Uncluttering the Mind

The cluttered mind is the devil’s workshop.

A re-frame of the old adage that “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop”

If you have ever felt a lack of focus, purpose, and a sense of disconnection from life, the reason might be that your mind is just too cluttered. This is how we change it.

My experience at de-cluttering

For the first time in months, I slept without a phone next to me. And I woke up without a phone next to me.

In my bed, I visualized and felt my goals coming true. I arose from my bed calm and ready for the day. I got ready, did my morning meditation and prayers, had brunch with my wife. All this without a single screen to look at.

Remarkably, I felt an immediate change in the way I felt.

Let’s contrast with how things usually were for me.

I would go to sleep at night with a phone in my hand. I would use it to read books, so I would tell myself at least I was being productive late into the night. But of course the mind cannot be productive all the time. It just isn’t built for it.

Because of this habit, I would not be able to spend time with my wife as she drifted off to sleep herself. It was an incomplete way to end the day. Not having a phone between us allowed us to sync with each other as we fell asleep.

In the morning, I would also reach for my phone. I would again start the day with spiritual readings, but my mind is never ready for it. There is something about the device that makes me want to search for the next hit of information. I would soon find myself catching up with work emails, messages, and personal direct messages and start responding to them.

“They’re just for work or family” I would say. But at around this time, my mental peace is already disturbed. I’m in a state of chaos already, sucked into a tumultuous world.

This would happen even on weekends.

Not today however.

What Inspired Me

I have felt a lack of focus and a real sense of disconnection with myself as of late. The pace of things had been increasing but I felt I was staying in the same place.

I came at a crossroads where I realized that until I change something inside of me, I will be far away from my ideal life.

I believed my path to the ideal life was a macho push-through-everything way of looking at the world.

The picture of a hyper-connected, hyper-responsive executive, making a million decisions a day is firm in my mind’s eye. This is also extremely destructive.

What I want is calm. I want peace of mind. I want to engage with my work as an instrument of my life; something that I play with to create music because I enjoy it. Not be ruled by it.

The means of doing that is not through being more productive, more systems and processes. Not more left brain. But more heart. More soul. This is a difficult proposition at times since as of the writing of this post, I work in the legal industry where I’m often surrounded by hyper-logical and critical lawyers. But I also see a destructive lack of meaning, connection, and significance when I speak with many lawyers up close. I see broken marriages, addictions. I see brewing volcanoes of stress and burnout that is barely placated with another training on productivity, efficiency, surface-level mentions of self-care.

A hyper-active cluttered mind cannot find peace. There is no productivity hack that will reawaken your heart to work. You will be more productive at making yourself unhappy, drifting further and further away from peace of mind.

The Need for Space

I was inspired by this talk below:

It spoke about a different way of getting focus. But focus is just one benefit of removing the clutter.

The real benefit is getting greater peace of mind. More space.

When there is more space, the heart and your true self (the atman) can be heard.

This morning, I find myself more connected than ever before to myself.

I know weekdays will be difficult since I am going to work and I often have morning calls. I will have to find a way to maintain my peace of mind as I design the future.

This is just day 1. I will report back what I learn from this journey as I go through it over the coming weeks.

Consider removing the phone from your life for just this weekend. At least in between bed-time and the start of your workday. See what happens. If you’ve already done this, what has been your experience with decluttering your mind?

Be Human, Be An Imperfectionist

Perfectionism is the greatest trap we fall in. Our entire society, our businesses, our culture runs on this idea. We’re all lesser for it.

This past week, I had a meeting scheduled with a successful entrepreneur in Atlanta. Before the call, I started hoping he wouldn’t attend the call. I was unsure of what value I had to contribute to him. I was thinking about all the ways I fall short in life.

We try so hard to be perfect, to keep up an image that others have about us. Even the image that we have for ourselves.

“I was meant for more. I should’ve been further along. Why am I like this?”

We beat ourselves up. In this way, we become our own worst enemies.

It’s hard to not feel defeated, overwhelmed, out of breath sometimes when everyone else around us appears to be running ahead just fine. Everyone else appears more accomplished, more fit, richer, with better relationships and partners.

We’re all in this. Men and women who are in their 30s, 40s, 50s who are afraid to admit they have any feelings of doubt, insecurity, vulnerability, loneliness.

“Oh no, everything is going great!” they say with a fake cheeriness.

Businesses and governments put on an armor of invulnerability. Everything is structured, static, sterile. There’s a reason why hundreds of millions across the world with these jobs are dissatisfied, disengaged, and unhappy in their work. They feel they have to suppress a big part of themselves to do the work. Their vulnerabilities, their doubts, their fears.

I am giving up this idea. Embracing imperfectionism is freeing. It lets us connect with others more authentically. Happiness, satisfaction, success, growth all comes from rich connections and relationships. This is possible when I don’t have to pretend to be perfect.

This is not about avoiding progress. This is not about stopping ourselves from improving.

Just to be clear…

This isn’t a “trick” to make you happier. Remember, the unrealistic, ridiculous side of this coin is perfectionism. The idea that we can do anything perfectly is completely and irreversibly contrary to logic, the history of mankind, and every person’s experience. 

Against a giant tortoise, we’re all speed demons! Against a cheetah, even Usain “The Human Lightning” Bolt will get embarrassed. Your confidence in your foot speed depends on what relative benchmarks you consider to be adequate, poor, or remarkable…Every confidence benchmark is arbitrary, so we may as well create our own.

The two quotes above are from Stephen Guise and his excellent book How to be an Imperfectionist.

We don’t have everything in our lives figured out. That’s okay. We’re all going to be okay. I don’t want to be perfect anymore for anyone else. It takes too much energy.

When I started talking with the entrepreneur, I decided to be a bit bold and tell him about this feeling of insecurity I felt when we started the call. And it was such a relief. We connected authentically and genuinely. It was good.

As a consultant, I am trying to do this with businesses. I want to help businesses make change more human. I want them to account for human psychology, human imperfections in their work. I want organizations to sell without treating someone else like an object.

You can read about what work I am doing here (and if you think of any business that can use a gentler and more human way of managing change and growing, let me know).

I hope this week you will let go of a tendency to be perfect and instead be imperfect while trying to be a bit better. To stop comparing yourself with others. To stop making yourself seem invulnerable. Don’t resist the doubts and fears. In fact, have a conversation with someone who can respect it and your relationship with them will become richer for it.

If the above email resonated with you, join the weekly Ideas newsletter dedicated to connecting thinkers, doers, leaders, teachers, and humans to build the future by connecting the heart and mind.

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The Schoolteacher’s Lessons and Choosing Yourself

We fail to grow during this time of isolation because of a few unconscious lessons we learned during our time in school. The antidote is to choose ourselves.

We wait too long for others to choose us. We wait for the right schools, universities, employers, partners to choose us. We wait for someone else to give us permission to do what we really want to do. To learn what we want to learn, to make what we want to make.

Self-directed learning via online courses and books are more abundant than ever before. But my mind goes to why we so often fail at following through, on learning ourselves, or insisting that we get the right credentials.

On waiting for someone else to choose us.

The Seven Lesson School Teacher

Meet John Taylor Gatto.

John Taylor Gatto from The Ultimate History Lesson

He was New York State’s and New York City’s Teacher of the Year for 3 years. He took underperforming kids and made them into smart, interesting, curious, and well prepared individuals. In short, he did what great teachers do.

It was during the last year where he won the Teacher of the Year award that he wrote a very public column in the Wall Street Journal announcing that he was quitting teaching for good.

He said he was done harming kids.

He believed that the real lessons of school were very different than what we believe them to be. These lessons are:

  1. Confusion: Schools teach us everything, disconnectedly. Math is different from history is different from science is different from language. But true education is meant to be an in-depth understanding of the world and to develop a skill set that can serve us navigate it. That is how the world functions. Everything is meant to be integrated. Schools teach unrelating everything from everything. It isn’t until much later years where the synthesis of these things come together.
  2. Indifference: Classes are strictly divided into a timetable. English is homeroom, Science is second, and then math. You can have a great teacher at the front of the class, but when the bell rings, you must stop and just shut off your brain and rapidly go do something else. No wonder we struggle at finishing long term projects that matter in our lives in our adult age. No wonder we struggle to keep focus on doing deep work, which is where mastery and greatness happens.
  3. Position: Students are numbered, and they are put in a strict position. You know what your position is, and you don’t like to deviate from it. I see this (and it’s happened with me as well), where it is very difficult to relate and connect with people of different age groups, different socio-economic factors. We know our position, and our world starts revolving only around people in the right class, the right subjects, the right position. This is not the way the real world is supposed to work. No wonder we are so divided. Why we struggle to see the other person.
  4. Emotional Dependence: The golden star stickers in the report card, the permission to go use the bathroom, the rankings and class performance charts. They all teach us that we need someone else to bestow their good graces upon us so that we may express our individuality. There is value in this of course. When we are small children, we need this to teach us social norms to function well. But after a while, we keep chasing the golden star sticker in everything we do, from the universities we want to go to, the jobs we pursue, the vacations we take. Everything is a signal waiting for someone else to validate us and give us permission to be. There is no outlet to fight against this.
  5. Self-esteem dependence: Of course a result of the above issue is that our confidence is highly tied to how someone else approves of us or not. You are constantly evaluated and judged. A quiz a day, a test a week, exams, etc. Most of us remember the relief of the summer vacation. When we returned from these vacations, we ourselves know how little we remember from what we learned the year before. Instead, it was only the things that we were interested in that stayed with us. But despite that, the grade we get can devastate us or make us.
  6. Intellectual Dependence: Someone else always sets the agenda of what we need to learn, and how we must learn. We wait for instructions. Someone tells us we are Wrong (with a capital W) when we get something incorrect. I have barely used the tools from my English classes in school, but yet back then there was a correct way of doing things and an incorrect way. We are supposed to learn self-evaluation. But instead, we wait for others. This carries over to performance and annual reviews in jobs. Instead of focusing on continuous self-driven improvement, we wait for someone else.

Of course the question becomes, if schools are so ineffective, how else are people supposed to learn? But learning was always supposed to be a self-driven thing. And teaching kids to be motivated to self-learn, self-evaluate, and chase their own interests and how it relates to everything else is supremely more powerful.

This isn’t about becoming drop-outs. This is about understanding the hidden lessons we have learned in school and what it has done to us. I highly recommend looking through John Taylor Gatto’s books (do we even have the concentration to read a full book anymore?) to think about alternative ways of learning.

It is heartening to hear things changing. A great family friend whom I had the pleasure of spending a weekend with last month told us she was homeschooling her two kids. She comes from a conservative Hindu family, and she herself has a PhD in Chemistry from a major American university on the west coast. It was amazing to see her insistence on this.

Forced to stay at home, many of us with kids are waking up and are faced with a choice to either hand our kids a screen so they can distract and entertain themselves, or engage in serious self-directed study and learning. Self-directed being the key here.

Consider looking into the unschooling, self-direct learning movements, and home schooling movements if you have kids. These children have and can grow up to be marvelously well rounded and successful people (that’s what the data shows).

In the meantime, we all need to unschool ourselves a little bit as well. The mental baggage can slow ourselves. Being aware of it is sometimes all we need to unload it.

In short, we need to choose ourselves.

That’s how we make this time of isolation into a time of productivity. Where we let our own self-directed curiosity guide us to grow. That is because ideas are powerful.

On great ideas

Ideas are the real currency of this century. I’ve gotten work without resumes and cover letters, just through the strength of ideas. This week alone, I was contacted on Twitter by an entrepreneur for a major (at least for me) business transaction based on the strength of my ideas. I’ve gotten large consulting projects through cold emails and the strength of my ideas. And of course sharing those ideas.

I’d like to encourage all of us to please do share your ideas! What are you learning? What are you thinking about? What are you curious about? Help me be of service to you by either making me a sounding board or someone who can recommend a book, course, or resource to guide you through your curiosity.

I share one idea a week. Consider signing up for it in a weekly newsletter below:

The Prince’s Exile

Life can take us the highest peaks of life and bring us down in a moment. The following is a true story seldom heard off in the Western world of a prince that saw both and how it defined his legacy that teaches us how to manage change.

It was the night before his coronation as the king of the land, a moment of jubilation for everyone. 

The king, the ministers, and even the citizens of the land were impressed with Prince Rāma. He had been the perfect prince.

Patient and noble, generous and kind, fair and just. He traveled far and helped the kingdom prosper. He defended the weak when enemies tried to attack the further borders of the kingdom. He maintained diplomatic ties with neighboring rulers and strengthened peace and prosperity across the land.

He was also the oldest of the king’s sons. When the king decided to step down from his responsibilities, it came as a surprise to no one that the perfect Prince Rāma to become the heir-apparent.

Everyone except the handmaiden to the Queen.

The handmaiden to the Queen was a superstitious lady, nosy and bothersome. She had the habit of finding faults in even the best of situations, and in the best of people. Scheming was in her nature, even when it had nothing to do with her.

The Queen was excited about the coronation of her step-son the following morning. Despite being a step-son, they had bonded like mother and son. She saw him as her own son.

“But what of your son, my lady?” said the handmaiden as she helped the Queen prepare to attend the dinner that evening in the royal court.

“What do you mean?” said the Queen.

“If Prince Rāma becomes the King, your own son will live in his shadow. He will be subservient. And who knows? Perhaps the good prince may cease to be so good with the newfound power,” said the haggard handmaiden.

“Do not be so insolent when you speak of your Prince and your future King,” said the Queen firmly.

“Sorry my lady! I am just an old woman who knows nothing and just rambles. Of course. Don’t mind me,” and with that, she went about her business and left the Queen.

But the seed of doubt was planted.

Better men than him have gone mad with power. What if he hurts my own son? What can I do to prevent this?

The queen could barely eat dinner. After the dinner with the court, she went to the King and started talking.

“Oh King! You are my husband, and today I want to ask you of a favour the night before you step down. Do not deny me this wish.”

“Anything! Ask! I have never denied anything you have asked and today is a happy day for tomorrow my Rāma will take my place!”

The Queen was silent was a while, and the King looked at her expectantly.

“Say it! I will not deny you. I swear by my honor as a king and your husband.”

“Then hear me oh great King! If your vow to me right now is true, I wish that my own son be crowned the king and that Prince Rāma be exiled into the forest.”


It was an age with the word of the King was bound by honor. If a great man made a vow, upon his life he had to fulfill it no matter what.

“Ask anything else but this! What has come over you? This is the first I have heard talks of such madness!”

But the Queen was firm. She did not relent no matter how much the King tried to console her. No matter how much the King tried to show her reason.

He is the right person for this.

He will treat you well. He sees your son as his very brother.

Rāma has never hurt anyone unjustly.

No, no, no.

The Queen remained firm and the King was left without words. He fell to the floor and became like a ghost, unable to tell his son what he was honor-bound to fulfill.

Morning came and the kingdom did not know what was to come.

But the old handmaiden of the Queen had heard everything. And soon, the message went out.

In corners of the palace, and then the kingdom, the citizens were aghast! They thought it was a rumor.

Until Prince Rāma woke and received the message.

On the morning of his coronation, he received a message that changed his destiny. So close to the culmination of his power, he remained stable. Neither upset nor elated, he had taken his impending coronation with the same equanimity with which he took this message of his exile.

He went to meet his father the King and his step-mother the Queen to confirm the news. His silent father could barely speak, but the news were confirmed.

He immediately went to his quarters, removed all the finery he wore, and prepared to leave the Kingdom. His very home.

Before he left, he went to seek the blessings from his father and his step-mother as well. He remained unaffected by the dualities of honor and shame. When the fruit of his life was snatched before his very eyes, he dealt with the tides of fate with calm, with joy and happiness.

No, that is not my wedding photo. It is a still from The Rāmāyan, a serialized adaption from his life. This is a still that shows the actors that play Rām and his wife Sitā in garb.

I have been thinking a lot about Prince Rāma this past week.

When he faced such an extreme event (and many many many others) over his lifespan, he showed that it is possible to live a life of equanimity.

I’d like to make the case that it is this peace of mind that should be the very goal of our lives!

Perhaps your life has been turned around overnight. But like Rāma, we too can learn to have peace of mind.

I’ve been reading this book The Elephant in the Brain that makes a convincing case that close to 90% of the things we do in our life are to signal to others, improve our social status, and receive attention for it.

The schools we attend: we go for the most prestigious schools so that we can signal to others about our intelligence.

Our professions are often a way to showcase either how smart and capable we are based on the companies we build or the job titles we hold.

Even the charity we work we do is often fused with the thought of the recognition and social status we receive from it.

Our homes, cars, and many other parts of our life are often done to signal to others that we are smart, good-looking, successful, and capable people.

Rāma had all these things going for him already. But it was ultimately his ability to have peace of mind that makes hundreds of millions of people remember him, even centuries after he is no more.

It was his peace of mind, his ability to stay calm under the extreme dualities of life that makes us remember him.

It was his character that mattered more. It helped him then, and it makes us remember him now.

And this is the case with life.

We chase all external signals of success, status, and affiliation. Countless more people have done that already.

Status, success, affiliation goes up and down. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. But is only peace of mind that can keep you still. Peace of mind can give you more than any status, success or failure can give you.

Unless you make a deliberate attempt at making peace of mind the ultimate goal of life, it will not happen. Until we make signals of status the main goals of life, we cannot find fulfillment and meaning.

Studying the life of great people like Prince Rāma can be more instructive on how to live life and achieve something meaningful in life.

I hope that you too will make attaining peace of mind your ultimate goal in life.

If you are interested in reading the story of Prince Rāma, popularly known as The Rāmāyana, I can recommend 2 versions:

  1. A shorter version with beautiful paintings found here.
  2. A longer version here.

Both are non-affiliate Amazon links.

It’s one of the greatest epics of the ancient world and I highly recommend it.

I hope you are doing well through these times and the story of Prince Rāma above will give you pause and give you something to think about as you start this coming week.

Please share this with others who might appreciate the message here and join our tribe.

The Deep Breath Before the Plunge

I was catching up with a friend yesterday who has been worried about his job, his family, his spouse, and just the state of the world with everything happening right now. He is also a medical professional, so he has been seeing the CoVID crisis unfold in front of his eyes. He had the weekend off, but was not looking forward to taking the plunge again on Monday.

Perhaps you are in a similar boat.

We spent the next 1.5 hours talking and he started telling me about some of the things he’s trying to do to stay grounded.

Our conversation turned to philosophy and theology, and at the end of the conversation, he felt a lot better.

I wanted to share some of the ideas from it below. They come from The Bhagavat Gita, an ancient Vedic Hindu text that trickled across the world to become the basis of Stoicism. It inspired Emerson, Thoreau, and its ideas were incorporated into Buddhist teachings. It is the original text on Yoga as well.

The Gita is a conversation between Arjuna the warrior and Krishna his charioteer. The conversation is really a meditation that happens on a battlefield before the start of a war.

Arjuna asks to ride into the center of the battlefield to survey the land and the enemies. Krishna obliges. Upon looking at the enemies he has to face from afar, Arjuna loses heart. He feels he is incapable of fighting this war.

We too are warriors fighting our own daily struggles. In the face of all this, we too can lose heart.

He loses courage and wants to give up. But he asks his charioteer Krishna to tell him what to do. He gives up all of his ego in the face of the challenge in front of him and instead surrenders to the wise Krishna.

I believe this is the first part of any meditation (or prayer). Completely surrendering our mind so that we are open to receiving an answer, a response to the stress in our lives.

This means letting go of the ego that wants to control every thing. As smart, intelligent, driven & successful people, we are used to getting our way. We want to always be in control. It is hard to let go of control. But the process of real transformation happens when we surrender, let go, and trust so that a better answer can come to us. So that we can find a means of going on.

Sorry, there is no meditation app that can help you do this. And despite what people might think, sometimes they are more of a crutch (necessary at the beginning of your practice, but something you will eventually need to give up).

Read: Buddhism scholars: Meditation apps are fueling tech addiction, not easing stress

Ego will prevent us from learning and growing. Pride can prevent us from learning the right things. Arjuna surrendered unconditionally and opened himself up.

This letting go must come from a sense of knowing that we will be looked after, that our highest and best good is coming our way.

Krishna tells him to rise up and let’s Arjuna know that this “cowardice is unbecoming of him.”

Krishna tells him: “There has never been a time where you and I have not been. The body changes from young to old. In the same way, the life goes as well from birth to birth. You are not this. You are not these problems. But you are greater than all this. You are the spirit, the atma that brings consciousness to this body and mind.”

Modern science tells us that we are not just the body. We’ve gone up to “we are the mind” part.

“I think therefore I am.”

But there is a higher level still. Through all the changes when we had the identity of a baby, and the future identity we will have as we age, it has always been. This entity is the real you.

We are not the body, nor are we the mind. You and I still are even if we are asleep, when no conscious thoughts are in our mind. And we are certainly more than a physical machine with bio-chemical processes.

The body has changed. Identities have changed, but you have remained. This you is the real you. What we call in our culture, the atma.

What is this atma like​? It is not born. It does not die. Like a cloth is old, we throw it away, in the same way, we get rid of a body once its work is done. The atma moves on to another life. To know this is the mark of an intelligent person.

Otherwise, we see birth and death each day. If that truly is all that life is, then it is natural that we become overwhelmed when the slightest thing happens to our bodies, our minds. And when these things start happening to our loved ones. This type of excessive attachment is not love.

If we stay in that framework, than life will always shake us. Change will shock us. Aging will scare us. When we don’t get what we want, our minds will become unhappy, stressed. We end up fighting with the nature of life itself which is ever fluctuating and temporary. That is the root cause of unhappiness.

Contemplating about this is the real key. When we start thinking that our worries are not us, when our thoughts are not us, when our body is not us, when this identity that we inhabit of a doctor, entrepreneur, artist, writer, etc is not truly us, then our worries start to subside.

When we start thinking of our eternal natures, our stress and worries goes away. We feel freer to think and act in a way that helps us grow.

I believe more than at any other time, we need to meditate in this form.

First, we must surrender all ideas about who we are. Man or woman, our professions, our bank accounts, our employment status, our businesses, our intelligence, talents, and everything else.

Then we must contemplate on our own eternal natures that always is.

This goes beyond the meditation apps that makes you calm down in the moment, but leaves you ungrounded in the face of overwhelming life challenges. In the face of our own mortality.

And if we can introspect on this idea this Sunday afternoon, then we will be better ready for the week, and indeed our lives.

Further Reading

Over the last few weeks, I’ve written a few other articles that you might find interesting:

  1. Finding Certainty in Uncertain Times: For those feeling overwhelmed (hint: it’s all of us), the wrong thing to do is to impose our will on the world. The best thing to do is to find what’s certain in our lives.
  2. Love in the Time of Corona: In these times of great anxiety, we need something to ground ourselves, give us hope in our ability to get through this. Our relationships are the greatest source of resilience and strength.
  3. The President and the Monk: The remarkable story of two very different world leaders and how their experiences have the power to reshape the world. Powerful ideas if you are a leader in any capacity.

Corona Calmness: A free mini-program made by me

I made a resource: Corona Calmness. It’s a self-guided program that takes 15-30 minutes per session to help you deal with the anxiety of our present times.

I did it based on Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavior Therapy techniques. You can get it for free if you type in FULLOFF. If you find it useful, consider sharing it with others. I’ll keep it online for another week and if it isn’t used by anyone, I’ll take it down. It’s less philosophical, if you aren’t into that sort of thing.

Some Questions for you

Did the above make sense to you? Do you feel it is too extreme? Did I miss a subtlety that I should clarify?

What are you working on and where are you stuck? Personally or professionally. I’m here to help you.

Do share your answers!!

Finally, if you think there is anyone you think would enjoy this newsletter as well, please forward it to them, or share this link with them to get them to sign up.

Finding Certainty in Uncertain Times

For those feeling overwhelmed (hint: it’s all of us), the wrong thing to do is to impose our will on the world. The best thing to do is to find what’s certain in our lives.

For those feeling overwhelmed (hint: it’s all of us), the wrong thing to do is to impose our will on the world.

You see a lot of this happening on talk shows, on the news, social media, and elsewhere.

Everyone is trying to guess what is going to happen next, what the worse case scenario is going to be. We share that kind of material with others.

Except all of it is just manufactured. Everyone is just guessing.

And the most outrageous, apocalyptic the prediction, the more attention they will get.

There is a thick line that separates being informed and being obsessed.

The fact is simple: We all know what we need to do. We need to

  • maintain social distance.
  • Not hoard food and supplies (there is no real shortage as long as people don’t hoard) and work as best as they can.

Even on the economic front, there is hope with a bill that will give each adult in the US $1,200 and $500 per child.

In such times, the best thing to do is to find what’s certain in our lives.

What I’m leaning into

I wanted to share a few areas of my life that I am certain about that gives me hope and has significantly helped me reduce my stress. It has helped me deal with this situation, and find ways to help others (something I hope to share next week…I’m very excited about it!)


If you have your health, that is a blessing. If you have some wealth (savings), that is a blessing. If you have people around you that love you, that is another blessing.

If you look, you will find many areas in your life that you can grateful for.

It is tempting to look at all the things that are changing in times of uncertainty. It is much more useful to look at all the things that haven’t changed.

This doesn’t mean ignoring the lack, but you can address the lack a lot better if you can be grounded in what you have first.

The world is good

Gratitude helps and it seems into something that my faith and my guru have taught me that there is a higher power, and that this higher power is not my enemy, that whatever will happen will be for the best.

This idea has always been a source of tremendous strength to me throughout my life. Even in times of lack, in times of helplessness and desperation, I have tried to revive this thought.

The positive expectancy from this thought has helped me bounce back from any adversity.

If you have things that are lacking in life, thinking about the lesson, the gift, the blessing found within this situation can be very good.

Reflection and Faith

Ever since I was a child, I was taught by my guru to start off the day with a powerful meditation and prayers.

In this meditation, I reflect on the fact that I am not this body, and I am not this mind that I believe to be me. I am not Dhawal Tank. I am not my identity. I am not this person who was born in 1989, has had so many experiences, has all these relatives, has all these accomplishments and failures. I am not this situation, and I am not these emotions. I am not this intelligence, or my academic qualifications.

I am that which empowers and inhabits this body and mind. I am the eternal consciousness that has been through countless such bodies and minds. it is indeed the light of my consciousness that enables the mind and body to think, feel, move, and act. My source of misery, of being shaken in trying times (and getting too comfortable and egoistic during the good times) has been my false identification with the body and mind.

Instead, identify with this eternal self. The soul. The atma.

This insight is extremely freeing. It reminds me that death is certain at some point or another. This is not a painful thought. Death is only of the body and the mind, not of who I am, who is eternal and conscious.

And within my soul resides a higher power.

You may call this God, the universe, a higher power, Bhagwan, or anything else.

During my morning meditation and prayers, I solidify my faith in this higher power, and remind myself that I am being looked after, that my thoughts and prayers are being heard and being answered.

It is unfortunate that faith has become such a private and taboo thing that we don’t talk about publicly.

In my experience with senior leaders at major organizations, the majority of them rely on some form of faith and prayer to ground them and guide them through tough times.

This is a time to be public about it. Not to proselytize (something that is not promoted in my faith), but to make it normal and okay to do this and give others as well a chance to rely on this essential source of strength.

A rise in consciousness

People are waking up and realizing that their choices matter. Their consumption choices are directly related to the emergence of pandemics, climate change, and suffering.

That no choice is truly “personal.” Each choice creates demand for more of it.

READ: Bats are not to blame for coronavirus. Humans are.

It was humans encroaching into more land, trading live animals, that created the conditions where this pandemic spread.

In fact, the worst epidemics in recent history have all been related to humans consuming animals in some capacity or another and the animal agriculture and trade related to it.

Since the 1918 avian H1N1 bird flu, every pandemic has originated from animals.


In fact, the number one cause of deforestation is to clear space to raise animals for milk and meat. When forests are cleared, wild animals, often the vectors of disease end up crossing species and affecting us.

Over-fishing has similar affects.

Animal agriculture around the world is so outsized and concentrated, breeding grounds for the next pandemic exist wherever animal agriculture exists.

This is not just a Chinese problem. In fact, the H1N1 Swine flu originated in America.

And if CoVID-19 has affected us all so severely, imagine a world where antibiotics stop working! At the rate which we feed animals antibiotics in the world, we are setting ourselves up for the emergence of superbugs for which no antibiotics work.

This means a world where even routine surgeries, UTIs, and other diseases considered cured can kill us. This is not a work of fiction, but one of the World Health Organization’s top priorities beyond this ongoing pandemic.

It is becoming increasingly clear that our demand for animal products has led to this state of affairs.

There is no alternative but for all of us to abandon animal products and switch to plant based lifestyles that significantly reduced negative externalities.

(Before the sleuths here say what about e.coli in lettuce, you should know that this bacteria was transferred onto the lettuce from infected animal manure used as fertilizer).

People are waking up to this fact, and I believe this rise in consciousness is great. We are likely to see a more vegan world in the future. Of course being vegan will not only significantly reduce the emergence of such pandemics (plants and humans are just too different as species), but will increase overall health markers in us meaning less heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, etc. Of course the tremendous reduction in animal suffering is the cherry on top as they won’t be bred in the first place as demand falls.

I think this is a very positive development. People are already stocking up on beans, pasta, rice, bread, corn, potatoes, and other staples that they would eat as vegans. Many of them will find their health improving as well.

Now more than ever, being vegan is the most impactful thing you can do for your health, the health of the planet, and to reduce suffering.

I hope these ideas are helpful to you. If nothing else, it is a way for me to express that I am doing okay and I hope are as well. But if not, do reach out to me, even if it is just to talk!

Love in the Time of Corona

In these times of great anxiety, we need something to ground ourselves, give us hope in our ability to get through this. Our relationships are the greatest source of resilience and strength.

The man came to see the woman, a long lost lover.

He came from the town into the big city, without much money. Withering away in his small town, as the local businesses slowly and painfully died.

He had held on to what little opportunity he could find in his town, until he couldn’t. Until the debts piled up, and the opportunities dried up.

He wanted to see her again. And hope that he could find a fresh start again. Fix his life again. He came with what little he had left in his wallet and a briefcase.

He called on the woman in the big city, arriving unannounced.

Taken aback, but glad to see him again, the woman let him in.

They stood awkwardly at the front porch, a dash of unsaid things running through both their minds.

But soon they went inside and started talking. First the usual small talk, until it wasn’t.

It looks like it will rain. Yes, so-and-so is still doing that. No, I haven’t gotten married yet, but congratulations to you! No, I’m just visiting.

They talked and reminsced about the past. The minutes turned into hours as memories of the past came flooding back.

The skies shattered and heavy droplets of rain drowned the city. Even though it was midday, it became dark.

She was married now and lived well, he thought.

He felt ashamed to ask for what he wanted. Her love, a chance to start again.

The doorbell rang, and the man decided to leave.

It must be her husband. I’m a huge fool to even be here.

“No, stay,” said the woman.

The door was left unanswered.

They spoke some more. Until there was nothing left to say, except of course that which actually mattered.

What if I had showed up then?

What if I had said that to you?

What if life had played out just slightly differently? What if we had loved more deeply? What if we had said what was on our minds, our hearts?

She asked to leave for just a few minutes to go buy some food from around the corner. The man was hesitant to stay any longer, but agreed on her insistence. She borrowed his raincoat and dashed off.

A few minutes later, the door bell rang.

The man opened the door, surprised to hear her come back so soon.

But instead, there was an old man standing in the door way.

Is the woman in? I am the landlord. They have not paid their rent for yet another month.

And it all started making sense to the man.

What seemed like luxury suddenly looked different. He saw the damp walls, the empty pantry, the unlit and unheated room.

The landlord left, disappointed at not meeting the tenants of the home.

Soon, the woman came back, breathless from the rain.

They ate in silence.

He thanked her for helping him relive shared memories, and told her that he must be getting on. And with that, he left.

As he made his way back to the train station, disappointed by the turn of luck, he reached into his raincoat, and pulled out a beautiful pendant that came with a note.

I read the letter in your pocket that laid you off. I did not know you had lost your job and you came here with nothing. Here is something to help you get by.

And as she cleaned up the scant meal she had served her guest, she saw a small stack of bills underneath the cushion.

He had left what little he had, save the fare he needed to go back to the town.

I hope this can help you keep your home.

Both the man and the woman gave, and gave deeply.

That was the gift that only love can provide.

In times of uncertainty, when our own mortality becomes abundantly clear, the only thing that can ground us is love.

There is a lot of panic right now. Panic for our health, the economy, our livelihoods, our families.

Life can seem out of our control.

But in times like this, the only thing we can rely on is not our bank account, although that is necessary. It is not our businesses and jobs, because they can turn for the worse at any time.

It is love.

The crisis we face today reminds us to latch onto the things that matter. The things we forget, the people we take for granted, the gifts we have received over our lifetime that we have ignored in the pursuit of more. They can never be taken from us.

It is hard to do this sometimes. I believe it is often because we do not feel we have done enough to prove that we are worthy of it all. So we must do more, achieve more, impress more. But none of that gets us there.

The only pre-requisite to be grounded in our relationships is to accept the gift of love that we have received and freely give others from the same bottomless well.

The crisis is an opportunity to become grounded in the unchanging things of our lives.

Love in the Time of Corona is the cure to our anxieties, our worries, our panic.

In my last post (The President and The Monk), I wrote about Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the Hindu guru who became the “ultimate teacher” in the life of Abdul Kalam, the Muslim President of India.

Later on in Abdul Kalam’s book, I read a quote by Pramukh Swami that resonates deeply with me.

He said, “In the joy of others lies our own.”

And I think to myself, what an apt expression to guide us through trying times (or even not so trying times).

He not only said this, but lived it his entire life. He himself visited hundreds of thousands of homes, guiding families on how to resolve conflicts and bring people together. He answered close to a million letters from people with questions about their families, their businesses, their worries and anxieties about health, and of course deep spiritual problems.

Perhaps that is why when people met him, they couldn’t help but feel completely at ease. Why he felt at ease no matter what the situation was.

When he was diagnosed with a severe blockage in his heart, he acted with complete equanimity. This was not a stoic coldness, a metallic indifference to the world and the body. It was a deep inner spring of joy that always bubbled. That is true equanimity, he taught.

As a leader, when there was major difficulties that threatened the very core of his position and his organization, he took it in stride. Those who closely observed him noticed that he remained light and unaffected as ever.

I hope to write more about lessons from Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s life and what I’m learning reading Transcendence, the final book by Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam in the coming months.

Today of all days, as anxiety, fear, and panic overwhelms us, we must dig a bit deeper to give the gift of gratitude, of love, and of hope. More than ever, we need the lessons that Pramukh Swami taught Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.

Update from my life: My wife and I will be moving to Houston this summer. At the same time, I have decided to go deep into healthcare as the sector to build my career. Many of you who know me well know how passionate I’ve been about health from my days of going vegan. I’ve recommended books, documentaries, etc to many of you. I’ve also done some writing, and had volunteered for many years for NYTimes Best Selling author Dr. Michael Greger and his organization NutritionFacts.org.

I now want to go deeply into it. I’ve decided to start a weekly publication to share the things I’m learning about the healthcare world and use that as a marker of credibility to get work in that field. You can follow my journey here as a complete novice below:

And of course, if you feel like this resonates with you and you can think of others who would be good additions to our tribe, do share this with them.

Aside: Special thanks to O. Henry’s short story The Gift of Magi and Rituparno Ghosh’s film Raincoat for inspiring the short story above.

How are you feeling?

I believe in building a tribe. And a great tribe helps each other out. We check in with each other. How are you feeling during these times? What are you doing to keep yourself buoyant, hopeful? Do share below! It matters!