Shy away: making new friends

Written by Suraj Shah.

After the loss of a loved one, do you find it hard to make new friends?

Recently I have been offering bereavement support to an elderly woman who, after losing her husband, was sad to also lose her social life.

This is a woman who grew up as a shy girl in a large family where she did not need to make new friends. She had moved half-way across the world when she married and the only friends she had since then were her husband’s male friends and their wives.

When her husband died, suddenly the dinner parties stopped, those friends no longer visited her, and with her family living too far away she became very lonely at home. Put off by insincere people and scared about people’s motives, she became reluctant to make new friends.

This woman asked me what she could do to make new friends.

From shy to sociable

When I was young, I too was incredibly shy. So much so that I even bought a book on “How to start a conversation and make friends”. I was so embarrassed about it that I hid the book in my bedroom cupboard to hide my shame.

Then at the age of 16 something changed. It all started with a smile.

I was waiting for a bus to school, like I had been that whole term, when an attractive woman in her mid-20s approached the bus stop. Even though I had noticed her earlier that week, I did something different that day. Rather than dodging eye contact and staring at the pavement, I looked straight into her eyes and said “hi!” with a smile. She smiled and said “hi” back.

That day, my life transformed. I lost my shyness and started initiating fun and playful conversations, some of which turned into warm long-term friendships.

Now I can confidently pick up the randomest conversations with the randomest of people in the randomest of places. My wife sometimes has to give me a stern look so that I remember to pay her more attention than I do to those around us!

Tips for overcoming shyness and initiating conversations

Starting a conversation is easier than you may think. Try some of these out and let me know how you get on:

  • Smile: Clearly it worked for me when I was 16. A geninue smile is incredibly powerful. It gives off a feeling of warmth and friendliness to another person and helps to spark an initial connection.
  • Where to make new friends: Hang out at places where you are likely to find others with similar interests: specialist bookshops; cafes; museums; galleries; parks. Chances are, you may just find someone to talk to in the train or at a bus stop.
  • Use the props: Look at what they are carrying — a musical instrument, a book you recognise, interesting jewellery or footwear. Comment on it.
  • Listen: Listen deeply to what they are saying and relay back a few things that you pick up from their words to check you’ve understood correctly. Once you’ve done that, add something from your own perspective.
  • There is always something to contribute: You do have something valuable to say and can positively contribute to any conversation.  Always remember that.
  • Appreciate their qualities: If you have observed something about them that you admire, grow that feeling in your heart, remembering that you would only notice it in someone else if you had it (even on a small level at first) within yourself.
  • Not everyone wants to talk: Some people would prefer not to get into a conversation – usually out of fear about talking to strangers or their own discomfort, and they are very happy just with themselves. That’s ok – let them be and move on.

Once you start to initiate conversations and make new friends, you’ll quickly see how fun and simple it is to do.  Enjoy the process and learn more about yourself through new people you meet.

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Gain from loss

Written by Suraj Shah. Inspired by greatness.

What do you gain when you have lost?

A man in his early-50s was sitting in the pub talking with his friends over a drink. One friend asked him how he felt now that his daughter had married and left home.

The man’s face lit up with a broad smile and proclaimed:

“I may have lost a daughter, but I’ve gained a bathroom!”

When we lose something that is very dear to us, it may feel natural to wallow in the sadness of that loss. But shifting our perspective to what we have gained from that loss may be all it takes to feel great.

The inevitability of loss

Over the years, things come into our life, and they vanish. People enter our life and they move on. Situations arise in life, and they cease. All this is natural.

Yet, when something or someone we hold dearly is no longer around, we are filled with a whole set of emotions ranging from bursts of anger, to teary sadness, through to relief.

  • Losing a job may raise worries about how you will be able to afford to pay the bills.
  • Losing a car as a result of an accident may take you longer to commute each day without the car.
  • Losing an argument may make you angry and bitter.
  • Losing a husband or wife may make you feel lonely and find it hard to take care of day-to-day tasks.
  • Losing a child who goes off to university may make the house feel empty and far too quiet.

So what is there to gain from any particular type of loss?

Gaining from loss

It is not often easy to see at first what can be gained from a loss of some sort, but is certainly worth exploring.

  • When you lose a job, perhaps you have the opportunity to explore an alternative career path.
  • When you lose your car, perhaps you discover a love for walking everywhere.
  • When you lose an argument, perhaps you develop the art of humility and care towards others.
  • When you lose a child who goes off to university, perhaps you delve into a new hobby that enriches your life.
  • When you lose a loved one, perhaps you gain independence and have the opportunity to develop self-sufficiency.

It is often said that when one door closes, another one opens. What door is opening for you at a time of loss?

Gaining the ultimate from any kind of loss

Beyond what you think you may gain from a loss, there is one thing you gain that is certain. The loss keeps reinforcing within you the reality that all things, whether good or bad, must come to an end.

By knowing this at the onset of any activity you undertake, or before welcoming any person into your life, it makes the separation that much easier at the time when they naturally have to go.

This is the art of detachment, something that you can cultivate through the various losses that you naturally go through in life.

But you needn’t wait till a significant loss to develop detachment. Through daily contemplation and introspection, it is possible to let go, even before something has arrived in your life.

As a result of detachment from desires and aversions, turbulence in life settles down.  As detachment increases, each day feels calmer and calmer.

What do you get to gain when you have lost? Share your thoughts on what you gain from loss at Google+

Last day living

Written by Suraj Shah, inspired by the enlightened.

How would you live if this day was your last?

For the past few days I’ve been living just like that and I’m loving it. I feel great, relationships are so much fuller, and the most ordinary of tasks are intensely engaging.

Our mundane lives and routines

So many days we waste and so much time we throw away living our mundane lives.

Our days are fixed with routine, jam-packed with activities, loaded with reality-numbing habits of too much food and far too much TV.

We indulge in regrets of the past and we scheme plans for the future – but what about the right here, right now?

Our days tend to be spent getting jolted out of bed, sleepily getting ready, commuting to the office, working just enough to stay out of trouble, commuting back home, sitting in front of the TV all evening while inhaling down masses of food, and then drifting off to sleep. Weekends are almost the same, perhaps minus the work part.

We’re constantly wired on the net and on our phones, trying to keep up with our ‘friends’. Yet we know, deep down, that it is all a distraction — a way to shelter us from facing up to our mundane lives.

So what’s the alternative?

Throw away the TV, switch off the net, sell your house and all your possessions, leave your spouse and kids, drop all duties and go spend a few dozen months in some ashram in Rishikesh?

No, that’s not the answer.

Duty comes first. Matters of the home and the family take priority.

Why duty takes priority

We are bound by the karma of our past actions. This bound karma comes to fruition as situations and relationships in our day-to-day experience.

Everything we perceive and experience is down to karma we have previously bound. There is no getting away from it. All we can do is face up to the situations that arise, calmly, patiently, lovingly. That calm response contributes to more fruitful future situations.

So how do we have a great time, regardless of the situations that we find ourselves in?

Joy within a duty-bound life

In amongst the seemingly ordinary family life, there is a way to love and enjoy every single moment of it.

When you wake up, realise that this day is your last — and live accordingly.

So does that mean drop everything, indulge in all kinds of sensual pleasures, and say “to hell with the consequences”?

Well, it didn’t work that way for me.

In fact, when I thought that this day may be my very last, I thought less about all the things that I would want to see and achieve and do.

Instead, I had a strong yearning for seeing what came up, who called for my attention, and I put my focus on that.

And something magical happened. My thoughts, attention and love honed in on that person, that situation, that event.

It was an unusually gorgeous sunny day in London, so I prepared three delicious vegan meals to enjoy in the garden with my wife.

The next day, the fridge was almost bare (after all the homecooked meals!) so I went grocery shopping. After a long day at the office, I was hungry and tired, but found myself playfully attending to the usually mundane task of shopping.

Throughout the day in the office, I was flooded with inbound emails and requests for support — but worked through them one by one, enjoying collaborating and troubleshooting with my colleague. The work day flew by and I loved every minute of it.

During the drive home from work there were patches of traffic, but I turned the radio up (I usually drive in silence) and cruised through enjoying the journey home.

Last day living

When you spend each day living as though it’s your last:

  • you willl prepare your meals lovingly, and then slowly enjoy the feast.
  • you will gladly wash the dishes after dinner and enjoy a clean kitchen sink.
  • everyday routines will feel brand new each time.
  • work, nomatter how boring you thought it was, will become fulfilling.
  • home life will transform into a warm energy-filled environment.
  • day-to-day tasks such as grocery shopping will become joyful.
  • your relationships, all of them, from the most intimate through to casual interactions with colleagues, will feel effortless.

Are you prepared to live today as though it’s your last?

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