Sunday, September 28, 2014

Reflection on Karma Clearing Program - 3 years of attempt!!!

Three years completed since I started attempting the great "Karma Clearing Program".  When I started it on the 27th of September 2011, I was hoping that I would clear it in the first attempt itself like any other test I have attempted to; this was in spite of the author warning that in his many years of practice he has cleared it only twice. There was a bit of (no, a lot of) overconfidence in me that made me think like that!!

After two years of trying, the rules I was skeptical were no criticism and no expression of dissatisfaction. But, now I realize how these rules are interwoven. Modern psychologists talk about HALT - especially in "Addiction Recovery". When you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired it is very easy to feel depressed or tempted to consume alcohol or drugs; so they advice the patient to be watchful of the HALT state and resolve it quickly.  But if you observe the karma clearing program, the rules will get you into HALT state(s) and expect you to behave yourselves. It takes highest discipline not to express dissatisfaction and criticism when you are in any of the HALT states.

  • The "One major meal a day" rule will make you feel hungry most of the time through the day.
  • Any introspection will reveal the conflicting thoughts and feelings within you. That will easily make you feel angry at yourselves; you may easily think that others are causing you to feel those conflicting feelings if you are not careful :-)
  • When you recall the day in reverse and observe your thoughts & actions, you are alone mentally even if you are middle of thousands of people. When you try helping someone without leaving a trace, you are trying to be alone.
  • The "Arise Earlier" rule will make you feel tired because your sleep quota reduces and because of the physical activity you need to do in that one hour.

To be precise, you are in all states of HALT on each day and you are trying to recover from the addiction of expressing dissatisfaction and criticism. Please note, this does not mean that you should or can run away from your duties. If your role needs you to review and give feedback, you should without expressing your dissatisfaction and give the review in an objective manner! In professional roles, it is fairly easier; because, all of us know if we need work done by our peers, bosses, subordinates, clients, suppliers we can not express ourselves  as freely. We have learnt how to mask ourselves nicely.

But in personal roles it is very tough - especially with those who can do nothing for you, it gets even tougher!! Character is how you treat those who can do nothing for you. But if you think deeper, the moment you consider someone as small and be proud that you are treating them well, your character dies. You are only not expressing how you feel. This is mental garbage again! It will come out as dissatisfaction at some point in time! The only way is to consider every one equally and have no pride in doing so; better way to put it is, understand that all are equal and they are right in their own ways. I think, this is one of the two biggest realizations I got this year, the other being relationship between the nine rules and HALT.

In the last one year, I felt conflicted many times when the professional trainings expected me to give feedback at the personal level; it is in contradiction with what I am trying to achieve! Not only that, I had to work closely with someone who considers himself (only himself) as content & process authority and interested in giving constant feedback. So in addition to managing the anger generated by my own introspections, observations of my thoughts & actions, I had to handle the anger being generated by the constant feedbacks - sometimes meaningful, sometimes not! Hmm… it was and is tough!!

I can't say that there is major improvement in the nine-rule program in the last one year. I am still trying and feel it is worth keep trying till I succeed!!

Responsibility! Karunakaran Strikes Again!!

My God! There is one more topic matching! Responsibility!!  I sure want to meet this person! I was reading 11 Sep issue of Puthiya thalamurai today.  Karunakaran speaks about very same things I wanted to cover! The only differences is, I would have given examples from IT industry or coaching / teaching while he is giving examples from journalism. Given that we are working in two different industries, it is quite natural I suppose!

I have seen a few individuals who will just deliver what is written in their job description. They would even stay late to deliver what is required as per their JD. But, if it is not defined, even if it is the right thing to do for the welfare of the organization, department (sometimes themselves too), they will not do and they will simply reject saying, it is not for them to do. It need not even a complicated, high effort or high risk task; just not being in their JD is sufficient for them to refuse doing the task!!!

This has been a disturbing point for me! How do we make people add value and not just go by JD! Of course all the JDs / RACIs are quite useful in large organizations to avoid conflicts and ensure smooth functioning; but if the employees depend only on these tools, we would end up in "Operation success, patient died" situations. How do we make people respect the boundaries but still go the extra mile to deliver? Can this be taught how we teach programming? Is this teachable at all? Shouldn’t the organizations focus on recruiting individuals who would own the outcome instead of a piece of work? How do you assess this quality of interviewee? Not sure if psychologists have an answer for it!

In the 2008 Taj attack, all & each one of the Taj employees placed safety of the guests over their own. How could Taj do it while other organizations are struggling to make employees support customers - with something as simple as providing a user id to a legitimate user? Is it their century old conventions and wisdom? Not all century old organizations exhibit this behavior… Another organization with such heritage  I know, struggles to make their employees fix the production failure instead of fighting whether it is due to their applications or due to their hardware or due to the way someone launched the code!! Isn't it not bigger than the job descriptions and which department was at fault!!! How can we make people understand that their power lies in providing the service and NOT in denying the service!!! I am searching for my answers!!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Color Color What Color?

In one of the professional forums, someone shared a concept that describes organizational culture. It was an interesting concept to listen to for various reasons.

Red organization is the one that exercises power constantly with fear being the driving factor, Orange organization is the one that is constantly looking for beating the competition while Teal organizations focus on deep introspection sharing, consensus, and commitment to improve character and wisdom.  The person who shared the concept to the audience believed that it is an all new idea. More interestingly tried generalizing that India is Orange while US is Green, getting closer to Teal; also he believes that once an organization is Teal they would stay Teal ever after unless there is any life changing event. That is where the contention is!

First of all, it is not a new concept! If you study three 'Gunas' described in Indian philosophy, you can clearly see that Red and Tamasik are similar; Orange and Rajasik are the similar and Teal and Satvik are similar. Please note that they are only similar but not same because being Satvik is much more than Teal. For example, a Satvik person does help others because he thinks it is his duty to help; he is not proud of being helpful; he expects nothing in return!! Unlike the western management philosopher, the Indian philosophers felt that each one of us have these three gunas while we should constantly strive become satvik.

While Indian gurus recognized the impact of the environment and the people you interact with on your thought process and behaviors, they did not generalize that a community can be at one level or the other, because they understand that it is the quality of mind that gets expressed through behaviors!! India believes in continuous introspection and cleansing; if not your thoughts can become impure. It does not take a life changing event to switch from one level to the other - just different type of environment can do the trick unless you are very careful about your thoughts.

The most interesting part of the session is presenter believed that India could never have been Teal!!!  What surprises me the most is, someone who claims to be a researcher & more importantly preaches that each individual is to be treated as an individual, cultures should be respected has not done the groundwork before making such statement in a forum of professionals! How will someone orange have ethical standards defined even for war? While the focus is to be Satvik and not create unrest within self and others through thoughts, speech and acts (like war), there were ethical standards for war in case war becomes inevitable. Ancient Indian war ethics mandates that a warrior does not kill elders, patients, children, women and anyone who does not have an equally powerful weapon; even when you are fighting someone with equal power, no stabbing from the back; war is to be fought only when there is sunlight! Sure, a civilization that sells weapons to those who bomb schools, hospitals and places of worship can never understand these war ethics!

It is high time we Indians realize the fact that we have lost and losing our leadership edge by exhibiting behaviors of competitiveness & winning at all cost. While being ready to accept such generalizations is bad, not acting to strengthen our leadership qualities is a sin! The colonial era wanted us to be only clerks who would just execute the instructions; the next information era is slowly influencing us to create software that would execute the instructions. Of course, we should make use of the opportunities to strengthen our economical growth. But we should start thinking about solving our local problems. If we can write software to sequence the actions of robots in a factory, statistically analyze the sales, demand, supply etc., can we not write software that would analyze the data from our satellites & alert people on natural disasters?   I am more concerned with our education system than ever. Isn't it time for us to focus on leadership skills than just scores, thinking than memorizing skills problem solving than numerical abilities, technical excellence than just employability? 

It does not matter if someone calls us Red or Orange or Teal! What matters is how do we realize our strengths, develop & exhibit strong character and make our country a better place to live!  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Freeing up the (mental) space!

It is very interesting to see how freeing up space in the physical world appears to help freeing up the mind. Last weekend was my "clearance" time. After about a year or so, I decided to change gears and reclaim life!! Looks like once in a few years, I get into this mode and do a complete overhaul! Probably I am a true follower of Tholkappiar who said "பழையன கழிதலும் புதியன புகுதலும் வழுவல கால வகையினானே" (The passing of the old and the ascendance of the new are the unchanging order of time) :-)

I tossed several clothes, appliances, reference materials, notebooks etc. out! In India there is a festival for doing this. Every year on 13th of Jan, just a day before thanking the Sun God for all the good harvest, people toss out all old stuff, and refresh their houses with new items. In a few organizations, there is a process to review the documents & data for retention period and delete them as needed. In spite of all this, people keep stuff that are no longer needed. "We may need it at some point in time, especially the week after we throw the item out" is the view of most of the people I have met :-) they would call the chinese proverb that says "retain anything for seven years to see the real use of it" for help. Though I try to avoid this 7 year syndrome, I was not doing this "clearance" (please note, it is not cleaning up) for quite sometime now!

There were dresses I did not wear even once in the past several months… there were reference materials that I thought I would use sometime, but never even thought of those topics - leave alone the material! There were some tools and home appliances in the loft for the past 1.5 years! If I can survive without them for this long, I do not need them I thought! Wow… I got rid of about 30% of the stuff. I have one more weekend to go before I will be done with this!

What excites me more than acquiring the 30% more space is, I feel more in control! I could clearly see my  mind not thinking of some thoughts. It looked like there was some mental clearance too while I was doing the tossing business!! But more and more I think about it, this is more like the "cleaning up" we do - involuntary! Cleaning up helps; but then, for you to gain actual space, you need to do clearance! Is there a simpler way to do clearance and claim the mental space? I could not get a convincing answer even in "Kural" yet. Even the much talked about kural on "truth" also talks about cleaning (Purity of body is produced by water and purity of mind by truthfulness) but not clearance - may be both "மனத்துக்கண் மாசிலன் ஆதல் அனைத்தறன் ஆகுல நீர பிற" and " அழுக்காறு அவாவெகுளி இன்னாச்சொல் நான்கும் இழுக்கா இயன்றது அறம்." put together can give us the way for "clearance" - being away from jealous, malicious desire, uncontrollable anger, bitter speech - not only not expressing these but also not even touched mentally by any of the four can result in mental space being freed up! Hopefully, one day, I would achieve that!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

"Chain" around the neck!!!

This is an article I have been thinking of since August. A few of my Indian colleagues and I invited our non-Indian colleagues for a dinner and get together. It was a beautiful evening with good discussions, Indian food and warmth. Discussions revolved around software engineering, corporate world and IT industry to start with;  the conversations drifted slowly into culture & its impact on behaviors/preferences  and then focus turned to Indian culture - naturally so, because the hosts were Indians and the rest of them (as coaches) had to deal with a large number of Indians… how invasions impacted India, how we lost our technologies, how diverse is the culture in India in food, art forms, dressing etc.

Then came the topic of this article. Why do Indian women have "pottu" or "Bindhi". All religious and social reasons were  discussed! My colleagues from the US were eager to know the significance of the red dot on the parting of hairline (வகிடு) They  were curious to know why many Indian women have and I do not have! I explained how I do not believe in that,  how my "pottu" style does not represent my family's religious association (I am a shaivite wearing long vertical pottu like vaishnavites), how lack of the red dot does not indicate my marital status  (I am happily married and very much with my husband); the only reason I have the pottu the way I have is, I believe I look good in that style!!! The discussion went on to how many cultures had some way or the other to indicate the marital status! The topic stayed on my mind and I was thinking of this article.

The article started running in my mind even more strongly since the recent wedding I attended… My aunt was very upset with me because I removed all the jewelry including the "thali" (necklace) after the function. I always removed all the jewelry when I am at home because, for me, they are all part of my makeup. I know, many elders did not like it because they associated that with marital status… I was thinking of the impact of "looking good" or "make up" on women and the influence of society on this aspect…

Why should the society care so much about how a woman dressed up? Is it not individual's choice? It is cruel to ask someone to remove "pottu" or "thali" just because her husband died; it is equally bad to force someone to have these because the husband is alive. These are both sides of the same coin… to make women believe that they dress up only for their husbands! Even in the western culture, women are encouraged to dress up to impress men! These are all expressions of male chauvinism…

Of course women also do not feel like dressing up for various reasons! They may be too depressed to dress up, or they may have outgrown their own internal need to dress up, or they may fear unwanted attention from other men because of "looking good" or they just do not feel like it… Men also have all these variations! But except for their immediate family members, others do not seem to be bothered about this. But when it comes to women, almost the whole world seems to be interested!

What is more interesting is, many women are conditioned so much by the expectations from the society. That is one of the reasons, why women spend so much time in shopping for their outfits, getting ready etc.. If you just have to buy an attire you like, or that would make you look good as per your standards / liking, it does not take more than 10-15 minutes. But unfortunately women are so influenced by all the conditioning that goes on, they spend days in selecting an attire! Even the so called "feminists" focus so much on women's dressing than the mindset changes! More interestingly, those who dress up for themselves too get caught in this trap at times!

How do we get women out of this trap, how do we change the mindsets & culture are the strongest questions running in my mind!

I generally had at least one day gap between writing and publishing articles as it gives me room for objective review. I was reading one of the August issues of "Puthiya Thalaimurai" only yesterday because I missed reading all the  August issues due to my trip to the US. To my surprise, there was an article by Pe. Karunakaran on the same topic of "thali"! More interestingly he had written the article about the same time I was thinking of writing this article! Who is he? I am curious to know why our article topics coincide often!?  I need to understand if there is a "statistically significant" reason to believe that there is a common factor!  :-)

The next article I am thinking of is about "Responsibility" -  how each one of has a responsibility, responsibility is just not same as job description, how easy it is to teach skills but not responsibility! I started thinking about this also sometime in August. The other thoughts  criss-crossing are about diversity, organizational culture and colors, how those who teach "individuals & interactions are more important than process & tools" can get into generalization trap, impact of not walking the talk. To be precise, I am thinking of these from 13th of August after a trainer made some incorrect, inappropriate  statements about a country/ culture & lost the audience and another senior person made a nasty comment about a country & lost the respect I had for her. Let me see if he has written about any of these in August or he is going to write on this topic in September!!

Monday, September 1, 2014


In one of the trainings I attended recently, there was an emphasis on giving feedback. When you give feedback about what the other person should improve on, it would feel like a performance review; instead, if you describe what impact they had on you, both positive and negative then they will consider it in right sense was the argument made. Interesting I thought! I am really not convinced that this approach will work for all and work in all situations. What is more interesting is that I got this one-size fit all gyan from a training that preaches on the need to consider individuals more than practices

There are people who would like to look at the system rather than personal feedback; impact on you as an individual will not matter to them; it may even hurt their ego. There are a few others who get put off when you position your interests in front - they will also want a systemic view of the feedback or a feedback from their perspective. There are a few others who will not consider any type of feedback. But as a coach, you may want them to understand the impact and make them change their behavior; in such a situation, letting them fail and amplifying the pain could work better than giving the feedback.

More than all this, the person who gives the feedback should consider if their view is really correct, the feedback is needed for improving the situation. I am only thinking of Socrates who talked about three sieves to be used before spreading gossips. I think the sieves fit the feedback techniques too though they are not same as gossip!!!