Sunday, 21 June 2015

Yoga and Me


My Yoga journey began sometime in the late nineties. My induction into Yoga practice happened more out of necessity than choice. I was a chronic, acute Asthmatic all my adult life and the asthma attacks were assuming life threatening proportions (I had been hostipalised in emergencies in intensive care twice.) It was then that my Doctor, Late Pramod Niphadkar virtually forced me to adopt Yoga and other breathing exercises to supplement my medical treatment.

It then began as a daily ten minute routine and along with my other regimen, it turned my life around. Even after Asthma was well under control, I maintained my routine since it had become a part of my system.

In May 2003 something more dramatic happened and life was never the same again. Bipolar Disorder struck and it made me dig deeper, explore all resources available to me in order to regain normalcy. I learnt a few more specific yoga asanas and breathing techniques to alleviate my new set of problems.

Serendipity brought a new twist in this journey. I was introduced to the Bhagavad Gita in circumstances strongly suggesting it was meant to be~ it had a profound impact on me and I realised that what I believed was Yoga all these years was not the real thing at all! The physical asanas which have become hugely popular in many parts of the world are erroneously termed as Yoga, instead of Ashtanga Yoga. No doubt, it does help balance the mind and body and has proven health benefits.

The other elements are Karma Yoga (doing one's duty  without any expectation), Dhyan Yoga (Meditation), Gyan Yoga (Knowledge) and finally Bhakti Yoga (Devotion and surrender to God).

Yoga is not just about asanas, it is a way of life. I would add, joyful living.

I had learnt to meditate almost two decades ago. My practice of it, however, was infrequent. Reading the Gita changed all that. Even meditation got a new purpose, a new meaning. I began introspecting a lot more, asking myself questions, seeking answers to them. I now began to understand why Yoga is described as a way of living rather than a physical practice.

As for Ashtanga Yoga, my health challenges motivated me to reach higher on the fitness scale. Last year my wife and I took our Yoga practice a step further. We engaged a trainer who taught us a whole range of new asanas. Being in our 50's, some were challenging, however with regular practice, we have mastered them all. The body's ability to adapt and regain flexibility is amazing!

My day begins with half an hour of meditation followed by fifty minutes of ashtanga yoga

mixed with a few exercises. A day without this feels incomplete. While this might sound repetitive and boring, it is not~ I can meditate for hours without feeling the need to come out of the blissful state it takes me to! As for asthanga yoga, the asanas we have learnt are so many that not all can be fitted in a session. Each day we schedule different asanas which also means that we go through the whole gamut of what's been taught to us on a rotation basis.

Ashtanga yoga and meditation are the foundation of one's path to self discovery. One can hardly go on a spiritual quest without a calm, balanced body and mind. Meditation stills the mind and prepares it for advancement to the next level. It gives us access to an infinite reservoir of wisdom and bliss.

My moment in my journey came with the realistion that there was a higher being than me seated in my Soul.

And bowing down to Him.

Surrendering to Him.

This is what truly freed me.

Touch this moment, set yourself free.



(Me in Meditative stance~ Photo Credit: Meenal Jaiswal Photography)



 

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

And Then She Smiled

It was a pleasant evening as an old lady walked aimlessly in park, all by herself, lost in thoughts..eyes tracing the ground, not having the energy to take in the surroundings.
Oblivious of the hustle bustle of the kids at play.

All of a sudden, she was jolted out of her reverie by a softball that hit her on her back. As she stooped to pick it up, a five year old boy ran to her and apologised profusely.
"I am so sorry! I hope I have not hurt you, Aunty?"

"No you haven't, dear."

"May I have my ball back then?"


"You can have it back only if you sit down with me for a while and speak to me for a few minutes. Then I promise to give it to you."

"I am Rohan, I live in a bungalow nearby, my Mom is a teacher at a school. Papa is a doctor who fixes bones..I love drawing and playing in the mud..Who do you live with, Aunty? Do you come here every day? My School reopens  next week..."

The old lady was amused by the cute little boy's innocent and endearing mannerisms. He so easily opened up to a complete stranger! His implicit trust in her, in the goodness that life holds for him.
This is what childhood is about, she mused.

He spoke animatedly until the lady ran her fingers through his curly mop of hair and told him,
"Thank you for brightening up my evening, Rohan. May God bless you."
She then handed back his ball to him.

"Thank you Aunty. Shall we meet again tomorrow?"
He said before he ran away to continue playing.

When she had walked into the park she had come with a heavy heart.
There was every reason for her to grieve. It was the death anniversary of her grandson, who had been tragically killed in an accident when very young.

Her spirit had now been lifted and there was a purpose in her gait. She also noticed the soft green grass beneath her feet, the colourful blooms around her, the beauty of it all..

The little boy had taught her such a wonderful lesson, on a day normally spent in mourning all by herself.

Life is about moving on..
Life is about embracing the new..
Life is about living it..


She actually managed a smile on her wrinkled face.

Friday, 22 May 2015

3i's of an Icon

She calls me the 'lighthouse of hope'. Guess who is the light?

Some people have the ability to light up a room by their mere presence. The rarest of rare have the precious gift of lighting up a soul and setting it free.
Yes, some mentors have that kind of impact. Without being overbearing, she makes each step of mine easier. Mine was a cathartic journey. What an inspiring influence to have to light up the path! It was an important juncture of life when I had begun writing my first book, a book that has considerable social significance. She too is committed to the cause and graciously volunteered to coach me during this crucial period.

Jennifer Sertl is an internationally reputed Author, Keynote Speaker and business strategist.


She is a thought leader in the emerging field of corporate 
consciousness and a recognised influencer in social media.Jennifer is President and Founder of Agility 3R which helps leaders become more resilient, responsive and reflective.

If she focuses on the 
3R's in course of her coaching, what do I make of her as a person? I have the great fortunate of being coached, cajoled and lovingly coerced too, at times in course of video conferencing sessions. These sessions are worth their weight in gold- at a time when the mind is tentative, this brilliant soul has stood by my side to guide me.
It is her coaching that germinated the three magical mantras of 'Authenticity','Vitality' and 'Compassion' for my path forward. She is nothing short of an icon to me, and shall remain so well after the mentoring is officially done with. Well, wisdom gained is a long term asset which appreciates over time, isn't it? I attempt here to describe what I find so special about her as a mentor.

I would replace the '3R's' with '3i's' for my 'i'con.

intellect: rarely does one come across a woman (no I am not being sexist) of such intellect. Her capacity to incisively analyse like a surgeon operating with a laser, cut through the confounding fuzz of facts and get to the essence is remarkable! I found that to be her single most amazing quality. As in a surgery, this happens in real time during the sessions, not after much deliberation. She also has the uncanny 'dual focus' ability, so rarely found in leaders. This rare gift helps her to scan the horizon as well as take in the smaller details almost simultaneously. I have benefited immensely from insights: truly path-breaking thoughts and ideas. 
"Sometimes, it is better to be wise than to be nice."
This gem of advice by her was when I was torn between choices I had to make and it nudged me into taking that troublesome decision.
'Navigating Complexity- Hold onto your Core'
integrity: a mentor's integrity must be beyond reproach. Only then can one fully trust the advice and guidance received as well as intentions behind them. That kind of person has to be herself sure of her identity and be in alignment with her authenticity. Adhering to one's pure, authentic self and to one's chosen path unaffected by the alluring distractions of the manipulative world calls for an inner conviction of the highest caliber. 

I benefit hugely from these sterling attributes of hers. Her reflective nature has also empowered her with the wisdom of thinking beyond herself, of realising that she has so much to offer to causes dear to her. Being a private person, to my knowledge, she hasn't publicised these contributions. She does all this with staggering humility and grace, so rare in today's times.I had first hand glimpses of her sensitive and empathetic side too. 
'All Hallow's Eve & Identity'
intensity: I wonder how she juggles around with time to get so much out of it! I say this because her speaking and coaching assignments entail globetrotting and if those were not challenging enough she is well connected with thought leaders spread across the world and actively engages in collaborative initiatives. It could well be that she is so well sorted out 'within' that she puts in everything in her interactions..it appears as if there are no doubts tugging at her, so sure she is of herself! This is why probably, her enthusiastic brainwaves rubbed off on me and had me so committed to them. With her sharp focus and sense of priorities, Jennifer manages to balance personal and professional calling beautifully. I am myself privy to insights on this front in course of my coaching. 
'Ode to Teachers & Celebration of Learning'
As I write this, I cannot help but wonder how much of the Book, which is now ready for publishing, is written by me and how much have you contributed to it with your insights! I would not sully our friendship by saying that I shall forever be in debt, Jennifer, but grateful, yes, to have experienced the magic. I end this with a small gift for my soul sis. 


I owe our friendship to a common friend and equally noble soul,
Dr. Amit Nagpal
: Gratitude!

Yes, God has been kind to me!

(This was first published by me on Linkedin and has been modified)

Saturday, 11 April 2015

3 Key Elements Of Personal Branding

It is well known that a strong presence across Social Media platforms is vital in building one's Personal Brand. What and how we communicate gives a sharp focus to the way we are seen by the world. In my view there are three key elements that are integral to each person's brand.

1) Authenticity
It all begins with understanding 'Who am I', 'What do I stand for' and 'What is my deepest passion'. To round you off as a person, you could add 'What are my interests'. Some people are very sure about almost everything in life. If you are not, reflection is a great way to find out what your essence is. Being a deeply spiritual helped me in separating the essential from the superficial. It gave me clarity of thought.
Being yourself helps shed the flab of being what you are not.

Interaction with mentors whom you respect and trust is a great way of knowing more about yourself. They often spot hidden strengths and give you invaluable insights. (Honestly, I have liberally used this thanks to the generosity of my mentors). It is like somebody else holding a mirror to your soul.
Now you have the ingredients to prepare a strategy that helps build your brand.

You'd also do well to develop a 'voice' of your own. To rise above the clutter one needs to constantly be innovative, creative and speak up without appearing to be an attention seeker. While it is important to say what you really mean to, not hurting the feelings of others is also of equal importance.
One has to learn to make this shift from 'Personal EgoSystem' to Social Ecosystem. After all, we are all intricately connected.

2) Vitality
Whether it is a product, service or a corporate brand, it has to vibrate with energy. A personal brand is no different. Coming across as a person brimming with positive energy (which you are, or else no amount of branding will ring true) helps you communicate your message with conviction.
You might have noticed that posts that have positive or cheering content are liked and shared the most on social media (research backs this). Don't people get enough of bad news from their newspapers? That's not to say that you share only feel good stuff, however being a permanent town crier is not such a bright idea.
Your brand, therefore, needs to reflect the energetic, positive and confident you. This strategy should be in in sync across all forms and interactions. Whether digital or your emails or how you come across in person.
Also, your brand should make the desired statement without you having to make a song and dance about it.
3) Compassion
As large corporations and brands are shifting their strategies from B2B and B2C to H2H, it is time we realign our strategies accordingly. There is a decided advantage in doing so, too. 
For example the advertising tagline of a luxury sedan a decade ago would have typically read " Now you can tell them you have arrived." It is more likely to be on the lines of "When you don't need to make a statement any more"~ there is a subtle shift from emphasis on brand aspiration to acknowledging the rise in customer's stature.
When the focus is on connecting to the heart (instead of head), there is a decided shift in communication content and form too. For instance storytelling works brilliantly in creating a lasting impact as it appeals to emotions and is more memorable~ facts and excessive information on the other hand, lead to monotony.
The same principle applies in one's Personal Branding communication, since storytelling works very well and inspiring storytelling even better! Depending on the platform (Twitter/Facebook/Google or Blog) one can use quotes, couplets/visuals or longer stories.
Another aspect of H2H is coming across as a person who cares on Social Media- all interactions, comments and posts should reflect this facet. Leaders are known to be always ready to be of help. People look up to people who care.
We could take this a step further. What elevates you as a compassionate being like nothing else does, is a genuine, no strings attached commitment to a social cause. Whether it is by means of contribution of time or resources or acts of philanthropy. The billionaires of the Western world have already shown the way and the Indian Tech tycoons are no laggards either. 
What stops us, in our own small way, from doing so and sharing our passion for a noble cause in a genuine way that works to inspire others? (I am passionate about quite a few causes and I know how tremendously it helped me grow as a human being).
So, speak up with Authority and Authenticity, make your Brand Buzz with Vitality and Connect with Compassion.

Gratitude to Person Branding Coach and Storytelling wizDr.Amit Nagpal, a Mentor beyond compare as well as one who handheld me from my 'green behind the ears' days onto my Personal Branding career. You have helped me immensely in my evolving as a human being. Friends like you prove how invaluable Social Media can be in bringing people and minds together.

Jennifer SertlBusiness Strategist and thought leader in the emerging field of corporate consciousness~ what can I say about you, my Soul sister across oceans as well as my selfless life coach. I owe the theme of Authenticity, Vitality and Compassion to your insightful inputs. You have literally held a mirror to my inner self, sharpened my focus and guided me dexterously. Your belief in me makes me believe in myself like nothing else can! Bless your luminous soul!
This Post was first Published by me on Linkedin


Sunday, 5 April 2015

We Are All Connected


It was predawn and I was walking barefoot on the beach, the sea to my left and ahead was a long stretch of inviting white sands for me to explore, the cool early morning breeze caressing me.

The scenic surroundings made me stop and I was compelled to drink in the abundant beauty. I held out my right arm and cupped my hand, as if to catch rain water. If I drank from my hand, what would  I actually be drinking? Wasn't my hand empty?

Or was it, did it not hold air? And what about the air that surrounded it, that which was above it extending far into the skies?

I then waded into the shallow waters barefoot and enjoying the cold waters, I again cupped my right hand and tried to scoop up as much seawater as I could. Then I tipped my hand and let it go..my feet were already in water. All the oceans of the world are interconnected. In that sense all the rivers flow into the same body of water! Engrossed in the stream of thoughts, I had forgotten all about my walk.

As I gradually retreated from the waters to the beach, I looked at the sand beneath my feet..surely the same ground is not shared by the planet... The vast oceans separate the continents. No they don't actually, that's just what is visible to us, the common plate of land runs right through, a massive part of it just happens to be submerged under the vast oceans. Nonetheless, it is therefore, a single land surface and to imagine that at very moment I was standing on land connected to the Himalayas as well as the Sahara desert!

Here I am standing, connected to the entire world's oceans, air and land.

It takes some doing to feel that.

Talk about serendipity! I recalled an inspiration I had drawn from one of my meditation sessions. A voice inside me made me believe deeply at that time:

"I am connected to the universe, the universe is in me, I am the universe."
An expansion of consciousness while meditating made me feel this. Similarly, every cell of my body, my thoughts and energy are connected to corresponding frequencies of the universe.

I then reminded myself that I was here to enjoy my morning walk. Continued with a smile on my face.

Couldn't stop my mind from interrupting me-
Okay, I shall allow myself one last thought, I said to myself.
Since we are all connected,

I am not alone.
We are not alone.
Let's walk together.

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