Wednesday, 1 March 2017

…and a Promise is sealed

Dearest Friends,
She trapped me; caught me on the back foot. I feel my mobility freeze with sickening speed.
I find myself cornered. From the corner of my darting eye, I gather, there is ample space to escape. Yet I stand here… right in front of her.
Her gaze…it just doesn’t pierce, it haunts! It gives me the chills within seconds of holding the photograph. The goose bumps stir something within.
Questions simmer in those glassy and deep eyes.
“What have you done with your life so far?” she scrutinises me.
Wait, do I catch a hint of a smirk there? Or, maybe, she has disguised it under her strict demeanour.
Do her innocent eyes also carry the heavy weight of regrets? Regrets…worse than the cost of passed time. She seems to be sending out a secret plea, “Watch yourself…I’m telling you!”
Warmth floods my face. My ears give away my embarrassment. My life rushes like a blur in my head; I spot incidences when I didn’t chase my passions. Guilt fills my eyes. Her eyes reflect something.
Though her empathetic smile doesn’t quite reach her eyes, her encouragement reaches me. I know she understands and she urges me to move on… with my head held high!
The empathy fades away instantly. She drills in me, “Don’t be too easy on yourself.”
I nod frantically in agreement.
She breathes fire, “Fight your battles…always!” Our eyes lock for eternity; the surroundings disappear. A shiver passes up my spine.
She commands me, “Look at me. Now, go and do something better with your life”. The unmoving picture declares it as an emergency…I am moved.
And… a promise is sealed!
Juhi Kothari

Wednesday, 22 February 2017


Dearest Friends,
A farmer had a dog who used to sit by the roadside waiting for vehicles to come around. As soon as one came, he would run down the road, barking and trying to overtake it.
One day, in good humour, a neighbour asked the farmer, “Do you think your dog is ever going to catch a car?”
The farmer replied, “That is not what bothers me. What bothers me is what he would do if he ever caught one.”
When I read this story, I first laughed out loud. I too had experienced dogs chasing the car I was sitting in. I could clearly visualise the scenario described above. Then, the wisdom of the farmers statement struck me.
That dog was pursuing meaningless goals.
The same evening, I took stock of the goals I had. I was a little scared. ‘What if the goals I have are meaningless goals?’
To my dismay I had so many meaningless goals. I was aghast and a tad ashamed too. Fortunately, with a simple question to myself I dropped all these goals. Here are a few of them as I remember…
I want that award. What then?
I should be famous. What then?
I want that luxury car. What then?
I should have a bigger house. What then?
I want to see India win the world cup. What then?
I want that unshaven look that is a rage today. What then?
I should be interviewed by a national newspaper. What then?
I should be an invitee in the most happening parties. What then?
My phone is working fine yet I want that fancy new phone. What then?
In any social gathering, people should recognize my presence. What then?
Even today, conspicuously, meaningless goals, enter in my head. I just smile at them and ask the same question, “What then?” and save myself.
With love, prayers and exceptional wishes,
Imagine, when we wake up, we are given only what we had thanked for.

How to handle difference of opinion?

Dearest Friends,
Nobody — including ME — likes to feel judged.
The number one strategy I have is to listen practicing “non-judgmental validation”.
I seek thoughts and opinions from people without judging them. People DISLIKE being judged in any opinion they have or in any action they take.
It doesn’t mean I agree with everyone and have no ‘locus standii’.
So what do I do when people start spouting crazy opinions and have completely misunderstood a scenario?
As soon as I hear something that I don’t necessarily agree with, instead of judging, my first reaction is, “Oh, that’s interesting! I never thought about it that way. I ask them to help me understand, how did they come up with that?”
Now, I am not judging. I am showing a willingness to understand. I am practicing EMPATHY’. More importantly, I am allowing people to calmly continue talking about their favorite subject: their beliefs.
Studies show people get more pleasure from talking about their beliefs than they get from good food or more money. Isn’t that an interesting thought !!!
How do YOU handle a difference of opinion? Do you have an approach that works out well? Would you mind sharing it with me?
With love, prayers and exceptional wishes,
Imagine, when we wake up, we are given only what we had thanked for.

Removing things from the bag…

Dearest Friends,
“A warrior begins to take responsibility for the direction of their life”.
In this journey, a teacher / mentor, encourages us to open the bags and look closely at what we are carrying.
We begin to understand that much of it isn’t needed anymore.
We begin to understand we are unnecessarily lugging things around and slowing ourselves down.
We begin to understand we are making things difficult for ourselves and tiring ourselves out.
We begin to understand somewhere down the road, we would have lost quite a lot, had we not peeked into our bags.
We begin to understand if not for the teacher / mentor, we would have never looked inside.
We begin to ask ourselves, why we did not heed the teacher earlier?
When did you last listen to a teacher / mentor?
When did you last peek inside the bags you are carrying?
When did you last remove the unnecessary things?
Why don’t you do that right now? Open your bags you are carrying and remove ONE THING that isn’t needed anymore.
Do let me know, what you removed. Sharing makes it even better!
With love, prayers and exceptional wishes,
Imagine, when we wake up, we are given only what we had thanked for.

How heavy is the load I am carrying?

Dearest Friends,
This poetry changed Margaret Thatcher’s life.
Margaret Thatcher was the erstwhile Prime Minister of England. Many people insist she was the BEST EVER.
When Margaret Thatcher was a young girl, this poem by Ella Wilcox changed her life.
 “One ship drives East,and another drives West,By the self-same gale that blows;’Tis the set of the sail, and not the gale, That determines the way she goes.”
The poet says, we may not get to choose our external circumstances, initially.
The wind blows regardless of our preference. However, we get to decide what we do with that wind. Similarly, we get to decide how we will respond to the difficulties in our life. We get to set our own sail.
Inspired by the same poem, here are a few questions that I am always asking myself.
Am I avoiding the hard waves?
Am I seeking an easy path?
How heavy is the load I am carrying?
Is my load sufficient enough to provide the traction I need to move forward?
Ships don’t sail with ease. They brave crushing waves and fierce storms to reach their destination.
Good timber does not grow with ease. Neither will you. Neither will I. Agree?
With love, best wishes and prayers,

‘Go on. Create a LEGEND’

Dearest Friends,
The opening statement by Charles Dickens in his all time classic ‘A Tale Of Two Cities’ is, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
As a child when I read this statement, I saw Charles Dickens as a confused man. 😉 And of course, I saw myself as the wise man.
As I grew, I realised it was I who was confused. It was HE who was wise.
I realised, the very challenges inherent in life, make it possible to thrive. Without challenges, there would be nothing to overcome. I concluded, we can’t possibly have “the best” of times without having “the worst” of times.
Without a Gabbar, Jai and Veeru are not possible.
Without a Mogambo, Mr India is no fun.
Without the Joker, Batman is boring.
To know sweetness, I must also know bitterness. To know and appreciate health, I must be acquainted with sickness. To know happiness, I must have ‘felt’ sadness. Without knowing darkness, there could be no understanding of light.
The more extreme the difficulty, the more extreme the growth possibilities.
There’s never been a more competitive, changing and challenging time to live. Thus, there’s never been greater opportunities for success, impact, and fulfilment in the history of the world.
If you believe, you have a challenging life, first of all, pat yourself on your back. Say congrats to yourself. Now, go ahead and choose. Choose what will unleash the sleeping giant of greatness inside you.
Good timber does not grow with ease. Great lives don’t happen without boldness. Legends are never born. They get created by overcoming obstacles.Create a legend out of you.
With love, best wishes and prayers,

Come on, let’s start talking again.

Dearest Friends,
People need people to talk to; they need people they can open their hearts to;people need people to hold hands and feel strong; they need people who can hold them and let them cry.
I am not talking about a romanticized partner or a bollywoodised friend. I am not even talking about families or counsellors. I am just talking about people. Just anyone.
We really do not realize how badly people need a release. I work with people and I work on myself. And I know how important conversations are.
We, as a society, really have no idea how suffocated people are in their emotions. Most people have nobody to express themselves entirely to. Everyone is holding back their vulnerabilities to maintain the social image of a confident and happy person.
Heart-to-heart conversations have become rare, artificial and shallow. And most hearts are filled with empty defences.
Most people can’t even talk to their life-partners openly for the fear of being judged or rejected. Emotions await just a release. Social images make sure weakness is not glorified.
Children have bottled up stress. Young people suffer anxiety and depression.
It is just lack of social support. It is lack of non-judgmental friendships. It is result of fast and busy lives where nobody has time to just sit and watch someone cry. It is result of instant and impatient lifestyle practices, that emotions have started feeling like waste of time.
We have whatsapp and facetime and social media – and we have stress and anxiety and depression.
Our forefathers had neither. Because they talked to each other. Because talking helps.
The face-to-face type talking,
the just-listen-to-me type talking,
the hold-my-hand-and-let-me-cry type talking,
the sit-next-to-me-and-listen-to-my-silence type talking…
the talking where the person can be themselves and say anything they feel without the fear of any judgement or loss or rejection.
Today we don’t like that type of talking. Those conversations when someone begins to undress one’s mind, feel awkward. We don’t ever want them. In fact we avoid them. And so, mental illness is epidemic. Naturally.
There is not much we can do. But we can offer a listening. We can be the people someone can just come over and talk to. We can be the people someone can just cry in front of. We can help people free themselves from the prison of their own minds.
Let’s be the go-to person for someone. Let’s learn to be friends with the friendless. Let’s let people talk without any fear. Let’s create conversations.
Come on, let’s start talking again.
Loads of Love,
Valentine Shipley