Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Reflection from 2017 and Wishes for 2018

The break over the last 10 days has given me a lot of time to zoom out and reflect on my journey over the last year. I wanted to begin the year by recording a personal reflection, to remind me of everything I have learnt about myself and this world I live in.

Around 12 nautical miles into the sea, I could see only the ocean as far as my eyes could scan. I realized at one stage that the only landmass if I continued further south would be the Antarctic continent! The vastness of the ocean made me feel an immense sense of insignificance. I am not even a full stop in the book of the universe! 

At the same time, I was thinking how my perceived insignificance doesn’t absolve me of responsibility. It is this individual responsibility or the lack of it that’s going to save or irreparably damage the future of our planet [looking really big picture :) ].

Looking back at the year, I could only think of the seemingly passing moments that shaped the way I saw my own journey. First, the moments when someone said or did something that shifted my thinking or energized me. Second, the moments when someone acknowledged how what I had said or done had impacted their outlook. In both the cases, it was the receiver who saw the significance of the small acts, not necessarily the giver. I was thinking how my insignificance doesn’t reduce my ability to have a significant impact on my world and its people.

A subset of these small acts I spoke about above, is small acts of kindness. There were multiple moments in Sri Lanka where my skepticism about the goodness in people was challenged. For example, I found people to go out of their way to help me with directions, sometimes even walking with me to show me the way. One of my hosts made me an additional snack for the bus journey ahead. When I traveled by public transport buses, I kept my luggage near the driver, away from where I was sitting. I was worried about it getting flicked. Not once did that happen. In fact, I saw strangers ensuring it stayed in place during the twists and turns of the journey. 

Initially, I wondered if there were hidden motives, a benefit, an ask they’ll make later. However, in most cases, I realized people did these things simply because they were good. When I returned to Bengaluru and saw the end of year coverage in a few magazines, they made the world seem like a horrid place. After all, this tendency to foresee the worst possible outcome has been one of our guiding evolutionary traits, that has led to our species’ success. Nonetheless, things are not as bad as we make them (click here to see the evidence and why it is under-reported). I was thinking how I can create many more reasons for even people to believe in the goodness in the world, to shift the narrative that’s making us lose hope. 

On the first few days of the holiday, I kept using my phone to capture what I was seeing or plan for what I’ll do next. I began to think how this was a symptom of my inability to live in the present. Later, when I actually started leaving my phone untouched, I found it to be incredibly powerful. Watching sunsets, sunrises and observing how each of them was unique, like a fingerprint of that day. Meeting other people and seeing how each of them was made of beautiful specific details. Even talking to Pallavi to discover unheard stories from her life. It took me back to my Vipassana days, leaving me committed to making time for it in the year ahead - to simply be, rather than become! 

I hope you realize the significance of the small things you do, believe in the goodness in people & yourself and live in the present in the year ahead. Wish you a great 2018!

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