Dear Family and Friends,
May 2019 be another great year of health, happiness, peace and success for each and every one of you! Thank you for your engagement with my blog. I will be moving my blog to an official space in the blogosphere and will keep you posted! My goal is to build a blog of 1000 subscribers and then go for publishing a book, which is a recommended strategy for publishing these days. Please note my “50 Years an American Part II- Less Rosy Era” will follow soon!
As the last few hours of 2018 tick by, we are reminded of how time flies by. A whole year has passed, and we review the wonderful experiences we have had, and we also note our missed opportunities, especially any New Year’s resolutions we set on January 1 2018! We also gather with our families or communities to reflect on the state of the world as we see it, as we do at our interfaith circle. We remind ourselves that even if they are scary, we have each other to see it through. Being an eternal optimist, I see breakdowns and challenges as opportunities for rebirth and revitalization.
Personally, I have learned not to set big New Year Resolutions, as these goals are rarely achieved and the commitment wanes in a month or two! What has worked for me is focusing on small but important habits at my own pace and at the pace that I can commit to, which in turn power my already existing goals. I have come to see end of year as a heightened time for reflection, but with compassion and generosity to oneself. As a management consultant I used to train people in avoiding the three words: I/We should have, I/We could have, I/We would have….so at the end of the year I definitely practice that!
Habits can be physical, emotional, spiritual or habits of the mind, and as we are learning they are interconnected. So, there is a rich playground for us to develop ourselves and look at each layer and interconnection one by one and say: Wow, I have developed a new habit in this realm, and look at the benefits it is giving me and others around me!
Often, we work on a physical habit, such as fitness or diet, without looking at the source that drives that bad habit, which could be emotional. So, thinking about why we (me especially) go for that 3rd Gulab jamun (a sugary Pakistani sweet), or make excuses for the gym, helps us uncover those sources or unresolved dilemmas, and power up the physical change we desire or need to make. Thankfully we are supported by an increasing health and fitness awareness all around us which gives us all a chance to manage it better. As an aspiring writer, I have learned to break down my writing goals into stages and habits that strengthen those stages. For example, a writing habit of 2 hours each day has worked to allow me to publish a blog every week (almost).
Emotional habits might have to do with managing our moods and responses in predictable situations. We respond predictably as we may have done historically in that relationship, but we can also shift that by intention. Intention is the key to success as Islam reminds us. But it has to be followed through with practice and perseverance. This is not to say it is easy, but with awareness we can work on it and improve bit by bit. It’s good to remember that our animal brain can be very powerful and overtake the enlightened brain – which evolved later as humans developed- in an instant, and of course that explains the crazy leaders and the hate environment we see around us.
Habits of mind
Habits of the mind can be about how we think, and how we monitor our internal conversation. You know the saying, in any conversation there are three conversations: the one in your own head, the one in the other person’s head, and the actual words being exchanged. If one starts to pay attention to the internal conversation in one’s head, one learns a lot about the nature of our thinking, and we can catch bad habits and develop appreciative habits. I learned that from my work in Human and Organizational Transformation, which was an integral multi-disciplinary approach that borrowed from both Eastern and Western disciplines, faiths, traditions at California Institute of Integral Studies, as well as my work at London Perret Roche Group which was a management consulting firm that applied this to corporate settings. Their byline was “Unleashing the human spirit”, and in one instant it made me throw out my IT career and start a new one in Organizational Change.
And of course, mindfulness is all the rage now, as people deal with increasing stress and information overload. I look at mindfulness as intentional presence in the moment, so each moment is fully enjoyed, like relishing every bite of a meal. As conversations become rarer due to social media distractions, we have to work really hard at hanging on to this ancient art. With my grandkids, we are all try to do a lot of reading, storytelling, arts and crafts and of course outdoor activities. E.g. yesterday we went on an impromptu hike at a State Park in Southwestern N.J. a beautiful area of rolling hills, farms and winding roads. Nature is a wonder, and good medicine for young and old alike, and it was a reminder how lucky we are to have it and benefit from it. As we sat down for an Asian dinner afterwards, and the kids went for their screens, we distracted them with a storytelling practice my daughter-in-law Amna has invented as a shield against social media, which is to share their high points of the day every day, and it worked!
Spiritual habits might have to do with how we accept our reality and circumstances, how we make meaning of our life and its purpose, and think and feel about the world around us. To me they have become fundamental and fascinating to study and reflect on. In my case, I have worked on acceptance and submission to things as they are, while continuing to be an activist for social justice and a more equitable world. Studying history also strengthens us as it reminds us of human resilience in adverse times, and that all times are transient. Whether these habits belong to a religion or not, they help us become more aware of ours and others humanity, and remind us to keep seeking the most noble in all.
Wishing you all the best on our journey together in 2019!