We all have our favorite hobbies, activities, and habits that we gravitate to either consciously or unconsciously. These can be the little things, it can be the big things, and in some instances, it can be an innate talent. Most often, what we choose to like, or dislike is a result of two cultural influences – enculturation and acculturation (Google/www.publichealthnotes.com). Enculturation is the familial culture such as religion, traditions and norms that are passed down to us through generations – our heritage. The second aspect is acculturation, these are the practices and customs that we adopt through interaction with other cultures.

While pondering over some of the hobbies, activities and habits I gravitate to, I decided to make a list and call them “Few of my Favorite Things”. These are the small things and the big things that are part of my life that energize me, give me pleasure, enrich my life and bring positivity into my daily routine. This collection of interests is essentially a by-product of the two cultural influences. For example, my love for Indian traditions, ethnic clothes, food, music, and family connections are part of enculturation, the elements of my native culture that were instilled in me from childhood. And my preference for western fashion, cuisines, music, movies, travel and arts are an outcome of acculturation, passions and likings that I embraced after I immigrated to the US through my assimilation into the American lifestyle.

This exercise of formulating a list (in no particular order) was cathartic and enlightening as it not only made me realize why some of these items are “Few of My Favorite Things”, but also solidified where I want to focus my energies and which behaviors to reinforce. I hope after going through this blog, you are inspired to create your own list and deduce why some of your interests and passions give you pleasure and motivate you.

  • Lighting the Diya (oil lamp): There is a practice among Hindus to light an oil lamp for God in the mornings or evenings, followed by prayers. Diya represents knowledge and wisdom, and lighting the lamp is symbolic, it is bowing down to the high power. Similar practices are observed by the Christian faith, people light a candle in church to bring light to their wishes and desires or as a simple gesture to honor God. Every major holiday in Judaism begins with lighting candles for a variety of purposes, each holding a special sentiment. For me, lighting the Diya has special relevance, the light sheds positivity in our thinking, takes us from darkness to enlightenment and from despair to hope.
  • Making the Bed: I have followed the practice of making my bed meticulously all my life. This is something I have done automatically as a force of habit. Few years ago, Admiral McRaven, a Navy Seal and the author of “Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Make Your Life…And Maybe The World”, gave a presentation in our company at a Leadership forum and talked about how making your bed every morning can have a positive impact on your wellbeing and behavior throughout the day. His talk resonated with me, especially when he explained the motivation behind the action. Though simplistic, the message is profound, starting your day right and paying attention to the smallest detail goes a long way. I like structure around me and this practice of making the bed every morning, sets the right tone for the day. Following through on a task however miniscule and insignificant with refinement, paves the way for bigger, more significant endeavors.
  • Chilling: Weekday mornings are always rushed getting ready for work, so lounging on the sofa with my cup of tea and chatting with my Mom or one of my siblings is a weekend morning ritual that I absolutely cherish. My family lives overseas but one Whatsapp call bridges that distance in seconds. I treasure these moments and look forward to them as it breaks the banal weekday routine. Instead, I get to enjoy the easy flow of conversation, the silly laughs, shared memories, and exchange of ideas and thoughts. These spontaneous heart-to heart with loved ones are most relaxing and heartwarming.
  • Cooking: Cooking is a skill I picked up very early on in life. As the youngest of five children, I would follow my Mom everywhere and while she cooked I would be at her side watching, taking it all in like a sponge. This is how my culinary training began and now my kitchen is a delightful blend of many ethnic and fusion preparations and creations. Cooking is an expression of love and affection, an act that conveys you value and care about the people you cook for. Interestingly, I never taught my son how to cook, and he claims that he too acquired the skill by watching me. Case in point – actions speak louder than words and learning through observation is the best natural teacher.
  • Exercising: It is a well-established fact that physical activity is key for maintaining our health. It comes effortlessly for some, while others struggle to stay active either due to a pre-disposition or underlying health issues. Although working out is hard and we all have to fight the occasional inertia, I am definitely fortunate because being energetic is an integral part of my personality. There is nothing more invigorating than the feeling of the adrenaline rush after a kick boxing, spinning or HIIT class. I recognize that having the ability and inclination to exercise is a blessing that I am grateful for.
  • Listening to Music: Music is divine, it has this ethereal quality about it as it brings people together and connects us as one. Each of us have our own personal relationship with music, and we all have those goosebump moments when we hear that certain special song. Growing up in India, I was exposed to both eastern and western music, but I attribute my love for guitar and rock music to my son. He coached me to differentiate between the electric, bass and acoustic sounds, listening to the overlapping guitar parts when multiple guitars are used in the same song, to focus on the transitions, and appreciate the dexterity and precision needed to play a guitar solo. What I immensely love and look forward to is listening to him play the guitar in the basement while I am upstairs carrying on with my daily activities. The sounds of the guitar reverberating through the house is magical, universe’s way of saying that all is right in the world.
  • Writing: I developed a keen interest in writing articles and blogs recently, in the last year or so. This new venture has proven to be a journey in self-discovery. It has provided me with an opportunity to introspect, think objectively and deeply about a topic, question my own beliefs and convictions, and work on effectively conveying a message that is meaningful and relevant. Although this desire for self-expression can be uniquely satisfying, writing is a risky proposition. It is subjective and opens up many doors for criticism, a chance one must be willing to take. Reminds me of Aristotle’s quote: “There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing and be nothing”.
  • Reading: I read somewhere that “a word can change your thinking; a sentence can change your life; and a book can change the world”. Thanks to my mother who is an author and a voracious reader, she influenced us with her deep passion for reading and writing. As a young girl and as an adult, the premise why I enjoy reading is the same – the sense of getting lost in a book, gripped by the storyline, beautifully written prose, reflecting on the complexities of human nature, and most importantly using my imagination to picturize the scenes and characters. Reading Enid Blyton books as a young girl, to reading ‘Gone with the Wind’ and ‘War and Peace’ in high school, to Bernard Shaw’s plays in college, and now re-reading Ernest Hemingway’s ‘A Farewell to Arms’ through fresh eyes, are some examples of literature that strongly shaped my thinking, perspective and imagination. Whoever said “a book is a gift that you can open again and again” hit the nail on the head.
  • Painting: I got introduced to the world of painting during high school when I enrolled myself in an Arts School close to my house just as a fun pass time. My world view changed drastically after I got introduced to the works of some of the greatest old master artists like Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Raphael, Picasso, and many more. A senior artist in our school made a sculptor of ‘Pieta’ out of Plaster of Paris, and it was the most exquisite piece of art I had ever seen. Ironically, few years later while on a European vacation with my husband, I got to witness first-hand the works of these great artists. Michelangelo’s magnificent sculptures such as David, Bacchus, Pieta, and the paintings in the Sistine Chapel, were a treat for the eyes and the soul. I have been dabbling in some acrylics and sketching recently, and although I don’t paint as often, as it can be quite time consuming, my appreciation and love for art never dwindled and it has been a constant source of inspiration and joy in my life.
  • Traveling: One of Dalai Lama’s popular rules for living a complete and meaningful life is, “Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.” Similar to reading, traveling to new places opens up our outlook and changes how we view others and the world. And sometimes the unexpected moments touch our hearts and leave an everlasting imprint on our minds. Our visit to Alaska was one such experience. Denali National Park and Mount Mckinley (aka Denali) completely took my breath away by its vastness, untouched beauty and bareness. I had just finished reading the book “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer (highly recommended), a true story about the young man from Virginia who traveled to Alaska and then later perished in the wilderness. Somehow reading the book and then being physically present in the midst of that same wilderness had a culminating effect on my emotions and senses. When traveling to Peru, Machu Pichu was the biggest attraction but the stay in the Amazon Jungle, the Floating Islands on Lake Titicaca, the hospitality of the Peruvians and the brilliant cuisine are some of the best memories that stay with me from that trip. Likewise, visiting Egypt and seeing the grandeur of the 5000 years old ancient temples with hieroglyphic engravings, and the magnificent Pyramids surpass every imagination and expectation. It’s these emotional connections, absorbing nature’s beauty, the bucolic landscapes, or marveling at the greatest manmade creations, make traveling so fascinating.

Working: I am listing Working separately as I am not totally convinced if it can be categorized as someone’s Favorite Thing because of the complex, love-hate relationship we have with our jobs and careers. It is a monstrous part of our lives taking immense space – mentally, physically and emotionally. For most, work is a duty and a necessity, and for a selective few, it is their grand passion – the center of their universe. Working although a livelihood for me, is also a big source of fulfillment for three main reasons. It gives me a purpose when I wake up every morning, the feeling of pride when recognized for my achievements and hard work, and most importantly, for making a contribution to the world. Through our lifework, we all give back to the society either directly or indirectly. In my case, working in the Telecommunications sector, providing Mobility services such as LTE and 5G that transform the lives of millions of people and businesses is my contribution, and to me that is exciting and gratifying.

This brings me to the end of my list. I am eager to hear about your Favorite Things that excite you and bring rigor to your life. Incidentally, while going through this exercise, I realized some areas that are hugely lacking in my life that I need to explore and prioritize. So, as we steer through life and keep up with our ongoing pursuit of happiness by indulging in our Favorite Things, and simultaneously seeking new enriching experiences, I leave you with this Sanskrit prayer that I find very powerful for its spiritual meaning:

asato ma sadgamaya
From falsehood lead me to truth
tamaso ma jyotirgamaya
From darkness lead me to light
mrtyorma amrtam gamaya
From death lead me to immortality
om shanti shanti shanti.
Om Peace, Peace, Peace