My experiments with body hair

What do you think when you see a woman with body hair? After nearly two years of experiments (at my previous workplace), I have found some answers. According to most people, a woman/girl with body hair is:

1. from a small town who has no idea about beauty and grooming
2. a lesbian
3. a freak
The most interesting point of view is related to the second one: some people think it is okay for a woman to have body hair as long as she is a lesbian. In other words, it is important for a heterosexual woman to get rid of body hair because men like women who shave. What’s sad is that my experiments were not extreme: I didn’t show off my unshaven legs and I didn’t wear sleeveless tops with unwaxed underarms. What bothered my colleagues was just a little bit of hair on my forearms (that was the only visible body hair in my experiments). While some people were shocked, some gave me weird looks. Fortunately, the body hair didn’t bother them after some time.
I must admit that I was not always comfortable during these experiments. There were times when I couldn’t handle the pressure. My intention was not to make a statement against waxing or shaving. There is nothing wrong with getting rid of body hair but what’s wrong is people bullying those who choose not to.
I have a new job now and my plan is to continue with the experiments. Through these baby steps, I want to bring a change in the way people look at women and their bodies. It’s difficult because there is so much of stigma surrounding body hair. It is risky because women are judged by these things at workplaces. But I hope I will succeed in changing few perceptions.
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The Mindfulness Bell App: Part 3

Note: Read Part 1 (click) and Part 2 (click)

This is something that happened when I decided to “Clean up my mind” (click). Basically, I heard somewhere in a lecture where the speaker asked people to think seriously about the thoughts that they think everyday and try to discard those that are useless. This might sound like an unnecessary exercise, but it is actually quite powerful. You don’t have to force yourself to not think something (is it even possible?). When you sit down with a pen and a paper and just write down the most dominating thoughts/beliefs in your life, you will notice that a lot of them are toxic. Just being aware of these thoughts can actually change the way your mind works. When I did this, I experienced something phenomenal. I used to remember the right thing at the right time (which I normally don’t because I’m an overthinker and also an anxious person). I haven’t done this since a long time, but I am experiencing the same thing, but with a different technique.

I have been continuing with the Mindfulness Bell App thing. I wish I gave more time to this, but I’m doing whatever I can. Since the last two weeks, I have been observing that I’m again remembering things at exactly the right time. I do forget sometimes, but my memory is definitely better. Also, my productivity level has increased a bit. However, there came a point in last few days where I had to move out of my comfort zone, but I chose not to. So yes, you cannot move out of your old habits by just meditating for a month. It takes time. I believe that the changes are slow, but they are not superficial. With time and consistent effort, this technique can certainly change the way our brain functions.

The Mindfulness App: Part Two

Like I wrote in my earlier post (click), I found this app, which is  quite simple. I started using it around the beginning of this month and I had a lot of expectations from it. After using it for nearly 20 days, I have only good things to say about it.

My mind is a little chaotic and I do find it a little hard to relax. I am quite restless and peace is something that I experience very rarely. I am also a HSP and most things overwhelm me. After using this app, I noticed a remarkable difference in the way my mind functions. There is a sense of calmness. It feels as if there is  a space which remains untouched by anything. This is not to say that I was happy or peaceful all the time. Not at all. But it feels as if both pleasure and pain cannot disturb a part of my mind. Of course, it’s too early to come to a conclusion and also, it is not necessary that all this is happening because of the app. This has to be tested during extremely stressful times and also during exciting times. But if I talk about routine, it has made some difference.

The Mindfulness Bell App

I recently installed this app called ‘The Mindfulness Bell’ and I am loving it. It is a very simple app, actually. As the name suggests, it is to cultivate the habit of awareness and patience. You can set the bell as per your convenience: you can as it to ring every hour or 35 minutes or  every 10 minutes or 4 hours.

How is it different from alarm? The bell only rings once. When I used to practice one minute meditation, I used to activate the alarm and if I was away from my phone,  my family used to suffer (my brother was so irritated that he deactivated all the alarms throughout the day without even telling me!) One can’t remember to always deactivate the alarm. Needless to say, things are more difficult when you are outside your house. But when there is only one ring, it doesn’t really disturb anyone because people are used to notification sounds.

There is one thing which I feel is very important. One has to pause the second the bell rings. When I am working, I say,  “Let me finish this one bit and then I will pause.” It’s normal to do this but I feel it is more effective when you pause with the bell.  When you apply a sudden brake to your mind, which keeps thinking and thinking, you are, in a way, making it powerful. When you do this again and again, you slowly gain the power to withdraw your mind from what’s happening around you. If you can pause at will, you can probably handle a lot of shit in life. When you stop suddenly, you kind of get used to uncertainty. You may become more open about change.

This simple app has the potential to make serious shifts in mindset.

How to motivate people with two irrational questions

As I wrote yesterday, I’m reading this book called, ‘To sell is human’ by Daniel Pink. I’m half way through the book and my mind is blown. It’s better I wait till I finish the book before I talk about it but I found something interesting that people might find useful. This technique was developed by Michael Pantalon, clinical psychologist and Senior Research Scientist at the Yale School of Medicine.

 Most people I meet motivate each other through fear. Want something done? Shout and threaten the other person. Want to motivate someone to score better marks? Give a two hour lecture on how tough it is to survive in modern times and how choosing an unconventional path will lead to your downfall. Obviously, fear works brilliantly for some time. Then we are back to square one. If threatening doesn’t work, they go back to the classic reward and punishment. The people who are trying to motivate you will never admit that they lack the skills to motivate you. Instead, they will use more fear tactics and the cycle goes on. Michalel Pantalon suggests you to ask two irrational questions to motivate people and for a change, this motivation might work in the long run. Here’s Daniel Pink talking about the two questions:

Imagine you’re a manager at a major PR firm and one of your reports balks at revising an important part of the next big campaign. Instead of asking rational but ineffective questions, try the following two seemingly irrational questions:

1. How ready are you to make the revisions, on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 means not ready at all and 10 means totally ready?

“On the rare chance that she says, ‘1,’ surprise her by saying, ‘What would turn it into a 2?’ In telling you what it would take for her to become a 2, she reveals what she needs to do before she is able to make the revisions to the campaign. That is what you motivate her to do first.”

2. If she picks a number higher than 2, ask, ‘Why didn’t you pick a lower (yes, lower) number?’

“Question 1 seems irrational, because you’re asking, ‘How ready are you…?’ of a person who just said, ‘No,’ which we can assume means not at all ready. However, most resistant people have some motivation that they keep from us.

If you ask, ‘Are you going to take my suggestion, yes or no?’ they continue to keep their motivation hidden. But if you ask them the ‘1-10’ question, they’re much more likely to reveal their motivation by saying a 2 or a 3, which is far better–you’ve now moved from a ‘No’ to at least a ‘Maybe.’

“Question 2 seems really irrational, perhaps even absurd….However, by asking Question 2, you’re asking her to defend why your directive to revise the campaign is even the slightest bit important to her… rather than to defend her excuses why she won’t do it (e.g., too busy).

Pantalon says that when you ask people why they didn’t pick a lower number, you are actually encouraging them to think about their intrinsic motives. This is quite an interesting technique because it shows how black and white our thinking is. In reality, everything is grey.

The next time you are in such a situation, try this technique. Apply this to everything: On the scale of 1 to 10 (1 means not ready and 10 means totally ready), how ready are you to exercise? How ready are you to work on your relationships? Does it work for you?

My experiments with shadow self!

whom we do not know

In Shamanism, the ‘underworld’ is a place where our shadow self resides. They say that the underworld is personal hell: a place where our inner monsters reside. The shadow self is a part of us that contains everything that we suppress and repress because of shame, fear, judgement etc. In other words, there is always a gap between ‘WHO WE WANT TO BE’ and ‘WHO WE ARE.’ This gap is the shadow self. We try to deny the existence of this gap because our egos are at stake. We often project this shadow onto others and are completely unaware that this shadow actually exists in ourselves!

The psychologist, Carl Jung, had written a lot on this concept of shadow self. He was one of those few psychologists who were open minded about areas like Mythology, Occult Science, synchronicity etc which were ridiculed by those who thought rationally.

reflection

While growing up, we are taught that certain things are desirable and certain things are simply not acceptable. This conditioning is important because if we don’t learn this, we will end up harming others. However, the irony here is that sometimes, this suppression is the reason why we harm others! Moreover, when we don’t acknowledge this dark side inside us, we end up creating a split. We wage a war against our own selves and in turn, lose our inner peace. This disturbance affects other people as well.

beggar

I want to give an example from my own life: Like everybody else, I was taught that anger is not a good thing and that compassion was superior to anger. But the truth is, I’m pretty short tempered when it comes to certain issues. Once, I decided to not get angry. I successfully ‘controlled’ it for months. However, one day, I burst out like a volcano. The pain that I inflicted on others was much more! I’m not saying that anger is good. I’m just saying that when you try to repress things too much, it is dangerous. But at the same time, harming others and saying that “it’s just my nature” is not acceptable as well!

It’s not just with anger. We pick what is ‘nice’ and construct an image. We want to be that image but deep down, we know that the reality is not so rosy. Being courageous is a good trait. So, if we are afraid, we feel ashamed because fear is inferior to courage.

I am going to explore this dark side inside me. I’m trying to be honest with myself as I have realized that I often lie to myself. It’s tough because the ego doesn’t want you to go to this mysterious place. But don’t we always feel that there is something hidden underneath the masks that we wear? I’m afraid of going to this place but at the moment, my curiosity is more than my fear.

demon

For starters here’s a truth that I have just observed while writing this: I’m feeling superior to those who do not explore their dark side :P. Yes, this is the truth! Somewhere, my ego gets a boost when I’m honest. You might start hating me for all these qualities that I have but my blog name is ‘my experiments with truths’ so I better live upto its name!

What are the lies that you tell yourself? Do you become defensive when somebody says something negative about you or something that is against your beliefs? If so, are you afraid that they might have a point? Why are you afraid of going to this place? Do you know the celebrities whom you judge everyday? Are you judging them or projecting your shadow onto them? I hope that you will ask yourself the same questions that I will in the coming days and hopefully, we will come closer to truth and inner peace.

enlightened

Update: Read about my journey to the dark side here (Click).

Experiment # 4: Can a change outside bring a change inside?

Acknowledgements: Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik, a mythologist, talks a lot about “What you have” and “Who you are.” This experiment is inspired by him and a million thanks to the person who wrote this (click) article.

Look around you. Some people are trying really hard to put their kids into the best coaching classes out there. Some people are unhappy because they are not in a relationship and are desperately trying to be in one. Some people think that if only they had more money, they would have chased their dreams. There is one thing that is common in all of us: we all try to change things outside. We want more money, friends, freedom, excellence, enlightenment etc. Nothing wrong with that. I would even say that I’m writing here because someone has changed things outside.My only question is: Does it work in a deeper way? I cannot say anything for sure but what I found after a lot of observation (others and myself) was actually the opposite of our beliefs.

Let’s say that a father puts his son in the best coaching classes in the country. He thinks that by changing something external, he can change what is inside his son. My view is that whatever the result his son gets, it has almost nothing to do with the coaching classes.

Even if that coaching classes has the best teaching staff on the planet, it cannot create a desire to learn and excel inside the son and if they do manage to ignite that desire, it’s because the seed to learn and excel was ALREADY present in that boy. The coaching class watered the seed. No one can create a desire inside you.

Even if the best teacher teaches you, it is upto the boy to use that knowledge in his own way. He has to customize that knowledge as per his needs, persona, etc. Even if the teacher gives a step by step instruction, it is the boy who will process it. It is the boy who decides whether the advice by the teacher is good or bad. Even if he follows the teacher blindly, it was based on HIS opinion (he is successful and if i want to be successful i must do exactly what he says). The teacher can only do so much. Isn’t that the reason why many great teachers have students who are the best in the field and there are many students who do nothing?

The proof for my outlandish claim? It is everywhere. If you see a person with physical disabilities, you feel sorry for her, right? You think: if only she didn’t have this problem, she would have been happier. Now if you are reading this and you are not physically disabled, tell me something. Have you utilized your body’s full potential? There are people out there who know almost everything about their bodies: they know which nerve is connected to what. Have you explored your body? 99 percent of us haven’t. Sure, we lead a more comfortable lives than the person with disabilities but is comfort equal to happiness? Not after a point.

Another example: Many people who have less money than you think that if only they have as money as you, they would be more happier. But can you say for sure that you are more happier than them? If you say that it is money that is making you more happier than why are people who have the same amount of money as you, unhappy?

More proof: If more money changed our lives in a deeper way then all celebrities must be happy, right? But are they? There are some who are happy and there are some who are deep in drugs, who shoplift etc. Money cannot really change a person. Sure, in the short run, you might think that winning a lottery is a life-changing but my question is this: Let’s say that you win a billion dollars tomorrow. What will you do with this money?

1. You would do nothing and just enjoy life.

2. You would do what you are passionate about.

3. You will help those who are unfortunate.

Your answer could be anything. Now tell me this: Have your dreams REALLY changed because of the billion dollars? What you will do with the billion dollars is WHO YOU ARE. And if “Who you are” doesn’t change, “what you have” won’t matter. If you were anxious about lack of money before, you might be anxious of losing a billion dollars now. If you were passionate about art before, money will be the tool that will help you in fulfilling the dreams YOU ALREADY HAD before. Money can give you a lot of options but it cannot pick an option on behalf of you! Also, remember: no matter how many options you have, you will ultimately choose one (or in some cases, few): whether it is life-partner, career, phones etc. You are not going to watch 200 channels at the same time.

We see so many inspiring people. How many of us ACTUALLY take actions after watching them? The inspiration fizzles out after a week.

Technology is an amazing external change. But how many of us have actually used it to be wiser? If an external change changed people then it should have changed all the internet bullies, right? Those who are happy or wise will be that way, with or without technology. Those who complain, will keep on complaining despite having access to unlimited knowledge in their pockets.

Experiment Results: Money, fame, relationships, success, technology or anything external can only change your life if YOU change. Otherwise, the change is only superficial and temporary.

Experiment # 3 One minute meditation

Meditation, for me, is the most rebellious thing that a human being can ever do. You are not just questioning society’s definitions and norms, you are questioning your own self. It is like planting an atom bomb inside you but in this case, the destruction can transform you. Since childhood we are taught that doing something is very important (and it is important, no doubt). But here is an activity that tells you to do nothing! Doing nothing is probably tougher than doing something. It is almost a miracle to not feel guilty when everyone around you is obsessed with some or the other activities. People who dismiss meditation probably think that you are inactive but you are actually very active and this is the beginning of meditation: the understanding of paradoxes!

But most people find it tough to accommodate meditation into their busy lives. I started meditating with a lot of energy but gave it up because of lack of commitment. I was too worried about perfection: I HAD to meditate 20 minutes and if I didn’t have time for that, I would skip it for that day. This ‘all or nothing’ approach is not really practical. So I decided to practice this technique that was discussed on a spiritual program (Awakening with Brahmakumaris).

THE TECHNIQUE:

Take out your phone and set alarms that will ring at the beginning of every hour throughout the day. When the alarm rings, close your eyes and meditate for one minute. Just one minute, that’s it. The program suggested something like, “I’m a soul not the body” type of talk in this one minute but I haven’t completely understood this whole soul thing. So, if you are like me, you can just customize it with whatever you feel like. Just visualize about something positive or chant if you want to. I just become aware of everything. I become an observer and feel everything that is going on outside and inside me. There is one more point that the program mentioned: Do not worry about being perfect. If you miss out once or twice or even 5 times a day, IT IS OKAY. Please don’t use spirituality to make your life stressful..it is supposed to make your life less stressful, no :P? Also, don’t use this minute to think about the same things that you are thinking: go beyond work, family, self-image, society etc.

PURPOSE:
The purpose is to pause. Our mind is hardly aware when we are busy. The observer in us is hardly given a chance to participate in our daily lives. No, observing that your boss is being partial to you is not observation in the true sense :P.

RESULTS:

I must confess, I thought that it was just another meditation technique and I didn’t really take it seriously at first. I just tried it as an experiment. I was not sincere. Initially, I was so irritated by the alarm every hour that I cancelled it for few hours. But thankfully, I wasn’t obsessed with perfection. The results, however, proved me wrong. This technique is too simple and human beings are not easily attracted to simple things. But this technique is very effective and most importantly, practical.

After nearly a month or so, I noticed that I felt powerful. There is this sense of confidence which is coming… not from the thought that the universe is with me but from the thought that there is no separation between me and the universe. To put it in other words, I have a ‘royal’ feeling about everything: I feel that my life is abundant in all areas of life.

Also, please keep this in mind: Just because the results followed the experiment, doesn’t mean that the results were BECAUSE of the experiment. But do give this a try :).

Experiment # 2 ‘The Work’ by Byron Katie

I stumbled upon this simple but very effective technique through an interesting series of events. There is this friend of mine who seems like a great friend on the surface but I always felt that he tries to show me that I’m inferior to him in subtle ways. One day, I got really angry about his taunts and typed out a “I don’t want to continue this friendship” email to him. I don’t know why I didn’t send it to him.  It was not fear but something else. After some days, this person shared this technique and to be very honest, it helped me a lot to overcome negativity and throw out all the unnecessary junk from my mind. Had I sent that email to my friend, I wouldn’t have discovered this brilliant technique.  Here’s how you do “the work”:

Get a pen and a paper. Please don’t do this exercise verbally because mind has a habit of wandering and writing something down makes your mind focused.

Now, write down something about somebody that is bothering you.

For example: ” I hate X because he is selfish.”

Now write down the answers to the following:

QUESTION 1 : Is it true?

Is the statement true? Think carefully. Did you make a hasty judgement or is it true? If your answer is “no,” then move directly to question 3 but if your answer is “yes,” then let’s go to question no.2.

QUESTION 2:  Can you absolutely know that it is true?

Are you 100 percent sure that this statement is true? Question 1 didn’t ask you to be so certain but here you have to be very very honest. Most people say “no” because one can NEVER be 100 percent sure (of course, there are some people who lie to themselves).

QUESTION 3:  How do you feel when you think this thought? How do you treat the other person when you think this thought?

You might say that you feel angry, disgusted and disappointed with X when you think the thought that he is selfish. You might be mean to him because of this thought.

QUESTION 4:  How do you treat yourself when you think this thought?

How does this thought make you feel? Do you feel empowered or powerless? You might say that thinking this thought makes you feel angry, powerless and even hopeless.

QUESTION 5: Who would you be without this thought? 

Just imagine for sometime: Let’s say that you had no capacity to think this thought.

Will you be more peaceful if you didn’t have the thought that X is selfish? Will your physical and mental health improve without this thought?

NEXT STEP: Turn the statement around. 

Your original statement was,” I hate X because he is selfish.”  When you turn this statement around and you will get, ” I do not hate X because he is not selfish.” Now, write down the instances where X was NOT selfish. Please be very honest. It will help you!

We made the statement negative. Now let’s do another turnaround by changing the subject. Now, wherever there is the name of the other person, you will replace it with “I.” So, now your statement will be:

“I  hate myself because I am selfish”

Write down instances where this statement was true. You expect X to behave as per your wishes..then are you being selfish here? Or deep down, do you feel that you are selfish and hence hate yourself for it?

You can look for as many turnarounds as you can. Turnarounds are opposite statements: you look for the opposite of what the person did and then you look for evidence of that statement inside yourself (by replacing the subject with ‘I’).

Results: 

As you can see, this technique  shows us that we project our own flaws and strengths onto others. This technique looked very simple to me  but when I did it regularly, it changed my life. You might not notice anything while doing this.The results are very subtle but if you are aware you will notice how BIG the changes are. I have this habit of constantly criticizing and cursing myself. I always assume the worst which is okay but I start believing in it so deeply that it ruins my life. After doing ‘the work,’ regularly, my brain automatically started questioning my assumptions about a person or an event. I have this habit of judging people harshly. After doing this, I kept asking myself, “Do you know for sure that the person is like this or that? Yes, he was like that last week, but is he like that always?” This technique also shows you the destruction that toxic thoughts cause. It also shows us our hypocrisies. Overall, it will make your mind, clutter free and peaceful!

This technique has the power to save you from a lot of bullshit in your life. Go ahead and try it! If you have any doubt regarding this technique go to thework.com or leave a comment with your query! I will try my best to help you!

Celebrities and intuition

I remember an extremely silly thing from the onset of my adolescence (maybe even before that). I watched this film called, ‘Dil toh Pagal Hai (click)’ which is about two women falling in love with the same guy. Obviously, one of them has to be rejected. The one the ‘hero’ rejects is quite innocent and emotional. She evokes pity. I was so stupid that I took it quite seriously. I felt that the actress (her name is Karisma Kapoor) who played this woman’s role is exactly like that in real life (because like I said, I took it quite seriously). She became a ‘poor thing’ to me (in Hindi we call it ‘bechari’). Why? Because I indulged in a lot of self-pity and my mother always talked about how ‘innocent’ we are, how worldly unwise we are, how the world is against us, how luck never favors us etc etc. Basically, I felt that the other female character was lucky and cunning and this woman was naive. What’s hilarious is that I used to hate the other actress (Madhuri Dixit) and made sure I watched Karisma Kapoor’s films because I felt so bad for her :P. I strongly rooted for her even in those films where she was not a ‘poor’ thing :P. I don’t agree with my mother’s views anymore but what happened few months back was quite interesting.

I recently stumbled upon a talk show (click) episode wherein celebrities, the people who are close to them, those who are behind their success, those who knew them before stardom etc are invited  and their lives are discussed. So this particular actress happened to be on that show. The host invited a childhood friend of hers and she was asked about  the actress’s persona in real life. What she said was interesting:

“Karisma! She is so innocent! She doesn’t know ANYTHING! Oh my God! She doesn’t know how this world works! She is too naive! She was like that in childhood and she is like that even now.”

This could be a coincidence or a simply a fluke :P. Or complete nonsense. In the above case, I didn’t know this actress personally. In fact, I think, I was watching her for the first time. I didn’t come to this conclusion after watching any interviews of her.

I don’t really have a lot of experiences with intuition but sometimes, I have a strong feeling about people whom I don’t really know. What I am confused about is on what criteria is my intuition working? Do I feel strongly about people who might be like me? Or who are genuinely nice people? One can divide the feelings into positive and negative but then there are so many positive things! The problem with intuitive feelings about celebrities is that:

a. I can never really know if what I’m feeling is correct and even if I get evidence in some interview, it could be just PR.

b. Since I don’t have any personal connection with them, I often don’t take my intuitions seriously.

Anyway,  I want to record my intuitions, just for fun and experimentation.

So, few months back, I was watching Filmfare Awards because I wanted to observe the body language of celebrities and also because I have almost lost touch with mainstream cinema. I saw Siddharth Malhotra and I don’t know why but I felt that he is really really a nice guy (okay,my first reaction was “he is so cute”).There is something very earnest and genuine about him. He doesn’t seem to one of those people who are obsessed about money or fame. He seems like a very loyal friend. I had just heard about him and saw him in trailers and songs but never watched him act or heard any interviews or read even a quote before. But I don’t know why but I had this strong feeling that he is not like other actors in the sense that he is not narcissistic. He is not super-talented but seems like a hardworking person. I feel that he has a deeper reason for working in Bollywood (not for the usual stardom). What makes this interesting is that I feel this despite the fact that he was launched in a conventional Karan Johar film (I have not seen this film though. Apologies if I’m wrong). He looks like a typical teenage heartthrob but I think he is quite mature. It’s funny that I had so many thoughts without even watching a single film of his! I could be wrong about everything though!

Photo credits:  http://www.showbizandstyle.com/

I saw Hasee toh Phasee recently and just loved him! His character was not aggressive like usual Bollywood heroes. Why do I feel that Siddharth is also like that in real life? I will hang in there and keep a track of his career! Good luck, Siddharth (please don’t prove me wrong :D)!