On Men And Women

I have written this article on the request of a close friend. She asked me if men and women are equal and if not, then why are we trying to make them?
(This article is a mixture of socio-politics, spirituality, and metaphysics).

I get where she is coming from but the words of her question could be better.

The fact is men and women are equal in their capabilities but they are not the same.

In the words of Elliott Hulse, “We are equally beautiful but beautifully different”.

In my opinion, movements like feminism and anti-feminism rise when the power balance gets skewed too much. In the previous century, feminism gained a lot of momentum and it has worked towards the betterment of women by working for their freedom and equal wages. It was good in the beginning but every good thing is subject to eventual devolution(cycle of life).

Somewhere along the line, the movement lost its true purpose and shifted its focus against men.

The problem that I have with political movements like this is that they don’t have space for the individual. They all want to mold you into a specific structure. That is in their best interests, not particularly yours.

How do they do this?

They create shame in you for your own nature and then they offer salvation for it. Much like the software security companies creating the viruses for which they offer
anti-viruses. I will touch on shame in a later post.
For now, I want to point out my biggest issue with feminism (as it is today).

It shames men for being masculine and more importantly it shames women for being feminine.

We should stop defining people in binary terms. It is a common spiritual belief that every human being has both, masculine and feminine traits. Nobody is purely masculine or purely feminine all the time. Of course, there are such moments, but they are just that, moments. In our day to day lives, we move around in the masculine/feminine spectrum. If people are behaving according to their true nature (a rarity), then men tend to have a masculine nature and women tend to have a feminine nature. This is because we are designed that way, our bodies are designed that way. We have different bodies with different body chemistries. We are naturally inclined towards different things. I’ll get to the masculine and feminine nature in a little while.

You can be a feminine man or a masculine woman, or any combination in between. Stay true to what is true for you. You use both of these natures when you need it.
Material success (or rather competitive success) requires you to channel your masculine nature. I don’t care if you are a man or a woman, if you are in any sort of leadership position you have channeled your masculine nature. On the other hand, if you have been caring/loving to someone, something or even some cause, you have channeled your feminine nature.

Now on to the masculine and feminine nature. This is the spiritual/metaphysical part. Even if you are not inclined towards those areas, I invite you to read the following section for gaining new perspective.

The masculine nature. We think that the masculine man is the brash, macho guy who drinks alcohol, wears leather jackets and rides motorcycles or some variation of this.
Completely wrong. Our disillusionment is majorly the fault of societal conditioning in the form of movies, TV shows, news, music, marketing and what not.

The masculine nature is of the observer, of stillness, of clarity, of assertiveness. The masculine nature is like a sword which cuts through all abstractions, straight
to the truth of the matter. Assertiveness does not mean being loud or abusive. Assertiveness just means to know what one wants and move towards it with clarity and
purpose. The masculine represents rigidity, discipline, and structure; at the same time, it is not abrasive. There is an edge to it. This masculine edge is required for the clarity and purpose which are inherent to the masculine nature.

On the other hand, the feminine nature is of creation. If the masculine is rigid, then the feminine being its polar opposite is fluid. It is always in motion, it can not remain fixed. A whirlwind of emotions. Since it represents creation, the feminine is accordingly a nurturing, loving, healing, accepting energy. The feminine is also much more expressive than the masculine. This is why women find it easier to express their emotions while men struggle with the same.

A good example of both the natures is a river with its banks. The river represents the flowing feminine while the masculine banks represent the structure that stop the river from flooding everywhere.

It should be fairly obvious to you now that we all need a balance of these energies on an individual level as well as on a societal level. A highly masculine society runs the risk of becoming a tyranny while a highly feminine society runs the risk of running itself into the ground because it can not efficiently handle its resources.

None of these natures is better than the other, they are just what they are and they should be appreciated for what they are. There is no need for one to bash the other.

The feminine requires the grounding of the masculine and the masculine requires the love and support of the feminine.

A truly successful person lives a balanced life in accordance with his/her true nature. And accordingly, a truly successful society maintains a balance between the two.

Now, I’m not completely free of my shame as of yet but I’m on that path. You should be on your own path too, if you have not started as of yet, stop waiting for utopia.

Walk on the path to your freedom where you be who you are unapologetically with complete ownership and responsibility.

Till next time,
VR.

Fear

What is fear?

Fear is the perceived pain of a possible future. Fear is a very powerful emotion with a very simple and important function.

The purpose of fear is survival and nothing else. In our hunter-gatherer days, fear in the face of danger (these were actual life threatening situations like a vicious predator on the prowl) heightened our sensitivity, energy levels and abilities for a short duration to survive the danger. And then the fear went away.

But nowadays fear has devolved into a general anxiety and attached itself to everyday situations which are laughable in comparison to the original dangerous situations which required the edge provided by fear for survival. Now we are afraid of things like public speaking where the worst possible outcome is the audience booing you.
That is nothing in comparison to imminent death.

A similar concept is nervousness, which needs its own post, but I’ll touch on it here. Nervousness is a phenomenon where you don’t know what to do.  You have this built up energy in you from the excitement or the fear and you don’t know where to direct it. You may know what to do on an intellectual level but you have not actually done the thing before. So it is all in the head and not in the body. It takes practice to know it in the body and when that happens, then you won’t be nervous anymore.

Should you be fearless?

No, you should not and you don’t need to be. Moreover, you can’t be. You can’t rid yourself of all fear. But you can use your own fear as a guidance mechanism. In most of the cases, your fear will show you the thing that you must do (with obvious exceptions). Beyond every fear is the person you have to become, that is how you grow.

How do you deal with fear?

I give this advice from personal experience; I have not read any books on the subject. The next time you face a situation where you start to feel fear, imagine the
worst possible outcome and accept it. Accept that it may happen. Then accept that you’ll be okay. You’ll still be breathing on the other side and if you’re still
breathing then you can manage. Trust in your abilities to handle yourself will help you sail through the situation.

Let the situation show you your own strength.

This was the intellectual part. Then comes the other part. Action. Go do the thing. I don’t care if someone has to push you to do it or if you can make yourself do it on your own; just go do it. With repetition, you’ll desensitize yourself to the pain and the fear will go away.

Imagine this if you live in a city. You cross busy roads every day. This could actually be life threatening. A car may run you over. But are you afraid to cross roads? I don’t know about you, but I’m not afraid of doing that one single bit. Why? Because I have been doing it so long, I am completely desensitized to it now. You can apply the same principal to any activity you fear.

Emerson’s quote will be of help here.

“Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.”

I’ll leave you with this.

Accept the fear, trust your undiscovered strength and do the thing.

Till next time,
VR.

Silence

Silence is a very powerful and a very underrated aspect of our lives.

When you need clarity, silence is the key. Only when you can become internally and externally silent, you can let the dust settle from your eyes. If you are not silent from time to time, you will always go on reacting and never be able to respond. There is a subtle difference.

When you are reacting, you have lost all control and are running on your survival mechanisms. On the other hand, if you are responding, you are consciously choosing a set of actions with an intent other than mere survival. This means you can see the bigger picture and act accordingly. These are the traits of a good leader. And you have to be a leader even if you have no followers but yourself.

Strokes of insight occur in silence. I’ll share a personal anecdote with you. This happened in the last year of my schooling. My final exams were going on. I had this Maths paper. I was decent in Maths back then. The paper started off well. But nearing the end, there were two questions, one of six marks and one of four, that I could not figure out for the life of me. Now, this may or may not sound like a big deal to you, but given our education system, it was to me. So, what did I decide to do. I had maybe half an hour left. You would probably think to start fervently working on the question, trying a myriad of ways. I forgot all about the question started looking out the window. It was spring time, I was on the first floor in the window seat and the view outside was beautiful. The comfortably warm sunlight falling on the trees. I remember this one tree. I don’t know what happened but I was transfixed on it. Around fifteen minutes passed and I was still looking at it. It brought me a strange silence. It was comforting. Then seemingly out of nowhere, I had insights to both the questions. I ended up solving both of them. I got 98/100 ;P.

What actually happened? The thing is when you are anxious or stressed, your mind tends to close. You end up performing on a sub-optimal level of your capabilities. When you are silent, you relax. This allows the brain to activate a bigger portion of itself, enabling you to see patterns and find connections which were previously unknown to you. I didn’t know all this back then; I guess I was just lucky.

Silence can also be powerful in your day to day interactions with people. You can show your disapproval with other people by looking them in the eye and shutting up. The key here is to not be fidgety, then you just come across as afraid and nervous. From the times of Cicero, silence has been extensively used in public speeches to multiply the intensity of the message.

Silence makes you much less reactive to other people’s comments and actions. They start to affect you less and less. There is no need for suppression and passive aggressive behavior, that just ends up hurting you in the long run. But what I am asking you to be is a little more silent.

If you are not silent by nature, meditate. Observe. When you are observing, you are silent. Even if you are an extrovert, you would still benefit from silence. Remember, you can be completely engaged in the world and still be silent on the inside.

Silent, Clear, Focused.

Till next time

VR.

The Stillness Meditation

Ideally, I should first talk about meditation and then you give the technique. But, this is not an ideal world, deal with it. ;P

What do you think of when you think of meditation? Perhaps you see people sitting in a cross-legged position with their eyes closed trying to quiet their mind by focusing their awareness on their breath. Well, that is just one type of meditation. Perhaps you have also tried it sometime. Perhaps you don’t get any noticeable results from it.

I’ll give you a simpler meditation. A variation of this meditation was extensively used by Gurdjieff with his disciples. This won’t take much of your time. There are two ways of going about this meditation.

First choice. Throughout the day, whenever you can, stop all movement. You don’t have to do anything else. Just stop. There should not be any gap between the thought of stopping and the action of stopping. If you wait or delay, then you will be caught up in the mind. Be committed to the process if you make this choice. You will be stopping at odd times and odd places. Practice. Practice with no goal in mind except to see what happens.

Second choice. Pick a time and a place; use this setting for your meditation practice. Now, all you have to do is sit, still. Cease all movement, not even your eyes should move. So, choose the position of your eyes accordingly because they are the most restless. In Zazen meditation, it is advised that you keep them half shut, so you are not trying to keep them open or closed.

What will happen? When you cease all physical movement, your attention will turn to your mind. It will come under a magnifying glass. All the voices in your head will be amplified. You won’t believe the amount of noise there is. Stay with it, listen to it, flow with it. With time, the voices will quiet down. Don’t try to stop them, just go on listening. Keep in mind, I said listening, not speaking. There is a difference. When you are listening to those voices, you disassociate from them.

Personally, I prefer the first choice. The suddenness of the practice takes much less time and is able to better create the gap in which you can disassociate from your mind.

You don’t need to sit in meditation for long hours.

Keep it short, keep it simple, keep it sudden.

You are not the voices in your head, you are the one who listens.

With love,

VR.

Live With An Open Heart

Even if it hurts.

The inspiration for this article came from David Deida’s book, The Way of the Superior Man. The message is simple, live with an open heart. What does this mean? Don’t unnecessarily put a filter on yourself because of the fear of offending someone or not being liked. At the same time, don’t go out of the way to insult or hurt someone.

The key here is vulnerability; sharing the feelings or ideas that are closest to our hearts. This is very fearful in the beginning (as it is for me right now). When you are vulnerable, you have the fear of being rejected/judged and this rejection would hurt deeply because in this moment you are defenseless. Realize this not everyone will like you and if they do, you’re doing something wrong. You are either being dishonest in your expression or you are one lucky person who found all the right people (it is easier to get struck by lightning). It is better to be liked for who you truly are than for the facades that you have created. These facades would have to change constantly to morph for different people and their expectations. Think about a more stressful job.

What happens when you do open your heart? You start pulsing with a vibrant energy. I know this from firsthand experience (this is the day that I told many of my friends about this blog and I am still high on that energy). When you start expressing who you are, you start untangling yourself. When you are untangled, you feel light and free. And freedom is the greatest feeling for me, which is why I write to you about it. As the old adage goes, “The truth shall set you free”.

The important thing to do before you start expressing yourself is to first accept yourself for who you are and all that you stand for. You don’t have to completely agree with someone else and no one else is obligated to completely understand you. This is how it is. When you accept your own truth and chose to live by it no matter what, a certain aura surrounds you. People might not agree with you but they will respect you for standing for something.

The following is the relevant text from the book:

The superior man practices opening during these times of automatic closure. Open the front of your body so your chest and solar plexus are not tense. Sit or stand up straight and full, opening the front of your body, softening your chest and belly, wide and free. Breathe down through your chest and solar plexus, deep into your belly. Look directly into the eyes of whoever you are with, feeling your own pain as well as feeling the other person. Only when the front of your body is relaxed and opened, your breath full and deep, and your gaze unguarded and directly connected with another person’s eyes, can your fullest intelligence manifest spontaneously in the situation. To act as a superior man, a samurai of relationship, you must feel the entire situation with your whole body. A closed body is unable to sense subtle cues and signals, and therefore unable to act with mastery in the situation.

When you are vulnerable with someone, you inspire vulnerability in them. If the person is ready to be vulnerable with you, then the interaction would lead to a deeper connection. Otherwise, the other person might shy away from further conversation. If this is the case, then don’t get disheartened. All this is not about the other person’s reaction but about you accepting yourself and sharing with an open heart.

Live with an Open Heart, Be Free.

Till next time,

-VR (I changed my pen name ;P)

You don’t have to be Happy

You don’t have to be happy all the time.

People now a days have become obsessed with happiness. This obsession would have been fine if they hadn’t also become so god damn afraid of unhappiness. It is okay to be unhappy or sad. People are people, not robots that can be programmed with one constant feeling.

Some days you’re on top of the world and some days you’re down in the dumps irrespective of the external circumstances. The poorest of people have great days and even Bill Gates has bad days. Keep moving with life, it’s in your getting stuck that the problem deepens. If only you were willing to accept what is and move with life, you’ll be much happier.

People get sad about being sad. How foolish is that? So you’re sad, its not a big deal. Go finish your work and go to sleep. If you feel sad, do some activity that is refreshing for you. Take a few breaths, with each successive breath gradually getting deeper. Then go for a walk in the park or to play some sport if the weather is suitable. I don’t know what works for you, but that does it for me.

Don’t ever be sad about being sad. That is a vicious circle to fall into. Come back to the present and get moving, literally moving. A lot of the time blood circulation can help with your sadness. A lack of movement in the modern society is a major cause of the unhappiness. The less you move, the more you recede into your head and away from the body and the present. Get moving, feel into your body and if you are still sad, call it a day. Sometimes it’s better to leave things to time.

Don’t resist what is, accept life and move in the direction that suits you.

Your man
-Vik

Freedom

If there is one thing that is closest to my heart, it is freedom. And it is not just me, freedom is close to every man’s heart. People have died for freedom, they still do.

This is the freedom to live one’s life according to one’s own heart. We don’t want to live with obligations or under the control of someone else’s will. We want the actions that we take to be the actions that we want to take not obligations. This is why a man works; to create more freedom for himself and for his family. The simplest type of freedom to achieve is physical freedom.

No matter your age or your current physical condition, there is always a possibility for creating more physical freedom. This is related to your body. If you are overweight, then eat to get lean. If you are already lean, then train for strength. There is no end to strength training. But, if you want to take this in another direction, then take up some dance style. Learning to dance creates a different sort of freedom, a kind of fluidity in your bodily expression. I wish to take this up soon. I would love to learn tango. I’ll get there soon enough.

Meanwhile, lets get to the next type of freedom: financial freedom.

The steps are fairly simple. Do some work you are good at, save some money, invest that money to make more money while freeing up your time. This same thing can be done in a million different ways but the template is the same. When your investments hit critical mass, you won’t be required to work anymore. You’ll work simply because you want to. Now, some people achieve this in a few years, some take much longer than that. Keep in mind, this freedom is also related to your living standards; what is and isn’t acceptable to you. Some people are content in a hut, some need a castle. Whatever it is, just make sure it is a conscious choice, not a desire for someone else’s approval.

The next type of freedom is emotional freedom. This type of freedom is achieved when you are free from the control of your emotions. They stop ruling you. Living with emotions is one thing but being ruled by emotions is something else entirely. Emotional freedom comes when you transcend your emotions. How do you transcend your emotions? With awareness. When some emotion arises in you, don’t run away from it. Feel it deeply, notice it. Don’t place moral judgments. If you are jealous, don’t say this is bad, just be jealous, completely. Then, allow it to pass. If you are happy, be happy, completely happy. If you are sad, be sad. Don’t run away. You just have to stay in the moment, focused. The emotion will pass. Don’t deny your emotions, with time, you’ll transcend them. No need to rush, actually don’t rush. If you try to rush, you’ll just be playing the avoidance game.

These are the three basic types of freedoms. One thing I’d like to point to you and to me (as a reminder) is that the more successful a man becomes, it is likely that he feels trapped. A successful man has the image of a successful man to protect. This will keep him trapped out of the present most of the time because he will be trying to protect that image. Remember this trap in your journey to your freedom and you will never feel stuck.

To our freedom.

Your man
-Vik

To Judge or To Not Judge

In my opinion, you should not judge other people. Maintain clarity, but do not judge. See people for who they are, but do not place moral judgments on their way of being. There is some reason for the way they are.

A thief is a thief because he had some reasons. Maybe he was hungry, maybe he just likes the thrill. Whatever may be the reason, there is no need for you to judge people. Believe me, I have judged people, a lot when they didn’t agree with my way of thinking. But now I don’t. I don’t try to suppress my judgments, they are just not there when I am busy living my life.

Don’t judge other people. When you judge other people, you are bound to make those judgments on yourself. Then, you will either qualify those judgments or you won’t. If you
qualify those judgments then you will have pride, and if you don’t, you will have shame. Neither of those is helpful. Both seek to keep you in your head and away from life. Life happens in the here and now; why would you want to be away in your head having imaginary conversations with yourself. You take action, you take pleasure in that action, and then you move on, there is no need for shame or pride.

Everyone is on a very personal journey of their life, just like you. You will never completely understand another human being. You may feel him to a certain degree, possibly, a very high degree but you can’t actually get in their head. And there is no need for that.

I have recently passed a transformation period wherein the distance between me and the society was growing by leaps and bounds every day. I didn’t know who I was or what I stood for. But I did know that I couldn’t relate to the actual people in my life. I found solace in books and that didn’t help with the situation. While the books did give me some sense of belonging they pulled me away from the real world in which I was living. This is true for books that are written on enlightenment. With growing awareness and detachment, I somehow developed a distaste for people who didn’t see the world the way I did. It was all in my head though, I didn’t go about quarreling with them. I fell into the trap that many young meditators fall into when they begin their practice. They don’t have compassion for their fellow humans and they start judging them for their desires and the actions that they take for achieving those desires.

I invite you to take action to move your life in the direction that you want. Along the way, if someone genuinely asks for your help, help them, share your life with them. There is no need for you to try to convert people to your way of thinking, to your principles, just give them invitations and leave the action part to them. What I’m doing here is sharing what works for me in the hopes that lost individuals like me would stumble a little less :).

Don’t judge, live your life, share, stay here and now.

Your man
-Vik

Confidence

Confidence is not a standalone quality as many of us have been led to believe. With most people, the problem is not their diffidence but their inability to focus. They fixate on the
wrong things and then get hurt. I’ll rant about confidence in the following lines. Stick around.

Say you have to give a speech in front of a large audience. Now, if you are not an accomplished speaker, and you have done this sort of thing only a couple of times before, then you will probably be anxious. Anxiousness is not bad, it is only natural. You might start to think of everything bad that can happen. That is your defense mechanism trying to protect you from getting hurt from humiliation in front of so many people. People choke because they overthink. Their focus is on getting a positive response all the time.

An invitation.

Focus on the task at hand. Whenever you think you are suffering from low confidence remind yourself that your success always lies in your actions, not in the responses that you get. The only aspect of your life that is under your control is your actions. The reactions that you get are highly circumstantial. You don’t know what is going on with the other person at the exact moment.
Always base your success on your actions. You went up there and you spoke. You spoke despite the fear and the anxiety. You are already successful.
A reminder, when you are giving a speech don’t become completely blind to the audience. Gauge their response and tailor your speech accordingly. There is a difference here in being successful and being effective.

Back to confidence.

Confidence arises when you are focused, clear, decisive, responsible and have practiced your craft.

Focus. Keep your focus on your actions. Keep your awareness in your body. Diffidence is a disease of the mind. The more you pay attention to it, the larger it grows. Stay in your body, stay in the here and now.
Clear. You need clarity. You need to learn to look at things objectively and with the realist’s eyes. You have to see them for what they are. This includes people, their desires, your desires, your shortcomings, your strengths, the list goes on. You get the idea. Do not under any circumstance try to impose your expectations on reality. Instead, work with it. It is what it is and you will be wise to work with what is than yearn for what should have been.

Decisive. You have to take sides. I’m not asking you to stick to the same side for the rest of your life but taking sides gives you power and purpose. You are not just floating around.
Choose and be firm. I’ve talked about this before in my “Why Spartan?” post. Go have a look.

Responsible. You have to own your choices and be responsible for them. This implies that you are ready to be judged for them. You not only own the rewards of your choices but you are also ready for the punishments if any may come. Desires are desires. Do not let them run you. Do not be ashamed for any of your desires. There is no need for that. Choose, decide and let go of the ones that are not in sync with your principles and own the ones that you act on.

Practice. You can’t really be confident about a task that you have never done before. Skills require practice. Hours and hours of practicing your craft will endow you with world class levels of that specific skill.

When you have all five, then your confidence will be natural. You can have confidence without practice, but that will not be based in reality. There will be lingering doubts in your mind and you will have to be constantly on the lookout for them to keep your confidence intact. It is better to just get better with your abilities.

Be Confident, Stay Sharp.

Your man
-Vik

Your Death is Near

The fear of death is irrational.

I can understand the fear of the pain preceding death but the fear of death itself, that is foolish. Death is rest. Who fears rest? Death is bliss. It is the only constant in existence.

Maybe you think that you will have some regrets before death. I don’t. I don’t have any regrets with my life up until this point. I have made mistakes, I have been foolish. I have been diffident, I have lied, I have even shoplifted once (damn childhood ;P). This may not compare with some of you outlaws out there, but each one of us has different scales. You only have regrets because you don’t own yourself. You are running from yourself. You are running from the choices that you made in the past and what could have happened. I don’t care for what could have happened. I don’t even care for what did happen. Your life is happening here, now. No matter if you are a twenty-something like me writing a blog in your home or you are an eighty-nine-year-old man lying in his death bed. Real power is in ownership and the ability to create change in any aspect of one’s being. Real power is in the now.

Realize this. You have always made the decision which you thought best at the time. Hindsight can be brutally judgmental. I should have known better. I knew that answer. I wanted to do that initially, why did I change my choice at the last instant. The list goes on.

The point is, move on. Let bygones be bygones. All it takes is one little black hole and all the work that has been done by the greatest emperors and saints till now will vanish, just like that. Poof, gone. I’m not saying that their work is not important but that you should not be so stressed about always doing the right things, attain the highest levels of power, wealth and what not. Live real, be honest, and what is important for you will stay with you.

Back to death.

The problem with a lot of people is that they are not aware of their own death’s inevitability. They know that they will die someday but this knowing is cerebral, not existential. It is not a part of who they are. It is just another fact for them.

When you meditate on death and develop a close relationship with it, your life goes up a couple of notches. Daily grievances bother you less and less. You realize that all this could be gone in an instant. Your parents gone. Your children gone. Your spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend gone. Your beliefs gone. Your creations gone. Everything will be gone for you, not for the world. The world will still go on without you, no matter how important you think you are. What remains is the eternal, dark, peaceful stillness.

Meditate on death. Buddha asked all his disciples to go and watch the burning pyres of others for months till they realized their own death and were over their fear of death. Don’t keep your death far away in the future. That is a method of avoidance. Remind yourself that you may die any instant and such is the nature of all things in existence. The essence of creation is destruction. Every creation involves the destruction of some other creation and every creation will itself be destroyed.

The acceptance of death is a very important part of stoic philosophy. If you want to know more about that, go read some great stoic philosophers such as Seneca.

Till next time.

Be Real, Know Death, Be Free.

Your man
-Vik