Techie in translation – Vipassana – breath + sensations are the gateway to true happiness

This is a change from the usual posts put up here but having been asked about my 10 days of “silence” I thought i may just be easier to do a quick write up.

As 2012 comes to a wrap – one thing that I would have said if you asked me 3 weeks ago is that – its been a helluva year – quite a roller coaster; but that’s good material for another post; what’s more important is now I’d say the year has ended with a sense of calming and an element of serenity that I have probably never been accustomed to.

Some of you may know (others may not) but I finally stepped down from operational duties at nivio in October to work on our next adventure (shout out to Saurabh, Jiten, Nick and AC from theTokyoProject) and having sprinted for the last 15 years I suddenly found myself having time that I never had before (3 months off) – it was simply surreal and scary all at once. Thanks to Rishika and Laura I got given the idea of trying meditation – something I probably would never have had the inclination for before – I probably intellectualised so much of what the Vipassana stands for that I stood at a cross roads of thinking I understood it… sadly I didn’t!

Things to keep in mind…

  • Mind and Matter
    • One of the most important principals behind the vipassana is that it teaches you that mind and matter are connected – each one of our 6 sense doors (thought + 5 senses) is linked to a sensation in our body – subtle or feeble. This is critical to understand.
  • Misery
    • Our misery is created through three things – craving, clinging and aversion – this is critical to know – as every one of the sensations we feel in our body are linked to these sensations.
    • We create our OWN misery – we can alone stop it.
  • Breathing
    • The breath is the only thing that we do consciously and subconsciously – it is therefore the only tool we have that connects our conscious and subconscious mind.
  • How our minds work
    • 4 steps
      • Cognize (cognise for my british friends)
      • Perceive
      • Sense
      • React
  • Our minds control us today – not vice versa
  • We are always thinking in the future or in the past and never in the “now”
  • Every sub-conscience reaction creates a sankaras (emotional responses) that are then stored in the body. 
  • Annicca
    • Everything is impermanent

The art of living (dhamma) was originally conceived by Siddhartha the Buddha – but was instrinsically non religious non dogma non chanting based. It was then lost to india around the time of Ashoka (the guy that killed everyone and then after being introduced to dhamma he started loving everyone!) and was saved in in pure format only in Burma –  where it was kept for 2500 years as buddha said it would be until Goenka ji took it back to India and then to the world (there are so many centres popping up everywhere see

So Dhamma is based on three founding principals –

  • “silla” which is morality (don’t kill, lie, be addicted/headlessness drinking, rape nor steal) – this is the foundation / platform.
  • “sammadi” is about mastering the mind – i.e. taking control through observation of breathing – taking control of your sub-conscience.
  • “pania” is wisdom from within through sensations felt in the body only.

The 10 Days

This has to be the hardest and most frightening thing I have ever done – and as I speak to more and more people I realise that others share my trepidation with the usual “not the right time” “maybe the year after next” type responses. I know the saturday before I left I had a sinking moving stomach feeling. 10 days of silence is no joke its like open brain open heart surgery with no anaesthetic – nothing can save us from our thoughts….

The first three days focuses on anapana – observing (not regulating) the breath; which nostril is inhaling, is it hot or cold, can you feel any sensations. On day 3 you also feel sensations between your upper lip and your nose. Why do this? Its about trying to get your puppy mind to follow instructions and about breaking the conscience / sub-conscience barrier – and trust me its so hard – every 5 mins it wonders to the future or to the past. At day 3 the rate of the images slows down.

The next 6 days is about getting into the Vipassna itself and feeling sensations across the body, inside the body. And learning one key philosophy of truth – that everything is impermanent (annicca) and that you must remain equinimous with the sensations good or bad so that you do not create more sankaras. During the Vipassana you sit for 1 hour in adithana (one posture) 3 times a day – for those of you who are used to moving – at 45mins this i excruciating win but here is where you try “annicca” out and suddenly you experience the truth (And not just intellectualise it) – that the pain disappears (and yes it will come back). As the days went on you got pains all over and these were sankaras of the past as your body stores the responses we make in your muscles – so when you stop generating new ones (because you are equanimous and not reacting to the sensations just observing them) it starts to open pandora’s box of old ones – and with that comes images from your past, videos in full stream in your head.

On the last day you go through metta bhavan – as Goenka ji says – this is the balm. Feel love and compassion for everything around you – and its such a strong feeling that you feel re-born. Energy and positive emotion coming out of every knock and cranny of your body.

In conclusion

This is not about intellectualising a life changing 10 days – its about trying to piece through some of the philosophies – it would be impossible to explain Vipassana – its somewhat unique to you. I for one – went in scared and sceptical and have come out calm and re-born for all intents and purposes with a toolkit to manage life. One thing to note – this is not meant for monks or people who will not be in business, startups, industry etc – this is hyper rational, hype practical and as an analogy – it will take you from seeing the world in colour to full HD.

Innovation – Buzz word. Change. Strategy. Radical. New paradigm.

We have heard it multiple times; eccentric consultants pushing change, change and more change. Thomas Stewart (Fortune Magazine) likened this to either a machine or a garden – if a machine, companies should design, build and manage it – if a garden, companies should create the conditions in which it can flourish and let the magic occur. What is this change? Intrinsically it is the product of innovation…

Innovation has become the ultimate buzz word for the 21st Century and beyond. With markets and environments changing at close to warp speed businesses feel that they have no future without a strong focus on this metamorphosing process. However, the fundamental question is whether this “buzz word” is a strategy or a new business paradigm? Does it signify improvement or fundamental change? Can it be boxed and planned or is it simply a radical and irrational phenomena?

There is no guaranteed master key that will turn your successful business into an innovative venture. Innovation, implicitly, is the growing garden; radical and in most part irrational – this is clear as it seems we have to accept failure rate greater than 50% as a road to becoming radical innovators. So why subject ourselves and our businesses to this kind of risk?

The consequential damaged caused by a lack of innovation can be severe; often clearly shown in economic performances – South Africa in the 1960s represented 6% of the world GDP- today the figure is closer to 0.5% – but year on year the South African economy has never shrunk – South Africa has unfortunately been out-innovated by other nations who saw the signs and made the decisions to act. Today half of America’s economic growth comes from products that barely existed a decade ago – the degree to which this happens has become a key measure of national success.

Innovation is an irrational phenomenon as it can lead to decisions and direction that are unpredictable and not forecast-able. Ever wondered how a venerable French water and waste management company transferred itself into a multinational multimedia conglomerate? Welcome to the story of Vivendi Universal. Originally called Compagnie Générale des Eaux, founded by Napoleon III, it grew to encompass everything from waste management to construction to transport to property to communications – all in just one and a half centuries. Then in 1995 it faced debt exceeding $9.6bn and was wallowing under the weight of its own bureaucracy. A change was about to occur. A distillation. A diversion of energies. CGE asked itself – “Water is the source of this company – who says it is the future” – and so from within CGE’s vast network of operations and interests a controlling stake in a small multi-lingual pay television was isolated, invigorated and exposed to the light of new possibilities. And so was born Vivendi Universal using the pay station as a spring board for an intricate series of mergers (the most being with Seagram for $23 billion – “Universal Studios”) and acquisitions, mutations and transformations (removing $25bn of poor-performing holdings).

Christmas @ Nivio

Christmas at Nivio is always a lot of fun! This year has been a lot of work and equally a lot of fun – but the results have been super especially towards the end of the year!

Some highlights:

– Our social networking endeavours finally taking off
– Rio (our puppy) made his debut visit to Nivio’s london office
– We got a london office!
– Lots of telco partnerships!
– We started the qtr with less than 10% paid and ended the qtr with greater than 90% paid as a sign up rate!

Ok more in a bit better get bk to the poker game im losing!

Cloud – too many things to too many people

Having spent a good part of this year pitching to VCs I’ve realised that there is a general misunderstanding or worse still an overuse of the word cloud.

I believe the world sees cloud computing by in large from either an enterprise angle or from a pure web apps play – and that seems to be the be all end all of cloud computing – atleast in the eyes of a lot of the eurozone vcs.

Cloud computing is so much more than just some apps sitting and using storage on an EC3 or azure. Surely the real potential of the “grid”, the “cloud” or the “generators” is to
A) maximise the utilisation of under utilised resources – by that I mean your PC!
B) use the benefits of offloaded processing and subscription based applications to provide computing to the 5bn people that today don’t have access to it.
C) remove all the pain areas associated with running your own “generator” and instead have a steady, controlled service where you get what you want on demand!

I sincerely hope we see more “cloud” initiatives pushing computing to a new generation of users.

Incidentally this is why we created nivio!

Peter Day! My 30mins with him!

Peter Day – if you do not know – is a the unbelievably charismatic journalist at the BBC with whom I have done a few interviews –

The experience was exhilirating – they did 3 interviews including one at the World Economic Forum in Davos!

Sachin and Peter Day!


BBC Site –

Hello world!

What a fitting title; so this is my second attempt to write a blog and actually my second attempt to try and write anything on a remotely regular basis.

Why am I doing it – I do not have a clue but lets see how it goes 🙂 I am going to try and write as much (jibberish I hear you say) as possible but lets hope some of you find it interesting and I manage to offend enough people (who said all PR is good pr!!)