Israel, singing and the twins

These are three tips I shared with my colleagues last Monday.

1. I was reading a book called ‘Start-up Nation‘, which takes a look at the social, economic, historical and political culture that makes Israel such a super-achiever in terms of business and technological innovation. Israel, a country of 7.1 million people, has 350% more venture capitalist investment than India, a country of 1.2 billion people. The writers ascribe this success to Israeli ‘informality’ and chutzpah. Junior workers call their bosses by pet names; army juniors can — and sometimes do — get their seniors ousted; failure is socially acceptable as much as success is. I encouraged my colleagues to be confident, insolent and innovative at the workplace and to challenge me as much as possible. (Later, after this talk, we had an earthquake, and on the way down the stairs, I came across the Israel visa office on one of the floors. Perhaps I should plan my next holiday there. I am obsessed with this little nation now.)

2. Sing a song and see what you focus on. Is your attention on your lyrics and exhalation, or are you worried about taking the next breath in? It’s the former (unless you’re a bad singer). When we sing naturally, we don’t concern ourselves with inhalation; we just sing. The intake happens on its own at just the right spots, without any effort on our part. Some breathing meditations and pranayam exercises follow the same pattern: Focus on your breathing-out, not the breathing-in. And so let’s apply the same rule to life; let us focus on what we can GIVE, DO and EXTEND OUT to the world — whether it is our time, money or knowledge — and let us not worry about the intake of resources, energy, or material gains. It will happen at just the right spots, without any effort on our part.

3. Joy and sorrow are twins; they are two sides of the same coin. When we increase one, we also increase our capacity for the other. Sorrow, when it comes, leaves us with a huge hole in our hearts, which then makes our experience of joy all the more meaningful. When we have lived through great sorrow, we are able to appreciate every single nuance of our joys; we do not take them for granted; we are more grateful for the little pleasures life has to offer. If things were always rosy and joyful, we would become jaded; we wouldn’t enjoy them as much. Joy would be our default state (read: boring) and we would, in fact, turn it into a reason for sorrow.

So sorrow is cleansing and uplifting in its own way. Its importance should not be underestimated. Sorrow is required so that we can enjoy joy. But seeking either is unnecessary. Nature knows best when it comes to some things. We encounter our share of both in due time.


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