Turning Forty: Notes from a Regular Human Being
Hi gentlefolk. I’m Aakash. The founder of this effort called Aha3D. Life has treated me swell so far, and I merrily turned 40 last week. This means that, if (IF!) all goes well, I’m on the halfway mark of my present life.
This is quite a milestone, and I have been working on how to start the next innings. Turns out, most succinctly, I intend to be the person who my loved ones deserve.
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Being the person my loved ones deserve
Here’s defining the goal, with examples. This list captures the intent, and not the precise objectives in their entirety.
I shall endeavour to not yell at my daughter when she doesn’t get a math concept, no matter how easy I think it is. Or not zone out when wifey or parents are trying to talk to me, and end up making them feel ignored.
I shall endeavour to care for, nurture, and genuinely love the people who have trusted their interests with me. I shall ensure all possible growth, financial, professional and emotional, for them.
I shall endeavour to not get agitated when the customer gets messed up due to the fault of one of my people. I shall handle my people as caringly as the customer, and make things right.
I shall endeavour to really know what people are trying to tell me.
I shall endeavour to not get swept away on the mind’s face value judgement of people when some work doesn’t go as planned.
The intention of this post is mainly to document the framework, resources and steps with achieving the goal. The intended audience is future me, and like minded people with similar explorations.
Yes, I realize that it is looking almost like a “thou shalt” pile of cliches. But this text is going to be important. Damage gets done when I’m not the best version of me. Worst of all, it is a waste of my potential, and everyone else’s who come in regular contact with me. I even intend to circulate this piece around.
Anyway, my time is here.
I’ve had phases of hard work, laxity, brilliance, sloth, leadership, anxiety, achievements, and bouts of depression. I’ve binge watched videos like the craziest idiot on earth, and I’ve sprinted through a month’s worth of work in one week flat.
Living on the extremes.
The last forty years have been fun. Gave a lot of perspective. Everyone supported me for lot of experimentation. I owe it now.
The mind is not specifically “kicked up” to achieve all this; there is no performance or time pressure. It just feels ready. And the idea is to follow the following all the way till death.
Luckily, in the last innings, I’ve done a handful of deeply significant experiments in the inner domain. I’ve experienced scintillating clarity of mind. Indeed, thanks to these, I precisely know the steps to achieve the foregoing list of “I shall”s. And beyond, I’m sure.
The path to the goals
Keeping the fundamentals in place
The Buddha’s teachings is what worked for me. (will share the story separately). I’ve surprised myself with human (my?) capabilities when I’ve seriously tried to understand and apply Vipassana/Mindfulness in life. I primarily worked in Goenka ji’s tradition (www.dhamma.org), received loving help from Prof. P. L. Dhar, Late Mr. Ashok Talwar, and my own uncle Mr Rameshwar Sharma, all of whom are/have been senior teachers in Goenka ji’s tradition. I’ve been liberally helped by Bhante Henepola Gunaratna via “Mindfulness in Plain English”, which, I dare say is the one book to take with you to a deserted island, and Eckhart Tolle, via his unbelievable book “The Power of Now”. All of this has been an exploration, no magic sauce, but there is enough guidance, resources and people available to help one along the way.
When I have practised regularly, I’ve been able to discover my own blind spots, and have improved beyond myself for the better. Of course, all the benefits evaporate a short while after I give up on the regularity of practice. So, the fundamental thing: meditation, twice daily, one hour each. All other things come as a natural by-product of understanding and applying Dhamma in practice. (Dhamma = dharma. See https://www.vridhamma.org/What-is-Dhamma)
Actively guarding my own interests
This means that I’m not going to seek gratification at certain levels;
- Like gluttony. Or eating for the sake of taste.
- Like sex and stuff. Or anything that fans that shade of mental activity.
- Like instant gratifications. Being a mind-bait content consumer available via various channels.
It does not mean I’m abstaining or anything. Or don’t intend to enjoy regular life. Just that I’m not actively seeking this stuff now. Basically, helping with physical and mental conditions to let the mind touch the next plane.
Planning my time
I’m going to pick up at least one unconventional activity for the day, and mean to do it. Like writing this post. Which I’d never do in my past life. Basically doing one “important but not urgent” task.
Some useful notes:
- I’m using Google Keep for my to-do list
- I’m making the to-do list before I start the day, and after meditation
- If I can’t complete an item as planned, I prioritize it higher and complete it the next day. I don’t take more items till I complete the ones I’ve taken up.
- I try not to do anything outside the keep list, unless all of them are ticked for the day
Accounting of time and progress
Hands down, the best article I’ve come across so far regarding life management is Tim Urban’s article on time, your life in weeks.
In short, these are all the weeks I’ve got before I turn 60:
Now, I’ve printed this page out and pasted on my little room’s wall. I shall colour each week’s box as Green, Amber or Red. (here, green = good and red = bad, in case you are from China)
To decide the week’s colour, I’ve got a day colour paper pasted alongside, which has week details like so:
The day titles might change over time, as goals change. But the colour concept shall remain. When all days of the week are green, the week is green. The idea is to get the weeks sheet all green! I will keep you posted 🙂
With this framework in place, here’s how my fortieth Birthday went.
To my utterly-mind-boggling surprise, which I came to know only a few days before my 40th, the Emperor Ashoka learned Vipassana from a teacher called Upagupta, and practised for a long time right here in Rajasthan! Ninety kilometers away from where I live, to be precise!
Boy am I proud to be born in India!
The place’s name is Virat Nagar. You find the place where Ashoka meditated:
Well, for my 40th, I went to this place with my uncle, and had a great start of my this phase of life, by meditating on this blessed land 🙂
Virat Nagar also has a Rock edict from Ashoka’s reign. It was a goose-bumpy realization how humans at that time did their best to immortalize dhamma teachings, with whatever methods they had at their disposal. Just for us!
The edict doesn’t has anything visible per se, (not that we’d understand anyway!), but well, there it is! Standing in testimony to the hard work and good intents of the yonder generation.
We spent some time running some errands Tauji had in mind, and returned home by 5pm.
Incidentally, it was the Karva Chauth on the same day, and I felt I’m finally doing a worthwhile effort for all that wifey’s been doing for me!
It ended with the customary cake and claps, to a day spent worthwhile, and with seed of a beautiful future I eagerly look forward to be living 🙂
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