Mental peace is more of a Shift+Delete game

Take a deep breath, and reflect what is occupying your mind now.

This is not a meditation exercise, it is my attempt to make you understand need to resolve your mind.

For me, personally, my mind is peaceful when I don’t wish to resolve anything.

I feel the discomfort when I have something unresolved running at the back of my mind.

It is occupying my mental RAM (random access memory) that doesn’t support me to move on to the next demanding task.

If you open the task manager on your PC, you may find a list of processes and apps that you might have opened a while ago to complete some task. Now probably you have moved to some other task that needs your attention. For the sake of argument, it is a heavy design application or a spreadsheet that you wish you work on. However, with the limited available RAM your PC struggles to run these heavy applications. 

It stalls, current applications crash and you get annoyed. If you  are a little tech savvy, you might proceed to quit apps that are occupying significant memory.

You may force quit certain RAM hungry applications.

And then get back to what was important.

Our mind sometimes works in similar ways.

Small conflicts, and pending tasks can occupy a lot of mind space.

Unfortunately, there is no force quit button that we could use. We just can’t quit processes, they need to be resolved. 

What needs to be resolved, needs to be resolved. Everything needs resolution, that new mobile phone you might need. The repair your fridge needs. That difficult conversation you need to have with your boss. That time you need to give to your partner in order to set the relationship right.

That will free-up your mind for next big tasks that you have to prioritize.

The root of Stress and Anxiety

We often perceive stress and anxiety as abstract and relate it to personal experiences.

Here is my attempt to simplify these two. Thank me later 🙂

Anxiety comes for uncertainty and unclarity, you are not sure about the outcome.

Stress comes when you try to achieve the unclear outcome in an inefficient manner.

Work related stress comes when there is more on your plate than you can chew, followed by poor ways of dealing with the work demand in order to meet unrealistic deadlines.

Basically, anxiety and stress go hand in hand.

For instance, you need to reach to the airport at peak traffic hours to pick your old mom.

You know that you cannot leave office before 5:30 PM. The flight will land at 6:30 PM

It is just a 40 minute drive, without the peak traffic but now you are uncertain that you will reach to the airport on time or not.

All this is uncertainty, you are not able to imagine the clear outcome.

Can you leave a little early? Will your boss allow? It was only yesterday that you had asked her (boss) for a half-day. Will you reach or will you not? How will you reach, is there any alternate route? Where you are going to park your car? 

Here, you are not sure about the outcome. This leads to anxiety.

Stress follows when the situation demands action that is way beyond your usual potential and set routines.

Asking and convincing your boss, leaving early, navigating through peak traffic, aggressively honking and overtaking, waiting for the signal to turn green, hoping that the flight gets a little delayed and finally finding the parking spot.

Here you are stressed. You heart is beating 30 beats above your resting heart rate.

This was just once instance, but imagine going through this on a daily basis.

Clear outcomes lead to planned actions.

Had you known what outcome to expect from your boss, you would have taken either of the two steps

  1. Boss says yes : Leave sufficiently early to reach comfortably to pick your mom
  2. Boss says no : Arrange for someone else to pick your mom

Both ways you could have managed the unnecessary anxiety and stress.

I know like is little too uncertain, we can’t imagine all the outcomes. But wherever we can, we should define the outcomes for better actions. 🙂

The value of being in the “Present”

Driving is full of micro decisions. If you don’t have an automatic car, it demands all your senses to co-ordinate in tandem. Spice this up with traffic signals, careless pedestrians, and cars that are just inches away.

The micro decisions are stress inducing, even if you take the same route everyday. 

One day, I was back at home after driving for 40 minutes in a dense traffic. 

Sipping tea, I was sitting across my wife who was asking about my day.

I like to explain my day in detail. Once I was done, I asked her, how was yours?

As she started narrating her day, my mind started drifting.

I was no longer in the present. I was thinking about my own day and random thoughts.

My wife noticed this, are you even listening?

Little irritated, she said “you teach listening to others, why don’t you even practice it?”

I said, I am not able to.

And then we discussed something else.

The present was lost, forever. 

I realised that being in the present demands efforts and energy.

You are at peace when “being in the present” comes naturally to you.

You are not so peaceful when you struggle to be in the “now”, struggle to read a book or enjoy a movie with your loved ones.

How do you solve this?

I believe sometimes the awareness that you are not in the present is enough, your body will do the rest.

You don’t have to solve that, you just need to be aware. 🙂

You will realise the value of being in the present when you struggle to be in the present.

Indecisiveness, Stress, Recovery

When I was a runner in the making, I could manage a couple of kilometres before my calf muscles gave-up.

My legs went through a structural stress because of the weight of my body and the shocks from the road. This stress was painful. Some suggested to dip my legs in cold water, few others claimed it will go on its own.

Every time I went through pain, I was apprehensive to return next day for my run.

Should I even run? if this is what it takes?

But then I pushed myself and faced the reality. Underwent stress and pain and took the much needed time to recover. This became a loop. Over the period of time, my legs muscles became strong. 

Now the early memories of pain are faint. Have I became a good runner? to an extent yes. Once I fixed my legs, it was time to fix my core muscles and heart muscle for endurance. The 2km limit has definitely expanded to 10km and sometimes 12km.

If you feel you aren’t growing personally or professionally, there are three key elements we need to manage.

  1. The resistance or worry before you go through stress. Call it indecisiveness
  2. The stress itself which comes after the desired action
  3. and then the much needed recovery which follows action

If you compromise on any one of these elements, you might suffer in the long run.

The resistance is usually the analysis/paralysis mode, should I go or should I not go.

The stress is where you take action, you might go to that much awaited trip to the mountains. Take a new job or shift to a new home. Action will lead to some stress. Every new action in new situation or event will develop high stress. 

Without action you will be trapped in the infinite loop of being indecisive or apprehensive about a possibility.

This loop leads to an organic restructuring in our brains, our muscles. 

After action, you recover the way I used to dip my feet in cold water. You can only take so much stress and then take a pause to heal. If you don’t relax, the stress harms you.

Once you take enough rest, you are ready for the three steps again. Because if you get trapped in the loop of infinite rest, you might not make any progress in the desired direction.

Learn to reduce the activity of your brain

Brain is a power hungry muscle. It churns out thousands of thoughts and action per day. In the back-end it is responsible for millions of things that we are not even aware of. But what fatigues it the most is overthinking, over-analyzing , projecting bad memories in an endless loop and being anxious of the future. And this is how we distract our brain: watching cat videos, listening to music, drinking alcohol in some extreme cases taking drugs and building an alternate consciousness.

However, we all try to mute the “activity” of your brain with some other “activity”. Either we tune-up our senses like hearing, seeing, feeling or we introduce chemicals in our brain that either numb the brain or fool it to develop alternate conscious for a while. Come to think of it, how all the activities mentioned above are given to you by the world, essentially other people who want to make some money. Loud music in discos, engaging videos, illegal substances, alcohol, television, etc.

Have you ever wondered what could be the best gift bestowed upon mankind to reduce the brain activity?

Sleep, yes sleep! the power of sleep has been always undermined. But, there is one more thing that has been made widely popular; meditation. However, unlike sleep, meditation remains elusive to the lesser mortals.

But there is one more free activity that reduces the unnecessary activity of the brain and that is exercise! Now we all know that exercise releases all the good hormones but we don’t exactly know why our body releases all those good hormones after a good run or cardio. I think the answer is simple, moving your body, pumping your heart and using your muscles to their fullest potential is the signal to our reptilian brain that everything is fine. That was exactly the activity that our body was meant to do.

I think our attempt should be to make our ancient brain happy. Many a times we ignore our ancient brain and just feed the intellectual and evolved brain. We feed the modern brain with images and data and music. We worship it, and when the modern brain is not fed it gives is reasons to be sad because it doesn’t have the control to release the happy hormones. So you feed it with external substances to feel happy but that cycle goes on. Focus on ancient brain, worship it! read (Triune Brain)

How come people don’t celebrate mediocrity?

How come people don’t celebrate mediocrity?

“I am not good at cooking hence I don’t cook so often”

“I am not good at that sport so I don’t play it”

You will hear such statements from kids & adults alike We don’t try because we think we won’t excel at it. As a human species, we celebrate excellence to the extent of madness.

We fail to see that excellence is a by-product of sustained mediocrity.

If you read what critics have to say about the Star Wars series you will find that most of the movies are nothing but mediocre. George Lucas, the creator has just taken melodramatic madness on earth to deep space & created umpteen movies over a period of 40 yrs. As a whole, Lucas’ sustained mediocrity has given way to excellence. Star Wars has a much bigger fanbase than some of the best movies ever created.

Sustained mediocrity may lead to excellence. Or it may not. Excellence is not always the end goal. Likewise, there are many by-products of being mediocre at anything.

In most of the 10ks that I run, I happen to be very avg in my category. But I run often to be that average guy.

The by-product of my mediocrity is health, positivity & improvised ability to do other things slightly better.

Do these by-products exceed excellence? Hell ya! hashtagmotivation hashtagmediocrity hashtagexcellence

The great difference between average and excellent

After every 10k marathon that I run, I perform a ritual. And I perhaps enjoy it equally as much as running a 10k if not more.

I randomly check timings of people who have run in that 10k. You just have to put a random bib number to get the finish times of random people who ran that 10k.

My current running pace happens to be 7min/ km. With this pace, I usually rank somewhat average amongst the runners who have finished. There are always 50-60% of runners who beat my time.

With more random hits, I try to find out the pace at which I should run to make it to the top 20%. In the previous race, that pace happened to be 6.5 min/km. Which meant, everyone who ran at 6.5 min/km and below, stood amongst the top 20%

If only I had increased my pace by 30-sec per Km or just by 7 %, I would have boosted my rank by at least 30-40%.

The bottom-line? The gap between being average and above average (in this case) was only 7% more effort.

And 9/10 times that gap results from the mental determination and not our individual capabilities. Was I capable of running at 6.5? definitely yes, was I willing to run at that pace maybe not.

Perhaps a good number of athletes can match Usain Bolt’s physical abilities, but how many could match his state of mind and mental determination makes all the difference that you know him for.

Any thoughts?

Dal Chawal: The power of staple diets

Lately, I have been practicing running to improve my pace and time. Last year I was a complete novice at running, I just wanted to give it a try. There was no structured training involved, no plan and no diet. This year I am chasing all the metrics; cadence, SPM, HR, pronation, you name it. While I was busy chasing the metrics, I was completely oblivious or rather ignorant of one very important factor; diet. And thus I embarked on the pursuit to research and understand the diet of some of the successful athletes. I binged watched Youtube Videos and read blogs. Though I got some good content around diet, adopting the habits and diets of pro athletes remained a far cry for two reasons; cost and availability. I was not a pro-athlete, I was simply trying to complete my 10ks under 70 minutes.

Last week on a WhatsApp group of runners, I read the coach say: just have a high carb meal tonight, tomorrow we are going to run 10k at an easy pace. The keyword here was “High Carb”. And one of the first Google results for high carb was cereals and pulses. And Dal Chawal was one of the favorite meals that Indian runners preferred to have in their daily diet. As a matter of fact, Dal Chawal can qualify for all three meals as an Indian staple. And hence I decided to include more Dal Chawal in my weekly diet. It was a no brainer.

The catch here is that the word Diet is often misconstrued as the most complex, rich and expensive food that one has to eat to perform better or get better. The moment people hear “diet” they assume it to be either boring or too difficult to follow. When I incorporated the Dal Chawal routine, I understood the simple intrinsic meaning on diet: it is a staple and readily available food in your region that provides you adequate nutrients and energy while being easy on your tummy. While our digestive system is versatile to deal with a range of foods, it might be helpful if we build some routine for it. We are often bombarded with numerous propositions to try different delicacies and diets. And then we keep on surprising or tummy with various stuff. I believe that generates all in the inefficiency in the system and my belief is based on my experience.

I am not against having variety but it won’t hurt to build some predictability in our system. And stable diets are just meant for that, whole nations and communities rely on it and we tend to ignore it and take for granted.

We should appreciate and acknowledge the power of stable diets and Dal Chawal simply wins for me. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Gyimg 103: The Limits

As a child I was limitless. I could see endless possibilities. We are all like that when we are small and young. As we grow up,  we build boundaries. These are psychological and physical. I built mental boundaries for my physical abilities in my late teens. I stopped all the little sport I was indulged into.

In my early twenties, though I was conscious about my health, I never extended my physical boundaries. The best I could do was walk a mile and then feel proud of it. I became more conscious about health in my late twenties. It was simple and rational me. The rationality which kept me bounded was now letting me free. Let me try to break the physical shackles, I said to myself.

I soon routinized exercise. First, it was walking and running routine. I could barely run 500 meters at a stretch. My calf-muscles would give-up faster than my lungs. Then it was run the routine. 800 meters, 1k, 2k, 3k, 4k, 5k 6k, and then came the 10k. In my mind, my physical boundary had expanded.

Was that my limit? there was no way I would not know. I anchored my physical activities to a goal. I knew that I am not going to die of a chronic lifestyle disease if I follow the run routine. I had that conviction. But what was my limit? How healthy and fit I should be as a 31-year-old? I had no clue. I explored. All the running was just the stamina, and I clearly knew that strength was the next thing.

For the past three weeks, functional training has certainly opened-up new possibilities. There is a lot of scope. I see the possibilities. Our physical abilities are really limitless. Our bodies transform and it is never too late to change. And there is a lot of room to be more healthy. There is a lot of room to grow.

Gym 101: Salt in my eyes

I felt like there was salt in my eyes. My eyes were burning. It was my own sweat filled in my own eyes. For the past 30 minutes or so , I was doing stuff that I wasn’t really supposed to do or never ever intended to do. I was in the circus of functional training:  a self inflicted pain which I decided to gift myself just because there was a discount in a gym located at a walking distance from where I stay.

A day before I felt like I am going to die. I was almost on the verge to pass out during an intense session. I was blacking out. I quickly pressed two fingers against my carotid and noticed my heart was beating slow . I was wondering why it was not beating fast? it should right? to give that oxygen supply to my hungry and fatigued muscles.  I was feeling breathless. Was my heart going to stop? or was it telling me to go slow?

But I was fine after a few minutes though.I was given an electrolyte and was told to have two Bananas and Coffee 40 minutes before I arrive at this circus.

Here, a group of 5 people are commanded to jump , lift, stretch and run.  It is a mix of strength , endurance and stamina training: welcome to the world of Multi- Fit. No more treadmills and standing in queue for your turn to use some intimidating work-out machine.

Today I skipped the routine. My muscles are a little sore but tomorrow let me see what I witness more.