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I just returned from Art of Silence, which is a part 2 course of The Art of Living. I did part 1 in Jan, and part 2 ended today. I feel so disoriented returning to this world and NYC.

I actually wanted to do DSN which is Part 3 since it was being offered in NYC and I heard great things about it. But I needed to do Part 2 before DSN. The only Part 2 course in the tri-state area was in Metuchen, NJ, which I signed up for. It started Thur evening and ended Mon evening. We had to keep silence from Fri afternoon till Mon noon. I am the single talker in my house, so keeping quiet was a challenge.

The schedule went like this.

6:30-8:30am – Light yoga stretching and Sudarshan Kriya which we learned in Part 1. I LOVE Kriya – its an amazing experience!

8:30-10am – Breakfast and seva. We were assigned to different groups, and each group had to do some work (seva) such as serving meals, cleaning meditation area, cleaning up after meals, etc.

10-12pm – Meditation. We did hollow and empty meditation guided by Sri Sri Ravi Shanker’s (fondly called Guruji) recorded voice. It is called “hollow and empty” because he tells you to imagine that certain body parts are hollow and empty. The process is a way to unlearn and become empty of thoughts and emotions. Its funny because as kids we hear our parents and teachers tell us “do this do that” “don’t do this don’t do that”, and we spend our adult life unlearning all of that so we can truly become ourselves!!!

12-2pm – Lunch. Everyday lunch was very light to lower lethargy and tendency to sleep after lunch.

2-5pm – Meditation and something new and probably interactive.

5-7pm – Dinner.

7-8pm – Satsang where we sang religious songs.

8-9:30pm – Our teacher answered our questions and showed us knowledge videos of Guruji.

15 hours everyday spent here. The purpose of keeping people around for so long was to increase commitment. In our teacher’s words, “Come what may I will sit through this process. Even if I think this is silly, I will at least sit through it since I have nothing to lose”.

The most amazing thing about Art of Living is that it is completely run by volunteers – people in all walks of life volunteer their time to teach others the art of living. This makes it even more inspiring because the courses must have so much power that people feel like volunteering their time to share it.

Back to Art of Silence. I learned the difference between meditation and breathing. Meditation is a relaxed technique of breathing which helps the mind attain a level of peace and calm which normal breathing does not. Every kriya and meditation experience was different for me. It helped to get away from daily life. I did part 1 in the evenings after work, so sometimes I was not able to focus because I had thoughts of work and other problems. Art of Silence helped get away for a while from all those problems since it was an all-day event.

The first day I found it very difficult to follow meditation. I was not sure what to do, how to breathe right, and dozed off during meditation. After lunch we did something called death and birth meditation. Other people found the birth meditation very liberating – my skeptical side found it so silly and I had half a mind to walk away. I could not go through the act assigned, and kept trying but just could not do it. In addition, I kept thinking that if all I do all day is rest, I could do that at home as well. Why am I here? But I stuck around. Evenings were harder because I kept wanting to go home and was tired. I kept looking at my watch, but I stayed.

The second day, I liked the meditation. I was able to take very deep breaths, all the way down to my stomach. I have been having digestion and acid reflux problems for a while, and after that meditation all of those problems were washed away. At the end of it, I also felt “hollow and empty” like I was supposed to. I kept dozing off though and had to keep bringing myself back. We also had a drawing exercise which was fun.

The third day I fell ill because windows were slightly open to let fresh air in during meditation, and it was very cold. I am very sensitive to cold air. I also had not slept well at night. During meditation I kept dozing off and could barely meditate. Its strange because each time we were asked to lie down and rest after meditation and Kriya, I could not sleep, but sitting down I was so cozy and dozed off. Some people around me snored while I was the only one who sat and could not sleep. This day was difficult to get through and I felt like leaving early, but I stuck through till 9:30pm. We did a new technique called Meditation in Motion which was more difficult than I expected, but other people made it fun.

The fourth and last day was better. I woke up late because I was not well, and missed yoga and Kriya. This was the only day that I did not doze off a single time during meditation. I had a bad headache, but was able to dissociate my headache during meditation and prevent it from overpowering me. I also learned how to relax my eyelids and forehead, and it made a world of difference. I felt an immense sense of peace.

Part 1 was about forming connections and learning that at the basic level all people are the same. Everyone faces similar challenges in life. There were many thought-provoking open-ended questions with the intention of opening up to others. Part 2 was all about self. If in part 1 people shared “you are what your thoughts are”, part 2 was about learning how to accept the thoughts but not let them overpower you so much that you become them. Part 2 was about accepting and surrendering, becoming “for the world but not of the world” by not letting work, thoughts, worries, etc. overpower the person who doesn’t need to be a by-product of all these things.

Watching Guruji’s videos was very eye-opening. He shared pearls of wisdom that you know in everyday life, but his manner of explaining them was so logical that something just clicked inside of me and made it easier to apply in daily life. One example he gave was of the structure of an atom. The core of an atom is the nucleus which consists of proton and neutron, while the electron rotates around the nucleus. Electron is negative while proton is positive. If we are centered in ourselves and have positive energy, we are at the core and do not need to be negative like an electron that rotates around the core. It sounds silly, but the way Guruji explained it made complete sense. The point was to bring about positive thinking and energy in one’s life to stay centered.

I have been told that I need to keep practicing Kriya and meditation to continue the course’s impact in my life. One hour everyday in the morning for Kriya and meditation, and 20-30 minutes every evening after work in meditation. I am feeling disoriented right now because after spending 15 hours everyday, I am back to life and need to go to work tomorrow. I want silence and peace, and don’t feel ready for work yet. I don’t feel like watching TV – I just like the silence and peace. I had no idea such peace was possible, and I hope to continue with the practice. If I stop practicing, I will forget how to control my mind and bring about peace. It was an amazing experience, and every morning when I felt lazy about waking up so early, three words “come what may” sprang to my mind and brought about energy to wake up and go to the course. I miss it.

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I did the Art of Living course 3 years back, and it was extremely helpful in managing stress and emotions. I have been feeling very homesick of late, missing and worrying about my parents constantly, and decided to do it again. It was an amazing experience, much better than the first time.

Art of Living is a volunteer-run organization and started by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in 1981. Sri Sri travels 150-170 days a year to 70-80 countries giving talks on the art of living. The Manhattan center is on 286 5th Avenue. The beginner level course is for 5 days. When I first did the course, there were 40-50 people, and I barely remember anyone’s name. This time we were a group of 11, and I remembered everyone’s name and learned something about everybody. It was a much more intimate setting, and much more fun.

The course was designed in series of talks and meditation. Everyday the teachers gave us a number of open-ended thought-provoking questions to discuss in groups, share insights with the entire group, and then do some breathing exercises. The most amazing part of this course is Sudarshan Kriya. This is a breathing technique done for almost an hour in series of fast and slow breaths. It is an intense technique, and every experience is different. It helps bring out all positive and negative thoughts, and at the end of it you feel an immense peace of mind and deep sense of calmness. Everyday the session is for 3 hours, and on weekends for 5 hours. We had a potluck on Sunday and it was a lot of fun.

I realized how much in common I had with others, and that we all had similar challenges in life. In one session where we had to answer “Who are you”, I felt as though my team member was uttering the exact same challenges and that I was facing. I was also surprised to know intimate details about people, things that you could never even imagine about them by just seeing them the first couple of times.

I came away with a deep sense of calm, more awareness about self, an awesome group of friends, and a realization that we have more in common with others than we realize.

I got a take-home short Kriya that I can do everyday, but the long Kriya is more powerful and should not be done more than once a week. The long Kriya is not available anywhere on the Internet or as a CD. Only Art of Living centers do it. The Manhattan center has it once a week, and I intend to go every weekend.

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New job

I recently changed jobs and moved to a different industry in a much larger company. Recession and past experience have made me very skeptical about promises made by hiring managers to bring new people in, and I was a bit concerned about whether promises would be kept. In general, I am skeptical by nature and don’t take things at face value.

I deliberated long and hard about a few things related to the position and potential uncertainty, and kept second-guessing everything. AM told me one thing – in the past you have been 100% certain about some opportunities and yet they have not turned out per your expectations, take a leap of faith here and maybe this will be the right decision. I am so glad I took his advice.

It has been just one week into my job, and I feel free — yes, free — to do whatever I want, as I want. Larger companies require a bit of specialization, and you have more people doing the work that you alone did in a smaller company. More brands to manage, more product launches, more meetings to attend. I can pick and choose which meetings to attend, what to learn, and which people to interact with in other teams. I have not been so free in the last two years.

As in my previous job, some retail companies have a crazy environment – micro-management occurs at some levels because every last penny has to be well-spent. I was kept away from meetings so that I did not waste time in meetings and spent more time working. I felt as if all I did was sit in an office and work in a silo. I wanted to interact with more people and give strategic input. The last minute changes and decisions made the work environment very crazy. Smaller budgets made it challenging to do more. However, I learned a lot, much more than I would have ever learned in a larger company, and the experience I gained is priceless. I got to do so many things and learned to operate at a very efficient level and think about the business from all perspectives – technology, customer service, website, merchandising, and marketing.

I don’t see the craziness in my current role. There are challenges, no doubt,  but so far I feel a renewed enthusiasm for going to work everyday and making a strong contribution. I cannot believe how free I am and how free I feel just by being there. No micro-management, no craziness. We even have a cafeteria, and work is walking distance from my apartment. It takes me only 5 minutes to cross the three streets and be at work. I leave at 8:55 and am there by 9. I know that once I get more into the job there will be challenges, but so far I really like everything I see. Another benefit of working in a large global company is that I can move to different teams and learn different things.

Its funny because I joined on the same day with someone who worked for the biggest competitor of my previous company. She had the exact same work environment as I did, and we both sat chatting on Friday expressing how free we felt just by being here. She feels the same level of enthusiasm and we both started contributing on day 2. We knew and had worked with the same vendors – in fact, when vendors heard that I had moved, they mentioned her name and asked if I knew her. Its such a small world!

I am happy, truly truly happy that AM pushed me to make the right decision for me. I feel relaxed, enthusiastic, and FREE!

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I met my couple friends today for lunch, and had a wonderful time. They have two adorable kids – the older is very intelligent, and the younger too adorable for words. They are my fav couple – sophisticated & intelligent, and we have a lot in common except for the kids. Anyway, the situation called for disciplining the older kid who is almost 7 and wanted to eat sushi that very day at that exact time. Both of them dealt with the situation very patiently, and took a hard stand regardless of what the kid said and did. I liked their way of dealing, and was surprised at how patient they were.

We started discussing how we were raised – our parents beat us, as did teachers in school, and we turned out fine. Should we do the same to our kids so that they turn out fine? But beating kids is kind of illegal in the US. They were telling me how the kid behaves the opposite when they yell and gets more defensive, so yelling and beating is not the way to go — taking a hard stand patiently is the way to go. The more tantrums the kids throw, the less likely they are to get what they want and they forgo more perks such as TV and Internet. Its so hard to be a parent! The kid’s life depends on you, and sometimes your best efforts are misjudged and lead to nothing.

I used to get a lot of beatings at school. The nuns hit us with a wooden ruler on the calves which stung! Sometimes they went for knuckles which was brutal — I could take the calves any day over knuckles. Once my Mom came to visit us in our boarding school/hostel, and I was out so I saw her. She wanted to see my sister. It was after hours and the nun told me not to call my sis. Anyway, mom really wanted to just see her from far and see if she is okay, and kept telling me if I could just bring her out so she could see her, so I went to my sis’ dorm and called her out. My sis broke out sobbing — she wanted to meet my mom up close. So I took her and broke the rule. The nun beat me a lot for it, but whatever — they had made me immune to it. Once I left my books in the rain, so everyone who left their books out were beaten. I got a beating even after 10th grade from my mom (once). So yeah it didn’t bother me much. After what my parents have been through this year, I don’t think I ever want to be a parent, and its a scary thought to even be responsible for someone who may not give a damn about me and my efforts.

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Its been ages since I last wrote here… ages. I have been sooooo busy these days with the renovation and work. I got a haircut today and my hair stylist, as always an advocate of letting my hair frizz stay, and I always want to straighten it out. Straight hair is easier to maintain, falls less (he says its a misconception), and is less entangled. Frizzy hair gets entangled and is all over the face. I have thick unmanageable hair, and straight hair keeps it out of the way — I don’t need to wash my hair everyday if I straighten it out. But I have this debate every single time I get a haircut. My hair stylist is awesome and after trying several places including well-known ones, I found him and have remained loyal.

I had dinner at Vatan, my fav Indian place. I went all by myself since AM is in India. I miss him a lot although its just been 2 days, but it was nice to go there — AM does not like Vatan. The waitress was like “you are all alone all by yourself”… duh — this is New York. Women wine and dine alone as and when they please.

My renovation has hit a standstill. We found a riser 12” wide in a wall — I was supposed to have an entrance there and not cannot because the 12 inch riser which is really the exhaust for the kitchen in the entire building blocks the way. There is a riser in the middle and on the side, so I cannot move the entrance by a few inches left or right. The only way is to move the riser or change the entire plan. I am quite bummed with the options — the room sizes are reduced a lot. Plus the space is less open. But I can do whatever I want in the bathroom and have it whatever size. I prefer the old plan. The building Super says I cannot move it. I told the building managing agent that they did not inform me and I have to incur costs of starting the process from scratch and breaking the wall. I am hoping that blaming the building will compel them to allow me to move the riser. Wishful thinking I guess… my contractor says to threaten to sue them. Not a bad idea — I could pose as a lawyer. Maybe that will move the needle.

Does anyone feel like slapping Nigel of America’s Next Top Model? He always talks like he needs to drink water… you know how your mouth is dry and you have to drink water else you use a specific tone… hard to explain. Anyway, Nigel bugs me. He sucks up to Tyrant Fangs all the time, and I cannot stand him. He is half Sri Lankan. The brings me to Tyrant Fangs – I mean Tyra Banks — she looks and behaves like Cruella Devil. She has lost weight this season though and looks much better. But she is annoying, and the highest paid actress in primetime TV — $30 million per year. I mean, what kind of a loser watches her talk show? Her crazy antics? OMG!! I cannot cannot stand her. Anytime she is on the screen, AM leaves the room. He cannot stand her and Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex & the City. Seriously, Tyrant’s show is sooooo dumb. Who the F watches it?

While commuting to my old workplace, I passed Tyrant’s studio and saw a long line of people waiting to be let into her studio in the morning. I would rather stay late in bed. The woman is crazy.

Its so lonely without AM — I miss him terribly. He left on Wed, and I could not sleep and was bored to death. Somehow even though we may not chat, I may watch TV or surf the net, we may be in separate rooms, it makes a BIG difference just knowing he is around. Even if he may come in late from work, just waiting for him is enough. Now I don’t feel like watching TV or surfing the net. I am so used to him and without him its so hard.

Life is hard. People who renovate need to literally leave their jobs because main places are open only on weekdays 8:30/9 to 5/5:30. I was late today — I had to go to Blackman, a plumbing store. Customer service is non-existent in NY… extremely poor. Salespeople at Blackman don’t even have the courtesy and are not even service-oriented enough to change their voicemail – their voicemail says they are open on Saturdays, their website says that, but they are short-staffed and are not open on weekends. The building doorman told me last Saturday that 30+ people had come to the store that morning and he had to turn them away. He told them to change their voicemail but they are too lazy. I mean its just a voicemail. Tells a lot about customer service. No wonder people buy online. People go to stores to view products and buy for best prices and convenience online. I plan to do the same for some products — I don’t trust the Internet.

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Women are complicated

I change my mind a thousand times, as do my female friends. AM gets frustrated because until I am convinced about something 100%, I change my mind. To him changing mind implies going through another decision making process, and its too much work for him. Too complicated – he likes simple things. He goes into a store, tries 2 things, buys 1, and is done. I try 50 things, change my mind and decide not to buy, and leave. I go back and do the same thing.

I changed my mind about the type of tiles I want in the bathroom. I have the luxury of changing my mind because nothing is done yet. We still have time to order stuff. I was not 100% convinced about the tile, and after taking pictures last weekend found it to be very dull. They do not stand out or flatter the bathroom in any way. So now I am looking for pictures and bathroom ideas that I can use to make a decision on tiles. I like cream, but its such a common color. I want to do something a tad different. That bathroom is very practical, and I am using a very basic and cheap medicine cabinet. No marble, nothing fancy – just plain old simple porcelain tile.

AM did not say anything – he just laughed and moved on – quite a surprise. None of the “omg you are changing your mind again. Sighhhhh”. Why shouldn’t I change my mind if nothing is set in stone? I will not make up my mind till I am 100% convinced of something… I am not going to spend money on something my gut is not fine with. I will come to a decision today for sure. I have so much to do at work and at home all the time. I just want to crawl into bed and sleep…

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I finally watched Kaminey today. After two trips without tickets, AM finally got tickets. It was my birthday, and AM is so sweet about it. To me it seems like a normal day, just something to mark the calendar that I am a year older. But AM always tries to do something nice.

We went to dinner at Tadka, an awesome awesome Indian restaurant. I am surprised I did not come across it sooner. The food was delicious, and I felt as if I was having home-made food. Icing on cake, they deliver all the way to the west site to my apartment. Yipee! The manager was very friendly as well and from Bangladesh. The place is owned by the same guy who owns Chola, which is a few blocks away from Tadka. The difference is night and day between the two. We were at Chola just last weekend (where I sighted Shilpa Shetty), and the place was dingy, hot, loud, crowded, and badly managed, and the food was average, yet people write good reviews about the place. OTOH, Tadka is a very tiny place and gets most of its revenue from delivery. Sometimes people order from Chola and Tadka delivers. Tiny, friendly place, good service, yummy food. This should have been more of an eat-in because its so well managed. Clearly the owner is crazy.

Another of my favorite Indian places, Leela Lounge, is now offering only appetizers. Their food was delicious and healthy, and they had a lot of variety in their menu. Two weeks back they decided to become a lounge versus lounge and restaurant and only offer drinks and appetizers now. What a shame – the food was to-die-for.

Back to my birthday. We watched Kaminey, and Shahid Kapoor did not disappoint. I have high hopes for this guy – he is cute and adorable, has a great body, is handsome, and is a GREAT actor. He really needed such a movie to show his full acting prowess. It was such a pleasure watching him *wink wink*. The movie was otherwise okay, but a refreshing change. Bollywood has been in such a slump and I hated Rab ne bana do jodi which was a hit, so it was so refreshing to finally listen to good music, watch good acting, and just see a good Hindi movie. Priyanka looked very ordinary and her make-up did not flatter her features. Her usual oomph that I saw in Fashion was missing. I found it hard to connect with the movie, but Shahid kept it entertaining and worth watching – definitely a must-watch once. It helped leave the work stress behind and just enjoy the music. I keep listening to the theme music which is so James Bond. Love it. Dhan Tan Tan is such an awesome song, and I was disappointed that Shahid did not dance to it. Shahid has trained with none other than Shiamak, so what an absolute waste to not see him dance to this tune. All they showed were people dancing in a disco, and Shahid yelling the song.

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