I am.

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My son loves being a cop and always ends up making a thief of me. The other day, during this role play, I asked him, “Who are you?” and he almost instantly replied, “I am no one.” I instructed him to say, “I am a policeman” and we resumed our play.

Later that day, it occurred to me that kids don’t really have an identity outside the confines of home and school. As we grow and learn from things around us, we pursue learning and endeavors for years to build an identity. The quest for an identity, of being “someone” often feeds our false beliefs and egos – so much so that we become immune to new experiences in this process of becoming someone.

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What if we chose to just “be” – perfectly in harmony with our real selves, going where our energy takes us, being in the moment and doing stuff that we truly love? What if we just enjoy every step along the journey as a celebration of our being? What if we just do the work without worrying about what it will make of us? What if we are driven by love rather than anxiety?

Life is never a race, but a glorious opportunity to uniquely express ourselves through our endeavors. And when we are immersed in the joy of expressing ourselves through our work, every thing around us melts. We become no one – just like my son who doesn’t have time to care for who he is while playing with his toys!

The path to “being someone” is to first “be no one”. Only when we keep these self-delusionary external labels aside that we can focus on our true expression. Only then an we become truly human with others. Only then we rise!

We think we are in this world and therefore try to find our place in it. But the reality is that our world is within us and that space within can only be tapped when we break through the chains of external identities.

I am not this or that.

I just am. 

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Pictures from my December 2016 explorations – Amsterdam and Chail (Himachal Pradesh)

Limitless

Treading along in this dreamlike, illusory realm,
Without looking for the traces I may have left;
A cuckoo’s song beckons me to return home;
Hearing this, I tilt my head to see
Who has told me to turn back;
But do not ask me where I am going,
As I travel in this limitless world,
Where every step I take is my home.

– Lao Tzu

Hat Tip to The Hammock Papers

On Immersion (Excerpts)

In 1923, the German thinker Eugen Herrigel, hoping to master Zen philosophy, visited Japan and immersed himself in archery. He wrote in his classic study “Zen in the Art of Archery”: “Archery is not practised solely for hitting the target; the swordsman does not wield the sword just for the sake of outdoing his opponent; the dancer does not dance just to perform certain rhythmical movements of the body.” The target may be hit, the opponent outdone, the dance technically perfect – but those outcomes will be merely the happy by-products of a deeper absorption with the activity itself. And that is best achieved, according to Herrigel, by avoiding prescriptive goals and techniques.

Excerpt from “Are We Too Professional?” by Ed Smith More Intelligent Life

My point is – if we constantly keep our goal in perspective (and get overwhelmed by it), we become less efficient. Anxiousness (and sometimes fear) kills creativity. We rush through the process to see if our efforts are delivering results. Quest for instant gratification can result in sub-optimal outcomes

– Excerpt from my 2010 post titled “Enjoy the Process” at QAspire Blog

“Where is the joy in writing, dancing, film-making, or any art or entrepreneurial venture? It’s not in the praise; it’s not in a paycheck. (Though there’s nothing wrong with praise or paychecks.) It’s in the work itself. The sweat of it and the grind of it and the happy moments when it gets rolling all by itself. Krishna said that’s all we have a right to, and he hit the nail on the head. The joy is private and silent.”

– Wise words from Steve Pressfield via his post “The Fruits of Our Labor

The Roads We Take

The other day, I was reading out a short story of Akbar and the wise Birbal to my daughter. On his way back to Agra, Akbar encounters a crossroad and gets confused about which road to take. So, he stops a boy named Mahesh Das (later named as Birbal) and inquires about the road that goes to Agra. The young boy replies that none of these roads go to Agra. Akbar keeps his anger in check and seeks an explanation to which Birbal replies,

“Roads never go anywhere, people do.”

Life is the journey and a lot of it is shaped by the crossroads we encounter and the road we choose to take (if at all we get to choose). Then there are diversions, dead ends and slopes.

We may create grand plans and elaborate goals for our lives not knowing what lies ahead of us. Goals provide a good framework to direct our efforts but problem starts when treat our goals as our destination. I have learned that goals are simply milestones along the unknown path that we are onto. Worry too much about the milestones and you miss the beauty of the journey itself. Be anxious and it robs the joy out of the pursuit.

“Happiness is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of traveling.”

– Margaret Lee Runbeck

Much more fulfilling is to take this journey one step, one day, one moment at a time. To choose our path according to what we truly are and what kind of human being we want to become along the journey. To be driven by a grand purpose that makes a difference. To remain open to possibilities of life. To embrace abundance. To respond to changes in our journey as we encounter them. To slow down and notice things. To wander. To be driven by joy of doing things. To enjoy the ride and every moment within it. To work our way through diversions and get back on track. To evolve and learn from everything that we encounter en route.

Never regret a single moment of the journey. If it wasn’t your destination, it was preparation.

– Unknown

Then, the journey is not just a means to an end – it is the end in itself. Journey is the purpose.



Also Read: The Journey is the Purpose: An Inspiring Tale of Nek Chand Saini at QAspire Blog

Paper Boat Memories

“These paper boats of mine are meant to dance on the ripples of hours, and not reach any destination.” – Tagore

This one was floated by my daughter last year when first rain of the season soaked not just the parched earth but also our hearts. The fragrance of the wet soil filled our souls as we breathed a sigh of relief from scorching summer heat!

My daughter had a big smile on the face as she launched her maiden paper boat into the water. Seeing those folded words moving with the water, I reminisced my own childhood when I used to tear pages from school books to make paper boats and play with them in the puddles and streams.

Each time I would launch a paper boat, it merrily sailed along trying to protect the sides, putting up a valiant fight before finally giving up. And then, I launched the other ones till parents noticed and got furious about the reducing size of my books!

That day, I joined my daughter and made a few paper boats myself experiencing immense joy of revisiting simple things in life.

Happy Father’s Day

My father has never preached me but it is amazing how much I gathered from his actions when I was a kid (and even today). I saw him reading and I was inspired to read. I saw him writing and I was inspired to write. I saw him living joyfully in spite of the travails of daily life and I learned how to live.

My father is the center of my existence, the foundation of my life and a role model. He speaks less yet says more through his actions. He is patient, loving, gentle, kind and compassionate.

My life transformed when my kids were born. I realized that it is easy to become a father but takes a lifetime to really be one. It is a fascinating journey and almost a spiritual one! To know that Almighty chose you to take care of a new life is such a wonderful privilege to have.


That’s me holding my son when he was barely a few weeks old, in 2012.

So, here’s to all the Dad’s in this world. Happy Father’s Day!

From Kalka to Shimla: A Train To The Mountains

For me, journey to the mountains has never been about the height I physically climb, but the depth of experience I receive while traveling. It is said that nature is within us and what we see outside (and the depth of our experiences) is just a manifestation of what lies within us.

On our recent trip to Shimla (in the Himalayan mountain range), we decided to take the toy train journey from Kalka.

It is one of the most sought after train journeys in the country covering about 96 kilometers and offering exotic views along the way. It passes through 20 quaint stations, some 800 bridges and about 120 tunnels. The narrow gauge train line was built in 1903 by Britishers to access Shimla which was then, the Summer capital of the country. This train line is now on UNESCO’s world heritage rail sites.

“When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.” – Corrie Ten Bloom

As the train ascended to the mountains, crossing dark and long tunnels followed by gorgeous views at every turn, lovely terrains and majestic mountains at a distance shadowed by the clouds, I could not stop thinking about how this trip resembles our own lives. Just like this ride, the journey of our life starts happily, goes through dark phases of struggles followed by good times and this cycle goes on till we reach our destination. When in dark tunnels, we surely could see the light at the end of every tunnel!

Old and colorful small stations along the way offered a refreshing break, although very brief. The air at these stations was crisp, fresh and filled with fragrances of food being served at the stations.

The play of clouds and the mountains was mesmerizing at best with every turn along the way offering spectacular views.

Seeing the distant villages on the mountain slopes and colorful houses made for quite a sight.

Every man has a train of thought on which he rides when he is alone.The dignity and nobility of his life, as well as his happiness, depends upon the direction in which that train is going, the baggage it carries, and the scenery through which it travels. — Joseph Fort Newton

My 9 years old daughter was so fascinated by the scenery that she could not help pulling out her drawing book and start sketching her own version of what she saw from glass window of the train. For me, it was easy to (try and) capture the beauty using my camera but for my daughter, the only tool she had was her own imagination – a gift we are all born with but lose eventually as education takes over.

When we finally reached our destination, seeing so many people at the station, we felt that the journey itself was much more interesting than the destination. And so it is with our lives too.

So, now that you have got onto the train, don’t forget to enjoy the ride!

The Meaning of Life?

Nicolae Tanase is the Excellence Reporter who asks thought leaders from different walks of life a single question: “What is the meaning of life?”

This is one question that I secretly hoped no one ever asked me. I have been thinking all the time about business related topics and any question that did not have defined boundaries was difficult for me to respond to.

And it happened. Nicolae asked me this question and threw me into a whirlwind of thoughts. What emerged as a response was as follows:

Life is so profound, enormous and ever-expanding that it has no meaning.

When I photograph birds, I learn something about life. A bird, enlivened by the same life energy as us, never goes around trying to find the meaning of life. It just follows its own nature — to fly, to sing and to simply be what it really is. They are peaceful with their self not lamenting about what happened to them in the past or what will happen to them in the very next moment. They live in here and now; in perfect harmony with their inner nature.

I see the same life energy manifesting itself when I see my three years old son jumping on the bed merrily singing rhymes. Joyful for being alive, he is the most complete expression of life, just like birds and other elements of nature are.

The quest for meaning of life is the quest to connect with our inner self and let that shine bright. Nothing outside of us can help in finding the meaning of our own life. We can see the abundance in the world only when we connect with the abundance of life that is within us. Only then can we see the possibilities that life brings to us. Only then can we truly express our real selves through our endeavors. Only then can we expand our consciousness about life. Only then can we move beyond mere survival and truly live our potential.

Connecting with our true inner nature is almost like diving into a deep ocean to find a precious pearl. It may not always be attainable but it is this pursuit that makes life worthwhile and beautiful.

~Tanmay Vora, Excellence Evangelist, lifelong learner, blogger, author and IT business leader who writes at QAspire.com

This response originally appeared here.

The Summer Day

The Summer Day, Mary OliverListening to the “On Being” episode with one of the greatest living poets Mary Oliver truly made my day, especially the following poem.

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Swan and black bear represent the good and the bad. Grasshopper represents us, the indecisive human beings.

Life seems to be fleeting by and being present and mindful in the moment is perhaps the best gift we can give to ourselves.