Sunday, 20 October 2013

In stillness...

How many of us are comfortable with stillness? We tend to surround ourselves with voices, sounds, people, laughter…seeking comfort and a reason for living in them. While they all play a part in shaping, developing and providing meaning in our lives, do we ever take the time to quieten down and be still?

‘Stress management’, ‘Slowing down’ are all jargons that have somehow become words that are bandied about by all and sundry. These words conjure up visions of idyllic holiday spots and activities that are again filled to the brim with…well, voices, sounds, people, laughter. So what’s different? The stresses and anxieties get waylaid for a while, providing a temporary relief to many; only to raise their heads at the next opportunity.

Are you comfortable with stillness? In stillness…I find what I want to find. It could be love, comfort, God, the Spirit, relief, joy, sounds or music. The words from William Wordsworth’s famous poem, ‘The solitary reaper’, come to mind:
“I listened, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.”

What strikes me here is the idea of listening to stillness, and carrying away its music in the heart.

  • In stillness, my world slows down and the mind pays attention to the soul within. 
  • In stillness, I listen to my body and become aware of subtle nuances that I would otherwise miss. 
  • In stillness, I become aware of my breath and how my whole being rests on that simple pattern of inhalation and exhalation. 
  • In stillness, I realise that all that matters is internal, not external; that all I need is within, not without. I realise that all that is without can only add to the experience from within. 
  • In stillness, I experience that my core is within. 
  • In stillness, comes a sense of oneness with the divinity or the spirit within, a peace, a communion with the self. 
  • In stillness, I experience the motion within.
With stillness, come purity, refined thoughts and words that don’t matter. The words of the song ‘Hallelujah’ by Leonard Cohen are very apt:

“There’s a blaze of light in every word
It doesn’t matter what you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah”

With stillness comes awareness of myself as a whole. An awareness, that starts the process of transformation from within.
With stillness, comes a sense of equanimity, inside and out.

So take time to be still, and listen to the voices from within. Take time to be still, and listen to the music within. Take time to be still, and listen to the secrets of the silence within. Take time to be still, and be attentive to what is going on within. Take time to be still, and become aware of the movements within. Take time to be still and harness your strengths from within.
Take time to be still...and just be...


Still voices, trills of laughter abound
Relationships which matter, people around
Company a keeping, yet chasms surround
The deep within - the unknown yonder.

Together, yet alone; deep yearnings galore
Ideals of relationships, fostered through years
Desires of complete union, nurtured within
Unbaked clay, never to see the potter’s kiln.

Union and separateness: two halves to a whole
Calm winds and raging tempests, the eye of the storm
Separateness experienced in the wholeness of union
Yet true union savoured by chosen few in the world.

Can there be separateness, when union is incomplete?
Or complete union when separateness is severed?
The self floats around, finding comfort in neither
Till courage stands still and lets go of either.

Letting go of desires, cravings within
Self with self, Union from deep within
The known with the unknown, shadow plays with light

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Perceptions of relationships

What would be your answer if somebody were to ask you – how is the quality of your relationship with people who matter to you? I’m sure there would be a gamut of adjectives and phrases to describe the relationships that matter to us - particularly in relation to our parents. 

It never ceases to amaze me how we sometimes hold our parents responsible for practically all of our problems.  We go through most of our life holding on to grievances, unhappiness and so called ‘negative’ feelings, little realising how they affect present relationships in subtle ways.

How many of us have ever paused to consider that maybe the relationship or other person in the relationship is not at fault – maybe it’s just our perception? And once we re-wire our perception, the relationship changes. The past events then no longer have a hold on us the way they have been.

Have you ever tried to understand feelings from the other’s perceptual position? I urge you to try it out.  Remember the relationship or event that you feel most affects you. Consider the significant persons in that relationship/event. Step into the perceptual position of the other person(s) and re-look at the situation from their point of view. Start a dialogue if required, to better understand the positive intention behind their actions and behaviour. Does that enable you to understand their behaviour/ response patterns better? Does that change your perception of the event? Does it in any way change the feelings you have developed towards the other person? If done with genuine intent, you will experience a sea change of changing perceptions.

Changing our perceptions will enable us realise that we choose to understand, perceive and experience situations and interactions with others in a way that makes sense to us at the time. It’s not necessarily what the other person felt or intended to communicate. When we re-wire those perceptions, we feel a sense of liberation from past held limiting beliefs.  And we begin to understand that it was not the person and/or relationships that were are ‘fault’ – it was just our perception of that person and/or relationship.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Retail selling: Three things that elevate a buying experience to the extraordinary

Over the last one week, I have had occasion to observe three wonderful and unique salespersons in action; each selling a different product and each ensuring that the buying experience was extra ordinary. I have been immensely impressed with each of them. As the products were being sold to the person I was with, I had the unique opportunity to completely observe and imbibe their selling strategies. If I were to analyse each of these three experiences, three lessons have been driven home to me.

1.  Story telling as a way of customer engagement:
The first pit stop - A branded store renowned for its premium and luxury writing pens.
The requirement - A fountain pen
I almost gave this store a miss, and was egged into the store by my companion. I cry myself hoarse in retail training sessions that story telling is a means of capturing the customer’s interest. I saw it in action and made me a firm believer. Little known stories of brands that I can scarce pronounce, let alone afford. However it got me interested enough to take a tour of the store for myself. The best part: the stories of the luxury/ premium brands did not stop when it was clear that our intention to purchase stopped with pens of very nominal value i.e. nominal for the store, not for us. 
Do those stories have drawing power to take me back to the store? Definitely yes. This master story teller cast a sensory spell around the experience of something as mundane as purchasing a writing pen, elevating the buying experience to a few notches above the ordinary to the extra ordinary.

2. Patience:

The second pit stop - a regular footwear store
The requirement - A pair of formal shoes
Having been disillusioned by the choices available and the salespersons in some of the branded stores offering formal shoes, we decided to take a chance in this store. What we received was painstaking patience on the part of the salesperson. Pair after pair of shoes brought out to try on, till the right comfort, fit and looks were obtained. He never gave up in the face of the customer’s exacting requirements. Always offering more choices, even if it meant getting them from the backroom. Only to be rewarded by the smile of a satisfied customer who has finally got the product of his desires. 
Would I return to the store? A resounding yes: I felt a valued customer.

3. Understanding customer needs & communicating product benefits to suit the needs:

The third pit stop – a leading branded sports footwear store  
The requirement - A pair of running/ walking shoes
This master salesperson sold us a pair of premium running shoes, at a price which was double of what we had in mind. How did he do this? 
  • First he understood the customer’s requirements for the shoe. Then he offered a vast range of choices: about 5-6 at least.
  • Secondly, he took just one shoe design, explained 3 unique features and their benefits. He linked these benefits to the customer’s requirement for the shoe.T
  • Thirdly, he never downgraded any of the other shoe designs. Only pointed out different benefits of each, ultimately ending in how this particular shoe design is so unique and so suited to the customer.

Needless to say, we were sold. Never mind that we had just exceeded our budgeted price by double. 
Would I want to return to this store? Yes, since I know that the salesperson is confident and knowledge about his products and is not selling for selling sake, he is selling what the customer needs.

Three different stores, three different salesperson, three different learning’s to take home. Each with the potential to elevate a regular purchase to the level of an extraordinary sensory experience for the customer.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Rapport in teams

Rapport in teams, lead to:
Relationships that are:  in Agreement, Purposeful, Present-full, Optimistic, Restful and Trustworthy.

Relationships: Rapport leads to relationships being built – with self, individuals in the team, the group as a whole; as opposed to an individualistic approach. Relationships imply an on-going process. Therefore rapport is an on-going process. It needs nurturing every moment, every day. There is no such thing as a ‘set’ rapport. It’s ever evolving; dynamic, never static.
Agreement: When there is rapport in relationships, it implies agreement. Agreements do not necessarily mean that all have the same view. It implies an agreement to empathise with the other’s viewpoint. It could be an agreement to put aside the ‘self’ for a moment and set about respecting diverging and differing views. 
Purposeful: Rapport in teams lead to purposeful relationships. A common destination; working towards leading to better attainment of goals. Communications which are clear; have resonance of sound bites and a sense of purpose for the team.
Present-full: Any team that has its pillars on past accolades/ relationships, or a zoom focus on future glory or goals to the exclusion of all else, will collapse. Acknowledge the past, work towards the future with clear set goals, and stay in the present. All relationships are based in the ‘now’. Past-sightedness and an over-zealous focus on future are pleasurable past-times for many, missing out on the ‘real’ experiences of the present. Relationships are built in the present leading to rapport in an on-going way.
Optimistic: Rapport in teams result in relationships that are optimistic: Of attainment of team and individual goals; Optimistic of opportunities, being able to work through individual and team differences; Optimistic of an alignment of self-identity with team and organisation identities.
Restful: Relationships that have rapport are restful. Rapport leads to fewer conflicts as it would lead to a willingness to go beyond the obvious in perceived conflicts to get to a deeper understanding of positive intentions. Needless to say, restful relationships lead to happy individuals and enables individual as well as team performance.
Trustworthy: Rapport in teams lead to relationships that have its foundations on trust. This enables an opening up of the ‘self’ in team interactions, without fear of exposing vulnerabilities. Trust enables people to perceive ‘sameness’ among individuals in a team leading to invisible and pleasurable ties that bind the team together.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Getting in sync with myself

As I was wondering over the last few days about what should be the topic of my next blog post, my mind wandered and flitted from topic to topic like a hovering butterfly. However, no words magically came to mind. Is this what’s called ‘writer’s block’, I wondered? Finally, I closed my eyes and asked my inner self to guide me. The answer I got was to get in sync with myself. What I have understood of myself the past year is that no words flow from mind to pen to paper, or in this case: from mind to keyboard to MS word, unless I tap into the deep well within me.   
A deep well within? Call it what you may – a deep well of still waters, an oasis of calmness,  the sounds of pin drop silence. Each of us may have experienced it at some point in our lives. And those of you who haven’t – try it, it’ll change your life forever.

So how do I get to this deep well within me? Two words – Just be. I don't have to 'do' anything. Its there for the taking, if I am still enough.

How do I know that I am there? Simple – it becomes a moment in time when everything fades away, leaving me aware of the silence within and the sounds without. It is that moment in time when I become empty of feelings within and become aware of feelings around.  It is that moment in time when the cacophony of voices in my head stop and the thoughts of my mind-maps become blank, leaving empty spaces for different words and mind-maps of situations around me.

And what happens when I get there – to this place within me? I become so tuned into myself that I get a sense of the immense resources that are available within me. It empowers me to be myself in a way that I want to be. I GET IN SYNC WITH MYSELF. I have seen this happen at close quarters recently, with a terminally ill patient – who would regularly go within, to tap into hidden powerful resources that helped her cope with immense pain without morphine. I marveled at it then, and I marvel at it now. And I marvel at the fact that this experience is within reach of all – if only we are 'still' enough.

What happens when I get in sync with myself? I find that I am at peace – with myself and with the world around me.  I find that I have choices to behave in a way that I choose to and not because I was constrained to by situations/ persons outside my control (much as my mind would love to apportion blame elsewhere). Having choices give me flexibility of behaviour and I assume responsibility of my actions.There comes an alignment of who I am, my behaviour and what I do. I find empowerment of self – body and spirit, and in that empowerment comes a sense of oneness and a divine alignment.  A communion with the Spirit...
Here's to a happy syncing of mind, body and spirit.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Who am I?

A recent conversation brought this question to mind – Who am I? While this question may have been directed ‘at’ you many a time, I am curious to know how many of us ask this question 'of' ourselves.
Each of us would have our own unique ways of explaining who we are… A wife, husband, brother, sister, daughter, son, father, mother, a name that we are known by, a friend, a boss, a co-worker, a profession that we relate to…the list is endless. We often define ourselves by the relationships we have with others. In this highly competitive world, we quite often also define ourselves by our chosen career, our profession.

Many of us, including myself, often fail to realise that these are all labels that we give ourselves.  And these labels sometimes become so much an integral part of us that they tend to encompass and take over our very being. We get so steeped within the framework of the label that it begins to define us - who we are, what we do and often becomes the sole reason for our very existence. The labels we give ourselves become us – our identity. We limit ourselves to the labels we assign ourselves. The very fact that we could be something more than the parameters that we set for ourselves through these very labels, seems anathema to us.

Often this identification of self with something/ someone/a relationship tends to throw up disquiet. We tend to see-saw between two apparently opposing ends of a spectrum – two polarities. This throws up such confusion that when we are at one end of the continuum, we feel disquietude and wish to move to the opposite end, neither quite offering the solace the self needs.    

The loss or even the threat of loss of the label attached to our ‘identity’ oftentimes tends to throw us into total incomprehension and chaos. If a label is taken away, we very often wouldn't know what to do. Take a moment to introspect – if you identify yourself with your profession/ job/ designation and that were taken away, how would you feel (keeping financial implications aside)? If you identify yourself with your role as a parent, sibling, child and that were taken away, what would it do to you? Phew, are we venturing into uncharted waters now? Scary isn't it?   

Now take a deep breath, a moment to pause… and ask this question: ‘When I define myself the way I currently define myself, what part of me does that definition leave out?” Can it be that in attaching my identity to a particular label(s) there are parts of me that are glossed over? Keep doing this, going deeper and deeper each time, till you get a sense of how much of you is glossed over by the label(s) you assign to your identity. Now the crux: Ask yourself “what would happen if I did not attach my identity to those labels?” You’d be surprised at the answer your unconscious throws up. A greater awareness of the labels we take on as our identity, is a good place to begin.

Who am I? What if I am just a being, having the myriad ‘labels’ that I profess to love so much simply floating around me, as if in a formless space. Then I could pick up and put on any of them at will, for a time and particular season. What if I identify myself with none of the labels – free to take on different avatars at different times? What if in doing so I could just be myself? And in just being myself, opposing labels of a continuum could be in equanimity? Do I have to attach myself to a label? Who am I? Nothing…