January 27, 2009

Experiencing life, one sense at a time

I had a conversation with some good friends the other day, and one of them mentioned an idea of the Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh. Hanh notes that most of us don't really embrace our sensory pleasures as we should, that we take them for granted (and I might possibly be citing his idea a little bit incorrectly, so if someone is more knowledgable than I am, feel free to correct me in a comment). I thought about it, and that idea resonated really well with my thoughts on single tasking, which I discussed in my recent post.

I thought about it, and I have a proposition: experience your day-to-day actions one sense at a time. It might not be practical if you're in an environment that's really busy, but when you're at home or anywhere by yourself, try it. When you're eating, close your eyes and turn off the music, TV, podcasts, whatever. When you're listening to music, close your eyes and stop eating. When you're viewing photography, stop everything else you're doing. Reduce all the other noise and stop eating. You get the point.

For me, trying this has actually amplified my sensory experiences. It has worked the same way people describe when you lose a sense (i.e. going deaf or blind), your other senses become more acute. Deactivate other sense as much as you can to really enjoy the one that you're working with, with purpose. Maybe it'll work. Just another idea to amplify that other sense we all have (I hope, at least) - the one of gratitude.

Persimmon perfection. (Just noticed how bad my haircuts usually are from this picture. Kind of grateful my most recent one didn't turn out as horribly)

Stay real,

P.S. If I'm drinking a really shit smoothie that I made or if anything I made goes bad, I'll blast the music, watch really action-packed movies, and smell everything I can. The taste practically disappears :)

January 20, 2009

Mr. President Barack Hussein Obama

I wish I were more familiar with each and every policy of Barack Hussein Obama, the 44th President of our United States. I do understand him, politically, to an extent, but I could certainly do more. Why do I love this glorious man so much if I don't even know his political views as much as I should to make an informed decision? What exactly does his message of hope even mean to me?

I'm proud to be a citizen under Barack Obama's presidency, not because I think he's going to incorporate policies that work magically to fix all our problems, but because he represents all I want to see in a citizen. Not only that, but he invigorates the people of this country to want to be him. He fills us with this love for everything that he is, and I think that's so key to his presidency. Whether or not he gets us out of Iraq, the economic crisis, or the 1,334 other pits we've dug ourselves into, he will undoubtedly inspire us to better ourselves as human beings.

Obama is the one of the few presidents we've ever had that stresses so many of the things that Americans should embrace but don't: exercise, reading & academia, loving his family, composure. Now, if we could all just take one thing away from him. We all see a bit of ourselves in him, but if we could just take a step further and really embrace his virtues to the extent that we live them ourselves, we'll improve the standard of not just the American citizen, but the global citizen.

We'll change the world.

It's important to not negate the effect of small changes. Never forget that a movement can never amount to anything if an individual doesn't put forth his one-man effort. Things add up, and that's how Obama was elected. We must never forget that. The second that happens is when we fail to act on the hope the world has worked so hard for in the last two years.

The nature of a change in our habits is also not to be forgotten. We don't need to be politically engaged to better our country. By reading more, we improve society with our knowledge. By exercising more, we improve society by encouraging healthy lifestyles and we improve ourselves by realizing the more important things in life. By loving more, we improve society by radiating our positive energy to encourage others to pursue all the things they fear.

Obama works out for 90 minutes daily. He is a bookworm beyond the beliefs of many of us. We all find ourselves too busy to incorporate these two habits into our daily schedule. If HE can find the time, can we really say that we can't? Get to work, ladies and gentleman. It's time.

Now is the moment.

Much hope,

January 17, 2009

[Vlog] Just Do It. Now.

Vlog: Just Do It. Now. from Ankit Shah on Vimeo.

- A sweet anecdote from the blood bank today
- The absurdity of words like, "soon," "later," "tomorrow," and "eventually"
- How cool is it to actually act on your word immediately, right now.
- My lack of drive but newfound influence to do volunteer work
- Another sweet anecdote about the most difficult of random acts of kindness, giving away one of someone's possessions, right now
- Nothing's guaranteed tomorrow and, thus, the importance of doing things now

January 10, 2009

Loving Yourself and Sharing

So my brother woke up and my parents came home, and I feel really weird talking to a computer screen when they're around because every time I've done it, someone has walked into the room, I've bugged out, and I've lost my train of thought because I keep thinking of being walked in on. The point is that I'm converting what would have been a vlog to a blog because I have yet to rid myself of that self-consciousness.

How often do we stop ourselves from fully sharing our thoughts, perspectives, emotions, or ideas? How often do we shy from wearing our hearts on our sleeves? How often do we think that doing just that would be a bad thing?

I think it's really important to share yourself with the people around you. It's more important to talk about the way you see it (whatever "it" may be) instead of other people, instead of absurd drama and gossip and other negative-energy radiating topics you don't really need to involve yourself in. Most of us are too scared of judgment because we continually think that our thoughts aren't mainstream enough or that they aren't good enough. It's crucial to (1) forgive yourself for whatever negative energy you've drawn to yourself by thinking that you're not good enough to overcome judgment and (2) love yourself.

Some may call it narcissistic, but I can't love anyone truly until I love myself, and right now, I love myself. You know what that allows me to do? It allows me to share myself with all of you, knowing some of you won't like what I have to say, some of you will love it, and some of you will not really care, but no matter what, I'll still be perfectly content with my state at the moment. Of course, I always aim to improve in one way or another, but that comes with great satisfaction with how I roll at the moment. That might not make much sense unless you actually experience what I'm talking about, but hopefully you can relate to it on some level.

With that love for thyself, you can understand a important concept -- that you are not your emotions. You don't identify with your ideas, perspectives, or thoughts. All of those things are temporary, impermanent. Upon that understanding, we can all truly grasp the fact that we should share these things, further confirming their impermanent nature. I think sharing is the easiest way to let things go/detach from them and also open others' eyes to new things. Who you are is not the way you feel -- your emotions, ideas, beliefs, whatever -- at the time. Those things just are what you're most present to at the given moment. Once you love who you are, generally, you can understand that all that other stuff is temporary. Share it, let someone else gain from it as you grow from it and become something better than what you once were, and love every moment of it. But don't, for a second, believe that you aren't good enough, that you are subject to judgment and should therefore not share. The moment that you believe any of that is when progress comes to a halt.

Love you (and myself),

Related links:

January 9, 2009

[Vlog] Single Tasking

Vlog: Single Tasking from Ankit Shah on Vimeo.

I don't know why I'm smiling so much, but enjoy!


  • That the ultimate goal is actually being truly happy
  • Single tasking and immersing yourself in what you're doing at the moment
  • Coming to a realization that multitasking doesn't exist. You can only do one thing at a time. "Multitasking" is an illusion of doing multiple things at a time; it is really half-assing everything you're doing by doing each for several moments.
  • That there's no need to plan out your schedule and set blocks of time for your plans; you only need to do what you're doing, and just that.
Love you,

Related Links:

January 8, 2009

Mental Burdens

Instead of wishing you all a happy new year, I wish you a good new day. It's really important to view each day as a turning point, for it is one. I'm sure we've all heard it several times by now -- that there's no reason to wait for January 1st to formulate your intentions and act upon them, but it really is nice to see that we still have some hope, that January 1st provides a stimulus for some of us. Eventually, however, I think it's important to trust in each new day's promise -- that it is what it is, a new day.

With that, I will briefly (seriously, I'm on a time limit here) talk about what I have been thinking about incessantly for the last few weeks. Now that I'm in college (oh yeah, I never mentioned that on the blog - I'll be at the Wharton School @ UPenn from 2009 - 2013 :), I have had a lot of time to really focus on myself, my living (as opposed to my mere existence), and I have tried thinking of what I could do to ensure that if I died any day, I would be totally at peace. This thought-process has recently been even more fired up as a result of reading Tuesdays With Morrie in my Philosophy class (great read if you haven't checked it out already; it's by Mitch Albom).

Now, I have always thought that I would be perfectly fine with dying at any moment in the last few months, but I really thought about it over my winter vacation, and I realized that I would not be. A few things have been holding me back from that peace, and part of my new intention with this blog is to resolve that peace. My character flaws are something I rarely acknowledge -- if I do talk about them, it is only how I used to make a certain mistake but now it's all cleared up. I really do think that part of resolving character flaws -- which could be a factor in being at greater peace with oneself and could very easily release mental burdens that one may have -- is acknowledging those flaws, not just to yourself, but to the people around you.

I am terribly arrogant. When I do receive honest flattery, I let it get to my head. That flattery allows me to think that a lot of my ideas and perspectives are "right," whatever that means. Then, I started reading the works of many people who have done much more than I have (which, really, is nothing. I just like to think I'm important), and I have realized that my arrogance, my inability to lay my feet flat on the ground and realize that I am but one of 6,600,000,000 people on this planet. This leads me to part of my intention for the rest of my life -- to acknowledge myself truthfully rather than simply the thoughts I consider to be more morally correct.

I just started reading Gandhi's autobiography today, and something he said in the first ten pages hit me hard:

I have gone through deep self-introspection, searched myself through and through, and examined and analysed every psychological situation. Yet I am far from claiming any finality or infallibility about my conclusions. One claim I do indeed make and it is this. For me they appear to be absolutely correct, and seem for the time being to be final. For if they were not, I should base no action on them.
Gandhi, a man who spent his entire life trying to step forward, trying to reach the ultimate goal, for him, of salvation, is so humble as to say that what he does may not be right. I, by no means, am saying that I am anywhere near him in moral standing, but I do think there's something to be learned from him, and that is that nothing is correct, nothing is final, and our perspective is always subject to change. I'm sure if you compared what I've written or spoken about in the last two months, it would be very different from a year ago. What I write about or share is what is most present to me at the moment, and because of that, it is always subject to change. Nothing is final.

Before ending the post before I go on for hours, I'll note a coming trend. Because my perspective always changes, and because this blog is, in strong part, for myself and my own experiments with life, I will be posting more frequently about what I'm thinking on an (almost) daily basis. I find that my thoughts are always shifting from one perspective to another, and I think it would be interesting to note a contrast in the lenses I view life through by posting on a more frequent basis rather than writing everything in a little black book that never really goes into much detail.

With that, I will take off. Enjoy your day, every day.

Stay real,