog.

Met my early childhood friend (1st grader precisely) in my dream today. It started with seeing this man with an innocent face of my first grader friend with a crown of ruffled hair. The backdrop was some conference in San Francisco in which he was about to present. A surge of happiness enveloped me when our eyes met. I wondered how could he even recognize me after so many years. I have changed so much, but not him. I ran towards him and by the time I reached to catch him, his face changed into my another close friend during my college years. This mix of gender and face did not seem to bother me. I grabbed his (or maybe her) delicate hands and noticed long fingers with same texture and nails meticulously covered in her favorite shade of nail-color. I pulled her out of the room and dragged her outside on the green grass, and from the techy conference room in San Francisco, we directly landed on the big slide in the park in Nagpur, India where I played as a child. The face changed again and he was now a boy I was in love with when I was a 3rd grader. He was very intelligent, mischievous, witty with words and so full of energy that I started laughing hard without even knowing the reason for the laughter. My entire body shook and each and every cell felt joyous. We started playing hide and seek and he hid somewhere and a cute dog changing his coat color from white to beige came running to me. As I bent down to reach him, he started pushing his head under my right palm. The way he always did when he wanted to be cuddled. He moved his head in the form of eight when I addressed him with his special name (that was different than his real one). Wondered how he even knew and how his facial expressions changed when I called him (or even intended to say his special name). We ran inside home and circled in the house till both of us got tired. I ran out in the backyard and climbed the big guava tree and sat on my most favorite branch. Was in tears noticing the bruised bark of my this fruity friend.

The dream went on and on. It appeared very long as my buddies kept transforming and morphing themselves into animate and even inanimate objects. It was holistic, integrated, and cohesive. It appeared natural, known, understood, and eternal.

I had felt similar experience while quietly doing Sun salutations in the backyard on one cool summer morning. Everything changed as each pose gradually transformed into other in perfect harmony with the rhythmic breaths. The closed eyes saw (or imagined ??) the orange glow of the Sun, and the olfactory nerves blended the smells of eucalyptus, pepper, lemon flowers and rosemary in just the right proportions creating a unique fragrance. The eardrums subtly vibrated with the sounds of unknown, unseen birds and with whispers of leaves and the gentle breeze. The mouth felt moist with the taste of humid yet crisp air and the entire body felt satiated with that feast. It’s when inhalation and exhalation became indistinguishable and everything existed and did not exist at the same time.
***
In the awakened state as of now, I am concluding that it was a dream. When in it, it appeared very real just like everything else including my own existence, which feels real at this moment.

Suddenly a question pops-up.

Is there a possibility that this awakened state be a part of some other bigger dream?

Learning to be “Self-Eesh” (March 2015)

Gustavo was furious when he shared about his spouse being very selfish. It has been little over 4 months that we are working together. Gustavo has come a long way as far as his anger management is concerned and now consciously uses newly- learned ways of communication to express his strong emotions.

Gustavo, being a very logical person, prefers communication to be direct and succinct. Coaching Gustavo is comparatively easy because what he needs is logic. His ability to openly and quickly accept his faults and willingness to work towards eliminating them is commendable. I did not feel even the slightest hesitation to tell him up-front that he too was selfish without realizing it. By the end of the session, he accepted selfishness as one of the survival mechanisms. He was convinced that unending (and futile) discussions about someone being more selfish were mere drain of emotional energy and he needed to learn to avoid them. Gustavo understood that as he gets “more angry” than his spouse, and his spouse is “more selfish” than him. Selfishness is of varying degree and in different areas.

The acceptance of the same trait in self that Gustavo blamed his spouse for has triggered the process of behavior modification and Gustavo’s grades are improving.
***
The discussion we have when Carrie complains about her close family members being selfish is totally different than the discussion with Gustavo. Carrie is struggling with low self-image and depends too much on others to feel good (or bad) about her. She is overly sensitive and takes things too personally. Every positive compliment is received as untrue or phony, and each suggestion is interpreted as criticism. There was no way I could tell Carrie about her selfishness when she complained about others being selfish. I needed four additional hours to tactfully make her realize (without hurting her feelings or triggering unnecessary guilt that may have resulted in further lowering of her self-esteem) that she was selfish too. I used Carrie’s love for Eastern culture to share with her that the word” Eesh” in Sanskrit means “Higher-Self “(or “Jesus”). After discussing about “Self-Eeshness” as being listening to and trusting the inner voice to achieve personal growth, she decided to learn “Self-Eeshness” herself. Converting negative connotation associated with “selfishness” and converting it into positive “self-eeshness” created a paradigm shift in Carrie.

Am hopeful that the course Carrie titled: “Becoming incredibly Self-Eesh” would help her to recognize and respect her unique self. Carrie is now working on assignment to define elements of “self-eeshness” so that her focus turns inward and she does not waste her time and energy into blaming others as selfish. She is learning to accept that even if people are selfish, she cannot do anything about it. Am hopeful that she graduates this course before moving on to other learning experiences.
***
As I continue to work with Gustavo and Carrie, I am also working with Gustavo and Carrie within me. Sometimes they are adamant that their perception is the reality and it’s others who are wrong. This creates “klesha”-self created misery. This signal of misery serves as a very powerful and useful reminder to let go, relax, turn the focus inward and become incredibly Self-Eesh!

Role Models Are Everywhere: W1 and W2 (February 2015)

  W1 and W2 came to work on our kitchen and initially I was little skeptical about communicating with them when the contractor told me that they could not speak English and understood just a little. They spoke only in Mandarin and “Tomollow, lunch, 9… “ were the only words they uttered as sentences. After a day or two, I realized that communication without language was not a big deal and was very much possible and effective too. I remember just a single instance during that 11-day period when I had to call the contractor to tell W1 what I wanted.

Everyday they came exactly on or before time. Took lunch break at the designated time, did not waste any time at all, worked silently without talking to each other for hours. They appeared to have good chemistry and understanding between them. Occasional laugh and exchange of words made me think so. Sometimes they put on radio and it merely served as a background score, which I don’t think they were even listening to.

I was curious about their work and so watched silently without giving them the feeling of monitoring I guess. They measured, worked, reworked and my respect for them started increasing as I watched the way they worked. They were problem solvers and did not hesitate to make decisions on their own when needed. The moment I noticed something could be different, and better, I noticed them thinking the same and reworking on it. There were certain areas, which would be permanently hidden behind appliances or spaces that would never be noticed and seen. I noticed that they finished them clean and presentable as if visible. There was one spot on the floor where there were 2 pinhole spaces in the grout. Decided to collect all the minor changes and tell them at the end and to my surprise most of the things I had noticed were taken care of already.

They knew their job well and did it very sincerely.

This doesn’t mean that they were perfect. There were little mistakes here and there. A few little things that went unnoticed (or were missed from their sense of aesthetics I guess), but overall their passion, their attitude towards work, the patience they exhibited while doing and redoing the stuff made me appreciate their work ethics and sincerity more and more each day. Their presence was comfortable, team-work was exceptional, and the work-flow they followed was methodical, efficient and very systematic.

I truly believe that perfect results cannot be guaranteed even if we perfect the process. People do have their areas of expertise and being best in one area does not guarantee the similar expertise or perfection in other areas.

Am taking full responsibility of killing the African daisy by not paying attention during the entire process and do not consider them responsible for not noticing it.

Thank you W1 and W2 for the 11-day learning course to me.

Tracking the true inner voice… (January 2015)

Listening to the true inner voice is not easy. All of us are aware of the superficial rationalization our mind offers. We unconsciously sift and choose the only data that supports what we want to hear or choose to believe in.

“How can I know that whatever I am thinking is the “true inner voice” or is it my mind fooling me to believe what I want to hear?” Andrew asked me this question as we were discussing about his career choice he was unhappy about. Answering Andrew’s question was not easy. Unfortunately I was unable to provide a quick ready-made answer to his question. It took a little while and the answer unfolded for Andrew very clearly after a few assignments.

Our inner mind-maps keep altering, sometimes too minutely for us to even notice, as we grow and gather varied experiences. Some of the experiences totally alter our belief systems thereby challenging the past “logical decisions” which may appear too “illogical” based on the new belief system or knowledge. Figuring out the true inner voice out of loud noise of alterations, thoughts, and feelings becomes challenging. As it changes from person to person and even from time to time for the same person, there is no one answer or process.

One thing I would suggest to look for is: sustenance and continuity of the thoughts that keep coming in spite of we ignoring or dismissing them as illogical or impractical. Creating some quiet time in our busy routine is a prerequisite for noticing these consistent thoughts. Possibly that’s the inner voice.

Here are 2 pieces of information from my scrapbook: (Not sure about their authenticity, so you may read them as parables)
1. Australian Nurse Bronnie Ware who cared for people in the last 12 weeks of their life recorded their most often discussed regrets. On the top of the list is: “I wish I would have courage to live life true to myself and not the one what others expected of me.”
2. A Nobel prize winner surgeon did not look happy after receiving Nobel. When asked his answer was: “I wanted to be a dancer and not a surgeon. Being a surgeon and that too a successful one with Nobel is a tremendous burden. Am unhappy because Nobel prize cannot give me a dance and it cannot become a dance”.

As we are entering into a New Year, are we willing to be little quiet to track our inner voice and gather little courage to live a life that is in alignment with our true voice?”

In this New Year 2015, may you find some quality time to be with yourself to listen to your true inner voice!

  Role models are everywhere- Showcasing Neha Purohit (December 2014)

Millennium Yoga There are many people in my life who continue to teach me by their actions, behavior and thoughts. This Thanksgiving (2014), am sharing one of them thinking she may serve as a motivator to you too.

Let me introduce Neha Purohit to you. For privacy issues, I do not use real names in my blogs (in spite of all stories being real), but making exception this time, as Neha is ok with me using her real name.

Neha is an example of consistency, discipline and determination. It has been over 2 years that she started attending my yoga classes in Fremont. It has been little over a year that she moved to South Bay. This girl who lives and works in South Bay continue to attend my classes in Fremont not just once but twice a week. There are times when Neha gets stuck in evening commute and enters class just 15-20 minutes before the end time. I do not recollect her missing the class except for a few valid reasons. Most (almost all) of the missed classes are made up on some other days. I always marvel at her commitment to her routine and wonder how she is able to do that. It’s not easy to be so consistent when you are working full time in a software field and have hectic Silicon Valley life.

I always jokingly say that I would not drive that much to attend my own classes. Thank you Neha for your dedication and trust.

She is one but not the only one. Am fortunate to have other class participants who are also very committed and some of them go back to even January 2008.

There are others who travelled (or continue to travel) for attending the classes. I still remember people who have travelled from Antioch, San Ramon, Pleasanton, Dublin, Castro Valley, Sunnyvale, San Jose, Palo Alto, Redwood City, and even Salinas.

This Thanksgiving (2014), am expressing my sincere thanks and gratitude to all my class participants (and also to parents who drive their kids to the classes from distance). I find my language skills extremely limiting when it comes to expressing what I truly feel.

Though I have mentioned just Neha’s name here, there are many of you I am remembering as I am writing this.

To all my role models out there: Am grateful and cannot give you even words, so choosing to send love and all positive energy your way this holiday season.

Thank you all!

Transformation and not suppression is the key…(November 2014)

“Are you telling me to suppress all my anger?” Andrew asked me rather angrily.
“Not at all. I would want you to transform this energy”.
“Do you mean energy of anger?” Andrew asked. “Absolutely” was my answer.

Andrew has majored in Physics. He is currently working on a very creative project in energy (which if succeeds could be disruptive according to him). He was willing to listen to what and how anger could actually be transformed after hearing the word “energy”.

Andrew is an extremely intelligent and a logical individual. I love our sessions as he challenges frequently making our sessions very stimulating. I have to use all my skills when I sometimes choose to appeal his heart through his brain.

Any behavior change never intends any suppression. Suppression may lead to other complications the common being suppression getting percolated in physiology complicating the things further.

Understanding suppression versus transformation is not easy. It’s also not easy to explain the difference quickly here, so let me share an example and the steps we took to make the transformation happen.

Here are the steps when you are experiencing a negative emotion (anger in our example).
1. Identify the situation/s and person/s that are generating negative emotions – anger in this example
Andrew wrote: the situation and names of the people involved very briefly 2. Identify the major/dominant emotion
Andrew wrote - anger 3. Identify other negative emotions that might be feeding the dominant emotion
Andrew wrote: hatred, jealousy, frustration, guilt, blame, victim, names of people, and low self esteem
4. Identify positive emotion/s corresponding to the major negative emotion and the ones that are feeding it
Andrew wrote: Anger X Compassion; Hatred X Love; Blame X Forgiveness; Guilt X Watching thoughts without judgment; other…

It is not easy to write the entire process that we followed together to replace the negative emotions with the positive ones. There were challenges (Andrew struggled with shifting blame into forgiveness) and we had to take little digression.

The followings contributed to this transformation:
• Listening
• Challenging
• Questioning
• Self-observation without judgment
• Plan, do check, act
• Thought replacement through carefully chosen consistent actions
• Simple stretches
• Breathing techniques

At the end of approximately 3 months, Andrew is ready with his own tool-kit that works well for him. Now he knows what he needs “to do and not do” when negative emotions happen.

Our mind-body engine continues to produce harmful waste while propelling us forward. What is needed is an effective and controlled mechanism to convert this emotional waste into non/less-toxic one before releasing it to the environment.

Transformation is the key and one need not be an energy guy like Andrew to do it. Things happen when one is ready.


Learning imperfection perfectly! (October 2014)

Taylor is working on being imperfect. Every week I give him assignment to introduce little imperfection in one of the areas of his life and he captures his thoughts while getting accustomed to it. Initially it took him more time than I anticipated, and my cell phone kept buzzing with frustrating messages about how difficult (and maybe unnecessary) all this exercise was.

Taylor is not alone. Many of my clients are perfectionists. Perfectionism is one of the major stressors in their lives. Many of them know it. If they love their perfectionist selves and determined to continue it, we focus on how to accept and manage ongoing stress associated with the perfectionism. If at some point they recognize that there is a need to change this habit (at least in some areas), then our lesson on imperfection starts.

For Taylor, it started with just shifting the place of his 5 books. I actually thought of it as one of the simplest assignments I gave him till I started getting frustrating messages from him. After a week, I really had to simplify the assignment to include just 1 book. Yes, you are reading it right, I had to ask him to change the position of just 1 book out of his entire stack and just be ok with it for a week. It took him little over 2 weeks to actually get used to it. This may appear obsessive to the readers, but for Taylor this is the normal, usual and the right way. Taylor’s current assignment is: parking the car at different locations at his workplace.

For Natalie, who is just 10, changing the direction of yoga mats in Kids’ yoga class was unacceptable. She kept complaining about not liking the “new” arrangement (which was different than what she was used to for just 2 previous classes). Using some carefully chosen strategies to make her comfortable with “new” arrangement helped. Am now working with Natalie on “how to be ok with “new” or “different” in other areas. Deliberately exposing to smaller doses of “imperfection” is helping Natalie to improve her restlessness with change.

For Danika it was keeping her car unlocked for 10 minutes before our meeting that helped in removing her intense fear of her car getting stolen.

Perfection has its beauty and advantages. People do love themselves for their perfectionism. Jonathan Livingston Seagull is my hero too, but there are times when even Jonathan dives in water in a perfectly imperfect way hurting his body and wings.

The questions to ask are:
• Do I like and love perfectionism in myself but recognize that it’s a continuous pressure?
• Is it costing me too much of my emotional energy to continue to be that way?
• Do I think learning to be imperfect in some (insignificant) areas can save my emotional energy? Will it loosen and relax me?
If you have answered yes to all of the above questions, then you are ready to join my learning to be imperfect sessions.
It’s a perfect way to learn to be imperfect!


Outside vs inside Mess (September 2014)

I was talking to a mom who is working with me to have a positive interaction with her 11-year old son. Mom is a perfectionist. She is well-educated, highly placed, and is a very successful woman in her late 30s. Most of the things come naturally and easily to her making it extremely difficult for her to understand that things that are simple to her are extremely difficult for others.

The topic of the day was: The 11-year-old not putting away wet towel after shower. That was creating everyday tension between mom and son. According to her this was the simplest thing to do. For the 11-year old, this was the hardest.

In general, changing any habit is very hard. Trying to change/develop a habit in someone else (when that person is not convinced about it) is much harder.

Generally the following 2 techniques work in such type of situations.
1. Instead of focusing on changing habit in somebody else, I request clients to pick up one simple habit they are willing to incorporate in self and bring me a log of success.
2. Ask them to imagine something, which might set their expectations differently.

Knowing this particular client fully well, I chose to use the other option. She is creative, intelligent and very sensitive. I asked her to imagine each negative interaction as a piece of waste. She agreed to keep a count for 15 days. She being very methodical, created a system to login every negative feedback she gave to her son. She was in total shock when she shared that big number to me. She admitted that some pieces were small, but some were really big.

I then asked her to close her eyes and imagine putting that dirty garbage in her son’s heart. She was in tears when she realized that there was no space to put it in. The clutter was big, and dirty and the son’s heart could not accommodate all of it. We then talked about some of that mess remaining in his heart for years (and the possibility that some may remain forever). I then asked her to imagine a dirty towel on floor and maybe some other things that bothered her and compare “that outside mess” with “this inside mess” in her son’s heart.

Direct comparison of outside versus inside mess was an eye opener.

Am not indicating in any way that mothers should give up on forming good habits in their children but there are definitely other and better ways to do that.

We continued to work on habit modification for her son and the strategy worked in just 3 weeks.

The question to ask is: As a parent, am I choosing to create more mess inside my child’s heart while teaching him/her to tidy up the outside mess?

Best wishes to my car on her 10th B’day! (August 2014)

Am happy to celebrate my car’s 10th B’day this year. And let me confess that I totally forgot about it until a friend of mine recently enquired about her age. Sorry dear car, please tell me how can I make it up to you?

A slight digression: I choose to believe that non-living things have minds and thoughts of their own. My left-brain, in spite of recognizing and understanding the characteristics of living and the non-living, challenges and asks, “How could you be so sure that non-living things cannot think when you don’t have experience of being non-living yourself?” Instead of struggling for finding an answer, I choose to believe the answer that suits me. Universal correctness (in case if there’s any) of the chosen answer does not really matter to me then.

Back to my car: For me the car is my family member and she is extraordinarily unique. I schedule her routine physical check-ups with Ron-her primary care-physician-who knows her very well since last 10 years. He suggests things to do urgently and things that can wait. Both my car and me believe that her physical health is in expert hands. Thanks to Ron for taking care of her.

I adopted her on April 5th, 2004 from her previous owner with whom she was living for first 4 years after she was born. I assured her on the first day that she was in good hands, and that I would drive her carefully and keep her safe. I felt how uncomfortable it must had been for her sitting in a stranger’s garage on the first day. I showed her room-the parking spot- in the garage and asked if she liked her spot. She quickly settled in our household and I got quickly accustomed with all her small likes and dislikes.

We then had a new arrival after 3 years. My son’s new car came in. My car was happily sitting on her favorite side of garage for 3 years, when I requested her to trade her spot for the new arrival. New car being young and shiny was too worried about her looks. Especially the leaves, peppers and the sap from the pepper tree made the new-comer uncomfortable sitting outside. My car readily agreed to be outside during nights offering her spot. She, of course, was a matured member of the family and knew her value. She neither made any fuss about it, nor her self-esteem decreased with my request. I still remember taking little longer falling asleep on that night thinking how she must had felt sleeping outside for the first time. Deep within I knew she would be ok, but I was sad for sure.

She was in pain when I broke her right side mirror while taking her out from the garage on a busy hectic day. She accepted it as minor illness and assured me that she was little stronger and resilient after that incidence. Some minor and major scratches, and dents did happen over years and she handled them ok. She, of course, feels bad with every dent and scratch, as the pain is real, and still accepts everything pretty gracefully. She looks sad when I get too busy to clean her and sometimes feels ignored. She likes when I clean her myself and I like it too. That also gives me a chance to notice minor changes that happened since the last cleaning. She feels good when I put my hands over her thanking her for who she is and what she does for me.

She is my old faithful. She never expresses any tantrums and is very trustworthy. Her battery died just twice in last 10 years. Once in my garage and the other time at the gas station (which is just a block away from home). I felt that somehow it was her conscious choice when I was in/close to home and safe. I know that as she is maturing, there might be times when she would not be able to avoid certain things due to her natural aging. Am making myself ready not to take it is as a violation of trust just in case it happens.

My dear car: I know you have the bestest intentions for me and I respect that. Happy 10th Birthday Sweetie!

1.5 minutes at the signal (July 2014)

The signal turned orange as I approached the intersection. For no specific reason I had timed it multiple times so I knew that wait-time was 1.5 minutes.

The car in the right lane pulled slightly forward. The gentleman in the car was trying to get my attention. I pulled the window down and recognized the young man in the car as JP from my Kennedy High School class, which I taught 7 years back.

“JP !” I couldn’t contain my excitement to see him. I don’t remember exactly what we talked but it felt as if we talked a lot in those 1.5 minutes. “ I still have your email Ms. K”, JP said. “My email?” I had to think a little before I realized what he was referring to. I smiled, and so did JP. “You were one of the…” The words were coming from his heart and I knew he truly meant everything he said.

“It is definitely not a coincidence”, I said to myself as I rolled forward when the signal turned green. It was one of the days when I had an attack of “Neitis- Not (Doing) Enough Itis”. I sometimes get affected by this infection, which makes my mood somewhat cloudy instead of usual sunny. JP came as a breeze and those 1.5 minutes pushed the clouds away uncovering the bright Sun.

JP was one of the 5 students in my high school class at Kennedy who copied each other’s assignment. All were “A” students. It was some weak moment I guess when they tempted to copy someone’s work. Plagiarism received zero in the class and I demanded explanation for their act. All of them were really good and I failed to understand why they even did it for such a simple assignment. I could see tremendous guilt on their faces. I gave them option to choose the consequence and to my surprise, everyone chose a different consequence that was much severe than what I would have given. JP was the most sensitive one. He waited after the class and was very sorry. He requested me not to think of him as a bad student. He couldn’t look into my eyes. I assured him that only his act was bad and I still believed that he (and all of them) was an excellent kid.

I remembered writing separate emails to each 5 of them recognizing the individual qualities and the importance of making right choices. JP was the only one who responded back.

7 years had passed since then. I had forgotten about the incidence and about JP and about other students. And here was JP telling me that he still had my email. What I realized in that very moment was: sometimes we might not fully know what we really do.

Meeting JP for 1.5 minutes was as an antibiotic to my “NeItis”, and I knew it was not a coincidence.

Am sure this infection is very common, and may you all meet your JPs when you most need them.

Why me? Why not me? (June 2014)

Jim looked extremely frustrated and then asked? “ I don’t get why this is happening to me?”

Jim is a bright young adult in his early twenties who is very sincere, hard-working, focused and very intelligent. He is pursuing what he is interested in and has full support from his family. He has everything what it takes to succeed, and that’s why he fails to understand when something doesn’t happen the way he plans, works, and expects.

Though I am fully able to relate to his frustration, I do not know the answer to his question. Jim is becoming better and better at the newly learnt skills like focusing more on the process than the results and positive acceptance. Still “why me?” keeps bothering him.

“This could be the best thing that’s happening to you Jim, that’s why”, was my answer when we took a stock of his achievements in the last 4 months. There is no other way Jim could have learned what he did without going through the experience he is going through at present. He agrees to it, but still frustration intermittently creeps in.

When “why me?” came today, I suddenly said, “Let’s cross the borders Jim”. He looked puzzled. I then encouraged him to share his thoughts on happenings in Syria, Afghanistan, and Nigeria and we continued for a while. The discussion ended with my question,” Why them and why not us?”

We talked about link between success and efforts. It’s frustrating to Jim especially when things go wrong in spite of his consistent efforts in the right direction. He is very fortunate to be raised by parents who have inculcated “you can do it” attitude. It worked till then, and maybe now is the time when Jim is experiencing that not everything is directly and proportionately linked just to his efforts.

Then came series of questions that made him think about whether he really worked (or made any conscious efforts) to get what he has in his life. During a brief discussion that followed, we talked about 5-6 things that are already in place without him doing anything.

Jim walked with home-work assignment that asked him to think and capture 5 things in each of the 7 major areas of his life where he did not do any (or maybe very less) efforts and still has things in place which can be equated to success.

When I asked him 3 take-aways at the end of the session, (take-aways are learning elements from the session that are captured, noted down in writing with the understanding of applying them going forward), one of the take-aways was: “As I may never know exactly how much percentage of my efforts contributed to this success, I need to learn skills to be level-headed and less stressed during success and failure.”

Am I Choosing to be busy? (May 2014)

Rachael was in tears when I asked her about her vacation. It was the most obvious question to ask after she and her husband Sanjay returned after a week-long vacation. Rachael’s Facebook account was flooding with enviable photos of their vacation, with over 300 likes and wow comments from over 100 friends. I was expecting an enthusiastic response to my question and the reaction I got surprised me.

During our coaching session that followed, Rachael shared that during vacation they kept fighting over small things, and Sanjay was not in mood most of the time. According to her he made big deal out of small things and whatever happened was her fault. By transferring all blame to her, Sanjay permitted himself to remain mad at her. Rachael started crying uncontrollably when she shared that they did not have any intimate moments during their week-long vacation. (Rachael and Sanjay are married for 3 years and are without kids by choice. They are in their late thirties and working with me on managing needs of their extremely demanding careers, and nurturing relationships.)

This is the pattern I am noticing in most of the couples I am currently working with. The work-related stress, constant pressure to keep up and excel in everything, unreasonable expectations from self and others, absence of connectedness with each other (and other family members) mainly due to time constraint are taking tremendous toll on relationships and the quality of life as a whole.

Some people are extremely busy because they want the best for themselves and for their kids in terms of everything. Their necessary necessities are congruent to their lifestyles. On the other end, people are very busy working 2 or 3 jobs because they need to feed their families and for them taking kids to the park is a luxury.

People are too busy to:
- do activities that take care of their bodies, mind and spirit
- spend relaxed and quality time with their kids, spouse, family and friends
- visit their sick parents and or other family members
- connect with other people in-person
- pick up the phone and call their close(?) ones
- pursue the things they are passionate about
- volunteer and help others (which they say they really want to do some day)…

Are you forced to be busy or choosing to be busy?

If you are very busy, then the question to ask self is:
Am I really bothered by the fact that I am extremely busy?
     1. If “no”, then no need to change anything. You are making a conscientious choice to be busy.
     2. If “yes” then
             Are you convinced that busyness is unavoidable and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it?
                  a. If yes, then it’s time to learn accepting “busyness” as hard fact of life and the lifestyle you are choosing (or forced) to live.
                  b. If “no”, then maybe it is self-created and something could be done about it.

On the final note:
It’s perfectly ok to be busy if this “busyness” is contributing to your sense of purpose, fulfillment, progress and success.

But for those who are anxious, tired, confused, not focused, and unhappy about they being busy, the good news is: “Something could be done about it”.
Behavior Change In An Hour (April 2014)

“Wait, wait, let me make this very clear. Are you telling me that we talked about this during last session and the behavior change just happened?” I asked Terry 3 times 3 different ways, as I could not believe it.

“Yes, Shubhangi, it did!” - she repeated it smilingly.

I just couldn’t believe it. During our last meeting Terry was very mad at her parents for their behavior and was very sad/guilty at the same time for her anger towards them. I then asked her questions, challenged her thoughts, shared a different perspective, discussed multiple ways and I requested some change of actions from Terry. She wasn’t sure whether it’d work and somewhat reluctantly agreed to my request.

Terry and I are working on multiple skill-building exercises since last 2 years. Things have changed for the better in various areas of her life. Terry shares that she is noticing changes in her thoughts, behavior, and actions (especially communication). She also thinks that people have started noticing them too as evident from their changed reactions. Some family members and close friends have even explicitly acknowledged the positive changes in her.

We meet once a month, decide objectives for that month and Terry keeps working on the assignments. She sends me home-work at mutually agreed-upon frequency and we exchange a quick call if needed. The process is set and 1:1 learning continues.

“How long will it take to achieve my goals?” - is a very common question asked by clients when they hire me for some behavior modification. “I do not know for sure as behavior change takes time”, used to be my answer. Not any more. Am amazed that such a change in behavior is even possible in one session.

The question remains whether the change will sustain or revert back to the usual behavior. Is it possible that the behavior change is permanent and will never revert back? Time will tell. As far as this change in Terry is concerned it has been 1.5 months and the modified behavior continues.

I had similar experience 2 years back when at the end of the meeting I just knew that a life is saved because of the changed perspective. In my profession, it is not always possible to test how much paradigm shift has occurred. Sometimes it’s the intuitive feeling or the unexplainable trustworthy thought that makes me believe it to be true or sometimes it’s the direct feedback from the clients who continue to see me or continue to keep in touch to update their progress.

Starting March 7th, 2014, I have started answering the question “How long will it take?” very differently.

My answer now is: “ I do not know for sure how long will it take in your case, but based on my previous experience it can happen in an hour”.


Am too overwhelmed… (March 2014)

“Am totally overwhelmed, and do not want to do anything…”

Arya looked extremely awkward and restless when we met during our last coaching session. She was about to burst into tears, but somehow managed to control her emotions.

Arya and I are working on building time-management skills and managing stress associated with managing multiple activities, as she is getting ready for college. Her parents are both post-graduates from reputed Universities and value education and academic success. Arya is a very good student who always aims and gets good grades and tries to excel in everything she does. During discussions she expressed doubt whether her motivation is real, or has roots in parental expectations, peer pressure and societal pressure and not in what she likes (and wants) to do.

Many South Asian teenagers who approach me are undergoing similar pressure and dilemma. They feel pressured by parents to take up careers that are indicators of success and are associated with good pay, stability, and respectful position in the society. Teenagers who are perfectionists themselves are under tremendous self-imposed pressure.

Arya has taken up multiple AP classes and represents school in basket-ball. She also attends piano lessons, and dance classes. To excel in everything all the time is a tremendous pressure and when she slips in any of her activities, domino effect sets in disrupting everything. Arya’s elder sister is pursuing a medical career adding additional pressure to Arya's self-expectations.

Inability of a teenager to utilize the maximum potential could be due to multiple reasons like, inefficient time-management, organizational skills, ineffective stress management or just plain inherent inability. Identifying the true cause is a skill.

Motivating children to explore and recognize their strengths, to know and accept their limitations, requires being in touch. If parents are extremely busy and do not have much time to spend with their teenagers, then they fail to identify the true causes. I often come across parents who are in total denial of their kids’ weakness and insist on working harder. Sometimes what parents expect from their kids comes naturally to them but not to their kids. The concept of "working hard" also varies with different personality types making it harder for kids to convince parents about them working really hard.

In Arya’s case, the parents' routines do not allow them to spend much time with her, and they are doing their best to be fully supportive. Most of the pressure on her is self-imposed. We are working on figuring out possible inefficiencies in the ways she works, and even considering eliminating some activities from her routine, so that she is not overwhelmed up to the breaking point.

We, parents, do want our kids to succeed and have the bestest intentions for them. Are we taking time to pause a little and look for signs of emotional stress that might be affecting their emotional health?
Managing Guilt (February 2014)

Guilt is a very common emotion. Things done (or not done) in the past create guilt-stress. This stress depletes emotional energy and leaves people extremely bitter and unkind towards themselves. Though deep within everyone knows that one cannot turn the clock backwards and undo the things, it’s extremely difficult to let go of the past and do not blame self.

Am currently working with Julie who is in her seventies. Her middle-aged son stays with her. Julie was a single mom raising 3 kids working 2-3 jobs when her husband walked away from her when she was 27.

Now that she is learning to cook healthy to take care of her current health condition, she is experiencing tremendous guilt that she did not nourish her kids with healthy food when they were growing up. She also blames herself for not raising them consciously and considers herself responsible for their current behavior by associating it with her “bad parenting”.

Julie is blaming herself for what she did not do 45 years back from the knowledge and understanding she has right now. She answered negative when I asked her whether she understood about nutrition and right parenting then.

Similar is the case with my 3 other clients who are totally drained by thoughts of guilt.

The questions to ponder over to overcome guilt in any area are:
1. Did I really have the knowledge, (or thoughts, awareness) “then” what I have “now”?
2. Is it fair to blame the past-self (who was different then) by the awareness and understanding I have “right now” (present-self)?
3. What can I do with the understanding and awareness I have now to move forward?
4. Can I accept the past actions/inactions as being mistakes? Do I recognize that making mistakes is part of being human? Am I expecting myself to be right all the time in all the areas 24/7 throughout my whole life? Is it a reasonable expectation from any human?

In our coaching sessions, we work on assignments creating strategies that focus on cultivating desirable attitudes and thoughts, changing unwanted behavior with easily doable, small and consistent actions. Consistency of actions and accountability with the coach are the keys.

Everyone being so unique, there is no full-proof set that fits all. I feel extremely proud of my courageous clients who are willing to go through this creative process of self-exploration.

Knowing (and accepting) self better helps to let go of the past-focused guilt, future-focused fear, fully allowing to enjoy gift of the present!


Welcoming New Year (January 2014)

January 1st is a special day every year. It’s a day to welcome the New Year with enthusiasm and to set some intentions.

We spent New Year’s evening watching a documentary on a renowned Indian musician. The documentary depicted the artist's journey to fulfillment after making a crucial decision of listening to his inner voice at the start of his career.

Watching this documentary was a very powerful thought provoking experience for me. Am always fascinated by people who fully trust their inner voice in crucial decision-making. This is especially true of the creative artists who fully trust their intuition and are ready to do what they truly believe in. Intuitiveness is considered as a right-brain activity.

Patanjali in his yoga sutras asks us to challenge our inner thoughts. The thoughts could be Pramana- right ones or Viparyay- the wrong ones. This sounds like a left-brain activity. All of us have experienced this many a times how our brain uses confirmation bias and availability heuristics to support what we want to hear from self.

After watching the documentary, I kept thinking about the decision artist made at the start of his career. Though it appeared as a very spontaneous intuitive right-brain decision based on the narrative, we will never know what elements of left-brain were at play then. Whatever it was, the decision worked in his favor and in our favor by giving us the divine experience.

At the beginning of New Year, let’s tap into the appropriate mix of our left and right brains to set intentions that will bring us health, happiness, peace, and fulfillment for many more years to come.

Happy New Year 2014!


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